Oxford city center could be electric vehicle-only by 2030

The dreaming spires could soon be the first to benefit from being in a 'Zero Emission Zone'
Image: Shutterstock / elesi

A lot can happen in three years, but banning combustion engines from a major city centre? That seems a bit of a stretch.

Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Council have proposed plans to rid the city centre of all diesel- and petrol-fuelled vehicles — buses and taxis included — by 2020. This could potentially make Oxford centre the very first Zero Emission Zone, and the council also wants to expand this Zero Emission Zone twice more, in 2025 and 2030. 

The council cites the health risks caused by pollution as the reason behind this bold proposal. In a statement, Oxford council says, “Oxford city centre currently has illegally-high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide, which contributes to diseases including cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease – and contributes to around 40,000 deaths in the UK every year.”

The council projects that this new plan will lead to a 74% reduction in nitrogen dioxide on the centre’s most polluted street by 2035.

The City Council had already made some headway, as they state in their press release that they have won £500,000 in government funding to install charging points for electric taxis, and a further £800,000 for charging points for use by Oxford residents.

However, as optimistic as this plan may seem, The Memo picked up on a slight catch.

The area that would be covered by the 2020 no-emission zone is incredibly small, and already contains “very little traffic,” according to the Oxford Zero Emission Zone Feasibility and Implementation Study. It notes that implementing the diesel and petrol ban in this area “would potentially have little overall effect on air quality”.

The 2020 area only covers 3 roads, and they’re not particularly busy thoroughfares.

On the other hand, three years is not a long time to adapt a city centre to electric vehicles, so changes would have to be incremental. 

TheOxford Zero Emission Zone Feasibility and Implementation Study also suggests that the council could incentivise people to switch to electric vehicles by offering free EV (electric vehicle) parking in 2020 and then introducing EV-only parking areas in 2025.

James McKemey at Pod Point, a company which installs EV charging points, believes that the real incentive to switch to EV won’t come so much from the public sector, than from consumer experience. He told us that government grants and tax breaks encouraging the purchase of electric cars are “small incentives which are helpful in the early days […] but ultimately the real incentive to drive an electric vehicle will be that they are fundamentally better.” 

He also thinks that Oxford City Council’s 2020 goal isn’t an unreasonable target, given that EV battery pack prices have recently become far more affordable at a rate that is “far beyond what we expected”.

So from this point of view Oxford centre wouldn’t be forcing a change to electric vehicles so much as keeping up with a trend.

However, this doesn’t mean that enforcement won’t be an issue. Oxford council’s study recommends the implementation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition to help identify anyone infringing on the Zero Emission Zone, regardless of the “illuminated signs” they would put up.

The plans are still only a proposal, and from Monday Oxford residents will have six weeks of public consultation to voice their opinions about their town going electric. Lovely though the plans to reduce pollution sound, they’re bound to make disrupt life for local businesses, as well as the few Oxford professors who don’t ride to work on penny farthings. 

There goes the history department.

Image: Laura De Meo/REX/Shutterstock

Of course if Oxford does go electric, it will make for much more environmentally friendly car chases on Lewis. And what about Endeavour? Hard to say.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/13/oxford-city-centre-zero-emission-zone-2020/

How your blood may predict your future health

New research into bloodstream biomarkers aims to unlock the full impact of social status on peoples lifetime health outcomes. The key is exposure to stress

Health is a well-known inequality issue. While ageing is inevitable and most of us will get sick at some point, the rate of your decline is likely to be faster the lower down the socioeconomic ladder you started.

The intriguing thing is, nobody exactly knows why. Tempting though it is to blame the usual suspects poor diet, obesity, smoking they dont account for the whole story.

If you exactly knew somebodys diet, exercise level, smoking habit or alcohol consumption, you would be about 30 to 40% likely to accurately predict how long they are going to live, says Mel Bartley, professor emerita of medical sociology at University College London, who has dedicated her career to understanding the links between society and health. But whats the rest? Thats the big question.

Unpicking the biological connections between external socioeconomic forces and an individuals health is no easy task. But Bartley and others in her field believe important clues can be found in the very lifeblood of a nation.

The idea that measurable biological markers (biomarkers) in the bloodstream can reflect an individuals underlying health status and even offer some kind of prediction of their life expectancy gained popularity in the 1950s, as scientists started searching for tell-tale markers linked to the epidemic of heart disease spreading through the US.

High blood pressure was the obvious one, but they also discovered that the level of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream was a good indicator of risk. By monitoring blood cholesterol levels in healthy people before they show any outward signs of heart disease, doctors can predict who is most at risk. The resulting medical interventions, such as dietary changes and statin drugs, can demonstrably improve those peoples long-term health.

Now, researchers are using the same approach to measure the impact of social status on the body, in the hope of developing policies that can reduce the health toll on societys most deprived section (on average, the poorest people in the UK miss out on more than a decade of life compared with the richest).

One of the most ambitious projects, currently being undertaken by the University of Essexs Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), is looking at blood biomarkers from some of the 40,000 UK households taking part in its Understanding Society study, which covers the entire socioeconomic spectrum.

A biomarker is an objective measure of health, explains Professor Meena Kumari, the epidemiologist leading the study along with health economist Dr Apostolos Davillas. These chemicals are like molecular flags: they allow us to see what happens inside people as theyre going through their life course which they themselves might not be so aware of.

According to Kumari, Whats happened historically is that social scientists have tended to measure health in a simple way just asking people: How do you rate your health right now? But we wanted to bring together the biology and the social science.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the ISER teams initial analysis focused on measuring the levels of two molecules, fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP), that are produced by inflammation the bodys response to infections, stress and other harmful stimuli. Chronic long-term inflammation is linked to poorer health outcomes including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

According to Davillas and Kumari, measuring an individuals CRP and fibrinogen levels and matching them against their socioeconomic position starts to reveal the hidden mechanisms connecting social inequality and health. And the missing link appears to be stress.

The impact of chronic stress

When we experience something stressful, we activate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis: a convoluted network involving the brain and the pituitary and adrenal glands. This results in the release of cortisol and other stress hormones such as adrenaline, which have a range of effects on the body.

The complex biological conversation between this stress response and the bodys inflammatory processes actually damps down inflammation in the short term. But this careful balance seems to shift in the face of chronic stress, resulting in more inflammation over time. Thus the levels of CRP and fibrinogen, as markers of chronic inflammation, are a proxy for the impact of long-term stress on a persons body.

CRP levels at different ages by household income, left, and education. Photograph: Davillas et al/Scientific Reports

For Kumari and Davillass biomarker study, blood samples were gathered from nearly 8,000 adults in the Understanding Society cohort. While CRP and fibrinogen levels increase in all of us as we age, the ISER team found that differences in the levels of CRP and fibrinogen between socioeconomic groups begin to show relatively early in life and on average rise faster and peak sooner in poorer people.

The research shows differences in CRP levels start around 30 years old and peak around the age of 55, Davillas says. Then the gap starts to narrow again theres not so much difference between the lowest and highest socio-economic groups in later life, although of course the social inequalities are still there. People in both groups end up with similar CRP readings by their mid-70s.

The analysis suggested people in lower socioeconomic groups have a demonstrably longer exposure to chronic inflammation with all its knock-on impacts on long-term health even once the team corrected for the usual suspects of health inequality, including diet and smoking. Theres clearly something else at work.

If you ask people about their health, you dont really see differences early in life people tend to become unhealthy later in life, Kumari says. But were starting to see these underlying biomarker differences in people in their 30s; so whats that about?

Fibrinogen levels at different ages by household income, left, and education. Photograph: Davillas et al/Scientific Reports

Kumari and Davillas are now considering the causes of chronic stress that might contribute to the patterns they have found, starting with employment or lack of it and the associated issues of poor pay, job insecurity, long hours and the burgeoning gig economy.

You have stressful life events such as bereavement or divorce, but were talking about understanding chronic long-term stresses, Kumari says. One of the things we think about is why is disadvantage stressful? For something like low income, it could be because you dont have the same levels of control over your life. Maybe you can manage it for a little while, but over the long term it becomes a chronic stress. These things are hard to measure and capture.

Bartley agrees more needs to be done to understand the financial causes of stress across society. Debt is deadly for people its the ultimate lack of control, she says. Housing is also a huge issue and it doesnt get researched enough living in poor situations is depressing, especially if youre bringing up children. People in poverty can end up in social isolation, and thats known to be associated with all kinds of unhealthy outcomes.

Changes in policy

Its all very well to be able to measure levels of inflammatory biomarkers, and link them to stress and worse health outcomes but the big question is what to do about it. If its as simple as lowering inflammation, then maybe we should just hand out anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin to poorer people?

I dont believe thats the answer, says Bartley. We need to understand what it is about living in a tougher social and economic situation that causes this underlying stress, in order to argue for more effective changes in policy.

From a policy perspective, if you know when health inequalities begin and when they peak, this can help you target these age groups and allocate resources more effectively, says Davillas, pointing to the example of retirement timing. If youre doing a stressful job and this impacts your health more compared to someone in a less stressful occupation, this is an important issue to consider from a public health perspective. Perhaps people in more stressful jobs should retire earlier.

Measuring biomarkers across society could also give researchers a way of monitoring the impact of policy interventions. But to do that effectively will require a lot more data. While the ISER teams findings suggest a link between inflammation, stress and poor health outcomes in the most disadvantaged sectors of society, the study is only a snapshot of biomarker levels in individuals of different ages at one point in time. Whats really needed is detailed, long-term research, monitoring and following people over decades as their lives change.

If we have 30-year-olds with high CRP, we want to know what happens to them five years later, says Bartley. We need to study people over their whole life course to find out if that early high CRP reading is fixed, and does high CRP at age 30 condemn someone to get sicker faster later on or does their health outcome change if they improve their situation and lower their stress levels?

The challenge with this long-term approach is finding ways of measuring biomarkers in large numbers of people across the full spectrum of society. It would be good if we could collect them by some electronic means, instead of having to stick needles in people for blood samples, Bartley speculates. Theres a lot of scope for improvements in technology such as mobile phones, in terms of understanding how society gets under the skin.

The ISER study also highlights another striking issue: the general lack of research focuses on people in midlife a time when life paths can become entrenched.

There are a lot of studies looking at older age groups, because thats when people get sick, and lots involving children because child development is interesting, but theres not a lot going on in the middle of the age span, Kumari says. And yet we found the difference between biomarker levels was biggest in working age groups, where we have the least amount of data.

Understanding the underlying biological pathways will help us to target what it is we should be focusing on. Our data suggest that it might be stress that we need to be thinking about, particularly for working age people. But this is just the beginning theres still a lot to do.

Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com, or follow the Guardians Inequality Project on Twitter here

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/oct/10/how-your-blood-may-predict-your-future-health-biomarkers

No, a standing desk isn’t as unhealthy as smoking

Does a new study really claim that standing at work is as unhealthy as a cigarette a day? Closer inspection suggests probably not

A headline in the Independent today has proclaimed that standing at work is as unhealthy as a cigarette a day, citing a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Illustrated with a picture of a woman bent over her standing desk clutching at her back, were instructed to sit back down.

But a closer look at the research in question reveals very little to do with standing desks. In fact, the study did not look at standing desks at all. The research was conducted on a sample of 7,320 residents of Ontario, Canada, followed up for over a decade. And its findings are striking people whose job requires them to stand for long periods of time were twice as likely to contract heart disease compared to those who do jobs that predominantly involve being seated.

So should we all lower our standing desks and recover our office chairs from wherever weve stashed them? I am not going to rush to do so (at this point I should fess up and say I have used a standing desk for the past three years and I love it).

Firstly, did the researchers ask people whether they stood or sat at work? No, they did not. People were categorised by the job they did. This immediately means that if youre an office worker with a standing desk, youll be categorised as a sitter, because thats predominantly what office workers do. The supplementary table of the paper lists a number of common jobs and how they were categorised for the study. Seated jobs included truck drivers, administrative officers, secretaries, professional occupations in business services and accounting clerks. Standing jobs on the other hand included retail salespersons, cooks, food and beverage servers and machine or tool operators.

Now here we get on to the classic problem with observational epidemiology. People who work different types of jobs are going to be different in loads of ways other than their jobs, all of which might also impact on risk of heart disease. This is called confounding. The authors of the study take a number of these in to account, for example pre-existing health conditions, whether the person smokes, whether they were obese, and various others. But its very hard to be sure that youve taken all of the potential confounding factors like these in to account. There could very easily be other differences rather than just whether a person is more likely to be standing or sitting. For example how much they exercise could have a big impact. Perhaps, as one person on Twitter suggested to me, after a day on your feet youre less inclined to go for a run of an evening.

Also, as can be seen from the list of jobs theyve included in each group, there might be socio-economic differences between people who do jobs that require standing at work and those who are more likely to sit and these might be related to how good your diet is, how much disposable income you have, all things that sadly are associated with ill health. Even if you attempt to take these factors in to account in a statistical model, if youre relying on self-reported or large scale data its almost impossible to be sure youve really accounted for all the variability.

So while this study is really interesting, and might indicate that jobs where youre more likely to stand are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, personally I think theres a little more going on than simply that we should all sit down at work if we want to protect our hearts. Not to mention that this study has absolutely nothing to do with standing desks, and didnt actually ask the individuals included whether they did stand or sit at work, but inferred it from the type of job they did. Im not lowering my standing desk just yet.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2017/sep/21/no-a-standing-desk-isnt-as-unhealthy-as-smoking

Kimmel more effective than Dems on healthcare

(CNN)Jimmy Kimmel has done again what Congressional Democratic leaders cannot: thrust the debate over how disastrous the GOP’s proposed healthcare plan would be for Americans with pre-existing conditions back into the national headlines. Sure, Democrats in Congress are objecting to the GOP proposal via press releases and on Twitter, but Kimmel has been clearly more effective at attracting media coverage on this issue.

As a reminder, Kimmel caused a national media firestorm in May with his emotional monologue about his newborn son’s health condition that moved many — including me — to tears. Kimmel spoke of his child who had been born just weeks before with a life-threatening heart condition that required emergency surgery to repair. While noting his family had health insurance for this birth defect, Kimmel fought back tears reflecting on how other families could lose coverage for such pre-existing conditions under the GOP plan then being championed with the words: “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
Shortly after that plea by Kimmel, GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La) coined the term “The Jimmy Kimmel test.” As Cassidy explained, he would only support a healthcare bill if it passes the test of “will the child born with congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life?” adding, “I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.”
    Flash forward and Cassidy is now one of the two main architects of the GOP healthcare plan that is on the verge of passing the US Senate. If that happens, it’s expected to pass the House and be signed into law by President Trump. This bill would, among other horrible things, undermine coverage for pre-existing conditions that is now guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Talk about failing the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”
    Kimmel made this point himself Tuesday night by bluntly accusing Cassidy of coming on his show in May and lying “right to my face” when he vowed to follow the Kimmel test before supporting any healthcare proposal. Maybe if Congressional Democrats were that bold in their critique, they would attract some more media attention to the issue and, more importantly, generate some more political momentum for their ideas about how to fix healthcare.
    Kimmel was unflinching in his indictment of what he saw as Cassidy’s hypocrisy. He showed a clip from his May interview with Cassidy, asking him, “Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular checkups, maternity care, etc., all of those things that people who have health care get and need?” Cassidy’s response was a clear: “Yep.”
    After the clip played, Kimmel slammed Cassidy with the joke, “‘Yep’ is Washington for ‘Nope.'” Kimmel ended his monologue saying that he had a new test for Cassidy, “It’s called a lie detector test,” adding, “You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.”
    On Wednesday, Cassidy appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to discuss his healthcare plan and sure enough he was challenged about the Kimmel test. Cassidy’s response to Kimmel’s criticism was simply, “I’m sorry he does not understand.”
    To be fair, Kimmel, by his own admission, isn’t an expert on health insurance. But the long list of medical groups and organizations opposing the GOP plan are and they have the very same concerns Kimmel has raised.
    In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) put out a stern warning yesterday emphasizing the practical impact of the proposed GOP plan, which would allow individual states the ability to waive certain protections (like coverage for pre-existing conditions) now mandated under the ACA.
    As the AMA explained, even though insurers are still technically required to offer coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions “allowing states to get waivers to vary premiums based on health status would allow insurers to charge unaffordable premiums based on those pre-existing conditions.”

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    If he wanted to, Cassidy could wait for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to evaluate the bill and answer all of our questions and address the concerns of parents like Kimmel and organizations like the AMA. But he won’t. Instead, as he noted in a statement today, “We have a September 30 deadline on our promise (to repeal the ACA). Let’s finish the job.”
    It couldn’t be clearer that Cassidy and the GOP are more concerned with fulfilling a campaign promise than ensuring Americans have guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions. They are playing politics with our healthcare and the lives of our families by weakening such coverage. And once again we can thank Kimmel — not Congressional Democratic leaders — for making this clear to all.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/20/opinions/kimmel-more-effective-than-dems-obeidallah-opinion/index.html

    How America Kills Black Men Without Lifting A Finger

    In 1996, hip-hop trio A Tribe Called Quest released Stressed Out, the tale of a black man looking to remain optimistic while dealing with the repercussions of his criminal record, trying to provide for his family, and doing his best to not be a victim of neighborhood violence. For many African-American men, this narrativewhether in part or in fullis gospel. Environmental concerns keep African-American men in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight, and studies show that this chronic stress has led to health disparities, with diabetes being one of the most insidious.

    Theres substantial evidence to demonstrate the environment we live in has direct impacts on our health, says Rebecca Hasson, an exercise physiologist and director of the Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

    About 13 percent of African-Americans age 20 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. About 9 percent of all Americans are diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. African-American men are 1.7 times more likely than white non-Hispanic men to have diabetes.

    When Protective Hormones Harm

    Hassons findings point to cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, as a contributing factor in stress-related onsets of diabetes. Cortisol temporarily increases energy production required for immediate survivallike running from a bear, or escaping a house fire. For the average person, cortisol levels begin high in the morning and taper off as the day progresses, fluctuating appropriately. In African-American men living in socioeconomically depressed communities, cortisol levels start and remain highthe bear is always chasing; the smoke alarms always screeching.

    Debra J. Barksdale, professor and associate dean of academic programs at Virginia Commonwealth Universitys School of Nursing, has been examining stress in African-American men for three decades. Like Hasson, she cites cortisol and its role in chronic stress, stating that its like having your stressors turned on all the time.

    The fight-or-flight response is more of an acute reaction, she says. Whether its related to the pressures from society, increased chances of being stopped by the authorities, trying to provide for their families or trying to find a job or sustain a job, when a stressor occurs, there are physiological processes that occur in the brain that trigger the release of cortisol. What we have found was in certain people who are constantly stressed, cortisol levels do not go down throughout the day. It will remain high.

    The Broken Thermostat

    When cortisol levels remain high without the presence of imminent danger or without some physical activity to offset the effects of chronic stress, Type 2 diabetes may be the consequence. According to the American Diabetes Association, higher cortisol results in higher insulin resistance, forcing the pancreas to produce more insulin to get a response. With ongoing insulin resistance, the insulin-producing beta cells wear out, causing Type 2 diabetes.

    Briana Mezuk is an associate professor in the division of epidemiology at VCU who has studied the relationship between stress and blood sugar. She explains it this way:

    Think of stress like a hot summer day. Your thermostat has to keep working harder and harder to keep your house cool. Eventually, it cant get the temperature back down to where you want it anymore; it cant get back down to 68 degrees. It can only get down to 69 degrees, (because) the system is worn out. Sixty-nine degrees is not bad, but then it keeps creeping up and eventually the body isnt able to respond because its chronically activated. Those are the folks who are going to be more likely to progress to diabetes, she says.

    Mezuk partners with the YMCA of Greater Richmonds diabetes control and diabetes prevention programs. The diabetes control program helps adults living with Type 2 by providing education, support and care management. The diabetes prevention program is for those at risk for Type 2 diabetes. They learn how to make lifestyle changes to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

    Know Your Status

    Learning to identify and manage stress positively is the first step to a healthier outcome. That can be exercise, playing in mens sports leagues, practicing yoga, or seeking talk therapy. If no change occurs, African-American men run the risk of epidemic levels of diabetes diagnoses50 percentby 2050, according to the diabetes association.

    Caroline Fornshell, a registered dietitian and diabetes fitness and nutrition expert in Williamsburg, calls those who catch the disease before its onset the lucky ones.

    They are the ones that got the warning. So often, people are walking around with undiagnosed full-fledged diabetes, and so it is really an exciting opportunity for individuals who find out they have pre-diabetes to take control, she says.

    Pre-diabetics can exercise more and evaluate their diet. They also should reduce stress, get the proper amounts of sleep and seek out supports, whether its through a program or even some sort of wellness buddy, says Fornshell.

    Mezuk encourages African-Americans who think theyre at risk due to family history or who live with chronic stress to consult a physician. Many men dont know that they have the disease and when left untreated, it can lead to a host of other health problems, including hypertension, heart disease and kidney failurethree more conditions that African-American men suffer at higher rates than their white and Latino counterparts.

    Its really scary to go to the doctor [and find out that you have] diabetes. People call it denialabetes for a reason. People dont want to believe that theyre sick, says Mezuk. But there is good news. We can take what we are learning about how stress and depression affect the body and actually turn that into improved health for people in terms of managing this condition better and hopefully being able to prevent this condition better.

    Originally published in Richmond Magazine

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-stress-killing-black-men_us_58c2b6f8e4b0c3276fb783c8

    So Coconut Oil Is Actually Really, Really Bad For You

    Youd be hard pressed to find someone who doesnt like coconuts. They are furry spheres of deliciousness, after all. Coconut water though is pointless it doesnt have any clear health benefits and its just a saltier version of normal water.

    Then theres coconut oil. Its the latest cooking fad, and people all over the Web are claiming that its much healthier than any other oil out there. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, coco-nutcases, but according to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is just as unhealthy as butter and beef dripping.

    According to a key advisory notice published in the journal Circulation one which looks at all kinds of fats and their links to cardiovascular disease coconut oil is packed with saturated fats. In fact, 82 percent of coconut oil is comprised of saturated fats, far more than in regular butter (63), olive oil (14), peanut oil (17), and sunflower oil (10).

    Saturated fat, unlike others, can raise the amount of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream, which increases your risk of contracting heart disease in the future. It can be found in butter and lard, cakes, biscuits, fatty meats, cheese, and cream, among other things including coconut oil.

    A recent survey reported that 72 percent of the American public rated coconut oil as a healthy food compared with 37 percent of nutritionists, the AHAs review notes. This disconnect between lay and expert opinion can be attributed to the marketing of coconut oil in the popular press.

    A meta-analysis of a suite of experiments have conclusively shown that butter and coconut oil, in terms of raising the amount of bad cholesterol in your body, are just as bad as each other.

    Because coconut oil increases [bad] cholesterol, a cause of cardiovascular disease, and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil, the AHA conclude. In essence, there is nothing to gain and everything to lose by using coconut oil in cooking.

    STOP. Do not do this. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

    If you already have high bad cholesterol levels, then coconut oil is potentially quite dangerous to consume or use in acts of culinary creations. Swapping it out for olive oil, according to the AHA, will reduce your cholesterol levels as much as cutting-edge, cholesterol-lowering drugs.

    So next time you see anyone claiming that coconut oil is good for you or that its pro-health and anti-everything bad! you can confidently tell them that theyre spouting bullshit.

    Its important to remember though that a little bit of fat is definitely good for you, as fatty acids are essential for proper absorption of vitamins. Unsaturated fats are generally thought to be quite good for you in this regard; you can find them in avocados, fish oil, nuts, and seeds.

    [H/T: BBC News]

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/coconut-oil-bad/

    From Acne To Pregnancy, Here’s Every “Preexisting Condition” That Could Get You Denied Insurance Under Trump’s New Healthcare Bill

    The American Health Care Act, the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan, passed the Houseof Representatives on Thursday. What counts as a preexisting condition that could get you denied coverage under the new plan?

    A lot.

    The billraises concerns, especially from patient advocacy groups and physicians, that under the AHCA, people with preexisting conditions will once again find health insurance inaccessible.

    Preexisting conditions were a term used by insurance companies before the Affordable Care Act to classify certain diseases or health problems that could deny a person insurance coverage or make their coverage more expensive than those whowere considered healthy.

    Before the ACA

    An estimated 27% of Americans under 65 have health conditions that could leave them uninsurable, accordingto the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some of the preexisting conditions that insurers declined coverage to before the ACA, according to KFF, included diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, which affects millions of Americans.

    These preexisting conditions included:

    AIDS/HIV, lupus, alcohol abuse/Drug abuse with recent treatment, Severe mental disorders such as bipolar disorder or an eating disorder, Alzheimers/dementia, Multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other inflammatory joint disease, Muscular dystrophy, cancer, severe obesity, cerebral palsy, organ transplant, congestive heart failure, paraplegia, coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery, paralysis, Crohns disease/ ulcerative colitis, Parkinsons disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease /emphysema, pending surgery or hospitalization, diabetes mellitus, pneumocystic pneumonia, epilepsy, pregnancy or expectant parent, hemophilia, sleep apnea, hepatitis C, stroke, kidney disease, renal failure, transsexualism.

    Other conditions that could make it harder to purchase a health insurance plan included, according to the KFF:

    Acne, allergies, anxiety, asthma, basal cell skin cancer (a type of skin cancer that doesn’t tend to spread), depression, ear infections, fractures, high cholesterol, hypertension, incontinence, joint injuries, kidney stones, menstrual irregularities, migraine headaches, overweight, restless leg syndrome, tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, varicose veins, and vertigo.

    Some insurance plans before the ACA also counted rape and domestic violence as preexisting conditions, though CNN reports some states have banned that practice.

    Under the ACA

    One of the critical parts of the ACA was prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more for people with preexisting conditions. That wentinto effect starting in 2014, and it’s still the case.

    That means that if you had any of that litany of conditions listed above (let’s say asthma), you still could have the same insurance as someone who managedto have a clean bill of heath, and someone who isa cancer survivor, pregnant, or obese.

    How preexisting conditions could return

    The version of the AHCA that just passed the House includes the MacArthur amendment which can allow states to avoid some of the regulations the ACAimposed. That policy, experts argue, could weaken the regulations around preexisting conditions.

    Republicans, on the other hand, argue that the bill protects those with preexisting conditions.

    “The amendment is very clear: Under no circumstance can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” House Speaker Paul Ryansaid in a release.

    But the difference between being denied coverage and not being able to afford coverage is the gray area that has people concerned.

    “The various patchwork solutions offered by lawmakers would still leave the millions of patients we represent, who have serious and chronic health conditions, at risk of not being able to access life-saving treatments and care,” a group of 10 patient advocacy organizations saidin a release Wednesday.

    The bill now has to pass the Senate, and Senate Republicanshas signaled potentially scrapping the House’s bill and coming up with one of their own.

    Read the original article onBusiness insider.Follow us onFacebookandTwitter. Copyright 2016.

    Read next on Business Insider:Here’s Why Couples Who Live Together Shouldn’t Be In Any Rush To Get Married

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/from-acne-to-pregnancy-heres-every-preexisting-condition-that-could-get-you-denied-insurance-under-trumps-new-healthcare-bill/

    Eating cheese does not raise risk of heart attack or stroke, study finds

    Consumption of even full-fat dairy products does not increase risk, international team of experts says

    Consuming cheese, milk and yoghurt even full-fat versions does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to research that challenges the widely held belief that dairy products can damage health.

    The findings, from an international team of experts, contradict the view that dairy products can be harmful because of their high saturated fat content. The experts dismiss that fear as a misconception [and] mistaken belief.

    The results come from a new meta-analysis of 29 previous studies of whether dairy products increase the risk of death from any cause and from either serious heart problems or cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that such foodstuffs did not raise the risk of any of those events and had a neutral impact on human health.

    This meta-analysis showed there were no associations between total dairy, high- and low-fat dairy, milk and the health outcomes including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease, says the report, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

    Ian Givens, a professor of food chain nutrition at Reading University, who was one of the researchers, said: Theres quite a widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but thats a misconception. While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that thats wrong.

    Theres been a lot of publicity over the last five to 10 years about how saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and a belief has grown up that they must increase the risk, but they dont.

    However, the governments health advisers urged consumers to continue to exercise caution about eating too many products high in saturated fat and to stick to low-fat versions instead.

    Dairy products form an important part of a healthy balanced diet; however, many are high in saturated fat and salt. Were all consuming too much of both, increasing our risk of heart disease, said a spokesman for Public Health England. We recommend choosing lower-fat varieties of milk and dairy products or eating smaller amounts to reduce saturated fat and salt in the diet.

    Givens and colleagues from Reading, Copenhagen University in Denmark and Wageningen University in the Netherlands analysed 29 studies involving 938,465 participants from around the world undertaken over the last 35 years, including five done in the UK.

    No associations were found for total (high-fat/low-fat) dairy and milk with the health outcomes of mortality, CHD or CVD, they said. In fact, they added, fermented dairy products may potentially slightly lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

    Doctors, public health experts and official healthy eating guidelines have for many years identified saturated fats as potentially harmful for heart and cardiovascular health and advised consumers to minimise their intake.

    That has led to consumers increasingly buying lower-fat versions of dairy products. For example, 85% of all milk sold in the UK is now semi-skimmed or skimmed.

    Givens said consumers were shunning full-fat versions of cheese, milk or yoghurt in the mistaken view that they could harm their health. Young people, especially young women, were now often drinking too little milk as a result of that concern, which could damage the development of their bones and lead to conditions in later life including osteoporosis, or brittle bones, he said. Consuming too little milk can deprive young people of calcium.

    Pregnant women who drank too little milk could be increasing the risk of their child having neuro-developmental difficulties, which could affect their cognitive abilities and stunt their growth, Givens added.

    The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the governments occasional snapshot of eating habits, found that dairy products, including butter, accounted for the highest proportion of saturated fat consumption in British diets 27%, compared with meats 24%. But if butter was not counted then dairy products together were the second largest source of saturated fat, at 22%.

    Saturated fat is a vital part of diet. The NDNS found that adults typically got 34.6% of their total energy from fats as a whole, just below the 35% the government recommends. However, while total fat consumption was just within target, saturated fats still made up an unhealthily large proportion of total food energy 12.6%, against the recommended maximum of 11%.

    Givens said: Our meta-analysis included an unusually large number of participants. We are confident that our results are robust and accurate.

    The research was part-funded by the three pro-dairy groups Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia but they had no influence over it, the paper said. Givens is an adviser to the Food Standards Agency.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/08/consuming-dairy-does-not-raise-risk-of-heart-attack-or-stroke-study

    DNA breakthrough: Scientists repair genes in human embryos to prevent inherited diseases

    In a major scientific breakthrough, researchers have harnessed a gene-editing tool to correct a disease-causing gene mutation in human embryos, preventing the mutation from passing to future generations.

    In the stunning discovery, a research team led by Oregon Health and Science University reported that embryos can fix themselves if scientists jump-start the process early enough.

    There was no indication how soon ordinary patients could take advantage of this technique.

    The new technique, which was tested on clinical-quality human eggs, uses the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to target a mutation in nuclear DNA that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to the researchers. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common genetic heart disease that can cause heart failure and sudden cardiac death. The disease affects approximately 1 in 500 people and is a common cause of sudden heart failure in young people, particularly young athletes.

    The research was published Aug. 2 in the journal Nature.


    While the procedure is nowhere near ready to be tried in a pregnancy, the research suggests that scientists might alter DNA in a way that protects not just one baby from a disease that runs in the family, but his or her offspring as well. 

    Every generation on would carry this repair because weve removed the disease-causing gene variant from that familys lineage, said the reports senior author, Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, director of OHSUs Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, in a statement. By using this technique, its possible to reduce the burden of this heritable disease on the family and eventually the human population.

    The research offers fresh insight into a technique that could apply to thousands of inherited genetic disorders affecting millions of people worldwide, according to the experts.

    The team programmed the CRISPR-Cas9, which acts like a pair of molecular scissors, to find that mutation a missing piece of genetic material. Researchers injected sperm from a patient with the heart condition along with those “molecular” scissors into healthy donated eggs at the same time. The scissors cut the defective DNA in the sperm.


    Normally, cells will repair a CRISPR-induced cut in DNA by essentially gluing the ends back together. Or scientists can try delivering the missing DNA in a repair package, like a computer’s cut-and-paste program.

    Instead, the newly forming embryos made their own perfect fix without that outside help, reported Mitalipov.

    We all inherit two copies of each gene, one from dad and one from mom and those embryos just copied the healthy one from the donated egg.

    “The embryos are really looking for the blueprint,” Mitalipov said in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re finding embryos will repair themselves if you have another healthy copy.”


    It worked 72 percent of the time, in 42 out of 58 embryos. Normally a sick parent has a 50-50 chance of passing on the mutation.

    Previous embryo-editing attempts in China found not every cell was repaired, a safety concern called mosaicism.

    Experts have lauded the study as a major leap forward in genetic research.

    This is incredibly important work, CRISPR expert and professor at Harvard and MIT George Church told Fox News, via email. Few people realize how common are genetic diseases.


    Church, who is not affiliated with the research, noted that genetic diseases affect about five percent of births, causing great suffering. The mainstream medical approaches today kill embryos and this offers a route to avoid that be (a process of) engineering the eggs, he explained. Shoukhrat Mitalipov’s team has made two huge breakthroughs in efficiency and precision.  

    The researchers behind the study say that the gene-editing technique, which was done in concert with in vitro fertilization, could also increase the success of IVF by increasing the number of healthy embryos.

    If proven safe, this technique could potentially decrease the number of cycles needed for people trying to have children free of genetic disease, said report co-author Dr. Paula Amato, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, in a statement.

    While gene editing holds great potential for the battle against genetic diseases, it has, however, prompted fears that it could be harnessed for designer babies.


    The scientists behind the breakthrough study noted that their research is consistent with recommendations issued earlier this year by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine joint panel on human genome editing.

    The recommendations laid out three major settings where gene editing can be used in biomedicine: basic research on human disease and its treatment, clinical applications to prevent disease or disability in non-productive cells and clinical applications to prevent disease or disability in productive cells.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article. Additional reporting by Chris Ciaccia.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/08/03/dna-breakthrough-scientists-repair-genes-in-human-embryos-to-prevent-inherited-diseases.html

    Deadly Heart Disease Gene Removed From Human Embryos In Revolutionary Study

    Last week, reports surfaced claiming that the first American attempt to make genetically modified, viable human embryos was a success. At the time, details were sparse: CRISPR, the ground-breaking gene-editing technique was employed, and the embryos were terminated after a few days.

    The most tantalizing missing detail revolved around the type of editing that took place. Supposedly, the team led by researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland edited out a series of genes linked to an inheritable disease. At the time, the disease in question wasnt revealed, but now, thanks to the dramatic release of a peer-reviewed Nature study, the details have been made clear.

    The disease in question is a type of heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that often kills otherwise perfectly healthy people. Its often symptomless until death suddenly visits the individual, which makes it particularly dangerous to leave undiagnosed.

    The diseases main effect is to thicken the muscular wall the myocardium to a point where it becomes stiff. Although with treatment, most people can live ordinary lives, this surprisingly common condition can lead to people getting anything from an irregular heartbeat to experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest.

    As reported by The Los Angeles Times, if one parent has a faulty copy of a gene named MYBPC3, then theres a 50 percent chance the genetic mutation will be passed on to their child. It was this gene that was targeted during these embryonic experiments; as has been widely reported, and now confirmed, the trial was successful.

    Although this is at least the second attempt in the world to modify genetically viable human embryos using CRISPR, this study represents the first successful attempt to remove a disease in vivo.

    A timelapse of the development of the edited embryos. OSHU

    Formerly, only in vitro fertilization (IVF) could minimize the risk that a child would inherit the potentially deadly gene. Although still at the proof-of-concept phase, this new experiment suggests that the near-future will feature a way not to just pre-emptively cure a person of the disease, but remove it from their offspring forever.

    The team note that theres room for improvement. Although their method ensured that 42 out of 58 embryos were free of the gene just five days post-incubation a success rate of around 72 percent they would ideally like to reach 100 percent effectiveness in the long run.

    Importantly, they still must make sure that their gene-editing technique doesnt cause inadvertent mutations elsewhere in the embryo. So far, though, so good only one of these 42 embryos exhibited any signs of errant mutation.

    The future one where inherited genetic diseases can be obliterated once and for all is looking bright. The moral and ethical debates will no doubt continue, but science marches forth either way.

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/deadly-heart-disease-gene-removed-human-embryos-revolutionary-study/