Friday, April 29, 2011

Vitamin D Supplements - Not usually living up to claims

Some vitamin D supplements were tested by to determine whether they contained the claimed amount and form of vitamin D, calcium and vitamin K, were able to disintegrate fully to be available for absorption, and if they were free from unacceptable levels of lead. 

This may not be news to you but: The most common problem found with the supplements containing vitamin D was the wrong amount of vitamins. For example, a tablet listing 800 IU of vitamin D contained only 664 IU, 83 percent of the listed amount. Guess this is kind of common problem but what can we do.

I've never had much faith in those med companies and to be honest this doesn't do any good for that. If I want to find something positive about this: at least they didn't put more vitamins than claimed. It can be hard to stay on track how  much e.g. vitamin D you get from food and fortified milk. Although it shouldn't be much of a concern because it seems that we should get much more vitamin D than we're suggested. I've read about the recommended amount being 50 mcg/day for real which is over 5 times than we are suggested at the moment where as the tolerable upper intake level being about 100 mcg/day.

You can view the whole article here.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Today I certainly noticed that the summer is really coming. The temperature is rising and the sun is shining from a cloudless sky. Could things be more perfect? Well in fact the entrance examination could be past by now but never mind. I think summer really has many positive influences on us. Everyone is suddenly on a very nice mood and smiling. Maybe it has something to do with the bright colours and lightness that comes within, I don't know for sure, but it does feel damn good!

Now that the sun has come out of its closet we are getting the much needed vitamin d in Finland too. (Check that post if you haven't yet!) But on the contrast we should protect our eyes from the UV-radiation and be careful not to get sunburn. Also remember to stay hydrated when the temperature starts to climb a bit more. So the positive vibes don't come without some negative effects. But I guess we can deal with them. 

Happy Easter dear readers!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Antioxidants are substances or nutrients which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals which can cause damage. Antioxidants prevent and repair the damage done by these free radicals by being oxidized themselves.

Common antioxidants:
  • Vitamins A, C & E
  • Glutathione
  • Selenium
  • Flavonoids
  • Lignan

Antioxidants are often used as ingredients in dietary supplements and have been researched for the prevention of diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and even altitude sickness.  Antioxidants are found in berries, beans, fruits, grain products, and vegetables. This is why you can't only take vitamin pills and forget all the vegetables.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

GM mosquitoes offer malaria hope

Genetically manipulated mosquitoes could be the answer to prevent malaria from spreading and killing around a million people every year. Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans caused by a protist called Plasmodium. The parasite travels to the human liver after a mosquito sting and proceeds to red blood cells multiplicating and causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases progressing to coma, and death.

Scientists believe they aren't far away from being able to manipulate the DNA of wild mosquitoes in order to fight malaria. In the laboratory, they made a gene spread from a handful of mosquitoes to most of the population in just a few generations. If the right gene can be spreaded then researchers hope to reduce the number of malaria infections. This research, however, has a great challenge - getting those genes to spread from the gene-manipulated mosquitoes to the vast number of wild insects across the globe. Unless the gene gives the mosquito an advantage, the gene will arguably disappear.

You can view the whole article here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stem cells

Stem cells are cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources: embryos and adult tissue. Both types are potential to differentiate into different cell types (such as skin, muscle or bone). An important feature for stem cell is its asymmetric cell division, which means that when stem cell divides, one daughter cell remains as a stem cell and the other becomes a specialized cell.
  • Adult or somatic stem cells exist throughout the body and are found inside of different types of tissue. Adult stem cells can divide or self-renew indefinitely, enabling them to generate a range of cell types from the originating organ. It is generally thought that adult stem cells are limited in their ability to differentiate based on their tissue of origin, but there is some evidence to suggest that they can differentiate to become other cell types. Nevertheless, the separating of somatic stem cells is very challenging.
  • Embryonic stem cells are derived from a human embryo that is in the blastocyst phase of development. These so called totipotent cells have total potential to develop into any cell in the body. All the cells of our body are originally made from these cells. There are hard ethical questions in the use of embryonic stem cells and it's difficult to get them to specialize into a desired cell.
Medical researchers believe that stem cell therapy has the potential to dramatically change the treatment of human disease. A number of adult stem cell therapies already exist, particularly bone marrow transplants that are used to treat leukemia. In the future, medical researchers have great hope being able to use technologies derived from stem cell research to treat a wider variety of diseases. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What a hit

I haven't really written about hockey lately because our season ended month ago. We are still playing for fun two times a week. Mainly I've focused on studying to get into medical school. The main reason I wanted to post about icehockey was this great hit Ville Varakas from Blues made in the finals of the finnish hockey league (SM-liiga). Eventhough Siim Liivik got a little damage there, HIFK has won all of the three matches and is now one win away from the championship. Next match is on Monday.

What do you think? Clean hit? Varakas got 5+20 mins for charging from that but didn't get suspended from the next game. In my opinion that was HARD but mostly clean hit and max. 2 mins for charging would've been more than enough.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The human body is covered by hair apart from the palms of the hands, the lips, certain areas of the genital structure, or the soles of the feet. Hairs extend the sense of touch beyond the surface of the skin and provide thermal regulation. Nowadays it seems that hairs exist only to be removed. Hair removal is a common procedure in beauty salons and this can be done there by laser hair removal for example while shaving still being the most used method.

It has been tried to explain the hairlessness of humans, as compared to other species. The thermoregulatory hypothesis suggests that when human ancestors started living on the hot savanna, humans began to sweat more to stay cool. It is posited that hair got in the way of the sweat evaporating, so humans evolved a lighter coat of fur. Although hair provides protection against UV radiation, only our heads were exposed to the sun and thus humans kept the hair on our head, but our body hair was reduced. The aquatic ape hypothesis posits that sparsity of hair is an adaptation to a semi-aquatic environment. And one hypothesis is that human hair was reduced in response to ectoparasites. Getting rid of our hair might have reduced the risk of fleas, ticks, lice, and other biting insects.

One interesting thing about hair removal is that road cyclists tend to remove leg hair for a number of reasons: In the case of a crash, the absence of the leg hair means the injuries (usually road rash) can be cleaned up more efficiently, and treatment is not impeded.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany. Vitamin D prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.

Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. Many genes encoding proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis are modulated in part by vitamin D. It has many positive influences and greatly boosts the immune system (more specifically CD8+ T lymphocytes) possibly preventing mesothelioma and other cancers.

There is considerable discussion of the serum concentrations of vitamin D associated with deficiency (e.g. rickets), adequacy for bone health, and optimal overall health, and cut points have not been developed by a scientific consensus process. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) (average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy people) recommends about 15 mcg/day. And the Tolerable Upper Intake level (UL) (maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects) is 100 mcg/day for adults.

Here are the latest news about vitamin D.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Mesothelioma, or more exactly malignant mesothelioma, is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many our body's internal organs, the mesothelium. It is usually caused by exposure to asbestos, which is a set of silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties. Asbestos exposure becomes a health concern when high concentrations of asbestos fibers (most invisible to the unaided human eye) are inhaled over a long time period. People who become ill from inhaling asbestos are often those who have worked directly with the material.

Asbestos became popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century but nowadays the EU has banned all use of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products.

Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking, but smoking greatly increases the risk of other asbestos-related cancers. Those exposed to asbestos often take advance of attorneys to collect damages for asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma. Compensation via asbestos funds or lawsuits is an important issue in mesothelioma. Better start searching for a lawyer!

One interesting thing is that more than 1,000 tons of asbestos are thought to have been released into the air during the destruction of the WTC towers on 9/11. Inhalation of a mixture of asbestos and other toxicants is thought to be linked to the unusually high death rate of emergency service workers from cancer since the disaster. Many thousands more are now thought to be at risk of developing cancer due to this exposure.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Thermoregulation is needed to keep our body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the temperature in the environment is very different. It does use up quite a bit of energy but on the other hand it allows our metabolic reactions to be independent on the surrounding temperature. Homeotherm is based on hypothalamus keeping the gain and loss of heat equal. If we didn't control our temperature, it would raise about 1,2 °C per hour only because of the basal metabolism. That is why we have developed several methods of managing it.

About 65 % of the heat loss of a naked human happens by heat radiation and about 15 % by conducting to the surrounding air and the surfaces touched and a varying part by convection (moving air or water etc.). Evaporation happens from every wet surface and thus perspiration is a good way to cool yourself. It is also the only mechanism to maximize heat loss when the environment is hotter than the body (e.g. in sauna). Also blood vessels dilate in hot vicinity and contract in cold.

What is the function of fever then? Why does it raise the temperature? Fever is caused by a variety of substances made by leukocytes which affect the hypothalamus to raise the temperature. It appears that fever is more harmful to pathogens than our system and that way helping the immune system. That's why it isn't useful to decrease fever with anodynes unless you're having a very high temperature.

Friday, April 8, 2011


A superbug is microorganism which is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic. Antibiotics are often used in rearing animals for food and this use among others is playing a significant role in the creation of resistant strains of bacteria. Each year in the European Union over 25,000 people die because of bacterial infections that are able to outsmart even the newest antibiotics. The WHO says the situation has reached a critical level and a united push to make new usable drugs is urgently needed. Without a concerted effort, we could be dealing with a worldwide spread of untreatable infections.

This is of course a serious threat and the idea of first having a fatal disease followed by surgery leading to a super bacterium infection doesn't sound very temptating. This isn't a huge concern in Finland, yet. It doesn't take many years for this being a major drawback for us too. Luckily we have gotten a short time-out and we should use that efficiently. Now or never is the time to invest on health care! 

The original piece of news can be found here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Autistic people seem to have extraordinary skills of remembering and drawing objects in detail from memory. Scientists say in autistic people the brains are organised differently from those of other people; the area at the back of the brain, which processes visual information, is more highly developed. That may be why people with autism can be better than others at carrying out some types of visual tasks. On the contrary, other brain areas are less active which leaves less brain capacity in areas which deal with decision-making and planning.

There was news couple weeks ago about this 12-year-old mildly autistic genius who is now studying at Indiana University-Purdue University. It has been said that also Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton may have suffered from a type of autism, Asperger's Syndrome.

You can read the whole article from BBC here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


We are constantly exposed to different kinds of radiations. Nuclear radiation is dangerous for sure and we get it e.g. from the air we breathe in form of Radon, originally coming from the soil. Electromagnetic radiation we get from electrical devices such as cell phones, microwave ovens and even from TV and computers. Especially I would be concerned about the radiation from cell phones because they are held near the most important organ of ours, the brain. So far the scientist haven't found serious threats in cell phones but no one really knows what kind of long-term effects can electromagnetic radiation have in us.

The other thing with this is that we are highly dependant on electromagnetism and the system is vulnerable. A huge electromagnetic storm from the Sun could black out our electricity and interrupt a variety of things. It has also been found that the magnetic poles of the Earth change place once in a while and someone has stated a hypothesis called Cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis in which the poles could switch places very quickly disabling the protecting magnetic field of the Earth and exposing us to solar winds. Only time will tell!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fat wars

There has been a lot of talking about the effects of different lipids lately in Finland at least. Some say the most important thing is the right balance (1:1) between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids and others state that we have only been dramatizing the effects of saturated fatty acids. Who should we believe when even the experts of nutrition can't find consensus on these cases? There is only one thing they totally agree on: trans fatty acids are dangerous for your health.

I have been trying to find neutral information about the effects, which ain't easy in the first place, and I think it's important to eat a little bit of everything. Humans are omnivores after all. Versatility is the key word and "everything in moderation" is actually very good advice for life in general because it applies in many different situations.

Leptin - A hormone for easy weight lossing?

Have we found a perfect weight loss treatment for humans? When we eat it's necessary to know when to stop eating. We have lot's of theories regarding to hunger control in the short run. Many of them associated with hypothalamus. 

Leptin is a protein hormone secreted by the fat cells which acts as a signal to help our system to control the energy intake and energy expenditure especially in the long run. The amount of leptin in the blood has been directly linked to the amount of fat in the body.

Unfortunately leptin didn't become the instant cure for obesity. It appears that fatness doesn't occur because of low levels of leptin in the blood but because of the ineffectiveness of leptin. Similiar happens in type 2 diabetes with the insulin resistance.

How ever it is important to bear in mind that ascending leptin levels in people who have already lost some weight helps them to keep the weight off. It doesn't help people to lose weight in the first place but prevents the yo-yoing that most dieters come across as their leptin levels drop and the brain tries to compensate that by increasing hunger.