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23 July 2008

For Cancer Patients, Empathy Goes a Long Way

Research supports the idea that a few kind words from an oncologist can go a long way toward helping people with cancer understand their treatment, stick with it, cope better and maybe even have a better chance of recovery.

However, a study has found that doctors and patients aren’t communicating all that well about emotions.

Researchers recorded almost 400 conversations between oncologists and patients with advanced cancer. They listened for moments when patients expressed emotions like fear, anger or sadness, and for the doctors’ replies.

They team found that doctors used responses that encouraged patients to keep expressing their emotions only 22 percent of the time. Male doctors were worse at it than female ones: 48 percent of the men never used any of these responses, as opposed to 20 percent of the women.

Breast-Feeding Triggers Pulses of Feel-Good Hormone

When a baby breast-feeds, it triggers a flood of the hormone oxytocin that releases milk from the mammary gland, and a feeling of love and trust in the mother.

New research suggests that breast feeding not only taps the normal brain cells involved in secreting oxytocin, but also uses dendrites to secrete the hormone. Dendrites normally create communication channels between brain cells.

This results in bursts of the hormone released at regular intervals.


* Reuters July 17, 2008

Calm Down ... or Else

For more than a decade, parents of children with developmental and psychiatric problems have pushed for their children to gain more access to mainstream schools. One unfortunate side-effect may be an increasing use by schools of precisely the sort of practices families hoped to avoid by steering clear of institutionalized settings: takedowns, isolation rooms, restraining chairs with straps, and worse.

In 2007, the public system served 600,000 more special education students than it did a decade ago. Many staff members are not adequately trained to handle severe behavior problems.

In April of this year, a 9-year-old Montreal boy with autism died of suffocation when a special education teacher wrapped him in a weighted blanket to calm him. Two Michigan public school students with autism have died while being held on the ground in what is known as prone restraint.

Federal law leaves it to states and school districts to decide when physical restraints and seclusion are appropriate, and standards vary widely. Oversight is often nonexistent, despite great potential for harm and little evidence of benefit.


* New York Times July 15, 2008

22 July 2008

My Book: Organizing my jumbled thoughts

As I started to organize the labyrinth of my thoughts, I tried to identify a strong "theme" from my outline. At this point, I began to:

Rank my research material; making the most important, the important and the least important or useless material. Later I used these rankings to decide where to put the emphasis. The rankings also helped me later choose a title for my book.

Next, I struggled to minimize the length. I knew that in order to be engaging, I had to avoid repetition, be concise, state general problems or solutions and then lead to a specific conclusion.

My book had to be a verbal sketch of my deepest thoughts, so I could not be casual or careless with the choice of my words. I had to use them frugally and carefully.

Writing in a way forced me to examine and reorder your thoughts. At this stage I was not imposing order; rather I was just arranging my thoughts in a random order. I was indeed allowing my mind to think freely of ideas/items that related to my topic. The order came much later. Rather it evolved on its own through this brain storming process. I brainstormed, not with another person, but my own self. Often, I chose my girlfriend as my staunchest critic. Since I wanted to persuade my readers, brainstorming served as a free exploration, it helped the process. It helped establish norms of relevance, logic and clarity. All this enabled me to catalogue things that were most important to my purpose - a way of classifying everything you know about the topic into two categories: information that belongs to my book from one that didn’t. I was conscious of the fact that throughout this painful process, I remained committed to a definite plan - a direction, scope, sequence, tone and level of difficulty that I wanted to establish in my book.

Just Say No to Nuts During Pregnancy

Recent research has found that regular consumption of nut products during pregnancy raises the odds of your child having asthma symptoms by nearly 50 percent.

About 4 percent of American children have food allergies, and roughly 3 million people in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. It's already recommended that children under 3 not be given nuts or nut products, because their immune systems are still developing and may be more susceptible to allergens.

Daily consumption of nut products increases the odds that a child will have wheezing by 42 percent, shortness of breath by 58 percent and steroid use to ease asthma symptoms by 62 percent. Overall, the odds of developing asthma symptoms for a child whose mother ate nuts daily are 47 percent higher.


* U.S. News and World Report July 15, 2008

Low-Carb Diet Beats Low-Fat Diet

A low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style diet both helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet in one of the longest and largest studies to compare the various weight-loss techniques.

The low-carb diet also improved cholesterol more than the other two, even though some critics had predicted the opposite result.

All three approaches achieved weight loss and improved cholesterol.

The low-fat diet restricted calories and cholesterol and focused on low-fat grains, vegetables and fruits as options. The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie, fat and cholesterol restrictions, emphasizing poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts. The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates, but none for calories or fat, although it urged dieters to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.


* Washington Post July 17, 2008

U.S. Obesity Epidemic Continues to Grow

Despite efforts to encourage Americans to lose weight, the number of U.S. adults who are obese increased almost 2 percent between 2005 and 2007.

In 2007, 25.6 percent of adults reported being obese, compared to 23.9 percent in 2005.

The percentage of obese adults who are obese varies by state and region. In Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, 30 percent of the residents reported being obese, compared with 18.7 percent in Colorado, which had the lowest prevalence of obesity.

Obesity was most prevalent in the South, with 27 percent of residents classified as obese. In the Midwest, the number was 25.3 percent. In the Northeast, it was 23.3 percent, and in the West, 22.1 percent.


* Washington Post July 17, 2008