20 health lessons from “Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

The BBC ran an excellent third series of three episodes of “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”. You can dig into all their conclusions here. Here are the take away lessons from it:

  1. Marinating meat in beer (or wine) can help reduce the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—known are known to be cancer-causing agents—during barbecuing.
  2. Cramps are only caused by exhausted muscles, not because of lack of salt or water. Best way to relieve it is to stretch the muscle that is cramping. To prevent more cramps from happening, try putting a pillow under the muscle, which will gently stretch it.
  3. More than one in four health supplements don’t contain what they claim to contain. Don’t think high price indicates high quality. In the UK, look for the THR certification mark.
  4. Ear buds don’t remove ear wax. If anything, they make it worse. We should leave ear wax where it is.
  5. Rosemary aroma can improve memory by about 10%, because of the way the aromatic chemicals interact with our brain. Lavender smell, on the other hand, can make us feel sleepy.
  6. The claims that overweight people may be protected against dementia doesn’t stand up, because researchers used the flawed metric of BMI. The best way to protect against dementia remains getting fit by keeping active and cutting belly fat. Socializing and learning a new skill are definitively helpful.
  7. The use of soap, shower gel, and shampoo is best minimized. These “detergents” remove the beneficial oils that our body secretes. Using moisturizers to replace some of these healthy oils is only a cycle of illogicality.
  8. To stop snoring: 1. avoid alcohol 2. lie on your side 3. try a nasal strip or a mouth piece. The best solution, however, is a simple set of exercises. Done 2 mins at a time at least 3 times a day. Roll your tongue on to the top and bottom palate (once each) and hold. Open your mouth as wide as possible and say “AAAAA.”
  9. A lot of shoes are too high, too flat and too small. Wearing such shoes affects are posture, putting us at greater risk of osteoarthritis, knee pain and back pain. The solution is to get shoes of the right size, use cushion on heels, and avoid using high heels altogether. Some foot exercises using a tennis or a golf ball to massage the foot or picking marbles with the foot can go a long way to keep your feet healthy.
  10. How to stop a hiccup? Try to get your attention on something else (hold lemon wedge in your mouth, drink lots of water slowly, breathe slowly). Try exercising the diaphragm by holding your knee to your chest.
  11. How to prevent lyme disease? If you are outdoors, check your body for ticks. If you are bit by a tick, look out for symptoms such as a bad rash, headache, fever, and muscle pain.
  12. Fecal transplants work, at least in the case of those with Clostridium difficile infections. Other uses are under trials, and the initial results seem promising.
  13. Could a DNA-test mediated diet help us to lose weight better? Probably not. We just don’t know enough. Trials are on and may tell us more soon.
  14. How can you prevent heart disease? Lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and stop smoking. Try lowering salt intake. Doing exercise. Taking statins works. Aspiring should be used only if you have had a heart disease or stroke.
  15. The best way to lowering cholesterol by altering your diet: Cut animal fat (red meat, cheese). Increase fibre (oats, aubergines, nuts). The “portfolio” diet can work.
  16. To reduce cravings, imagine the situation of satisfying your craving. Your overall consumption should reduce.
  17. You can lose warts with duct tape. Stick it on, keep it for six days. When you remove it, try rid yourself of the dead cells. Repeat three or four times.
  18. For cooking and frying, use oil with more monounsaturated than polyunsaturates. So olive oil, groundnut oil and rapeseed oil. But not sunflower oil, corn oil and vegetable oil.
  19. Don’t waste your money on Manuka honey. There is no evidence that it is beneficial.
  20. Non-organic food in the UK contains only trace levels of pesticide and thus are no more harmful than organic food. And surprisingly frozen food can be as good as fresh food.

Here are links to lessons I learnt from the 2014 series and the 2013 series of “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”.

Image by grasper. Published under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

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Contemporary journalism philosophy packed in a few chat lines

This is a lightly edited Slack chat with my colleague Solana Pyne, Quartz’s senior video producer. The chat kicked off because of an article about how top publishers are using Facebook for their video strategy. Probably because we’d both been thinking about what journalism means today, we managed to distill our ideas down in just a few chat lines.

akshatSeparately here: “Al Jazeera’s Jigar Mehta nails it: “When we produce video for Facebook, we have to assume that the audience is going to be watching on their mobile phones with NO SOUND, so we have to optimize video to tell the story with no sound. Facebook, we know that we are competing for time on a platform where content FOMO [fear of missing out] is rampant, so we strive to make our videos very engaging from the start, and not waste any time getting straight into the stories we tell.”

solanaI read these things and feel like everyone just repeats the same talking points.

solanaSome of them are clearly true, but … then someone will try something else that works and everyone will write articles about how the 1-minute no-sound video was good, but now it’s all about the bla bla new format

akshat: So is this kind of an analysis just an effect of the ever-growing number of journalists covering the journalism industry?

solanaI think it’s really just that this is all so new, that no one really knows what works. And I think what works changes. And maybe it changes because once everyone starts doing exactly the same thing, people get bored. And also, Facebook is rigging the system. They’re favoring videos, and they’re auto playing them without sound.

akshatRight, and that phenomenon is true of non-video article formats too.

solanaYeah, totally. Like the Upworthy headlines that worked at first and then people started to hate.

akshatThe thing that doesn’t get old and always gets lots of views is a good story.

solanaYeah, exactly.

akshatBut you still need to package for the age. You need to give it the wings to reach full potential.

solanaYeah, I think that’s exactly right. First you need the story, then you need to think about where you’ll be publishing it and where your audience will be getting it

akshatAll that the internet’s algorithms have done is reduced the “age” to years or even months.

solana: True.

Image by evdg under CC-BY-NC.

It’s becoming increasingly hard for American women to get abortions

A bill introduced in Republican-controlled Wisconsin to ban abortions 20 weeks after conception is likely to become law in the next few weeks. That would make it the 38th new law across 11 US states set this year to restrict women’s access to abortion.

Republicans’ slow attack on the right to abortion is working. Find out how on Quartz, published May 11, 2015.

Image by ashley rose under CC-BY-NC-ND

What you need to know about Facebook’s “proof” that it’s not a political echo chamber

When nearly half of US internet users are getting their political news from Facebook, it rightfully raises many worries. Chief among them is that Facebook’s powerful algorithm creates a “filter bubble” in which users mainly see posts they agree with, reinforcing the heavily polarized nature of American political discourse.

In research recently published in Science, researchers from Facebook and the University of Michigan suggest that the news feed algorithm is less influential than some people have made it out to be. Instead, they claim it is mostly users themselves who, through their decisions about what to click on or who to be friends with, are responsible for the creation of any ideological bubbles.

Don’t be so quick to let Facebook off the hook, though. Despite being published in a reputable science journal, the researchers’ conclusion appears to be questionable.

Read more on Quartz, published May 11, 2015.

Image by nate bolt under CC-BY-SA.

More quakes are coming for Nepal, scientists say, they just can’t predict when

Nepal was again hit with a major earthquake again. Only three weeks ago a much larger earthquake had hit the country. Together they have left more than 8,000 dead, scores injured and millions displaced. Sadly, scientists had predicted that another earthquake was coming—and many more will come in the future in this seismically active region.

Read more on Quartz, published May 12, 2015.

Image by DFID under CC-BY.

Men are committing suicide more than women everywhere in the world

More than 800,000 people around the world kill themselves each year, and millions more try but fail. This puts suicides among the top preventable causes of death in the world. And from Albania to Zimbabwe, in every country, men commit suicides in greater numbers than women do.

Find out why on Quartz, published May 13, 2015.

Image by Jason Kuffer under CC-BY-SA.

Climate change is making your pollen allergy worse

Spring is time for the glorious beginning of new things. Most people celebrate it, but not the many millions who are hit with sneezing fits and itchy eyes. And things are going to get worse—not just for those who suffer from a pollen allergy, but also for those who never had allergies before.

Read more on Quartz, published May 14, 2015.

Image by mait under CC-BY-NC-SA.