News and Views

Undoubtedly, you have heard dozens of pieces of advice, telling you how to lead a healthier and potentially longer life. You know you have - even if you don't follow them: exercise and sleep more, eat less, but add in more fiber and vegetables, etc. The list goes on and on. 

And, perhaps like most things, those same messages have grown tiresome over the years. Because people like Sara Gottfried keep taking the old standards, repackaging and reselling them (in hardcover.) She re-gifts them, so to speak.

And, that would be fine if it were not based on a premise that does not exist - that we know how to turn our genes off or on (or 'reset' them, as she says) through our activities. But, who cares if the scientific community is lagging behind her advice when there are books...

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Washington, DC to film on set at Al Jazeera for a live television program that engaged a global discussion on sickle cell anemia, its perils and the advances in gene therapy that are showing great promise for this genetic disease. 

The host of the program is Femi Oke and the digital co-host is Malika Bilal (pictured with me). Questions were fielded from around the world utilizing various social media platforms as the show was not only streamed live on The Stream and Al Jazeera English television, but is re-aired on Al Jazeera media networks worldwide.

You can check it out above...

When you write about science and health, it means you spend a lot of time defending safe food, harmless chemicals, good drugs, etc. And that means there are going to be people out there, like supplement peddlers, journalists who are in bed with sleazy environmental groups, and just plain loonies, who insist that someone must have paid you off because you have the unmitigated gall to say that something is safe when it is, and they say it's not. People and companies make a lot money when you're scared, and don't like anyone defending something you're supposed to be afraid of. Then, they start the name calling. It's almost always the same—corporate shill.

Well, am I? I didn't used to think so until recently, but then I had to stop and wonder. I recently wrote about two issues that...

We all remember Rebecca Black. Oh, do we remember. She sang "Friday," that awful but irresistibly catchy tune (viewed 105 million+ times on YouTube!!), which will forever be a part of our culture. Had she sung about Pi Day, however, perhaps the song would have had a more positive reception.

Today, March 14th (3/14), is Pi Day, because the mathematical number pi is rounded off to 3.14. Pi is an irrational number (meaning it cannot be adequately expressed as a fraction of two whole numbers) that is derived by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. 

Pi: Not Just Another Number

Pi is much more than a mathematical curiosity. The number comes up over and over again...

As a pediatrician, I always advise don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Urging parents to stay strong --especially in those vulnerable moments. See the big picture. Follow through with consequences for bad behavior. Easy to do in an office visit, but hard to achieve day in day out for twenty years— even with the best of intentions.

Sadly, the concept of withholding a lollipop for bad behavior isn’t necessarily transferable to media organizations when they under, over or inadequately inform the public with respect to science and health claims. Even though heightened public anxiety and co-opting of physician office visits to debunk medical myths perpetuated by such imprecise information are very tangible adverse effects, somehow the messenger continues to go unscathed.

Instant...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes it clear that their regulations on our foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc. are not created in a vacuum, rather they are "formed with the public’s help."

The mainstay of this public interaction is through providing an open comment period. The FDA states, "By law, anyone can participate in the rule-making process by commenting in writing. FDA routinely allows plenty of time for public input (typically 60 days) and carefully considers these comments when it draws up a final rule." 

But, who are the "public" that provide comments on these issues?

From the looks of it - not scientists. 

One month ago, we wrote a story "...

According to Reuter’s World News, “Panamanian former dictator, CIA spy and convicted cocaine trafficker Manuel Noriega was in a coma on Tuesday after suffering a hemorrhage from an operation to remove a benign brain tumor, representatives for the 83-year-old said.” 

Here, we will address some basic tenets in neurosurgery (aka brain surgery) and how operating in this area of the body is often a delicate dance. It all comes down to real estate.

First, it is important to understand that tumors in the brain can be benign or malignant (aka cancerous). It is the location and ease of accessibility that dictates the level of surgical resection complexity. A benign tumor tickling the brain stem, for...

Mass shootings and terrorism. These two topics continue to strike fear into the hearts of Americans everywhere.

It makes sense why. Their randomness instills us with fear. The shooters often look deranged, and the images shown in the media are gruesome. And because of the cynical (but true) journalistic maxim, "If it bleeds, it leads," we are guaranteed weeks of discussion after every incident.

But boring things are far deadlier. According to the most recent data from the CDC, accidents killed 136,053 Americans in 2014, making them the #4 leading cause of death1. Included in that number is accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills on average 374 people every single year2...

A common question I hear again and again is, "How do I know if a news story is fake?" There is no easy answer1. It helps to be well informed, and it requires a conscious suspension of credulity combined with a gut instinct honed over years of experience. 

If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is), science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism. Every week, it seems, an everyday food is either going to cure cancer or kill us all. 

One thing experience has taught us is that some news outlets are better than others. Some journalists really do care about reporting the news as it is rather than the way they would like...

Most of us have an imaginary cleaning list in our heads we dreadfully whip out on the weekend and try to get through as fast as possible. More often than not, our cleaning lists are similar: clean bathrooms, dust, vacuum, dishes, laundry. The occasional 'window cleaning' might pop up if the sun is shining on them the right way. 

Sanitizing the TV remote control or shower curtain rarely comes to mind, yet those are just some of the items that carry the most germs in your house — and no, you're not off the hook if you don't have kids. 

Lucky for us, experts in cleaning (who knew they were out there?) have compiled a checklist of household chores and their frequency to help us keep our germs at bay. A team of the Good Housekeeping Institute has identified the tasks...