Our Strength Lies in Our Humanity

Snail slime: the science behind molluscs as medicine

Snail slime: the science behind molluscs as medicine Shutterstock/Andrey Armyagov Snails are well known for their lack of speed and their ability to upset gardeners. But there is growing scientific interest in the familiar sticky trail of slime they leave behind – and the medicinal value it may contain. For centuries it has been thought that eating snails is good for you – and not just because they are a…

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Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health

Kombucha, kimchi and yogurt: how fermented foods could be harmful to your health Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, are all popular sources of probiotics. Nina Firsova/ Shutterstock Fermented foods have become very popular, thanks to claims about their nutritional properties and reported health benefits, such as improving digestion, boosting immunity and even helping people lose weight. Some of the most popular fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut,…

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Why you shouldn’t write off e-cigarettes, despite the headlines

Why you shouldn’t write off e-cigarettes, despite the headlines Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock Vaping has been getting something of a bad name of late. Countries worldwide are considering restrictions and bans. But, as a way to help smokers quit, e-cigarettes are an important tool that we shouldn’t dismiss. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported over a thousand cases of a vaping-related lung disease called EVALI,…

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Will drug prices rise following a UK-US trade deal?

Will drug prices rise following a UK-US trade deal? h It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House or what they ask for, there is no way in any deal that we will see drug prices rise or put the NHS anywhere near the table. Michael Gove, Conservative politician, November 5 2019 Michael Gove’s denials that the NHS or UK drug prices will be part of any negotiation lacks credibility,…

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How a simple scan helped children suffering with hidden heart diseases in South Africa

How a simple scan helped children suffering with hidden heart diseases in South Africa A simple heart scan can save the lives of children suffering with conditions such as rheumatic heart disease. Shidlovski/Shutterstock The polite, well-behaved ten-year-old girl lying patiently in the makeshift clinic in her school in Cape Town, South Africa, is exactly like all her friends – active and smiley. Also, like her friends, she’s under strict instructions from her teachers to put “jokes in your pockets, smiles on your faces”. But the ultrasound waves bouncing back from her heart during an echocardiography scan show that she is different: she has congenital heart disease, which means her heart did not develop properly in the womb, and it makes each heartbeat less efficient. This birth defect can lead to…

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Drug experts on the new guidance for medicinal cannabis

Drug experts on the new guidance for medicinal cannabis shutterstock/Canna Obscura It’s now one year since the government announced they would allow access to cannabis-based products for medicinal use, and guidelines advising doctors how to prescribe have now been published. Opening up access to medicinal cannabis was welcomed by many as a bold policy move, but this hasn’t been matched by the reality for those trying to obtain these products. Only a few patients have been able to access medicinal cannabis on the NHS. Others have secured access though expensive private prescriptions – albeit still in small numbers. Rescheduling cannabis-based products for medicinal use was a legal move which meant that doctors could prescribe, but not necessarily that they would prescribe. Indeed, doctors and their professional bodies have been cautious…

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Myths about only children debunked

Myths about only children debunked YanLev/Shutterstock Only children get a bad rap. They are often perceived as selfish, spoiled, anxious, socially inept and lonely. And my profession, psychology, may be partly to blame for these negative stereotypes. Indeed, Granville Stanley Hall, one of the most influential psychologists of the last century and the first president of the American Psychological Association, said that “being an only child is a disease in itself”. Thankfully, we have made some amends since then. The most recent being a study of almost 2,000 German adults which found that only children are no more likely to be narcissistic than those with siblings. The title of the study is “The End of a Stereotype”. But many other stereotypes remain, so let’s look at what the scientific research…

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What is a psychopath?

What is a psychopath? Can you feel what I'm feeling? Andrey Popov/Shutterstock Millions recently flocked to the cinema to watch Joker, the origin story of Batman’s notorious nemesis. Many have commented that the film is a portrait of a textbook psychopath. But perhaps the bigger question is how many among the audience have similar traits? Indeed, is it possible that you are a psychopath yourself? To answer this question, we need to examine the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy presented in the PCL-R, which was developed by Robert Hare in the 1970s. Thanks to Hare, experts can use the PCL-R to assess whether an individual is exhibiting any of the criteria for psychopathy. Estimates suggest that about 1% of the population qualifies – although the percentage is thought to be far…

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Why we need a better understanding of how PTSD affects families

Why we need a better understanding of how PTSD affects families Shutterstock/fizkes What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “post-traumatic stress disorder”? When I ask this question in public presentations, the answers are along the lines of “the military”, “soldiers” and “war”. Then, when my next slide displays military themed images, it seems as if I have ingeniously predicted the audience’s response. That fact that people typically associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with war presents a significant problem. Because, while public awareness around PTSD and trauma exposure is increasing, the information people have may be inaccurate or incomplete. And this risks the disorder, and those who are living with it, being misrepresented and misunderstood. As the full description spells out, PTSD is a psychological…

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Men over 40 with faulty BRCA2 gene should be tested annually for prostate cancer

Men over 40 with faulty BRCA2 gene should be tested annually for prostate cancer Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, are calling for annual blood tests to detect aggressive prostate cancer in men who have a fault in the BRCA2 gene. After researching the effectiveness of the test, Ros Eeles, who led the study, said: “Our research shows very clearly that men with the BRCA2 gene fault are at increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and that regular PSA testing could go some way to improving early diagnosis and treatment.” The PSA test is done using a small amount of blood to detect raised levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Yet, despite its relatively low cost and ease of administering, it is not offered for routine…

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