An Orca Has Been Taught to “Say” Human Words in a World-First


A captive orca named Wikie has become the first killer whale known to recognisably make sounds that are not part of her native repertoire – including human language words like “hello” and “bye bye”.

An international team of researchers has just published a study demonstrating the talking abilities of 14-year-old Wikie, who lives at Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France.

Orcas are remarkably intelligent ocean mammals, which makes them deadly to their prey and, in one rare and special case, collaborative hunters with humans.

It also makes them a popular marine park attraction since they can be trained, although this practice is highly controversial, since orcas are very social animals.

They live their lives in family groups called pods, and marine park captivity removes them from that natural environment and forces the animals into relationships with strangers.

This seems especially cruel when you consider that orca pods each have their own dialects – so much so that scientists are able to distinguish between pods just by listening to the calls.

But, as a stunning case described in 2014 demonstrated, they’re also capable of learning new “dialects” when needed, even across species.

When housed with bottlenose dolphins for a period of three years, three orcas’ vocalisations changed to more closely match those of the dolphins, including dolphin vocalisations such as click trains and whistles.

Using this command, an international team of researchers have now taught Wikie to blow raspberries, mimic a creaky door, say hello and bye bye, and repeat numbers, all with her head above water.

This is the first time an orca has been trained to learn and distinctly repeat human sounds.

Previously, only three other mammals have been described doing so – an elephant in 2012 (video here), harbour seals in 1985, and a beluga whale in 2012 (you should listen here, it’s hilarious and amazing).

A beluga whale has also been observed learning to “speak dolphin,” in a case described just last year.

Wikie was a quick study. Using both live interactions and recordings, she usually learned to repeat a word, phrase or sound within 10 attempts.

She didn’t always make perfect copies – as you can hear in the audio above – but the sounds were still recognisable, both by blinded independent assessors and by sound file analysis.

To be absolutely clear, there is no evidence that Wikie understood the sounds she was making.

But the research adds to a growing body of evidence that some cetaceans, and orcas in particular, are capable of changing their vocalisations in response to hearing new sounds in their environment. This reinforces the hypothesis that orca dialects indicate social learning.

“The results reported here show that killer whales have evolved the ability to control sound  production and qualify as open-ended vocal learners,” the researchers concluded.

“Moreover, given the highly derived state of the sound-producing apparatus uniquely evolved by cetaceans, the imitative capacities found in this study also underscore the fine-tuned ability of this species to flexibly produce accurate matches of heterospecific in-air sounds.”

The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

France Is About to Make 11 Vaccines Mandatory


Of course, not everyone is pleased.

France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has announced that the government will make the 11 vaccines universally recommended by health authorities mandatory from 2018 onward.

The announcement comes in response to measles outbreaks across Europe, with 79 cases reported in France in January and February alone. Philippe branded the state of affairs “unacceptable”.

 The resurfacing of diseases like measles is believed to be caused by people believing less and less in the power of vaccines.

In France, a recent survey found that 3 in 10 people don’t trust vaccines, with only 52 percent stating they believed that the benefits outweighed the risks.

Italy has also seen a worrying increase in measles infections – the number of cases in April was five times higher than the same month in 2016.

Beatrice Lorenzin, the Italian health minister, said that the rapid increase was “an emergency generated by fake news” and cited the Five Star Movement (MS5), a political party that opposes vaccines, as a contributing factor.

The shift in public perception in Italy and France is symptomatic of a Europe-wide trend that has been attributed to the growing anti-vaccine movement.

 The genesis of the skepticism was Andrew Wakefield, who stated in a 1998 research paper that there was a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the development of autism.

The claim has been irrefutably debunked, although dubious science and scare tactics – like those used by MS5 – are perpetuating the findings of the report.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines saved more than 10 million lives between 2010 and 2015, and thanks to vaccines, we’re on the brink of completely eradicating some diseases, such as polio. Despite this, countries in both the developing and developed world remain doubtful of their effects.

In response, many countries have taken measures to increase the use of vaccines.

Italy has made 12 vaccinations obligatory for children, while Australia has introduced a financial incentive by offering parents US$129 for every child who meets recommended vaccination levels between the ages of 18 months and 24 months, with the payment being repeated if the same requirements are met between the ages of four and five.

Slovenia, in Eastern Europe, has the world’s strictest vaccination policy, with fines being issued to any parents who fail to provide their children with the nine mandatory vaccines. This has resulted in a compliance rate of 95 percent.

Dr. Farah Jameel told doctors attending the British Medical Association’s annual meeting in June that deaths in Wales from measles in 2013 were a “waste of life”.

This is arguably true for all deaths that could have been easily prevented through vaccination, especially given their ever-decreasing price and new delivery methods.

France Just Became the First Country to Ban Plastic Cups, Cutlery, and Plates


IN BRIEF

France passed a bill banning the use of conventional plastic in disposables such as cups, cutlery, and dishware. Manufacturing companies say this is a violation of EU law and vow to fight it out in court.

BUSINESS VS ENVIRONMENT

All conventional plastic dishes and cutlery will be banned in France starting 2020. As part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth initiative, France has passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic plates, cups, spoons, and forks (sporks, obviously included).

The move hopes to minimize the environmental impact of the production and use of disposables. The bill, which was passed in the summer of 2015, requires that all disposable utensils, cups, and plates be made of plant-based, compostable materials instead of conventional petroleum-based plastic.

The shift has packaging manufacturers retaliating: Brussels-based European packaging manufacturers’ organization, Pack2Go Europe, is threatening to take the matter into court should the European commission allow France to proceed with the ban.

“We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law,” says Pack2Go secretary general Eamonn Bates.

“France is flying in the face of the EU’s free movement of goods rules and this action is totally out of proportion to the environmental risk that disposable plastics tableware represents in reality,” says Pack2Go president Mike Turner.

JUST A PUBLICITY STUNT?

Our environmental footprint is undeniable: we have actually coined a term to refer to the era wherein human activity has become the dominant driver in the Earth’s environmental state—anthropocene.

Critics argue that there is insufficient proof of the environmental benefits of using biologically sourced materials for disposables, and are claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt. They also claim that using plant-based plastics will backfire when people automatically assume they will readily decompose, and leave their disposables in the wrong places. Biologically sourced materials, while biodegradable, have certain conditions for proper disposal.

However, while sustainable disposables are not perfect, statistical figures are not helping the case for conventional plastics.

The Local says France throws out 4.73 billion plastic cups every year and only 1% is recycled. In the US, Los Angeles alone pollutes the Pacific ocean with 10 metric tons of plastic fragments every day, according to EcoWatch. Plastic accounts for 10% of the total waste we generate, and it takes 500-1,000 years for the substance to degrade. Currently, they estimate that 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces is not even ocean anymore, but plastic debris.

Although this ban is obviously not enough to make a monumental difference, it is a step forward. The main thing rocking the boat for manufacturing companies? This movement might extend to other countries.

Almost no children in France are medicated for ADHD: This is how they define & treat it


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as of 2011. However, if you ask the American Psychiatric Association (APA), they maintain that even though only 5% of American children suffer from the disorder, the diagnosis is actually given to around 15% of American children. This number has been steadily rising, jumping from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007.

Big Pharma has played a significant role in manufacturing the ADHD epidemic in the U.S., convincing parents and doctors that ADHD is a common problem amongst children and one that should be medicated. However, many countries disagree with the American stance on ADHD, so much so that they have entirely different structures for defining, diagnosing, and treating it. For example, the percentage of children in France that have been diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than 0.5%. This is largely because French doctors don’t consider ADHD a biological disorder with biological causes, but rather a medical condition caused by psycho-social and situational factors.

Why France Defines ADHD Differently

French child psychiatrists use a different system than American psychiatrists to classify emotional problems in childhood. Instead of using the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)the French use an alternative classification system produced by the French Federation of Psychiatry called Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent(CFTMEA). Not only does this significantly differ from the APA’s system, but it was actually created with the intention to “offer French child psychiatrists an alternative to DSM-III” because it didn’t compliment French psychiatric practices. The CFTMEA encourages psychiatrists to identify the underlying issues that cause a child’s symptoms and to address them using a psychopathological approach.

France defines ADHD as a sociological disorder that’s caused by a set of social situations, whereas the U.S. sees ADHD as a neurological disorder whose symptoms are the result of biological disfunction or a chemical imbalance in the brain. France’s definition of ADHD drastically differs from that of the U.S., which is in part because the pharmaceutical industry helped define ADHD in the U.S. (you can read more about that here). France’s treatment methods, therefore, also greatly differ from those practiced in the U.S.

Treatment Methods for ADHD Used in France

Once a French psychiatrist diagnoses their patient with ADHD, they hone in on the behavioural problems by searching for the underlying causes. Psychiatrists will study the child’s distress and compare it to their social situations. France views ADHD as a social context problem; therefore, ADHD is often treated with psychotherapy or even family counselling. Very rarely do French psychiatrists prescribe medications to treat ADHD, as it’s usually rendered unnecessary after taking a more holistic approach.

It’s important to note that French psychiatrists also consider a patient’s diet when searching for the causes of behavioural symptoms associated with ADHD. Poor eating habits such as consuming foods with artificial colours or flavourings, preservatives, sugars, and/or allergens may worsen a child’s behaviour. This isn’t difficult to imagine; even as adults we can feel the effects certain foods have on our mood, energy levels, and thought processes.

Why There Are Fewer ADHD Cases in France Than the U.S.

A study conducted in 2011 stated that the amount of youth in France with ADHD may be as low as 3.5% — a far cry from the 11 to 15% estimate in the United States. Family therapist and author of A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic Dr. Marilyn Wedge suggests that this may be as a result of the cultural differences between the U.S. and France in regards to raising children. According to Wedge, French parents will often impose more structured lifestyles onto their children, such as enforcing strict meal times and using the “cry it out” method with babies and toddlers. Children are taught self-discipline at a young age, which is why Wedge feels they don’t need to be medicated for behavioural issues.

Unfortunately, spanking is not considered child abuse in France, so this practice is used fairly often to encourage discipline. In March 2015, the Council of Europe, an international human rights organization, faulted France over the country’s lack of legislation regarding corporal punishment of children. As The New York Timesexplained, “Child abuse is illegal in France and is punished with long prison sentences, but it is not uncommon for French parents to slap or spank children, or for the French courts to view such actions as acceptable under a customary ‘right to discipline.’ “

As Dr. Wedge points out (although neither she nor Collective Evolution support spanking or any other form of child abuse), this simply adds to the discipline they’re encouraged to practice throughout their childhood (source).While Wedge makes some interesting points regarding discipline, I don’t think that’s the underlying reason why most French children don’t need to be medicated for ADHD. Rather, because ADHD is largely a behavioural issue, it rarely requires pharmacological intervention. I believe that these treatment methods are successful in France not because of their parenting culture, but rather as a result of their holistic approach in considering diet and behavioural and social context.

I believe France does not have an issue with over-diagnosing ADHD in the same way the U.S. does because pharmaceutical companies have not targeted them as heavily. Pharmaceutical companies play a substantial role in defining ADHD and deciding treatment methods in the U.S. For example, doctors and researchers in the U.S. have been paid to overstate the dangers of ADHD and the benefits of taking their drugs and understate the negative side effects.

It’s easy for people to believe this misguided information when it’s affiliated with well-known universities like Harvard and Johns Hopkins. Many people don’t even realize that these studies are funded by the very companies that profit from the drugs’ sale because that relationship is hidden in small print (source). These drugs can have significant side effects and are actually considered to be within the same class as morphine and oxycodone due to their high risk of abuse and addiction. You can’t just blame all doctors, either; many of them genuinely believe they’re helping these children because of the information they’ve been given in these studies and by Big Pharma.

Big Pharma

Another reason the U.S. has substantially higher rates of ADHD amongst children than France is because of the ADHD drug advertisements that run in the U.S. Big Pharma creates ads for ADHD drugs sold in the U.S. that are specifically targeted at parents, describing how these drugs can improve test scores and behaviour at home, among other false claims.

One of the most controversial ones was a 2009 ad for Intuniv, Shire’s A.D.H.D. treatment, which included a child in a monster costume taking off his terrifying mask to reveal his calm, smiling self with a text reading, “There’s a great kid in there.” The FDA has stepped in multiple times, sending pharmaceutical companies warning letters or even forcing them to take down their ads because they are false, misleading, and/or exaggerate the effects of their drugs (source). This type of propaganda doesn’t take place in France, at least not on the same scale as the in U.S., largely because it doesn’t coincide with their ADHD diagnosis framework. You can read more about this topic in another article I wrote here.

How to Use This Information to More Effectively Treat ADHD

France’s CFTMEA, definition for ADHD, and holistic approach to treating this disorder provide an excellent example of how we should be addressing ADHD patients, especially children. Instead of getting to the root of these children’s “attention deficits” like French psychiatrists do, American health practitioners typically assume ADHD is a medical condition that can only be fixed with medication. This is not only unethical, but also clearly damaging to a child’s self esteem. Many of these kids could simply be uninterested in the subject matter, suffering from some sort of emotional trauma, or even have heightened creativity and energy! You can’t just blame all doctors in the U.S., either; many of them genuinely believe they’re helping these children because of the information they’ve been given in these studies and by Big Pharma.

However, many scientists in the U.S. have suggested alternatives to medicine to treat ADHD and many of them don’t even recognize ADHD as a disorder (read our article on why ADHD may not be real here). Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of The Carlat Psychiatry Report Daniel J. Carlat, M.D, criticized the DSM, stating, “In psychiatry, many diseases are treated equally well with medication or therapy, but the guidelines tend to be biased toward medication.”

Holistic Mental Health Practitioner Dr. Tyler Woods further explains:

The DSM tends to pathologize normal behaviors. For instance, the label “Anxiety Disorder” can be given as a result of some kinds of normal and rather healthy anxieties but the DSM will have experts view it and treat it as mental illness. In addition simple shyness can be seen and treated as “Social Phobia”, while spirited and strong willed children as “Oppositional Disorder”. Consequently, many psychotherapists, regardless of their theoretical orientations, tend to follow the DSM as instructed. (source)

Neurologist Richard Saul spent his career examining patients who struggle with short attention spans and difficulty focusing. His extensive experience has led him to believe that ADHD isn’t actually a disorder, but rather an umbrella of symptoms that shouldn’t be considered a disease. Thus, Saul believes it shouldn’t be listed as a separate disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual. You can read more about his opinion in our article here.

Leading integrative pediatrician and author of ADHD without Drugs: A Guide to the Natural Care of Children with ADHD Dr. Sanford Newmark, M.D. has spent more than 15 years studying and successfully treating ADHD naturally. Some of his recommendations include improved nutrition, increased sleep, iron, zinc, and Omega-3 supplementation, family counselling, making positive social and behavioural changes, and pursing alternative modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy. Dr. Newmark considers conventional medication a “last resort,” given the fact that ADHD drugs only work about 70% of the time and have potential negative side effects (source).

Treating ADHD outside conventional methods

It is clear that many doctors are starting to recognize the importance of treating ADHD outside conventional methods. Misdiagnosis and over-diagnosis of ADHD is a serious issue in the U.S., one that is heavily fuelled by the pharmaceutical industry. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ADHD, I strongly suggest you research this subject more and explore alternatives to medication with the help of a healthcare practitioner!

“The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.”

– Dr. Irwin Savodnik, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California in Los Angeles

Everyone In France Is An Organ Donor From Jan 1 This Year Unless They Opt Out


France joined the list of countries which have made organ donation mandatory after the death of a person. The new ‘presumed consent’ law assumes that the deceased person agrees to have their organs donated, even if the individual’s immediate family is against it. Those who do not wish to donate their organs can put their name on a national “refusal register” whereby their consent will not be presumed, and their organs will not be donated after their demise.

The legislation took effect on 1 January 2017. Until then, if the deceased was not enrolled for organ donation, doctors needed the consent of the deceased’s kin. In almost a third of such cases, the relatives refused to give permission. The “refusal register” will be an easily accessible portal in which citizens can enrol online or by post.

It is widely expected that France’s frequency of organ donation will steeply rise shortly. Countries like Austria, Spain, Wales and Chile which have experimented with varying degrees of the presumed consent system have all reported dramatic rises in organ donations.

The opt-out system is the presumed consent system where the deceased person’s consent to organ donation is presumed unless their name is on the nation’s refusal registry. On the contrary, the opt-in system demands the prior consent of the deceased person for the organ donation to go forward.

The opt-out system automatically sees greater rates of organ donations and donors. For example, Germany, which uses an opt-in system has an organ donation consent rate of 12% while neighbouring Austria, which has an opt-out system, has a consent rate of 99.98%. Another study found that in countries which changed from an opt-in system to an opt-out system, the number of donors increased by 20 to 30 percent, indicating that such a system alters the dynamics of public view on health policy drastically.

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The Spanish model, and why it is regarded as the best in the world

Spain is often cited as an epitome in this area. Following protests against endless waiting lists, Spain began to work on increasing organ donations. After transitioning to an opt-out system, Spain dramatically emerged as the undisputed world leader in organ donations. It is important to note that the success of opt-out systems can only be ensured when it is accompanied by high numbers of medical facilities, personnel and awareness. Spain invests a significant amount in healthcare. Despite decreasing rates of health spending in the recent years, the Spanish healthcare system is considered among the best in the world by the World Health Organisation.


Where does India stand when it comes to organ donations?

A huge gap persists between demand and supply of organs in India. India has a donation rate of 0.5 per million – one of the lowest in the world. In contrast, Spain has a donation rate of 36 per million inhabitants while numbers for Germany and the United States are 11 and 26 respectively.

According to studies, around 1.6 lakh patients are waiting for organs in India while a mere 12,000 donors are available. The Ministry of Health has estimated that the annual requirement for kidneys could range between 1-2 lakh while there are only 5,000 transplants occurring in reality.

The state and central governments have taken many steps to increase the rates of organ donation in India. For example, in 2012 the Delhi Government launched an online portal for registration of organ donors. The Indian Medical Association recently announced several campaigns to increase awareness about organ donations.

India can solve its problems regarding organ donation only by increasing health spending. India’s healthcare system remains insufficient, with private providers being the dominant force and no solid program for a universal healthcare system in sight. Expenditure on healthcare increased from about 3.5% to 5.0% in the period between 1988 and 2002. In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, healthcare accounts for more than 18% of the GDP. Meanwhile, government spending on healthcare has hovered around 20–25% during the past two decades. Moreover, healthcare in India is severely divided along the lines of income and urbanisation.

If the government were to increase government spending on healthcare – like in the West – it would improve health conditions of millions of Indians. Without improving its healthcare scenario, India cannot hope to make meaningful strides towards ensuring that its organ donation needs are met.

France Just Became the First Country to Ban Plastic Cups, Cutlery, and Plates


France passed a bill banning the use of conventional plastic in disposables such as cups, cutlery, and dishware. Manufacturing companies say this is a violation of EU law and vow to fight it out in court.

BUSINESS VS ENVIRONMENT

All conventional plastic dishes and cutlery will be banned in France starting 2020. As part of the Energy Transition for Green Growth initiative, France has passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic plates, cups, spoons, and forks (sporks, obviously included).

The move hopes to minimize the environmental impact of the production and use of disposables. The bill, which was passed in the summer of 2015, requires that all disposable utensils, cups, and plates be made of plant-based, compostable materials instead of conventional petroleum-based plastic.

The shift has packaging manufacturers retaliating: Brussels-based European packaging manufacturers’ organization, Pack2Go Europe, is threatening to take the matter into court should the European commission allow France to proceed with the ban.

“We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law,” says Pack2Go secretary general Eamonn Bates.

“France is flying in the face of the EU’s free movement of goods rules and this action is totally out of proportion to the environmental risk that disposable plastics tableware represents in reality,” says Pack2Go president Mike Turner.

JUST A PUBLICITY STUNT?

Our environmental footprint is undeniable: we have actually coined a term to refer to the era wherein human activity has become the dominant driver in the Earth’s environmental state—anthropocene.

Critics argue that there is insufficient proof of the environmental benefits of using biologically sourced materials for disposables, and are claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt. They also claim that using plant-based plastics will backfire when people automatically assume they will readily decompose, and leave their disposables in the wrong places. Biologically sourced materials, while biodegradable, have certain conditions for proper disposal.

However, while sustainable disposables are not perfect, statistical figures are not helping the case for conventional plastics.

The Local says France throws out 4.73 billion plastic cups every year and only 1% is recycled. In the US, Los Angeles alone pollutes the Pacific ocean with 10 metric tons of plastic fragments every day, according to EcoWatch. Plastic accounts for 10% of the total waste we generate, and it takes 500-1,000 years for the substance to degrade. Currently, they estimate that 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces is not even ocean anymore, but plastic debris.

Although this ban is obviously not enough to make a monumental difference, it is a step forward. The main thing rocking the boat for manufacturing companies? This movement might extend to other countries.

Kuwait Reports First MERS Coronavirus Cases.


Kuwait reported its first two cases of the deadly MERS coronavirus on Wednesday, the fifth Gulf Arab country where the strain has emerged since the outbreak began in neighbouring Saudi Arabia last year.

kuwait mers

A 47-year-old man is in a critical condition, Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA said, citing a statement from the Health Ministry. It gave no further details.

A second patient, a 52-year-old Kuwaiti citizen, recently travelled overseas, KUNA said in another report later on Wednesday, adding he had no contact with the first patient.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia. It has been reported in people in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. Oman reported its first case last month and the patient died on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of confirmed cases have been recorded, has confirmed 127 cases of the disease, of which 53 have died, since it was discovered in the kingdom more than a year ago.

Cases have also been reported in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The World Health Organization said in August the number of confirmed infections worldwide in the year from September 2012 had been 102. Almost half of those infected had died.

Scientists say they believe dromedary camels in the Middle East may be the animal “reservoir” that is fuelling the outbreak.

Healthy Diet, Healthy Aging.


Middle-aged women following a healthy Mediterranean-type diet — with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, moderate amounts of alcohol, and little red meat — have much greater odds of healthy aging later on, a new study reports.

“In this study, women with healthier dietary patterns at midlife were 40% more likely to survive to age 70 or over free of major chronic diseases and with no impairment in physical function, cognition or mental health,” said lead study author, Cécilia Samieri, PhD, Institut pour la Santé Publique et le Developpement, Université Bordeaux, France.

This new study adds to growing research on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet recently reported. Various studies have shown that this diet may contribute to reduced fasting glucose concentrations and lipid levels in those at risk for diabetes, may lower the risk for cardiovascular events and stroke, and improve cognition.

The new study was published in the November 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The analysis included 10,670 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study, which began in 1976 when female nurses aged 30 to 55 years completed a mail-in survey. Since then, study participants have been closely followed on a regular basis.

In 1980, participants completed a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) that asked how often on average they consumed standard portions of various foods. This questionnaire was repeated in 1984 and 1986 and then every 4 years.

To assess dietary quality at midlife, researchers averaged information from the 1984 and 1986 FFQs. They calculated scores on 2 diet indexes:

  • Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010): This index considers greater intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, red or processed meats, trans fats, and sodium; and moderate intake of alcoholic beverages. Total AHEI-2010 scores range from 0 (nonadherence) to 110 (perfect adherence).

  • Alternate Mediterranean diet (A-MeDi): Developed to assess adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet, this index includes 9 components that are similar to those in the AHEI-2010. Total A-MeDi scores range from 0 (nonadherence) to 9 (perfect adherence).

In 1992, 1996, and 2000, participants completed the Medical Outcomes Short-Form 36 Health Survey, a questionnaire that evaluates 8 health concepts, including mental health and physical functioning. Scores from the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status, an adaptation of the Mini-Mental State Examination, were used to evaluate cognitive health. From 1995 to 2001, a cognitive study was administered to participants aged 70 years or older.

Investigators separated “healthy” from “usual” aging on the basis of 4 health domains. Overall, 11.0% of the participants were considered healthy (and so were free of chronic diseases, such as cancers, myocardial infarction, and diabetes, and with no limitation in cognitive function, mental health, and physical function), and the remaining participants were considered usual agers.

Several health domains were typically impaired among the “usual” agers, said Dr. Samieri. “For example, 33% had both chronic diseases and limitations in cognitive, physical, or mental health; 64% had only limitations in cognitive, physical, or mental health; and 3.4% had only 1 or more chronic diseases.”

The analysis revealed that greater adherence at midlife to AHEI-2010 and A-MeDi was strongly associated with greater odds of healthy aging (P for trend < .001 for AHEI-2010; P for trend = .002 for A-Medi).

For example, compared with women in the worst quintile of diet scores, women in the highest quintile of the AHEI-2010 and A-MeDi scores had 34% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9% – 66%) and 46% (95% CI, 17% – 83%) greater odds of healthy aging, respectively.

Individual Components

When they analyzed individual dietary components, researchers found statistically significant associations of greater intake of fruits (odds ratio [OR] for upper versus lower quintiles, 1.46) and alcohol (OR, 1.28), and lower intakes of sweetened beverages (OR, 1.28) and PUFAs (OR, 1.38) with healthy aging (P for trend ≤ .04).

The authors noted that they could not exclude participants with impaired cognition, mental health, and physical function in midlife, and although probably few women had severe impairments at baseline, reverse causation in these participants may still be possible. Because they didn’t follow participants through to death or onset of a condition that would classify them as no longer healthy, researchers couldn’t prospectively estimate risks for transitioning from healthy to usual aging. As well, measurement errors may have occurred in the assessment of dietary patterns.

Other possible limitations were that the study was observational and, because it included mostly white women, its results may not be generalizable to other populations.

Middle age is probably the most relevant period of exposure for preventing chronic conditions of aging that develop over many years.

“It’s largely accepted that cumulative exposures to environmental risk factors over the lifespan are probably more important than late-life exposures to determine health in older ages,” said Dr. Samieri. “Several mechanisms of age-related chronic diseases, for example, atherosclerosis in cardiac diseases, brain lesions in dementia, start in midlife.”

Various researchers have reported on other newly documented health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including the following:

Lack of nanotech regulations leaves developing world exposed.


Nanotechnology is a promising field, but a lack of regulation means there is uncertainty over the safety of its implementation, particularly in developing countries. This week I received some unexpected insights on nanotechnology and its relationship with industry in different parts of the world. I have been visiting GIANT (Grenoble Innovation for Advanced New Technologies), an interdisciplinary alliance of research institutions in France devoted to promoting scientific development and building links between academics and industry.

Due to their scientific complexity and high research and development (R&D) costs, nanotechnologies have so far been generally available only to industrialised countries. But according to Caroline Gauthier, a senior professor of management and technology at Grenoble School of Management, part of the GIANT cluster, “large firms are today designing affordable solutions to address the so-called ‘bottom of the pyramid’”.

In other words, to thrive outside the saturated market of industrialised economies, nanotech multinationals are trying to reach the untapped pool of poor countries.

“Big companies are not only developing cheaper products, but they are [also] shaping brand new business models targeted at emerging economies. Though whether this will help developing nations or harm them is difficult to say at this stage,” says Gauthier.

Grenoble’s technology alliance is investing increasing energy andmoney in nanotech R&D, and in technology transfer, so I was surprised that one of its members acknowledged the field’s uncertainty.

“It’s a difficult balance between applying the precautionary principle and allowing for scientific potential,” explains Gauthier. “At the moment, we are not able to fully evaluate all the potential consequences that these new technologies may have, for example on the environment, but also on animals or the human population.” She says that some of the chemical components in nanotechnology may turn out to be difficult to control and may become dangerous to consumers and manufacturers.

At the moment, there is “no specific regulation” for nanotech, she adds.

According to Gauthier, informal international regulation of nanotechnology isn’t in the hands of public bodies or governments. Instead, it is large private companies that make the rules because they have the power to influence international markets.

Gauthier thinks that developing countries are more vulnerable than developed ones to the lack of statutory regulation on nanotechnology’s implementation.

“The leading R&D firms normally stick to ethical practices voluntarily adopted among competitors when they work in developed countries.” But they have more freedom not to apply these practices — or to test new ones — in developing countries, she says. This is because in developing countries there can be a lower awareness of the safest ways of deploying nanotechnology.

 “There is no choice any more,” she says. “Public institutions will have to cooperate with the private sector in order to set a code of conduct for nanotech implementation.”

Pillownauts Rest For Science.


Ah, the things we do for the sake of scientific inquiry. These volunteers for the European Space Agency just got out of bed for the first time in 21 days. To examine the effects of spaceflight on astronauts’ bodies, the “pillownauts” laid at a 6 degree angle with their feet up in a medical facility in Toulouse, France while scientists poked and prodded them for three weeks.

No bathrooms, no showers, no getting up for a quick stretch. The paid volunteers were subjected to a strict high-protein, high-salt diet and an exercise routine “that involves pushing the volunteers down onto vibrating plates while doing upside-down squats,” according to ESA. Researchers from the University of Bonne hypothesized that this diet and exercise routine might lessen the bone and muscle loss associated with long-term missions in microgravity. The crazy sci-fi headgear they’re wearing is designed to measure how much oxygen each person breathes in and how much carbon dioxide comes out, as a way to study the links between diet, breathing and energy consumption.