from the world's big
Scientifically, it's referred to as 'cancer-related cognitive impairment' or 'chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction'.
One study says reduce red meat consumption; another says enjoy. Which should we believe?
- A recent meta-analysis found red and processed meats increased the risk of developing heart disease by 3–7 percent.
- The study comes just months after an infamous review claimed Americans did not need to change their meat-eating ways.
- The problem is not scientific consensus, but how specialists analyze risk when proffering public guidelines.
A red meat menace<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjcwMjI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzczMjkwNn0.tDslq8JmtrbM57ZgTYzJfADxxS7ZE6slfZDFN2B_ycs/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C116%2C0%2C116&height=700" id="0c65b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ec5d44246022561bd7461624a343f28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Red meat is associated with an increased, though slight, risk of developing heart disease.
In the heart or in the head?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjcwMjI0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMTU4ODAyMX0.Ep82DxPPMfaJx8uQECLH-qU1xhtOB2PL3cSliqx-JDI/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C190%2C0%2C169&height=700" id="2a6f9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dcf750a7ea8816216c2bf30585e089a8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
But a meta-analysis published last year said that Americans don't have to change their meat habits.
Nutritional data and you<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="zRw2kkr2" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="61788d9f10d3a1923a6ae7243ee67d57"> <div id="botr_zRw2kkr2_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zRw2kkr2-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/zRw2kkr2-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zRw2kkr2-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>What should we take away from this back-and-forth between nutritionists? First, both studies found that people who reduce red and processed meat consumption lowered their risk of premature mortality. They also found that the risk reduction was small.</p><p>The difference lies in how they believe that risk should be communicated to the public and how people should navigate their daily diets.<em></em></p><p>"The standards of evidence for the [scientific conclusions] are scientific matters and should not depend on extra scientific considerations" David Allison, dean of the Indiana University School of Public Health, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/health/red-meat-questions-answers.html" target="_blank">told the <em>New York Times</em></a> added. "The standards of evidence for the [recommendations] are matters of personal judgment or in some cases legislation."</p><p>Red meat and processed foods are associated with a low risk of developing cancer and heart disease. That's a scientific consensus. That's not the same as saying whether individual people should or should not consume those meats.</p><p>For example, if changing dietary habits reduces the risk of heart disease by 3 percent, that means only three in one hundred people would statistically see the benefits. The vast majority, 97 people, won't. That's the view of the <em>Annals of Internal Medicine</em>'s recommendation: The current guidelines won't change much on an individual level.</p><p>On the other hand, spread that risk across an entire population, and the salubrious effects become staggering. For the U.S.'s 327 million people, a reduced risk of 3 percent means 9,810,000 fewer people suffering from heart disease. Since health recommendations are generalized for an entire population, it makes sense that experts target individual advice with the public in mind.</p><p>Aaron Carroll, a physician and author of the <em>Bad Food Bible</em>, has <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/upshot/health-risks-meat-experts.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article" target="_blank">written</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6CzVJg95xQ" target="_blank">spoken</a> a lot on this topic. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOVBOwbqcT8" target="_blank">His advice is as follows</a>: "If you're eating multiple servings of red meat a day, then you may want to cut back. If you eat a couple of servings a week, then you're likely just fine."</p><p>Moving away from meat, nutritional research also agrees what the average person should eat on a daily basis. In <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/david-katz-on-what-we-know-about-diet" target="_self">an interview with Big Think</a>, David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, summed up the findings nicely:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">You want to eat fish? Eat fish. You want to eat seafood? Eat seafood. You want to eat some lean meat? Do. You want to eat eggs? Do. You want to eat dairy? Do. But the bulk of your diet should be vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. This is true all around the world where people do the best.</p><p>If you choose to eat meat, well, you do you. But you do you at your own risk.</p>
Scientists figured out how a certain treatment for skin cancer gives some patients a visual "superpower."
- In the early 2000s, it was reported that some cancer patients being treated with chlorin e6 were experiencing enhanced night vision.
- Using a molecular simulation, researchers discovered that a chlorin e6 injection under infrared light activates vision by changing retinal in the same way that visible light does.
- Researchers hope that this chemical reaction could one day be harnessed to help treat certain types of blindness and sensitivity to light.
In the early 2000s, it was reported that a certain kind of skin cancer treatment called photodynamic therapy, which uses light to destroy malignant cells, had a bizarre side effect: It was giving patients enhanced night time vision.An essential component to this therapy is a photosensitive compound called chlorin e6. Some people being treated with chlorin e6 were upset to discover that they were seeing silhouettes and outlines in the dark. Researchers think they might finally know why this happens.
The chemistry of vision
Rods and cones photoreceptors in a human retina.
Photo Credit: Dr. Robert Fariss, National Eye Institute, NIH / Flickr
"Seeing" happens when a series of receptors in the retina, the cones and rods, collect light. Rods contain a lot of rhodopsin, a photosensitive protein that absorbs visible light thanks to an active compound found in it called retinal. When retinal is exposed to visible light, it splits from rhodopsin. This then allows the light signal to be converted into an electrical signal that the visual cortex of our brains interprets into sight. Of course, there is "less light" at night, which actually means that light radiation is not in a domain visible to humans. It's at higher wavelengths (the infrared level) that retinal is not sensitive to. Hence, why we can't see in the dark like many critters can.
But the vision process can be activated by another interaction of light and chemistry. As it turns out, a chlorin e6 injection under infrared light changes retinal in the same way that visible light does. This is the cause of the unforeseen night vision side effect of the treatment."This explains the increase in night-time visual acuity," chemist Antonio Monari, from the University of Lorraine in France, told CNRS. "However, we did not know precisely how rhodopsin and its active retinal group interacted with chlorin. It is this mechanism that we have now succeeded in elucidating via molecular simulation."
"Molecular simulation" is a method that uses an algorithm that integrates the laws of quantum and Newtonian physics to model the functioning of a biological system over time. The team used this method to mimic the biomechanical movements of individual atoms – that is, their attraction or repulsion to one another – along with the making or breaking of chemical bonds.
"For our simulation we placed a virtual rhodopsin protein inserted in its lipid membrane in contact with several chlorin e6 molecules and water, or several tens of thousands of atoms," Monari explained to CNRS. "Our super-calculators ran for several months and completed millions of calculations before they were able to simulate the entire biochemical reaction triggered by infrared radiation." In nature, this phenomena occurs within fractions of a nanosecond.
The molecular simulation showed that when the chlorin e6 molecule absorbs the infrared radiation, it interacts with the oxygen present in the eye tissue and transforms it into reactive, or singlet, oxygen. In addition to killing cancer cells, "singlet oxygen" can also react with retinal to enable a slightly enhanced eyesight at night, when light waves are at the infrared level.
Now that researchers know why the "supernatural" side effect occurs, they may be able to limit the chance of it happening to patients undergoing photodynamic treatment. Thinking further out, the researchers hope for the possibility that this chemical reaction could be harnessed to help treat certain types of blindness and sensitivity to light.
Ultimately, researchers say that this has been a big flex for the power of molecular simulations, which can give us astonishing scientific insights like this.
"Molecular simulation is already being used to shed light on fundamental mechanisms – for example, why certain DNA lesions are better repaired than others – and enable the selection of potential therapeutic molecules by mimicking their interaction with a chosen target," Monari told CNRS.Don't hold your breath on night vision eyedrops though.
In 2018, cancer drugs earned the pharmaceutical industry $123.8 billion. Soon, they'll be worth billions more.
- A recent report from Evaluate shows oncological therapies were the most profitable in 2018.
- The report projects cancer drug sales to nearly double by 2024, pocketing a tidy $236.6 billion in profit.
- These projections come at a time when 42 percent of cancer patients lose their life savings to afford treatment.
Another day, another billion<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY2MjczMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDYzNjM2MH0.QvSTU-fxal2478I-drk0yc5rZk-rEJiFM4uEFlJr3J4/img.jpg?width=980" id="4e27a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="698e3f9f51f5af07463d415b939af4b8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An infographic detailing the revenue for the top eight drug therapy areas." />
Is R&D to blame?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY2MjczNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDQ5NzIyM30.NYONT4XInIDntOIFOc-YAXk3qxBU3RFaYpZv_uTAWaU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C186%2C0%2C187&height=700" id="6beab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b0b9f93fb90f67ca0ca6961b718a58c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A tray is prepared to administer an Yttrium-90 radioembolization procedure to a patient with liver cancer.
A life for a life savings<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6U1M56df" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="da749beb0dc7a6baa658bea00b497ea7"> <div id="botr_6U1M56df_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6U1M56df-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6U1M56df-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6U1M56df-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>True, there are other expenses to consider beyond R&D, including overhead, marketing, and, of course, battalions of patent lawyers. Tahir Amin, an attorney practicing in intellectual property law, also reminds us that many people in the pharmaceutical industry, especially scientists and researchers, remain driven to treat illnesses and improve lives.</p><p>But <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/why-are-drugs-so-expensive" target="_self">as he told <em>Big Think </em>in an interview</a>, the business side prioritizes healthy stocks over healthy people:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">And I think [much as been] lost in the process as pharmaceutical companies now really start to look at their bottom line and their shareholders and what the investors want rather than what their original purpose was — to help people become healthier. And I think that the bargain of that has tilted more towards the financialization of things rather than thinking about health first.</p><p>Making these inordinate gains a bitterer pill is that they come when patients are expunging their life savings to afford treatment. As reported by <em>Big Think</em>'s<em> </em>Derek Beres, <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/how-much-does-cancer-cost?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1" target="_self">42 percent of new cancer patients deplete their life savings</a> during the first two years of treatment.</p><p>Of the 9.5 million cancer diagnoses <a href="https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(18)30509-6/fulltext" target="_blank">analyzed in a study</a>, the average costs came to $92,098. But that's just an average. In one case, <a href="https://www.cancertodaymag.org/Pages/Winter2017-2018/The-Cost-of-Treatment.aspx" target="_blank">the parents of a cancer-stricken girl</a> spent $1,691,627.45 on her treatment. She died on her sixth birthday.</p><p>As Parramore concludes: "The status quo is unhealthy for anyone except pharmaceutical company executives. Drug companies need a new business model that gets them back into the business of making the drugs Americans need at prices we can all afford to pay."</p><p>As the world population continues to age and live longer, <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/cancer" target="_blank">cancer rates</a> will continue in tandem. Unless drastic changes occur, it looks as though Big Pharma has some salubrious years to look forward to.</p>
Numerous drugs designed to treat diabetes, arthritis, and other conditions may actually have secret anti-cancer properties as well.
- A recent study identified nearly 50 different existing drugs with anti-cancer properties.
- Learning about these previously unrecognized properties is critical — since drugs like these have already been approved for human consumption, they can be brought to the market and applied in cancer treatment faster.
- The study also identified novel mechanisms of action that could serve as the focus of future studies.