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Parasites Practicing Mind Control -Toxoplasma

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Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel
Ladybug Cow (aka Cowccinella Novemnotata), climbing the wall of the Talbott Hotel under direction of Toxoplasma Gondii…

Wild, just wild. Fascinating stuff, and we are just discovering exactly how powerful these microorganisms actually are…

An unassuming single-celled organism called Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most successful parasites on Earth, infecting an estimated 11 percent of Americans and perhaps half of all people worldwide. It’s just as prevalent in many other species of mammals and birds. In a recent study in Ohio, scientists found the parasite in three-quarters of the white-tailed deer they studied.

One reason for Toxoplasma’s success is its ability to manipulate its hosts. The parasite can influence their behavior, so much so that hosts can put themselves at risk of death. Scientists first discovered this strange mind control in the 1990s, but it’s been hard to figure out how they manage it. Now a new study suggests that Toxoplasma can turn its host’s genes on and off — and it’s possible other parasites use this strategy, too.

Toxoplasma manipulates its hosts to complete its life cycle. Although it can infect any mammal or bird, it can reproduce only inside of a cat. The parasites produce cysts that get passed out of the cat with its feces; once in the soil, the cysts infect new hosts.

Toxoplasma returns to cats via their prey. But a host like a rat has evolved to avoid cats as much as possible, taking evasive action from the very moment it smells feline odor.

Experiments on rats and mice have shown that Toxoplasma alters their response to cat smells. Many infected rodents lose their natural fear of the scent. Some even seem to be attracted to it.

Manipulating the behavior of a host is a fairly common strategy among parasites, but it’s hard to fathom how they manage it.

(click here to continue reading Parasites Practicing Mind Control – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2014 at 8:11 am

Posted in News-esque,science

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Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits

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Blago Jogging on May Street
Blago Jogging on May Street

Does running to the wine cellar count?

Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.

In recent years, moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, has been the focus of a great deal of exercise science and most exercise recommendations. The government’s formal 2008 exercise guidelines, for instance, suggest that people should engage in about 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. Almost as an afterthought, the recommendations point out that half as much, or about 15 minutes a day of vigorous exercise, should be equally beneficial.

As a group, runners gained about three extra years of life compared with those adults who never ran.

Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower.

“We think this is really encouraging news,” said Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute who holds the John S. McIlHenny Endowed Chair in Health Wisdom and co-authored the study. “We’re not talking about training for a marathon,” he said, or even for a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race. “Most people can fit in five minutes a day of running,” he said, “no matter how busy they are, and the benefits in terms of mortality are remarkable.”

The study did not directly examine how and why running affected the risk of premature death, he said, or whether running was the only exercise that provided such benefits. The researchers did find that in general, runners had less risk of dying than people who engaged in more moderate activities such as walking.

But “there’s not necessarily something magical about running, per se,” Dr. Church said. Instead, it’s likely that exercise intensity is the key to improving longevity, he said, adding, “Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely.”

(click here to continue reading Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits – NYTimes.com.)

not that I have a wine cellar myself, more like an area under the stair that has a few bottles stored for a moment or two…

In Between the Rains
In Between the Rains

Seriously, it can’t hurt to go for a vigorous walk or run every day, and you might even enjoy it. 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 31st, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Posted in health,science

Tagged with ,

Dollar Dollar Bill Y’all (Don’t Put It In Your Mouth)

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Beer Money at the MCA
Filthy Lucre, Literally

In case you didn’t have enough to worry about – NYU researchers have confirmed what we long have suspected, namely that your money is in need of laundering, perhaps in a vat of bleach, or radiation, or whatever it is that kills pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori and Corynebacterium diphtheriae.…

In the first comprehensive study of the DNA on dollar bills, researchers at New York University’s Dirty Money Project found that currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria as bank notes pass from hand to hand.

By analyzing genetic material on $1 bills, the NYU researchers identified 3,000 types of bacteria in all—many times more than in previous studies that examined samples under a microscope. Even so, they could identify only about 20% of the non-human DNA they found because so many microorganisms haven’t yet been cataloged in genetic data banks.

Easily the most abundant species they found is one that causes acne. Others were linked to gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and staph infections, the scientists said. Some carried genes responsible for antibiotic resistance.

“It was quite amazing to us,” said Jane Carlton, director of genome sequencing at NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology where the university-funded work was performed. “We actually found that microbes grow on money.”

The DNA was as diverse as New York. About half of it was human. The researchers found bacteria, viruses, fungi and plant pathogens. They saw extremely minute traces of anthrax and diphtheria. They identified DNA from horses and dogs—even a snippet or two of white rhino DNA.

“We had a lot of the spectrum of life represented on money,” said NYU genome researcher Julia Maritz, who did much of the DNA analysis.

(click here to continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – WSJ.com.)

Moto and the devouring of money
Don’t Eat Your Money

The research hasn’t been finished yet, nor published, I’ll be curious as to what else they find.

So far, Carlton and her colleagues have sequenced all the DNA found on about 40 dollar bills from a Manhattan bank. Their findings aren’t published yet. But she gave Shots a sneak peak of what they’ve found so far.

The most common microbes on the bills, by far, are ones that cause acne. The runners-up were a bunch of skin bacteria that aren’t pathogenic: They simply like to hang out on people’s bodies. Some of these critters may even protect the skin from harmful microbes, Carlton says.

Other money dwellers included mouth microbes — because people lick their fingers when they count bills, Carlton says — and bacteria that thrive in the vagina. “People probably aren’t washing their hands after the bathroom,” she says.

What about the traces of anthrax DNA? Not a cause for alarm, Carlton says.

“Anthrax is a very common bacteria in soil,” she says. “People who work with soil, like farmers, are often exposed to it. It’s only when anthrax is weaponized and sent through the mail that it causes those issues.”

The DNA survey also detected genes that make bacteria impervious to penicillin and methicillin. The latter make MRSA bacteria such dangerous pathogens.

(click here to continue reading Dirty Money: A Microbial Jungle Thrives In Your Wallet | Boise State Public Radio.)

Public Toilet Soho
Public Toilet Soho

Cosmo Kramer was on to something1

“A body-temperature wallet is a petri dish,” said Philippe Etienne, managing director of Innovia Security Pty Ltd., which makes special bank-note paper for 23 countries.

A human touch compounds the problem. Bacteria can feed on the waxy residue of skin and oils that builds up on bills in circulation.

“We provide the nutrients when we handle the bank notes,” said Brown University physicist Nabil Lawandy, who is president of Spectra Systems Corp. in Rhode Island, which designs currency-security features for 19 central banks.

Researchers have also explored the fibrous surface of paper money. Using traditional cell-culture techniques, research groups in India, the Netherlands and the U.S. have isolated about 93 species of bacteria clinging to paper bills. In 2012, microbiologists at Queen Mary University of London found that about 6% of English bank notes tested had levels of e.coli bacteria comparable to a toilet seat.

a partial list of the findings:

  • Total DNA found: 1.2 billion segments
  • Percentage human: 27%-48%
  • Bacterial DNA: 54 million segments
  • Sampler of bacteria identified:
  • Acinetobacter species:antibiotic-resistant infections
  • Staphylococcus aureus: skin infections
  • Bacillus cereus: food-borne illness
  • Escherichia coli: food poisoning
  • Helicobacter pylori: gastric ulcers
  • Corynebacterium diphtheriae: diphtheria

The simpler solution is to have a strong immune system, but it wouldn’t hurt to wash your hands more often…

Footnotes:
  1. On Seinfeld, a running theme was that Kramer didn’t carry a wallet []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 23rd, 2014 at 9:48 am

Posted in health,News-esque,science

Tagged with ,

Yawning News From All Over

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Am I Boring You?
Am I Boring You?

Science marches on…

Researchers in an earlier study conducted outdoor interviews with two groups of people in Tucson, Ariz., one in early summer and one in the winter. People were asked to look at pictures of people yawning and talk about their own yawning behavior.

People were nearly twice as likely to yawn when they were surveyed during the winter, when they could inhale cool air to reduce the temperature of the brain, says the study, published in 2011 in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience. Participants yawned less when surveyed in the early summer, when temperatures outdoors were about the same as the human body.

 

(click here to continue reading Why You May Yawn Less in The Summer, Study Finds – WSJ.com.)

The Pope Says Achieve
The Pope Says Achieve

and sociopaths, politicians and other deviants don’t yawn when they observe others yawning:

Yawning also may build empathy within groups. Yawns are seen as contagious, but “catching” a yawn depends on a person’s ability to feel empathy and closeness with the yawner, says a 2013 research review in the International Journal of Applied Basic Medical Research.

People observed in workplaces or restaurants yawned more often in response to others’ yawns when they were kin or close friends with the yawner, the study says. People are less likely to engage in contagious yawns when they have emotional or social disorders that prevent them from feeling empathy, the study says.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 18th, 2013 at 8:43 am

Posted in science

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Many drugs are just fine years after they expire

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Earlier today…

If you’ve wondered whether medicines really do need to be tossed after their expiration date, you’re got some company at the California Poison Control System, UC San Francisco and UC Irvine. Researchers from those institutions decided to satisfy their curiosity by testing the effectiveness of eight drugs that had been sitting around, unopened, in pharmacies for years after they had supposedly gone bad.

These drugs were not just a few years past their prime, these medications were a full 28 to 40 years past their official expiration dates.


The tablets and capsules were dissolved and subjected to chemical analysis using a mass spectrometer. That revealed how much of the active ingredients remained in the pills.

Out of the 14 active ingredients, 12 were still at high enough concentration – 90% of the amount stated on the label – to qualify as having “acceptable potency,” the researchers found.

Via:
Many drugs are just fine years after they expire
[automated]

Written by eggplant

October 13th, 2012 at 8:58 am

Posted in Links

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We Only Think We Know the Truth About Salt

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Morton Salt
Morton Salt

Amazingly, a public health initiative is based on shaky research. Shocking, I know…

And yet, this eat-less-salt argument has been surprisingly controversial — and difficult to defend. Not because the food industry opposes it, but because the actual evidence to support it has always been so weak.

When I spent the better part of a year researching the state of the salt science back in 1998 — already a quarter century into the eat-less-salt recommendations — journal editors and public health administrators were still remarkably candid in their assessment of how flimsy the evidence was implicating salt as the cause of hypertension.

“You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” as I was told then by Drummond Rennie, an editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association, that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”

While, back then, the evidence merely failed to demonstrate that salt was harmful, the evidence from studies published over the past two years actually suggests that restricting how much salt we eat can increase our likelihood of dying prematurely. Put simply, the possibility has been raised that if we were to eat as little salt as the U.S.D.A. and the C.D.C. recommend, we’d be harming rather than helping ourselves.

WHY have we been told that salt is so deadly? Well, the advice has always sounded reasonable. It has what nutritionists like to call “biological plausibility.” Eat more salt and your body retains water to maintain a stable concentration of sodium in your blood. This is why eating salty food tends to make us thirsty: we drink more; we retain water. The result can be a temporary increase in blood pressure, which will persist until our kidneys eliminate both salt and water.

The scientific question is whether this temporary phenomenon translates to chronic problems: if we eat too much salt for years, does it raise our blood pressure, cause hypertension, then strokes, and then kill us prematurely? It makes sense, but it’s only a hypothesis. The reason scientists do experiments is to find out if hypotheses are true.

In 1972, when the National Institutes of Health introduced the National High Blood Pressure Education Program to help prevent hypertension, no meaningful experiments had yet been done. The best evidence on the connection between salt and hypertension came from two pieces of research. One was the observation that populations that ate little salt had virtually no hypertension. But those populations didn’t eat a lot of things — sugar, for instance — and any one of those could have been the causal factor. The second was a strain of “salt-sensitive” rats that reliably developed hypertension on a high-salt diet. The catch was that “high salt” to these rats was 60 times more than what the average American consumes.

Still, the program was founded to help prevent hypertension, and prevention programs require preventive measures to recommend. Eating less salt seemed to be the only available option at the time, short of losing weight. Although researchers quietly acknowledged that the data were “inconclusive and contradictory” or “inconsistent and contradictory” — two quotes from the cardiologist Jeremiah Stamler, a leading proponent of the eat-less-salt campaign, in 1967 and 1981 — publicly, the link between salt and blood pressure was upgraded from hypothesis to fact.

In the years since, the N.I.H. has spent enormous sums of money on studies to test the hypothesis, and those studies have singularly failed to make the evidence any more conclusive. Instead, the organizations advocating salt restriction today — the U.S.D.A., the Institute of Medicine, the C.D.C. and the N.I.H. — all essentially rely on the results from a 30-day trial of salt, the 2001 DASH-Sodium study. It suggested that eating significantly less salt would modestly lower blood pressure; it said nothing about whether this would reduce hypertension, prevent heart disease or lengthen life.

(click here to continue reading We Only Think We Know the Truth About Salt – NYTimes.com.)

As a personal note, probably based on my mother’s attitude, I’ve always been skeptical about removing salt, and butter, and eggs, and whatever else the demon food of the moment is, from my diet. I cannot say I am in optimal health, but my preference is to eat fresh foods, and eat a variety of them. I try to stay away from deep fried foods, especially from crappy chain restaurants, and I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and so I don’t consume much sugar, but otherwise, I don’t really have restrictions, besides personal taste preferences. Which is why Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-soda crusade seems a bit ridiculous…

Bloomberg as The Nanny
Bloomberg as The Nanny

Full page ad in Saturday’s NYT (not all shown)

QR code at the bottom led here:

Center for Consumer Freedom”  

 

((Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone / Lens: Watts / Film: Kodot XGrizzled))

 

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2012 at 8:17 am

Komen Also Stops Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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Either Or
Either Or

Wow, Susan G Komen Anti-Choice Cure’s new agenda is very clear. No need to even debate the topic any more, they have outed themselves as just another partisan, evangelical organization, like the disgusting Westboro Baptist Church, like Newton Leroy Gingrich, Randall Terry and their ilk. Science be damned, there are partisan points to score!

In addition to pulling funds from Planned Parenthood for The Susan G. Komen Foundation also decided to stop funding embryonic stem cell research centers making it fully transparent the organization has evolved from non-political non-profit to a partisan advocacy organization.

That means the loss of $3.75 million to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, $4.5 million to the University of Kansas Medical Center, $1 million to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, $1 million to the Society for Women’s Health Research, and $600,000 to Yale University. That’s a loss of nearly $12 million dollars in research money to eradicate breast cancer this year alone.

This is a new position for the organization which had previously supported all sorts of scientific research targeted at finding a cure for breast cancer and saving women’s lives. It’s new position is that the organization will categorically no longer support any embryonic stem cell research.

(click here to continue reading Susan G. Komen Foundation Also Stops Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research | Care2 Causes.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Posted in politics,religion,science

Tagged with ,

Research Points to Early Detection of Alzheimer’s

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Poached Scrambled eggs in the pot
Poached Scrambled eggs in the pot

Research continues on this dread disease, so don’t draw any drastic conclusions from this one study, but interesting nonethless.

“Earlier intervention will allow us to treat patients when they have much less disability and when it could still be possible to prevent or delay such [memory] losses,” said Howard Feldman, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s vice president of global clinical research for neuroscience.

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s are still unknown, but clumps of a sticky substance called amyloid and masses of tau protein in the brain are thought to be key factors in its development. Until recently, amyloid plaques and tau tangles could be seen only in the brain upon autopsy.

But during the past decade, the identification of biomarkers—proteins and other chemicals in the brain and spinal fluid associated with amyloid and tau levels—as well as better brain-scanning technology have provided a clearer picture of Alzheimer’s in living patients and how it progresses over time.

Increasingly, the evidence suggests that amyloid, which many researchers had fingered as likely contributing to memory loss in Alzheimer’s and which has been the most popular target of experimental drugs, may be most toxic early in the disease process, before symptoms appear.

It appears to trigger a cascade that causes tau protein—which normally serves to stabilize cell structure—to break down, form tangles and kill brain cells. The tau changes, many experts now believe, are at the heart of the dementia symptoms.

In one study presented at the Paris conference, Mayo’s Dr. Jack and his colleagues examined 298 patients spanning the cognitive spectrum from normal to severe Alzheimer’s dementia over the course of a year. Using brain scans and biomarker analyses, they found little change in amyloid among patients progressing toward Alzheimer’s. But there were substantial changes in tau and brain volumes, suggesting that they change later in the course of the disease than amyloid.

(click here to continue reading Research Points to Alzheimer’s Early Toll – WSJ.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2011 at 8:36 am

Posted in health,science

Tagged with , ,

Antibody Kills 91 percent of HIV Strains

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Too early to return to the Studio 54 era1, but positive news nonetheless.

Rain slicked streets 1

In a significant step toward an AIDS vaccine, U.S. government scientists have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered.

The antibodies were discovered in the cells of a 60-year-old African-American gay man, known in the scientific literature as Donor 45, whose body made the antibodies naturally. Researchers screened 25 million of his cells to find 12 that produced the antibodies. Now the trick will be for scientists to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them.

That effort “will require work,” said Gary Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was a leader of the research. “We’re going to be at this for a while” before any benefit is seen in the clinic, he said.

The research was published Thursday in two papers in the online edition of the journal Science, 10 days before the opening of the large International AIDS Conference in Vienna, where prevention science is expected to take center stage.

(click to continue reading Antibody Kills 91% of HIV Strains – WSJ.com or here for non-subscribers)

 

Footnotes:
  1. shorthand for promiscuous, anonymous, unprotected sex, well, allegedly, I was too young to witness it myself, but I’ve heard tales []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 8th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Posted in health

Tagged with ,

THC Research continues

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Hard to imagine another pharmaceutical that receives so much resistance to even being studied. Perhaps the problem is that cannabis is not patented by Pfizer, anyone can grow their own, in pretty much the entire world. Hard for Big Pharma to realize profits on a medically significant weed.

Forest Of Asparagus

while the medical marijuana movement has been generating political news, some researchers have been quietly moving in new directions — testing cannabis and its derivatives against a host of diseases. The scientific literature now brims with potential uses for cannabis that extend beyond its well-known abilities to fend off nausea and block pain in people with cancer and AIDS. Cannabis derivatives may combat multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory conditions, the new research finds. Cannabis may even kill cancerous tumors.

Many in the scientific community are now keen to see if this potential will be fulfilled, but they haven’t always been. Pharmacologist Roger Pertwee of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland recalls attending scientific conferences 30 years ago, eager to present his latest findings on the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It was a hard sell.

“Our talks would be scheduled at the end of the day, and our posters would be stuck in the corner somewhere,” he says. “That’s all changed.”

(click to continue reading Not Just A High – Science News.)

Let there be (vintage) light

and the mechanism of action:

A bigger revelation came in 1992: Mammals make their own compound that binds to, and switches on, the CB1 receptor. Scientists named the compound anandamide. Researchers soon found its counterpart that binds mainly to the CB2 receptor, calling that one 2AG, for 2-arachidonyl glycerol. The body routinely makes these compounds, called endocannabinoids, and sends them into action as needed.

“At that point, this became a very, very respectable field,” says Mechoulam, now at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who along with Pertwee and others reported the anandamide discovery in Science. “THC just mimics the effects of these compounds in our bodies,” Mechoulam says. Although the receptors are abundant, anandamide and 2AG are short-acting compounds, so their effects are fleeting.

In contrast, when a person consumes cannabis, a flood of THC molecules bind to thousands of CB1 and CB2 receptors, with longer-lasting effects. The binding triggers so many internal changes that, decades after the receptors’ discovery, scientists are still sorting out the effects. From a biological standpoint, smoking pot to get high is like starting up a semitruck just to listen to the radio. There’s a lot more going on.

Though the psychoactive effect of THC has slowed approval for cannabis-based drugs, the high might also have brought on a serendipitous discovery, says neurologist Ethan Russo, senior medical adviser for GW Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Porton Down, England. “How much longer would it have taken us to figure out the endocannabinoid system if cannabis didn’t happen to have these unusual effects on human physiology?”

Written by Seth Anderson

June 21st, 2010 at 8:06 am

Posted in health

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Throat Exercises Relieve Sleep Apnea

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“48” Aboriginal Dot Painted Didgeridoo V1 (Handmade)”

I don’t think I have sleep apnea; my insomnia is probably more stress related, but occasionally I do wake myself up by snoring. Good reason to get a didgeridoo, perhaps…

One free and fairly simple alternative [to surgery, or a machine called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP ] may be exercises that strengthen the throat. While they aren’t as established or as well studied as breathing machines, some research suggests they may reduce the severity of sleep apnea by building up muscles around the airway, making them less likely to collapse at night.

In a study published last year in The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, scientists recruited a group of people with obstructive sleep apnea and split them into two groups. One was trained to do breathing exercises daily, while the other did 30 minutes of throat exercises, including swallowing and chewing motions, placing the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate and sliding it back, and pronouncing certain vowels quickly and continuously.

After three months, subjects who did the throat exercises snored less, slept better and reduced the severity of their condition by 39 percent. They also showed reductions in neck circumference, a known risk factor for apnea. The control group showed almost no improvement.

Other randomized studies have found similar effects. One even showed that playing instruments that strengthen the airways, like the didgeridoo, can ease sleep apnea.

(click to continue reading Really? – Throat Exercises Can Relieve Sleep Apnea – Question – NYTimes.com.)

Seriously, have to look into what sorts of excercises these entail. Can’t hurt…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 28th, 2010 at 9:25 am

Posted in health

Tagged with