How birds are used to monitor pollution.

Swallows and homing pigeons do their part for environmental surveillance.

Common nesting birds may provide a convenient way to track environmental clean-up efforts.

Nesting birds that feed on insects that hatch in lake or stream-bed sediments may make good biomonitors for pollution, says Thomas Custer of the US Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. That’s because any contamination in the sediment will make its way into the birds and into their eggs and young.

An example, says Custer, is the tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), which still showed “significant quantities” of toxic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenols in its eggs and chicks seven years after remediation efforts started at a former capacitor-manufacturing plant in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southern Illinois1. The findings “prompted further sediment removal”, he says.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Long Beach, California, last week, Custer described how his group has also used swallows to monitor a 2010 project intended to remove contaminated sediments from Ohio’s Ottawa River near Toledo. Not all the data are in yet, but things look good, he says. “From the standpoint of the birds, this is not a hotspot.”

One advantage of using swallows for such work is that they are known to forage over fairly small distances, rarely more than 500 metres from their nests. “They represent very localized contamination,” Custer says.

Also, researchers can attract them to areas of interest simply by putting out nesting boxes on poles, because nesting sites are the birds’ most important environmental limit, Custer says.

Roger Helm, head of the environmental contaminants programme for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (which administers the country’s national wildlife refuges) in Arlington, Virginia, agrees. A huge advantage of using swallows, he says, is that they provide a “replicable” experimental approach, which is much better than gathering “bits of data” from randomly collected animals.

Furthermore, he adds, it can even help the birds, because the presence of nesting boxes improves the birds’ habitat. And the loss of a few eggs and nestlings to researchers isn’t likely to hurt the species, Helm says. “It is extremely rare for more than 50% of the nestlings to survive, anyway,” he says. “The wonderful thing about this kind of work is you can say something meaningful. The worst kind of science does a fair amount of harm and has nothing to say because you don’t have the sample size to draw a reasonable conclusion. You kill a bunch of things, and what do you know?”

Swallows are not the only birds being used for such purposes. Richard Halbrook, a wildlife toxicologist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, uses homing pigeons to monitor air quality.

Homing pigeons — once used to carry messages over long distances — are still bred by hobbyists around the world, who use them for competitions. Many birds are kept in lofts, and often in cities, so breathe ambient air. Even better, their life histories are well known, which is not possible for wild birds. Pigeon hobbyists “keep pretty elaborate records”, Halbrook says.

In a pilot study involving birds purchased from hobbyists in China, the Philippines and the United States, Halbrook found stunning health-related differences that were apparently related to air quality. In Beijing and Manilla, for example, he found black lungs and enlarged testes. In one case, a testicle was so huge it was one-fifth the weight of the entire bird. But in less polluted cities elsewhere in China and in the United States, the birds’ organs were much healthier.

Plus, the lungs and livers from the birds from Beijing contained three or four times more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, common by-products of fossil-fuel burning, than did those from areas with better air quality. “This suggests that other species, including humans, may also have adverse effects” from these environmental contaminants, he says.

Source: Nature

Quantum cryptography conquers noise problem.

Encoded photons sent a record distance along busy optical fibres.

Quantum cryptography could keep messages ultra-secure — if the right detector can be developed.

It’s hard to stand out from the crowd — particularly if you are a single photon in a sea of millions in an optical fibre. Because of that, ultra-secure quantum-encryption systems that encode signals into a series of single photons have so far been unable to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. But now, physicists using a technique for detecting dim light signals have transmitted a quantum key along 90 kilometres of noisy optical fibre1. The feat could see quantum cryptography finally enter the mainstream.

You cannot measure a quantum system without noticeably disrupting it. That means that two people can encode an encryption key — for bank transfers, for instance — into a series of photons and share it, safe in the knowledge that any eavesdropper will trip the system’s alarms. But such systems have not been able to transmit keys along telecommunications lines, because other data traffic swamps the encoded signal. As a result, quantum cryptography has had only niche applications, such as connecting offices to nearby back-up sites using expensive ‘dark’ fibres that carry no other signals. “This is really the bottleneck for quantum cryptography,” says physicist Nicolas Gisin, a scientific adviser at quantum-cryptography company ID Quantique in Geneva, Switzerland.

Physicists have attempted to solve the problem by sending photons through a shared fibre along a ‘quantum channel‘ at one characteristic wavelength. The trouble is that the fibre scatters light from the normal data traffic into that wavelength, polluting the quantum channel with stray photons. Andrew Shields, a physicist at the Toshiba Cambridge Research Laboratory, UK, and his colleagues have now developed a detector that picks out photons from this channel only if they strike it at a precise instant, calculated on the basis of when the encoded photons were sent. The team publishes its results in Physics Review X.

Designing a detector with such a sharp time focus was tough, explains Shields. Standard detectors use semiconducting devices that create an avalanche of electrical charge when struck by a single photon. But it usually takes more than one nanosecond (10−9 seconds) for the avalanche to grow large enough to stand out against the detector’s internal electrical hiss — much longer than the narrow window of 100 picoseconds (10−10 seconds) needed to filter a single photon from a crowd.

The team’s ‘self-differentiating’ detector activates for 100 picoseconds, every nanosecond. The weak charge triggered by a photon strike in this short interval would not normally stand out, but the detector measures the difference between the signal recorded during one operational cycle and the signal from the preceding cycle — when no matching photon was likely to be detected. This cancels out the background hum. Using this device, the team has transmitted a quantum key along a 90-kilometre fibre, which also carried noisy data at 1 billion bits per second in both directions — a rate typical of a telecommunications fibre. The team now intends to test the technique on a real telecommunications line.

Gisin’s team has independently developed a photon detector with a similar time window, which they presented at the QCrypt 2012 meeting at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore in September. However, Gisin has calculated that such a technique cannot be used to transmit quantum signals beyond the range of a large city of 100 kilometres2. Scattering accumulates over distance, so there would eventually be so many stray photons that it would be impossible to filter them out, even with a precisely timed detector.

Still, 90 kilometres is a “world record that is a big step forward in demonstrating the applicability of quantum cryptography in real-world telecommunications infrastructures”, says Vicente Martín, a physicist at the Technical University of Madrid.

Source: Nature


The whiff of white could hide strong odours.

Complex mixtures of many odours tend to smell the same.

Neither pleasant nor foul-smelling, and in no way overwhelming: this is how researchers sum up the smell they are calling “olfactory white”.

The smell was uncovered during experiments that mixed aroma molecules from across the scent spectrum. Even if two mixtures had no components in common, they tended towards having a similar scent as more aromas were added. By the time they contained about 30 components, most mixtures smelled alike1, and could mask other distinctive smells.

The researchers say that the resulting smell, which is unlikely to occur naturally, has parallels with both white light and ‘white noise’. These are produced by combining the wavelengths of the visible spectrum and different sound frequencies, respectively.

Given that our noses contain hundreds of different odour receptors, the phenomenon is counterintuitive, says Noam Sobel, an neuroscientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, who led the work, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “One might imagine that the more odours are added, the more ‘special’ the odour would become,” he says, “Yet what we show is the opposite.”

Mix and match

Sobel and his team selected 86 single-molecule odorants, representative of the known scent spectrum, and diluted each to the same perceived intensity. They assembled 191 pairs of non-overlapping aroma mixtures, each containing up to 43 of the molecules spaced out over the olfactory spectrum, and asked 56 volunteers to rate the similarity of a selection of the pairs.

The results showed that the more components each of the two mixtures contained, the more alike they smelled. Volunteers consistently began to find the mixtures similar at 20 or more components, and by 30 components the mixtures were “highly similar” — a trend that implies there is an end point of perceptual convergence, olfactory white.

The phenomenon was confirmed by a further experiment with a different series of four newly generated 40-component mixtures labelled ‘laurax’. Participants were familiarized with one of them. When smelling odorant mixtures they had not smelled before, volunteers were more likely to identify the scent as laurax if a mixture contained 20 or more components. Participants applied the laurax label to novel 40-component mixtures 58% of the time, and a follow-up study confirmed that most could still identify — and so remember — the laurax smell six months later.

Just as the colour white comes in different shades, all still identifiable as white, so too can olfactory white, says Sobel. But there are limitations. Unlike light and sound, the full extent of olfactory space — all the molecules we can smell — has not yet been identified. This doesn’t invalidate the concept of olfactory white, Sobel says, but does mean that its ‘true’ smell is likely to be different from the white that the study has identified.

The whole story

Olfactory researcher Donald Wilson of New York University Langone Medical Center describes the finding as “fundamental”. “It tells us something very basic about how the olfactory system deals with mixtures,” he says.

And Hiroaki Matsunami, an olfactory researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says that the findings enhance the idea that the olfactory system doesn’t detect individual molecules, but odours as a whole.

But does the finding have any real-world applications? A further experiment by Sobel and his team indicated that it does. When the four molecules key to the smell of rose were combined with an olfactory white mixture, the rose smell was effectively obscured — showing that olfactory white could be used to mask odours, from the smell of public toilets to that of cocaine or explosives.

However, the physiological mechanism that causes different mixtures to smell alike remains to be established. But Sobel guesses it is unlikely to involve the receptors in the nose because the 30 odours would have to activate so many receptors there, which are known to be quite specific. “I think it is something happening in the brain,” he says.

Source: Nature



Brain scans of rappers shed light on creativity.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows what happens in the brain during improvisation.

Rappers making up rhymes on the fly while in a brain scanner have provided an insight into the creative process.

Freestyle rapping — in which a performer improvises a song by stringing together unrehearsed lyrics — is a highly prized skill in hip hop. But instead of watching a performance in a club, Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.

The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. The study is published today in Scientific Reports1.

The results parallel previous imaging studies in which Braun and Charles Limb, a doctor and musician at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, looked at fMRI scans from jazz musicians2. Both sets of artists showed lower activity in part of their frontal lobes called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during improvisation, and increased activity in another area, called the medial prefrontal cortex. The areas that were found to be ‘deactivated’ are associated with regulating other brain functions.

“We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity,” says Braun.

He adds that this suggestion is “a little bit controversial in the literature”, because some studies have found activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in creative behaviour. He suggests that the discrepancy might have to do with the tasks chosen to represent creativity. In studies that found activation, the activities — such as those that require recall — may actually be less creative.

“We try to stick with more natural creative processing, and when we do that we see this decrease in the dorsal lateral regions,” says Braun.

Pump down the volume

Rex Jung, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, has also studied the link between brain structures and creativity, finding an inverse relationship between the volume of some frontal lobe structures and creativity3. “Some of our results imply this downregulation of the frontal lobes in service of creative cognition. [The latest paper] really appears to pull it all together,” he says. “I’m excited about the findings.”

Jung says that this downregulation is likely to apply in other, non-musical areas of creativity — including science.

The findings also suggest an explanation for why new music might seem to the artist to be created of its own accord. With less involvement by the lateral prefrontal regions of the brain, the performance could seem to its creator to have “occurred outside of conscious awareness”, the authors write.

Michael Eagle, a study co-author who raps under the name Open Mike Eagle, agrees: “That’s kind of the nature of that type of improvisation. Even as people who do it, we’re not 100% sure of where we’re getting improvisation from.”

Liu says that the researchers are now working on problems they were unable to explore with freestylers — such as what happens after the initial burst of creative inspiration.

“We think that the creative process may be divided into two phases,” he says. “The first is the spontaneous improvisatory phase. In this phase you can generate novel ideas. We think there is a second phase, some kind of creative processing [in] revision.”

The researchers would also like to look at how creativity differs between experts and amateurs of a similar artistic ilk to freestylers: poets and storytellers.

Watch the video on youtube.URL:

Source: Nature






Great apes go through mid-life crisis.

Survey hints at biological cause for middle-age blues.

They may not take up surfing or start second careers as cupcake-makers, but chimpanzees and orangutans seem to go through a ‘mid-life crisis’, just like humans.

A study of 508 great apes in captivity published today1 shows that the animals’ sense of well-being bottoms out in their late 20s to mid-30s, the ape equivalent of middle age, before rebounding in old age.

The finding that mid-life crises may not be uniquely human suggests that the events might have a biological, rather than a sociological, cause.

Men and women worldwide, regardless of their wealth or status, experience a dip in happiness at middle-age, generally defined as from the mid-30s to late 50s. Despite this universality, social scientists have struggled to identify the underlying cause of the dissatisfaction. Social and economic factors, such as financial hardship and the failure to realize unrealistic ambitions, are possible causes.

Alexander Weiss, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and his team set out to see if there might be a biological factor involved in the crises. They sought to assess the well-being of captive chimpanzees and orangutans as judged by their keepers or those who knew them well.

The apes covered all age ranges, and their ‘happiness’ was rated through a survey answered by their keepers. The survey covered four criteria: the animals’ overall mood; how much pleasure they got out of socializing; their success in achieving goals such as obtaining food and objects they desire; and how happy the keeper would be if he or she were that animal for a week.

The survey is admittedly anthropomorphic, says Weiss, but he adds that it is easy for someone who spends a lot of time with an ape to gauge its mood. Moreover, his previous work shows that the measure of well-being is consistent when measured by different caretakers, and is based, in part, on inherited genetic factors.

Among three different groups of chimps and orangutans surveyed, the happiest tended to be the oldest and youngest, and the most dissatisfied tended to be in their 30s. The study, however, is a snapshot — it didn’t follow any of the apes over time — which means there could be confounding factors such as the early death of unhappy apes. Nonetheless, Weiss believes the results offer a true picture.

Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, would have liked to see a harder measure of ape happiness, such as stress hormone levels, but says that the conclusion, if real, could have implications for understanding our own mid-life crises. “Instead of ascribing the middle-age dip to the complexities of professional life or other socioeconomic and cultural factors,” he says, “it may well be that certain physical characteristics, hormone levels or emotion-regulation skills play a role.”

Weiss is intrigued by the idea that all apes share a common biological basis for a dip in happiness in middle age. Age-related changes in the brain offer one possibility. “Maybe evolution needed us to be at our most dissatisfied in midlife,” says co-author Andrew Oswald, who is based at the University of Warwick, UK. Unhappiness can be a catalyst for change, potentially spurring unhappy adults to act more adaptively, for instance, by seeking out mates.

Any explanation is speculative, Weiss admits, emphasizing that even if there is a common biological root, the effects of the crises are filtered through cultural practices and environmental influences. “I don’t think you’ll find chimpanzees buying bright red shiny cars,” he says.

Source: Nature


Worker Could be Punished Over Flu Shot ?

An employee of Mercy Hospital in West St. Louis County, Missouri recently spoke with CNN about her frustrations surrounding their flu shot policy.1

Employees are required to get a flu shot, or they will become ineligible for a raise in 2013, as well as face corrective action in the form of a written warning.

Despite being happy with her job otherwise, this particular employee noted well-founded fears over proven adverse reactions linked to the shot, and feels her personal freedoms are being violated.

It’s a sentiment echoed not only across the United States, but also around the globe, as health care workers are increasingly being asked to get a flu shot against their will – or forfeit their jobs.

Health Care Workers Are Refusing Flu Shots and Are Hesitant to Offer Them

In Switzerland, some health care workers are not only personally refusing to get vaccinated for the flu, but they’re reluctant to offer the vaccine to their patients either. Teaching hospitals in Geneva, Switzerland led a study last year that found many health care workers viewed the seasonal flu as “a benign disease not really requiring any special [prevention] effort.”

Others believe the risks and lack of proven effectiveness raise questions over the flu shot recommendations. As Swissinfo reported:2

“Pascal Büchler is a homeopathic physician in Yverdon-les-Bains and a member of a group that offers “nuanced and critical” thoughts on vaccines.

‘I’m certainly not a dogmatic anti-vaccinist,’ he says. ‘But vaccines against seasonal flu have been shown to be ineffective for elderly people, who are also the greatest risk group.’

A Swiss-German gynecologist explained to that he refuses to vaccinate pregnant women against influenza, as ordered by the Federal Office of Public Health, ‘because we cannot rule out the risk of resulting fetal abnormalities.'”

A Needle in a Haystack…

Even if you were to overlook the risk of side effects, which I’ll discuss below, getting a flu shot to prevent the flu is very much like finding a needle in a haystack. There are over 200 viruses that cause influenza and influenza-like illnesses. Both produce the same symptoms, such as fever, aches and pains, headache, cough and runny nose, so the only way a physician can tell what is actually the flu and what is another viral illness is with laboratory testing.

The flu vaccine is, at best, only effective against influenza A and B, which represents only about 10 percent of all circulating viruses.3 This means that even if in the best case scenario you get a flu shot, and it happens to be effective for you, you’re still completely vulnerable to 90 percent of the flu-like viruses that are circulating in your area…

If you happen to come down with symptoms of the flu, it’s actually far more likely that you have a flu-like illness than the actual “flu” for which the flu shot is designed against. And that doesn’t even mean you’re definitely protected against all flu viruses.

Major Medical Journal Questions Flu Drug Tamiflu’s Effectiveness

Tamiflu is one of two drugs (the other is Relenza) that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for treating the flu. The drug has also been included in a list of “essential medicines” put out by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The CDC claims Tamiflu can shorten the duration of flu symptoms and lower your risk of complications and hospitalization, but a British Medical Journal (BMJ) open data campaign is calling on Roche, the drug’s maker, to release full clinical trial reports to prove it.4

In 2009, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) conducted a major review of available data and found no evidence Tamiflu can prevent healthy people with flu from suffering complications such as pneumonia.5 Tamiflu may shorten the bout of illness by a meager day or so, the investigators said, but it was impossible to know whether it prevents severe disease, because the published data was insufficient. In October 2012, BMJ editor in chief Fiona Godlee sent a letter to Roche board member John Bell,6 noting that the findings in their 2009 report could not be relied upon because:

  • Eight of the 10 Tamiflu trials upon which its effectiveness claims were based were never published
  • The two that had been published were funded by Roche and authored by Roche employees and Roche-paid external experts

She further noted:

“The Cochrane reviewers now know that there are at least 123 trials of Tamiflu and that the majority (60%) of patient data from Roche Phase 3 completed trials remain unpublished. There are concerns on a number of fronts: the likely overstating of effectiveness and the apparent under-reporting of potentially serious adverse effects.”

Roche made a promise to release full clinical trial reports in 2009, but has yet to do so, hence BMJ’s most recent request for the full data. Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency is investigating Roche for improper reporting of side effects, including deaths, related to Tamiflu and 18 other drugs.7 Side effects of Tamiflu include convulsions, delirium and delusions. Deaths in children and adults have been reported, as have neuropsychological effects such as altered behavior and nightmares. Other rare side effects such as toxic epidermal necrolysis and blindness have also been reported.

You Might be Surprised by the Science Surrounding Flu Shots’ (Lack of) Effectiveness

The evidence against flu vaccines is rapidly mounting as well. Most people simply assume that flu shots “work,” but even a cursory review of the science shows otherwise. A review published earlier this year, for instance, found that the elderly, in particular, do not appear to receive measureable value from the flu shot,8 which is the same conclusion reached by several previous studies. According to the authors:

“Influenza vaccines can provide moderate protection against virologically confirmed influenza, but such protection is greatly reduced or absent in some seasons. Evidence for protection in adults aged 65 years or older is lacking.”

In essence, if you’re a senior, you’re taking a health risk for a theoretical health benefit that can’t be confirmed and, if you’re a healthy adult, it’s truly a shot in the dark. Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccines also didn’t offer much protection to children over the age of 7, while the effectiveness of inactivated flu vaccine for children under 2 has also been questioned.9 In the latter study, only one study on flu vaccine in children under 2 could be found, despite the fact that it is now a standard recommendation. The author noted:10

“It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months old in the USA and Canada.”

Further, the notion that giving health care workers the flu shot will protect hospital patients from the flu is another unproven case of wishful thinking. A Cochrane Database Review—which is the gold standard for assessing the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of commonly used medical interventions – concluded:11

“There is no credible evidence that vaccination of healthy people under the age of 60, who are HCWs [health care workers] caring for the elderly, affects influenza complications in those cared for.”

As for the general adult population, Cochrane published the following bombshell conclusion last year:12

“Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission. WARNING: This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines.

The review demonstrated that reliable scientific evidence confirming that influenza vaccines are effective is thin and there is plenty of reason to suspect that there may be a manipulation of conclusions when the studies are funded by drug companies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”

Forcing a health care worker to receive a flu shot or face disciplinary action is not only an assault to their personal freedom, especially given the startling lack of proven effectiveness, but it’s also a potential risk to their health.

While infants and young children are at greatest risk, NO ONE is exempt from the potential serious complications of vaccination, one of which is Guillaine-Barre syndrome (GBS). In the video above, Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the non-profit National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), interviews a Connecticut artist and her mother, a former professor of nursing, who developed GBS after getting a seasonal flu shot in 2008 and today is permanently disabled with total body paralysis.

This family has chosen to share their heartbreaking story to help those who have had the same experience feel less alone, and to educate others about what it means to be vaccine injured. What happened to this family is a poignant reminder of just how important it is to make well-informed decisions about vaccinations.

The inactivated influenza vaccine has been associated with development of GBS since 1976, when an inactivated “swine flu” shot given to millions of healthy Americans caused GBS in several hundred previously healthy Americans and there were 30 deaths.13

Not to mention, research published in the Journal of Virology14 in November of last year also confirmed that the seasonal flu vaccine may actually weaken children’s immune systems and increase their chances of getting sick from influenza viruses not included in the vaccine, which is to say all but three! And in September, the Canadian press broke the story that new research confirms initial findings that the flu vaccine appeared to actually increase people’s risk of getting sick with H1N1 “swine flu,” and cause more serious bouts of illness to boot.

Your Right to Choose is Under Attack

It is not only health care workers who are being pressured into making a health care decision they oftentimes don’t agree with…

In the states of Connecticut and New Jersey, mandates are already in place that force parents to give their 6-month-old babies a flu vaccine or be banned from daycare. And state health department officials are increasingly joining with medical trade association lobbyists in many states to severely restrict or eliminate medical, religious and conscientious belief vaccine exemptions for all children and their parents, notes Barbara Loe Fisher.

The partnership between government health agencies and big Pharma, based on ideology, profit-making and bad science, is moving closer and closer to discriminating against those who want to exercise their right to informed consent and abstaining from participating in an ever-expanding vaccine schedule. This is a pressing issue for health care workers in the immediacy, but it’s one that is quickly snowballing into the general population as well.

Is Diabetes Triggered by the Flu Virus?

Although most cases of diabetes (type 2) are caused by diet and lifestyle choices that cause your cells to become insulin resistant, some cases of diabetes (type 1) occur when the immune system destroys pancreatic cells needed to produce insulin.

Because type 1 diabetes often seems to “appear” after an infection, it’s been suggested a virus may trigger the disease, and cause the immune dysfunction that leads to diabetes. Now researchers have determined that the flu virus may play a role in causing both pancreatitis and diabetes in humans and animals.15 The press is using this as another scare-tactic for why you should get the flu shot… but rest assured, there is another way.

How to Stay Flu-Free, Naturally

Fortunately, avoiding a serious case of the flu doesn’t require a flu vaccination. By following these simple guidelines, you can help keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you’re far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with or, if you do get sick with the flu, you are better prepared to move through it without complications and soon return to good health.

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I’ve previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself. This is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.

Ideally, you’ll want to get all your vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, but as a last resort you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. According to the latest review by Carole Baggerly (, adults need about 8,000 IU’s a day.

  • Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods. Sugar impairs the function of your immune system almost immediately, and as you likely know, a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other illness. Be aware that sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice.
  • Optimize Your Gut Flora. The best way to do this is avoid apply the step above by avoiding sugars, processed foods and most grains, and replacing them with healthy fats and taking regular amounts of fermented foods, which can radically improve the function of your immune system
  • Get Enough Rest. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you’re tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
  • Have Effective Tools to Address Stress. We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
  • Get Regular Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. Be sure to incorporate high-intensity interval exercises like Peak Fitness into your routine.
  • Take a Good Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils that are trans fats and in processed foods as it will seriously damage your immune response.
  • Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don’t use antibacterial soap for this – antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to.
  • Tried and True Hygiene Measures. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If possible, avoid close contact with those, who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
  • Use Natural Antibiotics. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic. These work like broad-spectrum antibiotics against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance.
  • Avoid Hospitals. I’d recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you’re having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.

Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Vaccine Exemptions

With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it’s critical to protect your right to informed consent and to abstain from vaccinating by exercising vaccine exemptions in state public health laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and the leaders in your community.


Mass vaccination policies are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact. It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.

Signing up for NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal at gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choices and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips.

So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.

Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know

If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury or death, please talk about it. If we don’t share information and experiences with each other, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.

I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the “other side” of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.

We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than “statistically acceptable collateral damage” of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn’t be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

I encourage you to visit the following web pages on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) website at

  • NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
  • If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
  • Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.

Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One that Will Listen and Care

If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don’t want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the conventional medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.

However, there is hope.

At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they’re starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.

So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.

Source: Dr. Mercola


Mucosal healing in inflammatory bowel diseases: a systematic review.

Recent studies have identified mucosal healing on endoscopy as a key prognostic parameter in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), thus highlighting the role of endoscopy for monitoring of disease activity in IBD. In fact, mucosal healing has emerged as a key treatment goal in IBD that predicts sustained clinical remission and resection-free survival of patients. The structural basis of mucosal healing is an intact barrier function of the gut epithelium that prevents translocation of commensal bacteria into the mucosa and submucosa with subsequent immune cell activation. Thus, mucosal healing should be considered as an initial event in the suppression of inflammation of deeper layers of the bowel wall, rather than as a sign of complete healing of gut inflammation. In this systematic review, the clinical studies on mucosal healing are summarised and the effects of anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs such as 5-aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, azathioprine, ciclosporin and anti-TNF antibodies (adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, infliximab) on mucosal healing are discussed. Finally, the implications of mucosal healing for subsequent clinical management in patients with IBD are highlighted.



Differential impact of body mass index and its change on the risk of breast cancer by molecular subtype: a case–control study in Japanese women.

Body mass index (BMI) is an independent risk factor for luminal-type breast cancer in Western populations. However, it is unclear whether the impact of BMI differs according to breast cancer subtype in Japanese populations.We conducted a case–control study with 715 cases and 1430 age- and menopausal status-matched controls to evaluate the associations of BMI and its change (from age 20 years to the current age) with breast cancer risk. We applied conditional logistic regression models to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Tumor subtypes were divided into four subtypes, namely the luminal, luminal/HER2, HER2-rich, and triple-negative subtypes.Current BMI and BMI change were positively associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk. On stratified analysis by tumor subtype, we observed associations between current BMI and BMI change and postmenopausal breast cancer risk for the luminal subtype, with OR for each 1 kg/m2 increase in current BMI of 1.14 (95% CI: 1.07 – 1.20) and the corresponding OR of BMI change of 1.16 (1.09 – 1.23) (each Ptrend < 0.001). Additionally, we found the same tendency for the triple-negative subtype, with the OR for a 1 kg/m2 increase in current BMI of 1.21 (1.05 – 1.39) and that for BMI change of 1.18 (1.02 – 1.36) (Ptrend was 0.008 and 0.024, respectively). In premenopausal women, a suggestive inverse association was observed between BMI change and breast cancer risk for the luminal subtype only, with OR of BMI change of 0.93 (0.87 – 1.00, Ptrend = 0.054). No association was seen between BMI at age 20 years and risk of any tumor subtype.In conclusion, BMI and its change are associated with the risk of both luminal and triple-negative breast cancer among postmenopausal Japanese women. These findings suggest the etiological heterogeneity of breast cancer among tumor subtypes.

Source: Springer



Folate receptor alpha (FRA) expression in breast cancer: identification of a new molecular subtype and association with triple negative disease.

Given that several targeted therapies directed towards folate receptor alpha (FRA) are in late stage clinical development, the sensitive and robust detection of FRA in tissues is of paramount importance relative to patient selection, prognosis and prediction. In the present study we undertook an immunohistochemical evaluation of expression of FRA in breast cancer samples using formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues, primarily invasive ductal carcinomas, using a newly described monoclonal antibody, 26B3. Samples assessed included both tissue microarrays (TMA) and whole tissue sections from archival tissue blocks. Normal breast shows a highly restricted expression of FRA to luminal membrane staining of secretory ductal cells, consistent with FRA secretion into milk. In early stage (stages I-III) invasive ductal carcinomas, FRA staining was observed in approximately 30% of all samples, independent of molecular subtype (estrogen receptor (ER)/progesterone receptor (PR)/human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2 (Her2)). However, FRA expression was shown to associate with ER/PR negative tumors relative to ER/PR positive tumors (p = 0.012) and perhaps more importantly, with triple negative breast cancers (TNBC; p < 0.0001). FRA immunoreactivity was also shown to be retained in stage IV metastatic breast cancer samples from diverse anatomic sites including lymph node and bone. In metastatic breast cancer, FRA was shown to be expressed in 86% of TNBC patients. Taken together, these data suggest that FRA expressing breast cancer represents a novel molecular subtype and, further, may represent a new therapeutic target for this devastating disease.

Source: Springer



Chronic traumatic encephalopathy: the dangers of getting “dinged”.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a form of neurodegeneration that results from repetitive brain trauma. Not surprisingly, CTE has been linked to participation in contact sports such as boxing, hockey and American football. In American football getting “dinged” equates to moments of dizziness, confusion, or grogginess that can follow a blow to the head. There are approximately 100,000 to 300,000 concussive episodes occurring in the game of American football alone each year. It is believed that repetitive brain trauma, with or possibly without symptomatic concussion, sets off a cascade of events that result in neurodegenerative changes highlighted by accumulations of hyperphosphorylated tau and neuronal TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43). Symptoms of CTE may begin years or decades later and include a progressive decline of memory, as well as depression, poor impulse control, suicidal behavior, and, eventually, dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease. In some individuals, CTE is also associated with motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Given the millions of athletes participating in contact sports that involve repetitive brain trauma, CTE represents an important public health issue.

In this review, we discuss recent advances in understanding the etiology of CTE. It is now known that those instances of mild concussion or “dings” that we may have previously not noticed could very well be causing progressive neurodegenerative damage to a player’s brain. In the future, focused and intensive study of the risk factors could potentially uncover methods to prevent and treat this disease.


Source: Springer