Monthly Archives: May 2016

Research Shows How Bright Light

Researchers from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress found that a daily dose of bright light could boost testosterone levels to improve men’s sexual desire and satisfaction.

They recruited 38 male participants who’d been diagnosed with disorders characterized by a lack of interest in sex. The researchers measured their baseline libido and testosterone, and then divided them into two groups: one got a 30-minute blast of 10,000 lux of white fluorescent light from a box fitted with an ultraviolet filter, immediately upon waking up. The control group got a placebo box with a much dimmer light.

Before the treatment, the men reported their sexual satisfaction at around two out of 10. After two weeks, those who received bright light treatments scored a three-fold increase in their sexual satisfaction, at around six out of 10. The placebo group reported a flaccid 2.7 after staring at their dimmer box.

Testosterone levels also went up, from 2.1 ng/ml to 3.6 ng/ml in the light-treatment group. This boost in testosterone is what jump started their sex lives. “In the Northern hemisphere, the body’s testosterone production naturally declines from November through April, and then rises steadily through the spring and summer with a peak in October,” the study’s lead scientist Andrea Fagiolini said in a press release. “You see the effect of this in reproductive rates, with the month of June showing the highest rate of conception. The use of the light box really mimics what nature does.”

The researchers note that light treatment could offer the benefits of injections or antidepressants typically used to treat lack of sexual desire, without the side effects of medications. But don’t get your pen lights out just yet–this isn’t tabloid, “One Weird Trick” information, but a small study showing potential for larger discussion. For both the more than 30 percent of men and 43 percent of women who experience some sort of sexual dysfunction, light therapy–shown to be helpful in depression and mood disorders–is at least worth a look. Bright light therapy has also shown potential for triggering ovulation in women, so let’s all move to Yuma?

Food Marketing Make Healthier

lmmHow do you get teenagers to listen to adults? Tell them we’re all sheeple being manipulated by a greedy power system and that Ronald McDonald is a tyrant preying on the weak, of course. Or, something like that.

A study published in PNAS explores how the rebellious righteousness of teens impacts their food choices. They leveraged a common coming-of-age trait, “feeling like a socially conscious, autonomous person worthy of approval from one’s peers,” to steer them toward healthier eating habits. Through an exposé of food industry marketing practices, the researchers taught the teens that healthy eating could be a stand against injustice, as junk foods are processed to encourage over-eating and targeted toward the poor and very young. This is similar to how the “truth” campaign messaging operates: Instead of finger-wagging adults, adolescents were shown real facts about how the tobacco industry operates, resulting in more anti-smoking attitudes in those who saw the campaign.

“We framed healthy eating as a way to ‘stick it to the man,'” researcher Christopher J. Bryan told Medical News Today. “We cast the executives behind food marketing as controlling adult authority figures and framed the avoidance of junk food as a way to rebel against their control.” After their newfound education, even when they didn’t know they were being tracked, the teens were more likely to choose healthy snacks like carrots over cookies, and swap soda for water.

Appealing to adolescents’ desire to be well-informed and in control of their own lives might not only be another way to increase their intake of healthy foods, but also a solid method for raising educated adults.

Battle Against Bacterial

There’s little doubt Zika has become the infectious disease of 2016. Since the beginning of the year, public health officials have warned of the two routes of transmission. The first, mosquito bites, is fairly well known although in America has not yet become a major route of spread. The other route, sexual transmission, has become a major focus leading the CDC and other health authorities to sound the alarm.

While the spotlight on sexually transmitted Zika is important to raise awareness, it has distracted from other more prevalent infections. In particular, attention to bacterial causes of disease has waned and for the most part disappeared. Familiar names such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia continue to spread without much mention or concern.

Yet that may change thanks to the World Health Organization. They have unveiled a new set of guidelines for the treatment of these three infectious diseases. It comes just weeks after the health authority released a document outlining the effort to reduce all forms of STDs in the coming years.

While this action may not seem to have any relevance to the general public, one particular statement stands as an ominous outlook for the future. Antibiotic resistance is rising and in the case of gonorrhea, resistance to the last line of defense has been seen. In other words, some strains of the bacterium can no longer be treated with these drugs.

The announcement is particularly important for Americans. In 2014, more than 350,000 people were diagnosed with gonorrhea. This represents a ten percent increase since 2010. Making this even more troublesome is the age of those most likely to be infected, namely teenagers and those in their early twenties. This suggests the bacterium is spreading in populations generally possessing fewer details on sexual health. Moreover, the potential for resistance to authority makes spreading awareness and recommendations less likely to succeed.

In terms of antibiotic resistance, over one-third of the isolates demonstrate resistance to more than one antibiotic. While the existence of pan-resistant strains has not been seen in the US, the threat is clear. Though there are no time estimates on the arrival of this particular type of gonorrhea, few will doubt it will be all that long if the rate of spread continues to climb.

Gonorrhea may signal the worst of the STDs but the World Health Organization included two other bacteria in the new guidelines. One is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection while the other is an old world pathogen resurging today. Like gonorrhea, they too are demonstrating a significant challenge due to increased spread and also the threat of resistance to treatment.

Chlamydia is a hard infection to track as most of the time there are no symptoms. But without treatment, the bacterium can grow and eventually cause significant pain in women. The bacterium can also be transferred to the fetus causing birth defects and pneumonia. It’s one of the reasons why annual screening is important.

In America, more than 1.4 million infections are diagnosed each year. This is over 2.5 times higher than it was just twenty years ago. The rise has meant a greater need for antibiotic treatment and unfortunately, an increase in resistance. While the WHO suggests only a few cases of resistance have been identified in humans, in animals, resistant strains are increasing in prevalence. This means caution is needed to be sure treatment is effective and does not inadvertently lead to troubles.

In contrast to chlamydia, syphilis is well known and is easy to spot. The development of bumps and sores is a telltale sign and should be investigated. However, the real trouble arises later when the bacterium spreads throughout the body. The body becomes covered in a rash, the eyes can be affected, and eventually, the brain may suffer, leading to dementia.

The disease was a scourge centuries ago and in America, was a significant concern in the early 1990s as more than 100,000 people were infected each year. That dropped by almost two-thirds by the turn of the 21st century. However, the bacterium is on the rise again and now affects over 63,000 people per year. This is troubling as the rise suggests a greater risk for infection and also for resistance.

Build Your Own EpiPen

Serious allergic reactions can be frightening, and for those who suffer from them, the process of injecting oneself with a lifesaving EpiPen, a rapid injection device that delivers epinephrine to reverse the allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, can be a frustrating routine.

This is why consumers were taken aback when pharmaceutical company Mylan raised the price of the EpiPen from under $100 in 2007 (when the company first acquired the product), to over $600 earlier this year, as The New York Times reported. This price increase has left many allergy sufferers — and their friends, family members, even government officials— angry and worried.

Michael Laufer and his cohort of DIY medical activists at Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, a group that views affordable lifesaving treatments as a basic human right, have decided to do something about it, reports IEEE Spectrum. According to a statement published on the group’s website, Laufer et al have developed the EpiPencil, which they say, “can be built entirely using off-the-shelf parts, for just over $30 US.” They posted a video of Laufer assembling the device, as well as a list of retailers that sell the required items.

The active ingredient, epinephrine, is not controlled by Mylan and can be legally obtained by a patient who has a prescription. Laufer does not say where patients can obtain it without a prescription.

The group, who previously shared a method for manufacturing the drug pyrimethamine in response to Turing Pharmaceuticals hiking the drug’s price more than 5,000 percent last year, says its mission is “free medicine for everyone.”