Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Science and Health News for Women

It's not so much that there is "women's science" and "men's science", it's that there are certain scientific topics that are directly about us and the products we use. The truth is that I'm personally more interested in news about breast cancer and than I am about prostate cancer. Anyway, here is some recent news with a more feminine slant:

Friday is National Wear Read Day to promote women's heart disease awareness. The awareness campaign, called The Heart Truth, is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Their message: "heart disease is the #1 killer of American women. In fact, one in three women dies of heart disease." You can learn more on their web site and help spread the information.

The Women's Bioethics Blog has more about the health activists who helped shift the attention of the medical community from heart disease in men to both men and women.
We have this critical data because women's health activists, women Congressional leaders, especially Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado), and members of the medical community led by Nanette Wenger, MD challenged the prevailing notion that women were "mini-men" and insisted that women be included in clinical heart study trails. Until the early nineties, men were the model subjectshttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif in most funded biomedical studies.
On a lighter note are a few articles about face cream "science".

The first is from the San Francisco Chronicle, about doctor-endorsed "age defying" and wrinkle creams. The bottom line is that few of their claims are tested, so buyer beware.
"Do some of these cosmetics have druglike action? Absolutely,'' said Newburger. She considers Avon, Estee Lauder, Shiseido and L'Oreal to be among the companies with "sound research, good science and good testing," but stopped short of endorsing their entire product lines. "It's a long way from the lab to the consumer, and results may vary,'' she said. Others, whom she declined to name, have little in the way of published, reliable information to back up their claims, with test groups as small as 25 people, studies that last a month or less and a lack of measurable results.

That can also be true of doctor-related brands, she said.

"I've had experiences where I've called a colleague who is getting press about these products and said, 'Would you mind sharing your data with me?' The answer comes back, 'Sure, no problem, Amy,' and they send me the data -- notes from three lectures, but no data. I call back and say, 'I'm sorry -- I didn't make myself clear enough. I'm looking for the bench data.' They send loose-leaf sheets on 12 people claiming a 20 percent or 30 percent reduction in wrinkle depth. I say, 'Excuse me -- I don't see your measuring data. How did you measure?' And they answer, 'A ruler, Amy.' At that point, the conversation is over.''
Deep Sea News points to the silliness of claims about the "deep sea water" in Estee Lauder's Re-Creation cream, apparently used to convince people that $900 is a reasonable price for lotion. He points out that many of the claims are simply wrong or, at best, distortions of the truth.
In conclusion, deep-sea water has the same medicinal value as does shallow water...none. I have been working with deep-sea water and sediments for a few years and it has done nothing to prevent hair loss. You should only buy these products if you want the novelty of telling your friends that you experienced the "benefits" of the deep. If you still do not trust me on this, then for $50 I will send you 5 oz of deep-sea mud which is endorsed by a doctor (of course its me and I have no formal biochemical or medical training but that doesn't matter). Instead spend your money here.
Finally, one of the big trends is apparently to sell creams optimized for your DNA. A few articles point to the unlikeliness of those claims.

From the Genome News Network:
Leslie Baumann, M.D., a dermatologist at the University of Miami in Florida , and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, is skeptical about the company's claims, saying that scientists do not have the ability to use genetics to design custom cosmetics. The marketing angle, rather than the science, she says, is the most interesting aspect of these products.

In her opinion, “Although [the company] can obtain DNA from a cheek scraping, it is impossible, at this time, to create a cream to meet an individual's needs based on her genetic make up.” For example, even though scientists have identified some of the many collagen genes in the human genome, they don't know how these genes are expressed in individual cells, or how to formulate a skin product that would interact with these genes.
Genetics and Health also looks at this DNA-related cosmetics fad:
In Maggie Bullock’s Analyze This (no link available yet), she asks, ” Will nutrition and DNA-repairing creams change my genetic destiny?” And after undergoing several nutrigenomic tests and trying a few DNA repair skin creams, she concludes: No. Luckily for her, she didn’t have the shell out the $$$ herself to figure that out.

This is the key point of the entire article. Quoting Jose M. Ordovas, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboraty at the USDA HNRCA-Tufts University:

1. Nutrients can’t fix gene defects
2. We are a long way off from understanding how–or if–they actually can prevent disease.
I guess if you have the money and like the results you get with the creams and lotions (no matter their claims), go ahead and buy them. My own feeling is that my money could be better spent elsewhere.


Finally, I'd like to point out Inkling Magazine, a new online science mag.
Inkling is an often updated magazine on the web dedicated to science as we see it. Founded in late 2006, we cover the science that pervades our life, makes us laugh, and helps us choose our breakfast foods. We aim to capture a larger proportion of female readers, but, of course, everyone is always welcome.
Their motto: "On the Hunch that Science Rocks", and that's the tone of most of the articles. The editors also write the related science blog, Inky Circus: life in the nerd girl world.

What's different about a science magazine targeted to women? Well, the mag is only a few weeks old, but there seems to be less about gadgets and gizmos and more about biology, behavior and food. They also have interesting articles on topics neglected by most popular science magazines, such as the evolution of menstruation. Fun stuff.

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Blogger Talia Mana, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

The new science mag for women sounds really interesting. There are limits to what I'd like to read about menstruation... although I did see an interesting research finding that women's reward systems alter at different times of the month

The heart awareness is also a good scheme. I wonder if they will bring that to NZ? There isn't much here about female risk of heart disease

2:49 AM  
Blogger Renee' Barnes said...


Very informative and interesting. Thanks for the read.

I gave up on all those miracle beauty cures on the third or fourth year I was 29, or maybe it was the fifth....

Anyway, now I'm just happy to look my age, whatever it is.


8:13 PM  
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