So…What’s It Like To Be Black?

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As a precocious black boy coming of age in Brooklyn, NY I sat in social studies class learning about the magnificent new world exploits of Europeans, the peaceful and earthy Native Americans, and the archetype black personalities to emulate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and if my teacher was feeling radical that day, Malcolm X.  My dearth of Black history (African American and African) knowledge cultivated a feeling blacks did nothing to shape their societies. My black history universe constituted specks of moon dust, unbeknownst to me this universe was a chaotic soul-wrenching maelstrom of events where incandescent luminaries with magnetic personas were more indomitable than gravity. Being black is an element commingled in the vastness of that universe, everyday I lived, this universe acted on me and I birthed its spirit in the pregnant awkwardness of being black in America.

In The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a groundbreaking new six-part series noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history premiering Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS (there are replays throughout the week) and airing six consecutive Tuesdays through November 26, 2013. The series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Professor Gates believes, “The story of the African-American people is the story of the settlement and growth of America itself, a universal tale that all people should experience.” PBS_The_African_Americans-_Many_Rivers_to_Cross_t580

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The Benefits of Antioxidants

The word “antioxidants” has been thrown around a lot in recent years as an increasing number of people have become more curious about the kind of food they should eat to help decrease the likelihood of multiple kinds of cancers and heart disease. Frequently, health articles reference antioxidants as one of the “good” things in food that people should consume more of. But what exactly are these mysterious substances, and what can they do for our health?

First, a brief chemistry lesson. Oxidation is the process by which a particular chemical substance loses electrons to another substance. Reduction is the process by which a particular chemical substance receives electrons from another substance.  These two processes are frequently coupled in what is known as a “redox reaction” (reduction-oxidation).

Redox

These reactions are involved in multiple important processes in the human body such as cellular respiration in which sugar is converted to cellular energy.

Sometimes, redox reactions result in the formation of free radicals. Free radicals have an open electron shell, which makes them highly reactive. They play an important role in the human body because they help kill bacteria inside cells. However, if free radicals aren’t attached to another molecule, they can cause mutations within cells by reacting with DNA. They can also begin chain reactions, which cause cell damage. Some studies have shown that this damage can lead to cancer. This is where antioxidants come in. If an antioxidant is present, it will prevent the free radical from starting the chain reaction by reducing it (giving electrons to it) and thereby causing its own oxidation. Therefore, antioxidants must always be replenished in the human body through the ingestion of particular foods. It should be noted that besides being produced in the body, free radicals are also found in cigarette smoke. In fact, smokers take in 100 trillion free radical molecules each time they inhale smoke from a cigarette.

Now that we understand why antioxidants are important, the next question becomes what kinds of molecules are considered antioxidants, and where can we get some of these magical, wonderful substances?

Antioxidants can be grouped into two categories: those that are soluble in water and those that are soluble in lipids (fats). Some examples of water-soluble anti-oxidants include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), glutathione (which is synthesized by the body), and uric acid (the most abundant antioxidant in human blood). Lipid-soluble antioxidants include beta-carotene (the stuff that makes carrots orange), retinol (vitamin A), and α-Tocopherol (vitamin E).

Fun fact: Since Europeans mostly eat olive and sunflower oil, alpha-tocopherol is the most common form of vitamin E found in their diet. Since Americans eat mostly soybean and corn oil, gamma-tocopherol is the most common form of vitamin E found in our diet. The human body preferentially absorbs alpha-tocopherol. This is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so great.

Also, it’s interesting that selenium, which is way over on the right side of the periodic table, is often listed as an antioxidant, but it is actually not considered one. It actually assists antioxidant enzymes in their activity. It is found in tuna, Brazil nuts, and various grains.

As can be seen from the list of antioxidants, there is no mysterious berry or plant that one has to eat to increase the amount of antioxidants in their diet because they are actually found in a wide variety of foods.  Vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant, is found in all kinds of fruits and vegetables including many varieties of berries, citrus fruits, guava, peppers, and mangoes. The list could go on for pages, but the most important thing to notice is that these fruits and vegetables naturally have a lot of color. It’s important to consume these foods either raw or steamed. Otherwise, there’s no point in eating them if all of the color and most importantly, the vitamin C, has been drained out of them due to over processing. Surprisingly, Vitamin C can also be found in things like beef liver and oysters. Since vitamin C is water soluble, the body does not store it and needs a “dose” of it everyday.

Vitamin E, a lipid-soluble antioxidant, is actually a general term for eight different kinds of compounds. It helps eliminate free radicals with the help of vitamin C. As stated before, when an antioxidant reduces a free radical, it becomes oxidized. In the case of vitamin E, it can then be reduced by vitamin C. Since vitamin E is lipid soluble, it is found in food that has a high percentage of “good” fat. Foods such as wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, avocados, and various kinds of nuts all contain this vitamin. Unlike vitamin C, the body can store vitamin E because it is lipid soluble. This means that only 15 mg of vitamin E need to be consumed by both men and women everyday. However, women need to consume 75 mg of vitamin C per day, and men need to consume 90 mg of vitamin C per day.

It seems that every time that scientists start praising a particular chemical substance or food for its health benefits, the public rushes to get as much of it as possible in any kind of form. This is not a wise action because all nutrients, including antioxidants, need to be consumed in moderation. Also, it’s better to consume these antioxidants in their natural forms instead of relying on supplements. You’ll have a much more pleasurable experience eating beautiful strawberries and juicy oranges than consuming synthetic products. The real stuff is always better.

Sources

Jiang, Q; Christen, S; Shigenaga, MK; Ames, BN (2001). “Gamma-tocopherol, the major form of  vitamin E in the US diet, deserves more attention”. The American journal of clinical nutrition 74 (6): 714–22.

Rigotti A (2007). “Absorption, transport, and tissue delivery of vitamin E”. Mol. Aspects Med. 28 (5–6): 423–36.

Unknown. (n.d). Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Superfoods for Optimal Health. Webmd.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/.

Unknown. (2012, February 9). Each puff of a cigarette: 100 Trillion Free radicals. Easy Health Options.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://easyhealthoptions.com/.

Wagner, Karl-Heinz; Afaf Kamal-Eldin, Ibrahim Elmadfa (2004). “Gamma-tocopherol–an underestimated vitamin?”. Annals of nutrition and metabolism 48 (3): 169–88.

The HPV vaccine controversy

Among the many public health issues, the occurrence of cervical cancer is on the rise. According to recent studies by National Cancer Institute the incidence rates of cervical cancer increased. It is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and there are two HPV vaccines available on the market which are: Gardasil and Cervarix. The research on the development of Gardasil vaccine started in the 1980’s and has been in use since 2006. The vaccine is said to work for both boys and girls especially from the girls’ age group of 13 to 26. So, given the efficacy of these vaccines, why there is still prevalence of the cervical cancer?

Not all cancers are treatable with vaccination. The National Cancer Institute said that a few women and men are getting vaccinated. The vaccination rates for men who can spread the virus are much more lower. Part of the reason remains if the vaccine is safe enough. There have been many cases with adverse effects. Some cases reported included pulmonary embolism cases and were fatal. Some other cases reported were hypersensitivity reactions to the vaccine. Nevertheless, according to the U.S Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no connection with the vaccine. Besides, a small number of cases with Guillain-Barre Syndrome were revealed following Gardasil vaccination although no affirmation was made.

Companies are heavily promoting the safety and cost-effectiveness of the vaccines. Furthermore, the vaccines can minimize the need of medical care and medical tests such as the follow-up procedures from abnormal test results. On the other hand, while the HPV vaccination typically requires three shots – and no one likes shots- but it also comes costly running over $400 and it’s not covered by health insurance.

It remains unclear if the vaccinations will have a long-term impact. The morality of this is that it fails to provide any solution to the rise of the cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus among young men and women creating a controversy of HPV vaccination.

Read more: http://sanevax.org/hpv-vaccines-human-rights-violation/

 

Natural Ways To Help Boost Your Immune System

1) To get rid of a cold: Enoki, Shitake, and Oysters– all of these contain ergothioneine, important for its’ antioxidant properties.

 2) To balance out your hormones: The answer is simple: Avocados. Avocados are rich in amino acids and antioxidants that help your adrenals and balancing your hormones.

 3) To get rid of the flu: Ginger! It assists us to keep our body out from harmful toxins. Also,  it can also help to cleanse our lymphatic system which is responsible for respiratory infections.

 4) To lower your bad cholesterol levels: Eating oatmeal is very helpful as it constitutes  soluble fiber that lowers LDL levels.

5) To lower the risk of heart attack?  The answer may be pumpkin seeds as  they are abundant in magnesium.  Magnesium lowers the blood pressure thus reducing the risk of heart attack.

 6) Against cancer risks: For a healthy immune system, graviola are potent natural compounds that fight cancerous cells.

 7) To improve gut health: Using oregano oil is the best way to kill the spread of the bacteria in your gut and can also cleanse it to boost your immune system.

 8) To heal your liver:  As we know, liver  removes the harmful substances from our body. The best way to support the process is to detoxify everything by using vegetables such as: kale, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage.

 9) To stop coughing: Using Sage extract can ease your cough, and also removes the mucus. One  alternative way is to try a drop of sage extract in your tea.

 10) For a better visionBlack Currants contain anthocyanosides that assist with the night vision. They are also abundant in vitamin C that help your immune system.

 11) To get a radiant skin:  For a healthy skin, eating pomegranates can do the wonder. The reason is that ellagic acid and punic alagin fight against free radical damage.

 12) To have stronger hair: Eggs can make hair stronger and healthy because of iron, biotin and B12.  Deficiency of iron causes anemia that in some cases causes hair loss.

Sources: “Dr. Oz’s 13 Natural Immunity Boosters” Accessed on Oct.1st, 2013. At:  http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/boost-your-immunity-naturally

 

Top 5 Reasons to Dislike Pre-med students? I strongly oppose.

med meme             This morning I happened to stumble upon an article called “Top 5 Reasons to Dislike Pre-med Students”, and I have to say, I found it pretty offensive, and more importantly, inaccurate on the most part. What took me by surprise was that it never occurred to me that such stereotypes of pre-med students even existed. I mean yes, we all want to study medicine and become doctors one day, but what’s so bad about that?  To sum it up, the author of this particular article believes that pre-med students “are willing to give everything up — hobbies, athletics, even their curiosity — for the sake of a high-paying job as a body mechanic” . He doesn’t stop there…

These are the points that the author makes:
1. Pre-med students are not motivated by curiosity. When they ask questions, it’s usually because they want to find out what will be coming on the upcoming exam.

2. They haggle with their teachers to get extra points.

3. They use questionable tactics to get good grades (meaning they resort to drugs such as adderall, provigil, and Ritalin, or they cheat.)

4. They hoard leadership positions and then run organizations into the ground.

5. They game the system to get good grades.

I’m honestly offended by these generalizations. If I’m asking my professor a question, it means that I’m secretly trying to find out what he’s bringing on his next exam; I can’t be asking because I genuinely want to know? I’ve attended science classes where some of my fellow students would ask questions that would lead to fifteen minute tangents, and moreover, they wouldn’t drop the question until they found out the answer. Medicine is fascinating, but so are many other subjects. Students of every field can ask questions they don’t really care about; I don’t see why the author would limit this to just pre-med students.

Next up, we haggle with our teachers to get extra points. Perhaps the author didn’t consider that maybe when we go up to the teacher to ask about a question, it may be because we want to know where our mistakes are OR that maybe we felt that we answered in a way that deserved more points. Whatever the reason may be, this claim is completely unjustified and really shallow, if I may say so.

And now, my absolute favorite accusation yet: we use drugs and/or cheat to get the grade we want. Hmmm, that’s odd because in every science course I’ve taken, my professors made sure that every person sitting to my right, left, front, or back had a different version of the exam than I did. Other than this type of cheating, I honestly cannot think of another effective technique. I mean write down all 10 steps of glycolysis on a sheet of paper? Will they all even be able to fit on that discreet shade of white without anyone noticing? And drugs? Must I say anything more?

There’s no point on picking on poor pre-med students because these generalizations can work for anyone studying anything. Pre-med students just happen to be more ambitious, more driven to success, and more willing to sacrifice what means to them most to achieve their dreams. So please, don’t hate if you can’t do the work.

Here is the link to the full article if you’re interested: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/04/top-5-reasons-t/

Read This And…Sleep

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As a pre-health student you’re already studying to excess, sacrificing friendships, culture exploration, your sanity and sleep. Yet, did you realize an extra hour of sleep could change you? Modernity demands people transform into perpetual dynamos and consider sleep as a luxury. While in deep sleep your brain is moving memories from short-term storage into long-term storage, which makes more space for the next day (your brian…best hard drive ever). Without adequate deep sleep your memories will be lost. Deep sleep is essential to retain memories (physics equations, cell membrane function, the periodic table, etc.) that its advisable to allow for a reasonable night’s sleep, about seven-and-half hours’ prior to an exam; sorry ardent crammers.

During REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) noradrenalin, a stress-related chemical in the brain is halted, the only time this happens. REM allows the brain to reprocess all your experiences from the day aiding to reconciling emotional events. Don’t agitate REM as some people do by imbibing late at night. A good dram can lift your spirits and ease the mind however; it will reduce your REM sleep.

Need more evidence to sleep longer?

Researchers from the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre had volunteers who normally sleep anywhere between six and nine hours randomly allocated into two groups. The volunteers who slept less had around 500 genes affected; genes that are associated with response to stress, inflammation, immune response, diabetes and cancer risk increased and became more active.

If this article caused you to slumber while reading, I’ve done my job…you’re welcome.

Click SLEEP to read the full article:

SLEEP