Author Archives: Al


I love instagram. (But who doesn’t right?) And for some reason I follow many people from Australia who are either vegan, vegetarian, or raw vegan. They all rave about it, and are all very fit. Many times when they speak about it they claim that they turned to veganism to help rid them of some condition or disease. Many of these vegans have said that they knew they felt very unhealthy, went to the doctor, and were told that they have a variety of conditions such as candida, asthma, arthritis, chronic headaches, severe acne etc. Then once they went vegan they found that all of their symptoms disappeared and they were left feeling healthier and more energetic than ever before. I’m not quite sure what to think of this phenomenon as it seems plausible, stop eating chemical ridden and processed foods and many of your ailments will go away, but I am also very skeptical, how can something like arthritis be “cured” just by not eating any animal related products? I decided to investigate.

I decided to look at HOW exactly veganism helps with ailments. One study I found looked at how going raw vegan, meaning that you don’t eat any cooked foods, helped relieve pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The study was randomized, although unfortunately it doesn’t state the size of the experiment or length, where some patients were put on a raw vegan diet high in lactobacilli and chlorophyll. The patients on the raw vegan diet noticed relief of their arthritis symptoms during the trial. Some patients felt some side affects like nausea and vomiting during their diet and decided to go back to eating cooked foods and meat. These patients felt that their symptoms flared back up upon returning to their non-vegan diet. Source 

This study seems to be well done, but it’s just one study and I don’t know the size of the trial. We can rule out reverse causation, clearly their reduced pain isn’t causing them to eat raw vegan. And we can’t rule out third variables, or chance ever, but the study states that all of the patients are going about their day exactly as they would’ve, just some are now eating raw vegan. Maybe eating raw vegan causes some other habits that lesson the arthritis pain? Who knows.

The various other studies I read are basically the same as this one. A randomized group with certain ailments is studied, part of the group is given a vegan regiment and the others aren’t. Those on the vegan regiment start to feel a sense of relief of their ailments, and with some with things like acne are completely rid of acne after a few months. The answers are still unclear to scientists, the only answers they have are that by cooking foods we take out certain nutrients and aren’t using those foods full health capacity. Also, fruits and vegetables don’t have much cholesterol, which is the main cause of heart disease, and are rich in fiber and antioxidants which help fight lots of diseases and promote overall wellness.

With all of the real non paid testimonies from people on social networks saying that they’re more energized, have clearer skin, lost weight, etc. I would say that if you have one of these ailments it absolutely does not hurt to try going vegan, you have nothing to lose!

Is ADHD Real?

Last blogging period I wrote a blog on the rise in ADD/ADHD diagnoses and wondered if the cause was rooted in our genetics or if it was more of a social matter. The answer was probably a little bit of both. Then I stumbled upon an article (thanks to another SC200 blogger) that states that the “father of ADHD” said: “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease”. First off, I find it very interesting that these words were said only a few years ago, but got no attention. Why is that? My first thought was that the ADD/ADHD medicine market is recently booming. (1 in 10 male ten year olds take ADHD medication daily). There is a ton of money being made off of these medicines, and to me it feels like it’s very easy for a doctor to convince their patient that they have ADD/ADHD. So my question is: Is ADHD even a real disease?

In an article I found, studies were done to show that certain brain abnormalities resulting in a variation of the dopamine receptor gene might cause a “behavioral condition”. They studied the brains of 105 kids diagnosed with ADHD and 103 non-ADHD children. They found that a common variable in those diagnosed with ADHD was a variant in a specific dopamine receptor gene that leads to “thinner tissue in areas of the brain that control attention”. “‘This is a very important study as it adds increasing evidence that ADHD is a heritable disease with genetically determined neurobiological underpinnings and adds further evidence that this is a valid mental disorder, often requiring neurobiological interventions [such as] psychopharmacological treatment,’ said Dr. Jon A. Shaw, professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.” This particular study states that due to these findings, and various others that they have access to, help prove the validity of ADHD. Source 

I think the study makes sense, but also there isn’t much information on the specifics. This could be a case of the Texas sharpshooter problem, the scientists knew what they were looking for and may have called this variant gene proof, when in fact they might not have been looking at the thousands of other variables in the brain. Also, we don’t know if maybe decreased attention causes this variation. There are many questions that I have about the validity of this study.

To provide reason for why there would be any biased and how these drugs are verified, if the disease is in fact fictitious, an investigation on the American Psychiatric Association members and the pharmaceutical industry “found that “Of the 170 APA panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. 100% of the members of the panels on ‘Mood Disorders’ and ‘Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders.” Source 

What this means is that while psychiatrists should be evaluating patients with their extensive knowledge of their practice, many members of the APA have big financial stakes within pharmaceutical companies, meaning that it’s more financially beneficial to them to tell their patients that they need ADHD medicine.

I’m not quite sure if I believe in ADHD, but then again that could mean I was a little biased in writing this blog post. I did take an article called “Brain Studies Show ADHD Is A Real Disease” and sort of put it down. But, to be fair ADHD is so blown out of proportion these days it’s hard for me to see what someone who really has trouble focusing looks like. I think this is a huge issue in America that definitely needs some concrete answers.

Whitening Strips

I wrote my last post on yellowing teeth, and at the beginning of college as I noticed my teeth weren’t as white as they used to be I considered whitening strips. I’ve always been cautious and steered clear of whitening strips because my friends who have used them say they’re teeth get super sensitive, and they usually go back to being yellow after a couple of months. I’ve also heard that at home whitening kits aren’t safe for your teeth and wanted to know if that’s true and why.

Here are the basics: whitening strips are pieces of plastic with treatment containing a form of peroxide, a whitening agent that oxidizes on contact with teeth, then reactions break stain bonds, thus removing stains. source

Upon reading the crest website, they assure that their whitestrips are tested for safety and are completely harmless. I also found that “According to the American Dental Association (ADA), both over-the-counter (OTC) and whitening products you buy from the dentist are mostly safe and effective. Some products are even eligible for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, the ADA recommends a dental consultation before self-treating in order to avoid exacerbating any existing problems with teeth and gums, or covering up tooth darkening that would help a dental professional in finding potential problems.” source source

However, they also address the irritation and pain that can come along with whitening. This pain depends on the whitening strips’ user, as well as how well they follow the instructions. When applied too heavily too the gums, “extreme sensitivity and soreness may result,” also keeping the strips on for longer than the recommended amount of time can strip the tooth’s enamel and cause problems in your gums. Also, users that use multiple packages run the risk of permanently damaging their teeth.

I’m actually really glad to know that the ADA has deemed these products safe, and I think I just might try whitening strips (following the recommended instructions) and see what happens!

Fluoride and yellow teeth

The first things I notice on a person are their teeth. The shape, the size, how straight they are, and most importantly how white they are. I have always prided myself in maintaining my straight, bright white teeth; however, about two months into college I noticed that my teeth weren’t as white as they used to be. In fact, they were almost nearing a shade of yellow. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, I drink the same amount of coffee as I used to, possibly even less since I no longer have a coffee machine at my disposal, I’m brushing regularly, I don’t smoke… It wasn’t adding up. So, I decided to look into what could’ve caused this sudden yellowing of my teeth.

After looking through a few different websites, I found the following cause tooth yellowing:

  • Antibiotics containing tetracycline
  • Consuming red wine, coffee, tea, soda, carrots, blueberries- due to their pigmentation they are prone to staining teeth
  • Consuming acidic fruits such as lemons, limes, clementines, etc. because they erode enamel
  • Smoking- nicotine stains tetth
  • Consuming fluoride- can lead to fluorosis which discolors teeth
  • Grinding teeth- scrapes away enamel

source, source

I looked at this list, and not much of it pertained to me: I don’t take any antibiotics, I do drink tea and coffee (but not any more than I used to before my teeth started yellowing), I actually have eaten less acidic fruits because I don’t have access to them, I don’t smoke, and I don’t grind my teeth. I wasn’t sure about fluoride, I know that it’s in our toothpaste to strengthen our teeth, but I always thought it was a good thing. I looked into fluoride and it turns out that the water in America, meaning from the sink etc., is fluorinated in an effort to reduce tooth decay. However, there is evidence to show that it’s probably doing more harm than good in our water, as fluoride is very toxic. The FDA actually now mandates that all toothpastes and tooth products containing fluoride carry a warning of swallowing too much. Excessive fluoride can cause a discoloration of teeth or dental fluorosis. Excessive fluoride can also cause arthritis, bone frailty, glucose intolerance, and certain cancers. Although the absolute amounts of fluoride that cause these illnesses is yet to be defined, it seems as though the fluoride in our water is unnecessary. I’m not really sure why there is still fluoride in our water, as studies show that countries with non-fluorinated water have a decreasing tooth decay trend almost identical to those that do fluorinate their water. It seems as though Americans, and those living in countries with fluorinated water, may actually be getting too much fluoride. source



It might seem like I’m going off on a tangent about fluoride and what does this have to do with my yellowing teeth, but I’m getting to the point! Fluoride was the only variable I could think to change. I realized that since coming to college I drink water from the sinks and water fountains as it’s easier and I don’t have a filtration system. To see if this was making a difference, I stopped drinking any water not from a store bought water bottle for a little over a month. I ate the same foods, drank the same amount of tea and coffee, brushed my teeth regularly as usual, and in the end I noticed that my white smile was starting to come back. Although this could be do to third variables out of my control, or maybe just a freak chance, my experiment and my extra research on fluoride was enough to get me to stop drinking the water from the school’s pipes and I hope to have my white smile back soon.


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Cold Weather

In my last article I asked the question “does going outside into the cold with wet hair cause sickness?” and the results I found were lacking. However, during my research another question came up, why does it seem as though colder temperature cause sickness?

Most people consider winter “cold and flu” season, and associate cold weather with getting sick. It’s always been accepted that more people get sick in the colder months, but why? When you really think about it what’s different in the winter? The only reasonable response I can think of is that having a decreased body temperature possibly causes a decrease in the power of our immune system.



I found a study where 180 volunteers were randomly split into 2 groups, a control group and a variable group, and the variable group was to put their feet in cold water to lower their body temperature a few times a day and the other group did nothing. They were then to go about their daily lives. The results showed that after about a week twice the amount of people in the chilled feet group reported that they caught a cold compared to the control group. Source

I think this is an interesting study because it deals with lowered body temperature, but doesn’t actually force cold bacteria on the patients rather it lets the world take its natural course to see if they’d get sick. However, 180 people are a very small study and this could just be coincidence.

Another theory I found states that “when your body gets chilled the blood vessels in the nose and throat constrict. These same vessels deliver infection-fighting white blood cells, so if fewer white blood cells reach the nose and throat your defenses against a cold virus are lowered for a short time. When your hair dries off or you go indoors your body warms up again, your blood vessels dilate, and the white blood cells continue to fight the virus. But by then it could be too late and the virus might have had enough time to replicate and trigger the symptoms.” Source 

So what this means is that if you already have the virus in your system, but no symptoms because your body is working to fight them off, and suddenly your body temperature drops then your body isn’t receiving enough white blood vessels to fight the infection and you’re more likely to become sick. If this theory is tested more, then I am pretty happy with my hypothesis, but there is still little evidence backing it.

I’m surprised that my research didn’t come up with any concrete answeres or larger scale experiments, I feel as though this is something that would help every human who deals with the cold and could help save a lot of hardship and money.

Wet Hair+Cold Air= Getting Sick??

My parents are from Russia and have some crazy superstitions because of it. The most annoying thing they always nag me with is not going outside when it’s cold with wet hair because they say that I’ll get sick. I’m not sure if this is just a superstition, or if it actually holds some truth. A part of me thinks it makes sense; maybe wet hair makes your head colder, and I’ve always been told that most body heat is lost through your head (hence why we wear hats), and if your body is super cold maybe that lowers the strength of your immune system? And the other part of me thinks that our intuition is lousy and that this is just another weird superstition like no whistling or open umbrellas inside or you’ll get bad luck.

I first decided to see how this theory even began, and found that back in the 1800’s Louis Pasteur saw that chickens were immune to anthrax and believed it was due to their high body temperature, so he decided to experiment. He found that when he put the chickens’ feet into cold water and exposed them to the disease, they contracted anthrax and died. He then did the same experiment, let the chickens get anthrax, and then warmed them back up and they survived. This is most likely where the theory that cold temperatures cause colds came from. (More on that in my next article)

In this experiment, you can rule out reverse causation because clearly anthrax didn’t cause a decrease in body temperature as that was manipulated. And Pasteur even tested what happens when you bring the temperature back up and found that they chickens lived. However, bigger trials are needed for this, (although it has been found that cold monkeys are more susceptible to polio, and cold mice are more susceptible to pneumonia), more evidence is needed on what exactly causes this, and animals are not humans.

Picture Source

I found another experiment in Salisbury, England where thousands of volunteers were given a drop of infected mucus into their noses to see what happens. There was a variable group who were “assigned to bathe and then wander around cold corridors in wet socks and bathing suits ‘for half an hour or as long as they could bear it’”. Source

The control group did not have to subject themselves to the cold. The results showed that the variable group “showed a drop of several degrees in body temperature and felt rather chilly and unhappy for a time, but were no more likely to catch cold than their warmer colleagues”. Source

This seems to be a well-done study, however, it does not answer the question if going outside with wet hair leads to higher susceptibility to colds. While hospitals are home to millions of bacteria and such, they are also heavily sterilized unlike the outside world of dirty buildings and public transportation and such. Maybe having a decreased temperature and being surrounded by all of the germs outside can cause a higher risk of catching something.

I’m still not quit convinced as there aren’t many experiments that deal exclusively with wet hair outdoors and the chances of getting a cold, but the information I’ve found shows that scientists are pretty stumped too. There is also a question of why lower temperatures seem to cause higher rates of sickness, which I’ll tackle in my next article.

I’m hoping for more studies to be done on this in the future, as it may help either protect us from sickness, or just save us a little time.



Is Napping Good For You?

I have always been a firm believer that everyone should take naps. I know that personally I like to get all my work done at night, and usually don’t end up getting the recommended 8 hours of sleeps. This leaves me very tired come mid-day, but throughout high school I learned that taking a nap when I got home from school would help me be very productive when I woke up. My parers strongly disagree, they always yell at me for taking naps saying it’s unhealthy and that I won’t be able to sleep at night.

Humans are one of the only mammals that only has one period for sleep and one period awake. Most mammals have many periods of sleep throughout the day. On the National Sleep Foundation’s website i found this explanation of the different types of napping:

  • Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.
  • Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
  • Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day.

The foundation has found that naps can actually be very beneficial. NASA has done studies on their astronauts showing that a 40 minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by 100%. (Sleep Foundation) Studies also show that scheduled naps can help those with narcolepsy. Naps are a way to relax, ease tension, and gain alertness. However, the foundation recommends only a strict 20-30 minute nap, which i have found that when I 1. set an alarm for my nap and don’t wake up naturally or 2. get less than my body feels it needs that I wake up groggier than before with a headache and am unable to concentrate. This is something I feel should be looked into further as sleep is becoming such a large issue in the US lately.

2 Sleeps Better Than 1?

I read an article once that claimed that ancient Egyptians used to sleep once during the day and once during the night in short intervals. This intrigued me, so I decided to do some research and found that apparently our ancestors used to sleep twice in one night. Back in the 1800’s it was common, actually I’m pretty sure it was the norm, for people to get “a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.” (Slumber) During the 2-3 of being awake, apparently they would just relax, read, pray, etc. This sleep s heavily documented throughout old literature, and is even mentioned in the Canterbury Tales. (Slumber)

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and panicked because you were afraid you wouldn’t get a good sleep? Well research shows that this is just a tendency the human body has due to our ancestors’ practices. A study was done to mimic our ancestors light exposure, as they didn’t have all the electric lights that we do, and the results were that participants would sleep for about 4-5 hours, wake up in a peaceful state for a few hours, and then go back to sleep for the rest of the night. So, when put under the same conditions, our bodies naturally revert back to ancient practices. (Slumber)

Another article I found shares why this type of sleeping might be beneficial to some. It’s not certain if everyone would benefit from having 2 sleeps, but studies show that those with insomnia or who wake up in the middle of the night would benefit from having 2 sleeps. The reasoning behind this is that for those with insomnia, this is reverting back to their natural and ancestral method of sleep, which might work better with their bodies. And for those who wake in the middle of the night, if they started to accept that as normal instead of panicking that they wouldn’t get enough sleep, or that people aren’t supposed to wake up in the middle of the night, that they could have a few hours of peace and easily fall asleep again until morning. (Live Science)

Although there needs to be more evidence and experiments done on the subject, it would be interesting to try having 2 sleeps. What if studying a little in between sleeps could help achieve a better understanding? The possibilities are endless.


Does Hope Really Heal?

At my high school we had one of the largest mini-THONs in Pennsylvania. Watching videos of the kids who come to our family hour (kids who have been to Hershey Medical and are now in remission) almost every video contains a parent who says that their child would never be in remission if it weren’t for them remaining hopeful. It kind of makes sense, if you are very ill and have this mindset that you are going to succumb to your illness, chances are that you aren’t as willing to fight through the pain or do everything necessary to get better. Also, those who believe that they will lose the battle against cancer often make unhealthy decisions because they believe that they won’t be around much longer to make any decisions. But then there are those who believe that they will get better, and they power through the chemotherapy sessions and do everything they can to stay as healthy as possible. Some people are very skeptical about this phenomenon though because to some it doesn’t seem possible that thoughts can change your physical health.


Jerome Groopman, author of “The Anatomy of Hope”, wrote: “Belief and expectation — the key elements of hope — can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine. In some cases, hope can also have important effects on fundamental physiological processes like respiration, circulation and motor function.” Groopman studies have shown that having hope positively impacts the nervous system, which then positively affects the whole body, giving it a higher chance of recovery. (CNN)

More interesting research on the topic came from Duane Bidwell who studied hope in kids with chronic illnesses. His studies show that there are five main modes of hope:

  • “Maintaining identity by continuing to participate in activities and relationships that help patients retain a sense of self outside diagnosis and treatment.
  • Realizing community through formal and informal connections that help patients understand they are not alone in living with disease. This community is made real through conversation, visitation, consultation and participation in daily activities.
  • Claiming power by taking an active role in treatment by setting goals, self-advocating, monitoring and maintaining one’s own health.
  • Attending to spirituality, activated through religious, spiritual and other contemplative practices.
  • Developing wisdom, which involves both gaining pragmatic, medical wisdom derived from one’s own experience and finding ways to “give back.” (CNN)

According to Bidwell’s research, any of these modes of hope will help the healing process. This study connects to what I said earlier about those who believe that they are going to get better: they actively participate in their lives, do everything to stay as healthy as possible, they try to keep connections with those around them, and have as much fun as they can while laying in the hospital. These people, the ones with hope, although it’s not 100% scientifically are the ones that keep pushing and reach recovery.



A Rise in ADD/ADHD: Genetic or Social?

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the alleged rise in ADD and ADHD and why drugs like Adderall are becoming widely available amongst teens. I say alleged because it’s not very clear as to whether there is actually a rise in the learning disorders or societies’ expectations have changed. To start off: there are many studies showing that ADHD can be found in genetics, and that it is a real diagnosis.

Michigan State University studied identical and fraternal twins to see if the traits have a genetic basis. Identical twins share almost all of the same genes, whereas fraternal twins only share about half of the same genes, so if there is a genetic basis then the identical twins are likely to both have it where the fraternal twins are not. The findings held the hypothesis to be true, and identical twins were more likely to both have attention disorders than fraternal twins. That being said many people are still skeptical on accepting ADHD as a legitimate disorder. (NY Times)

Over the past 10 years, diagnosis of ADHD in children has increased by about 25%. (ABC) Around 20 years ago, laws were passed to include ADHD as a part of Individuals with Disabilities Education act, meaning that students diagnosed with ADHD were to be given special tutors and extra time on tests. As awareness of these perks spread, more and more diagnosis started popping up as well. Although that may be correlation and not causation, it is a valid point to say that more kids would benefit from saying they have ADHD.

Also, ADHD is very difficult to diagnose, there aren’t many simple tests that can be done, so most doctors will end up prescribing drugs like Ritalin or Adderall and telling their patients to see if the drugs help. (ABC) The thing about the drugs is that they help everyone focus, not just those with ADHD, so of course everyone on the drugs is going to feel an academic difference. On the same note, it is very easy for anyone to pretend that they cannot pay attention, especially when they’re rewarded with such great benefits.

With all of the new pressure being put on standardized tests and going to big name colleges, it is understandable why kids would want extra time on tests and pills that help them concentrate; however, there is yet to be a conclusive study on how many out of those diagnosed with ADD/ADHD actually have a learning disability that requires medical attention.

Over the last two decades celiac disease has doubled which has clearly set off a wide spread worry in society. (NPR) Have gluten products (bread, crackers, etc.) been altered over the past 20 years? Are there harmful substances now being put in our products? Should everyone stop eaten gluten products? There has been a noticeable backlash in society, which is clear when walking down the isles of any grocery store because almost everything that falls into the category is labeled “gluten free”. Even products such as fruits and meats, which if you have even a basic understanding of what gluten is you know that clearly there isn’t any gluten in fruits and meat.

Researchers found that farmers have started using a different kind of wheat that is easier to grow and more weather resistant. Scientists looked further into the study and found that the gluten levels of the new strand of wheat compared to the old one are equal, so the gluten link is just a correlation. However, it is still unclear as to whether there are other proteins in wheat that may be causing the symptoms. After much research, scientists have found that the bacteria in our guts may be changing, and are less able to digest gluten. This has something to do with ingesting gluten at very early stages in life, the use of antibiotics early on, and I found a new theory called the “hygiene hypothesis”. The hygiene hypothesis basically says that because society has become so focused on eliminating germs and bacteria, and have become so efficient in it, that our immune systems have to work less than our ancestors so they tend to confuse things such as wheat and peanuts as harmful substances. (NPR)

At this time there is not clear answer as to why gluten intolerance is on the rise. Some doctors believe that a majority of society can continue eating gluten and remain perfectly healthy, while others argue that they’ve seen lives changed by cutting out gluten. The takeaway here would be that if you’ve been noticing that you’re bloated, fatigued, or nauseous after eating bread type products, try cutting them out of your diet and see if there are any improvements! Do you think that cutting gluten out of your diet could be beneficial?


initial blog post

i) I’m taking this course because I need a science gen ed and my advisor told me that if I wasn’t really into science that this is a great class.

ii) I’m not planning on being a science major because I dreaded science class in high school and could never see myself pursuing a career in the science field. The business school here was definitely the right choice for me because it is geared towards my career goals.