from the world's big
A new study confirms that e-cigs damage your heart
The damage might not be "as bad" as traditional cigarettes, but it's still pretty bad.
- E-cigarettes reduce the amount of nitric oxide being produced, increasing the likelihood of heart damage.
- Vaping might be "healthier" than smoking traditional cigarettes, but as more research continues to be published, e-cigs are certainly not being shown as "healthy."
- Juul's recent removal of flavored pods from retail outlets was pre-empting forthcoming FDA regulations.
The notion that e-cigarettes are "healthier" than regular cigarettes quickly created another billion-dollar industry. The public imagination in the Information Age allowed for such quick transmission of data, even if these data were bogus. It was bad enough that adults were hooked—good enough for non-smokers, who no longer had to deal with toxic fumes trailing smokers. Then kids started getting hooked; the song changed.
By this fall, nearly 20 percent of middle and high school students have partaken in vaping. The e-cig industry was relying on a lack of credible research, not a surplus of honest studies. A "smaller concentration of toxic substances" does not negate harmful effects; it might reduce them, at best. Forget the addiction question, people simply transferred their cravings to another device, or, worse, an entirely new category of smokers were indoctrinated by flavors like Mango Mangue, Gummi Bear, and Blue Raz Cotton Candy.
Under public pressure, Juul, which controls 70 percent of the e-cig market in the United States, announced it would stop selling most flavored pods in retail outlets, pre-empting FDA plans to tighten regulations on teen smoking. Juul Labs is dedicating $30 million to independent research to battle this trend (transparency about the studies and researchers are hopefully forthcoming; corporations sponsoring research rarely works out well for the public). Their move is equivalent to Nestle launching an anti-sugar crusade to combat youth obesity.
The reality is Juul would have had to have done this anyway, if it hoped to save face. Given how long and hard the cigarette industry has fought regulations and attempted to assert its will into the fabric of society through questionable marketing, it's hard to imagine this as a purely benevolent move. Vaping might be "healthier" than smoking, but the idea that it's not dangerous is laughable.
For example, in August a study at the University of Birmingham discovered that vaping liquid produces inflammatory cytokines, which over the course of decades could contribute to heart problems. Now a new study that was recently presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions confirms that, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigs cause endothelial cells to produce less nitric oxide, leading to heart damage.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a byproduct shared by almost all forms of organic life. The inner lining of blood vessels (endothelium) use nitric oxide in vasodilation, widening blood vessels, to increase blood flow. Producing less NO results in constricted blood flow, one of the main reasons regular smokers suffer from cardiovascular damage.
The FDA has ordered e-cigarette product makers to devise a plan to keep their devices away from minors, declaring use by teens has reached an 'epidemic proportion'.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Dr. Leila Mohammadi, the lead researcher on this latest study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, notes that in this regard, vaping is not much safer than cigarettes.
We showed that blood serum from electronic cigarette users has harmful effects that are similar to that of (tobacco) cigarettes on endothelial cell functions. This harmful effect is likely to adversely affect arteries and cardiovascular health.
University of Louisville professor of medicine, Aruni Bhatnagar, notes that the tobacco industry has a vested interest in promoting the idea that e-cigs are safer. Big players in tobacco, such as R.J. Reynolds, British American Tobacco, and Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) all have vaping divisions that are driving more and more revenue into their coffers. The device changes while the addiction remains the same.
The latest study's principal investigator, Matthew Springer, sums up the whole cigarette vs. vaping debate in the simplest terms possible. It's an argument that anyone employed in the tobacco industry will continue to fight against, regardless of how basic this knowledge is.
Anything you inhale other than clean air seems to be causing vascular problems. Rather than try to find the things to inhale that aren't as bad as cigarettes, we might have to realize (we need) to just breathe clean air.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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A new study suggests that a century-old vaccine may reduce the severity of coronavirus cases.
- A new study finds a country's tuberculosis BCG vaccination is linked to its COVID-19 mortality rate.
- More BCG vaccinations is connected to fewer severe coronavirus cases.
- The study is preliminary and more research is needed to support the findings.
Professor Luis Escobar.
Credit: Virginia Tech
A study of the manner in which memory works turns up a surprising thing.
- Researchers have found that some basic words appear to be more memorable than others.
- Some faces are also easier to commit to memory.
- Scientists suggest that these words serve as semantic bridges when the brain is searching for a memory.
Cognitive psychologist Weizhen Xie (Zane) of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) works with people who have intractable epilepsy, a form of the disorder that can't be controlled with medications. During research into the brain activity of patients, he and his colleagues discovered something odd about human memory: It appears that certain basic words are consistently more memorable than other basic words.
The research is published in Nature Human Behaviour.
An odd find
Image source: Tsekhmister/Shutterstock
Xie's team was re-analyzing memory tests of 30 epilepsy patients undertaken by Kareem Zaghloul of NINDS.
"Our goal is to find and eliminate the source of these harmful and debilitating seizures," Zaghloul said. "The monitoring period also provides a rare opportunity to record the neural activity that controls other parts of our lives. With the help of these patient volunteers we have been able to uncover some of the blueprints behind our memories."
Specifically, the participants were shown word pairs, such as "hand" and "apple." To better understand how the brain might remember such pairings, after a brief interval, participants were supplied one of the two words and asked to recall the other. Of the 300 words used in the tests, five of them proved to be five times more likely to be recalled: pig, tank, doll, pond, and door.
The scientists were perplexed that these words were so much more memorable than words like "cat," "street," "stair," "couch," and "cloud."
Intrigued, the researchers looked at a second data source from a word test taken by 2,623 healthy individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found essentially the same thing.
"We saw that some things — in this case, words — may be inherently easier for our brains to recall than others," Zaghloul said. That the Mechanical Turk results were so similar may "provide the strongest evidence to date that what we discovered about how the brain controls memory in this set of patients may also be true for people outside of the study."
Why understanding memory matters
Image source: Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock
"Our memories play a fundamental role in who we are and how our brains work," Xie said. "However, one of the biggest challenges of studying memory is that people often remember the same things in different ways, making it difficult for researchers to compare people's performances on memory tests." He added that the search for some kind of unified theory of memory has been going on for over a century.
If a comprehensive understanding of the way memory works can be developed, the researchers say that "we can predict what people should remember in advance and understand how our brains do this, then we might be able to develop better ways to evaluate someone's overall brain health."
Image source: joob_in/Shutterstock
Xie's interest in this was piqued during a conversation with Wilma Bainbridge of University of Chicago at a Christmas party a couple of years ago. Bainbridge was, at the time, wrapping up a study of 1,000 volunteers that suggested certain faces are universally more memorable than others.
Bainbridge recalls, "Our exciting finding is that there are some images of people or places that are inherently memorable for all people, even though we have each seen different things in our lives. And if image memorability is so powerful, this means we can know in advance what people are likely to remember or forget."
Image source: Anatomography/Wikimedia
At first, the scientists suspected that the memorable words and faces were simply recalled more frequently and were thus easier to recall. They envisioned them as being akin to "highly trafficked spots connected to smaller spots representing the less memorable words." They developed a modeling program based on word frequencies found in books, new articles, and Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the model was unable to predict or duplicate the results they saw in their clinical experiments.
Eventually, the researchers came to suspect that the memorability of certain words was linked to the frequency with which the brain used them as semantic links between other memories, making them often-visited hubs in individuals's memory networks, and therefore places the brain jumped to early and often when retrieving memories. This idea was supported by observed activity in participants' anterior temporal lobe, a language center.
In epilepsy patients, these words were so frequently recalled that subjects often shouted them out even when they were incorrect responses to word-pair inquiries.
Modern search engines no longer simply look for raw words when resolving an inquiry: They also look for semantic — contextual and meaning — connections so that the results they present may better anticipate what it is you're looking for. Xie suggests something similar may be happening in the brain: "You know when you type words into a search engine, and it shows you a list of highly relevant guesses? It feels like the search engine is reading your mind. Well, our results suggest that the brains of the subjects in this study did something similar when they tried to recall a paired word, and we think that this may happen when we remember many of our past experiences."
He also notes that it may one day be possible to leverage individuals' apparently wired-in knowledge of their language as a fixed point against which to assess the health of their memory and brain.