Do poor sleepers die early ?

Yes !

If someone feels they are not having regular refreshing sleep, then it is bad news.

In a very large U.K. study, involving 487,728 people, the following question was asked: Do you have trouble falling asleep at night or do you wake up in the middle of the night?

About a quarter of people in study answered “never/rarely”; just under half answered “sometimes” and less than one-third reported “usually”.

The people in study were followed up for many years (mean follow-up time = 8.9 years)

The people who reported frequent sleep disturbances (“usually” category) were found to be at risk of dying early.

The risk was highest in those with both diabetes and frequent sleep disturbances.

It needs to be seen whether the sleep disturbance by itself led to early death or whether people who are going to die early have medical problems that cause them to have disturbed sleep !

Sleep well. Don’t compromise sleep time !

References

Associations between sleep disturbances, diabetes and mortality in the UK Biobank cohort: A prospective population-based study
Malcolm von Schantz, Jason C. Ong, Kristen L. Knutson
First published: 08 June 2021
https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13392

( UK Biobank study participants experiencing sleep disturbances: 24.2% “never/rarely” ; 47.8% “sometimes” and 28.0% “usually”)

BMJ Minerva. Cognitive decline . . . and other stories. BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1545 (Published 24 June 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1545

People who have trouble sleeping are at a higher risk of dying early – especially diabetics

NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Is drinking alcohol within guideline amount safe ?

No !

It would be a shock for many to hear that “No amount of alcohol is absolutely safe”.

A team at Imperial College London analysed MRI scans of heart, brain and liver of people who drink alcohol. They found that higher alcohol consumption was related to smaller brain, weaker heart and fatty liver.

They reported that “there is no ‘safe threshold’ below which there were no toxic effects of alcohol.

Previously other studies have also reported that there is no safe limit for alcohol!

In 2018, a Lancet study reported that the risk of death and risk of cancers increased substantially with increasing levels of alcohol consumption; and there was no safe limit below which there was no risk.

The message is “Avoid alcohol”

If you can’t, then atleast drink as little as possible.

References:

Alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with structural changes in multiple organ systems. Evangelos Evangelou, Hideaki Suzuki, Wenjia Bai, Raha Pazoki, He Gao, Paul M Matthews MD, PhD, Paul Elliott. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65325

Does Drinking Within Low-Risk Guidelines Prevent Harm? Implications for High-Income Countries Using the International Model of Alcohol Harms and Policies
Adam Sherk et al. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2020 May

Lancet. GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators
Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.
Lancet. 2018; (published online Aug 23.)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation that the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not, in way whatsoever, intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

What has ‘Public health’ ever done for us ?

An apple a day might not keep the doctor away. But a good public health team can keep the doctors away for many people!

Public health is about prevention and promotion of health in the society.

Public health is largely responsible for the significant improvements in life expectancy over the last 150 years.

Providing people with clean drinking water, removal of rubbish from houses and streets, good sewage system, and vaccination has saved many millions of lives over the years.

The recent smoking ban in work-places, public places and indoor venues is a modern example of public health activity.

The one area where public health has not been hugely successful is obesity. It may be because of the reliance on nudging the individual to change rather than dealing with underlying structural problems.

Read my letter in BMJ and make your views known at the BMJ rapid response section.

Sundar S. Public health needs to go back to basics, not rely on nudge theory.

Toll-free link:
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.n1153?ijkey=CUQNozGH9yJeK57&keytype=ref

References:

BMJ. Lifestyle and socioeconomic group on health
Public health needs to go back to basics, not rely on nudge theory
BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n1153 (Published 06 May 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1153

BMJ. Short term impact of smoke-free legislation in England: retrospective analysis of hospital admissions for myocardial infarction
BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2161 (Published 08 June 2010)
Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2161

BMJ. Associations of healthy lifestyle and socioeconomic status with mortality and incident cardiovascular disease: two prospective cohort studies
BMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n604 (Published 14 April 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n604

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The views expressed in this blog are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Does breast feeding the baby protect the mother from heart diseases in later life ?

Yes, it can.

A Study published in British Medical Journal found that “A longer length of breastfeeding was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease”

The study also found that women who had certain pregnancy related complications were also at increased risk of heart disease in later life.

In addition, the study also found that taking contraceptive pills (combined pills) in younger age led to increased risk of heart disease and stroke in later life.

Awareness of these risks would help to take steps to reduce the risk from them.

References

Association between the reproductive health of young women and cardiovascular disease in later life: umbrella review. BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3502 (Published 07 October 2020). Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m3502. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3502

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Are spirits and beers more risky than wine?

Yes, according to a recent UK biobank study.

A large study of 309,123 participants found that Spirit drinking was associated with higher risk of early death compared to red wine drinking.

Beer/cider drinkers were also found to be at a higher risk of early death.

Alcohol consumption without food was associated with higher risk of early death compared to consumption with food.

Binge drinking with Alcohol consumption over 1–2 times/week was more risky compared to drinking spread out over 3–4 times/week.

But the study doesn’t seem to have looked at teetotallers. The study specifically excluded Abstainers and infrequent alcohol consumers. It is quite possible that avoiding alcohol altogether may be more beneficial but that might not be acceptable to many people !

As usual most of studies relating to food and drink need to be taken with a dose of healthy scepticism.

References:

Daily Mail. I Drinking wine instead of beer or spirits is healthier and could cut risk of death, study suggests. By Xantha Leatham For The Daily Mail 01:49, 12 Jan 2021 , updated 01:59, 12 Jan 2021

Association between patterns of alcohol consumption (beverage type, frequency and consumption with food) and risk of adverse health outcomes: a prospective cohort study. Bhautesh Dinesh Jani1* , Ross McQueenie1, Barbara I. Nicholl1, Ryan Field2, Peter Hanlon1, Katie I. Gallacher1, Frances S. Mair1 and Jim Lewsey2. Jani et al. BMC Medicine (2021) 19:8 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-020-01878-2

BBC. No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms. By Laurel Ives. BBC Health. Published24 August 2018

Guardian. Study finds one small alcoholic drink a day raises risk of irregular heartbeat. Researchers examined heart health and drinking habits of 108,000 people aged 24 to 97 over 14 years
The report found people who consumed equivalent to a 330ml beer, a 120ml glass of wine, or 40mls of spirits were 16% more likely than teetotallers to develop atrial fibrillation.
Ian Sample Science editor
@iansample
Wed 13 Jan 2021 06.00 GMT

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Obesity kills but is losing weight in old age also risky ?

Losing weight is a New year resolution for many people. There is no doubt that having a normal weight is healthy overall.

But there is always some degree of uncertainty with any health advice and this BMJ paper certainly gives “food for thought”.

Before you read further , you have understand that there are varying degrees of being overweight. BMI ( Body mass index) is the scientific way of looking at body weight issues and it is calculated using height and weight.

Based on BMI, people are usually classified into three groups:

(a) underweight and normal weight (BMI<25)

b) overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9)

(c) obese (BMI ≥30.0)

There is no doubt that obesity is bad for health. The BMJ paper not supringly found obesity in adulthood increased the risk death.

But, intriguingly, just being overweight only without being obese does NOT seem to have MAJOR impact on risk of death in adults.

Paradoxically, the study found that “weight loss from middle to late adulthood was associated with increased risk of death”

It is large well designed study but nevertheless results of observational studies need to be interpreted with caution.

The message from this study is “do not gain excessive weight during early adulthood“. Losing the excessive weight later on might not undo the damage already done to the body.

References:

(1) Weight change across adulthood in relation to all cause and cause specific mortality: prospective cohort study.

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5584 (Published 16 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5584

(2) Free NHS calculator for BMI ( Body mass index calculation) and advice regarding Body mass index.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Does smoking cause Body pain ?

Yes. Smoking can cause body pain and make you miserable.

Smoking is bad for various obvious reasons including the risk of developing of cancer. As smoking can make you miserable with pain, it’s time to make a new year resolution to stop smoking.

A large study done in UK shows that current and ex-smokers have a higher degree of bodily pain.

The study involved 223,537 people who were surveyed between 2009 and 2013 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Lab UK Study.

As it is such a big study, the conclusions do need to be taken seriously.

Definitely another reason for quitting smoking this new year !

Reference:

Associations between smoking status and bodily pain in a cross-sectional survey of UK respondents. Addictive Behaviors 102:106229 · December 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106229

Smokers past and present ‘live in more pain’ – BBC News

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can a Vegan diet help weight loss?

Yes, Vegan diet can help weight loss.

Lot of diets promoted by Magazines, Social Media Influencers and Celebrities do not have strong scientific evidence in favour of them.

A scientifically sound trial published by the medical journal JAMA ( Journal of American Medical Association) recently, found the Vegan Diet helped weight loss and promoted Good metabolism.

The trial involving 244 participants found that over 16 weeks, body weight decreased on average by 5.9 kg in those having a Vegan Diet. That’s very impressive!

References: Effect of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Body Weight, Insulin Sensitivity, Postprandial Metabolism, and Intramyocellular and Hepatocellular Lipid Levels in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Hana Kahleova et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2020.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is red meat bad for heart?

Yes, red meat can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

A large study involving more than 43,000 men conducted at USA shows that “Red meat increased the risk of developing heart disease “.

In contrast , plant proteins such as nuts and lentils reduced the risk of developing heart disease.

References: Red meat intake and risk of coronary heart disease among US men: prospective cohort study.
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4141 (Published 02 December 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4141

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Scientific evidence for a healthy diet and prevention of diabetes

Simple things in life can be the most difficult; For instance, Regular Exercise and a balanced Diet for a healthy life.

What constitutes a healthy diet is common knowledge. For example eating Whole grains, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables )

But what is accepted as common knowledge is not always backed up by robust scientific evidence .

So it is good to see two scientific papers in a recent issue of British Medical Journal with one paper exploring the role of fruit and vegetable consumption on type 2 diabetes and another paper exploring the role of whole grain foods on risk of type 2 diabetes.

1. One study found that Vitamin C and carotenoids have a protective effect against diabetes ( eg diet rich in citrus fruits, tomatoes , root vegetables such as carrots )

A word of caution to those rushing to buy vitamin supplements from the authors : “fruit and vegetable intake, rather than vitamin supplements, is potentially beneficial for the prevention of type 2 diabetes”.

2. Another study found that “whole grain foods, including whole grain breakfast cereal, oatmeal, dark bread, brown rice, added bran, and wheat germ, significantly reduced the risk of developing diabetes.

References

1. Association of plasma biomarkers of fruit and vegetable intake with incident type 2 diabetes: EPIC-InterAct case-cohort study in eight European countries.

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2194 (Published 08 July 2020)

2. Intake of whole grain foods and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective cohort studies .

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2206 (Published 08 July 2020)

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Coronavirus : Why Hand hygiene is also important in addition to Face mask ?

The UK government’s slogan for controlling COVID-19 pandemic is “ ‘Hands. Face. Space

The reason hands are emphasised is because the Virus can stay alive on Human skin for many hours. So touching others by hugging or hand shaking can spread the virus.

A recent Japanese study found that Coronavirus can stay alive on skin surfaces for about 9 hours. They also found that alcohol gel can inactivate the virus in about 15 seconds !

References:

1. Survival of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus on the human skin: Importance of hand hygiene in COVID-19 Ryohei Hirose, Hiroshi Ikegaya, Yuji Naito, Naoto Watanabe, Takuma Yoshida, Risa Bandou, Tomo Daidoji, Yoshito Itoh, Takaaki NakayaClinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa1517, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1517 Published: 03 October 2020

2. Guardian: Coronavirus outbreakHands. Face. Space’: UK government to relaunch Covid-19 slogan.

3. Fox News: The coronavirus can survive on skin for this many hours, study suggests
Researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 outlived the influenza A virus on human skin
. Madeline Farber By Madeline Farber | Fox News

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer and COVID-19

Cancer patients, as expected, did badly during the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that Cancers had – higher rates of Hospitalisation, higher risk of Complications and increased risk of Death.

Elderly cancer patients on the whole did very badly but surprisingly cancer patients under age of 50 did far worse than their peers without cancer.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Hope and incurable Cancer: does hope torment or does it help to cope?

A diagnosis of incurable and advanced cancer is often a massive shock to everyone.

Should we ask them to face reality , accept death and extinguish all hope.

Or should we be offering hope of living a bit longer with treatments while being honest with prognosis.

Hope can be tormenting to some.

Hope can be comforting to some.

What are you views?

Contribute your views at online rapid response @BMJ journal

Don’t torment me with hope. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3016 (Published 09 September 2020)Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3016

In defence of Hope: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3016/rr-3

Can Hair dyes cause cancer?

Yes, there is a possible increased risk of some types of skin and breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.

Permanent hair dyes are widely used. A recent study published in BMJ suggests that use of Hair dyes might be risky.

This large study from United States enrolled 117 200 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women reported on personal use of permanent hair dyes, and were followed for 36 years. So overall it is a high quality observational study.

Read the full paper and Caveats at the BMJ website.

References

Personal use of permanent hair dyes and cancer risk and mortality in US women: prospective cohort study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2942 (Published 02 September 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2942

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can Coffee cause abortion ?

Yes, it can .

Coffee can harm pregnancy. Coffee can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, lower birth weight, and preterm birth.

Hence various guidelines do advise reduction in coffee consumption during pregnancy.

A recent study in BMJ group journal goes further and suggests avoiding coffee altogether during pregnancy.

There are caveats but those who want to be very cautious should consider avoiding coffee during pregnancy just like one avoids alcohol during pregnancy.

References

1. Guardian Newspaper. No safe level of coffee drinking for pregnant women, study says.

2. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. Jack James RT al. Reykjavik University

3. Independent newspaper. No safe level of caffeine consumption for pregnant women and would-be mothers, study suggests

4. World Health Organization. Restricting caffeine intake during pregnancy.

5. UK. Food Standards Agency. Assessment of caffeine consumption, altered caffeine metabolism and pregnancy outcome.

5. NICE. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. New recommended drinking guidelines welcomed by NICE.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can you catch Coronavirus infection from Soft drink cans, Sandwich wrapper and Amazon Parcels?

Yes. Possible but chances are very small according to reports.

If someone sneezed or coughed near a parcel or food package and you touch it within a few hours, it is possible to get Coronavirus infection from parcels and packages.

But, in practice, most parcels and food packaging seem safe and no conclusive real world evidence has been published so far to indicate that packages spread infection widely.

In experimental conditions, Coronavirus has been shown to survive for upto 72 hours. The virus is “more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard”.

In laboratory conditions “On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 virus was measured after 4 hours . On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 virus was measured after 24 hours”.

In the artificial conditions of the lab “The longest viability of viruses was on stainless steel and plastic; the estimated median half-life of SARS-CoV-2 virus was approximately 5.6 hours on stainless steel and 6.8 hours on plastic”.

Solution: If you are worried , and if possible, you can try leaving parcels for 24hrs before touching them with bare hands. Alternatively, try wearing disposable gloves to remove packaging.

References

1.NEJM. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. April 16, 2020. N Engl J Med 2020; 382:1564-1567. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973

2. BBC. Coronavirus: What are the risks of catching it from food packaging?

3. CDC. How It Spreads.

Is Honey a better treatment for coughs and colds ?

Possibly yes, in some cases of viral infections , according to a paper published a BMJ group journal ( BMJ Evidence Based Medicine) .

The paper has been widely quoted in various newspapers today.

The BMJ group journal authors report: “Honey was superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.

It provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics…….but further high quality, placebo controlled trials are needed.”

A word of caution: Honey has high sugar content. Diabetics need to be careful. People will allergies need to take care. Of course bacterial infections need antibiotics particularly in old and vulnerable!

References

1. BMJ Evidence Based Medicine. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis .

Abuelgasim H, Albury C, Lee J Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine Published Online First: 18 August 2020. doi: 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111336.

2. Guardian Newspaper:

3. Daily Mail.

4. BBC paper review .

5. Evening Express

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is weight loss a sign of cancer?

If you have been dieting and exercising to shed excess weight, then you can celebrate your success in achieving your goal.

But some poorly lose weight unintentionally . This type of weight loss that occurs without intention might be of concern in some people.

A recent article in BMJ advocates screening for cancer in some patients if they have weight loss and other symptoms in their chest and abdomen.

Male smokers over the age of 50 are one of the high risk groups !

Don’t ignore weight loss !

References

Prioritising primary care patients with unexpected weight loss for cancer investigation: diagnostic accuracy study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2651 (Published 13 August 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2651

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can a Protein rich diet lead to a longer life ?

Yes, a protein rich diet can lead a longer life and reduce risk deaths due to heart diseases.

Before you rush to relish your burger or steak , please note the evidence for beneficial effect is very much in favour of plant proteins than animal proteins.

So Befriend your Beans !

And Love your Lentils !

Reference

Dietary intake of total, animal, and plant proteins and risk of all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2412 (Published 22 July 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2412

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Health effects of vitamin and mineral supplements

In Western countries, upto two thirds of people take vitamin and mineral supplements regularly.

Many people think it’s common sense to take supplements. Many people don’t realise mega doses of vitamins can cause harm. Paradoxically the people who don’t have a healthy diet are less likely to supplements than those who have a well balanced diet.

A recent article in BMJ reviews the evidence regarding “Health effects of vitamin and mineral supplements” and concludes that “Randomised trial evidence does not support use of vitamin, mineral, and fish oil supplements to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases”.

This article is certainly a “food for thought”

Reference

Food for Thought 2020. Health effects of vitamin and mineral supplements. BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2511 (Published 29 June 2020). Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2511

Skeie G, Braaten T, Hjartåker A, et al. Use of dietary supplements in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition calibration study. Eur J Clin Nutr2009;63(Suppl 4):S226-38. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.83 pmid:19888276

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Does alcohol increase of breast cancer?

Yes, Alcohol does substantially increase the risk of Breast cancer.

Very few people seem to be aware of the risks.

Previously it was thought that heavy drinking is responsible for harmful cancer effects.

But studies from U.K and U.S.A have subsequently shown that even light to moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.

A very large study involving more than 1,250,000 middle-aged women in the United Kingdom ( enrolled in the Million Women Study) showed that “Low to moderate alcohol consumption” in women increases the risk of breast cancer and certain other cancers.

In a study involving more than 88,000 women from United States, also showed that light to moderate drinking increases the risk of breast cancer.

So keep counting the alcohol units during the festive time.

References

1. U.K. Study: Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women.

2. U.S.A study. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4238 (Published 18 August 2015). Cite this as: BMJ.2015;351:h4238

3. Telegraph. Drinking alcohol raises risk of cancer by snapping DNA, scientists find.

4. Telegraph U.K. Just one in five women at risk of breast cancer know alcohol increases the danger.

Does exercise protect you from dementia?

It would be common senses to think that exercise would lead to better physical health and this in turn would protect you from dementia.

But a recent study in BMJ suggests that exercise does NOT have a significant protective effect on developing Alzheimer’s dementia .

Reference

Physical inactivity, cardiometabolic disease, and risk of dementia: an individual-participant meta-analysis

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1495

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Dietary advice: take it with a pinch of salt

Official dietary advice as well as various “Diets” promoted by various celebrities tend to be very prescriptive. They often give the impression that the evidence behind everything they promote is very clear cut.

But truth is far more murkier ( I might say more “mish mash “).

A new study analysis of old data comes to a different conclusion about “red meat”. This is in fact not surprising as the evidence for various Dietary guidelines and “Diets” are not usually robust and watertight and involves lot of assumptions.

What is the take home message:

Eat “everything you like” in moderation and try to make it as balanced as possible with substitutes for things you avoid !!

Avoid processed food as much as possible and eat fresh.

Don’t be surprised if the next two studies on this topic reach three different conclusions.

References

1. BBC news. Is red meat back on the menu?

2. New York Times. Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice.

3. The original study article from Annals of Internal Medicine. Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium.

4. Daily Mail. You DON’T need to cut out red meat: Scientists say official advice on eating less beef, pork and lamb is based on bad evidence and having it four times a week poses ‘NO cancer risk’ 

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Is processed red meat bad for health?

Yes, red meat especially processed red is bad for health.

In a study published in BMJ, red meat was implicated in causing more deaths.

The authors from Harvard, advocate replacing red meat with equivalent amounts of other protein sources, such as nuts, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and legumes, and whole grains and vegetables.

Reference

Association of changes in red meat consumption with total and cause specific mortality among US women and men: two prospective cohort studies. BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2110 (Published 12 June 2019)

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Low Carb Diet

High carbohydrate diet can make a person put on weight.

The extra weight can put a strain on the knees and logic dictates that over time this can cause knee problems due to excessive “wear and tear”.

So would a Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diet help to relieve Pain in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis.

Yes, low carb diet can indeed have positive effect on Knee pain.

A study testing the efficacy of two dietary interventions found that low carb diet can reduce pain intensity .

Reference

Pain Med. 2019 Mar 13. pii: pnz022. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz022.

The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets on Pain in Individuals with Knee Osteoarthritis.

Strath LJ1, Jones CD1, Philip George A1, Lukens SL1, Morrison SA2, Soleymani T3, Locher JL4, Gower BA5, Sorge RE1.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

What’s in a name?

awareness cancer design pink Photo by Miguel on Pexels.com

The word cancer is a dreaded one. Not without a good reason. Cancer is the number one killer. Even when someone has a good outcome, the cancer journey is torture. Emotional turmoil is immeasurably horrendous.

But many people would be surprised to hear that there exists a category of low risk cancers. “Low-risk Cancers are cancers which usually don’t kill; These Cancers are found either incidentally on scans performed for some other reasons or found as part of routine cancer screening.”

Because they are not deadly, Should the patients diagnosed with low-risk cancers be spared the dreaded label of cancer?

Should low-risk cancers be labelled something else and the word cancer used only for the “serious” high-risk cancers ?

Personally, I do not agree with renaming of the low risk cancers..Others disagree

Joint the debate at the BMJ.

Submit your views through rapid response

Reference: 
Should we rename low risk cancers? BMJ

several assorted color tags Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Can Turmeric control cancer ?

Turmeric powder

 

Turmeric is an orange coloured spice widely used in Indian dishes.

Turmeric has been used in Indian traditional medicine (Siddha and Ayurveda).

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-Cancer properties when tested in laboratories.

Remember – a potential to be beneficial (based on lab studies) is not the same as being proven to work in humans. Lot of substances which are promising in the laboratory eventually turn out to be useless in humans.

If you search PUBMED database- which is an online database of scientific papers- you will find hundreds of papers pertaining to medicinal use of turmeric and its key ingredients such as curcumin. But unfortunately among the many hundreds of published papers, there are very few human trials which have explored turmeric as a anti-cancer treatment.

Inspite of the positive anectodal reports on various internet sites, the available scientific evidence for use of turmeric as an anti-cancer treatment is very spare. ( references below).

Hence it is not worthwhile using turmeric as a cancer treatment.

If you do like Indian dishes, use turmeric as a spice in your normal diet.

But do stay away from the supplements which are sold with health claims.

 

ginger and turmeric powder

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

References

The EssentialMedicinal Chemistry of Curcumin.Nelson KM, Dahlin JL, Bisson J, Graham J, Pauli GF, Walters MA. J Med Chem. 2017 Mar 9;60(5):1620-1637.

Phase I clinical trial of oralcurcumin: biomarkers of systemic activity and compliance.Sharma RA, Euden SA, Platton SL, Cooke DN, Shafayat A, Hewitt HR, Marczylo TH, Morgan B, Hemingway D, Plummer SM, Pirmohamed M, Gescher AJ, Steward WP. Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Oct 15;10(20):6847-54.

A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blinded Randomized Pilot Study of Combination Phytotherapy in Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer.van Die MD, Williams SG, Emery J, Bone KM, Taylor JM, Lusk E, Pirotta MV. Prostate. 2017 May;77(7):765-775.

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Treatment of Intestinal Adenomas in Patients With Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.Cruz-Correa M, Hylind LM, Marrero JH, Zahurak ML, Murray-Stewart T, Casero RA Jr, Montgomery EA, Iacobuzio-Donahue C, Brosens LA, Offerhaus GJ, Umar A, Rodriguez LM, Giardiello FM. Gastroenterology. 2018 Sep;155(3):668-673.

Effect on prostatic specific antigen by a short time treatment with a Curcuma extract: A real life experience and implications for prostate biopsy.Fabiani A, Morosetti C, Filosa A, Principi E, Lepri L, Maurelli V, Fioretti F, Servi L. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2018 Jun 30;90(2):107-111.

Pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic study of oral Curcuma extract in patients with colorectal cancer.Sharma RA, McLelland HR, Hill KA, Ireson CR, Euden SA, Manson MM, Pirmohamed M, Marnett LJ, Gescher AJ, Steward WP. Clin Cancer Res. 2001 Jul;7(7):1894.

Consumption of the putative chemopreventive agent curcumin by cancer patients: assessment of curcumin levels in the colorectum and their pharmacodynamic consequences.Garcea G, Berry DP, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, Sharma RA, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):120-5.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer–the U.K. NCRN Pomi-T study.Thomas R, Williams M, Sharma H, Chaudry A, Bellamy P. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Jun;17(2):180-6

Consumption of the putative chemopreventive agent curcumin by cancer patients: assessment of curcumin levels in the colorectum and their pharmacodynamic consequences.Garcea G, Berry DP, Jones DJ, Singh R, Dennison AR, Farmer PB, Sharma RA, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Jan;14(1):120-5.

A phase I/II study of gemcitabine-based chemotherapy plus curcumin for patients with gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer.Kanai M, Yoshimura K, Asada M, Imaizumi A, Suzuki C, Matsumoto S, Nishimura T, Mori Y, Masui T, Kawaguchi Y, Yanagihara K, Yazumi S, Chiba T, Guha S, Aggarwal BB. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2011 Jul;68(1):157.

Phytosome complex of curcumin as complementary therapy of advanced pancreatic cancer improves safety and efficacy of gemcitabine: Results of a prospective phase II trial.Pastorelli D, Fabricio ASC, Giovanis P, D’Ippolito S, Fiduccia P, Soldà C, Buda A, Sperti C, Bardini R, Da Dalt G, Rainato G, Gion M, Ursini F. Pharmacol Res. 2018 Jun;132:72-79.

Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, smoldering multiple myeloma, and curcumin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over 4g study and an open-label 8g extension study.Golombick T, Diamond TH, Manoharan A, Ramakrishna R. Am J Hematol. 2012 May;87(5):455-60.

 

Image credit: Simon A. Eugster. Turmeric (Curcuma longa):fresh rhizome and powder.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Low carbohydrate diet

The advocates of low-carb diet received a scientific boost recently.

An American trial, published recently in the British Medical Journal, compared the effects of low-carb-high-fat diet with high-carb-low-fat while keeping total calories and protein intake constant.

This elegantly done trial shows that carbohydrates are bad for weight loss. A diet with a combination of low-carb-high-fat content was the winner in this trial and it promoted energy loss and helped maintain weight loss.

Reference:

Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial.

Are Vitamin and Food supplements safe and helpful?

 

medical tablets pharmacy cure

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

A British man recently ended up needing a liver transplant after taking green tea capsules. (1).(2).

Many people do not realise that supplements can be useless or even harmful. 

Firstly, Dietary supplements may not always be helpful. Even though the Public Health team in England recommend vItamin D supplements, a large study published recently  – found that Vitamin D supplements do NOT prevent fractures or falls in General population. (3) (4).

Secondly, Dietary supplements can be harmful. For example , a cancer prevention trial involving 35,533 North-American men reported that  “Dietary supplementation with vitamin E significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men”. (JAMA 2011; 306: 1549).  Another cancer prevention trial in Finland involving 29,133 male smokers unexpectedly found a “higher incidence of lung cancer among the men who received beta carotene dietary supplements”. (NEJM 1994;330:1029 )

On the other hand, Vitamin are essential nutrients. Vitamin deficiency can be severely harmful to health. Vitamin D deficiency is common in colder parts of northern hemisphere. Vitamin D supplements are used in treatment and prevention of osteoporosis (5). Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in Vegans and Vitamin B12 supplements are used. (6).

So there is no clear cut answer ….

Always consider the possibility that “dietary supplements may actually have harmful as well as possible beneficial effects”. 

yellow health medicine wellness

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

References: 

  1. BBC News – Are supplements safe and do they work? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45992725
  1. Daily mail: Green tea supplements may cause liver damage, warns EU watchdog. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5629791/How-healthy-healthy-EU-warns-green-tea-supplements.html
  1. Public Health England recommends vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter.  BMJ 354 doi:10.1136/bmj.i4061
  1. Guardian : Vitamin D supplements don’t help bone health, major study concludes. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/04/vitamin-d-supplements-dont-help-bone-health-major-study-concludes
  1. Vitamin B12 and Health: http://www.lnds.nhs.uk/Library/Vitamin_B12_and_HealthOct2018LNDS123.pdf
  1. National Osteoporosis Guideline Group: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/NOGG/mainrecommendations.html

Can milk cause cancer?

blur calcium close up dairy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A vegan group’s recent advertisement claimed that “cow’s milk contains 35 hormones, including oestrogen … some of these are linked to cancer”.

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in U.K banned the vegan group’s advert  as it found the groups claims misleading.

Does the evidence stack up?

First of all, I have to emphasize that “Human Mothers milk” is the best nutrition a new born baby can have…even though it might have various natural hormones.

But “mass produced diary milk” is a different matter.

A large observational study from ” Central Sweden”  found that “High milk intake was associated with higher risk of death and higher fracture incidence in women”. The paper was published in the prestigious BMJ journal in 2014. I suspect the substances used in mass production of diary milk might be the culprit rather than natural milk itself.

So the jury is out on this question. In the mean time, moderation is the key as Cows’ milk does contain many beneficial substances.  Switching to sugary, fizzy drinks or other artifically produed milk alternatives is not sensible either.

Related Links

Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies

BMJ Letter: S Sundar. Milk and mortality: the potential effects of modern milk production

Telegraph: Vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer is banned.

Independent: Vegan group’s advert wrongly linking cow’s milk to cancer gets UK ban

Can alcohol cause cancer?

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Can alcohol cause cancer?

Yes,  worldwide, 1 in 20 cancers are attributed to alcohol .

How much drinking causes cancer?

“Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use”

“The more that a person drinks, and the longer the period of time, the greater their risk of development of cancer, especially head and neck cancers”

Are light drinkers at risk ?

Risk of cancer is present at  even at low levels of consumption.  Hence, the World Cancer Research Fund/AICR makes the following recommendation: “If alcoholic drinks are consumed, limit consumption to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.” They also recommend that, “for cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”

Is wine less risky than spirits?

No,  the risk is present “regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverage (ie, beer, wine, or spirits/liquor)”

Which cancers can arise due to alcohol?

Alcohol is causally associated with Mouth, Throat, Gullet, Liver, Breast and Bowel cancers.

Links:

  1. Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. http://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155
  2. Alcohol is a direct cause of seven ​​forms of cancer, finds study . https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/22/alcohol-direct-cause-seven-forms-of-cancer-study

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