Health Desk

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Is your doctor your go-to for nutrition advice? Neither is mine. And why would I expect that?

By the end of the century, Muslims could outnumber Christians for the first time in history, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center.

"Another way of thinking about it is Christianity had a seven-century head-start on Islam, and Islam is finally catching up," says Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at Pew.

Do you remember cutting paper snowflakes in school? Artist Rogan Brown has elevated that simple seasonal art form and taken it to science class.

These large-scale paper sculptures may evoke snow, but actually trade on the forms of bacteria and other organisms. The patterns may feel familiar, but also a bit alien. You're not looking at a replica of a microbe, but an interpretation of one. And that distinction, Brown says, is important.

In 2008, Canadian student Christopher Charles was working in rural Cambodia, living in a typical Cambodian house on stilts. He had no electricity, no running water and, he says, a lot of time to sit around and think.

"I was looking at the prevalence of anemia and parasite infection in the region and began to uncover this huge problem that no one was doing anything about," in Cambodia. Anemia is a disease that's linked to low levels of iron in the blood, and almost half of Cambodia's population suffers from it.

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Are successful people's sleep patterns giving them a leg-up on average people?

"Successful" people get more shut-eye than you might expect, with more than 50 percent of 21 surveyed clocking in at 6-8 hours every night. An infographic put together by a U.K. furniture store called HomeArena (which coincidentally sells mattresses) shows the sleep routines of 21 political leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, media moguls and TV personalities.

Our Parasites And Vermin Reveal Secrets Of Human History

Dec 24, 2015

They look like tiny tubes with stumpy legs. They can nestle snugly into pores, right at the base of small hairs. And there are probably hundreds on your face.

flickr/michael chen

More people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. The numbers have doubled in just the past 15 years.   

This fall, Secretary of State John Kerry stood at a lectern with a speech and an apple. He wasn't planning to snack, although the red, round fruit looked as he noted, "beautiful." It was a souvenir from Kazakhstan, made from local wool by artisans in Almaty, and just the right prop to introduce the idea that the world is hungry for crafts.

Two professional organizations representing emergency doctors warn that a federal rule released in November could lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers when they need emergency care outside their health plan's network of providers.

But consumer advocates and health policy analysts say the groups' proposed solution doesn't adequately protect consumers.

The bills can rack up fast when trying to cure toenail fungus, and it's not always easy to know which drug to use. Costs can range from over $2,000 for treating one nail to just $10 for a pill that treats all 10 toes but could have bad side effects. Then there are the costly lab tests to confirm that the curling yellow rot chewing through a toenail is in fact mold.

Amid the flap over pageant host Steve Harvey's initially announcing the wrong winner of Sunday's Miss Universe contest (it was Miss Philippines, not Miss Colombia), relatively few viewers may have paid attention to the eye-popping national costume worn by Iroshka Lindaly Elvir as Miss Honduras.

Millions of Americans are being scared by Christmas this year — the hit movie Krampus features the holiday devil of Europe, a frightening figure who wears animal skins and horns and roams the streets aiming to punish kids who have been naughty and not nice.

The price of drugs is making headlines this year. Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company founded by the now infamous Martin Shkreli, upped the price of Daraprim from $13 a pill to $750 — a 5,000 percent increase. The drug has been used for decades to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can affect HIV patients.

Forty years ago, the U.S. outlawed the sale of small turtles as pets because they harbor salmonella, a bacterium that causes a highly unpleasant and occasionally deadly illness in humans.

Now salmonella infections tied to the tiny critters are back, public health officials reported Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics. From May 2011 through September 2013, turtle-associated salmonella was linked to eight outbreaks across 41 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, covering 473 illnesses. Some 28 percent of those sickened had to be hospitalized.

In Madrid, Museo del Jamón, which isn't a museum but a chain of bars, sells special ham backpacks, for carrying a whole ham leg — hoof and all — around town at the holidays. Spanish airports have special luggage rules for them. A leg of ham is the most popular family gift at Christmas. Every self-respecting Spanish household has a jamonera — a kitchen countertop rack on which to mount and cut slices off a ham leg.

The first sign something was wrong was when Sarah Shell lost 20 pounds. Then she started complaining that her legs were tired.

"She began having difficulty climbing stairs, and I just thought that she was — I hate to use the word — lazy," says Sarah's mother, Leigh Shell.

Then the teenager's eyes stopped moving. And she began vomiting out of the blue. Sarah had migraines and couldn't concentrate. Then she lost all the feeling in her hands, feet and legs.

At the Portland VA in Oregon, Ray Spaulding stands over a frying pan full of sliced green apples at a cooking class,

"I feel like I'm on the Martha Stewart show," says the 85-year-old Air Force veteran. "This is caramelizing!"

Today's class is about ways to make healthier desserts, like brownies made with cocoa, Splenda and pureed black beans rather than flour and sugar. Spaulding is making cooked apples sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon.

A headline for a chart caught our eye this week: "US Holiday Lights Use More Electricity than El Salvador Does In a Year."

It is a medical mystery.

How did a father and two of his children become infected with Ebola virus in mid-November — more than two months after Liberia had been declared Ebola-free?

That's what Dr. Mosoka Fallah, a Harvard-trained epidemiologist in Liberia who specializes in tracing the origins of Ebola cases, is trying to determine.

Sunlight is the single biggest source of vitamin D. But in the depths of winter, folks living in the northern reaches of the United States often don't get enough sunshine on their skin to make much vitamin D. It's essential for maintaining healthy bones and kidneys, and may have other benefits.

For people with darker skin in those higher latitudes, a deficiency of the vitamin is even likelier because pigmentation reduces the skin's production of the vitamin.

You may have heard some of the fashion industry horror stories.

Models eating tissues or cotton balls to stave off hunger. Models collapsing from malnutrition-induced heart attacks just seconds after they step off the runway. Even models growing a layer of downy fuzz as their bodies try to keep warm.

You know the Christmas routine: Decorate the tree, wrap gifts and leave out treats for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Marketers and Hollywood reinforce that cookie tradition for us year after year.

Ever notice the catnaps that older relatives take in the middle of the day? Or how grandparents tend to be early risers?

You're not alone. Colleen McClung did, too. A neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, McClung wanted to know what was going on in the brain that changes people's daily rhythms as they age.

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Are you a wise global giver? Take our quiz and see how much you do (and don't) know.

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The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a 32-year-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

The FDA announced Monday that it was replacing a lifetime prohibition with a new policy that will allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood, but only if they have not had sexual contact with another man for at least one year.

A quartet of Western states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and voters in a half-dozen more states may vote on pot legalization in 2016. That's leading law enforcement officials and entrepreneurs to try to come up with better ways of testing for driving while stoned.

Police usually spot impaired drivers by noting driving behavior, coordination, mannerisms and physical cues. But while a handheld breath test can quickly determine whether someone is legally drunk based on ethanol in the breath, there's no instant test for marijuana intoxication.

A six-month course of pills for tuberculosis can ward off lifelong disability or death. But children with TB have to take the same drugs as adults, and getting kids to swallow those large, foul-tasting tablets is no easy task.