Category Archives: Medicine

Maps of the day II: We’re all getting much taller


But Americans, once the third tallest men and fourth tallest women in the world in 1914 have fallen comparatively in the century since, now ranking 37th and 42nd tallest place respectively by 2014, according to a new global survey:

Relative global heights of men in 1914 [top] and 2014 [bottom]:

BLOG Ht men

And the keys for 1914, left, and 2014, right:

BLOG Ht men upper

BLOG Ht men lower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the same comparison for women, with 1914 above and 2014 below:

BLOG Ht women

And the relative scales for 1914 [left] and 2014 [right]:

BLOG Ht women upper

BLOG Ht women lower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So just how much taller and where?

A report on the study from Imperial College London:

Dutch men and Latvian women are the tallest on the planet, according to the largest ever study of height around the world.

The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and using data from most countries in the world, tracked height among young adult men and women between 1914 and 2014.

Among the findings [open access], published in the journal eLife the research revealed South Korean women and Iranian men have shown the biggest increases in height over the past 100 years. Iranian men have increased by an average of 16.5cm, and South Korean women by 20.2cm. Interactive world maps are available here.

To see a full list of the countries please click here.

The height of men and women in the UK has increased by around 11cm over the past century. By comparison, the height of men and women in the USA has increased by 6cm and 5cm, while the height of Chinese men and women has increased by around 11cm and 10cm.

The research also revealed once-tall USA had declined from third tallest men and fourth tallest women in the world in 1914 to 37th and 42nd place respectively in 2014. Overall, the top ten tallest nations in 2014 for men and women were dominated by European countries, and featured no English-speaking nation. UK women improved from 57th to 38th place over a century, while men had improved slightly from 36th to 31st place.

The researchers also found that some countries have stopped growing over the past 30 to 40 years, despite showing initial increases in the beginning of the century of study. The USA was one of the first high-income countries to plateau, and other countries that have seen similar patterns include the UK, Finland, and Japan. By contrast, Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still increasing in height.

Furthermore, some countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East have even seen a decline in average height over the past 30 to 40 years.

There’s lots more after the jump, including an explanation for humanity’s vertical explosion. . .

Continue reading

Chart of the day: Divisions over designer babies


From a new survey on genetic and technological “human enhancements” from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Genes

Map of the day: Childbearing women Zika risks


Map showing the projected number of Zika infections in childbearing women.

Map showing the projected number of Zika infections in childbearing women.

While most people who contract the Zika experience little more than the symptoms of a cold, for women who are pregnant, the Zika virus can trigger the birth of infants with underdeveloped, small skulls [microcephaly].

Scientists have now arrived at their first estimates of how many childbearing age women are at risk in Latin America, and the results are sobering.

From the University of Southampton:

Research by scientists in the US and UK has estimated that up to 1.65 million childbearing women in Central and South America could become infected by the Zika virus by the end of the first wave of the epidemic.

Researchers from the WorldPop Project and Flowminder Foundation at the University of Southampton and colleagues from the University of Notre Dame and University of Oxford have also found that across Latin America and the Caribbean over 90 million infections could result from the initial stages of the spread of Zika.

The team’s projections, detailed in the paper Model-based projections of Zika virus infections in childbearing women in the Americas and published in Nature Microbiology, also show that Brazil is expected to have the largest total number of infections (by more than three-fold), due to its size and suitability for transmission.

The estimates reflect the sum of thousands of localised projections of how many people could become infected within every five x five km grid cell across Central and South America. Because the virus may not reach each corner of this region, or may do so slowly, the total figure of 1.65 million represents an upper limit estimate for the first wave of the epidemic.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Chicken smells drive malarial mosquitoes away


Not only do chickens provide eggs, table meat, and Jewish penicillin; they also appear to possess mosquito-repelling aromas, offering a new way for folks to keep them at bay.

From BBC News:

The smell from a live chicken could help protect against malaria, researchers have found.

Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds. The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.

>snip<

The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite there must be something in a chicken’s odour that puts the insects off.

Addis Ababa University’s Habtie Tekie, who worked on the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.

Field trials for this stage of the research are now “in the pipeline”, he told the BBC.

Antioxidants may do more harm than good


One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

You hear about them all the time, and countless foods and supplements containing them are peddled with promises that they’ll fix you up, keep you healthy, and put a little extra spring in your step.

But do antioxidants really fulfill all that hype? Or can filling up on them actually be harmful to your health?

A new cautionary note has been sounded in a study from scientists in Britain and the Netherlands, and our post includes the announcements from their respective universities.

First, from Maastricht University:

Researchers Professor Pietro Ghezzi of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Professor Harald Schmidt of Maastricht University urge caution in the use of antioxidants. Many people take antioxidants to treat or prevent disease. Ghezzi and Schmidt’s research has shown that such supplements help only in clear cases of vitamin deficiency, and that some antioxidants may even have harmful effects. The study has been published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Gut microbes linked to Alzheimer’s progression


The human body is an interspecies cooperative, the with bulk of the cells in our body belonging to other species than homo sapiens, primarily the bacteria within out gut that enable us to digest the food on which our very lives depend.

But those bacteria excrete all manner of chemicals, and we’re only now beginning to learn that the complex stew they brew impacts us in very many ways.

Previous posts have noted newly established links between our intestinal microbes and multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, anorexia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even our emotional states.

And now comes the latest bombshell: Our intestinal inhabitants impact the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

From the University of Chicago:

Long-term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics decreased levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and activated inflammatory microglial cells in the brains of mice in a new study by neuroscientists from the University of Chicago.

The study, published July 21, 2016, in Scientific Reports, also showed significant changes in the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment, suggesting the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut play an important role in regulating immune system activity that impacts progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re exploring very new territory in how the gut influences brain health,” said Sangram Sisodia, PhD, Thomas Reynolds Sr. Family Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. “This is an area that people who work with neurodegenerative diseases are going to be increasingly interested in, because it could have an influence down the road on treatments.”

Two of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease are the development of amyloidosis, accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides in the brain, and inflammation of the microglia, brain cells that perform immune system functions in the central nervous system. Buildup of Aß into plaques plays a central role in the onset of Alzheimer’s, while the severity of neuro-inflammation is believed to influence the rate of cognitive decline from the disease.

For this study, Sisodia and his team administered high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to mice over five to six months. At the end of this period, genetic analysis of gut bacteria from the antibiotic-treated mice showed that while the total mass of microbes present was roughly the same as in controls, the diversity of the community changed dramatically. The antibiotic-treated mice also showed more than a two-fold decrease in Aß plaques compared to controls, and a significant elevation in the inflammatory state of microglia in the brain. Levels of important signaling chemicals circulating in the blood were also elevated in the treated mice.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Map of the day II: The AIDS crisis continues


From Agence France Presse:

Some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year even as drugs have slashed the death rate, a global AIDS study says.

Some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with HIV every year even as drugs have slashed the death rate, a global AIDS study says.