If you were a bear and wanted to make a go of it in the frozen North (think polar bear, of course), what would you need to survive?
White fur would help, to help you sneak up on prey. Also plenty of body fat to stay warm. And you'd need great stamina to swim many miles from one ice floe to the next.
And there's another important trait, researchers reported Thursday: Polar bears have genes that help them live on a diet that's overloaded with fat — without suffering the sorts of human diseases that typically come with a diet of that sort.
In the future, Earth's atmosphere is likely to include a whole lot more carbon dioxide. And many have been puzzling over what that may mean for the future of food crops. Now, scientists are reporting that some of the world's most important crops contain fewer crucial nutrients when they grow in such an environment.
Three out of four physicians believe that fellow doctors prescribe an unnecessary test or procedure at least once a week, a survey released Thursday finds.
The most frequent reasons that physicians order extraneous — and costly --medical care are fears of being sued, impulses to be extra careful and desires to reassure themselves about their assessments of patients, the survey said.
Scientists reported Thursday they had figured out a way to make primitive human sperm out of skin cells, an advance that could someday help infertile men have children.
"I probably get 200 emails a year from people who are infertile, and very often the heading on the emails is: Can you help me?" says Renee Reijo Pera of Montana State University, who led the research when she was at Stanford University.
Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:41 am
Not so long ago, the workings of the digestive system were of interest only to gastroenterologists and 10-year-old boys. But the gut is now chic, with its microbiome playing a huge role in human health, and passing gas deemed a sign of healthy gut microbes.
Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 12:34 pm
The Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide whether to approve a powerful new prescription painkiller that's designed to relieve severe pain quickly, and with fewer side effects than other opioids.
While some pain experts say the medicine could provide a valuable alternative for some patients in intense pain, the drug (called Moxduo) is also prompting concern that it could exacerbate the epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and overdoses.
Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 9:43 am
Like many other doctors across the country, Dr. Devesh Ramnath, a Dallas orthopedic surgeon, recently made the switch from paper to electronic medical records. This meant he no longer had to just take notes when he was examining a patient — he also had to put those notes into the computer as a permanent record.
"I was really focused on just trying to get the information in, and not really focusing on the patient anymore," Ramnath says.
Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 9:59 am
Teenagers put a lot of stock in what their peers are doing, and parents are forever trying to push back against that influence. But with the advent of social media, hanging out with the wrong crowd can include not just classmates, but teenagers thousands of miles away on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:26 am
It's hard to imagine a more devastating diagnosis than ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. For most people, it means their nervous system is going to deteriorate until their body is completely immobile. That also means they'll lose their ability to speak.
So Carl Moore of Kent, Wash., worked with a speech pathologist to record his own voice to use later — when he can no longer talk on his own.
Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 4:25 pm
This week, I answer readers' questions about what doctors can ask for in advance and the nuances of switching insurance plans, both on and off the health exchanges.
Q. After signing up for a gold level plan on the health insurance marketplace, my physician, who is part of my plan, asked for $75 up front. My copayment is $25. His office also wants to keep a credit card on file. Is this legal?
For people in good health and without any special nutritional deficiencies, there isn't enough evidence to say it's a good idea — at least when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 10:20 am
Full body CT scans can save lives by helping detect cancer early. But the scans use high doses of radiation to create their detailed images, which means they also increase patients' risk of developing cancer later on in life.
Children and teenagers are at greatest risk, because they tend to live long enough to develop secondary cancers. And their growing tissues may be more susceptible to radiation.