How accurate are those home DNA ancestry tests? And are the results private?

There are many types of home DNA ancestry tests now available for purchase.  But how accurate are those tests?

To complete the test, a swab is used to obtain a sample of saliva, then the sample is shipped to the company for testing.  The tests range from $60-$80.

In one study, saliva from a single patient was sent to two different labs.  The labs had conflicting results.  For example, one lab said a patent was 70% British, but the other lab said the patient was only 5% British.

Another study was performed on identical twins.  Their DNA ancestry should be identical, but study results showed that their ancestors came from different countries! This would be genetically impossible.

To date, researchers have found that up to 40% of the testing performed on home DNA ancestry testing is inaccurate.

And what about privacy?  Because the genetic testing companies are not considered “medical providers”,  they do not have to abide by standard privacy policies that must be followed at a doctor’s office or hospital, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  The genetic testing companies can share genetic and personal information on their website, various products, software, cookies and smartphone apps.  The information is data-mined for third parties such as health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, advertising companies, and other interested parties.

dna.jpg

How many calories does the average person eat on Super Bowl Sunday?

On Superbowl Sunday, the average American will eat 2,400 calories!

This makes Superbowl Sunday second only to Thanksgiving for the day with the highest calorie consumption.

According to the Snack Food Association, during the Superbowl Americans will consume:

11.2 million pounds of potato chips

8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips

3.8 million pounds of popcorn

3 million pounds of nuts

49.2 million cases of beer

1 billion chicken wings

In addition, on the Superbowl,

48 million Americans will order takeout, and pizza deliveries will increase by 35%!

superbowl.jpeg

Why do we need vitamin C, and can it help Covid patients?

Vitamin C helps our immune system, can lower our risk of having a stroke,  prevents eye disease, and even prevents skin wrinkling!   And a new study shows it may even help patients who are sick with Covid.

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is needed for the growth and repair of all body tissues.  It is needed for wound healing and to maintain the health of our bones and teeth.

Vitamin C is important for our immune system and works as an anti-oxidant.  Anti-oxidants are important because they protect against harmful molecules called free radicals, and also protect against chemicals and pollutants which can build up in our bodies and cause cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

Vitamin C can’t cure the common cold, but it can help prevent complications of colds such as pneumonia.  

Studies have found that patients with higher vitamin C levels in their blood have a 42% lower stroke risk.

Women who have higher vitamin C intakes have a lower likelihood of skin dryness and wrinkling according to a study that was performed on 4,025 women age 40-74.

Vitamin C can improve macular degeneration, a condition that effects the eyes.

A small study of hospitalized Covid patients found that 90% had very low, almost undetectable vitamin C levels.  When they Covid patients were given vitamin C infusions,  they showed improvement.  This is a very early study though and more research is needed.

 If a person is not getting enough vitamin C, they may have brown spots on the skin, and spongy gums that bleed easily.   They may develop open wounds and even lose teeth.   Lack of vitamin C can lead to fatigue and depression, because vitamin C is important for nerve health.  Severe lack of vitamin C leads to a condition called Scurvy, which used to affect sailors who were at sea for months at a time without any fruit.

Can you get too much vitamin C?  The RDA only recommends 75-90 mg a day, but scientists have studied daily doses of 500 mg a day and have found benefit.   There is no risk to taking higher doses of vitamin C other than some patients will have mild stomach irritation or diarrhea.  Vitamin C doesn’t build up in our system as our bodies eliminate the excess through urination.

 When we think of foods that have vitamin C, we usually think of oranges.   But there are many foods that have even more vitamin C than oranges. Here are foods that are very rich in vitamin C, ranked from highest amount of vitamin C:

 Chili peppers

Guavas

Sweet yellow peppers

Black currant

Thyme 

Parsley

Kale

Kiwis

Broccoli

Brussel sprouts

Lemons

Strawberries

Oranges

Vitamin C | Ingredient Encylopedia | Ebanel®

What is proning, and how is it helping Covid patients?

Proning is the process of turning a patient from their back onto their stomach on a hospital bed.

Why is this helping Covid patients?  It has been found that proning improves the expansion of the lungs, which improves breathing and oxygen levels. 

It takes a team of hospital members to place a patient in the prone position safely. The team includes nurses, respiratory therapists, technicians, and anesthesia staff who assist with proning the patient.  The patient’s blood pressure, pulse and oxygen level are monitored during the position change.

Patients are placed in the prone position for 16-18 hours, and then returned to lying on their back for 6-8 hours if their oxygen levels can tolerate it.

The risks to proning are dislodgement of medical tubes, skin pressure injuries, facial and airway swelling, and problems with blood pressure or pulse.

Studies have found less need for invasive mechanical ventilation of Covid patients who are proned.   Oxygen levels have improved rapidly when a patient is placed in the prone position, and studies have shown better survival rates.

A patient in prone position in the ICU:

Facts about the Covid vaccination–how does it work?

In the history of medicine, it has never taken less than several years to produce a vaccination for any infectious disease.  However, the initial Covid vaccination is already being tested in volunteers and is expected to roll out in December 2020, only one year from the start of the disease.

After Covid was detected in December 2019, the genetic sequence of the virus was rapidly decoded by January 2020, only one month after the infections had started.  The search for a vaccination then began.

So far, a total of $8 billion dollars has been spent on the development of a vaccine, involving 80 companies in 19 countries. 

Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna both rely on a technology never before used in a commercial vaccine.  The new vaccination utilizes messenger RNA technology.

What is messenger RNA (mRNA)?  Our body has DNA present in every cell.  Our DNA is the “blueprint” for every protein that is created in our body.  Messenger RNA “reads” the blueprint and transcribes new proteins.  This is how our cells typically build, repair, and maintain our body.  After the messenger RNA reads our DNA, a new protein is strung together in our cells using amino acids. 

So how does the vaccine use messenger RNA?  The Covid mRNA vaccine contains the recipe for certain proteins that help the Covid virus infect our cells.  Once the vaccination is injected, the cells use the mRNA as a template to make viral proteins that are similar to the Covid infection.  This triggers our immune system and leads to the production of antibodies against the disease.

Then, when a person gets exposed to Covid, the body now has antibodies that will recognize the proteins from the virus and fight it off, destroying the virus before it can cause illness.

In clinical trials, the mRNA vaccines caused temporary side effects in 80-90% of trial participants, but they were typically mild such as sore arms or feeling poorly for a day or two.  No one in the studies became seriously ill. 

The third major company developing a vaccine is Astra Zeneca.  Astra Zeneca worked with researchers at Oxford to build a vaccine using a type of virus called an adenovirus.  They genetically altered the adenovirus so that it carries a gene for a coronavirus protein, to cause the human body to develop antibodies to Covid. Side effects have included fever, headache, and injection site pain. Recently one study participant had a more severe reaction and the study is on hold.

The vaccines to date have been found to be 90-95% effective in preventing Covid.  So far, almost 90,000 volunteers have received the vaccine.  To produce “herd immunity” and keep our population overall from getting ill, 70% of our population will need to get the vaccine.  Currently 59% of people polled say they plan to be vaccinated.

How many calories does the average person eat on Thanksgiving?

The average American eats 4500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving day.

Here’s the breakdown on some of our favorites:

Bread stuffing, 1 cup – 350 calories

Turkey, 4 slices – 320 calories

Gravy, 1/2 cup – 100 calories

Mashed Potatoes, 1 cup – 237 calories

Green bean casserole, 1 cup – 350 calories

Cranberry Sauce,  1/4 cup – 110 calories

Biscuits, 2 – 340 calories

Sweet potatoes, 1 cup – 285 calories

Pumpkin pie, 1 slide – 320 calories

thanksgiving

Can sunlight kill viruses?

Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, and it has been known for years that sunlight can kill germs.   Sunlight is made up of a form of electromagnetic radiation called ultraviolet light (UV light). Interestingly, ultraviolet light has actually been used for years to disinfect objects and to prevent infection.   Ultraviolet light-wave radiation works by damaging the genetic material of germs, to prevent them from replicating.

Now, researchers at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center have exposed viruses in simulated saliva to UV light (at a strength equivalent to a sunny day), and found that 90% of the viruses including Covid virus were inactivated.  This is only one small study but it is promising.

Scientists are now testing to see if ultraviolet light can be used to sterilize surfaces in elevators, public transportation, hospitals, and other indoor spaces in order to limit the spread of Covid.

Are there risks from ultraviolet light?  Direct UV light can cause skin or eye damage, so it should only be used on surfaces, and not directly on our bodies or around our eyes.

UV light being used to disinfect a hospital room:

hospital room

Why can’t we cure viruses?

 

 

Why can’t viruses, such as Covid-19, be cured?

 

We all know that antibiotics cure bacteria, but our immune system is still largely on its own when it comes to viruses.  Antibiotics are no help against the viruses that attack us.

 

The main reason  for this is that viruses are not technically alive!   Instead, they depend on our body’s cells in order to reproduce.  Viruses have to have a host to reproduce; they can’t survive on their own.  So scientists can’t use any agent to fight the virus that would hurt our own cells, where the viruses are hiding out.

 

Sometimes enzymes on the viruses can be targeted, which is how antiviral drugs work against HIV for example.  But even then, the drugs don’t cure the virus, they just keep it under control.

 

Another reason that viruses are hard to treat is that there are many different types of viruses and they are not related to each other.  Different viruses cause a huge range of diseases, such as common colds, chicken pox, SARS, Ebola, hepatitis, and Covid. Some of their genetic codes use RNA, others use DNA; some are surrounded by a protective envelope, others are not.

 

Bacteria on the other hand are all related to each other, and have common features such as having a cell wall.  So it is easier to make antibiotics to fight them.

 

When a virus infects our body, each cell becomes a virus factory, with the virus taking over and replicating within the cell.  Eventually the cell burst, releasing thousands of new viruses which then go on to infect other cells.  Our body’s defense is to make antibodies to fight the disease.   Our antibodies bind to the virus and then our white blood cells can destroy them.

 

Scientists have had many more years of experience in treating bacterial infections compared to viral infections.  Bacteria were first seen under a microscope in 1683.  But viruses were not discovered until 200 years later!  We have only had antiviral drugs for the last few decades.

 

And the antiviral drugs we have do not always help.  For example the medication for the Influenza A, Tamiflu, can help shorten the duration of the symptoms, but only if given early.  It does not cure the disease.  Scientists have made great strides in developing anti-viral medications, such as for hepatitis and HIV, but there is still a long ways in finding effective treatments for most viral infections.

Antibodies (blue) attacking a virus (green):

virus ab

 

How far does a sneeze go?

When we sneeze or cough, we are actually spraying out a cloud of mucous and saliva to the area around us.

We all know to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze or cough, but if someone else sneezes or coughs you should probably consider backing away, because the spray can spread further and faster than you would think!

The average sneeze or cough sends about 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Researchers have found that he most critical time for spread of those germs is in the first few minutes after the sneeze or cough occurs.

The average cough can travel over 19 feet, and the average sneeze can travel up to 26 feet!

Sneeze cam:

sneeze

Motherhood health facts

For Mother’s Day, here are some facts on motherhood:

  • Less than 5% of babies are born on their due date.
  • Babies born in May are the heaviest.
  • The heaviest baby ever born weighed 22 pounds 8 ounces and was born in Italy.
  • When a woman is pregnant, the amount of blood in her body increases by 50%.
  • The average length of labor is 6 1/2 hours.
  • Pain medication during childbirth was not accepted until Queen Victoria inhaled chloroform during the birth of her eight child, Prince Leopold in 1853.
  • The average baby goes through 3360 diapers their first year.
  • In the first year after birth, the average parent is deprived of 663 hours of sleep.

sleep