March 24: Harvard — and HuffPo — offer live update of #marijuana science

You can’t buy it yet, but marijuana is now legal under state law. For the latest on weed law and science, tune in Friday for a  Harvard School of Public Health live webcast. Or, watch it via Facebook Live. 


Send panelists questions in advance to

Tweet us @ForumHSPH #marijuanascience


PRI: #Diabetes undiagnosed in many Asians

From Public Radio International images

At the South Cove Community Health Center in Quincy, Massachusetts, Dr. Qiyue Hu conducts a checkup with his patient Jiping Chang. Chang is 76 and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2009. He tells me that at the time, he was surprised. That’s because “I didn’t have any symptoms. I felt OK,” Chang says.

He wasn’t overweight either, traditionally a warning sign for Type 2 diabetes. But it turns out that isn’t uncommon among Asian Americans who develop the disease. In fact, they are two times more likely than whites to develop diabetes, despite having lower obesity rates. 

At Harvard, heroes and villians, sugar and supplements

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-9-04-30-pmGary Taubes’ sugar takedown continued in the NYTimes SundayReview, including reference to the late Fred Stare, founder of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. In the 1970s Stare was  reportedly paid to exonerate sugar in journal supplement, “Sugar in the Diet of Man,

STATNews refers to the case of another Harvard doctor, this one who found himself on the wrong side of a supplement maker. 

The jury trial had momentous implications for the future of research into the safety of weight-loss and muscle-building pills; for the freedom of academics to speak out about matters of public health; and for our ability to learn what’s in the supplements on our kitchen counters.


Video: Harvard School of Public Health: The Chronic #Pain Epidemic

Health Leaders: #Lacks family members now have a say in #Henrietta’s immortal scientific legacy

My report from Health Leaders on a recent talk by members of Henrietta Lacks’ famfile_000-4ily.

The ongoing story of the late Henrietta Lacks, the African-American
woman who unwittingly provided cells for years of medical research, has much to offer those battling disparities
in healthcare, according to family members who spoke in Boston last week.

That message, delivered at a panel discussion, came from Lacks’ grandson David Lacks, Jr. and her great granddaughter Victoria Baptiste, RN, as well as Joseph Betancourt, MD, director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Would you take a pill to prevent AIDS? Those at risk should consider it, says Massachusetts.

The Globe reports today on the push to make Capturean AIDS prevention drug available. After
many years of struggling to come up with a vaccine, this was a true breakthrough. (We don’t use that word lightly on this page.) But instead of a shot that stays with you for year, here you have to take a pill.

Critics questioned the wisdom of giving powerful drugs to healthy people, and worried that access to a preventive drug would encourage promiscuity or lead to a spike in other sexually transmitted diseases by reducing condom use.

But as study after study — some conducted in Boston — found the drug safe and effective, public health officials came to embrace PrEP, concluding the benefits exceed the hazards. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 1.2 million people at risk of HIV infection should at least consider PrEP.






Service dogs add to the debate over environment and fertility, but what does that mean for humans?

A lab, like the dogs in the study. But a troublemaker, not a service dog.

A study of generations of services dogs raised in identical conditions adds new evidence to the much-debated theory that common chemicals in the environment may impact fertility.

This from a story buried in this morning’s paper. 

From 1988 to 2014, researchers studied between 42 and 97 stud dogs annually. Between 1994 and 2014, they also noticed that the mortality rate of the female puppies, although small, showed a threefold increase. And the incidence of undescended testicles in male puppies, also small, had a 10-fold increase, to 1 percent from 0.1.

When the researchers tested testicular tissue for chemical content (in dogs retired from breeding or neutered for other reasons), they found concentrations of chemicals that had been common in electrical transformers and paint, and others still used in plastics. In additional analyses done in the last three years, researchers found concentrations of the same chemicals in the dogs’ semen. The chemicals include polychlorinated bisphenol (PCB), which, though banned, has a long half-life, and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).

As noted, there is a ferocious debate over this. The researcher at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton have been trying to sort it out. Go here for some of their research. 

Do note that even one of the critics of the research into the links between human health and estrogen-mimicking compounds has this to say about the study:

Peter J. Hansen, a professor of reproductive biology at the University of Florida, describes himself generally as a skeptic of many studies linking chemical exposure to declining sperm quality. Much research on the effect of environmental hazards on humans is typically done by administering doses of hazards to research animals in much greater concentrations than is typically found in water supplies, he said.

But the Nottingham study, he noted, detected the chemicals in the dogs’ tissue and also in the dogs’ food. And researchers did so over decades, tracking a concurrent decline in reproductive markers.

“I think it was very rigorous,” he said. “It’s much more clear from their data that there was a decline over time, which agrees with the human data but doesn’t suffer from the same research problems.”



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