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Medicine and Health

Are Vitamin Supplements Effective or Do They Result in “Costly Urine”?

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The 5-a-day guideline encourages consuming fruits and vegetables to meet nutritional demands. Vitamin supplements are commonly used to compensate for dietary deficiencies. Do they truly function?

Alternatively, do vitamins simply result in costly pee, as some propose?

What does the term “expensive urine” refer to?
The side effect that Berocca acknowledges on their website is that people who take a supplement containing B vitamins frequently notice a change in the color of their urine.

All Berocca products contain B vitamins because they are water-soluble, allowing the body to absorb what it requires and eliminate the excess. B vitamins in your urine might cause a darker color. This is innocuous and not a reason for alarm.

It is a clear example that not all supplements we ingest are effectively absorbed by the body and are instead excreted without much benefit. However, the effectiveness of vitamins is not a sudden realization, since it depends on how much our bodies absorb and eliminate based on our individual physiologies.

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Dr. Carrie Ruxton, a nutritionist at the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS), explained that vitamins are consistently absorbed, but their bioavailability can vary based on certain conditions.

Factors affecting nutrient absorption include age-related changes, dietary inhibitors such as high-fiber plant foods, and dietary promoters like protein, vitamin C, and dietary fat.

In 1992, Dr. Victor Herbert, a former professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City, stated to Time magazine that taking vitamins is unnecessary since we already obtain all the necessary vitamins from our diets. Supplements only result in costly pee.

The catchphrase became popular, although our knowledge about vitamins has significantly increased in the past thirty years.

What is the necessity of vitamins?
The term “supplement” refers to adding something to enhance or complete it, particularly in the case of vitamins, which involve improving our diet.
“People have shifted from consuming a recommended healthy diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean fresh meat, dairy foods, tea, and tap water to diets high in sugary sodas, crisps, confectionery, biscuits, ready meals, and takeaways,” Ruxton stated. These popular choices are rich in calories but lacking in essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and good fats, such as omega-3s. The Global Burden of Disease study found that inadequate food is the main controllable factor contributing to chronic illnesses, leading to around 20% of global fatalities.

Ideally, we would obtain all necessary nutrients from our diets, but this is not always achievable. Vitamins have been recommended for many purposes beyond the supplements found in pharmacies.

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Vitamin A insufficiency is a serious condition that can be fatal for young children and is associated with causing blindness in survivors. Golden rice aims to improve the health of millions of children annually by adding beta-carotene to their diets, a precursor to vitamin A. However, the rice was not introduced due to stringent regulatory requirements, as explained by Ed Regis, author of Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a GMO Superfood.

Lucky Iron Fish introduced a new product designed to address iron deficiency. A fish-shaped cast iron ingot can be utilized by populations suffering from widespread iron-deficiency anemia by boiling it in water or including it in cooking to provide a nutritional boost.

Supplementation’s importance is more evident in situations with prevalent and substantial deficiencies. However, what about the appropriate daily amounts for individuals with access to a well-rounded diet?

Do vitamins have efficacy?
In order to determine the effectiveness of vitamin supplements, we must first analyze their intended function.

“The purpose of dietary supplements is to assist individuals in achieving the ideal intake levels for vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fats,” Ruxton explained. Dietary supplements are not pharmaceuticals and do not prevent or cure diseases, but they are a valuable resource for maintaining health throughout all stages of life.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the potential benefits of regular vitamin supplementation on brain health in older people, focusing on memory enhancement and slowing cognitive aging. A slight improvement was observed in the group that received a multivitamin supplement compared to the group that received a placebo. The daily multivitamin supplement appeared to enhance memory and overall brain function, showing a comparable effect to delaying brain aging by around two years.

Ruxton proposes that vitamins are not a cure-all for significant medical issues, but they could contribute to little improvements in our overall health and longevity.

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Further research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the impact of several vitamins on preventing strokes.

Analyzed data from 14 trials, including patients using vitamin B supplements, revealed a 34% decrease in stroke risk in regions with minimal or no folic acid fortification in meals. When they examined locations where folic acid was widely available, they observed minimal benefits.

Vitamin supplements may help improve health outcomes when our diets are deficient, but they are not a cure-all and should be combined with other lifestyle adjustments for optimal results.

A study published in Clinical Nutrition ESPEN found no substantial link between vitamin consumption and signs of an enhanced immune system, despite vitamins being commonly promoted as a quick way to recover from illness.

So, not a universal solution, but costly waste? It is more intricate than that.

This material does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult qualified health professionals for any inquiries about medical conditions.

All “explainer” articles are verified by fact-checkers to be accurate when they are published. Content, including text, photos, and links, may be modified, deleted, or included at a future time to ensure the material is up-to-date.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Medicine and Health

What are the indications of the novel COVID-19 variants?

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The COVID-19 virus remains prevalent, and it is increasingly common to hear people expressing their illness symptoms in recent weeks. We are aware of the presence of new COVID variants circulating, but what are the specific symptoms that should be monitored?

The COVID-19 FLiRT variants, known for their boldness, have rapidly gained worldwide prevalence in recent weeks, surpassing the previously dominant variant (JN.1). Currently, the variant KP.2 is responsible for the largest share of infections. These findings are based on the most recent data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fortunately, according to experts, there is evidence to suggest that previous vaccines or a recent COVID infection may still provide some level of protection. Promising recent research backs up this viewpoint. However, it is widely acknowledged that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly cunning and elusive. Although vaccines have undeniably had a profound impact on the trajectory of this pandemic, they do not provide complete immunity against infection.

Despite the Northern Hemisphere being currently beyond the usual period of highest activity for respiratory viruses, it is important to note that COVID-19 is not the sole pathogen present. What are the indicators of an infection?

The manifestations of COVID have evolved over time, in conjunction with our comprehension of how this ailment can exhibit distinctive characteristics in various individuals. Ziad Tukmachi, a general practitioner based in London, stated in an interview with BBC Future that the peculiar and ambiguous symptoms of COVID at its onset included cognitive impairment, extreme fatigue, and loss of taste and smell. “Currently, I perceive that it has undergone mutations that have led to symptoms that closely resemble those of the flu. This makes it challenging for medical professionals to differentiate between the two based on clinical observations.”

As of the time of publication, the CDC’s most recent update on COVID-19 symptoms was on March 15 of this year. Therefore, the list of potential symptoms provided is based on our current understanding of the latest variants that are currently circulating. The following items are included:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These latter two can catch people off guard, as they may mistakenly believe they are experiencing symptoms of a stomach infection instead. Similarly, you may experience symptoms that are so mild that you could confuse them with a common cold or even seasonal allergies. Currently, symptoms such as the diminished ability to perceive taste and smell, which were highly indicative of COVID-19 during its initial stages, seem to be significantly less prevalent.

Consequently, it is currently more challenging than ever to determine if one is truly infected with COVID-19 or another ailment without undergoing a diagnostic test. If you are experiencing symptoms of the cold and flu, the most prudent course of action is to remain at home and maintain a safe distance from other individuals. If you possess risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing severe symptoms, the CDC advises promptly seeking medical attention, as there are currently available treatments that can be effective if administered in a timely manner.

COVID-19 can potentially result in enduring consequences that the scientific community is actively striving to comprehend. Although many of us may no longer be experiencing mask mandates and toilet paper shortages, it is crucial that we remain considerate of the more susceptible individuals in our communities who may still be unable to let their guard down. Adhering to fundamental measures such as isolating ourselves from others when we are ill and getting tested to confirm the significance of any symptoms can assist everyone in safely managing this pandemic.

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Medicine and Health

How will the global disease landscape appear in 2050?

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If you are curious about the potential state of health and disease in the next 30 years, including the prevailing conditions and their impact on our lives, your curiosity ends here. Based on the most recent findings from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), it is projected that by 2050, there will be a significant rise in life expectancy and a shift towards non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

The GBD study is a comprehensive endeavor to measure the extent of health decline worldwide over a period of time. Since 1991, it has enhanced our comprehension of the evolving health challenges confronting individuals worldwide and provided valuable insights to healthcare professionals, researchers, and policymakers operating in the field of health.

In the 2021 edition of the GBD, it was found that neurological conditions have surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of ill health globally. The Lancet has recently published additional findings from the 2021 study in a series of six articles.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 became the main focus. According to Professor Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the most recent GBD findings show that there has been the greatest decline in life expectancy globally in the previous 71 years. According to Murray, global life expectancy experienced a decline of 1.6 years from 2019 to 2021. Peru witnessed the most significant decrease, with a decline of 6.5 years.

Moreover, the GBD also emphasized additional health patterns that have persisted during the global pandemic, with articles centering on fertility, mortality causes, disability-adjusted life-years, and risk factors to underscore the intricacies of disease burden worldwide, extending beyond COVID-19. It has also anticipated the future to forecast the potential state of diseases in the upcoming decades.

“Our article on projections for GBD […] emphasizes that future patterns may deviate significantly from past patterns due to factors such as the widespread occurrence of obesity, the rise in substance-use disorders, and climate change. It also emphasizes the immense possibilities to change the course of health for the upcoming generation,” Murray adds.

The study examined 204 countries and territories, projecting the anticipated disease burden until 2050. It also considered alternative scenarios by eliminating specific risk factors.

Undoubtedly, the researchers lacked the ability to predict the future of global health over the next three decades. Instead, they utilized projections of significant determinants of health, such as climate models and anticipated levels of particulate matter pollution (PM2.5), to inform their predictions.

Life expectancy is projected to increase, with males expected to gain an additional 4.9 years and females expected to gain an additional 4.2 years. However, this increase is slower compared to the three decades prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest increases are anticipated in countries with a lower life expectancy.

“Although climate change, BMI, high fasting plasma glucose, drug use, and, in certain areas, PM2.5 are becoming increasingly problematic, Murray predicts that life expectancy and healthy life expectancy will continue to rise until 2050,” states Murray. Nevertheless, he warns that the anticipated advancement is delicate and susceptible to being disrupted by various challenges, including but not limited to food insecurity, antimicrobial resistance, the escalation of conflicts involving nuclear weapons, and the rise in cases of diabetes, obesity, addiction, and aging.

Projections also indicated that “health will improve in the upcoming decades,”  but there will be a change in the prevalence of diseases. The burden of communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases (CMNNs) will decrease, while non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will become more prominent. NCDs are diseases that cannot be transmitted directly from person to person, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

In addition, there will be a rise in the number of years lived with disability (YLDs), suggesting a transition from early mortality to morbidity. This means that people will have longer lifespans but will experience more years of ill health.

Furthermore, it is anticipated that disparities in life expectancy based on geographical location will diminish. “Although health disparities between the most affluent and least affluent regions will persist, they are gradually narrowing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,” Murray stated.

Considering different possible futures that focused on lowering environmental risks, CMNN risks, and NCD risks, as well as the combined effects of these scenarios, showed that getting rid of certain risks can greatly improve future health outcomes, especially when big NCD risks are targeted.

“Murray concluded that there is a significant opportunity for us to shape the future of global health by proactively addressing the increasing metabolic and dietary risk factors. These risk factors are primarily linked to behavioral and lifestyle factors such as elevated blood sugar levels, high body mass index, and hypertension.”

The research findings are published in the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet.

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Medicine and Health

Neurological implant aids paralyzed individual in regaining speech abilities in two distinct languages

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A solitary cerebral implant has been employed to facilitate the restoration of speech in a paralyzed individual, encompassing both his mother tongue, Spanish, and the English language. Despite acquiring English at a later stage in life, the brain-computer interface (BCI) successfully detected the language he attempted to speak without requiring pre-programming. It is plausible that this capability could be even more effective for individuals who have been bilingual for a significant portion of their lives.

The individual, who was 36 years old, experienced quadriplegia as a result of a stroke that impacted a section of the brainstem. Remarkably, it was at the age of 30, following the stroke, that he attained a high level of proficiency in English, which was his second language. This is in spite of receiving a diagnosis of anarthria from a speech-language pathologist. Although his cognitive functions remained intact, his ability to control his vocal tract was limited, allowing him to only produce grunts and moaning sounds rather than coherent words.

The man had been utilizing an interface that allowed him to form words by making slight movements with his head, but the implementation of a brain-computer interface (BCI) had the capacity to significantly enhance this.

Prior research has demonstrated the profound and revolutionary effects that this technology can bring about. Recently, researchers presented preliminary findings on a system designed to restore speech to individuals who lack physical control over their vocal abilities. Alternative systems exist that assist individuals in computer typing by simulating the act of handwriting. Neuralink, a company led by Elon Musk, has recently implanted its inaugural brain-computer interface (BCI) device, which is purported to function akin to “telepathy.”.

The bilingualism of the participants in this trial introduced an additional level of intrigue.

The authors state in their paper that it is still uncertain to what degree bilingual speech production depends on distinct or overlapping cortical activity between languages. Consequently, it was uncertain whether a solitary device could accurately interpret neural signals when the individual was attempting to communicate in both English and Spanish.

The successful surgical procedure for implantation occurred more than three years ago. The device comprises a grid of 128 electrodes and was affixed to the surface of the patient’s left hemisphere, specifically targeting regions that play a crucial role in speech production. The device can be connected to a computer system through a connector that is implanted in the skull.

The implant functions by interpreting the neural signals that typically indicate the intention to articulate a specific word, which would normally be transmitted to the facial muscles and vocal tract. There is evidence suggesting that when acquiring a second language, the brain integrates it with the existing speech patterns of the native language. The authors of the study hypothesized that the similarities between English and Spanish in the man’s brain could enable the implant to generate either language.

However, the act of implanting the hardware is merely one component of this process. The software required training as well. Initially, they possessed a restricted lexicon consisting of 51 English words, 50 Spanish words, and three words that were shared between both languages, such as the man’s moniker, Pancho. During the training session, the participant will be presented with words individually on a screen. Subsequently, the participant will be required to verbally articulate the words in order for the system to accurately interpret their brain activity.

In order to facilitate progress, the researchers utilized the advancements observed in large language models by inputting the system’s output into GPT2. This contributed to a decrease in the error rate.

Following extensive training, the ultimate assessment was to determine whether the participant could effectively utilize the system to engage in a conversation utilizing the pre-established vocabulary. It was demonstrated to be feasible by the authors in Supplementary Video 3, and the individual was capable of effortlessly transitioning between languages.

Although the system has a limited vocabulary and requires regular recalibration through ongoing training, it has lasted longer than some other systems, reaching a duration of 48 days. This provides an exciting glimpse into the potential achievements of this developing technology. Furthermore, it contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying bilingualism in the brain.

An ideal system would possess enhanced versatility, enabling users to seamlessly transition between languages, even within a single sentence. The authors express a positive outlook regarding their technology, stating that it has the capability to enhance communication for bilingual individuals with paralysis, who may find it advantageous.

The research findings have been published in the esteemed scientific journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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