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Children are bearing the brunt of this year’s flu season, health officials say

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Many Canadian children are spending the holidays battling the flu and other respiratory illnesses — and an early start to the flu season might be partly to blame, pediatricians and public health officials say. 

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of viral illness [in children],” said Dr. Catherine Farrell, a pediatric intensive care specialist at CHU Sainte-Justine, a pediatric and maternal care hospital in Montreal. 

“Our hospitals are bursting to the seams. Our emergency rooms are really overloaded. Our inpatient units are full and we have a very high occupation rate with respiratory illness in the intensive care unit … and it’s the same with the other intensive care units here in Quebec,” Farrell said. 

There are a few different types of respiratory viruses circulating, she said, including influenza A — which can lead to serious secondary infections, such as pneumonia, that put children in hospital. 

More than three times as many children have been hospitalized with the flu across the country compared to this time last year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest FluWatch report

Early start to flu season

As of Dec. 15 (the most recent data available), 8,245 cases of the flu in both adults and children had been confirmed, according to the FluWatch report.  About 10 per cent of those cases — 864 — required hospitalization.  More than 280 of those hospitalizations were children age 16 or under.   

Most of the 47 cases so serious that they required admission to the ICU were children under 10 years of age, the report said.   

At this time last year, there were 2,400 fewer confirmed flu cases in Canada overall — and only 26 children had been hospitalized. 

Respiratory illnesses, including the flu, have hospitals such as CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal ‘bursting to the seams,’ says pediatric intensive care specialist Dr. Catherine Farrell. (Radio-Canada)

There are a couple of possible reasons for the increased number of hospitalizations among children this year, said Anna Maddison, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, in an email to CBC News. 

“The current flu season began two weeks earlier compared to last year,” she said. It started in mid-October rather than the beginning of November.  

That means it’s possible that by the end of the flu season, the total number of children hospitalized may be the same as last year, but simply happened earlier. 

Different influenza strains

The dominant strain of flu circulating this year — influenza A H1N1 — is also associated with “a higher burden of disease … among children than among adults,” Maddison said. 

Last year, the dominant strain was influenza A H3N2 — a particularly virulent type that made people of all ages very sick, but sent more adults age 65 and over to hospital than children and younger adults.    

Although the flu is “a pretty severe infection” compared to a cold, the majority of people — both children and adults — are able to recover at home without having to go to the hospital, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. 

Very young children, seniors and people with underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk of becoming so ill they require hospitalization, he said. 

One reason for hospitalization can be pneumonia, which is a “very well-known complication of influenza ,” Bogoch said. 

Pneumonia concerns

Both CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto say they have seen many children with pneumonia recently, although it’s not clear whether those cases are linked to the flu. 

“We typically see many kids presenting with pneumonia at this time of the year. Anecdotally, we have seen high volumes of children presenting with pneumonia over the past few weeks,” Jessamine Luck, a SickKids spokesperson, told CBC News in an email.  

“Pneumonia can be related to influenza but it can also be caused by other viral and bacterial illnesses in children.”

But unlike most of those other illnesses, there is a vaccine for influenza, said Farrell, who is also president of the Canadian Paediatric Society.  

It’s not too late for parents to get their children the flu shot, she said.

Public health officials have acknowledged that last year’s flu vaccine was disappointing, with a low effectiveness rate. Although it’s too soon to measure the effectiveness this year’s version, some early indicators are promising, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

The flu vaccine can be given to children with either a needle or nasal spray. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Based on laboratory comparisons between the form of H1N1 virus built into the vaccine and the form of the virus that has actually emerged as the dominant strain, “the vaccine component this season appears to be a good match against the H1N1 viruses that are predominantly circulating in Canada,” Maddison said.   

In addition, preliminary data from Australia — which already had its flu season — showed that people who had been vaccinated this year were 68 per cent less likely to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for the flu compared to unvaccinated people, she said. 

Choosing to get the flu shot — for yourself and for your children — is a “no-brainer,” Bogoch said.

“[It’s] likely to be much, much better than last year,” he said. 

But even if it weren’t, the flu shot does more than prevent the virus, he said, noting that data suggests the vaccine can also help reduce the severity of infection — which in turn could prevent hospitalizations.

When to seek medical attention for your child

With an increased number of children falling ill with the flu and other respiratory illnesses this time of year, CBC News asked Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, a pediatric infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist with Public Health Ontario for his advice to parents. 

From a prevention standpoint, the best things parents can do is have their children vaccinated against the flu, make sure they are washing their hands and keep them home from school if they are sick so they don’t spread the virus to others, he said. 

When their children are sick, parents should watch for signs of an “acute” respiratory infection, including pneumonia. Those signs include:

  • A fever that doesn’t get better within a couple of days.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Breathing rapidly.

If children show any of those symptoms, parents should take them to see their doctor or nurse practitioner, or to the hospital, Gubbay said. 

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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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