The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s – The Atlantic

I’ve considered high-carb diets to be dangerous, and this troubling research linking high-carb diets to cognitive decline gives me yet another reason to avoid excessive carbs. Yikes!

In recent years, Alzheimer’s disease has occasionally been referred to as “type 3” diabetes, though that moniker doesn’t make much sense. After all, though they share a problem with insulin, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease caused by diet. Instead of another type of diabetes, it’s increasingly looking like Alzheimer’s is another potential side effect of a sugary, Western-style diet.

In some cases, the path from sugar to Alzheimer’s leads through type 2 diabetes, but as a new study and others show, that’s not always the case.

A longitudinal study, published Thursday in the journal Diabetologia, followed 5,189 people over 10 years and found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar—whether or not their blood-sugar level technically made them diabetic. In other words, the higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline.

Source: The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s – The Atlantic

The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy

I stumbled upon this old but still relevant paper on the National Institutes of Health website, tracing our country’s current opioid epidemic directly to Purdue Pharmaceutical’s aggressive marketing campaign.

It is truly frightening to consider how many lives have been sacrificed – and continue to be sacrificed – in the name of profits for the pharmaceutical industry. These are real people who trusted their health care providers and were let down. So many families have been shattered and it makes me extremely angry.

America’s health care system is badly broken and needs a drastic fix.

Purdue promoted among primary care physicians a more liberal use of opioids, particularly sustained-release opioids. Primary care physicians began to use more of the increasingly popular OxyContin; by 2003, nearly half of all physicians prescribing OxyContin were primary care physicians.19 Some experts were concerned that primary care physicians were not sufficiently trained in pain management or addiction issues.

Primary care physicians, particularly in a managed care environment of time constraints, also had the least amount of time for evaluation and follow-up of patients with complicated chronic pain.

Source: The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy

How this sign put Berkeley in the center of the cellphone safety debate

If you’re in the market for a cellphone or tablet in the City of Berkeley, you will probably notice a sign displayed near the register of a cellphone retailer, or on store shelves.It’s a flier alerting customers of possible radiation exposure from mobile devices.

“Berkeley is the first city in the country to get stores to post warnings. It’s a small step, but it’s an important step,” said Joel Moskowitz, PhD, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health at the University’s School of Public Health.

In 2009, Moskowitz turned his focus from scientific research on the health effects of tobacco to cellphones after a visiting scholar from the National Cancer Center in South Korea exposed him to scientific literature looking at whether mobile phone use increased the risk of tumors.

“The cellphone manufacturers want you to keep a minimum distance away from your body and you should find out what that distance is,” Moskowitz said. “If you keep the device by your body you will exceed the safety limits provided by the FCC.”

Source: How this sign put Berkeley in the center of the cellphone safety debate

Don’t keep cell phones next to your body, California Health Department warns | TechCrunch

Having worked with radio and radar in the military and also having had the danger of microwave radiation drilled into me as part of obtaining an amateur radio license, I’ve always thought that following prudent precautions with mobile phones is a good idea. I never, EVER keep my phone in my pocket while in a moving vehicle, a time when its transmitter is the most active. I limit the length of my calls, and choose text over voice whenever I can (texts use much less of the radio). I also make sure my phone switches to WiFi for its data whenever WiFi is available.

Smartphones are damn near indispensable but one has to respect the RF radiation they create. While there might not be agreement on the health effects they cause, mobile phones undeniably do create a lot of RF radiation.

As this week’s gutting of Net Neutrality shows, the telecom industry owns the FCC. If mobile phones really do pose a health risk don’t count on the FCC protecting you.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a warning against the hazards of cellphone radiation this week. Yes, the thing we are all addicted to and can’t seem to put down is leaking electromagnetic radiation and now California has some guidance to safeguard the public.

The CDPH asks people to decrease their use of these devices and suggests keeping your distance when possible.

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” said CDPH director Dr. Karen Smith.

Source: Don’t keep cell phones next to your body, California Health Department warns | TechCrunch

Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

I got an email yesterday from Dr. James Baraniuk, the researcher who ran the Gulf War Illness research study I participated in back in October 2016. His paper has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

It’s interesting research, showing brain differences between GWI and CFS patients. Will it prove useful to me? Probably not. In all honesty, I have not had as many episodes of fatigue since I participated the study, in part due to my taking up running, I believe. I still have occasional cognitive issues (which really piss me off when they happen) but energy hasn’t been too big of a problem. That 65 mile bike ride I did with Travis and Kelly absolutely did wreck me the next day (or two), but I suppose it would do that for anyone else who hadn’t properly trained for it.

I’ve always said that the cognitive issues were the biggest issue for me. I wish I had the memory and mental clarity I had in my twenties. As they say, youth is wasted on the young!

Gulf War Illness (GWI) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have similar profiles of pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and exertional exhaustion. Post-exertional malaise suggests exercise alters central nervous system functions. Lumbar punctures were performed in GWI, CFS and control subjects after (i) overnight rest (nonexercise) or (ii) submaximal bicycle exercise. Exercise induced postural tachycardia in one third of GWI subjects (Stress Test Activated Reversible Tachycardia, START). The remainder were Stress Test Originated Phantom Perception (STOPP) subjects. MicroRNAs (miRNA) in cerebrospinal fluid were amplified by quantitative PCR. Levels were equivalent between nonexercise GWI (n?=?22), CFS (n?=?43) and control (n?=?22) groups. After exercise, START (n?=?22) had significantly lower miR-22-3p than control (n?=?15) and STOPP (n?=?42), but higher miR-9-3p than STOPP. All post-exercise groups had significantly reduced miR-328 and miR-608 compared to nonexercise groups; these may be markers of exercise effects on the brain. Six miRNAs were significantly elevated and 12 diminished in post-exercise START, STOPP and control compared to nonexercise groups. CFS had 12 diminished miRNAs after exercise. Despite symptom overlap of CFS, GWI and other illnesses in their differential diagnosis, exercise-induced miRNA patterns in cerebrospinal fluid indicated distinct mechanisms for post-exertional malaise in CFS and START and STOPP phenotypes of GWI.

Source: Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

Running pays off


I took my “biometric health screening” this week so I could get my 20% discount off of next year’s health insurance (a “workplace wellness” program that is, in fact, a sham) and I’m happy to say I crushed it. HDL Cholesterol up four points since last August, Triglycerides down 12 points. Total cholesterol the same.

What really surprised me were my vital signs. My blood pressure was so good the phlebotomist opted to check it again. I recorded 119/59. My resting heart rate was an astounding 42 BPM! All my life I’ve had good heart rates, sometimes dipping into the 40s when I was a healthy teenager, but I’d never seen one as low as 42 before.

All told, I would say my renewed exercise is paying off. 🙂

Instead of answers, more questions

Stethoscope-2
Yesterday, I crafted a long blog post detailing my time as a participant in this Gulf War Illness (GWI) research study but never had a chance to post it. I was about to say it seems I have some answers to my health issues. Sadly, after talking with lead researcher Dr. Baraniuk for several hours last night (yes, several hours. Does your doctor do that?) I’ve realized that there are actually more questions than answers now.

I took a week off of work and away from home and traveled to DC at partially my own expense to be tested by an expert in GWI. Dr. Baraniuk is a brilliant man – an expert in GWI – and I was tested, but I never expected that my medical issues would stump him of all people. My joy of yesterday is well-founded: Dr. Baraniuk has detected a legitimate, abnormal response in my nervous system which makes my body work extra hard and seems to occur in GWI-affected veterans (about 30% of those who served in the Persian Gulf War). This confirmation is a wonderful validation of the way I’ve been feeling for the past 25 years.
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If it’s Monday, this must be DC

Update 2017 Nov 11: Dr. Baraniuk’s paper has been published.

At the top of the “Exorcist” Steps in Georgetown. I climbed these steps to and from my appointment today.

At the top of the “Exorcist” Steps in Georgetown. I climbed these steps to and from my appointment today.


I’ve been on the road for a little while. Last week I was in Seattle for a work trip, spending most of my time in a windowless datacenter. My colleagues and I did get out to visit the Museum of Flight as well as the Living Computer Museum, both which were fascinating to us geeks!

I got home Friday night to spend the weekend with my family before hopping a train north to DC. I’ll be here for the next two days participating in a DoD-funded research study on Gulf War Illness (GWI). The research study involves a bunch of repetitive vital sign measurements, some MRI time, and intense exercise tests. I got through most of the medical forms, vital sign measurements, and interview today but the real fun starts tomorrow when I pedal my ass off on a stationary bike while wearing a SCUBA breather and an EKG harness, then spend an hour cooped up in an MRI while they look at my brain. Then I do it again on Wednesday and celebrate afterward with a lumbar puncture (aka, spinal tap). Yay?

After I had a long interview with the doctor in charge of the research study, he doesn’t seem convinced that I have traditional GWI (or it’s cousin, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS). He does find my symptoms curious, though, and wants to get me some answers. I don’t know what I’ll find out here, if anything, but I seem to be in the realm of experts. At least I know that my vitals are good and EKG looks “stellar,” in their words.

Being away from my family for two weeks in a row isn’t something I’ve done since my 2006 business trip to Australia, I believe. Can’t say I’m a fan of this much travel. My health is important, though, so I want to find out whatever I can so that I can keep up with my very active family.

One plus of being in DC now is that I had a great view of tonight’s Antares rocket launch which launched from Wallops Island, VA. I saw it from the grounds of the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial with the Potomac River in the foreground and excited kids and dads all around me. Made me wish my excited kids (and my wife) were here with me!

VA Pregnenolone study

For 12 weeks beginning in February, I participated in a VA-funded research study on using pregnenolone to address the effects of Gulf War Illness. Every week I would check in with a research associate, either in person or by phone, and answer a series of questions regarding my health and mental faculties. It involved driving to the Durham VA Medical Center about every other week for bloodwork and cognitive testing. I would also often return with a dose of pregnenolone for that week.

The cognitive tests were challenging and the worst part of the study. Bloodwork by comparison was a breeze, but when asked to study images of shapes and mentally rearrange them or to recall a varying, long list of fruits and vegetables I would begin to sweat. I hated those tests especially.
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Enhancing Cognitive Function with Pregnenolone – Life Extension

I’m participating in a VA research study on pregnenolone and its helpfulness in treating Gulf War Illness.

As a result of normal aging, key hormone levels decline, resulting in a detrimental impact on memory and cognitive function. Scientists believe that the hormone pregnenolone has vast potential for maintaining healthy cognitive function and may be “the most potent memory enhancer yet reported.”

Pregnenolone is the first hormone in the pathway that generates a host of key neurohormones in the brain that are known to affect nerve cell growth and to modulate various moods. Pregnenolone therefore has a dominant effect in a wide range of nervous system functions. This is borne out in research that has demonstrated pregnenolone’s ability to reduce the risk of dementia and improve memory, while also alleviating anxiety and fighting depression. Increasing cognitive function is a key goal for any aging baby boomer.

As natural levels of pregnenolone fall, ensuring optimal levels may represent a crucial cornerstone to every adult’s cognitive wellness program.

Source: Enhancing Cognitive Function with Pregnenolone – Life Extension