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OnCall Show Notes: HealthNews RoundUp

1st Week of January, 2019



I’m Dr. Howard Smith, PENTA Medical Network reporting from NYC with the Health News Roundup for the first week of January, 2019.  This is Health News You Should Use, the latest medical discoveries that you can use in a practical way to keep yourself and your family healthy.


I hope that you had a wonderful New Year celebration and are looking forward to a happy and healthy year ahead.


Here’s the run down of stories and features:

Britain's “Dry January.”

Less drinking helps stop smoking efforts.

VIDEO: What smoking 30 packs of cigarettes looks like.

HELP: Beat winter boredom.

A head tilt makes you more approachable.

FUTUREMED: Irish bogs may yield stronger antibiotics.

Cottonseed oil better lipid chaser than olive oil.

New comprehensive child vaccine.

HEALTHTECH: heart attack risk calculator from Mayo Clinic.

Surgery to stop phantom limb pain.

TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS:  a brave driver is rewarded.


If you want to know more about any of the stories, you’ll find all the references and a copy of show notes on my website at: 



Every year since 2014, Great Britain has hosted a campaign called “Dry January.”   For at least this month, participants abstain from alcohol for 30 days.  Psychologists at the University of Sussex now report findings from a study of over 800 persons participating in last year's annual post-holidays drying out fest.  The month off alcohol has lasting effects: less drinking over many months, weight loss, better sleep, an energy burst, and healthier appearing skin. 


Six months after the month off alcohol, 80% were in better control of their drinking, 70% were enjoying better health and sleeping better, 67% had more energy, 58% lost weight, and 54% had better skin.  A national survey showed that one in every ten British drinkers plan to do Dry January, 2019 this month.


Anyone anywhere can participate.  There is a smartphone app you can download to help you through the month and encourage you to control your drinking from then on.




Since we’re on the subject of moderating alcohol intake, let’s review a study from the University of Oregon that looked at heavy drinkers and smokers who were trying to moderate both habits.  They studied a group of 22 smoking and drinking subjects who reduced their alcohol consumption from an average of 29 down to 7 drinks per week.  


As drinking diminished, their nicotine metabolite ratios dropped as well.  Those with lower nicotine metabolite ratios had an easier time kicking the smoking habit.  Unfortunately, this phenomenon only occurred in men.


So as you start the year with a resolution to control your smoking, you should add to it a commitment to reduce drinking as well.  If you’re a male, it may make your quit smoking efforts more successful.




A dramatic and shocking demonstation posted on Twitter by Isu-Isu Semasa and his mechanical smoking machine.  Here is Semasa’s time-lapse photography that shows you what is left in your throat and lungs after smoking 600 cigarettes.




With the dark days of winter ahead for all of us, here’s a way to beat the boredom.  Try doing the things that you normally do but in a different way.  For example:

Eat popcorn with chopsticks.

Drink water in a champagne glass, a shipping envelope, or lapping it out of a bowl like a dog.

Write and draw with your “other” hand.

Watch a video with finger goggles.

Do a random walk: at each intersection, flip a coin to decide whether to go left or right.

Eat a slice of pizza in different ways: fold it over, eat the crust first, eat from the sides, make pizza into different shapes.


Bet you can think of a slew of other things to try.  If you come up with really great ideas, email me at, and I’ll pass them along to everyone.


By the way, a study done at Ohio State University shows that these novel ways of doing things are most enjoyable the first time.




If you want to be more approachable, you might try tilting your head slightly.  Psychologists at UC-Santa Cruz studied this phenomenon using eye tracking equipment.  They found that a head tilt of as little as 11 degrees makes your eyes less threatening.  Their studies show that the tilt makes your conversational companion focus only on the upper eye, and a single eye tends to be more inviting than both eyes.


The researchers plan to extend their studies, and they have a particular interest in whether head-tilting will enhance communications with autistic persons.  If a family member or someone you know is autistic or on the spectrum or if you just want to try having smoother communications, try tilting your head just a tiny bit when speaking with them.  It might just aid in breaking a barrier.




At least one in 5 new mothers experience postpartum depression, but, wait, new fathers may experience it too.  A study from University of Cambridge sampling more than 3000 British families just published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that one in 20 fathers may suffer from it too. 


Most interesting was the finding that 18 year old girls whose father did have confirmed postpartum depression were themselves at a greater risk for depression.  This was not the case for male offspring.


Studies continue to ferret out the causes for this observation.  Meanwhile, though, it is important that new fathers as well as new mothers be monitored for the signs of depression.  If found, all should be aggressively treated in an effort to prevent untoward effects of their emotional challenges on their mates and offspring.  Girls with a family history of maternal or paternal postpartum depression should themselves be watched and treated. 




It’s no blarney when I tell you that ancient Irish soil may contain the key to more powerful antibiotics in the future.  Folk medicine has identified regions of Ireland, the Boho Highlands, where the soil is known to have medicinal properties.  


Microbiologists from Swansea University, Wales, have identified a novel strain of bacteria in that soil that produces secretions which effectively kill 4 of the 6 most common currently antibiotic-resistant bacteria including MRSA, enterococci, klebsiella, and acinetobacter.  This new strain of Strepomyces bacterium is unique since it kills a wide variety of pathogens, both gram positive and gram negative.


Work is now ongoing to identify and purify the chemical byproducts of this bacterium that can be artificially synthesized and repurposed as prescription antibiotics.




Food scientists at the University of Georgia report that cottonseed oil outperforms olive oil in terms of blood lipid normalization during a 5 day trial diet of each.  The scientists studied 15 men using a crossover design study in which each subject followed a diet rich in one oil or the other for 5 days, enjoyed a break, and then followed a diet with the other oil.


When the data was tabulated, those eating the cottonseed oil-rich diet had higher HDL cholesterol values but lower total cholesterols, LDL cholesterols, and triglycerides than when eating the olive oil-rich diet.  It appears that cottonseed oil will be the new oil of choice in your diet.




The FDA has just approved the newest vaccine for kids combining the 6 most common immunizations for childhood illnesses: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis or whooping cough, hemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, and polio.  In the past, children would receive the DTaP vaccine, but then separate vaccines for polio, hemophilus influenza, and hepatitis.  Called Vaxelis, the vaccine is a 3 dose series to be given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age.  An additional booster shot for pertussis must be given to complete the immunization against that disease.


The addition of this vaccine should improve immunization rates by simplifying the schedule of shots for any given child.  It will be only somewhat simpler.  In addition to the Vaxelis series, children will still require separate shots for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), chickenpox (varicella), pneumococcal disease (Prevnar 13 and 23), human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis A (HepA), rotavirus (Rotarix), and the flu.



HEALTHtech:  Heart Attack Risk calculator.  

Here’s a  piece of technology that may help you live longer.  The Mayo Clinic has a web page that will help you calculate your risk for. heart attack.




Hopefully you or someone you love will never require a limb amputation.  One of the chief side effects of losing an arm or leg is so-called phantom limb pain, and it occurs in some 75% of amputees.  This is a painful sensation that seems to be coming from the portion of the limb that is no longer there.  


Reconstructive surgeons at Ohio State now announce a fix for this problem, and its called targeted muscle reinnervation or TMR.  This procedure involves rerouting the cut nerve ends into surrounding muscle, and it was first used to enhance use of prosthetic limbs, but patients also noticed an absence of any limb pain.


A study of 22 patients with below the knee amputations shows that, after nerve rerouting, only 13% rather than 75% had any pain sensations.  At Ohio State, this procedure is now done at the time of amputation in all patients, but it is possible to perform it after the fact with beneficial results.


If you or yours have phantom limb pain or are facing an amputation, ask the surgeon about TMR.




Meet Travis Trent, a brand new father in Tacoma Washington.  He’s just going to the parking lot after the birth of his baby.  Opening the vehicle, he notices a burning smell and sees smoke wafting out of the dashboard.  


Thinking quickly and knowing that most would have advised him to abandon the car and get out of the garage before the car lights up, he instead quickly drives it out of the garage and away from the hospital structures.  Leaving the car and looking back, he sees it ignite and a fireball destroy it.


The local fire captain later lauds his bravery and the fact that he saved the parking structure, other cars, and the adjacent hospital.  It happens, though, that Trent’s brother works as a car salesman for a local dealership, and he recounts the story to his manager.  The dealership, recognizing Trent’s bravery, decides to replace Trent’s car in a surprise presentation.


Trent, baby, and mother are shocked, delighted, grateful, and able to start the new year with a new car.


That’s it for this week’s edition.  Hope you’ll join me next week for more Health News You Should Use.  Until then, keep a smile on your face, your brain active, and your body in motion....That is the best medicine.  



University of Sussex. "How 'Dry January' is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weight." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2018. <>.


Sarah S Dermody, Christian S Hendershot, Allyson K Andrade, Maria Novalen, Rachel F Tyndale. Changes in Nicotine Metabolite Ratio among Daily Smokers receiving Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2018; DOI: 10.1093/ntr/nty265


Nicolas Davidenko, Hema Kopalle, Bruce Bridgeman. The Upper Eye Bias: Rotated Faces Draw Fixations to the Upper Eye. Perception, 2018; 030100661881962 DOI: 10.1177/0301006618819628


Leticia Gutierrez-Galve, Alan Stein, Lucy Hanington, Jon Heron, Glyn Lewis, Christine O’Farrelly, Paul G. Ramchandani. Association of Maternal and Paternal Depression in the Postnatal Period With Offspring Depression at Age 18 Years. JAMA Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3667


Luciana Terra, Paul J. Dyson, Matthew D. Hitchings, Liam Thomas, Alyaa Abdelhameed, Ibrahim M. Banat, Salvatore A. Gazze, Dušica Vujaklija, Paul D. Facey, Lewis W. Francis, Gerry A. Quinn. A Novel Alkaliphilic Streptomyces Inhibits ESKAPE Pathogens. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02458


Kristine R.PolleyaNatalie J.OswellbRonald B.PeggbChad M.PatonabJamie A.Cooper.  

A 5-day high-fat diet rich in cottonseed oil improves cholesterol profiles and triglycerides compared to olive oil in healthy men


Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Rerouting nerves during amputation reduces phantom limb pain before it starts: Researchers find life-altering benefits to surgery developed for advanced prosthetics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2018. <>.

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