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Ebola fears raise concerns in already fraught Congo election

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What’s an election campaign without shaking hands with potential voters? Congolese candidates in the thick of an Ebola outbreak, now the second deadliest in Congo history, are finding out in uncomfortable ways.

Jaribu Muliwavyo seeks another term as provincial deputy in North Kivu, the restless centre of the outbreak. He’s sad when he arrives in communities and isn’t permitted to greet traditional chiefs properly, with a warm clasp of hands.

“They take that as an insult,” Muliwavyo told The Associated Press. This election, he mused, is “a real puzzle.”

The current Ebola outbreak is like no other, and it promises trouble for Congo’s presidential election on Sunday. Unrest by dozens of rebel groups in this Central African nation with 40 million voters already posed a challenge to the long-delayed vote. Then Ebola, a deadly virus spread via contact with infected bodily fluids, emerged in a part of eastern Congo that had never seen it before.

Congolese officials have openly worried about the risks of holding an election in a densely populated, highly mobile border area where health officials are fighting to bring Ebola under control amid rebel attacks. Nearly 550 cases of the virus have been reported so far, with over 300 dead.

“Imagine … voters are in line and terrorists come with guns and shoot everybody. It’s a concern,” the president of Congo’s election commission, Corneille Nangaa, told reporters earlier this month.

In addition, some election workers might hesitate to show up, Nangaa said. “There are so many risks.”

Touchscreen voting amid outbreak

To make things yet more complicated, Congo for the first time is using voting machines, a rarity in Africa. The opposition and some observers warn that the technology could be used to manipulate the results. A coalition of armed groups in North Kivu has told the government to stop using the machines or expect violence, and the election commission on Sunday said unidentified people had tried to attack its warehouses in Beni.

A health worker feeds a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo on Sept. 9. Turnout is expected to be low in the region bearing the brunt of the latest outbreak. (Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/Associated Press)

Earlier this month, thousands of voting machines were destroyed by arson at a Kinshasa warehouse.

Some living in the Ebola outbreak zone have more immediate concerns, as voters will choose candidates by tapping on a touchscreen.

“The election commission tells us that it will use voting machines that many people will be touching and there is the risk of Ebola spreading,” said Muhindo Vangi, 25. He lives in the Beni region, where rebels have killed more than 1,500 people over the past four years.

Between Ebola and the attacks, many people in the community have already fled, he said.

The virus can spread through close contact with a symptomatic person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen.

Disinfectant at polling stations

No one knows how many voters in region will show up at the polls. Congo’s ruling party might not mind; the far east has plenty of opposition sympathizers.

Another Beni resident, Kambale Mathumo, was less worried. People have been attending marches, churches and other gatherings and a single day of voting won’t have much of an effect, he said.

And yet. “I call on the election commission to have disinfectants and hand-washing stations, because people will be touching the voting machines,” Mathumo said.

Those deep into the Ebola response say they understand.

Never has an election of this magnitude occurred in a large Ebola outbreak, said Dr. Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, who manages the response in the city of Butembo for the World Health Organization.

“This epidemic is the most challenging we’ve ever had. And with an election in the middle, you can imagine,” she said.

But there has been progress. All political parties have made a declaration about Ebola, recognizing the risks. “Ebola doesn’t know politics. Ebola is Ebola, for everyone,” Belizaire said. “We have them educating their voters. We have gel in industrial numbers. Hand-washing stations in meetings.”

The United Nations peacekeeping mission says it has deployed eight tonnes of disinfectant and hand sanitizer for use in all polling stations in the Ebola outbreak zone, while 3,000 troops with its Force Intervention Brigade are in Beni to “neutralize” the armed groups and protect health workers.

Election day will unfold carefully. Responders are working with authorities to make sure everyone who enters is screened for fever, Belizaire said. “If people after two hours still have a fever, we have to make a decision. If they’re OK, they can go back and cast their vote.”

Protective gear

Belizaire is among the Ebola workers who have negotiated with rebel groups for access to “red zones” where insecurity is high. It takes patience and trust, along with extraordinary measures.

A security agent makes an assessment every morning on whether it’s safe to go out. Escorts can include Congolese security forces or UN peacekeepers. Belizaire has protective gear that she must be able to put on within 30 seconds.

Most important, and most frustrating for candidates in the campaign’s final days, there is a no-touch policy which means keeping about two metres away.

Some residents, long traumatized by attacks and wary of outsiders, including those trying to contain the Ebola outbreak, haven’t much welcomed visiting candidates anyway.

When the presidential candidate with Congo’s most prominent opposition party, Felix Tshisekedi, arrived in Beni earlier this month, people at his rally began to sing insulting songs and sling pebbles, breaking up the event.

Tshsekedi later told AP that if he wins the election he will make sure a military base is installed there to track and neutralize the rebels.

“We came to Beni to sympathize with the people who have been victims of massacres and Ebola,” he said. “We ask them to trust us.”

The long-delayed election is meant to choose a successor for President Joseph Kabila, due to step down after 18 years in power. If successful, it would lead to Congo’s first democratic transfer of power. But there are concerns over whether it will be a fair and free election.

Several people have died in protests as Kabila has clung to power since a 2016 deadline to hold an election passed. There are also fears among opponents that Kabila could continue to rule in the near future through his preferred candidate — Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary — and he has not ruled out running for president himself again in 2023.

On Wednesday, the governor of Kinshasa ordered a halt to campaigning in the city ahead of Sunday’s vote for security reasons, a move opposition supporters said was an attempt to meddle in the race.

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Researchers warn about the severe psychological distress caused by eating junk food

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(Natural News) Does junk food make you sad? While the current state of the American food industry is more than enough to make anyone feel depressed, new research from Loma Linda University demonstrates a link between junk-laden diets and psychological distress. Based on their findings, it appears that what you eat can and does affect your mental health — and that the prepackaged garbage peddled as “food” can have a seriously deleterious effect on your emotional well-being.

Even after adjusting for other external factors, the scientists found this relationship held steady: The more junk food a person ate, the more distress they reported feeling. When you consider the physiological effects junk food has on the body, it is no wonder that people report feeling like they are more distressed: They are in distress, they just don’t know it’s because of what the “food” they’re eating is doing to them on the inside.

Estimates suggest that the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed or junk food. Junk food consumption is a widespread problem here in the United States. Now, there are questions about whether or not junk food is a driving force in the plague of insanity (and stupidity) striking the U.S.

Scientists link junk food to poor mental health

Published in the journal International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in early 2019, a study from Loma Linda University scientists finds a link between poor diet and poor mental health. Even after adjusting for external factors such as gender, age, education and income level, the association between junk food intake and mental illness remained.

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Study leader Jim E. Banta, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the school, says that their conclusions support the findings of previous research. To conduct their study, Banta and his team looked at data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The scientists used 240,000 phone surveys conducted by CHIS between 2005 and 2015, and included data on socio-demographics, health status and health behaviors.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine,” Banta said of the findings.

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction,” he added.

The fact that scientists in the 21st century are only now just beginning to even consider the possibility of a relationship between nutrition and mental health is truly disturbing. Natural health practitioners have long been aware of the importance of good nutrition for total well-being, including mental state.

Is poor nutrition turning America insane?

Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known cause of depression. B vitamins, iron, selenium and magnesium also support good mental health and deficiencies in these nutrients can also cause depression and anxiety. There is a growing body of research which strongly supports poor nutrition as a causative factor not only in depression, but in other mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more.

For example, Dr. Banta notes that some research has linked high sugar consumption to bipolar disorder, while fried foods and processed grains are linked to depression. There is no ignoring the link between diet and disease — whether it is of the body or of the mind makes no difference.

Nearly 60 percent of the American population’s diet comes from disease-causing food, and it is hard not to wonder if obesity, heart disease and death aren’t the only problems being caused by junk food diets.

Are the increasingly insane leftists just running around in a nutrient-deprived, sugar-spiked frenzy? Whether you’re talking about the inanity of “social justice” score-keeping or the rapid acceptance of censorship to silence conservatives, it’s clear that the far left is missing a few bolts upstairs. A diet of GMOs, pesticides and toxic food additives will do that to you, though.

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Eat healthier to improve your physical and mental well-being

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(Natural News) The physical health and mental well-being of a person depend a lot on nutrition and the food that he eats. Diet also influences the risk of developing chronic diseases. While the relationship between physical health and diet is well-understood, little is known about how diet and its quality influence the development of mental disorders. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany investigated the behavioral effects of a Western diet on pattern separation – the process of keeping items distinct in memory. They discovered that a diet consisting of increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids (Western diet) harms memory. The results of their study were published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

The Western diet impairs pattern separation

In this study, researchers investigated the utility of spatial separation – a behavioral process associated with the hippocampus – in the assessment of dietary interventions and the behavioral effects of the transgenerational administration of a Western diet on pattern separation. Pattern separation is the process of keeping items distinct in memory and is mediated by the hippocampus. Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between hippocampal function and diet quality in both humans and animals.

To examine the association between them, the researchers used rats, feeding over seven generations a diet containing increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. This diet composition is characteristic of a diet known as the Western diet. The researchers administered it transgenerationally because previous studies have shown that interventional diets need to be implemented over several generations to induce behavioral effects.

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They compared the spatial pattern separation (or local discrimination) performance of these animals with that of rats fed a standard diet. For the test, they presented the rats two locations and allowed them to learn across trials to respond to the correct location. During spatial discrimination training, they designated a location as the correct one and rewarded the rats if they touched the correct location. They reversed the correct and incorrect locations every time the rats successfully got the correct ones nine times out of 10 trials.

The researchers found a separation-dependent difference between the standard and Western diet groups in the number of discriminations performed in the pattern separation task. The rats fed with a Western diet performed fewer discriminations. Rats with lesions in the dorsal hippocampus showed impaired pattern separation when the locations were close together but not when they were far apart. The researchers associated this impairment with hippocampal dysfunctioning. Their results align with previous studies which demonstrated that consumption of a Western diet impaired cognitive functions, damaged brain regions, and contributed to the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Their results confirmed that pattern separation could be negatively affected by transgenerational administration of a Western diet.

The researchers concluded that spatial pattern separation can help detect the effects of dietary interventions and that the Western diet can impair pattern separation.

How to make your diet healthier

A healthy diet can provide many benefits, the most important of which is the prevention of chronic diseases. Here are some things that you can do to make your diet healthier:

  • Eat slowly
  • Choose whole grains
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid frying food and eating fast food
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Try new and healthy recipes
  • Eat vegetables first before every meal
  • Eat fruits instead of drinking them
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop drinking sweetened beverages
  • Get adequate sleep

Eating healthier and becoming aware of your nutritional needs will not only improve your physical health, but these will also benefit your mental and emotional well-being.

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Apples: Eat them to keep the doctor away – and boost stem cell therapy

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(Natural News) There is some truth behind the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are superfoods, and they are good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage and boost the immune system. They also contain dietary fiber, which is good for digestion and the maintenance of gut microbiota. But there is more to apples than just being healthy, antioxidant fruits. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea showed the beneficial effect of apple extracts on the proliferation of adult stem cells. They also identified the possible molecular mechanisms underlying apple’s pro-proliferative effects.

Apple ethanol extracts can enhance the proliferation of stem cells useful for tissue regeneration

Tissue regeneration using adult stem cells (ASCs) has significant potential in the treatment of many degenerative diseases. It also provides a promising means of repairing chronic tissue or organ failure due to injuries, congenital defects, and aging. Stem cells are essential in regenerative medicine because they can be used directly in cell replacement therapies. However, studies on their application in clinical settings suggest that age negatively affects the proliferation status and differentiation potential of ASCs. This presents a possible limitation in their therapeutic use.

In the hopes of addressing this limitation, researchers turned their attention to the pro-proliferative activity of apples. Apples are rich sources of valuable phytochemicals that are known to be beneficial to human health. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer activities. These antioxidants can help maintain human cells and protect them from harmful oxidation products. In addition, apples contain metabolites that could ensure longevity and increase the number of human cells in culture. (Related: Apples could hold key for increasing lifespan.)

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Because of this, researchers hypothesized that apple extracts might exert beneficial effects on ASCs. They obtained apple extracts using ethanol as the extraction solvent and tested these on human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) and human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs). They also used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and Click-iT 5-ethynyl-2?-deoxyuridine flow cytometry assays to evaluate the pro-proliferative effects of the extracts.

The researchers found that treatment with apple extracts promoted the proliferation of ADSCs and CB-MSCs. Apple extracts also induced the stepwise phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK (ERK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70 S6 kinase (p70S6K), S6 ribosomal protein (S6RP), eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4B, and eIF4E in ADSCs. p44/42 MAPK (ERK) is a signaling pathway involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway results in cell apoptosis. mTOR is a key signaling node that coordinates cell cycle progression and cell growth. p70S6K is a cytokine that regulates cell growth by inducing protein synthesis. eIFs, on the other hand, are proteins or protein complexes involved in translation and protein biosynthesis.

The researchers also reported that apple extracts significantly induced the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in both ADSCs and CB-MSCs. VEGF is a potent angiogenic factor, which means it promotes the formation of blood vessels. VEGF also plays a role in other physiological functions, such as hematopoiesis, wound healing, and development. IL-6 is a promoter of proliferation. The researchers further confirmed that the apple extract-induced proliferation of ADSCs under serum-free conditions is mediated by ERK-dependent cytokine production because when they pre-treated cells with PD98059, a specific ERK inhibitor, it inhibited the phosphorylation of the mTOR/p70S6K/S6RP/eIF4B/eIF4E pathway.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that extracts from apples are potent pro-proliferative agents, and the beneficial effect of apple extract on the proliferation of ASCs may overcome the limitation in their therapeutic use in tissue regeneration.

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