Friday, February 01, 2008

Interesting Health/Biology News

There are several interesting studies being reported in the media right now. Sadly, I don't have time to go find the original research articles, but even the media write-ups are informative.

1. The results of a study on food allergies on the Isle of Wight indicate that the incidence of food allergies is not increasing, but that parents often perceive their baby to have food allergies when the baby does not. (Read the BBC's report.) I can certainly believe the bit about parents erroneously believing their baby has a food allergy. Many people tried to label Pumpkin's issues with dairy in my diet as an allergy. I never thought it was an allergy, because gas is not usually a symptom of an allergy. I always considered it a sensitivity, and that I was avoiding dairy products because I preferred that to the risk of a screaming gas attack (particularly in the middle of the night) and not because I thought I'd Pumpkin would be at any real health risk if I ate dairy.

In retrospect, I think the sensitivity was gone by six months (as it apparently usually is), and my more recent dairy-free time was a result of a misinterpretation of a few bad nights. But really, can you blame me for trying anything that I thought might get me a few hours of uninterrupted sleep? I think doctors should be understanding of this type of parental misdiagnosis- you're so desperate for sleep and so loopy from sleep deprivation that just about any explanation starts to look good. I think aliens are tickling Pumpkin and waking her up every hour, one parent might say. And the other would just nod wisely and agree. It is as good a theory as any.

2. Making sure babies are well nourished can have a profound impact on their future life. I know, this is one of those duh studies, but it has apparently managed to show that just improving nutrition during early infanthood will improve a person's prospects later in life, regardless of whether or not the child goes on to lack access to good schools, etc. (Read the BBC's report.) This is almost certainly a brain development effect, in my completely unresearched opinion. And reading this story almost made me cry (see yesterday's post for an explanation). The world is just not fair. I'm pretty sure I'm not donating enough to UNICEF.

In a discovery that is related (in my mind), I recently came across Kiva, a direct microfinance website where you can lend money to entrepreneurs in developing countries so that they can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. (It is related because many of the entrepreneurs are mothers, and you know that the first thing they'll do with their improved earnings is buy better food for their children. Wouldn't you?) I love this idea, and will be making my first loan soon. I love the fact that I can keep loaning the same money over and over, so that whatever amount I can afford can keep doing good for more and more people.

3. Apparently sugary drinks cause gout. (Read the BBC's report.) This one just made me laugh because it reminded me of the biochemistry class I took as an undergraduate. There wasn't an actual undergraduate biochemistry for majors class, so they had us take the class with the medical students. Our textbook was geared toward the medical students, and was therefore full of little sidebars on "clinical correlations" of whatever concept was being presented in the main text. I was amazed at how often gout appeared in these sidebars. One of the enduring pieces of information I took from that class was that you can get gout in lots of ways. And here, almost 15 years later, is a report on a previously underappreciated way.

4. Hubby and I, both blue-eyed people, may share a common ancestor. A study has traced blue eyes to a mutation in a single person, who probably lived about 10,000 years ago near the Black Sea. (Read the report in the NZ Herald.) That Hubby and I, both of northern European descent, might share a common ancestor 10,000 years ago is not at all surprising. But it is still strange to think about.

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