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2018 — A year of change in Canadian public health

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2018 was the year Canadians were allowed to begin freely self-medicating with cannabis and nicotine vaping products.

It was a year when a study revealed unproven stem cell procedures were available across the country.

And it was a year that continued the explosion in home genetic testing, with DNA-testing kits topping this season’s gift lists once again.

“2018 feels to me like there has been a lot of changes,” said Kerry Bowman, bioethicist at the University of Toronto. “And I see the changes as more of a movement towards people deciding for themselves what they will do in health care.”

Legal cannabis a ‘national uncontrolled experiment’

When cannabis became legalized in October, a commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal called it a “national uncontrolled experiment” because the long-term health effects are unknown.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is not convinced that there is enough evidence for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients.

“The CMA remains concerned about the lack of clinical research, guidance and regulatory oversight for cannabis as a potential medical intervention,” the CMA states on its website.

But the hesitation by health professionals to embrace medicinal cannabis was not a surprise to medical historian Heather MacDougall at the University of Waterloo.

“We have no scientific foundation for this because it has been an illegal substance, and therefore no genuine research could be conducted on it.”

Now the research on the health effects of cannabis will be happening in real time.

“What about the precautionary principle?  Do we really understand this drug?” – Kerry Bowman, bioethicist , University of Toronto

“It’s ironic,” MacDougall said. “With most other things in the past, the research came first.”

“It’s a powerful chemical,” said Timothy Caulfield, University of Alberta professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Law and Policy. He is researching the impact of many of the recent changes in Canadian health care.

“I suspect, once we start doing good research on this, good clinical trials, that we are going to see benefit, hopefully. But right now it’s so premature and you’re seeing this market just take off.”  

In 2018 Canada became the second country in the world to legalize cannabis. (CBC)

Bowman said he’s not opposed to cannabis legalization as a bioethicist. But it raises interesting questions from a scientific perspective.

“What about the precautionary principle?” he said. “Do we really understand this drug?”

Will legalization of cannabis lead to the legalization of other illicit drugs?

“From a historian’s standpoint it’s going to be important when we look back on this,” MacDougall said. “Is it the first step toward an actual recognition of drug use as part of the social determinants of health?”

Prof. Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said 2018 developments showed Canada putting less focus on evidence-based, randomized controlled trials. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Year of Big Vape

2018 was also the year of Big Vape, when it became legal in Canada to sell nicotine vaping products, creating a dilemma for public health officials. On one hand, vaping can be a harm-reduction policy aimed at smokers trying to quit.

But it’s also exposing teenagers who might never have sampled a cigarette to a potential nicotine addiction.  

A University of Waterloo public-health researcher released data to Health Canada two weeks ago showing that Canadian teen vaping has reached levels comparable to the U.S. And just this week, the U.S. surgeon general announced that teen vaping has become “epidemic.”

After it received the new teen vaping data, Health Canada said in an email it “will assess what additional actions are warranted, and leverage additional authorities in the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act.”

On Thursday tobacco giant Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, announced it was buying a 35-per-cent stake in the vaping giant Juul Labs Inc.

Juul’s popular vape stick officially went on sale in Canada in September.

Canadians pay for unproven cell therapies

In another uncontrolled national experiment, a study in September revealed that 43 clinics across Canada are selling so called “stem cell” procedures, even though they’re technically not stem cells, and they have not been proven to be either safe or effective.  

You could characterize it as a massive collective of anecdotes and testimonials. It just  legitimizes  something that’s unproven.– Timothy Caulfield , University of Alberta

Still, Canadians are paying thousands of dollars to have their own bone marrow or fat cells extracted and then reinjected into various parts of their body to treat pain, injury, and other conditions including lung disease and hair loss.

“You could characterize it as a massive collective of anecdotes and testimonials. It just legitimizes something that’s unproven.” Caulfield said.

“I know people who are having stem cell injections,” said Bowman. “They’re not particularly concerned about what the evidence says, and I find this surprising because the evidence isn’t there yet.”

U.S. health regulators have launched court action against some clinics using patient-derived cells to treat a variety of conditions.

Timothy Caulfield is University of Alberta professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Law and Policy. He is researching the impact of many of the changes in Canada’s health-care landscape. (CBC/Sam Martin)

But so far Health Canada has not taken action to stop Canadian clinics from performing the procedures.

In an email to CBC News this week, Health Canada said it has contacted all 43 clinics identified in the study “to gather information,” and it is assessing it “to determine whether compliance and enforcement actions are warranted. Any incidents of non-compliance with federal regulatory requirements will be prioritized, and appropriate action will be taken.”

Giving the gift of genetic tests?

Many Canadians are likely to find personal genetic testing kits under the Christmas tree this year. And soon they will be spitting their DNA into an envelope and waiting to receive potentially life-changing information.  

Caulfield has a study underway right now investigating the marketing of home genetic tests.

DNA test kits are on seasonal gift lists again this year.

“You have this sort of premature commercialization that really doesn’t have the kind of health benefits that are promised.

“They’re about empowerment and providing you with information which is somehow going to be valuable to you and allow you to live a healthier life. And there’s very little evidence to support that.”

One genuine public health experiment cancelled

There was one formal public health experiment about to get underway in Canada this year to investigate one of the country’s most serious health problems — poverty.

But in July, just as a team of Ontario researchers had finished enrolling people for the basic income pilot project, the experiment was abruptly cancelled by the new provincial government, shortly after the election.

The three-year program was supposed to study the effect of income-support payments on quality of life, food security and other health indicators.

“This was a brilliant experiment,” said MacDougall. “It’s highly unfortunate this was cancelled.”

She pointed to a similar experiment in Manitoba in the 1970s. When the data from that study was analyzed decades later, researchers concluded that providing income support improved the health of the entire community.

In October, Canada’s chief public health officer warned that poverty is shortening the lives of people in the poorest neighbourhoods, where life expectancy is about three years lower than the Canadian average.

Disturbing data on public health ’emergency’

In the final weeks of 2018, there was new and disturbing data released about the impacts of another uncontrolled public health experiment — the widespread exposure to powerful opioid drugs that came on the market two decades ago. The drugs were heavily marketed to doctors who were encouraged to write opioid prescriptions to treat chronic pain.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada released statistics showing that in the first six months of 2018 opioids killed more than 2,000 Canadians. There have been more than 9,000 opioid-related deaths in Canada over the last 2½  years.

“Canada continues to experience a serious opioid crisis,” the agency said in a news release last week. “Across the country, it is having devastating effects on the health and lives of many Canadians, their families and their communities.”

On Thursday, an Ontario coroner’s jury investigating the opioid overdose death of 43-year-old Brad Chapman called on the province to declare the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency.”

This week the Journal of the American Medical Association published a review of almost 100 studies showing that opioids were not much more effective than ordinary over-the-counter drugs in relieving chronic pain.

So how will future historians see 2018?

“I think they will probably be struck by the number of different health-related events that took place in 2018,” said MacDougall. “And by the fact that some of the fundamentals are still not being recognized or dealt with.”

“A lot of this is about making money by selling products,” said Caulfield. “All of these things are being portrayed to the public as if they’re efficacious. They’re not even being portrayed as if they’re experimental, as if we need to do more research.

“You do want to have an honest portrayal of the science so that people can make informed decisions about the true value of this stuff. And once it’s out there it’s so hard to pull it back in.”

Bowman said the changes are a sign that Canada is putting less focus on evidence-based, randomized controlled trials and a little less focus on the precautionary principle.

“The strongest driving ethical principle in Canadian health care has been autonomy, the rights and choices of the individual. And perhaps that very principle is deepening from a cultural point of view.”

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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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