Tagged: medicine

Science Tuesday: How to get your daily dose of vitamin D

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer

Sometimes, all we need is a little sun in our lives.

There’s something about the warmth caressing your face and the light that makes everything seem clearer. After a long winter it’s something we start to crave in New England and as summer approaches most people have gotten a head start on the summer clothes despite the fact that the warmest it’s been is in the high 50s.

To the girls wearing spring dresses and the guys wearing pink shorts and polos: we’re not there yet. But when we are, one the best ways to take advantage of the sun is to lie out on the grass (and soon enough it’ll look like a herd of seals took over the COM lawn).

Until it’s actually warm out, I’ve been taking vitamin D supplements every so often, along with fish oil (which apparently is great for you, however it makes my burps taste fishy). As for taking vitamin D, I’ve heard it can do wonders for helping my bones — and according to WebMD it also helps with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, skin diseases and asthma.

So I started taking vitamin D for several reasons on top of the fact that I’m tired of pulling out my asthmatic inhaler and being on Steve Urkel’s level (and I ain’t ready for that).

According to a study published last week in British Medical Journal, researchers evaluated the biases that are associated with the miraculous vitamin and found that it came short of many of our expectations. First, they tackled over 260 previous studies and papers. According to their findings, only ten of the studies lived up to the researchers standards.

According to Discover Magazine, earlier research claimed that vitamin D prevented over 137 conditions like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and only one study suggested that vitamin D levels in a mother’s third trimester correlated with birth weight. Other studies claimed that it was possible that vitamin D could be linked to childhood cavities and hormone levels of dialysis patients, but none of the evidence in these previous studies established actual proof.

So is it better to just take vitamin D in the hopes that it’s “good for you”?

The thing is, vitamin D deficiency is a probability and it is more common than you expect, especially for people living in the north (and even people like me who grew up in warm climates could have it too). It’s probably because we stay indoors a lot for fear of getting burned. So if you’ve become a skeptic, there are ways to get enough vitamin D, and hopefully not burn yourself to a crisp while doing it!


Lauren in London: Lauren Gets Sick

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer

Skyscrapers and more skyscrapers./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

I’m proud to say this is my second blog post filed while in transit. This time, I’m somewhere below the English Channel, en route to Brussels on a class trip for my political science class. I really wish the Chunnel (the Channel Tunnel) had little windows to see the water. It’s kinda eerie gliding through this tunnel knowing I’m under water but not really knowing much else.

Today also marks my fourth week since landing in London, though it feels like much, much longer. This week, I’ve had the chance to explore both my neighborhood and other parts off city (not to mention the foreign city I’m headed toward now).

I finally got to get my journalism on with Wednesday’s assignment to go to Canary Wharf, find and write a 1,000-word feature story. Canary Wharf is arguably London’s most transformed borough thanks to the jolt of capitalism administered by Margaret Thatcher back in the ’80s. The result: a gleaming, silver archipelago of power and wealth built on London’s formerly dilapidated docklands. Now, the former isle of dogs is inhabited by a major European financial center, chock full of successful-looking men and women in expensive suits. I felt like a pauper walking among the Credit Suisse and Barclays bigwigs, but you gotta fake it ’till you make it, right? One of my favorite sights was a sand sculpture of William, Kate, and the royal baby on the West India docks. It’s now a life goal of mine to be immortalized in a sand sculpture.

Back in South Ken, I found myself in Hyde Park nearly every day this week until I was felled by a nasty cough. It has been absolutely beautiful and rain-free in the capital for the last couple days and there really is no better way to enjoy the weather than with strolls around the Serpentine or jogs to the Marble Arch. See, Mom, I’m actually using my sneakers! Friday night, a couple friends and I packed a dinner and some ciders and picnicked on a hill next to Kensington Palace as the sun set. It certainly wasn’t as active as a run, but it was a heck of a lot more fun.

Since then, I’ve been nursing a persistent cough that the British hilariously call a “chesty cough.” Even getting sick here is a cultural experience. In the process of buying out the cold and cough sections of Boots in the hopes of feeling better before the trip to Brussels, I can’t help but feel a little proud I’m not feeling well. Clearly I’m doing something right, because you only get sick when you’re exposed to other people. It’s like my chesty cough is proof that I’ve been out and about, getting to know this city and its inhabitants. I could be totally insane trying to justify this, but you know there’s a grain of truth in what I’m saying.

Now, I’ve got an arsenal of cough medicine, lozenges and nasal spray to keep me powering through Brussels’ delicacies and sites. Here’s to hoping they do their job.

Science Tuesday: A cure for Alzheimer’s?

A healthy brain versus a brain with Alzheimer's/ PHOTO VIA alz.org

A healthy brain versus a brain with Alzheimer’s/ PHOTO VIA alz.org

By Christina Janansky, Staff Writer

Today, more than 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Research. And, unless some method of controlling or curing Alzheimer’s is discovered soon, a predicted 15 million Americans could live with the debilitating disease by 2050.

However, a recent MSN article suggests a new method of preventing the growing Alzheimer’s epidemic might lie in the near future.

Scientists are experimenting with a new Alzheimer’s treatment called deep brain stimulation, or DBS. Researchers hope the new approach—also known as a “brain pacemaker”—will slow the damaging effects of Alzheimer’s and replace current drugs and implants, according to the MSN article.

The 5-hour operational process, however, is anything but simple, as described in the article; small electrical wires are implanted in areas of the brain after several holes are drilled in the patient’s skull. While this new experimental method will not target the onset of Alzheimer’s, scientists hope it will slow the progression of memory loss and damage in patients.

Researchers do not know how long the new treatment’s effects will last. In fact, they are not sure the treatment will be successful at all. One patient of the treatment, a Canadian man who has had the implants for four years, shows promising results—his condition since the implants has not deteriorated. However, scientists cannot certainly attribute his success to DBS without further study.

In the meantime, several dozen people with early-staged Alzheimer’s will be implanted with the pacemakers in the upcoming months. These patients will be closely monitored and studied for the next several years.

In the MSN article, researchers at Ohio State University explained how constant electrical stimulation of memory-linked brain circuits might keep neural networks active for longer. This, they hope, will hinder the damaging effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

DBS has been used previously and in a variety of patients, including those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. However, this is the first time it is being used with Alzheimer’s patients.

Scientists are not only testing DBS in major diseases and illnesses such as these, but are also exploring its effects in parts of the brain that are linked with depression and appetite.

Although it’s still too soon to say, DBS may be the answer not only to treating Alzheimer’s, but also to curing and preventing it.

Who knows? It might be a cure-it-all in regards to other mental illnesses, imbalances and functions. Only time will tell.