Archaeologists Officially Declare Collective Sigh Over “Paleo Diet”

Hamburger, beef cheese burger with tomato
[Mumanu Disclaimer: I have chopped up this article up from the original. Apparently it’s written as satire, but actually, it’s more like common sense blended with comedy]Source: By Paul Zimmer
Date: August 6th, 2012

FRANKFURT- In a rare display of professional consensus, an international consortium of anthropologists, archaeologists, and molecular biologists have formally released an exasperated sigh over the popularity of the so-called “Paleo Diet” during a two-day conference dedicated to the topic.

The Paleo Diet is a nutritional framework based on the assumption that the human species has not yet adapted to the dietary changes engendered by the development of agriculture over the past ten thousand years. Proponents of the diet emphasize in particular the negative effects of eating large quantities of grain and its numerous by-products, which can lead to hypertension, obesity, and various other health problems. Instead, the Paleo Diet posits that a reliance on lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables while minimizing processed food is the key to health and longevity.

The nutritional benefits of the diet are not what the grievance is about, said Dr. Britta Hoyes, who organized the event. She agreed that a high-carbohydrate diet can have a detrimental effect on long-term health, as many studies have demonstrated. Instead, the group’s protest is a reaction to the biological and historical pediments of the diet, in particular the contention that pre-agricultural societies were only adapted to eat those foods existing before the Neolithic Revolution.

Hoyes, a paleoethnobotanist who specializes in reconstructing prehistoric subsistence, stated that only thing unifying the myriad diets that she’s studied has been their diversity. “You simply do not see specific, trans-regional trends in human subsistence in the archaeological record. People can live off everything from whale blubber to seeds and grasses. You want to know what the ideal human diet consists of? Everything. Humans can and will eat everything, and we are remarkably successful not in spite of this fact, but because of it. Our adaptability is the hallmark of the human species. We’re not called omnivores for nothing.”

“Nearly every food item you currently eat today has been modified from its ancestral form, typically in a drastic way, ” he [Karl Fenst] began. “The notion that we have not yet adapted to eat wheat, yet we have had sufficient time to adapt to kale or lentils is ridiculous. In fact, for most practitioners of the Paleo Diet, who are typically westerners, the majority of the food they consume has been available to their gene pool for less than five centuries. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, potatoes, avocados, pecans, cashews, and blueberries are all New World crops, and have only been on the dinner table of African and Eurasian populations for probably 10 generations of their evolutionary history. Europeans have been eating grain for the last 10,000 years; we’ve been eating sweet potatoes for less than 500. Yet the human body has seemingly adapted perfectly well to yams, let alone pineapple and sunflower seeds.”

When asked what she would tell people who wished to pursue a true paleolithic diet, Dr. Hoyes laughed harshly before replying. ”You really want to be paleo? Then don’t buy anything from a store. Gather and kill what you need to eat. Wild grasses and tubers, acorns, gophers, crickets- They all provide a lot of nutrition. You’ll spend a lot of energy gathering the stuff, of course, and you’re going to be hungry, but that’ll help you maintain that lean physique you’re after. And hunting down the neighbor’s cats for dinner because you’ve already eaten your way through the local squirrel population will probably give you all the exercise you’ll ever need.”

Read the article in full…

Sleep Deprivation May Make People Buy More Junk Food

Source: Counsel and Heal .com by Christine Hsu
Date: Sep 05, 2013A bad night’s sleep may make people buy more unhealthy foods the next day, according to new research.

Swedish researchers found that participants purchased more food in a mock supermarket when they didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Researchers said that sleep deprivation also boosted levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, the following morning. However, there was no link between individual ghrelin levels and food purchasing. Researchers said this may mean that other mechanisms, like impulsive decision-making, may be more responsible for increased purchasing.

Investigators wanted to see whether sleep deprivation impairs or changes an individual’s food purchasing choices. Previous findings revealed that not getting enough sleep impairs higher-level thinking and increases hunger.

“We hypothesized that sleep deprivation’s impact on hunger and decision making would make for the ‘perfect storm’ with regard to shopping and food purchasing-leaving individuals hungrier and less capable of employing self-control and higher-level decision-making processes to avoid making impulsive, calorie-driven purchases,” first author Colin Chapman, MSc, of Uppsala University, said in a news release.

The study involved 14 healthy male participants. Researchers gave each of the men a budget of $50 to purchase as much items as they could out of a possible 40 items on the morning after one night of total sleep deprivation, as well as after one night of sleep. Researchers said participants were given a standardized breakfast before the task to minimize the effect of hunger on their purchases.

The items included 20 high-caloric foods and 20 low-calorie foods. The prices of the high-caloric foods were then varied to determine if total sleep deprivation affects the flexibility of food purchasing.

The findings revealed that sleep-deprived men bought significantly more calories and grams of food than they did after one night of sleep. The study also found that blood levels of ghrelin were higher after sleep deprivation. However, this increase did not correlate with food purchasing behavior.

“Our finding provides a strong rationale for suggesting that patients with concerns regarding caloric intake and weight gain maintain a healthy, normal sleep schedule,” said Chapman.

Researchers said the next step is to see if partial sleep deprivation also affects food-purchasing behavior, and to see with sleep deprivation influences purchasing behavior in general.

The findings are published in the journal Obesity.

The truth about sleeping with baby

Source: The, Sarah Boseley
Date: Friday 16 October 2009Time and time again, mothers are warned of the dangers of sleeping with their infants. But has the science been badly misinterpreted?

Is it safe? ‘Surveys suggest that a quarter of parents routinely share a bed with their baby’.

It seems like the most natural thing in the world to bring your baby into bed with you and give this tiny scrap of humanity all the closeness, comfort and reassurance you can. Mothers who do it know it quietens a fretful baby, and allows them to breastfeed without having to stumble out of bed into the shocking chill of the early hours in a half-dazed, sleep-deprived state of resentment.

Authoritative bodies go against well designed research

But we must not do it, say authoritative bodies including the Department of Health and a leading charity. We must go against our instincts because we are risking our baby’s lives. Bedsharing is a risk for cot death.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) and the department say categorically that the safest place for a baby is in a cot in the parents’ bedroom. Babies must sleep alone. Breastfeeding mothers should wake up, get up in the cold grey dawn, pick them up, settle in a comfortable armchair, feed them and then put them back in the cot and hope they won’t wail piteously for long.

This message was strongly repeated by the foundation on the publication of a study this week by the British Medical Journal which FSID itself funded. “Latest findings by researchers from Bristol University . . . confirm that ‘the safest place for a baby to sleep is in its own cot’. This four-year study . . . found that in half of all unexpected deaths of children in the south-west of England, babies had died sleeping with a parent or carer,” said FSID’s press release.

What is worrying, the release went on, is that 25% of mothers in a survey “were not persuaded that bedsharing can increase the risk of cot death”.

But anyone who read the full paper, by a very experienced and well-respected team from Bristol and Warwick Universities, would be hard pushed to believe it either.

Do not sleep/ risk falling asleep on the sofa

Yes – the study found that 54% of cot deaths occurred while the baby was co-sleeping with a parent. But although the risk was strong if they had crashed out on the sofa, it was only significant among those in a bed if the parent had drunk more than two units of alcohol or had been taking drugs.

This is a serious, heavyweight piece of research by a team with impeccable credentials who have been working in this field for 20 years. They looked at all sudden unexplained infant deaths (Sids – often referred to as cot deaths) in the south-west of England between the start of 2003 and the end of 2006. After campaigns in the 90s on the dangers of putting babies to sleep on their fronts, the number of cot deaths has dropped dramatically – by half. But there were still enough deaths (79) in this study to make their conclusions valid.

Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental physiology in Bristol, one of the study authors, was appalled by the misinterpretation, as he sees it, of the paper in the media this week. “I really felt quite uncomfortable about it,” he told the Guardian yesterday.

“My view is that the positive message of this study is that it says don’t drink or take drugs and don’t smoke, particularly for breastfeeding mothers. We did not find any increased risk from bedsharing. It is a very different message from the one the media picked up.”

You can say that half the deaths occurred while babies slept with their parents. You could also say that half the deaths occurred while babies were alone in their cots, he says, but: “I don’t see anybody saying, ‘Don’t put your baby in a cot.'”

Fleming has a particular reason for worry. The study showed that sleeping with the baby on a sofa really is a risk. Yet seven of the parents whose baby died say they had gone to the sofa to feed, aware that bedsharing is said to be dangerous, and had fallen asleep.

Do not feed your baby on the sofa in the middle of the night/ when you’re very tired

“Any advice to discourage bedsharing may carry with it the danger of tired parents feeding their baby on a sofa, which carries a much greater risk than co-sleeping in the parents’ bed,” says the paper. “Anecdotally, two of the families of Sids infants who had co-slept on a sofa informed us that they had been advised against bringing the baby into bed but had not realised the risks from falling asleep on the sofa.”

But despite Fleming’s concern, the FSID was sticking to the line agreed with the Department of Health yesterday: “The safest place for an infant to sleep is in a cot beside the parents’ bed.” It pointed out that the same sentence appears in Fleming’s paper, but did not mention what follows next: “Based on evidence from research into Sids it is questionable whether advice to avoid bedsharing is generalisable and whether such a simplistic approach would do no harm. Parents of young infants need to feed them during the night, sometimes several times, and if we demonise the parents’ bed we may be in danger of the sofa being chosen. A better approach may be to warn parents of the specific circumstances that put infants at risk.”

Joyce Epstein, director of FSID, says this is too complicated. “If you can get people’s attention for more than three seconds you would like to give the whole story every time, but at what point do you lose everybody?” she says. From their perspective, the simple direct message – put your baby to sleep in a cot near the bed, not in the bed, is the key.

The new study, she says, is just one study (although in a Lancet 2006 paper the Bristol team also found a link to drink and drugs). George Haycock, professor emeritus of paediatrics at St George’s hospital in London, who is FSID’s scientific advisor, points to nine previous studies that have looked at co-sleeping and cot death and concluded that sharing a bed is risky.

“You can’t say there is no risk,” says Haycock, even if it is small for non-smokers. And he is tacitly critical of the “breastfeeding lobby” for defending bedsharing, when there is no concrete proof that it increases the numbers of women who breastfeed.

Ground breaking research

But Fleming says this study breaks new ground. Nobody in the past has gathered reliable information about drug-taking. “The advantage of this study is that because we did a death-scene evaluation, three to four hours after the baby died, we were able to look at all sorts of factors which in the past we couldn’t look at.” When the researchers talked to the parents, offering sympathy without blame and the possibility of explanations for their tragic loss, the parents told them everything, including what they had drunk and what drugs they took the night before. “People are very willing to share that information with you at that time,” he says. “You get the real picture.”

Co-sleeping around the world

The paper adds that the findings may explain some of the quirky cultural associations between co-sleeping and Sids. Among black African populations in the United States and Maori and Aboriginal people, where babies commonly sleep with their parents, cot deaths are high, yet in other bedsharing communities, such as Japan, Hong Kong and among the Bangladeshi and other Asian peoples of the UK, deaths are low. The difference is in their smoking, drinking and drug habits.

FSID’s raison d’etre is to eliminate sudden unexpected infant deaths and that is what they believe their advice on putting babies in cots, on their backs, “feet to foot”, on a firm mattress with no pillow, will help do. But other organisations think there may be real benefits to taking your baby into your bed. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the country’s leading parenting organisation (and champions of breastfeeding), openly defends bedsharing.

“The study shows that risks for babies whose parents did not smoke or consume alcohol or drugs but who did share their bed with their baby were not different from that for babies in a separate cot,” says its head of research Mary Newburn in a statement responding to the BMJ publication.

The reality of parenting

The NCT’s position is a response to the real world of its members. “Many parents share their bed with their baby when they are young and this can be done safely,” says Newburn. “It is clear from surveys that around half of parents sleep with their babies at some point in the first six months, and around a quarter do so routinely, so we need to help them to do this in the safest way possible.”

Rosie Dodds, NCT senior public policy officer, says they understand FSID’s position. “They are really worried about the number of babies dying and want everybody to be as safe as possible,” she says. “But there are likely to be advantages to babies sharing a bed with parents.” Although she acknowledges that there is no scientific evidence establishing that bedsharing increases breastfeeding, there is an association, and breastfeeding on its own has been shown to lower the risk of cot death.

Deborah Jackson, author of Three In A Bed, says she thinks we are, in the UK, “fixated on the bad aspects of sharing a bed with the baby”, which is strange because “the history of bedsharing or shared sleeping places with the baby is as old as humanity itself”.

Her research, together with her own experiences of bedsharing with her three children, have persuaded her it is profoundly beneficial for both mother and child. The mother is aware of her baby as she is sleeping and reacts to her. “[Once] I was asleep,” says Jackson. “[One of my children] was sleeping next to me. I suddenly sat up in the night and held her over the bed and she was sick,” she says. Somehow she had known the baby was about to be unwell.

But there are clear dangers if the mother has been drinking or taking drugs. “All the things that make it good can make it really dangerous if you are not incredibly sensible. That’s true of everything in parenting,” she says.

We all want the same thing

Cot death is devastating and everybody is on the same side – they want to see fewer tragic families who have lost their babies. But there is clearly not one single road that everybody can march down together. In the end, a single prohibitive message for parents may even be counter-productive. This may be one of those cases where the public should be given credit for their intelligence and allowed to make up their minds on the basis of rather fuller information.

Sport helps women ward off midlife sleep disturbances

Source: Medwire By Lucy Piper
Date: 30 September 2013Women can protect against midlife sleep disturbances by regularly exercising, findings from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) Sleep study show.

Consistently high levels of recreational activity or sports significantly improved sleep quality and increased sleep continuity, efficiency, and depth, the researchers report. And the benefits gained increased if such activity was sustained over multiple years.

Indeed, high levels of recent recreational activity or sports reduced a woman’s risk for insomnia by 32%, while high levels maintained over 5 to 6 years reduced the odds by 74%.

“Based upon our results, focusing on recreational physical activity for sleep improvement seems warranted,” say researcher Martica Hall (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania) and colleagues.

As reported in Sleep, 93 (27.4%) of 339 participants of the SWAN Sleep Study showed consistently high levels of sports or exercise activity. This was based on having Kaiser Physical Activity Survey domain scores in the top tertile.

These women had significantly better sleep quality than women with inconsistent or moderate activity patterns and those with consistently low activity patterns, scoring an average 4.5 on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index versus 5.7 and 6.6, respectively.

Their sleep efficiency – both subjective and objective – was also significantly better, with average scores of 94.0% according to sleep diary entries and 87.2% according to polysomnography versus a corresponding 90.9% and 82.9% for those with consistently low activity patterns. Other significant improvements included sleep continuity and depth.

The researchers note, however, that the sleep benefits associated with consistently high recreational activity did not extend to high levels of active living or household activity.

It may be that “these domains of physical activity are of insufficient intensity to affect sleep,” they suggest, whereas the “adoption and/or maintenance of adequate recreational physical activity may help to improve sleep and protect against sleep disturbances that arise during midlife in women.”

Rethinking Sleep

Source: The New York Times Sunday Review By DAVID K. RANDALL
Date: September 22, 2012SOMETIME in the dark stretch of the night it happens. Perhaps it’s the chime of an incoming text message. Or your iPhone screen lights up to alert you to a new e-mail. Or you find yourself staring at the ceiling, replaying the day in your head. Next thing you know, you’re out of bed and engaged with the world, once again ignoring the often quoted fact that eight straight hours of sleep is essential.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Thanks in part to technology and its constant pinging and chiming, roughly 41 million people in the United States — nearly a third of all working adults — get six hours or fewer of sleep a night, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And sleep deprivation is an affliction that crosses economic lines. About 42 percent of workers in the mining industry are sleep-deprived, while about 27 percent of financial or insurance industry workers share the same complaint.

Going to bed early may not be the solution

Typically, mention of our ever increasing sleeplessness is followed by calls for earlier bedtimes and a longer night’s sleep. But this directive may be part of the problem. Rather than helping us to get more rest, the tyranny of the eight-hour block reinforces a narrow conception of sleep and how we should approach it. Some of the time we spend tossing and turning may even result from misconceptions about sleep and our bodily needs: in fact neither our bodies nor our brains are built for the roughly one-third of our lives that we spend in bed.

The idea that we should sleep in eight-hour chunks is relatively recent. The world’s population sleeps in various and surprising ways. Millions of Chinese workers continue to put their heads on their desks for a nap of an hour or so after lunch, for example, and daytime napping is common from India to Spain.

One of the first signs that the emphasis on a straight eight-hour sleep had outlived its usefulness arose in the early 1990s, thanks to a history professor at Virginia Tech named A. Roger Ekirch, who spent hours investigating the history of the night and began to notice strange references to sleep. A character in the “Canterbury Tales,” for instance, decides to go back to bed after her “firste sleep.” A doctor in England wrote that the time between the “first sleep” and the “second sleep” was the best time for study and reflection. And one 16th-century French physician concluded that laborers were able to conceive more children because they waited until after their “first sleep” to make love. Professor Ekirch soon learned that he wasn’t the only one who was on to the historical existence of alternate sleep cycles. In a fluke of history, Thomas A. Wehr, a psychiatrist then working at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., was conducting an experiment in which subjects were deprived of artificial light. Without the illumination and distraction from light bulbs, televisions or computers, the subjects slept through the night, at least at first. But, after a while, Dr. Wehr noticed that subjects began to wake up a little after midnight, lie awake for a couple of hours, and then drift back to sleep again, in the same pattern of segmented sleep that Professor Ekirch saw referenced in historical records and early works of literature.

Enjoy the time between sleeps

It seemed that, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a split sleep schedule. Subjects grew to like experiencing nighttime in a new way. Once they broke their conception of what form sleep should come in, they looked forward to the time in the middle of the night as a chance for deep thinking of all kinds, whether in the form of self-reflection, getting a jump on the next day or amorous activity. Most of us, however, do not treat middle-of-the-night awakenings as a sign of a normal, functioning brain.

Doctors who peddle sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong or off-kilter about interrupted sleep cycles. Sleep anxiety is a common result: we know we should be getting a good night’s rest but imagine we are doing something wrong if we awaken in the middle of the night. Related worries turn many of us into insomniacs and incite many to reach for sleeping pills or sleep aids, which reinforces a cycle that the Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner has called “the ironic processes of mental control.”

As we lie in our beds thinking about the sleep we’re not getting, we diminish the chances of enjoying a peaceful night’s rest.

This, despite the fact that a number of recent studies suggest that any deep sleep — whether in an eight-hour block or a 30-minute nap — primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting us come up with better ideas, find solutions to puzzles more quickly, identify patterns faster and recall information more accurately. In a NASA-financed study, for example, a team of researchers led by David F. Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, found that letting subjects nap for as little as 24 minutes improved their cognitive performance.

Napping improves your memory

In another study conducted by Simon Durrant, a professor at the University of Lincoln, in England, the amount of time a subject spent in deep sleep during a nap predicted his or her later performance at recalling a short burst of melodic tones. And researchers at the City University of New York found that short naps helped subjects identify more literal and figurative connections between objects than those who simply stayed awake.

Robert Stickgold, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, proposes that sleep — including short naps that include deep sleep — offers our brains the chance to decide what new information to keep and what to toss. That could be one reason our dreams are laden with strange plots and characters, a result of the brain’s trying to find connections between what it’s recently learned and what is stored in our long-term memory. Rapid eye movement sleep — so named because researchers who discovered this sleep stage were astonished to see the fluttering eyelids of sleeping subjects — is the only phase of sleep during which the brain is as active as it is when we are fully conscious, and seems to offer our brains the best chance to come up with new ideas and hone recently acquired skills. When we awaken, our minds are often better able to make connections that were hidden in the jumble of information.

Napping at work will increase productivity

Gradual acceptance of the notion that sequential sleep hours are not essential for high-level job performance has led to increased workplace tolerance for napping and other alternate daily schedules.

Employees at Google, for instance, are offered the chance to nap at work because the company believes it may increase productivity. Thomas Balkin, the head of the department of behavioral biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, imagines a near future in which military commanders can know how much total sleep an individual soldier has had over a 24-hour time frame thanks to wristwatch-size sleep monitors. After consulting computer models that predict how decision-making abilities decline with fatigue, a soldier could then be ordered to take a nap to prepare for an approaching mission. The cognitive benefit of a nap could last anywhere from one to three hours, depending on what stage of sleep a person reaches before awakening.

Most of us are not fortunate enough to work in office environments that permit, much less smile upon, on-the-job napping. But there are increasing suggestions that greater tolerance for altered sleep schedules might be in our collective interest. Researchers have observed, for example, that long-haul pilots who sleep during flights perform better when maneuvering aircraft through the critical stages of descent and landing.

Strategic sleeping helps overcome jetlag

Several Major League Baseball teams have adapted to the demands of a long season by changing their sleep patterns. Fernando Montes, the former strength and conditioning coach for the Texas Rangers, counseled his players to fall asleep with the curtains in their hotel rooms open so that they would naturally wake up at sunrise no matter what time zone they were in — even if it meant cutting into an eight-hour sleeping block. Once they arrived at the ballpark, Montes would set up a quiet area where they could sleep before the game. Players said that, thanks to this schedule, they felt great both physically and mentally over the long haul.

Strategic napping in the Rangers style could benefit us all. No one argues that sleep is not essential. But freeing ourselves from needlessly rigid and quite possibly outdated ideas about what constitutes a good night’s sleep might help put many of us to rest, in a healthy and productive, if not eight-hour long, block.

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Go to sleep; it’s important!

Source: Manila Standard By Ed Biado
Date: September 29, 2013We all know that having a good night’s sleep is better than only having a couple of hours of shuteye. We wake up feeling energized, more alert and focused, and less cranky. Basically, when we’re not sleepy the whole day, we feel better and happier. Sleeping well also has plenty of health benefits, and positive physiological and psychological effects.

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds a notch to the long list of benefits. According to the research, not getting enough sleep reduces and may even undo the effects of dieting. Enough sleep is defined as seven hours per night.

In the study, subjects were put on a specific diet and sleep schedules. Those who had adequate sleep were found to have lost twice as much fat as those who were tasked to sleep less. Further, the latter reported feeling hungrier and less satisfied after meals, which were controlled to be constant among all subjects. They also had less energy to exercise than the group that had better sleeping habits.

Meanwhile, a separate study, published in Sleep journal, looked into the negative effects of sleep deprivation on physical appearances and, consequently, social interactions.

“Since faces contain a lot of information on which humans base their interactions with each other, how fatigued a person appears may affect how others behave toward them,” explained Stockholm University researcher Tina Sundelin.

Sundelin’s team took photographs of 10 people on two occasions—after “normal sleep” and after “31 hours of sleep deprivation following a night with five hours of sleep.” The pictures were then showed to 40 individuals, who were asked to rate the images based on several facial cues, and appearance of fatigue and sadness.

The sleep-deprived faces were observed to be punctuated by “more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, more wrinkles/fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth.” What’s more, they were perceived by the observation participants to look sadder and more fatigued.

“The results show that sleep deprivation affects features relating to the eyes, mouth and skin, and that these features function as cues of sleep loss to other people. Because these facial regions are important in the communication between humans, facial cues of sleep deprivation and fatigue may carry social consequences for the sleep deprived individual in everyday life,” the study concluded.

Doctors Increasingly Ignore Evidence In Treating Back Pain

Source: Alcorn Public Radio, by The Editor
Date: July 30, 2013The misery of low back pain often drives people to the doctor to seek relief. But doctors are doing a pretty miserable job of treating back pain, a study finds.

Physicians are increasingly prescribing expensive scans, narcotic painkillers and other treatments that don’t help in most cases, and can make things a lot worse. Since 1 in 10 of all primary care visits are for low back pain, this is no small matter.

What does help? Some ibuprofen or other over-the-counter painkiller, and maybe some physical therapy. That’s the evidence-based protocol. With that regimen, most people’s back pain goes away within three months. [Or much faster with a Mumanu Pillow]

But when researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston looked at records of 23,918 doctor visits for simple back pain between 1999 and 2010, they found that doctors have actually been getting worse at prescribing scientifically based treatments.

Doctors were recommending NSAID pain relievers and acetaminophen less often. Instead, they were increasingly prescribing prescription opioids like OxyContin, with use rising from 19 percent of cases to 29 percent. Over-the-counter painkiller use declined from 37 percent to 25 percent. Other studies have found that opioids help only slightly with acute back pain and are worthless for treating chronic back pain.

“That’s a big public health issue,” says Dr. John Mafi, chief medical resident and a fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess. Mafi was the lead author of the study, which was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the 1990s doctors were criticized for ignoring patients’ pain, Mafi says. Some of that criticism was valid, but doctors have overreacted. “What magic bullet better than a very powerful pain medication?”

About 43 percent of patients taking opioids for chronic back pain also had other substance abuse disorders, the researchers found. In 2008, almost 15,000 people died from overdoses of prescription opioids, and abuse has surged among women. Opioids may be necessary in some cases, Mafi says, but “they’re certainly not first-line.”

Doctors were also quick to whip out the prescription pad and call for CT and MRI scans for people with lower back pain, the study found. The number of people getting scans rose from 7 to 11 percent. Though those scans won’t hurt the patient, in most cases they don’t find anything wrong. And they are expensive, costing $1,000 or more.

Patients are partly to blame for the rush to scan, Mafi says. “Patients are expecting very comprehensive evaluations,” he tells Shots. “There’s a sentiment perhaps if my doctor ordered an MRI for my back pain they really listened to me. It’s almost validating.”

And in an era when doctors are rated online by patients, “doctors have an incentive to make patients happy,” Mafi says.

Financial incentives for doctors may also be a factor. This study didn’t examine why doctors aren’t following clinical guidelines for treating back pain, but other studies have found that when doctors own imaging equipment, they are more likely to use it.

Doctors should be cut a little slack, a journal commentary accompanying this study says, because guidelines have been conflicted on back pain treatment until recently, and it takes 17 years, on average, for new treatment standards to be widely adopted. But creating checklist-type guidelines for doctors would help speed that process, the commentary says. So would requiring patients to pay more of the cost of expensive imaging, and providing payment incentives for doctors who do the right thing.

“For the majority of new-onset back pain [cases], it gets better within three months,” Mafi says. “Unfortunately, we don’t have fancy treatments that cure it.” Time, some ibuprofen and gentle exercise aren’t sexy. But they most often do the trick.

Copyright 2013 NPR.

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Therapeutic massage more effective than acupuncture or self-care education

Source: News Fix, by April Clarkson
Date: 19th July 2013Researchers from the Group Health Cooperative, US, report the results of a study which found that therapeutic massage was more effective than other complementary therapies for persistent back pain, and apparently provides long-lasting benefits.The researchers randomised 262 patients with persistent lower back pain, aged between 20 and 70 years, to receive either acupuncture (n=94), therapeutic massage (n=78), or self-care educational materials (n=90). Up to 10 massage or acupuncture treatments were allowed over a 10-week period. Telephone interviewers scored patients for symptoms and disability after four, 10, and 52 weeks.

The researchers found:

  • At 10 weeks, massage was superior to self-care on both the symptom and disability scale
  • Massage was superior to acupuncture on the disability scale
  • After one year, massage was no better than self-care, but was better than acupuncture on both scales
  • The massage group used the least medications and had the lowest costs of subsequent care.

The authors noted that Traditional Chinese Medical acupuncture seemed relatively ineffective, and suggested that massage may be a useful alternative to conventional medicine in the treatment of persistent back pain.

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Some Shocking Facts About Cot Death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS )

There has been a BBC story doing the rounds on Facebook about why Finland has such a low cot death rate (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS). It got me thinking about the global statistics of SIDS and how/if it’s different for each country. I was really shocked at what I found.Below are the statistics for SIDS from a 2004 WHO report. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any other up to date global statistics on SIDS. Interestingly (and annoyingly) the report ranked each country by the number of deaths per year. Obviously the USA, with such a huge population, ranked as the highest place for babies to die of SIDS (China and India were not included). But when I compared the number of deaths per country by the birth rate and how many babies are born there was a completely different picture.I was totally shocked to find that New Zealand ranked number one with the highest rate of recorded SIDS in the world! In fact babies are nearly twice as likely to die in New Zealand than they are in America! What is it that this peaceful, developed country is doing that makes it so much more dangerous for babies to sleep compared to El Salvador with all their drugs and gang related problems where they have the lowest recorded SIDS rate in the whole world?

I was also really surprised to see that in 2004 the UK was the safest place for babies to sleep in the western world at a 0.004% SIDS death rate. However, according to a BBC article, in 2010 254 babies died of SIDS. That’s 222 more babies dying than just six years previously. I wonder how correct all of these statistics are?

According to the WHO statistics more than 99.8% of babies all over the world will NOT die of cot death (SIDS). I always believed the rates were high and every baby was in danger. However, looking at the statistics below I really can’t figure out what is actually making the difference. How can there be such a big difference between all these countries?

Going back to the BBC article about Finland we can see that actually in 2004 babies were six times more likely to die there than in the UK. There is such a huge difference in the size of the population so when you look just at the numbers of deaths you can be very misled about the real picture. What is it that the UK is doing so much better than all the other westernised countries?

Looking at the statistics you will also notice that the poorer the country the safer babies sleep. Could this be to do with CoSleeping, breastfeeding, vaccinations, toxins in the water, the family unit, or maybe even genetics? But maybe all or none of these?

There is still a huge debate about what causes a baby to die in their sleep. It’s possible that for every baby that dies there is some one thing that has actually caused it no matter where in the world they are. We just don’t know yet. It does seem that the UK is doing something right, maybe something as simple as lying a baby on their back will stop the trigger from causing their death. Maybe it’s something else.

If you have more up to date statistics please will you let me know as I would like to do a more recent analysis.

Take a look at the summary table below and see just how much difference there is in a country’s ranking when considering their population… What surprises you most about this?

Table of Statistics: Rate of SIDS including population and birth rates 2004 (pdf)

Rank by Birth Rate Rank by number of deaths
Amount of Cot Deaths (SIDS) 2004 Percentage of Cot Deaths
# 1 # 15 New Zealand: 62 0.114%
=2 = 32 Latvia: 17 0.074%
=2 = 42 Belize: 6 0.074%
# 4 # 8 Chile: 144 0.064%
# 5 # 1 United States: 2,523 0.063%
# 6 # 2 Germany: 429 0.062%
# 7 = 50 Barbados: 2 0.059%
# 8 = 23 Uruguay: 26 0.057%
# 9 # 49 Luxembourg: 3 0.056%
# 10 # 16 Paraguay: 56 0.053%
# 11 = 50 Malta: 2 0.049%
# 12 = 44 Qatar: 4 0.047%
=13 # 5 Argentina: 303 0.045%
=13 = 19 Austria: 32 0.045%
# 15 # 10 Australia: 103 0.042%
# 16 = 44 Bahrain: 4 0.041%
# 17 = 29 Norway: 20 0.040%
# 18 # 9 Canada: 121 0.036%
=19 # 3 Japan: 363 0.034%
=19 # 31 Denmark: 19 0.034%
=21 # 22 Sweden: 28 0.030%
=21 # 35 Kuwait: 14 0.030%
=21 = 36 Croatia: 13 0.030%
=21 # 39 Lithuania: 10 0.030%
=25 # 21 Nicaragua: 30 0.029%
=25 = 44 Estonia: 4 0.029%
# 27 = 53 Iceland: 1 0.026%
# 28 = 13 Ecuador: 65 0.025%
# 29 = 36 Finland: 13 0.024%
# 30 # 28 Hungary: 22 0.023%
=31 # 11 Korea, South: 87 0.021%
=31 = 53 Bahamas, The: 1 0.021%
=33 # 7 South Africa: 164 0.020%
=33 # 27 Israel: 24 0.020%
=35 # 12 Spain: 70 0.017%
=35 # 34 Czech Republic: 15 0.017%
# 36 = 29 Kyrgyzstan: 20 0.016%
# 37 = 25 Netherlands: 25 0.014%
# 38 # 6 Mexico: 261 0.013%
# 39 # 41 Slovakia: 7 0.012%
=40 # 4 Brazil: 318 0.011%
=40 # 18 Poland: 43 0.011%
# 42 = 32 Dominican Republic: 17 0.010%
=43 = 42 Costa Rica: 6 0.009%
=43 = 44 Puerto Rico: 4 0.009%
=45 # 40 Cuba: 8 0.007%
=45 = 44 Moldova: 4 0.007%
=47 # 17 Colombia: 45 0.006%
=47 = 53 Slovenia: 1 0.006%
=49 = 23 Venezuela: 26 0.005%
=49 = 25 Peru: 25 0.005%
=49 # 38 Romania: 11 0.005%
=52 = 13 Egypt: 65 0.004%
=52 = 19 United Kingdom: 32 0.004%
# 54 = 50 Panama: 2 0.003%
# 55 = 53 El Salvador: 1 0.001%


The pillow that gives you the most comfortable night’s sleep. Ideal for CoSleeping, breastfeeding while side lying and anyone with lower back and hip pains.

Do You Have Sciatica Hip Pain?

Man suffering from sciatica
Source: Low Right Back Pain HQ
Photo from
23rd May 2013The largest nerves found in the human body are the sciatic nerves. Measuring approximately the same size in diameter as a little finger, the nerves exit the spinal column in the lumbar region, travel behind the hip and continue down through the buttock and the back of each leg to the foot. The length and size of the nerve creates a host of symptoms unique to sciatica hip pain.

Sciatica Symptoms

Unlike common lumbar pain, sciatica hip pain typically begins toward the hip region and travels down the affected leg, sometimes down to the foot. Depending on the impingement, the pain varies from annoying to disabling. The sensation ranges from tingling or burning to a deep, sharp shooting pain. The painful sensation often originates or worsens with movement or position changes that include standing from a sitting position. Coughing, laughing, sneezing or having a bowel movement often also intensifies pain.

Some individuals also might experience pain in one region of the leg and numbness in another. Some may experience a weakening in the leg or foot accompanied by sciatica hip pain. The weakness may become so severe that mobility becomes difficult.

Sciatica Causes

The discomfort begins when the nerve sustains compression or irritation. The pain may begin suddenly after lifting a heavy object or moving quickly. Sciatica hip pain also begins when various physiological changes occur.

Herniated or slipped discs remain the most common contributing factor. The discs lie between each vertebra and consist of a tough exterior and a gel like interior. Approximately the shape and size of a common checker, the discs provide shock absorbing cushioning. If the outer covering of the disc ruptures, the gelatinous interior oozes through the disc and compresses the sciatic nerve.

Spinal stenosis often occurs during the normal aging process and involves a narrowing of the vertebral space that surrounds the spinal column. The excess bone applies direct pressure to the sciatic nerve. People suffering from spinal stenosis often experience bilateral sciatica or discomfort radiating toward both hips.
Other aging factors that contribute to the condition include osteoarthritis or fractures caused by osteoporosis.

Spondylolisthesis refers to the condition involving a vertebra shifting out of place and over the adjoining vertebra, which compresses the sciatic nerve.

Piriformis syndrome describes the circumstance when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or trapped by the piriformis muscle of the buttock.

Though rare, blood clots, systemic infections or tumors might also create the condition.

Seek Medical Attention

Individuals suffering sciatica hip pain should seek medical intervention under the following circumstances:

* Symptoms persist longer than three days or become progressively worse.
* Anyone younger than 20 or older than 55 experiencing sciatica for the first time.
* If currently diagnosed with cancer or have a history of cancer.
* If recently experiencing severe weight loss, unexplained chills or fever accompanied by back pain.
* Have a diagnosis of HIV positive.
* Use IV drugs.
* Experience difficulty bending forward for more than one or two weeks.
* Unexplained and increasing leg weakness.
* Inability to feel sensation or move the legs or feet.
* Unbearable pain not relieved by OTC medications or other first aid treatments.
* The pain occurs after a traumatic injury.
* Experience numbness in the genital region, lose bladder or bowel control.

Home Treatment

Avoid positions that increase pain. Lie on your back with a Mumanu support pillow under the knees, or assume a side lying position with a Mumanu support pillow [under the top leg] to maintain hip alignment. However, remaining immobile for extended periods of time often exacerbates the condition. Take OTC anti-inflammatory medications per label instructions unless contraindicated if also taking prescription blood thinning medications. Apply an ice pack to the area. Alternate using ice packs with moist, warm heat. You may also check out these [stretches for sciatica]