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Where you live in Canada may affect your ability to make healthy choices: study

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Where a person lives in Canada may affect their ability to make healthy choices due to a significant difference in environmental factors such as the price and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in their community, a study suggests.

The study led by McMaster University looked at 2,074 communities in all 10 provinces to identify a standard set of elements that could affect residents’ ability to practise a healthy lifestyle in effort to mitigate the risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or certain cancers.

The researchers have listed those factors on an interactive online map based on postal codes, which will allow individuals to check the status of their own community and to compare it to others.

“We found there are significant differences in environmental factors that may contribute to health, and that these differed between urban and rural communities, as well as when we compared eastern with western, and northern with southern communities,” said lead author Russell de Souza, an assistant professor in McMaster’s department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact.

“We believe that this information shows there are factors outside of a person’s control that influence the individual’s health, and these factors likely differ depending on where they live,” said de Souza, noting that the study did not include communities in Canada’s three northern territories due to geographical limitations for the research team.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Cities and Health, was based on data collected by on-the-ground auditors who assessed access to fresh produce in grocery stores, the availability and prices of cigarettes and alcohol, the promotion of healthy foods in restaurants, and access to public transit for each community between 2014 and 2016. Almost 84 per cent of those communities were urban. 

Russell de Souza, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University and a research associate at the Population Health Research Institute, is shown in a handout photo. (McMaster University)

Alcohol prices lowest in Quebec

“The goal was to profile communities across the country to see if there were differences in environmental factors that we think may influence disease risk,” de Souza said Monday in an interview from Hamilton.

“For example, if we tell people to go and eat five to 10 fruits and vegetables a day, we wanted to know whether or not it was easy for people to access those fruits and vegetables in all communities across Canada, and whether or not there may be differences in the prices.”

Among the findings:

— There is generally lower access to fresh produce in rural grocery stores compared to urban, with the former marked by less variety, seasonal availability and higher prices.

— There tend to be fewer healthy meal options in restaurants based in rural communities than in city eateries.

— In-┬¡store advertising for sugar-sweetened drinks and junk food are more frequent in both rural and urban stores than for healthier food choices. 

— Cigarette prices are lower and the variety of brands is greater in urban outlets than in rural tobacco stores; alcohol prices are lowest in Quebec.

Many previous studies have looked at geography-related determinants of health, including whether people living in neighbourhoods with fresh produce sold in stores within walking or cycling distance have a better overall health status than those where a vehicle is needed, or whether easier access to fast-food restaurants has a negative effect on a local population’s health.

De Souza said this study differs because it used a standardized auditing tool to assess multiple factors in communities, with “apples compared to apples.”

“What we think we’ve been able to do is assess multiple aspects of this built environment and then use the data in a way that can help both public health people and city planners to make joint decisions to make healthy communities,” he said, adding that having access to the data may encourage more people to advocate for healthier places to live.

“If you don’t have enough information to make healthy choices, we think that may influence whether or not you develop certain conditions,” said de Souza.

Rural and remote communities ‘continue to face inequities…’

“So it sort of gets at taking some of the burden off the individuals and understanding that we live in communities which may or may not support healthy decisions.”

Lifestyles factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can contribute to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The study is a component of the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds led by McMaster’s Dr. Sonia Anand, a multi-ethnic research project that aims to understand the link between socio-┬¡environmental factors and the risks of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.

“This study is unique because it will enable comparisons between communities within a region, province and across the country,” Anand said.

Anne Simard, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s chief mission and research officer, said the study shows that rural and remote communities “continue to face inequities with respect to access to healthy food options … This underscores the need for policies to improve nutrition in these communities.”

As for the best place to live in Canada based on the study’s findings, de Souza said it depends on which health behaviours are most important to an individual.

“For example, if you wanted to stop smoking, I’d not want to live somewhere where cigarettes are cheap and smoking is more permitted,” he said. “If you need to eat more fruits and vegetables, I’d want to live somewhere where fruits and vegetables are available in large varieties and at a reasonable costs.

“I would want to live somewhere that makes it easiest to change any behaviour that may be harming my health.”

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Herbal remedies: Saw palmetto for hair loss prevention

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(Natural News) Saw palmetto is a small, shrub-like palm endemic to the United States. Known for its medicinal properties, saw palmetto has been used for centuries to treat reproductive issues and hormonal imbalance.

Today, saw palmetto is used as an ingredient in many hair growth products and supplements, as it is thought to prevent hair loss. This could be due to saw palmetto’s influence on the hormones that dictate hair growth.

Saw palmetto for hair loss

There is evidence to suggest that saw palmetto can help treat hair loss and prevent its occurrence. According to a 2012 study, saw palmetto could inhibit 5-alpha reductase (5-AR). 5-AR converts testosterone, a male sex hormone, into a more potent hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Research shows that high levels of DHT can shrink hair follicles and result in hair loss. DHT also makes it harder for hair follicles to grow new hair once the old hairs fall out. By inhibiting 5-AR, saw palmetto blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

In another 2012 study, researchers evaluated the effects of saw palmetto supplementation in men with mild or moderate androgenetic alopecia, or male-pattern baldness. One group received 320 milligrams (mg) of saw palmetto every day for two years, while another group took one mg of finasteride, a conventional drug used to treat hair loss.

The results showed that 38 percent of participants who supplemented with saw palmetto experienced improvements in hair growth, compared to 68 percent of those who supplemented with finasteride.

While the experiment showed that finasteride was more effective, the researchers noted that saw palmetto may be less likely to work in people with more severe cases of hair loss. More research is needed to confirm this.

Saw palmetto is available in several forms, including oral supplements and hair care products like conditioners and shampoos.

Due to limited research on the use of saw palmetto for hair loss, there is no official recommended dosage for it. That said, a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery cited a recommended dosage of 160 mg twice daily for saw palmetto tablets. Researchers often use this dosage when studying with saw palmetto.

Take note that saw palmetto has been reported to sometimes cause mild side effects, such as headaches and stomachaches. If in doubt about using saw palmetto, consult a natural health practitioner.

Other natural remedies for hair loss

Hair growth depends on several factors, including a person’s genetic makeup. Still, some home remedies might help prevent hair loss and/or encourage hair growth. These remedies include:

  • Jojoba oil – Jojoba oil helps nourish hair follicles without leaving any residue behind. It also stimulates hair cells to grow faster.
  • Aloe vera – Aloe vera helps get rid of sebum buildup in the scalp. Sebum is a natural oil that helps keep the scalp moisturized. It can build up on the scalp and clog hair follicles due to poor hair hygiene.
  • Garlic – The pungent compounds in garlic help increase blood circulation in the scalp, which stimulates hair growth. These compounds also stimulate the synthesis of collagen, a protein that gives structure to hair.
  • Onion – Like garlic, onions boost blood flow in the scalp for better hair growth.
  • Licorice root – Licorice root helps relieve dry and irritated scalp. It also strengthens weak follicles.
  • Rosemary oil – Rosemary oil has antiseptic properties. It is ideal for treating scalp issues that slow hair growth, such as dandruff and bacterial infections.
  • Coconut milk – Coconut milk helps moisturize a dry scalp, which is a leading cause of hair loss.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar works as a clarifying agent, ridding the scalp of extra sebum and other residues that can clog hair follicles and inhibit hair growth.

Some hair loss is natural. But for mild to moderate cases of hair loss, it might help to use herbal remedies, such as saw palmetto, to strengthen hair or encourage hair growth.

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Scientist that condemned coronavirus lab leak theory admits he squashed it to protect Chinese scientists

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(Natural News) An American scientist who criticized theories that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) might have accidentally escaped or leaked from a Chinese laboratory has admitted that he was denouncing the idea in order to protect Chinese scientists.

Dr. Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nongovernmental organization that conducts scientific and policy research regarding emerging diseases, led an endeavor in February 2020 to quash any kind of suspicion that COVID-19 might have accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research and academic institution supported by the Chinese state.

This culminated in a statement published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet that condemned the “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 doesn’t have a natural origin.”

The Lancet article was written during the very early stages of the global pandemic, during a time when there wasn’t any kind of rigorous research on the origins of the virus.

Daszak further reiterated his support for China in a statement released on Feb. 6, stating that he stands with other scientists to “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that 2019-nCoV does not have a natural origin. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that this virus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging diseases.”

In June, Daszak also wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian titled: “Ignore the conspiracy theories: scientists know COVID-19 wasn’t created in a lab.”

But on Friday, Jan. 15, Daszak’s spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that his statement, which has been used to silence anybody with a dissenting opinion regarding the origins of the coronavirus, was published to protect Chinese scientists from criticism.

The Lancet letter was written during a time in which Chinese scientists were receiving death threats and the letter was intended as a showing of support for them as they were caught between important work trying to stop an outbreak and the crush of online harassment.”

WHO team heads to Wuhan to probe virus origin

The situation surrounding Daszak’s initial statements and his sudden retraction are being compounded by the fact that the doctor is part of an international 15-member team of experts sent by the World Health Organization (WHO)to Wuhan to figure out the origins of the coronavirus.

According to the WHO, the team’s official mission is to determine how, where and when the virus crossed from animals to humans.

Daszak has been tweeting about the mandatory quarantine period he and his team are going through. During day four of quarantine, he said that the day, like the previous days, is “packed” with virtual meetings.

Day 6 of quarantine lockdown in Wuhan & it’s that special time for our friendly health care workers to swab for our PCR tests – they go deep, but they’re very cheerful about it. Xie xie! pic.twitter.com/QvKzgC0Lng

— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) January 20, 2021

Peter Ben Embarek, team leader and WHO food safety and animal diseases expert, said that the team will be granted permission “to move around and meet our Chinese counterparts in person and go to the different sites that we want to visit,” once they’re done with the mandatory quarantine period.

It is unclear whether the WHO team will be looking into the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the theory that the coronavirus was engineered. Embarek has stated his desire to visit the “famous Wuhan market” to try and determine “everything that went in and out” of there in the weeks before the first confirmed cases.

Embarek is referring to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many wild animals were often sold. This place is being investigated as a likely setting for the supposed “animal-to-human jump” of the coronavirus, or a place where that jump was accelerated.

“We know the virus originated in bats at some point, and then we know that human cases appeared in Wuhan in December 2019,” said Embarek. “But what happened in between, how many other animal species were involved in between, and where, remain to be found in more detail.”

“We don’t really know what happened in that period of time, and that’s what we are looking out for.”

Questions will remain regarding the role of the institute in the initial outbreak; questions that will continue to linger if WHO team does not conduct its investigation.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even said that the government has reason to believe that several researchers working for the institute “became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.”

Pompeo said that this calls into question the claims made by Shi Zhengli, the institute’s senior researcher on bat-related viruses, that there had been “zero [COVID-19 or SARS-related] infection” among the institute’s student body and staff.

Pompeo noted that the possibility of an “accidental infection” in a lab is more likely than people might think, especially considering that such an incident has already occurred in China. In 2004, a SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people and killed one originated in a research facility.

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California healthcare workers suffer severe allergic reactions following coronavirus vaccination

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(Natural News) Six healthcare workers suffered allergic reactions after getting a shot of Moderna coronavirus vaccine in San Diego, California. Their symptoms were considered severe and required medical attention.

The doses administered to the six healthcare workers were part of the Moderna Lot 041L20A distributed to 287 providers across the state earlier this month. That batch of shipment, which arrived in California between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, is composed of 330,000 shots.

Moderna said in a statement that it is cooperating with California’s health department to investigate the allergic reactions.

“Moderna acknowledges receiving a report from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a number of individuals at one vaccination center were treated for possible allergic reactions after vaccination from one lot of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine,” the statement read. “The company is fully cooperating with CDPH in investigating these reported adverse events.”

Dr. Erica Pan, California’s state epidemiologist, said Sunday, Jan. 17, that providers should err on the side of caution and stop using the doses until federal, state and company officials finish an investigation.

“Out of an extreme abundance of caution and also recognizing the extremely limited supply of vaccine, we are recommending that providers use other available vaccine inventory and pause the administration of vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A until the investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Moderna and the state is complete,” she said.

Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz have already paused distribution while two Covid-19 vaccine clinics have been canceled in Stanislaus County following the allergic reaction reports.

The delay was a huge blow to California’s vaccine distribution efforts. California currently has the second highest number of coronavirus cases per capita in the United States, with Los Angeles being a particular hotspot.

All cases of apparent allergic reactions occurred at San Diego County’s drive-through mass vaccination site at Petco Park. No other providers have reported allergic reactions to vaccines administered from the same batch of doses.

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