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April 18, 2013

It's been 25 years since we last improved antibiotics, but bacteria keep evolving

Despite Growing Threat Of Deadly Superbugs, New Antibiotic Research Screeches To A Halt | ThinkProgress
In modern times, antibiotics are largely taken for granted. But this complacent public attitude ignores the reality that such treatments require years — if not decades — to develop. Antibiotics also have limited shelf lives, since bacteria evolve and adapt to them. That wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that there have been zero major new antibiotics developed in the last 25 years, leaving the global community susceptible to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria: While a new infectious disease has been discovered nearly every year over the past 30 years, there have been no new antibiotics since 1987, leaving our armory nearly empty as diseases become resistant to existing drugs. “The barriers to approval of nine additional antibiotics by 2020 seem insurmountable,” said Henry Chambers, chair of IDSA’s Antimicrobial Resistance Committee (ARC). “We’re losing ground because we are not developing new drugs in pace with superbugs’ ability to develop resistance to them. We’re on the precipice of returning to the dark days before antibiotics enabled safer surgery, chemotherapy and the care of premature infants. We’re all at risk,” said Helen Boucher, from IDSA.

April 17, 2013

Middle school student's science project basically proves that organic food is better for you

There is a whole industry right now devoted to attacking organic food. Every study that suggests maybe organic food is better or healthier or greener or is in any way preferable to conventional or GM food gets attacked by the PR machine of conventional food growers. This has been going on for at least 20 years (look at the massive media attack on DIET FOR A POISONED PLANET back in the mid-90s). But a simple, easy to replicate experiment--and common sense--makes it pretty clear that organic food is better and better for you. Is Organic Better? Ask a Fruit Fly - NYTimes.com
The research, titled “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster,” tracked the effects of organic and conventional diets on the health of fruit flies. By nearly every measure, including fertility, stress resistance and longevity, flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes fared better than those who dined on conventionally raised produce. While the results can’t be directly extrapolated to human health, the research nonetheless paves the way for additional studies on the relative health benefits of organic versus conventionally grown foods. Fruit fly models are often used in research because their short life span allows scientists to evaluate a number of basic biological effects over a relatively brief period of time, and the results provide clues for better understanding disease and biological processes in humans. For her original middle-school science project, Ria evaluated the vitamin C content of organic produce compared with conventionally farmed foods. When she found higher concentrations of the vitamin in organic foods, she decided she wanted to take the experiment further and measure the effects of organic eating on overall health.

April 13, 2013

Debunked: Sitting on a yoga ball is no better than sitting in a chair

Actual science beats thought experiments every day. Ask Well: Do Ball Chairs Offer Benefits? - NYTimes.com
“To be quite frank, I cannot see any advantage or reason for a person to be using an exercise ball as an office chair,” says Jack P. Callaghan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Although you might expect that sitting on the ball would demand extra exertion to keep you upright and stable, when Dr. Callaghan and his colleagues had healthy young volunteers sit alternately on a ball, an office chair and a backless stool while machines measured muscle activity in their abdomens and lower backs, they found no meaningful differences in the seating options; sitting on a ball did not provide a mini-workout for the midsection. Ball chairs do not improve posture, either. Research by Dr. Callaghan and others have shown that people generally slump just as much on a ball as in a normal chair and that back pain is not reduced. And, in part because sitting on a ball chair involves more contact area between the seating surface and your backside than a chair does — you sink into the ball somewhat — many new adopters of ball chairs report increased discomfort in their backsides. . . .