Hate mail, flu, iron, and more…

FSM Friends News and Articles

Belief in homeopathy results in the death of a 7-year-old Italian child: “Rather than seeking care from the family paediatrician, they had him evaluated by a local homeopath”.

Vaccines, public trust and learning from my hate mail: “But within all the noise and the ad hominem attacks, interesting themes have emerged. Over the years I’ve noticed that no matter the topic, people let fly with many of the same complaints and insults. Whether I’m writing about homeopathy, acupuncture, celebrity health nonsense, supplements, the wellness industry, genetic testing or unproven stem cell therapies, people seem to be angry about similar things”.


The HPV vaccine saves lives, so why aren’t more kids getting it? This article is primarily concerned with the uptake of HPV vaccine in America, which hovers in the 50-60% range. This is unfortunate because the HPV vaccine is one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of our time: an immunisation that prevents cancer. The incidence of cervical cancer has been dropping since the 1960s thanks to the Pap test and the HPV vaccine offers the possibility of reducing the frequency of this disease even further.

Sick with the flu? Here’s why you feel so bad: With a record influenza season upon us in Australia, more people are becoming sick with ‘the flu’, however a common misconception is that having the flu is like having a cold (rhinovirus). In general, an influenza infection is much more debilitating than other common respiratory infections – you’re likely to be too sick to work for a week or more, and in addition to mucus and coughing you will experience general fatigue, muscular weakness and fever.

But why does influenza cause all these symptoms? Once again, it is due to your pesky immune system – many of these symptoms are signs of lung and generalized immune activation, rather than a direct result of the virus. But there is some good news – the flu vaccine can prepare your immune system to fight flu, which may reduce your symptoms or prevent the infection entirely. We seem to be having a particularly bad season but evidence shows the vaccine is matched against the most common strains circulating this winter and flu cases usually peak in August so it is not too late to get vaccinated.

How to get the nutrients you need without eating as much red meatIron is essential for many of the body’s functions, including transporting oxygen to the blood. Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, a condition in which you feel tired and lethargic. Pre-menopausal women need around 18 milligrams (mg) a day, while men only need 8mg. Pre-menopausal women need more iron because of the blood they lose during menstruation.

So, how can you get enough iron? Beef, of course, is a rich source of iron, containing 3.3mg for every 100g. The same amount of chicken breast contains 0.4mg, while the chicken thigh (the darker meat) contains slightly higher levels, at 0.9mg. Pork is similarly low in iron at 0.7mg. But kangaroo will provide you with 4.1mg of iron for every 100g. Yes, kangaroo is a red meat but it produces lower methane emissions and has one-third the levels of saturated fat than beef, making it a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative. Plant protein sources are also high in iron: cooked kidney beans have 1.7mg and brown lentils have 2.4mg per 100g. Kidney beans and lentils are good sources of iron.

If you wanted to cut your red meat intake from the 81g average to the recommended 14g per day while still getting the same amount of iron, you would need to consume the equivalent of either 50g of kangaroo, 100g of brown lentils or 150g of red kidney beans per day.

Common dietary supplements linked to miscarriages in rodents:  Taking supplements to improve cognition doesn’t work unless one has a deficiency. But many cognition marketed supplements contain vinpocetine, a drug that has been found to cause fetal abnormalities and miscarriages. And what’s more, the dose of vinpocetine supplied in supplements varies widely, meaning everyone, not just pregnant women, should avoid the supplements. “When you’re taking a drug at [an] unpredictable dose, no way you can know what it will do,” says Pieter Cohen,…an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “Vinpocetine is classified and regulated as a supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) …. In other countries, it’s a prescription drug.”

The FDA has issued a warning about vinpocetine containing supplements, and has made statements about being committed to addressing the supplement market. “For Cohen, though, it’s still mostly talk: the agency doesn’t have a good track record of acting on supplement oversight, and often, their actions (which mostly take the form of warnings to companies) don’t result in change.  “Hopefully, this could be a signal of a new environment,” he says. “But all of this could be window dressing. We will have to see. They have to follow through.”

Great Moments in Health and Science

Origins and history of sunglasses: Unlike their earlier versions, modern sunglasses provide protection from cancer-causing UV rays, not just protection from glare (although they do this very well too).

Abused Health Concepts

New report pans supplements for brain health: As a general rule for supplement claims, ask yourself: “If you don’t have a deficiency, how is taking it going help anything?”