Vitamins supplements do not help general health, study reports

Vitamin and mineral supplements do not lead to measurable health benefits, a new study published in the journal Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports.

This research — which comes from scientists at the University of Toronto — shows that multivitamins, as well as vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C supplements have no positive or negative health effects when taken over long periods of time.

To make that discovery, the team analyzed more than 150 randomized clinical trials published between January 2012 and October 2017. They found that, not only did the supplements have no positive effects, but Niacin (B3) and antioxidants seemed to increase the risk of death.

For example, there were 2,908 deaths among 18,719 people who took vitamin D, compared to 2,968 deaths among 18,831 people in control groups.

“We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume,” said lead author David Jenkins, a professor at the University of Toronto, in a statement. “Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm—but there is no apparent advantage either.”

This is not the first time medical professionals have questioned supplements. Previous studies show that there is not enough evidence on the benefits or harms of multivitamins to prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer.

That is important because current estimates show that roughly 50 percent of Americans take at least one vitamin supplement and at least 30 percent take multivitamins.

Though such products do not do any known damage, the fact that they come with no benefits means they are not a good substitute for healthy foods.

“In the absence of significant positive data—apart from folic acid’s potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease—it’s most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals,” concluded Jenkins, according to Gizmodo. “So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less-processed plant foods including vegetables, fruits, and nuts.”


Hayabusa 2 spacecraft reaches asteroid Ryugu

On Tuesday, scientists successfully used the Lidar instrument to measure the distance from Hayabusa to the asteroid Ryugu for the first time.

Ryugu is a relatively primitive C-type asteroid, rich in organic and hydrated minerals and combined with water. Studying the dynamics of Ryugu will provide insights into the molecular mix that contributed to the origin of life on Earth.

The onboard Lidar (light detection and ranging) instrument is used partly as a navigation sensor for rendezvous, approach, and touchdown. It illuminates the target with pulsed laser light to measure variable distances between the two objects.

Associate professor Dr. Yoshikawa of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) said Ryugu’s shape was unexpected.

He said asteroids with this general diamond shape tended to be fast-rotating, completing one revolution every three or four hours. However, Ryugu’s spin period is relatively long – about 7.5 hours.

“Many scientists in our project think that in the past the spin period was very short – it rotated very quickly – and the spin period has slowed down. We don’t know why it slowed down, but this is a very interesting topic,” Yoshikawa told BBC News.

Hayabusa 2 will spend about a year and a half surveying the 900m-wide space rock, which is about 290 million km (180 million miles) from Earth.

During this time, it will aim to deploy several landing craft to the surface, including small rovers and a German-built instrument package called Mascot (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout).


Supreme Court upholds privacy of phone data

In a pivotal statement on digital privacy and data, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves of location data about the customers of cellphone companies, The New York Times reported.

“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

The 5-to-4 ruling will protect “deeply revealing” records associated with 400 million devices, the chief justice wrote. It did not matter, he wrote, that the records were in the hands of a third party — that aspect of the ruling was a significant break from earlier decisions.

The Constitution must take account of vast technological changes, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, noting that digital data can provide a comprehensive, detailed and intrusive overview of private affairs that would have been impossible to imagine not long ago.

The Times reported that the court’s four more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joined his opinion.

For the minority, each of the four other justices wrote a dissent, with the five opinions running more than 110 pages. Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his dissent that the distinctions drawn by the majority “will frustrate principled application of the Fourth Amendment in many routine yet vital law enforcement operations.”

HEALTH HND_Cancer HND_Disease

Healing after breast cancer surgery may cause the disease to spread

The wound healing that follows breast cancer surgery may cause the disease to spread, a new study in Science Translational Medicine reports.

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in today’s world. However, as much as scientists know about it, they have long wondered why patients are more likely to have the disease spread in the first 18 months after a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

In the new study, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that trend exists because, after the immune system works to heal the surgical scar, it stops restraining any cells that move from the tumor site. That then allows them to grow in other places of the body.

That occurs because the immune system needs to trigger cells to move to new locations in order to close an open wound.

“It’s not the actual surgery, but instead, it’s the post-surgical wound response,” explained study co-author Robert Weinberg, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to USA Today. “It is provoking already disseminated cells to begin to grow into clinically detectable metastases.”

While that is not good news, the team behind the research also found that a simple anti-inflammatory drug known as ketorolac helped slow the unwanted spread. They found that a few days of anti-inflammatory therapy kept the immune brake engaged in mice and prevented spread. Small studies also showed similar effects in humans. However, more research is needed before any results can be confirmed.

Though surgeons often stay away from anti-inflammatory drugs after surgery because they can cause bleeding, the findings show that the benefits could outweigh the risks.

Nearly every person who dies from breast cancer does so by the initial tumor spreading to other areas of the body. The drug could help stop such issues, potentially saving many lives in the future.

“The pieces fit really well together — what we see in humans and what they have demonstrated in mice,” said Hanna Dillekas, a researcher at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway who was not involved in the study, according to UPI.


Pregnant ichthyosaur specimen unearthed in England

A newly discovered ichthyosaur fossil has six to eight small embryos within its ribs, a new study published in Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society reports.

Ichthyosaurs are ancient dolphin-like reptiles that existed during the early Jurassic period. Though they are often mistaken for dinosaurs, they came about long before the massive reptiles took over the Earth. Ichthyosaurs have many interesting traits, and one of the most unusual is that they gave birth to live young rather than eggs.

The new specimen — which lived about 180 million years ago — is unique because, though many ichthyosaurs have been discovered throughout Britain, only five are known to have embryos.

Paleontologists found the specimen eight years ago near Whitby in North Yorkshire, England. Not only is it one of the few fossils with embryos, it also has the most embryos ever discovered in an Ichthyosaur fossil and it is the first such specimen unearthed from the Toarcian Stage of the Jurassic.

“It represents the geologically-youngest occurrence of ichthyosaur embryos thus far recorded from the UK and the first such occurrence to be reported from Yorkshire,” the team wrote in their study, according to Tech Times.

Researchers spent a lot of time analyzing the stomach contents. Though there is a chance they did not come from the creature, it is unlikely the ancient reptile would swallow so many newborn fetuses at the same time. In addition, the embryos do not show erosion from stomach acid.

The new fossil is featured at the Yorkshire’s Jurassic World, and it could help shed light on a lesser known period of ancient history.

“This is an incredible find and the research by Dean and Mike has helped us confirm it is the first example of fossilized ichthyosaur embryos to be found in Yorkshire,” said Sarah King, curator of natural science at the Yorkshire Museum who was not involved in the discovery, according to Science Alert.

Business TECH_Technology

Intel will not patch older chips for Spectre

Intel has updated its patching guidance for Spectre this week, proceeding with the months-long process of fixing the critical security flaw. Although the company had previously said it planned to patch all affected chips, it has now made known that some product lines will not receive updates. Most are older and, presumably, not as widely used, including the Bloomfield line, Clarksfield, Gulftown, Harpertown, Jasper Forest, Penryn, SoFIA 3GR, the Yorkfield line, and the Wolfdale line.

Intel reports three reasons for the halt in production of the planned patch solutions. These fixes include micro-architectural characteristics that preclude a practical implementation of features mitigating Variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715) and limited Commercially Available System Software support. Additionally, based on customer inputs, most of these products are implemented as “closed systems” and therefore are expected to have a lower likelihood of exposure to these vulnerabilities.

Most companies have upgraded older systems, which date back to 1998. However, one of the chips, the SoFIA 3G, stems from 2015. While Intel fails to obtain a solution to the necessary fix, the company recommends that users upgrade their processor for protection.

Intel has continuously struggled to patch Spectre. In early 2018, the company made a recommendation in which users end deployment of these patches due to a constant reboot error. It later adjusted the fixes and resumed the rollout. Intel is continuing to work on these patches, nearly one year after discovering the security flaw.


Critic says Toronto sex doll brothel turns ‘women into objects’

Critics claim that the Toronto sex doll brothel that was planned to open in early September dehumanizes women.

“This does literally turn women into objects,” writer Megan Murphy said to The Current’s guest host, Connie Walker on Thursday.

“When you turn something, or someone, into an object it becomes much easier to harm that person, or thing, or to treat it as though it doesn’t have feelings,” she said.

Murphy also claims that making erotic dolls sex workers will promote the normalization of male dominance over women.

The brothel, Aura Dolls, had its lease canceled thanks to city councilor John Filion confirming that the business is in violation of a zoning bylaw. Despite this, another similar business called Kinky S. Dolls has operated in the same region for more than a year.

Murphy says that setting up erotic dolls to be sex workers can lead to the normalization of male dominance over women.

For Matt Krivicke, the business of making sex dolls is an art form. After starting his business in L.A. in 2011, he made it his mission to create realistic dolls that customers use for non-erotic and erotic purposes.

“It’s a business where I can really infuse all of my art ability to create a product that looks like it has personality,” he told Walker. “When you look at the doll, I want it to feel like the doll is looking at you.”

Krivicke also believes that women objectify men when they use sex toys resembling the male phallus.

“They have stripped the entire body away and they only have the penis, which I think is way more objectifying of a male body because what they’re signifying is that they don’t need any other aspect of the person,” he told Walker.

HEALTH HND_Disease Science

New drug may help treat Huntington’s disease

Researchers at University College London have developed a new treatment that may be able to correct the defect that causes Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s disease is neurodegenerative disorder caused by an error in a section of DNA known as the huntingtin gene. It typically affects people in their 30’s and 40’s, and leads to death roughly 10 to 20 years after symptoms begin. Though the disease affects tens of thousands of people around the world, scientists have never been able to come up with a cure.

In the new study, researchers injected an experimental drug into the spinal fluid of 46 patients in order to both silence the huntingtin gene and lower levels of toxic proteins in the brain. They did not know what would happen, and were nervous that the procedure could lead to fatal meningitis. However, the first in-human trial showed the drug was safe, well tolerated by patients, and reduced the levels of huntingtin in the brain.

Though this is not a full blown cure, it is a step in the right direction and may be the biggest breakthrough in treating the disease in the past 50 years.

“I’ve been seeing patients in clinic for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen many of my patients over that time die,” said lead research Sarah Tabrizi, director of the Huntington’s Disease Center at University College London, told BBC News. “For the first time we have the potential, we have the hope, of a therapy that one day may slow or prevent Huntington’s disease. “This is of groundbreaking importance for patients and families.”

Even so, the team urges that this is not a cure. More data needs to be collected to see if lower levels of huntingtin will change the course of the disease over time. Past animal trials suggest it will, but there has not been enough evidence collected on humans yet to make any definitive claims.

The subjects in the study will continue taking the drug through the next wave of trials in order to show if the disease can be slowed or prevented before Huntington’s disease carriers develop any symptoms. 

While this study is a step forward for treating Huntington’s disease, it could also lead to new ways to fight other such disease as well.

“Clearly, there will be much interest into whether it can be applied to the treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s,” said Giovanna Mallucci, associate director of UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, according to The Guardian.

The full details of the trial will be presented to scientists and published next year.

Business TECH_Technology

Apple’s self driving car permits outnumber Waymo and Tesla

Recent statements to MacReports reveal the California Department of Motor Vehicles has confirmed Apple Inc. presently contains 55 self-driving car permits and 83 drivers licensed to test the technology on the state’s roads.

Apple’s new technology initiatives places the company in second place, trailing the General Motors’ Cruise division, which has 104 vehicles and 407 drivers, according to the report.

In March 2017, the tech giant lacked ownership of any permits, followed by procurement of three permits in April 2017. Apple has amassed the largest number of self-driving car permits of any tech company with notable advancements demonstrated by its competitors.

Alphabet’s Waymo now has 51 self-driving car permits and 338 drivers. Tesla, which is also testing self-driving car technology, has 39 vehicles permitted and 92 drivers.

Although many of the other companies testing self-driving cars in California have publicly been discussing their plans and strategies, Apple has remained silent. Nonetheless, the company is leading the technology industry in its advancement of self-driving car testing in California.

Self-driving car testing has been conducted by several companies for multiple years. While the eventual launch of the vehicles continues to be shifting, most industry experts say the technology should begin a shift in production and use of the technology in large numbers by 2020.


Supreme Court rejects abortion law case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left an Arkansas law in place that heavily restricts medication-induced abortions, according to The Hill.

Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma were challenging Arkansas state law, which imposes criminal penalties on physicians who provide medication-induced abortions unless they signed contract with a physician who has “active admitting privileges and gynecological/surgical privileges at a hospital designated to handle any emergencies associated with the use or ingestion of the abortion-inducing drug” and who agrees to handle medication abortion complications.

Planned Parenthood argued the law is medically unnecessary and would make Arkansas the only state to effectively ban medication abortion — a common method of early-stage abortion that has been safely used by over 2 million American women since 2000, as stated by the organization in court briefs.

Planned Parenthood also argued the law is very similar to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016 that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Prosecuting attorneys representing Arkansas argued their state law does not require abortion providers themselves to have admitting privileges anywhere.

“Arkansas law merely requires medication abortion providers to have a contractual relationship (to ensure follow-up treatment if needed) with a physician that has admitting privileges,” they said in court briefs.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case without explanation.