Category Archives: Latest

GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME…

Jeremy Bending is an internationally recognised authority on diabetes and its treatment. Having published more than 50 scientific papers in academic journals on the subject and founded an award-winning diabetes team and centre in Eastbourne, he was a consultant physician in diabetes and endocrinology there for 27 years, retiring eventually in 2014.

41wR1ktLjXL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

What is unusual about Jeremy is that whenever he was asked at a party what exactly does a physician do, he would simply reply: ‘I don’t cut anything out, or stick anything in for I am basically a listening doctor.’

When he came to see me with a view to publishing A LISTENING DOCTOR, I found myself unhesitatingly inclined to publish his new offering, for the man’s honesty and lack of pomposity were his most appealing characteristics. I was right, and the book is attracting rather splendid reviews.

Here is the latest review which I hope will convince our readers to acquire a copy of his splendid autobiography.

“Autobiographies by surgeons are quite common. In the last few years they have included a distinguished retired neurosurgeon, a young gynaecologist and a best seller, written by a young man who, disillusioned, gave up early in his career.

Physicians seem to be more reticent, so this interesting and well-written volume, by a recently retired physician who set up the diabetic unit at Eastbourne, is welcomed.

Dr Jeremy Bending qualified in medicine at the old Westminster Medical School (now part of Imperial College,
London) in 1974. He mentions that I was his Professor of Surgery at that time, but refrains from saying whether this was related to his choosing medicine rather than surgery for his future career. He received valuable experience working as a medical student in Accra, Ghana and later as a physician to isolated fishing communities in Newfoundland.

As a research fellow at Guy’s Hospital, London, he was involved in the early development of the insulin pump. In 1987 he was appointed consultant physician at Eastbourne with the remit to set up a specialized diabetic and endocrine service, retiring in 2014.

Dr Bending ranges over the changes, sadly not all for the better, that he has seen in the NHS, where the administration seems increasingly to impede rather than to catalyse the effective management of patients in the name of ‘ efficiency’. Nicely written and full of medical anecdotes, he stresses, in these days of high technology, the value of the physician being a ‘listening doctor’.
Harold Ellis, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London”

KEEP YOUR PECKER UP!

Who says size does not matter? It seems that, contrary to public perception, size really does matter, especially when it comes to fertility, as a new study suggests. Men who are infertile are also less well endowed. Having a shorter appendage was more common in men who were struggling to conceive, than in those with other genital health problems. The research, to be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Conference in Colorado, is the first to link penile length with fertility.

It found that on average, men who were infertile were around one centimeter shorter than their fertile counterparts. Those without reproductive issues had an average length of 13.4 centimeters, while those in the infertile group were 12.5 centimeters.

Dr Austen Slade, from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, who led the study, said healthy men should not begin to fret over their size and their chance of becoming a father. He said underlying conditions that caused infertility, such as hormonal issues or problems in the testes, may also lead to a shorter penile length. ‘This is the first study to identify an association between shorter penile length and male infertility,’ he said. ‘It’s possibly a manifestation of congenital or genetic factors that predispose one to infertility. For now, men with shorter penises don’t need to worry about their fertility.

The study looked at data on 815 men visiting a health clinic between 2014 and 2017. There were 219 men seeking help for infertility, and 596 seeking help for other conditions such as erectile dysfunction and testicular pain. The men were all measured using a standard test called ‘stretched penile length’ which estimates the length of a penis when erect.

When they took into account weight, race and age, those being treated for infertility were just below one centimeter shorter than those who were fertile. ‘One centimeter may not be a striking difference but there was a clear statistical difference. It remains to be determined if there is a different penile- length-cut-off that would predict more severe infertility,’ Dr Slade added.

Previous research has shown that physical problems with male genitals can affect fertility. Men with a condition called Cryptorchidism – where the testes do not descend properly – have poorer sperm production. This is because the testes are located too close to the body, allowing the sperm to become too hot. Men with small testes have also been found to produce less sperm.

Professor Sheena Lewis, an expert in reproduction from Queen’s University Belfast, said the study raised more questions than it answered. ‘Doctors would not want to measure this in clinic, so as a study the findings are not really clinically usable. This is a very novel idea but the study does not tell us what a normal penile length is. It does not say if the shorter penis found in the study is abnormal. More research is needed.’

But take heart men with short penises, as more research can perhaps prove that the whole caboodle could  turn out to be a false alarm.

BEWARE THE IDES OF OCTOBER

Astronomy is a fascinating subject that never fails to astound, especially to those who seek to know more about what goes on far beyond our ability to bridge the vast distances that separate the Earth from the vast number of objects we perceive in the sky. The Astronomer Royal has warned that Earth could be reduced to a dense mass measuring just 330 feet across if particle accelerators set off a catastrophic chain of events.

In his latest book, On the Future Prospects for Humanity, Professor Lord Martin Rees outlines the existential threats facing the planet which include climate change, nuclear war and artificial intelligence. In a chapter addressing whether mankind is doomed, he argues that scientists carrying out experiments that smash atoms together into quarks could theoretically destroy humanity.

‘Maybe a Black Hole could form and then suck in everything around it,’ he writes. ‘The second scary possibility is that the quarks would reassemble themselves into compressed objects called strangelets. That in itself would be harmless. However, under some hypothesis a strangelet could convert anything else it encounters into a new form of matter, transforming the entire Earth into a hyperdense sphere about 100 meters across.

Professor Rees said: ‘The third risk from particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, was from a catastrophe that engulfs space itself. Some have speculated that the concentrated energy created when particles clash together could trigger a phase transition that ripped the fabric of space. This would be a cosmic calamity, not just a terrestrial one. Many of us are inclined to dismiss these risks as science fiction, but given the stakes they should not be ignored, even if deemed highly improbable.’

On the Future Prospects for Humanity will be published by Princeton University Press on October 24. I might be tempted to buy a copy, although I fear reading it may impinge on my sleep, which is already subject to unwanted disturbances.

MEN GET IT QUICKER?

Do men react faster than women? Apparently they do although their wives and partners may well say they spend so much time playing online games or sport on TV. Experiments have shown that men have faster reaction times than women. The results were surprising as men and women usually perform equally well in the battle of the sexes lab tests of mental ability.

Researchers say they had not expected to find a difference in the time needed to say whether black or white bars on a screen were moving to the left or to the right. While both sexes were good, requiring a tenth of a second or less, women took between 25 to 75 per cent longer than men to respond to usual signals.

Until now the only differences had been that women perform better in verbal ability tests, while men were usually stronger at spatial awareness tasks. However, the US researchers say that the faster perception of motion by males may not necessarily reflect better visual processing. They say similar performance enhancements in the tasks have been observed in people who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or depression, and in older individuals.

They believe processes in the brain that down-regulate neural activity are disruptive in these conditions and may also be weaker in males. Study co-author Professor Scott Murray of the University of Washington said: ‘We were very surprised. There is very little evidence for sex differences in low-level visual processing, especially differences as large as these we found in our studies.’

In their findings, published in the journal Current Biology, researchers say they hope further studies will help them discover the underlying differences in the brain that may help explain the discrepancy between the sexes.

Interesting so far, but not conclusive… We must wait for further studies to get to the bottom of a noticeable discrepancy before we come to any final judgement.

KEEP ON TRUCKING….

Exercise is a necessity we are told if we seek to maintain a healthy body, but now apparently all we have to do is just two minutes of high intensity workout, which is as good at improving health as half-an-hour of less strenuous exercise, a study suggests.

Scientists found short bursts of activity had greater benefits for the body’s energy-producing cells, which help keep conditions including obesity at bay and stave off ageing. The researchers studied a group of eight young adults as they did exercise bike sessions of varying intensity.

In the first session, they did 30 minutes of continuous exercise at 50.5% of their peak effort. A second session, consisted of five 4-minute bursts at 75% peak effort, each separated by a minute’s rest. Finally, they did four bursts of 30 seconds at maximum effort, each separated by 4.5 minutes of recovery.

The researchers looked then at the effects on the mitochondria – the energy producing powerhouses of the cells – in the high muscles of the participants. They found the four quick bursts of 30 second’s activity – totalling just 2 minutes of intense effort – produced the best results.

Study leader Mark Trewin of Victoria University in Australia, said: ‘This suggests exercise may be prescribed according to individual preferences while still conferring beneficial metabolic adaptations. There are important implications for improving our understanding of how exercise can be used to enhance metabolic health in the general population.’

The results echo those of an earlier study which found 10 minutes of intense cycling was as good for heart health as 45 minutes of moderate pedalling. Current NHS guidelines advise adults to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or, alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous activity in addition to strength exercises.

This study gives hope to those of us who find excessive exercises hard to implement.

IT’S BEST TO STAY WARM

Despite the fact that Neanderthal Man has long been stereotyped as a club-wielding brute, they may have been wiped out by cold weather. A study analyzing the European climate 40,000 years ago found two periods of freezing weather which coincided with the disappearance of Neanderthal stone tools from caves. This provides evidence that Neanderthal populations fell during cold weather as the woodland they lived in was destroyed and the animals they hunted for meat died. Humans could adapt, thanks to our more varied diet of fish and plants. The findings back up the theory that it may have been the climate that finally killed off our closest cousins.

Scientists, led by the University of Cologne, analyzed stalagmites from East Central Europe and found annual temperatures plummeted to – 2 c. (28 f.) during two freezing periods, 40,000 – 44,000 years ago. Professor Michael Staubwasser, who led the study, said: ‘Modern humans now were simply better able to adapt to the change from woodland to grassland. The Neanderthals did not have the skills they needed to survive.’

This theory is very plausible since the Neanderthals in that period, given their gruelling environment, were ill-developed brain wise to protect themselves against the vagaries of a hard nature.

BUT IT’S A LONG, LONG WHILE FROM MAY TO DECEMBER…

It is painful how old age is likely to change the mode of one’s life to a degree that often causes embarrassment as memories play unexpected tricks, especially as regards the names of people who are normally familiar to them. Now we are told that for people of a certain age, the cryptic crossword may be just about to get easier. Over 70s can expect to be at the top of their game for remembering things when the autumn equinox comes at the end of the month.

The effect is like being almost five year’s younger a study has found, and appears to last from late September to early October. Scientists made the discovery after finding that memory and problem-solving skills change throughout the year. The study, led by researchers at the University of Toronto, involved more than 3,300 older people taking extensive memory tests. It found performance peaked in late summer and early autumn before slowly declining and hitting rock bottom in late winter and spring.

Levels of genes and proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease followed the same pattern. The bad news for the over 70s is that their memory may be at its worst in late March and early April – when they are almost a third more likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, according to the study.

In some cases, this could cause older people to be misdiagnosed with memory problems only to the see the issues reversed by autumn. Researchers suggest the cold and the dark may make people live more unhealthily during winter, affecting the brain and causing thinking skills to decline.

Dr Andrew Lim, the study’s lead author said: ‘Our suspicion is that changes in seasons, in light, temperature and social schedules, may see people getting less physical activity, eating more poorly or changing sleeping patterns. This may affect the way genes and proteins are expressed in the brain, causing the difference of how someone’s memory works. Vitamin D may also be important.’

Participants, who had an average age of 77, were given a series of memory tests and the performance was compared across the seasons of the year. Results changed most for working memory, involving recall of strings of numbers and executive function, which entailed decoded symbols linked to numbers. Adults both with and without dementia showed the same memory patterns throughout the year.

Dr Lim said: ‘This study has implications for clinicians as we could advise people to get more exercise, eat better or take Vitamin D at certain times of the year to boost memory.’ The study was published in the Journal Plus Medicine.

Anyway, it certainly proves that the dilemma of old age is something hard to explain. I personally think activity in all its form is the key to keep the brain in reasonable condition as long as we possibly can.