Friday, February 17, 2017

GUEST POST: Can Caffeine Really Benefit Your Health?

As always, guest posts are always welcome on my blog, especially ones about coffee! So, please enjoy this post by Faith Munsell...

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It seems highly unlikely that coffee, such a delectable, caffeinated miracle can prove to be good for you, as such is typically the case with most other delicious pick-me-ups.

Coffee can actually benefit your health—however, like anything else, it is only helpful if used moderately. ‘Moderation’ differs between people, and added health problems can determine just how much caffeine is safe for your body. For instance, our heart centre patients that present with heart disease might strain their hearts by drinking multiple cups of coffee in one day (or in one sitting). Therefore, if you do have an underlying health issue, it’s critical that you speak with your doctor about just how much caffeine is safe for you.


7 Ways Coffee Can Benefit Your Health

     
There are copious ways in which coffee can contribute to overall balanced health.

1. It Counters Diabetes

A Harvard study discovered a connection among the lowering of blood sugar (which can cause Type 2 diabetes in high amounts) and moderate coffee intake. Surprisingly enough, this has nothing to do with caffeine—in fact, decaffeinated coffee had a larger effect. Researchers accredit this to the antioxidants that decrease blood sugar levels.

2. It Extends Your Life

Harvard conducted another study that showed those who drank anywhere between 3 and 5 cups of coffee on a daily basis (in literal cups—not enormous mugs) “may be less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee.” It’s likely that this is because of the cardiovascular benefits, lowering of blood sugar, and the addition of antioxidants. As a heart centre, we at Slidell Memorial Hospital completely recognise the value of food and drink packed with antioxidants like coffee.

3. It Elevates Your Mood

A happy body stems from a happy mind, and coffee is excellent when it comes to lifting your mood. There are several studies stating that it elevates your dopamine and decreases depression, although, for some, the mood elevation stems from the scrumptious hot drink and the relaxation that accompanies it.

4. Antioxidants

Whether decaffeinated or caffeinated, coffee is packed with antioxidants. These disease-conquering miracle workers aid in counteracting the oxidative effects leading to numerous diseases (as well as Type 2 diabetes) such as macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and other chronic diseases.

5. It Protects Against Some Cancers

It is important to note that coffee does not prevent cancer, although it can help guard you against specific types with its protective functions. Moderate coffee intake has proven in certain studies to fight off some cancers such as colon cancer, prostate cancer, and endometrial cancer.

6. It Protects Your Heart

You can improve your endothelial function by drinking just a couple of cups per day. This is important because it helps ward off heart attacks and strokes, and faulty endothelial functioning could land you in our heart centre. Coffee can help guard you against cardiovascular disease as well. Although this appears to work better for women than men, both genders are able to lower their risk of cardiovascular events and disease with controlled coffee intake (green tea also works wonders).

7. It Boosts Your Liver

Your liver really is the unsung hero of your body. While the brain and heart receive the majority of the news coverage, a healthy liver provides numerous crucial bodily functions.

According to recent studies, coffee seems to be hepatoprotective, although only when it is filtered. Filtered coffee removes cafestol and kahweol that espresso and other unfiltered coffee do not (this can lead to fatty liver disease—particularly when mixed with alcohol).

Now you know—coffee can positively benefit the body in numerous healthy ways. However, we cannot stress enough that this is only the case when drunk moderately. Another crucial point to note is that candy disguised as coffee is incredibly bad for your health. For instance, there are a monstrous 40 grammes of sugar in a Cinnamon Dolce Latte from Starbucks. Even worse, there are 48 grammes in their bottled Dark Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino. If you are considering replacing your caffeine dose with a hot chocolate, one of Starbucks’ worst offenders is their white hot chocolate—with a near-lethal 62 grammes of sugar.

All in all, when taken in moderation, coffee can be healthy so long as you steer clear of the overly sugary options.

Written by Faith Munsell from Slidell Memorial Hospital Health Blog

Disclaimer,

The scientific and medical opinions expressed within guest blog posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Crystals and Catalysts (Mariam). The accuracy and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Crystals and Catalysts (Mariam) is not liable for any errors or representations.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

My experience at the science communication primer



It has been a couple of months since I attended the science communication primer, held by the British Science Association, and I wasn’t originally going to review the day, but I thought it would be useful for those of you who might be thinking about going into science communication, and if your thinking about attending a similar event.

It was held at Conway Hall in Holborn, London and was attended by a range of speakers including Dr Stephen Webster (ICL), Tom Chivers (Buzzfeed) and Mun Keat Looi (Mosaic) and much more.
Overall the day was an enlightening experience and I learnt a lot from each of the speakers and their views of science communication and their backgrounds.

Although it was a chilly October day, the hall was packed with a full-house of aspiring science communicators.  We all came from extremely different backgrounds but our intentions/goals were the same.

The day started off with an introduction and welcome by Katherine Mathieson who then introduced Dr Stephen Webster who spoke about the recurring themes that affect science communication and how the public relationship with science communication is an extremely difficult one to understand.

  • Recommendation: do take a notepad and pen to take down notes and possibly a tablet or laptop so that you could open and save the speakers recommended reading.


The next session was by a panel of speakers: Tom Tapper, Dr Claire Asher, Tom Chivers and Ellen Dowell. They discussed how to choose the right medium for your message which isn’t restricted to the usual, well-known methods.

The third session was on storytelling in science communication. Mun-Keat Looi told us all about the effect that storytelling has on engaging readers with science and gave us some great examples of where it is used. This is something I would like to adapt in my science blogs. We also did a fun and creative exercise where we had to make up a science story, with characters and a “plot” and swap with our neighbour and have them fill in the alternate sections.

Later on in the day, the fourth session was hosted by Marie Hobson who talked to us about evaluating our work and how to understand our audience and identifying potential challenges or barriers in our piece of science communication.

The closing session of the day was a relaxing interview with Helen Czerski. She talked about her scientific journey and her relationship with “bubbles” and her research.


As well as learning more about science communication, the event was really great for networking with other science communicators and meeting other people in the field. I would highly recommend this event for anyone who loves science and wants to communicate it or study science communication in higher education. 

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Friday, January 06, 2017

We have a new organ in our bodies!


Doesn't that sound crazy?
After years of research, scientists have discovered that we have a new organ in our bodies.
You'd think that with all of the dissections of the human body over 100 years of anatomy study, that we would know everything about the human body by now, but no! There is still more to learn and I wonder what else do we not know about our bodies?

The new organ is located in our digestive system, specifically connecting the abdomen and intestines and it looks like this and it's called the MESENTERY:


For hundreds of years, the mesentery had been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. However, research by Professor of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School, J Calvin Coffey, found the mesentery is one, continuous structure.


J Calvin Coffey, University of Limerick said: “In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date.” 


So how does the mesentery work? I hear you ask.


It is a set of tissues which is formed by the double fold of peritoneum that attaches the intestines to the wall of the abdomen. Up until now, we only know the anatomy (structure) of the organ, more detailed functions of the organ are yet to be found out. 



The official google definition of the mesentery.
This is definitely a breakthrough in science. Knowing what this organ does will not only benefit research but further scientific research of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.  We could also find out about diseases which could be affecting patients, and find a better and more specific cure for these diseases. 

The human body still has its ways of showing us how majestic it is and we can only wonder what else there is to find out about the forever-working-factory that is our bodies. 



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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Just add water: an emergency blood bank




I'm sure you've seen, fairly recently, a lot of advertisements calling for blood donation. Particularly in the U.K where the NHS pleads for blood donation so that hospitals and ambulances have enough blood in their blood bank to be able to provide it to patients during emergencies. However sometimes donations aren't enough, and science needs to find another solution, albeit temporary, to provide "man-made" blood for use in emergency blood transfusions.

The need increases especially when stored blood is unavailable or undesirable. Undesirable being defined as the blood type of the donor blood is not compatible with the patient's blood type or there isn’t enough blood ready for transfusion with the patient’s blood type.

Artificial Oxygen Carrier

Dr. Doctor and his colleges and his team have developed ErythroMer which is a new artificial blood substitute which is currently under trials, testing its efficacy before its official use in health care. It is a red, powder-like substance which takes the role of blood once it is dissolved in water.

Dr. Allan Doctor, a professor of paediatrics, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, presented the new results in early December at the American Society of Hematology 58th Annual Meeting.

ErythroMer is a new solution in replacement of haemoglobin based oxygen carriers. Previously produced and tested haemoglobin oxygen carriers have proven to be inefficient because they carry oxygen around the body but they do not release it to bodily tissues.  They also trap nitric oxide which can lead to vasoconstriction and therefore high blood pressure.

Despite it being in the early stages of research, the blood substitute has provided very promising results in a proof of concept study in mice. Where they were able to prove that ErythroMer was able to deliver oxygen to mice tissues in the same way as mice blood and they were able to resuscitate rate that were in shock and had lost an average of 40% of their blood. 

The newly produced artificial blood (ErythroMer) is efficient at temporarily carrying oxygen around the body and releasing it to bodily tissues as required.  After passing several rigorous, initial, ex vivo and in vivo "proof of concept" testing and bench testing, this proves that ErythroMer is successful in emulating normal red blood cell physiologic interactions with oxygen and nitric oxide.

However, there is still 10 years worth of research and trials before the artificial blood product reaches patients in emergencies, till then, blood donation will still remain extremely essential. Next steps are to confirm our promising findings in a larger animal model, screen and address any toxicities, scale production, and eventually test for safety and efficacy in humans,” says Doctor.



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