A report in the Globe and Mail says the Canadian federal government is supporting the plan to bury nuclear waste. The most interesting statement comes from Gord Edwards who is the director of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

“In the face of a growing nuclear industry or even a static nuclear industry, this is not really a solution to the catastrophe problem at the surface,” Mr. Edwards said. He said any kind of major explosion – such as a terrorist attack – at a surface storage site would release radioactive clouds as deadly as those at the Chernobyl reactor that melted down in the former Soviet Union in 1986.

So how many people died due to the Chernobyl accident? Read the rest of this entry »

In my Vitamin D: Sunshine and Skin Cancer post I mentioned the Greenland Inuit and that they would have acquired all the Vitamin D they need from food. Whenever I hear about an important vitamin/nutrient/macronutrient for health, I ask myself what source contains it for each of the following three well known healthy cultures: Read the rest of this entry »

DasL wants to know how Vitamin D derived from sun exposure can prevent cancer when we have been told to cover up from the sun to prevent skin cancer. Marc answers DasL’s confusion in the comments section (see full exchange here).

So here is my interpretation. There are two types of skin cancer, melanoma and nonmelanoma. Nonmelanoma skin cancers are very common but rarely fatal. Malignant melanoma is very rare but deadly. Over-exposure (i.e. sun burns) can lead to skin cancer in general. Vitamin D protects against cancers that have a very high mortality rate, including malignant melanoma.

Vitamin D is produced in skin exposed to UV-B. The more common and abundant type of UV is UV-A which gives us a tan. UV-B levels are dependent on where the sun is in the sky. Highest levels occur at mid-day in the summer while typical Canadian UV-B levels are insufficient for 4-6 months of the year (winter).

The trick is to get UV-B exposure without getting burned. Short exposures at mid-day are ideal.

So how did the famously healthy Greenland Inuit get their Vitamin D? Food, of course. I’ll take a shot at Vitamin D in food in another post.

New research claims that Vitamin D is key to preventing cancer.

A four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn’t take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error.

We get some Vitamin D from food but we have the ability to produce large amounts in our skin when it is exposed to sunshine (UV rays).

Statistics Canada released some fantastic news about the two biggest killers of Canadians, cancer and cardiovascular disease but you have to dig through the negative spin to find it:

The age-standardized mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases declined 16% from 2000 to 2004, while cancer mortality rates declined 4% over the same period.

That is awesome.

Not only does influenza cause long term heart disease as I pointed out in my 1918 Spanish Flu & Heart Disease post, but it seems the flu can trigger heart attacks within days.

Researchers believe that flu causes an acute and severe inflammation in the body, which, in some patients, can destabilise atherosclerotic plaques [2] in coronary arteries and cause heart attacks.

Prof Madjid said: “Most people develop atherosclerotic lesions in their coronary arteries in early childhood and these lesions grow over time. Inflammation plays a pivotal role in development and growth of these lesions. Most people in Western countries live with different stages of atherosclerosis and many will never show any clinical manifestations of the atherosclerosis. However, in some patients the quiescent, stable atherosclerotic plaques undergo sudden changes, mainly due to exaggerated inflammation, leading to rupture of these vulnerable plaques and subsequent formation of clots resulting in heart attacks.

“This study shows that flu is an important trigger of heart attacks because flu is a severe infection, with high incidence rates and is readily preventable. Therefore, our results give us a new tool for preventing heart attacks.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution posts about how well various U.S. cities fought Spanish flu in 1918. The New York Times has a longer story about the new research.

I hope someone takes this data and tries to correlate it to the promising hypothesis that the surge in cardiovascular disease that peaked in the 60’s was caused by lingering Spanish flu affects.

It is proposed that an early 20th-century expansion of a coronary heart disease–prone subpopulation, characterized by high serum-cholesterol phenotype and high case-fatality—which contributed to most of the coronary heart disease cases and deaths during the 1960s—may have been a late result of the 1918 influenza pandemic.