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Researchers Demonstrate Menthol’s Role in Smoking Addiction

Derived from the mint plant, menthol is a substance that many of us have experienced in over-the-counter cold medications like mentholated cough drops. Menthol is also used to flavor cigarettes. Mentholated cigarettes have been around for nearly a century, but researchers have found that the substance may in fact contribute to nicotine’s addictive power.

The problem started with a study of rates of quitting among smokers. Those who smoked unflavored cigarettes showed a much higher rate of success in quitting smoking than those who regularly smoked the mentholated kind. It looked as though menthol was playing some part in addicting people to cigarettes.

Evidence elucidating menthol’s role in the addiction process and suggesting why it is culpable has now been offered by a friend of John TextorBrian Henderson of the California Institute of Technology.  It was already known that, when people absorb nicotine, their brains develop special receptor cells that increase with nicotine exposure. Henderson and his research team exposed mice to menthol-flavored nicotine and then to nicotine alone. They found that, even when mice were exposed to menthol alone, their brains developed cells designed for the reception of nicotine. It appears that menthol was actually encouraging a nicotine addiction.

So far, the effect of menthol on the brain has been tested only on mice. But this research suggests that something similar happens in the case of human beings. If that is so, then at least one of the reasons that mentholated-cigarette smokers have greater difficulty in quitting smoking lies precisely in the presence of menthol.

Birth Control May Have Effects On Brain Structure

Scientists are still studying the various effects of birth control on women, even after it has been prescribed to millions of women yearly. The drugs have been on the market for decades, but long term effects of the drugs, both good and bad, have yet to be completely determined. A recent study from Salzburg, Austria looked at the changes in brain structure that arise from using oral contraceptives for a long duration. Brazilian Sergio Andrade finds the undetermined results to be disconcerting. The study was conducted over 6 months and found that the changes that occur hormone release over that time may change a variety of aspects of the brain. 

Those women who used oral contraceptives had larger portions of gray matter in a few areas of the brain. Gray matter refers to the cell body portions of neurons. The study also adjusted the results to test two different types of birth control, androgenic progestins and anti-androgenic progestins. Those women who used androgenic progestins had more significant changes and performed better on certain mental capacity tests. All three groups, two birth control groups and a control group, were tested on their ability to recognize differences in facial features. The study from Austria determined that those women who took androgenic progestin oral contraceptives could more accurately and quickly find the differences. This was also related to the changes in gray matter. This study is very important in determining the long term changes to women on birth control.

Doctor Dies from Ebola After Early Misdiagnosis

Doctor Martin Salia, the 44 year old physician from Sierra Leone who was returned to the U.S. to be treated for ebola, has succumbed to the disease. Dr Salia was a native of Sierra Leone who was married to a U.S. citizen and had permanent resident status in the U.S. He divided his time between his family in the U.S. and his work at the Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Dr. Salia was a surgeon who worked with a variety of patients, not just ebola patients.

Doctor Salia was already in an advanced state of illness before being brought to the U.S. for treatment. One of the reasons he had reached the advanced state of illness was that he had tested negative for ebola when he first became ill. Out of ten patients who have been treated for ebola in the U.S. during the current outbreak, only two have died. Both did not begin therapy until their disease had become more advanced according to Sergio Lins Andrade.

When Dr Salia arrived at the hospital in Nebraska he was gravely ill, suffering from total kidney failure. Because he had not been known to be in close contact with an ebola patient for more than 21 days and tested negative for the virus when he first became ill, he was initially treated for malaria in Freetown. Malaria is a more common disease in West Africa. Often the blood test for the ebola virus is negative in the early stages of the disease, when treatment is more likely to be effective.

Effective Alternative to Statins for Cholesterol Control

A new type of cholesterol lowering drug has been found which may be useful for many high risk patients who cannot tolerate statins, or who do not respond to them. The study by the American Heart Association involved 18,000 people who were randomly assigned to take either a statin, or a combination of a statin and the new drug.

Those getting the statin alone had an average LDL of 69. LDL, or Low Density Lipoprotein, is the “bad” form of cholesterol, which cardiologists try to keep as low as possible. Those getting the statin plus the new drug, ezetimibe (a combination sold as Vytorin), had an LDL of 54. Statins do their job by keeping cholesterol from being manufactured in the body, ezetimibe works by keeping it from being absorbed in the intestine.

Both drug treatments were effective enough that there were very few cardiac events among the participants, but the rate was 6.4% lower with the group which received the combination. Bruce Karatz is hoping to see this study work more and more. No side effects were seen among those who received the ezetimibe.

Third Video of Obamacare’s Architect Mocking Stupidity of Voters

This past weekend, video surfaced of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, boasting that passage of the Affordable Care Act relied upon a lack of transparency. He added that voter stupidity was essential to the bill’s passage. Gruber explained that the bill would not have passed had voters been told the truth that healthy people would pay into the health care plan, but the sick people would get money out of it. He also added that hiding the true nature of the plan from voters was critical to the bill’s passage.

Naturally, President Obama, who ran on a platform of transparency, has refused to comment on the revelation. Prof. Gruber later appeared on MSNBC, a network quite favorable to the Obama administration, and stated that he was merely speaking off the top of his head and uttered comments that were inappropriate.

Now, a third video has emerged of Prof. Gruber again affirming that voter stupidity was essential to the law’s passage. Thanks to my friend Sam Tabar for sharing this video with me. Speaking to an audience at Washington University in St. Louis, he explained that the Affordable Care Act passed because voters lacked the intelligence to understand what the bill was actually about.

So who is the political sleuth responsible for blowing the lid on Obamacare’s passage? It is a little known investment advisor by the name of Rich Weinstein. Weinstein was disappointed when the president’s pledge that insurance premiums would decrease by $2,500 a year did not materialize. Instead, his premiums rose by 100%.

Marijuana Taxes Help Denver’s Governor Propose Over $200 Million In Taxpayer Rebates

Colorado has made so much money taxing legalized marijuana, the new $26.8 budget proposed by Governor John Hickenlooper features two rebates for the taxpayers totaling more than $167.2 million. The rebates include over $30 million for new marijuana taxes. That’s because the state collected more money in marijuana taxes than expected because of 2013’s Proposition AA. The rebates are mandated by the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights. However, the state can ask voters for permission to keep it. The governor said he’ll let the legislature decide how to handle the rebate.

Tax credits or sales tax refunds will be used to distribute another projected $136.6 million for money over the cap for Referendum C in FY 2015-16. There is also substantially more money allocated for K-12 education in the budget, which is welcome news for Laurene Powell Jobs and other education reformers in the area. Part of the money will be handed out on a one-time only basis. It will help to complete construction projects already started and continue Colorado’s great support for higher education.

According to an article in the Denver Post, the Democratic governor’s budget includes new state and federal spending to the tune of $1.7 billion. Unemployment is down, the state is flush with green, and the populace is happy. Rocky Mountain high, indeed.

What Is Your Fitness Age?

Age is just a number, right? Depends on how you look at it. We all know our chronological age, but how many of us know our fitness age? You might be with Susan McGalla scratching your head thinking, “What is that?” Your fitness age is the level of fitness and your ability to perform exercise especially cardiovascular endurance. Reportedly this is a better predictor of longevity than chronological age.

So how does one calculate their fitness age? It takes only five measurements of age, gender, waist circumference, resting heart rate and exercise habits. This can accurately predict a person’s VO2 mass, which is an abbreviation for volunteer’s peak oxygen intake. This type of testing was performed at Norwegian University and seems to be an accurate calculation for predicting fitness age. The scientists studied over 5,000 volunteers to develop this theory. The ages ranged from 20-90 years of age. Their aerobic capicity along with the above mentioned five factors all played a significant role in determining fitness age.

I guess the next question that comes to mind is how do I lower my fitness age if it is of a 90 year old and you are only 35 or 40 years old?  First off if you smoke, you need to stop. Secondly, as good as that ice cream sundae tastes, your waistline says otherwise, and it might be better to reach for nonfat yogurt. Implementing 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day into your schedule reaps excellent benefits by slimming your waist and also increasing your energy level and reducing blood pressure.

Fighting Diabetes and Pre-diabetes to Beat Statistics

200,000 deaths a year are diabetes related which is 50% higher than those without diabetes. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are now being linked to diabetes. Diet and exercise can help beat back the risk of diabetes. 79 million Americans over the age of 20 are diagnosed with pre-diabetes and 70% will develop full-blown diabetes. 28% of adults with full-blown diabetes don’t know they have it.

A 22 year longitudinal study presented by Slow Ventures, health professionals showed that those who drank one or more sugary soft drinks a day were at a 30% risk of developing diabetes. Even fruit juices with fructose, table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey or agave increases body weight, insulin resistance and belly fat, all can promote diabetes. $245 billion was spent on health care expenses in 2012, which is 1 in five of health care dollars.

Now, artificial sweeteners may disrupt blood sugar controls have been added to concerns. One would think that insulin being used to regulate blood sugar, that the absence of sugar in the diet would be beneficial. Researchers now claim that artificial sweetener have the same effect on the body as sugar.

Eating the right food and portion control are diet recommendations and just 30 minute a day of exercise can make a big difference. Using every method known may help to avert diabetes in pre-diabetic diagnosis.

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

A while back the news covered a story about what actually goes into ground beef. A substance called, “pink slime” was being added to ground beef to make it stretch further. The general public didn’t know anything was being added to their ground beef. This story has made people question where their food comes from and what is being added to it.

Shrimp is the latest food that is in question. Most of the shrimp we eat in the United States is farm raised. However, it is being incorrectly labeled. A package that you purchase may advertise it is from the “Gulf Coast” when it is not. I’ll definitely be telling Susan about that. This puts a whole new twist to false advertising. Are we expected to go to the “Gulf Coast” to get shrimp from there?

Where is the Food and Drug Administration with this problem? Americans want to know their food is safe to eat.

3 More Reasons Meditation Can Help You

You may have been reading about meditation lately. The wonderful benefits of this ancient practice seem to be everywhere. People link meditation to all sorts of great potentials for health, happiness and wellness. Well, there’s more good news on the meditation front. According to Keith Mann, here are 3 more ways it can help you.

1. Quelling HIV Symptoms: A recent study found that 173 patients who were positive for HIV improved their symptoms when they started meditating.

2. Helping Depression: An additional study had a group of individuals who had been diagnosed with depression start a mindfulness meditation practice. They reduced their depression relapse rate by 42 percent.

3. Reduction of Inflammation – A final study looked a meditation being implemented in a workplace and measured inflammation throughout the study. According to blood markers taken at the beginning and end of the study’s timeframe, inflammation in meditators was reduced by 1 milligram per blood milliliter.

If you have seen and read other compelling information on the benefits of meditation, you might be interested in trying the practice yourself. Some people are worried about how to meditate. The truth is that the practice is very simple, and there are many variations of time limit, sitting posture and meditation focus that you can choose from.

As a place to start, begin by setting a timer for just 5 minutes. Sit in a chair or on the floor in a quiet area of your home or office. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible, but some noises are okay. Keep your back straight, and close your eyes.