Golf’s many benefits brought to the fore in health study

 

 

golf

You might be surprised that golf has physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, according to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers reviewed 5000 studies into golf and well-being to build a comprehensive picture of the sport’s health benefits, as well as its potential drawbacks. Findings show that golf is likely to improve cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health. Playing golf could also help those who suffer chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and stroke, the study found. The physical benefits of golf increase with age, researchers from the University of Edinburgh said. Balance and muscle endurance in older people are improved by playing the sport, the review also found. The study found that golfers typically burn a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes. Golfers walking 18 holes can cover four to eight miles, while those using an electric golf cart typically chalk up four miles. Increased exposure to sunshine and fresh air were found to be additional benefits. The physical aspects of golf could also help reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia, the researchers say.

Anyone who has played golf can attest to its physical benefits. However, these physical advantages could easily be overshadowed by its mental challenges; I’ve seen many a mature adult reduced to a “gibbering idiot” after missing a multitude of shots! Nevertheless, the net effects seem to be positive, provided your golf game doesn’t require confinement in a mental institution!

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TURMERIC: ANOTHER OF THE MANY SNAKE OILS?

curry

     I recently encountered a website touting the “tremendous’ health benefits of Turmeric. Having been intrigued, I decided to look into the background of its claims.

Turmeric (Cucurma longa) is a plant in the ginger family that is native to southeast India. It is also known as curcumin. The rhizomes are ground into an orange-yellow powder that is used as a spice in Indian cuisine. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has traditionally been used in folk medicine for various indications; and it has now become popular in alternative medicine circles, where it is claimed to be effective in treating a broad spectrum of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and diabetes. One website claims science has proven it to be as effective as 14 drugs, including statins like Lipitor, corticosteroids, antidepressants like Prozac, anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen, the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin, and the diabetes drug metformin.. Whenever one encounters such excessive claims that sound “too good to be true”, that’s exactly what they usually  prove to be.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has reviewed all the available scientific studies and has concluded that turmeric is “Likely Safe,” “Possibly Effective” for dyspepsia and osteoarthritis, with “Insufficient Reliable Evidence” to rate effectiveness for other indications, such as Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer.

Mechanism of action

The pertinent preclinical studies, in animal models and in vitro, indicate that curcumin, the presumed active ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties; can induce apoptosis (death) in cancer cells and may reduce microscopic changes of Alzheimer’s brains; has antithrombotic effects; and displays activity against some bacteria,. These effects sound promising, but animal studies and in vitro laboratory studies may not be applicable to humans. Although you can kill cancer cells in the laboratory with a flame thrower or bleach, animal studies must always be followed by clinical studies in humans before we can make any recommendations to humans.

Preliminary clinical research

Preliminary pilot studies of turmeric in humans suggest the following:

  • it does not change mental state examination scores in Alzheimer’s
  • it might improve symptoms in anterior uveitis (eye inflammations)
  • it might stabilize some markers of colorectal cancer in some patients with treatment refractory colorectal cancer
  • high doses may decrease the number of aberrant focal abnormalities detected on colonoscopy
  • it might reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Clinical research on turmeric is currently funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), but the NCCAM website is not very encouraging. Under the section What the Science Says, it states:

  • There is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.
  • Preliminary findings from animal and other laboratory studies suggest that a chemical found in turmeric—called curcumin—may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties, but these findings have not been confirmed in people.
  • NCCAM-funded investigators have studied the active chemicals in turmeric and their effects—particularly anti-inflammatory effects—in human cells to better understand how turmeric might be used for health purposes. NCCAM is also funding basic research studies on the potential role of turmeric in other diseases..

I might add parenthetically that NCCAM has, in its entire history, produced virtually nothing that might alter our current practice of science-based medicine.

Side effects

Turmeric is generally considered safe, but high doses have caused indigestion, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, diarrhea, liver problems, and worsening of gallbladder disease. It may interact with anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs to increase the risk of bleeding, that it should be used with caution in patients with gallstones or gallbladder disease and in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, and it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before elective surgery. Purchasers of supplements are not given that information.

Conclusion

The scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient for managing any human health problems. As with so many supplements, the hype has far exceeded the evidence, and this serves only to separate the public from its money. Although there are some promising hints that this substance may be useful, there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other supplements “may” be useful too. Given this monumental lack of substantive evidence, I see no reason to jump on the turmeric bandwagon. Stay tuned for further evidence, however, in the form of well-designed clinical studies in humans. Once in a very long while, we accidentally encounter a really effective drug such as quinine or aspirin, but usually we wind up instead in the “snake oil pit.”

 

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TRUMP SUPPORTED ANTI-VACCINATION GROUP

     vaccines

The Daily Beast (Sept 30, 2016) has reported that in 2010 the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy’s anti-vaxx crusade, also contributing to Generation Rescue, a group that promotes dubious treatments, refers to questionable practitioners, opposes standard vaccination recommendations, and insists that vaccines are a major cause of autism. Donald Trump himself has also claimed that vaccines have caused many cases of autism, an assertion totally refuted by all scientists, again reflecting Trump’s world-class ignorance! The Trump Foundation’s 2010 tax return identifies Donald Trump as the foundation’s president and his children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, as its directors.

Of special interest during this election season is the strong likelihood that the money donated by this foundation did not come from Trump’s own pockets (which are likely far less deep than he originally boasted). Moreover, did the unwitting donors to Trump’s “foundation” think that their money was going to worthy causes—obviously unsupported by the evidence. Also, did those same donors take a tax deduction for the money sent to this questionable “foundation?” They, too, may be unpleasantly surprised if they, presumably like Trump (?), undergo a tax audit.

As the old statement goes—largely attributed to P.T. Barnum—there’s a sucker born every minute!  But must it be at the expense of our kids’ health, or even lives?

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN HEALTH: LITTLE KNOWN FACTORS

climate-change

At this time, most thoughtful people acknowledge the reality of humanly generated climate change on our environment, but they often fail to understand the real threat this poses to human health in general.

Now, the American College of Physicians (ACP), one of our most respected medical institutions, has issued a sobering position paper on climate change and it effects on human health§, including higher rates of respiratory and heat-related illness, increased prevalence of vector-borne and waterborne diseases, food and water insecurity, and malnutrition. Persons who are elderly, sick, or poor are especially vulnerable to these potential consequences, according to this group. The ACP also states its belief that it’s incumbent on all those in the health industry to play an active role in protecting human health and averting dire environmental outcomes.

This ACP publication emphasizes that climate change presents a “catastrophic risk” to human health over the next hundred years that may wipe out all of the health advances made over the previous 100 years. The average temperature on Earth has increased by almost 1 degree since 1889, and greenhouse gas emissions have increased by almost 50% from 2005 to 2011. It is predicted that by the end of the century, the Earth’s temperature may increase by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic seas has melted at unprecedented rates and the water levels worldwide have risen by almost 7 inches over the last 100 years. The World Health Organization has predicted that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from 2030 to 2050 due to malnutrition, increased malaria, increased respiratory illness, heat-related illness, food issues due to crop losses, and increases in waterborne infectious diseases and vector-borne illness:

Their current recommendations include the following:

  • The entire health care community throughout the world must engage in environmentally sustainable practices that reduce carbon emissions.
  • Support efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • Educate the public, their colleagues, their community, and lawmakers about the health risks posed by climate change

As guardians of human health, we must assume a more active role in avoiding these disastrous consequences—if not for our own well-being, but for that for our children and all future generations! These efforts could well begin with how we all vote in the coming election!

 

  • Crowley RA, et al. Climate change and health: A position paper of the American College of Physicians. [Published online ahead of print April 19, 2016]. Ann Intern Med. doi:10.7326/M15-2766.

 

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