Friday, June 15, 2012

Science Trivia #1

I have been thinking that adding a bit of 'fun' to the blog would be beneficial, thus a new topic series: Science Trivia!!!! woooohooo!

Q: What is the most poisonous animal on Earth?
    a. The King Cobra
    b. A "Daddy-Long-Leg" Spider
    c. The Poison Dart Frog
    d. A Scorpion

A: The Poison Dart Frog

While the King Cobra is a venomous snake who's venom is extremely poisonous, this is not the most poisonous animal, nor the most poisonous snake.

The affectionately named "daddy-long-leg" or harvestmen, is not poisonous at all, as described in a previous post.

The Poison Dart Frog, as the name suggests, is a very poisonous animal, the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis) from Venezuela is the most deadly variety. This animal has the capacity to kill 10 adult men.

The Scorpion is also a very poisonous animal, but most do not contain enough venom to kill one human.

None of these guys are particularly pleasant, and aside from the harmless daddy long leg, you would best avoid them altogether. 

I hope you enjoyed this trivia question, and if you have one of your own, please leave it in the comments.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bad Infomercials #1: Kinoki Foot Pads

Okay, so I felt it was time to tackle some of the worse infomercials, and how they manipulate and fabricate science to get you to believe their claims and buy their products.

First up is the Kinoki Foot Pads - a product that claims to detox your body by extracting toxins through your feet.

In case you are not familiar with this product you can view the commercial here - take a gander at some of the comments too.

First, the commercial asks if you "are poisoning yourself with unavoidable toxins in the food, water, and air we breathe" and if you suffer from ailments caused by them.
As it is true that some foods do contain things that are less than healthy for you, it is very rare that you actually ingest enough "poison" to actually make you sick. And if you did, your symptoms would be much more severe than the ones they suggest. Also, these symptoms are completely non-descript and very common among most people who are not actually ill.

Second, they claim this "ancient Japanese secret to perfect health" removes those toxins and other things from your body.
Now they are pandering to those who believe in and trust actual western health practices. While heavy metals can be dangerous, an individual is very unlikely to have an appreciable amount of heavy metals in their body, unless someone is intentionally poisoning them. You do however have metabolic waste and some toxins in your body, but again, not enough to make you ill, and your liver and kidneys are there to remove them for you - not your feet. Parasites simply are not a thing that can diffuse through skin, and if you have enough of them, the symptoms will let you know and modern medicine has plenty of ways to kill them. Chemicals are not out of place in our bodies, we are basically a bag of them, everything we eat and drink can be described as a chemical and we would die if there were no chemicals in our bodies. In terms of dangerous chemicals, again you would be painfully aware of the effects of consuming something like drain cleaner.  Cellulite is not really a thing, it is the appearance of subcutaneous (just under the skin) fat when it is less than evenly distributed.

Third, they claim you can reclaim your vitality with these amazing foot pads.  "Just like a tree that takes in energy from the sun and removes toxins through the roots, your body works the same way!"
As one of the commenters on the video stated: Not only is that not how your body works, that is not how a tree works!
Trees use their roots to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, not to expel toxins. Their one metabolic waste product formed by photosynthesis is oxygen which they release from their leaves into the air.

Next, they say this is based on "ancient Japanese reflexology." In case you are not familiar with reflexology, the only thing it has in common with a foot pad, is that it involves feet.  Reflexology is a tool used to relieve stress and improve relaxation. You can learn more here. While some scientists doubt the effectiveness of this method, it is still in no way related to extracting toxins through the skin on the bottom of your feet.
Additionally, your liver and kidneys are there for removing toxins and metabolic waste from your body, there is no need for your feet to be involved in this process.

They go on to show the "lab results" for 2 individuals who used this product. They say that the pad gets lighter every time you use it, until there are no toxins left in your body. Lets take a closer look at these results. First, these results are displayed as a 'Yes' or 'No' not as a number with associated healthy ranges. If you have ever had blood work done, you will see a range for the acceptable/expected values and then your number with a note on whether your values are too high or too low.
As if it was necessary to continue debunking the claims made by this products commercial, we can look at the specific items they test for.
Benzene is a colorless, odorless liquid that readily evaporates and is commonly found in a laboratory. While it is possible to be exposed to this compound environmentally, the levels would likely be low enough for your liver to handle. Isopropyl and methyl alcohol are simple solvents, both evaporate quickly and you are unlikely to ingest a dangerous amount unless you do so intentionally. Aluminum, cadmium, copper, and nickel are all metals that we need, in very trace amounts, in our bodies and can be found in some supplements. Mercury and lead are highly toxic and if you ingested even a small amount, you would not survive long enough to order, use, and receive the results from this product. Trace amounts of thallium are not dangerous, and thulium is something only specialized professionals would come in contact with. Arsenic is highly toxic, would be very unlikely to find, unless again it was intentionally being dosed to someone. Asbestos is something we can be exposed to environmentally, but it is a fiber not a toxin, that can be inhaled, not absorbed, so it would not likely be in your blood to be extracted by these pads. Azo dyes are used in many foods, and are therefore something we can be exposed to and ingest, however "Direct toxic levels of azo dyes will never be reached by consuming azo dye coloured food." PCB's, Polychlorinated Biphenyl, can be very dangerous, but their use has been long banned, and exposure probability is very low.

Then, the commercial says the foot pads "contain ions to refresh your body and enhance your overall well being." It may very well contain ions, perhaps that is part of how they manage to change color whilst doing nothing but fooling you into thinking this product actually does something. Ions are important in your body, all cells in your body - neurons, muscle tissue, skin, all organs - are full of, and surrounded by, ions of many varieties and require them to function. Calcium, chlorine, sodium, potassium, and many other important minerals exist as ions in your body.

Lastly, the product is 'FDA Registered' this is not to be mistaken by something that has been FDA Approved. As stated on the FDA's website "Assignment of an NDC number does not in any way denote FDA approval of the product. Any representation that creates an impression of official approval because of possession of an NDC number is misleading and constitutes misbranding."

Please, do not let people like these fool you into buying into their lies, do not jeopardize your health or your bank account hoping for a 'miracle.' If you have a legitimate health concern, call your doctor, or schedule an appointment. Do your research and know what you are dealing with, with every purchase, especially those dealing with your health.

The Mayo Clinic has some additional information that may be helpful.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sleep well, breathe deep!

As a brief respite from research and thesis writing, I read a link sent to me by a friend..

89 Simple Swaps That Could Change Your Life on has a long list of things you can do to switch a poor choice out for a good one; while this list is far from perfect and I certainly do not agree with everything it says, I think it is worth a read.

One item I found particularly important is #71:

"71. Fun alarm clock song for annoying ringer. Who wants to be woken from a peaceful slumber thanks to an irritating beep? (Waking up early is hard enough.) Choose a fun little melody on the cell phone to wake up to instead!"

I definitely agree with this one; I have always said that the worst way to wake up is to be scared awake, and that basically what traditional alarm clocks do - BEEP BEEEP BEEEP BEEEEEP - not a pleasant way to start the day.  If your clock has no tone or tune options try using your cell phone which often come with a number of alternative ring tones, usually you can set one of them as your alarm tone. If you don't like the ones they've got most phones allow you to add your own tones whether by downloading them on your phone or syncing it to your computer. (Note: a free software to let you make any sound file a ring tone on most phones - bitpim)

If you are interested to know my personal preference, I use 2 alarms, both on my phone - both preloaded Verizon ringtones. The first is called Deep Blue Calling (if you happen to have it too) a very subtle song and it is set to go off half an hour before I intend to wake up. The second is called Rodeo Clown (doesn't remind me of either to be honest) and is a bit louder, set for the time I want to get up. Also note, for my phone there is an auto-sleep time of 5 minutes. I would recommend something like this if you are considering changing your wake-up soundtrack.

Another great one is #74:

"74. Breathing for bein’ a stress mess. Calm breathing can boost relaxation and calm the mind. Take a long, deep breath to relax the bod rather than stressing out."

I can't begin to count the times I have used this myself and told my friends to do so. A few simple deep breaths in and slow breaths out has the amazing ability to calm the mind and help you keep from getting overwhelmed - or help you stop being overwhelmed. I know it seems stupid and it's kind of a cliche, but it really works! Next time you are in a bit over your head or have a mound of work to tackle, try taking a few deep slow breaths before moving forward and I'm sure you will see.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wishful thinking..

In the hopes that my schedule will become less crazy in the weeks to come, I offer you this.

Here is a great example of how science can be twisted and warped to support a claim that may not be entirely true; luckily, someone was present to set the record straight.

You may have heard that a glass of wine contains beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, this is true, and apparently so does a bottle of whiskey. Unfortunately the beneficial effects of these compounds will be outweighed when one chooses to consume excessive amounts of either of these beverages. Additionally, the very same antioxidants as well as many others are also found in a variety of foods and beverages that have lesser negative effects.

~ anti - oxi - what now?? in a future post (when I have more free time) I plan to explain the role antioxidants play in protecting your cells, what they protect against, what this means for your overall health, what the heck antioxidants really are, and where you can find them. but this is all for now ~

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Expiration Date: 2004?!?!

I was taking some free time this weekend to clean up and rearrange a few things in my bathroom, this included my medicine cabinet where I found some OLD NyQuil and Sudafed that are waaay past their expiration date.

I decided to look up what I should do with them.
I have always heard that they should be flushed down the toilet, but I wasn't sure if that was wise. I live in a city so the water should go to a treatment plant to be cleaned, but what about those who have septic tanks/leeching fields and well water?

As it turns out, the FDA has a very helpful guide put together that instructs you to take advantage of your communities 'take-back' program where available. Many communities will host days where they will accept any and all expired medications and dispose of them safely for you.

They recommend only flushing medications if they specifically say on the package to do so, for most other medications the trash is best and to mix them up with something like coffee grounds. This is what I did with mine.

The Guidelines for Drug Disposal can be found here.

I hope this helps you safely discard your expired medications; remember to never consume expired drugs, especially if they are in liquid or gel cap form, and when in doubt always contact your doctor or pharmacist.