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New Research Shows That Men’s Sexual Health Supplements Are Not As Effective- Or Safe As Claimed

A report published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine had revealed that common over the counter remedies available to enhance men’s sexual health may not be as effective as claimed- or even safe for that matter.

The report comes at a very important time; since as much as 40-70% of men experience symptoms of erectile or sexual dysfunction at some point of their lives, and turn to over the counter products for shame of visiting a physician to have their issue addressed.

Coupled with the fact that the supplement industry is booming- over 200% growth from the period 1999-2007, and the array of available products, it’s not surprising that both consumers and health practitioners alike are confused with what to choose.

The researchers came from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center[i] in Winston-Salem, NC with the goal of providing a reference of sorts to physicians and urologists who need a guide[ii] for counseling patients that take such products, when presented to them.

Illegal Products Hidden In Plain Sight

Owing to the fact that supplements are rarely or very loosely regulated by the FDA, it was not surprising when the researchers revealed that there was no significant scientific evidence to suggest that various products had any measurable impact on libido, performance or erectile potency.

In fact, many of the so-called natural products were found to be laced with small traces of prescription PDE inhibitors, the class of drugs Viagra belongs to.

PDE inhibitors cannot be legally purchased without a physician’s prescription, since they carry significant risk of harm if used in individuals with certain pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, liver and kidney disease, or using certain other prescription medications.

Over 81% of the products purchased and tested in the USA contained traces of these prescription only PDE Inhibitors, demonstrating the possible risk to the buying public.

Out of the many popular ingredients analyzed, only L-Arginine showed modest potential for improving erectile function, but could also dangerously lower blood pressure if not used wisely.

[i] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/wfbm-mto011116.php

[ii] http://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(15)34439-8/fulltext

Teenagers Who Use Cannabis At Higher Risk Of Developing Schizophrenia

Research conducted and published in the Journal Cerebral Cortex[i] revealed that exposure to cannabis (marijuana) during the adolescent years contributed to significant schizophrenic-like changes in the brain.

The results from these findings could be particularly troublesome, since according to the National Institute Of Drug Abuse[ii], as much as 15% of kids in the 8th grade have tried cannabis before, with about 1% using it on a daily basis.

Marijuana is normally sought after for its effects of relaxation and euphoria, but can also induce feelings of anxiety, fear or paranoia when taken in high doses, or from the use of new strains with high THC levels.

In adolescents, it can also lead to cognitive impairment, resulting in long term negative changes to the brain which is still in its developmental phase.

Relationship To Psychosis And Schizophrenia

Acute over dosage of cannabis causes symptoms of short term psychoses; which can include loss of spatial awareness and hallucinations. However, more serious long term schizophrenic disorders have also been the result, ultimately affecting that teenager’s quality of life going forward.

Researchers from the Western University in Ontario Canada were able to reveal the long term implications of marijuana use on the developing adolescent brain, following exposure of adolescent rodents to the effects of THC (tetrahydro-cannabinol), the constituent in cannabis that is responsible for its psychoactive effects.

The team investigated the areas of the brain commonly affected by schizophrenia, and its associated symptoms of anxiety, disorganization and public interaction.

The results demonstrated changes that were nearly identical to the disorder schizophrenia; changes such as social withdrawal, anxiety and diminished dopamine levels, all characteristic of schizophrenic disease. These changes also persisted long after the use of cannabis was discontinued, well into adulthood.

It was also noted that no changes were seen in adult rodents, who had already experienced full development of the brain.

[i] http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/01/04/cercor.bhv335.abstract

[ii] http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

New Study Demonstrates Use Of Light Therapy May Be Very Effective In Treating Year-Round Depressive Illness

In an 8 week trial conduced in Canada[i], it was discovered that the use of light therapy was effective in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), whether it was used alone, or in conjunction with popular anti-depressant medications, the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)

The use of light therapy in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) was well established, but the study further proved its utility in treating year round depressive illness.

The study was conducted in three major psychiatric outpatient clinics, and stretch over the course of 5 years, primarily as a result of the difficulty in recruiting suitable patients for the trial.

A total of 122 patients were placed into double blind random groups, and were assigned to either daily exposure to light therapy (immediately upon waking) and a placebo pill, a placebo pill and placebo device, fluoxetine and light treatment, or fluoxetine and a placebo device. Their Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) readings were taken before and after the completion of the trial.


At the end of the trial, the result obtained demonstrated that:

  • The group receiving both light therapy and fluoxetine measured the greatest change in score, with 76% of patients achieving more than a 50% reduction in MADRS number
  • In The group exposed to light only, 50% of patients achieved a 50% reduction in MADRS score
  • The double placebo group had 33% of patients recording 50% or more reduction in MADRS reading
  • Fluoxetine and placebo device group, only 29% of patients achieved a 50% or more reduction in MADRS reading.

Limitations Of The Study

While the results were very promising, the researchers issued the statement that the results must be duplicated, which is probably very likely, before they can positively conclude its efficacy. The reasons for this disclaimer include:

  • Sample Size- at just 122 patients, the researchers explained the difficulty in recruiting candidates for the study, and there was likely not enough room to detect statistically significant differences in response
  • The Dose Exposure- researchers expressed their desire to conduct further studies using higher doses of both fluoxetine and light, as it was likely to bring out greater changes in response


The researchers concluded that the findings are clear enough to show positive benefit, and for medical practitioners to consider the use of light therapy for major depressive disorder, as it is well tolerated and safe. Finally, they are to conduct studies to determine if the exposure for measurable symptom improvement is the same for both SAD and MDD, or if different treatment protocols need to be designed for each illness.

[i] http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2470681

Use Of Certain Anti-Biotics Linked To Higher Risk Of Cardiac Disease

In a meta-analysis of 33 studies conducted, encompassing over 21 million patients, Chinese researchers, led by Su-Hua Wu, MD identified the positive association of macrolide antibiotic use, and the incidence of cardiovascular death and ventricular arrhythmias[i].

It was revealed that the use of these macrolides was associated with a 242% higher incidence (2.42 fold) of sudden coronary death or ventricular arrhythmias, but did not contribute to the occurrence of heart attacks, or death by other means.

Though the results demonstrated the higher affinity for these conditions, its lack of association to all-cause death was not proven, citing the need for further well designed studies.

Sami Viskin, MD, from Israel who authored an editorial related to this report, emphasized the importance of noting that this association translates to a roughly 1 in 30000 chance of dying from sudden coronary failure, and that hepatitis is a much more frequent, and deadly occurrence following the use of these drugs

Another researcher, iun-Ling Wang, MD from Taiwan, conducted a similar study in Taiwan[ii], explained that while the drugs may be needed, physicians needed to exercise greater caution in avoiding use of the macrolides in patients with known history of heart disease or arrhythmias, and that an alternate antibiotic class needed to be considered.

Though there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that macrolide usage contributes to all-cause death, it necessitates the need for a well-designed study to observe the results in patients who have to use the drugs. At this time, there is reasonable assurance to physicians who need to prescribe the medications to do so.

The Macrolides are a chemical class of drugs that consist primarily of the antibiotics Azithromycin, Clarithromycin, Erythromycin and Telithromycin, which are the most frequently use in clinical practice. The group also consist of two anti-fungal agents, nystatin and Amphotericin B, by virtue of their chemical structure.

[i] http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=2468953

[ii] http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/60/4/566.abstract

Probiotics – Eat Your Way to Good Health

probiotic-benefitsEver since probiotics and probiotic supplements and foods made an appearance (they have been around since the 1970s officially, tough many cultures have an ancient tradition of using probiotics and naturally fermented foods) there has been news regarding their positive properties. They have been hailed practically as miracle workers for a number of problems and the market for various probiotics has been targeted as $24 billion by 2017, testifying to their growing popularity. Recent research points to different ways that probiotics can be used.

Probiotics can help with obesity in women

A research study led by Professor Angelo Tremblay of the Université Laval in Quebec and Nestle and published on January 28, 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition says that probiotics may help women lose weight and keep it off. The study followed 125 obese men and women who were put on a weight loss diet for 12 weeks and then a maintenance diet for another 12 weeks. One group also had to take two probiotic pills daily, while the other group took a placebo.

While both groups lost weight, the group on probiotic pills lost an average of 10 pounds while the placebo group lost an average of six pounds during the weight loss period. During the maintenance period, the probiotic group lost an average of 11 pounds, while the other group remained stable and did not lose any further weight. However, there was no difference in weight loss among men who took probiotics and those who took a placebo, so probiotics may help women to lose weight in the long run. The group that took probiotics also had lower levels of leptin, the hormone that regulate appetite as well as intestinal bacteria that is a factor in obesity.

‘We don’t know why the probiotics didn’t have any effect on men. It may be a question of dosage, or the study period may have been too short,’ said Professor Tremblay. The study featured the use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Probiotics can help in the digestive health of infants and reduce healthcare costs

A study published in JAMA Pediatric on January 14, 2014, led by Dr. Flavia Indrio of the Aldo Moro University Baro, Italy, said probiotic use in the first six months of a baby’s life can help reduce health costs as the use mitigates the effects of colic, gastrointestinal disorders, acid reflux and constipation. The research team followed 554 infants who were less than a week old for three months. The infants were divided into two groups, one of which received the probiotic supplement and the other which received a placebo. Parents were told to keep a diary of their bowel movements, vomiting episodes, crying and doctor visits due to these problems.

At the end of the trial period the results were analyzed and it was found that probiotic usage had positive effects on crying, vomiting and colic pains and also resulted in fewer visits to the doctor. On an average the infants using probiotics saved $119 for each family.

While probiotic usage had no harmful or adverse effects, other doctors have warned that more studies are needed and that infants should be studied at a later stage to see that the early probiotic usage had no harmful effects as also study the long term health consequences of such early usage.

Probiotics made with human feces

Typically fermented foods, yoghurt and drinks have different probiotics that are supposed to be good for you. However, a study published in Meat Science in its February 2014 issue talks of using meat as a probiotic. The article titled Nutritionally enhanced fermented sausages as a vehicle for potential probiotic lactobacilli delivery used probiotic bacteria got from baby poop. The study was co-authored by Anna Jofr, a food microbiologist at Catalonia’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Research’s (IRTA) food-safety program in Girona, Spain.

The Spanish scientists used 43 fecal samples from infants up to six months of age and isolated different bacteria from these samples. These were then used to ferment six different batches of sausages. Three batches used commercial bacteria and three used bacteria from infant poop. One of the strains from infant poop multiplied and became dominant enough to have a probiotic effect on the person consuming the sausage.

What is the need for probiotic sausages you may wonder? The author says that for people who cannot take dairy products the sausages would be a way to introduce probiotics in their diet.


Science Daily

Fox News

New Treatments for Different Heart Disorders

imagesAccording to statistics collated by the CDC, at least 600,000 people die of heart disease annually. Many more suffer from heart attacks, some for the first time and others for the second. Coronary heart disease costs the country $108.9 billion yearly. What is worse is that some people are not even aware of the risk factors that they may have for heart disease. As many as 50 percent Americans already have risk factors like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking that can predispose them towards heart disease, apart from the worrying increase in the incidence of obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol use and more. There are many different kinds of heart disease, not simply coronary artery disease and heart failure because the heart is a muscle with many different parts and mechanisms of action.

Heart valve disease

The American Heart Association says that more than five million people are diagnosed with heart valve problems. The heart has four different valves that work together to allow the smooth flow of blood. If even one valve is damaged or affected in some way, it can lead to cardiac problems. Unfortunately, often heart valve disease may not have any symptoms or may be under-diagnosed.

Different treatment options are used, depending on the medical history, the valves affected and to what degree and other factors. Doctors may prescribe medications alone, heart valve repair or heart valve replacement. Diseased or damaged heart valves may be replaced with natural valves made from animal tissue or artificial valves. Natural valves are better, but they do tend to degrade, leading to repeated surgeries. Artificial valves, on the other, require that blood thinning medicines to prevent the blood from clotting, needs to be taken regularly. Blood thinning medicines like warfarin come with their own side effects and warnings and the patient has to be constantly monitored.

An article published in Nature Communications on February 11, 2014 reported on research done at the University of California and the University of Michigan. The report titled Integration of molecular and enzymatic catalysts on graphene for biomimetic generation of antithrombotic species shows there is a new possible treatment option that can obviate the use of blood thinning medicines by using grapheme coated valves.

The valves can be coated with two catalysts. The first is glucose oxidase, a natural enzyme that changes the glucose in the blood to hydrogen peroxide. The second is an artificial molecule called haemin which promotes the reaction of hydrogen peroxide with L-arginine. These work together and form nitroxyl that mimics the body’s own anti-coagulant properties.

A fragment of grapheme is used and this single-atom layer of carbon holds the catalysts near each other, promoting the blood reaction, making the valve implants easier to use. However, more studies are needed on the preparation and use of this coating and to see whether it is stable and safe over a long period of time or not.

Heart rhythm disorder research leads to startling findings

Long QT syndrome 2 is a heart rhythm disorder that can be fatal if not treated. Caused by a hERG (human ether-a-go-go-related gene) mutation – hERG controls the heart cells’ electrical activity and coordinates the heart’s rhythm, both of which are important for heart and body health. While this condition is usually genetic, occasionally it can be caused by certain medications or some other medical conditions.

Researchers at the National Health Centre, Singapore, were able to completely reverse the conditions leading to this disorder. They used pluripotent human stem cells from the patient and reprogrammed them into heart cells. They then used different drug compounds on these cells in a petri dish and found a drug called ALLN (not normally tested for such a condition) that could reverse the effects of Long QT syndrome 2.

Using this method was easier and, in fact, this method paves the ways for faster drug research and accelerated development instead of the decades current methods take. Another positive of this method is that since it uses the patient’s own cells, there are greater chances that it will work and with fewer or not side effects. The researchers took a year to discover the drug that would work.

The research team was awarded the best poster prize at the prestigious ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress on 1 September 2013, the largest international cardiology meeting attended by close to 30,000 participants.


American Heart Association

The Strait Times

Are Herbal Medicines All They Are Supposed To Be?

imagesWhile herbal medicines and alternative remedies find favor among users and also among practitioners of such therapies, there is growing concern about the efficacy of herbal medicines. However, many people who suffer from chronic or even acute conditions and those disenchanted with conventional remedies and treatments turn to herbal remedies. According to statistics released by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health, that studied data from the 2007 National Health Survey, as many as 38 percent of adults and 12 percent of children have used complementary and alternative medicines.

The difference between the two is that complementary medicines are used along with conventional remedies and treatments and alternative remedies are used instead of conventional therapies. Some people use them as a holistic remedy and others use them to improve their health and well-being, while still others use them in terminal or acute conditions when conventional medicines and therapies hold out little or no hope.

Are herbal medicines safe – adulteration, contaminations and mislabeling?

According to statistics given in The New York Times, Americans spend close to $5 billion annually for herbal remedies for various ailments. However, a study titled DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products published in BMC Medicine on October 11, 2013 showed that many herbal remedies did not have the ingredients that they purportedly contained.

The researchers consisting of Steven G. Newmaster and others from the University of Guelph in Ontario studied samples of herbal remedies procured through mail order from North America and used in Canada. They used a test called DNA barcoding to find out the ingredients in the herbal medicines.

The test results showed that either the products were heavily diluted by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice or they contained only these ingredients and none of the supposed herbal medicines. As many as 44 herbal supplements were studied and one-third of them contained only cheap fillers and no active ingreidnets. Some of them contained another plant or herb, but not the one listed. Only 48 percent of the samples tested were authentic.

While some of the ingredients may be benign, others may cause severe problems in people who unknowing consumer them and who suffer from gluten or nut allergy or allergy or reactions to any of the ingredients these remedies contain. Sometimes herbal remedies can react with conventional remedies, causing even more problems. Then there is the question of misbranding, fraud and lack of quality control.

Herbal therapies are not put through rigorous testing by any regulatory body

Conventional medicines have to undergo a lot of clinical trials before getting regulatory approval. Large double blind studies have to be conducted before the FDA will permit drugs to be sold. However, herbal medicines escape this screening because they come under food and dietary supplements rather than medicines. It may be difficult to test the medicines, too, as they may comprise different chemical compounds in very low doses that may be hard to identify. Another major problem is that many a time these drugs may be individualized for the patient. What will work for one patient may not work for the other.

La Trobe University in Australia has signed a memorandum of understanding in early February 2014 with global wellness company Swisse to establish a Complementary Medicine Evidence Centre that will conduct research into the efficacy of various complementary medicines. The company will be spending $15 million to establish the centre and support the staff that will conduct the trials and research. As this is industry funded research, there is no guarantee that it will be totally unbiased, though the university says that it will walk away from the deal if they are any conditions that are imposed.

If you are a fan of herbal remedies, you should know that you may be putting yourself at risk – some herbal remedies have been found to be toxic with heavy metals in them. In the very least, the manufacturer you are buying from may be scamming you by not giving you a genuine product. And if you have a real ailment and you don’t tell your doctor what herbal remedies you are taking, you may be putting yourself at greater risk. As far as herbal remedies go you are not protected by the FDA or any other regulatory body so the principle of caveat emptor applies.

On the other hand, herbal remedies do have a long history and cultural background and if you take actual herbs rather than pills, powders and potions derived from them, you are probably not doing yourself much harm.

Controversies Surrounding Statin Drugs

index2Statin drugs are routinely prescribed for lowering cholesterol levels, even if these are only slightly high and even more so if they are very high. After all, high cholesterol levels are a factor in heart attack. New studies and research caused the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology to set fresh guidelines for prescribing these drugs. Instead of just looking of the results of the lipid profile or panel test, doctors have been advised to look at the entire picture and then assess the patient’s requirement for a statin drug.


Assessment of risk factors

Among the factors that the doctor should take into account are: age, race, gender, blood pressure readings, blood pressure medicines, diabetes, smoking, cholesterol ratio, total cholesterol and other aspects. The risk calculator also assesses the risk factors for stroke and heart attack, because both have similar causal factors – one affects the brain and the other the heart.

There are seven different statin drugs in the market: fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and simvastatin (Zocor). Of these, the last three have shown better results in lowering cholesterol levels and preventing heart attacks. The new risk guidelines will result in the number of people taking statins to double.

Patients who should be advised statin drugs include those that have already suffered a stroke or heart attack; those over 21 who have an LDL cholesterol reading of 190 or more; those with diabetes; and patients of ages 40-75 years who have a greater than 7.5 percent risk of developing heart attack or stroke or other cardiovascular problems over the next 10 years. The larger the number of risk factors, the better the prognosis with statin drugs.

At the same time, the guidelines state that simply taking statin drugs should not be the end of the treatment as patients should also be advised to make lifestyle changes like including 40 minutes of exercise at least three to four times a week and make dietary changes and stop smoking.

Statin drugs for older people

The AMDA (American Medical Directors Association) suggests that statin drugs should not be routinely prescribed to people over 70 years who do not have any pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Doctors say that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of statin drugs in this category as most research studies feature subjects over wide age ranges.

Senior citizens may not experience too many benefits of taking statin drugs unnecessarily and these may actually do more harm than good. Doctors should take individual risk assessment factors into account and then prescribe drugs with some side effects that can compromise the quality of life of seniors, weighing the risk-reward ratio.

A research study published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology analyzed data on eight randomized trials of 25,000 people 65 and older. The study concluded that those who took these drugs had a 39.4 percent reduction in heart attacks and 23.8 percent reduction in strokes. What is surprising, however, is that they did not live longer.

On the other hand, seniors have often suffered reversible side effects like diarrhea, aches and pains, tiredness, memory loss and more after taking statin medicines that disappeared after they stopped. This may partly be because older people are more prone to experiencing more side effects. In 2012, the FDA added safety alerts to prescribing information of statin drugs warning against memory loss, diabetes and muscle pain, especially after research studies pointed to increase risk of developing diabetes after taking statin drugs.

At the same time, it may be noted that older people who have greater risk of developing cardiovascular problems or who have an existing history of heart disease or heart attack should be taking cholesterol lowering drugs if they have high cholesterol levels and have been prescribed the drugs by a doctor.

Recent study shows that low dose statin drugs may work equally well

A study published on February 10, 2014 in the Annals of Internal Medicines and conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins showed that lowering the dose of statin may reduce cholesterol levels, at the same time reducing the side effects. Data from 36 trials published till November 2013 were studied and the results showed that using low dose statin drugs combined with a non statin drug like a bile sequestrant decreased LDL cholesterol levels by 0-14 percent more than mid level dosage of statin drugs given alone. Similar or higher numbers were reached when comparing mid level dosage and high level dosage of statin given with ezetimibe.

The study, authored by Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, assistant professor of medicine, shows that perhaps statin drugs alone may not be as effective in lowering cholesterol levels when compared to statin drugs given with non statin drugs of different kinds. The combination therapy can help reduce the dosage of statin drugs require and so minimize unwanted side effects.

‘At least in the short term, this strategy seems to be as effective as the high-dose statin alone, although there were two major caveats: We don’t know much about side effects and we don’t know about long-term effectiveness,’ Dr Gudzune warned.

Generic statins versus brand name ones

There is yet another controversy surrounding statin drugs apart from the fact that many studies have implicated them in diabetes and that is about the use of generic statin drugs. While these are routinely prescribed – 80 percent of prescription medicines are generics – and are USFDA approved, often patients do not respond to generics.

That is because research has shown that at least 10 percent of the drugs procured from other countries like India and other emerging economies contain impurities that compromise their effectiveness. Often doctors advise brand names rather than generics, especially if the drug does not have the effect it is supposed to. While the FDA is taking action against companies manufacturing these drugs and penalizing them or banning their products there is widespread alarm about quality compromised drugs.


Harvard Health Publication

The New York Times

The Diagnostic Device That Could Take the Place of the Stethoscope

ultrasoundThe image of a doctor with a stethoscope around his or her neck is deeply ingrained in everyone’s mind, so much so that anybody with a white coat and a stethoscope is thought to be a doctor. The stethoscope has been used for over two centuries by doctors to check all kinds of sounds within the body, including those emanating from the heart, lungs and even stomach. In fact, the stethoscope is an important primary diagnostic tool in the hands of a competent doctor. It is only when the sounds are clinically co-related with the medical history and symptoms of the patient that a doctor may ask for more advanced medical tests, if necessary.

A portable ultrasound machine

Science, technology and modern medicine combined with miniaturization may well make the small portable ultrasound machine the ‘stethoscope’ of the 21st century. Ultrasound machines are typically used in labs, hospitals and doctors’ offices to diagnose many ailments, offering a more direct inner view of the body. They are non-invasive and use sound waves to generate a picture of soft tissues in the body. They are routinely used for women whether during pregnancy or as a primary diagnostic tool for fibroids, cysts, ovulation cycles and for both genders for many other ailments concerning the heart, liver, kidney, gall bladder, muscles, tissues, ligaments, glands and even eyes.

Though small ultrasound machines that are portable are available, they have to be used by trained radiologists and the machines are only smaller versions of the larger ones, used during emergencies, when it may be risky to move the patient.

Hand held ultrasound machines

The new ultrasound machines are actually hand held, similar in size to a deck of playing cards. They are not going to be available sometime in the future – they are already in the market. Among the many companies manufacturing these lightweight ultrasound machines are:

Konica Minolta – Sonimage P3 provides high quality images that can be viewed both on the device or in larger sizes and better clarity when the device is plugged into a PC, laptop or tablet. It weighs less than 14 oz.

Mobisante Ultrasound – MobiUS SP1 is less than 12 oz, comes with a viewer, is about the size of a smartphone, works likes one (without the calling facility) and can send the data wirelessly to people or to other devices for diagnostic purposes, to store the images and data and keep records. Like a smartphone, it has a touchscreen user interface.

GE Healthcare – Vscan is their portable ultrasound device with a one-hand user interface, making it ultraportable and easy to use. One of the earliest ones to come into the market, the Vscan provides high quality images for faster diagnosis.

There are other companies, too, making similar machines or slightly larger ones. Most of them work on batteries and can work for an hour without needing a recharge. They also come with docking stations and accessories and most can take memory cards.

How effective are these hand held machines?

Obviously these machines cannot provide the superior quality and depth of images that larger machines do. But because they are so convenient to use and can easily become the primary diagnostic tool, they work very well in emergency situations and can diagnose conditions faster that otherwise may take another round of investigations. Using these smaller devices can reduce the need for diagnosis by larger machines that cost the patient or insurance company a great deal of money, adding to healthcare costs.

One major roadblock in their widespread usage is that while stethoscopes are easy to use, doctors may require special training with these devices to be able to provide an accurate diagnosis. On the plus side, as medical students come into contact with these new devices they will be able to work with them more easily.

Medical view

According to an editorial How Relevant is Point-of-Care Ultrasound in LMIC authored by Dr. Jagat Narula, associate dean for global affairs at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Dr. Bret Nelson, associate professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai, in the December 2103 issue of Global Heart, stethoscopes are on their way out and being replaced by portable ultrasound devices to provide a quicker and more accurate diagnosis in the hands of doctors. These devices could help prevent misdiagnoses and detect abnormalities that can lead to quicker intervention.

However, some doctors, particularly the older and more traditional ones may not give up the stethoscopes so easily. Many of them are attached to them in different ways. Let us not forget that these analogue devices do not need batteries, screens and other paraphernalia that go with portable ultrasound devices – they just need trained and experienced human ears.


National Institutes of Health

Is Sugar a Dangerous Drug?

imagesEverybody has sugar; even people who are diabetic have some sugar in their controlled diets, knowingly or unknowingly. New research now says that sugar is actually an addictive and dangerous drug that can kill.

CDC scientist says that sugar can kill

Quanhe Yang, a senior scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led a team of researchers that reviewed and analyzed data of over 31,000 people who took part in a National Health and Nutrition Survey. The conclusions of their research, published in JAMA on February 3, 2014, were that when people consumed 21 percent of their calories from a diet of 2000 calories from added sugar, they doubled their risk of death from heart disease. While the risk lowered as the intake of added sugar lowered, or the overall percentage decreased, the risk is still substantially high.

Among the major culprits of unnecessary added sugar in the diet were sugar sweetened beverages, processed foods, desserts and food items like honey, molasses, corn syrup and more. The survey covered only sugar that was added to foods and not natural sugar such as that in fruits and vegetables.

Amsterdam health official says that sugar is a dangerous and addictive drug

Earlier, on September 17, 2013, a Dutch official, Paul Van Der Velpen, the head of the Public Health Service of Amsterdam, called sugar a dangerous and addictive drug and said that it should be tightly regulated and people should be made aware of its dangers. ‘This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of the times and can still be easily acquired everywhere,’ he said

He compared sugar’s addictive properties to that of alcohol and drugs, saying that an appetite for sugar perpetuates itself and never gets satiated.

Sugar is known not to have any beneficial health properties, adds empty calories to the diet and contributes to obesity that is a factor in many diseases. As such, it makes sense to cut down the intake of added sugar in the diet for all these reasons and more