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OnCall Show Notes: HealthNews RoundUp-4th Week of December, 2018



I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network reporting from NYC with Health News You Should Use, the latest medical discoveries that you can use in a practical way to keep yourself and your family healthy.  


Today’s topics:

A trick for comforting babies.

Marijuana damages sperm DNA.

Exercise is better than medication for reducing blood pressure.

Milk cereal drinks will make your child fat.

There is no such thing as a harmless concussion.

Alcohol triggers migraine headaches.

Then some SHORT SHORTS.........

Compression stocking may turbocharge you.

Marijuana could hurt your eyes.

Supermarket impulse buying will fatten your family.

New FDA guidelines for preventing narcotic overdoses.

Getting the most from spinach.


One more thing:  you’ll find all the references to that I discuss as well as a copy of show notes on my website at



Parents and doctors alike feel terrible when we must do something for a baby that will surely produce discomfort.  The pediatric scientists from the University of Oxford and Liverpool’s John Moores University have come to our rescue by showing that a gentle massage preceding an uncomfortable or a frankly painful procedure will provide relief.


Measuring an infant’s perceived pain by studying both their expressions and, more quantitatively, their EEG brainwave activity, the researchers determined that lightly brushing the skin at a rate of about one inch per second optimally reduces the sensation of pain.  This pattern of stimulation triggers skin sense detectors called C-tactile afferents that modify the pain sensation


So, the next time you want to calm your baby during a diaper change or a vaccination, repeatedly stroke the skin.  There’s a bonus too, since other studies have shown that touching facilitates parent-child bonding and decreases stress for you as well as for your child.




Listen up stoners.  Young men using grass to to heighten their recreational intensity now need to factor in the discovery that marijuana’s chief psychogenic component can harm their sperm.  The latest on this subject from Duke University comes from studies in both rats and 24 human males showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, alters DNA methylation and impacts two genes that affect major cellular pathways.


The researchers compared the sperm of regular marijuana users, that is those who had smoked the drug at least weekly for the previous 6 months, to sperm of those who were non-users for at least 6 months and only used marijuana on 10 or fewer occasions.  The higher the concentration of THC in a subjects urine, the more striking were the genetic changes that could impact growth and development of their offspring.


The study leaves many questions to be answered by future investigation including if the altered sperm can even fertilize an egg or if they pass on the mutations to the next generation.   THC now joins other agents including tobacco, pesticides, and flame retarding chemical that are known to harm sperm.  The smart money is on avoiding all these potential toxins if you are planning to father children.




Health-promoting behaviors are known effective partners with medication for normalizing our body functions.  When it comes to lowering elevated blood pressures, a study just published in the British Medical Journal suggests that exercise may eventually permit the discontinuation of blood pressure lowering medications.


This analysis of nearly 40,000 subjects in almost 400 clinical trials shows that structured exercise of all types including walking, jogging, running, cycling, and strength training were collectively as effective as most drugs for lowering blood pressure to normal levels.  If you are on blood pressure medications now, do not, let me repeat, DO NOT discontinue them as you begin exercising.


Exercise as well as weight loss can help eliminate high blood pressure.  When that happens, it is time for you to have a discussion with your doctor about the need for continuing medication.  All drugs, like most medical therapy, are double-edged swords, and the goal is to discontinue them if you can safely.




Cereal milk is all the rage inspired by the drink created at New York City’s famous Milk Bar and its celebrity chef Christina Tosi.  Articles speculate about which cereals make the tastiest drink when added to milk. Getting in on the fad, Starbucks has added the taste-alike Toasted Graham Latte to its catalog of premium drink offerings, and Ben and Jerry’s offers a frozen variety of cereal milk as in-store only flavors including Fruit Loot, Frozen Flakes, and Cocoa Loco.


It’s no surprise that this food fad is likely detrimental to your health, and the proof comes from Sweden and a study of more than 1800 children.  The risk of obesity at age 5 years was nearly double for children who drank cereal milk on a daily basis at one year of age.  The risk was particularly high for children with a family history of obesity.


Cereal milk has the calorie count of a meal and not of pure milk,  During infancy, it can be used as a meal but not in additional to meals.  That maxim is doubly true for older children and adults.




Study after study is now pointing to the brain damage triggered by what were once thought to be harmless head injuries.  CTE, chronic traumatic encephalitis with its brain scarring leading to dementia, was first identified in professional football players and more recently seen even in high school athletes participating in contact and non-contact sports of all types.

The latest study from the University of New Hampshire shows that as few a two minor concussions can trigger persistent defects in brain performance including executive function, attention, task performance, and working memory as measured by task completion and brainwave activity on an EEG.


The brain at all ages, but particularly in childhood and adolescence, is delicate, and we now have increasing evidence that it tolerates even mild trauma poorly.  The skull protects against penetrating trauma but offers no protection for damage done as the brain bounces around inside the cranial chamber.


The best treatment is prevention.  Activities that result in repeated brain bouncing including football, hockey, lacrosse, and soccer heading are dangerous to the brain and its ability to function optimally throughout a person’s life.  Don’t take chances with your own or your child’s intellectual power and, of most importance, minimize the risk of dementia!




Alcohol is a known trigger for migraine headaches, but a new study of nearly 2200 Dutch migraine patients adds additional information about this phenomenon.  More than one-third of the patients, 36 percent, cite alcohol as a trigger, and one-quarter of all patients either stopped drinking entirely or never started due to this adverse effect.


Among alcoholic drinks, red wine was the most common trigger for migraine.  All alcoholic drinks trigger migraines quickly, and the headache usually occurs within 3 hours of ingestion but almost always before 10 hours have elapsed.  The best treatment is avoidance.






Australian sport and exercise scientists have demonstrated that compression stockings worn by female as well as male soccer players improve muscular endurance and player agility while reducing the possibilities of injury. 



If your eye pressures are on the high side, that is close to or higher than 22 mmHg, you might want to be very careful using marijuana and it’s components.  Studying a mouse model, Indiana University scientists report that CBD, cannabidiol, the anti-inflammatory component in grass, significantly raises eye pressures. This is in contrast to THC, the psychoactive component, that lowers pressure.  Smoking or ingesting marijuana may turn out to be a wash in terms of eye pressure, since the THC will cancel the pressure-raising effect of CBD. Bottom line: if you have high pressure or glaucoma, avoid marijuana.  



Americans are not only overdosing on opioids but also on sugary snacks.  Brits at the University of Cambridge have proven that the solution is removing candy and packaged sweets from checkout lanes.  When this occurred, junk food purchases dropped by 76%.  We should do the same on this side of the pond.  



The US Department of Health and Human services now recommends co-prescribing Narcan, naloxone, the antidote to opiod overdoses, to any individual who is prescribed a narcotic painkiller or a narcotic halfway drug as means to kick the habit.  If you or a family member fits this description, respectfully ask your prescribing provider for a supply of the potential lifesaver Narcan.  It is available as a shot or nasal spray.



What is the best way to prepare spinach derive the most health benefits?  It turns out that one important health-promoter found in the dark green leafy salad bases is the antioxidant lutein that can reduce inflammation all over the body.  The question then becomes “how to maximize the lutein content of the prepared spinach?”  They found that boiling leaches it out and frying destroys it.  The best is not to cook it at all but rather liquify it into a smoothie with milk or yogurt.  The micro-chopping releases the lutein from the leaves and the dairy fats increase the lutein solubility.



#That’s the Health News You Should Use for this week.  In 2019, I will be adding an emphasis on health technology, Health Tech You Should Check.  This includes wearable tech, electronic health records, health information technology, and medical nanotechnology.  I’ll continue OnCall with health news, health tips, and other goodies, but I will package it all in smaller podcasts.


Until we speak again,  keep your brain active and your body in motion.  I’m Dr. Howard Smith for the PENTA Medical Network wishing you a safe New Year celebration and a happy, healthy start to 2019. #




Deniz Gursul, Sezgi Goksan, Caroline Hartley, Gabriela Schmidt Mellado, Fiona Moultrie, Amy Hoskin, Eleri Adams, Gareth Hathway, Susannah Walker, Francis McGlone, Rebeccah Slater. Stroking modulates noxious-evoked brain activity in human infants. Current Biology, 2018; 28 (24): R1380 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.014


Duke University Medical Center. "Exposure to cannabis alters the genetic profile of sperm: Whether genetic changes can be reversed or are passed on to children is still unknown." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2018. <>.


Huseyin Naci, Maximilian Salcher-Konrad, Sofia Dias, Manuel R Blum, Samali Anova Sahoo, David Nunan, John P A Ioannidis. How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2018; bjsports-2018-099921 DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921


Gerd Almquist-Tangen, Stefan Bergman, Jovanna Dahlgren, Annelie Lindholm, Josefine Roswall, Bernt Alm. Consuming milk cereal drinks at one year of age was associated with a twofold risk of being overweight at the age of five. Acta Paediatrica, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/apa.14666


Stephanie E. Barlow, Paolo Medrano, Daniel R. Seichepine, Robert S. Ross. Investigation of the changes in oscillatory power during task switching after mild traumatic brain injury. European Journal of Neuroscience, 2018; 48 (12): 3498 DOI: 10.1111/ejn.14231


G. L. J. Onderwater, W. P. J. van Oosterhout, G. G. Schoonman, M. D. Ferrari, G. M. Terwindt. Alcoholic beverages as trigger factor and the effect on alcohol consumption behavior in patients with migraine. European Journal of Neurology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/ene.13861



Larissa Neves Pavin, Anthony S. Leicht, Samuel Valencia Gimenes, Bruno Victor Corrêa da Silva, Mário Antônio de Moura Simim, Moacir Marocolo, Gustavo Ribeiro da Mota. Can compression stockings reduce the degree of soccer match-induced fatigue in females? Research in Sports Medicine, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2018.1527335


Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 2018; 59 (15): 5904 DOI: 10.1167/iovs.18-24838


Katrine T. Ejlerskov, Stephen J. Sharp, Martine Stead, Ashley J. Adamson, Martin White, Jean Adams. Supermarket policies on less-healthy food at checkouts: Natural experimental evaluation using interrupted time series analyses of purchases. PLOS Medicine, 2018; 15 (12): e1002712 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002712


Rosanna W.S. Chung, Per Leanderson, Nelly Gustafsson, Lena Jonasson. Liberation of lutein from spinach: Effects of heating time, microwave-reheating and liquefaction. Food Chemistry, 2019; 277: 573 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.11.023

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