Social Media May Be Killing Scientific Method
Where do you get your information on science? On medical issues? An overwhelming number of us get that “knowledge” from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Scientists are facing some hard truths. An outrageous claim on Facebook or a digitally altered image shared on Pinterest can have further reaching implications than any scientific paper published on a subject, at least as far as the general public is concerned.
Untested, unsubstantiated, and often untrue medical “facts” can be posted and seen by millions of people in a number of hours, compared with genuine, thoroughly researched facts, which take months or years to amass.
A case in point: A paper entitled “On pins and needles: how vaccines are portrayed on Pinterest” was recently published in the journal Vaccine. Researcher Jeanine P.D. Guidry and her team at Virginia Commonwealth University collected 800 vaccine-related pins to assess the state of popular opinion across the platform.
A full 75 percent of vaccine-related pins were negative toward vaccines. Those ranged from relatively mild questions regarding their safety to more radical claims that vaccines are specifically designed to kill people. Of the negative pins, 20 percent mentioned conspiracy theories; these included collusion with pharmaceutical companies and governmental plans to control population levels through vaccine deaths.
The team hopes their findings will motivate scientists to keep in step with the sweeping changes in modern communication. Guidry concluded, “These are real fears that people have – from a public health perspective, we need to talk to people about their fears. But first we need to know what’s happening. Up to this point, we didn’t even know these conversations were taking place on Pinterest.”
Sourced from: Medical News Today, Pinterest and the prevalence of anti-vaccine rhetoric
Published On: Feb 8th 2016
Are Millions of Us Mislabeled “Obese”?
Body Mass Index (BMI) has been a sort of shorthand gauge of overall health for doctors, and for scientists compiling data on what they call the “obesity epidemic.” But what does that number really say about us?
New research published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that it doesn’t say what the experts think it does. The study found that using BMI to gauge health led to a miscategorization for more than 54 million Americans as “unhealthy.”
The investigators studied the link between BMI and several other health markers, including blood pressure, glucose, as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They found that nearly half of individuals who are considered overweight according to their BMI were actually metabolically healthy, as were 19 million people with a BMI associated with obesity.
For reference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites a normal BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9.
Lead researcher A. Janet Tomiyama noted, “Many people see obesity as a death sentence, but the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy.”
And the miscalculation runs both ways. The researchers found more than 30 percent of individuals in the normal or healthy BMI range were metabolically unhealthy. Overall, they believe using BMI as a proxy for health has led to nearly 75 million U.S. adults being misclassified as metabolically unhealthy or healthy.
Instead of focusing on BMI, which could lead to people obsessing over their weight, researchers recommend people focus more on eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
Sourced from: Medical Daily, Normal Body Mass Index Doesn’t Mean You’re Healthy, Study Says; Millions Of Americans Mislabeled As Obese
Published On: Feb 8th 2016
Cholesterol Drugs May Help Eye Health
The history of medical advances is littered with stories of surprise findings and happy coincidences. You can add one more example to that legacy, as new research published in EBioMedicine suggests that adults suffering from an age-related eye disease that causes vision loss may benefit from a treatment that includes high doses of statins, the cholesterol lowering drugs.
Investigators at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and the University of Crete found that a high-dose of atorvastatin was associated with regression of lipid deposits and an improvement in sight in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
“We found that intensive doses of statins carry the potential for clearing up the lipid debris that can lead to vision impairment in a subset of patients with macular degeneration,” Dr. Joan W. Miller said in a statement.
AMD affects more than 150 million people worldwide. There are two forms of the eye disease: “wet” and “dry.” The wet form accounts for approximately 15 percent of the cases, while the more common dry form is about 85 percent. People with the wet form can be treated, but effective therapies are currently lacking for those with the dry.
Researchers collected and analyzed data from 23 patients with a dry form of the disease. They were prescribed 80 milligrams of atorvastatin, the generic name of the statin marketed as Lipitor® and other generic equivalents. Ten experienced an elimination of the deposits under the retina and mild improvement in visual acuity. Past techniques after this same result have mostly failed, some even allowing the disease to progress to a more advanced stage.
Statin is widely used among middle-aged and older adults – the same people who have an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration. Based on their findings, researchers believe that statins could halt progression of the age-related eye disease.
Sourced from: Medical Daily, Macular Degeneration: Doctors May Be Able To Treat Condition With High Dose Of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
Published On: Feb 8th 2016