Author Archives: Bix

Insect Powder Contains Chitin, Known To Participate In “A Growing Number Of Human Diseases”

We probably shouldn’t be eating insects until we better understand the effect of chitin (insect exoskeletons) on neurons and its role in the development of dementia …

Chitin levels are elevated in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients, not only in the central nervous system but also in the cerebrospinal fluid and plasma.

Chitin can be toxic for neurons, and its accumulation may lead to the development of AD.
Possible Role of Chitin-Like Proteins In The Etiology Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2018

… or its role in any number of diseases:

Chitin, chitinases, and related compounds chitinase-like proteins, the chitinase lectins, participate in the pathophysiology of a growing number of human diseases. There are immune disorders such as asthma, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, genetic problems such as Gaucher’s disease, and several disorders of unknown origin that include sarcoidosis [4–7].

Unfortunately, we may not know if we are eating insects because they are being ground up and added to packaged foods such as energy bars, pasta, breads, and chips.

Farming and transforming insects into a food ingredient for packaged products is a new development. Particularly in North America and Europe, some new, small companies are transforming cricket (and mealworm) powder into packaged food (energy bars, pasta, and chips among the examples).

Since insect powders (flour) in packaged foods represent a new category of food product, little market data and/or surveys are available.
Edible Insects: Cricket Farming And Processing As An Emerging Market, Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, 7 April 2020

It’s even being marketed as the new protein powder:

We really need to slow this down.

Elephants Respond To Music

Music for Elephants

Music for Elephants is a unique and moving documentary about a British concert-pianist playing music to blind, injured and orphaned elephants with extraordinary results.

At a sanctuary on the shores of the iconic River Kwai in Thailand, Paul Barton from Yorkshire plays the works of the world’s great composers to endangered Asian elephants and reveals their secret love of music.

This is the trailer:

More:
Pianist Plays Classical Music to Comfort Rescued Blind Elephants

Insect Exoskeletons Contain Chitin, Implicated In Development Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Chitin is a structural polysaccharide that contains nitrogen. It is the primary component of exoskeletons of arthropods such as crustaceans and insects. Humans mount an immune response to chitin and it has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Possible Role of Chitin-Like Proteins In The Etiology Of Alzheimer’s Disease, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2018

Chitin levels are elevated in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients, not only in the central nervous system but also in the cerebrospinal fluid and plasma.

Chitin can be toxic for neurons, and its accumulation may lead to the development of AD.

Humans mount an immune response to chitin:

Humans and other mammals have chitinase and chitinase-like proteins that can degrade chitin; they also possess several immune receptors that can recognize chitin and its degradation products, initiating an immune response.[16]

Chitin is sensed mostly in the lungs or gastrointestinal tract where it can activate the innate immune system through eosinophils or macrophages, as well as an adaptive immune response through T helper cells.[16] Keratinocytes in skin can also react to chitin or chitin fragments.[16]

[16] Chitin And Its Effects On Inflammatory And Immune Responses, Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, April 2018

ChatGTP Is Going To Give Search Engines (Like Google) A Run For Their Money

Give it a try: ChatGPT

Wikipedia:

ChatGPT is a prototype artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI which specializes in dialogue.

ChatGPT was launched in November 2022 and has garnered attention for its detailed responses and articulate answers, although its factual accuracy has been criticized.

Instead of typing keywords into a search page, products like ChatGPT will reply to your query in language you understand. You can even tell it what kind of language to use.

Examples:

USER
help me write a short note to introduce myself to my neighbor

CHATGPT
Hi there,

My name is [Your Name] and I just moved in next door. I wanted to reach out and introduce myself. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and the neighborhood. If you ever need anything or just want to chat, please don’t hesitate to stop by or give me a call.

Best,
[Your Name]

USER
can you make it more formal?

CHATGPT
Dear Neighbor,

I am writing to introduce myself. My name is [Your Name] and I have recently moved in next door. I wanted to take a moment to reach out and say hello. I am looking forward to getting to know you and the neighborhood.

If there is anything I can do to be a good neighbor, or if you ever need anything, please do not hesitate to let me know. I am happy to help in any way that I can.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

USER
can you send it for me?

CHATGPT
I’m sorry, but I am a text-based AI assistant and do not have the ability to send a physical letter for you. I can only provide suggestions and advice on what to write. It is up to you to take that advice and send the letter yourself.

I saw the following one on Twitter:

USER
Write a company culture code that is full of jargon and which actually says nothing

ChatGPT
Here’s a company culture code full of jargon that says nothing:

1. Our company is committed to fostering a dynamic and collaborative work environment that empowers our team members to think outside the box and drive innovation.
2. We believe in leveraging our collective strengths and diverse perspectives to drive success and deliver value to our stakeholders.
3. Our team members are expected to embody our core values of integrity, accountability, and excellence, and to act as ambassadors for our brand.
4. We foster a culture of continuous learning and development, and support our team members in achieving their professional goals.
5. We believe in the power of transparency and open communication, and strive to create a safe and inclusive space for all voices to be heard.
6. At the end of the day, it’s all about the team, and we are committed to supporting and empowering our team members to achieve their full potential.

Also interesting, from Wikipedia:

Technology writer Dan Gillmor used ChatGPT on a student assignment, and found its generated text was on par with what a good student would deliver and opined that “academia has some very serious issues to confront.”

I can’t tell if text I read online these days, whether social media or articles, is written by a chatbot. It’s probably more than I realize! Even my blog here could probably be written by a chatbot. “Write a blog in the style of Bix.” Who would know?

Interesting times…

Potassium Iodide: A Decades-Long Therapy For Asthma

150 micrograms (mcg) is the RDA for adults. This can be purchased for about $10 over-the-counter.

This is an old article. 1964. 58 years ago.

The Asthma-Suppressive Action Of Potassium Iodide, Journal of Allergy, May-June 1964

It describes a benefit from treatment with iodine in the form of potassium iodide:

Abstract
The exceptional asthma-suppressive action of potassium iodide is described as observed in ten cases among approximately two hundred treated with this drug. A high degree of control of asthma may persist for prolonged periods, up to five years. The degree of effectiveness may be such that prolonged steroid therapy can be avoided. The data suggest that this is not a placebo effect.

Potassium iodide was in general well tolerated, but its side effects warrant consideration and their management is discussed. Thyroid adenoma was the most important complication of therapy. Iodide, long considered to possess some anti-inflammatory action, appears to exert little benefit on other common allergy syndromes. It did not diminish either immediate or delayed allergic skin test reactions. The mechanism of the asthma-suppressive action of iodide remains obscure. What accounts for the peculiar iodide-responsiveness of certain cases of bronchial asthma constitutes a related provocative problem.

These cases are nothing short of remarkable.

This is the kind of claim that the medical industry and drug companies would rather see lost to the ages since it would cut into profits from doctor visits, inhalers, and prescription medications. Potassium iodide is cheap and can be purchased over-the-counter.

I should say that the amount of potassium iodide they took was several times the RDA. That could come with unwanted side effects:

Adverse Reactions to Iodide Therapy of Asthma and Other Pulmonary Diseases, Pediatrics, 1 February 1976

First, the supportive news:

Five current textbooks advocate the use of iodides in chronic asthma.1-5 “Iodide compounds have a stimulating effect on bronchial secretions and represent expectorants of major importance in treating asthma and particularly status asthmaticus.”2

But:

Dosage recommendations usually are 300 mg of potassium iodide every two hours in adults1 and 60 mg per year of age four times daily in children.4 These dosage recommendations are many times greater than the 65 mg of organic iodine (T4 and T3) which the average human thyroid gland delivers to the circulation per day, or the estimated daily adult iodide requirement of 200 mg of iodide.8 As a matter of fact, these recommended dosages for iodides represent 10 to 30 times the total body content of iodide!

I’m pretty sure in that last paragraph the authors are referring to micrograms (mcg) not milligrams (mg).

The NIH says adults shouldn’t take more than about 1000 micrograms (mcg) a day, with 150-200 mcg being the RDA, as stated above. In the case studies at the top of this post, patients were taking a half to several grams potassium iodide a day!

In sum: Potassium iodide has been documented as a cheap, simple, over-the-counter therapy for symptoms of asthma. However only some people are responsive and it may require a (perhaps prohibitively) high dose to be effective.

An aside: I just love the way older studies are written:

What accounts for the peculiar iodide-responsiveness of certain cases of bronchial asthma constitutes a related provocative problem.

We Already Know Microplastics Are Harmful, But The NYTs Wants Us To Keep Wondering

Virginia sent me this story from the New York Times. I think she knew she’d fire me up!

How Bad Are Microplastics? An Expert Weighs In., New York Times, 9 December 2022

The article was directly influenced by BigBusiness. It even feels like it was written by them and passed on. Why do I say that? Because BigBusiness’ product is doubt:

“What are the implications of this?”

“We need to understand a lot more…”

More study. Stall. Could be good, could be bad. Doubt!

In fact, we already know that plastics are harmful. There’s no doubt. There’s enough knowledge to act. But BigBusiness doesn’t want to act:

Plastics Pose Threat To Human Health, Endocrine Society, 15 December 2020

Plastics contain and leach hazardous chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that threaten human health. An authoritative new report, Plastics, EDCs, & Health, from the Endocrine Society and the IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network), presents a summary of international research on the health impacts of EDCs and describes the alarming health effects of widespread contamination from EDCs in plastics.

EDCs are chemicals that disturb the body’s hormone systems and can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders, and neurological impairments of developing fetuses and children. The report describes a wealth of evidence supporting direct cause-and-effect links between the toxic chemical additives in plastics and specific health impacts to the endocrine system.

I also think that this article emerged from the bowels of BigBusiness because it ends – not with stopping plastic production – but continuing it! With the prospect of recycling:

“Everything is recycled. Maybe that’s the ideal future we’re all working toward.”

See: Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work And Will Never Work, The Atlantic, 30 May 2022

There is no non-polluting way to dispose of plastics. Their production pollutes the environment. Their degradation pollutes the environment. Also, less than 10% of what we think is getting recycled … isn’t.

People think what BigBusiness wants them to think even when they don’t realize it. Thus this article. Take this:

“… help us – all of us – to reduce our individual footprints”

See: The Concept Of “Personal Carbon Footprint” Was Popularized By The Oil Industry To Deflect Responsibility
and
Corporations Are Happy To Let Us Believe It’s About Plastic Bags, It Distracts Us From The Real Culprit Behind Environmental Catastrophe, Their Pollution And Exploitation

The answer is to stop producing plastic. No more doubt. No more shifting blame. No more hemming and hawing. I’m not surprised this article, where “an expert weighs in” appeared in the New York Times. They have prostrated themselves to industry – to the people who pay their salaries.

First Autopsy Study Of An Okinawan Centenarian: Absence of Many Age-Related Diseases (Repost)

OkinawanDiet4

This photo of a centenarian from Okinawa (she’s not the woman in this study) is a still image from National Geographic’s video Secrets of Living Longer. It a great little video, very uplifting!

This is a fascinating discussion about the physical state of a 100-year-old woman from Okinawa at her death:

First Autopsy Study Of An Okinawan Centenarian: Absence of Many Age-Related Diseases, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2004

Consistent with the compression-of-morbidity hypothesis, several studies have reported that a significant proportion of centenarians delay or escape age-related diseases. Of those who live with such diseases for a long time, many appear to do so with better functional status than do younger persons who do not achieve extreme old age. The authors describe the first autopsy in an Okinawan-Japanese centenarian who escaped many age-related illnesses and delayed frailty toward the end of her very long life.

CompressionOfMorbidityCurve“Compression of morbidity” refers to the compressing or shortening of time between illness and death. If there is a lot of compression, someone remains relatively healthy until a brief time before they die (green line in graph). If there is not much compression, someone becomes more sick and frail as they age (blue lines in graph). If you want a long healthy life, you need to postpone the onset of chronic disease (like diabetes, heart disease, cancer), as this woman did.

Here’s some background on this woman:

A 100-year-old woman came to Chubu Hospital in Okinawa, Japan because of shortness of breath. The patient had been healthy until very late in life, when, in short succession, she suffered a T7 compression fracture at age 92 years, two hip fractures at ages 97 and 98 years that were treated with prosthetic replacements, and bronchitis requiring 6 weeks’ hospitalization at age 99 years. She had no history of congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, angina, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, tuberculosis, other pulmonary disease, or cancer. Cognitive impairment was first noted by her daughter and her physician at age 98 years. She did not take any medications. She lived her entire life in Okinawa, where she worked for many years as a farmer. As a young woman, she smoked 2 to 3 cigarettes per day, and she had no history of alcohol use. She used a wheelchair after the second hip fracture and depended on her family for assistance with all activities of daily living.

Note that the cognitive impairment did not occur until after her two major hip replacement surgeries. Surgery and exposure to anesthesia is known to disrupt brain function, especially in the elderly. I’m curious about that “2 to 3 cigarettes per day.” I wonder if they meant 2 to 3 packs, because you can be exposed to more background or second-hand smoke than just a couple cigarettes would give.

It looks like the cause of death, in the end, was pneumonia:

The patient was admitted to the hospital and received intravenous fluids and oxygen. … After 3 weeks in the hospital on antibiotic therapy, the patient became depressed, expressed thoughts of dying, and refused to eat. …The patient’s family requested that no aggressive measures be taken to prolong the patient’s life and that all phlebotomy stop. … Nearly 6 weeks after admission, the patient suddenly experienced loose bloody stools, her oxygen saturation rate quickly decreased to 60%, and she died.

And here’s a bit about her health at death:

That the patient’s coronary vessels were free of atherosclerotic narrowing and calcification is remarkable given autopsy reports on white centenarians (those aged 100 to 103 years) and other exceptional survivors (those aged 90 to 103 years), which show coronary vessel narrowing in 66% of patients and coronary calcification in 84% to 97% of patients (5,6). This finding is consistent with the low incidence of and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Okinawa compared with Japan overall and the United States (1,2,8).

The patient’s kidneys, like the heart and stomach, appeared remarkably healthy. The usual age-associated changes in kidney structure include loss of 30%–50% of cortical glomeruli by the seventh decade and sclerosis of up to 30% of the remaining glomeruli (13). In this case, 90% of the glomeruli had no sclerosis and there appeared to be no loss in total number.

Her heart, digestion, and kidneys were all healthy and could have provided additional years of high-quality life. Her weaknesses were her bones and her lungs. The authors suggest that her lung ailments developed through exposure to various environmental pollutants, e.g cigarette smoke and farming chemicals. They didn’t mention the extraordinary levels of toxic waste strewn around the island from US military bases. Indeed, Okinawa is nicknamed “the junk heap of the Pacific.” Three of its rivers rank among the five most polluted rivers in Japan.

With all that pollution, it’s notable she never had any cancer. In fact, Okinawans as a population have cancer rates orders of magnitude lower than ours, especially cancers of the breast and prostate. Although those rates have been creeping up as their diet becomes more Westernized. The more I read, the more I am convinced that diet plays a key role in cancer, both development and progression, as well as other chronic diseases.

What did this woman eat? This table provides some clues (from Traditional Okinawan Diet: Sweet Potatoes):

OkinawanDiet1

She would have been in her mid 40s at the time of this data, so during mid-life at least, she probably got most of her calories from carbohydrates (carbs supplied 85% of calories here) especially sweet potatoes with some rice, beans, and vegetables. Hers was likely a very low-fat (6% of calories), low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet, the kind of starch-based diet that Dr. McDougall might rubber-stamp.

By the way, Willcox’s data also reveal that Okinawans consumed a mere 2% of the RDA for vitamin D (compared to 31% on Japan mainland), and just 27% of the RDA for vitamin B12 or 0.6 micrograms a day. They also failed to meet the RDA for calcium and zinc. Still, many lived long and healthful lives.

The authors of this autopsy study said there are three variables that predict longevity, “genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices, and chance.” Two of those, genes and chance, are out of our control. Lifestyle isn’t. And what we eat is a big chunk of “lifestyle.”

It is not inevitable that we will become increasingly sick and frail as we age.

Originally posted 20 January 2015.

New Study: Short-Term Exposure To NO2 In Air Pollution Linked To Depression

Short-term Exposure To Ambient Nitrogen Dioxide And Increased Hospitalization Burden For Depression In China: A Multicity Analysis, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 25 September 2022

Abstract
Evidence for the increased hospitalization burden, including admissions, expenditures and length of hospital stay (LOS) for depression attributable to ambient nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is lacking. We investigated the associations between short-term exposure to ambient NO2 and attributable admissions, hospitalization expenditures and LOS for depression in 57 Chinese cities during 2013-2017 using a well-established two-stage time-series study approach. Short-term exposure to ambient NO2 was associated with significantly increased admissions, hospitalization expenditures and LOS for depression, and the attributable fractions were 6.87% (95% CI: 2.90%, 10.65%), 7.12% (3.01%, 11.04%) and 6.12% (2.59%, 9.50%) at lag02, respectively. The projected total attributable admissions, hospitalization expenditures and LOS for depression related to ambient NO2 at the national level were 23,335 (9,863, 36,181) admissions, 318.70 (134.43, 492.21) million CNY and 539.55 (227.99, 836.99) thousand days during the study period, respectively. Short-term exposure to ambient NO2 is associated with increased hospitalization burden for depression.

NO2 is nitrogen dioxide, one component of air pollution. From the EPA:

NO2 primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO2 forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.

NO2 is already known to increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, contributive to the development of asthma, and damage the airways of anyone who breathes it (coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing). It contributes to the development of diabetes and heart disease. Now we have evidence that it affects the brain. It’s a strong oxidant.

This map shows concentrations of NO2 across the US at 5:00 am this morning. Los Angeles and the Northeast Corridor have particularly polluted air today, as they do often. Their levels are “greater than the maximum established for one year by the World Health Organization.”

You can check you own air by visiting Windy.com, selecting “Air quality” on the right sidebar, then NO2 or other pollutant. Move around or zoom in to where you live.

#PublicHealth