Pineapple: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts


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Pineapple: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts

 Pineapple: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts
Pineapples grow on the central stalk of a large plant with swordlike leaves.

Credit: 9comeback / Shutterstock.com

Pineapples are tropical fruit that are rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidents. They may help boost the immune system, build strong bones and aid indigestion. Also, despite their sweetness, pineapples are low in calories.

Pineapples are members of the bromeliad family, and one of the few bromeliads to produce edible fruit, according to the biology department at Union County College. The fruit is actually made of many individual berries that fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual berry.

Pineapples’ nutritional benefits are as fascinating as their anatomy. “Pineapples contain high amounts of vitamin C and manganese,” said San Diego-based nutritionist Laura Flores. These tropical treats are also a good way to get important dietary fiber and bromelain (an enzyme).

“As well as having high amounts of manganese, which is important for antioxidant defenses, pineapples also contain high amounts of thiamin, a B vitamin that is involved in energy production,” Flores said.

For all its sweetness, one cup of pineapple chunks contains only 82 calories. Pineapples are also fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. Not surprisingly, they do contain sugar, with 16 grams per cup.

Here are the nutrition facts for raw pineapple, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:

Serving size: 1 cup chunks (165 g)
Amount per Serving (%DV*)
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Calories 82 Calories from Fat 0
Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Potassium 120mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
  Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
   Sugars 11g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 131%
Calcium 2%
Iron 2%

The nutritional profile for canned pineapple is different from raw pineapple. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, canned pineapple in light syrup has 131 calories per cup and 31.88 grams of sugar. It also contains fewer vitamins and minerals. If you do opt for canned pineapple, try to get it with no added sugar or look for a variety that is canned in fruit juice instead of syrup.

Immune system support

Pineapple contains all of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, according to the FDA. Vitamin C is a primary water-soluble antioxidant that fights cell damage, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. This makes vitamin C a helpful fighter against problems such as heart disease and joint pain.

Bone strength

Pineapple may help you keep standing tall and strong. The fruit contains nearly 75 percent of the daily-recommended value of the mineral manganese, which is essential in developing strong bones and connective tissue, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. One 1994 study suggested that manganese, along with other trace minerals, may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.

Eye health

Pineapples can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a disease that affects the eyes as people age, due in part to its high amount of vitamin C and the antioxidants it contains,” Flores said.

Digestion

Like many other fruits and vegetables, pineapple contains dietary fiber, which is essential in keeping you regular and in keeping your intestines healthy, according to the Mayo Clinic. But unlike many other fruits and veggies, pineapple contains significant amounts of bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, possibly helping digestion, according to the American Cancer Society.

Anti-Inflammatory benefits

Due to a complex mixture of substances that can be extracted from the core of the pineapple, well known as bromelain, pineapples can help reduce severe inflammation … and can reduce tumor growth,” Flores said. A variety of studies have indicated that bromelain may be helpful in treating osteoarthritis, though more research is needed.

Excessive inflammation is often associated with cancer, and according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, bromelain and other proteolytic enzymes have been shown to increase the survival rates of animals with various tumors. There is not yet, however, clinical evidence to show that such results will happen in humans.

Blood clot reduction

Flores noted that because of their bromelain levels, pineapples can help reduce excessive coagulation of the blood. This makes pineapple a good snack for frequent fliers and others at risk for blood clots.

Common cold and sinus inflammation

In addition to having lots of vitamin C, pineapple’s bromelain may help reduce mucus in the throat and nose, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. So if your cold has you coughing, try some pineapple chunks. Those with allergies may want to consider incorporating pineapple into their diets more regularly to reduce sinus mucus long term

“Because pineapple is a great meat tenderizer, eating too much can result in tenderness of the mouth, including the lips, tongue and cheeks,” Flores said. “But, [it] should resolve itself within a few hours.” If it does not, or if you experience a rash, hives or breathing difficulties, you should seek a medical help immediately. You could have a pineapple allergy.

Flores pointed out a possible negative to pineapple’s high levels of vitamin C. “Because of the high amount of vitamin C that pineapples contain, consuming large quantities may induce diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or heart burn,” she said.

Additionally, extremely high amounts of bromelain can cause skin rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive menstrual bleeding, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Bromelain can also interact with some medications. Those taking antibiotics, anticoagulants, blood thinners, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, insomnia drugs and tricyclic antidepressants should be careful not to eat too much pineapple.

Eating unripe pineapple or drinking unripe pineapple juice is dangerous, reports the horticulture department at Purdue University. In this state, it is toxic to humans and can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting. Eating a great deal of pineapple cores can also cause fiber balls to form in the digestive tract.

  • The word “pineapple,” derived from the Spanish word piña, was first used in 1398 to refer to a pinecone. This changed about 300 years later, with the word “pinecone” being introduced so pineapple could be used exclusively for the fruit.
  • Pineapples were discovered by Europeans in 1493 on the Caribbean island of Guadalupe.
  • Early attempts by Europeans to cultivate the fruit failed until they realized that the fruit needs a tropical climate to flourish. By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies.
  • Because pineapples are very perishable, fresh pineapples were a rarity for early American colonists. Glazed, sugar-coated pineapples were a luxurious treat, and fresh pineapple itself became a symbol of prestige and social class.
  • Pineapples were first cultivated in Hawaii in the 18th century. Hawaii is the only U.S. state in which they are still grown.
  • Other countries that commercially grow pineapples include Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil and Mexico.
  • Pineapple canneries use every bit of the pineapple. The skins, core and end portions are used to make a variety of products, including vinegar, alcohol and animal food.

Liver: Function, Failure & Disease


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Liver: Function, Failure & Disease

Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock

The liver is an abdominal glandular organ in the digestive system. It is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, under the diaphragm and on top of the stomach. The liver is a vital organ that supports nearly every other organ to some capacity.

The liver is the body’s second-largest organ (skin is the largest organ), according to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), weighing about 3 lbs. (1.4 kilograms). At any given moment, the liver holds about 1 pint (half a liter) of blood — about 13 percent of the body’s blood supply, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The liver is shaped like a football, or a cone, and consists of two main lobes. Each lobe has eight segments that consist of 1,000 small lobes, or lobules, according to Johns Hopkins. The lobules are connected to ducts that transport bile to the gallbladder and small intestine.

“The liver has a complex role in the function of the body,” said Jordan Knowlton, an advanced registered nurse practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. “Detoxification, metabolism (including regulation of glycogen storage), hormone regulation, protein synthesis, digestion, and decomposition of red blood cells, to name a few.”

In fact, more than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver, according to Johns Hopkins, including:

  • Production of bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion.
  • Production of certain proteins for blood plasma.
  • Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
  • Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage (glycogen can later be converted back to glucose for energy) and to balance and make glucose as needed
  • Regulation of blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
  • Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)
  • Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea (urea is an end product of protein metabolism and is excreted in the urine)
  • Clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances
  • Regulating blood clotting
  • Resisting infections by making immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
  • Clearance of bilirubin, also from red blood cells. If there is an accumulation of bilirubin, the skin and eyes turn yellow.

One of the best-known roles of the liver is as a detoxification system. Itremoves toxic substances from blood, such as alcohol and drugs, according to the Canadian Liver Foundation. It also breaks down hemoglobin, insulin and excessive hormones to keep hormone levels in balance. Additionally, it destroys old blood cells.

The liver is vital for healthy metabolic function. It metabolizes carbohydrates, lipids and proteins into useful substances, such as glucose, cholesterol, phospholipids and lipoproteins that are used in various cells throughout the body, according to Colorado State University’s Department of Biomedical Sciences’ Hypertexts for Pathophysiology: Metabolic Functions of the Liver. The liver breaks down the unusable parts of proteins and converts them into ammonia, and eventually urea.

According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are more than 100 types of liver disease, and they are caused by a variety of factors, such as viruses, toxins, genetics, alcohol and unknown causes. The following are among the most common types of liver disease:

  • Alagille syndrome
  • Alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Cystic disease of the liver
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Galactosemia
  • Gallstones
  • Gilbert’s syndrome
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver disease in pregnancy
  • Neonatal hepatitis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Porphyria
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Toxic hepatitis
  • Type 1 glycogen storage disease
  • Tyrosinemia
  • Viral hepatitis A, B, C
  • Wilson disease

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one symptom of liver disease is jaundice — yellowish skin and eyes. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, persistent itchy skin, dark urine, pale stools, bloody or black stools, exhaustion, bruising easily, nausea and loss of appetite.

There are two types of fatty liver, according to the Cleveland Clinic: that caused by excessive alcohol consumption (fatty liver) and that which is not (non-alcoholic fatty liver or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis).

Speaking of both conditions, Knowlton said, “Some fat on the liver is normal, but when it starts to accumulate to greater than 5-10 percent, it can lead to permanent liver damage and cirrhosis.” It also increases the chance of liver failure or liver cancer. Fatty liver “can be caused by genetics, obesity, diet, hepatitis, or alcohol abuse,” said Knowlton. Other risk factors include rapid weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high trigycerides, according to the ALF.

Some people may get fatty liver even if they don’t have any risk factors. Up to 25 percent of the U.S. population suffers from fatty liver disease, according to the University of Michigan Health System. There are no medical treatments for fatty liver disease, though avoiding alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can help prevent or reverse fatty liver disease in its early stages.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an enlarged liver (or hepatomegaly) isn’t a disease itself, but a sign of an underlying serious problem, such as liver disease, cancer or congestive heart failure. There may be no symptoms of an enlarged liver, though if they are they are the same as the symptoms for liver disease. Normally, the liver cannot be felt unless you take a deep breath, but if it is enlarged, your doctor may be able to feel it, according to the NIH. The doctor may then do scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds of the abdomen to determine if you have an enlarged liver. Treatment will involve addressing the underlying problem.

Liver pain is felt in the upper right area of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Usually, it is a dull, vague pain though it can sometimes be quite severe and may cause a backache. Sometimes people perceive it as pain in the right shoulder. It is often confused with general abdominal pain, back pain or kidney pain, according to New Health Guide. It can be hard to pinpoint the exact location or cause of such pains, so it is important to see a doctor. Doctors may do blood tests, ultrasounds or biopsies to determine the cause of pain.

Liver pain can be the result of a variety of causes. Some common causes are: ascites (fluid in the abdomen), cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver failure, enlarged liver, liver abscess, and liver tumors.

Liver failure is an urgent, life-threatening medical condition. It means that the liver has lost or is losing all of its function. “Livers typically fail gradually,” said Knowlton, “but sometimes [it] can be rapid.” Early symptoms of liver failure are general, making it difficult to know that the liver is failing. Knowlton said, “Symptoms of liver failure may include nausea, appetite changes, fatigue, diarrhea, jaundice, easy bleeding.” As the condition worsens, she said symptoms might include “mental confusion and coma.”

“Typical causes of liver failure include Tylenol overdose, viruses, hepatitis B & C, cirrhosis, alcoholism, and some medications,” said Knowlton. Georgia’s Emory Healthcare stated that there are two types of liver failure: chronic and acute. Chronic liver failure is the most common type of liver failure. It is the result of malnutrition, disease and cirrhosis, and it can develop slowly over years. Acute liver failure is rarer, and it can come on suddenly. Acute liver failure is usually the result of poisoning or a drug overdose.

Liver failure treatments depend on the case. Knowlton said, “Treatment options are mostly supportive (hospitalization and treatment until the liver recovers), but ultimately may require liver transplantation.”

Donated livers can come from cadavers or living donors. In the case of living donors, the donor donates part of his or her liver to another person, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. The liver can regrow itself, so both people should end up with healthy, functional livers. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases the most common reason adults get liver transplants is cirrhosis, though transplants can also be done for patients with various liver diseases or early stage liver cancer.

A liver transplant is a very serious surgery that may take up to 12 hours. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several risks involved with liver transplants, including:

  • Bile duct complications, including leaks or shrinking
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Failure of donated liver
  • Infection
  • Memory and thinking problems
  • Rejection of donated liver

If you have a liver transplant, you can expect to stay in the hospital for at least a week after the surgery, to get regular checkups for at least three months, and to take anti-rejection and other medications for the rest of your life. It will take six months to a year to feel fully healed from the surgery.

Liver transplant success depends on the individual case. Transplants from cadavers have a 72 percent success rate, meaning that 72 percent of liver transplant recipients lived for at least five years after the surgery. Transplants from living donors had a slightly higher success rate, at 78 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While some liver diseases are genetic, others are caused by viruses or toxins, such as drugs and poisons. Some risk factors, according to theMayo Clinic, include drug or heavy alcohol consumption, having a blood transfusion before 1992, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, diabetes, obesity and being exposed to other people’s blood and bodily fluids. This can happen from shared drug needles, unsanitary tattoo or body piercing needles, and unprotected sex.

Pesticide exposure was associated with a 71 percent increased risk of liver cancer, according to a meta-analysis of more than 480,000 participants in Asia, Europe and the U.S. Though the study was large, more research needs to be done on what exact pesticides are the most harmful.

Alcohol is big player in liver damage. It is believed that alcohol could possibly change the type of fungi living in the liver, leading to disease, according to a small study published May 22, 2017, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. If this is true, it could lead to new treatment options. The findings suggest that “we might be able to slow the progression of alcoholic liver disease by manipulating the balance of fungal species living in a patient’s intestine,” study co-author Dr. Bernd Schnabl, an associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a statement. [How Alcohol & Gut Fungus Team Up to Damage Your Liver]

Additional reporting by Alina Bradford, Live Science contributor.

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Man Dies in MRI Accident: How Does This Happen?


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Man Dies in MRI Accident: How Does This Happen?

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Man Dies in MRI Accident: How Does This Happen?

Credit: Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post/Getty

A man in India has reportedly died after being yanked toward a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, according to news reports.

The man, Rajesh Maru, was visiting a relative at a hospital in Mumbai and had been handed a metal oxygen cylinder to carry, according to theAgence France-Presse. He entered the MRI room after being told the machine was off, but the powerful magnet that runs the machine was functioning and pulled the oxygen cylinder toward it. Maru may have died from inhaling liquid oxygen from the damaged cylinder, according to Mumbai police. The police also said two hospital staff members had been arrested for causing death by negligence. [27 Oddest Medical Cases]

MRI imaging is quite safe for human tissue, but introducing metal near the machines can be deadly. That’s because the MRI machine works by using large magnets to create strong magnetic fields, 1,000 times the strength of a standard refrigerator magnet. These mega-magnetic fields align the positively charged protons within the nuclei of the hydrogen atoms in the body’s soft tissue. There are a lot of hydrogen atoms in soft tissue, because soft tissue is rich in H2O, aka water. (The skin is about 64 percent H2O and the lungs are 83 percent, according to a 1945 paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.)

While they’re lining up protons, MRI scanners also use radio waves to vary the magnetic field, forcing the protons to flip their alignment in response. After the field turns off, the protons return to their usual orientation, which produces radio signals that the MRI machine can measure. The speed at which the protons return to normal is different depending on the tissue, so the radio signals produce an image that differentiates between muscles, organs and other structures.

It’s that strong magnetic field that can prove dangerous if there’s any metal in the room when the machine is switched on, as the magnet will yank metal objects toward it. Patients must remove any metal from their bodies before getting scanned; anyone with certain metal implants that can’t be removed (most older pacemakers, for example) can’t get an MRI scan.

Occasionally, metal objects brought into the room during scans cause tragic accidents. In 2014, a technician at another hospital in Mumbai spent 4 hours wedged inside an MRI machine after he was pinned between a ward assistant carrying an oxygen cylinder and the scanner. The technician lost blood circulation below the waist and was temporarily paralyzed; he also suffered organ damage and internal bleeding, according to the Mumbai Mirror. Last year, the maker of the machine, General Electric, paid the technician a settlement of 10 million rupees (about $157,000).

In 2001, a 6-year-old boy named Michael Colombini died in Westchester, New York, after an oxygen canister flew at his skull during an MRI for a benign brain tumor. The boy’s family and the hospital reached a $2.9 million settlement in 2009, according to news reports.

The most common MRI injuries, though, are burns, according to a 2008 report by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit healthcare accreditation agency. When metal is left inside a patient’s body — or a tattoo containing metallic pigments is overlooked — the magnetic fields induced by the MRI can create electrical currents in that metal, potentially heating up the soft tissue around it.

Originally published on Live Science. 

 

Lungs: Facts, Function and Diseases


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Lungs: Facts, Function and Diseases

 Lungs: Facts, Function and Diseases
The right lung is shorter than the left lung to make room for the liver. The left lung is narrower than the right to make room for the heart.

Credit: Shutterstock

Lungs are sacks of tissue located just below the rib cage and above the diaphragm. They are an important part of the respiratory system and waste management for the body.

A person’s lungs are not the same size. The right lung is a little wider than the left lung, but it is also shorter. According to York University, the right lung is shorter because it has to make room for the liver, which is right beneath it. The left lung is narrower because it must make room for the heart.

Typically, a man’s lungs can hold more air than a woman’s. At rest, a man’s lungs can hold around 750 cubic centimeters (about 1.5 pints) of air, while a woman’s can hold around 285 to 393 cc (0.6 to 0.8 pints) of air, according to York University. “The lungs are over-engineered to accomplish the job that we ask them to do,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Parsons, a professor of internal medicine, associate director of Clinical Services, and director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the OSU Asthma Center at The Ohio State University. “In healthy people without chronic lung disease, even at maximum exercise intensity, we only use 70 percent of the possible lung capacity.”

According to the American Lung Association, adults typically take 15 to 20 breaths a minute, which comes to around 20,000 breaths a day. Babies tend to breath faster than adults. For example, a newborn’s normal breathing rate is about 40 times each minute while the average resting respiratory rate for adults is 12 to 16 breaths per minute. [Respiratory System: Facts, Function and Diseases]

Though breathing seems simple, it is a very complex process.

The right lung is divided into three different sections, called lobes. The left lung has just two lobes. The lobes are made of sponge-like tissue that is surrounded by a membrane called pleura, which separates the lungs from the chest wall. Each lung half has its own pleura sack. This is why, when one lung is punctured, the other can go on working.

The lungs are like bellows. When they expand, they pull air into the body. When they compress, they expel carbon dioxide, a waste gas that bodies produce. Lungs do not have muscles to pump air in and out, though. The diaphragm and rib cage essentially pump the lungs.

As a person breathes, air travels down the throat and into the trachea, also known as the windpipe. The trachea divides into smaller passages called the bronchial tubes. The bronchial tubes go into each lung. The bronchial tubes branch out into smaller subdivisions throughout each side of the lung. The smallest branches are called bronchioles and each bronchiole has an air sac, also called alveoli. There are around 480 million alveoli in the human lungs, according to the Department of Anatomy of the University of Göttingen.

The alveoli have many capillary veins in their walls. Oxygen passes through the alveoli, into the capillaries and into the blood. It is carried to the heart and then pumped throughout the body to the tissues and organs.

As oxygen is going into the bloodstream, carbon dioxide passes from the blood into the alveoli and then makes its journey out of the body. This process is called gas exchange. When a person breathes shallowly, carbon dioxide accumulates inside the body. This accumulation causes yawning, according to York University.

The lungs have a special way to protect themselves. Cilia, which look like a coating of very small hairs, line the bronchial tubes. The cilia wave back and forth spreading mucus into the throat so that it can be dispelled by the body. Mucus cleans out the lungs and rids them of dust, germs and any other unwanted items that may end up in the lungs.

The lungs can have a wide range of problems that can stem from genetics, bad habits, an unhealthy diet and viruses. “The most common lung related conditions I see are reactive airways or asthma, as well as smoking-related emphysema, in my general practice,” Dr. Jack Jacoub, a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at Memorial Care Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Live Science.

Asthma, also called reactive airway disease before a diagnosis of asthma, is a lung disease where the air passageways in the lungs become inflamed and narrowed, making it hard to breath. In the United States, more than 25 million people, including 7 million children, have asthma, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Lung cancer is cancer that originates in the lungs. It is the No. 1 cause of deaths from cancer in the United States for both men and women, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of cancer include coughing up blood, a cough that doesn’t go away, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, headaches, hoarseness, weight loss and bone pain.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is long-term lung disease that prevents a person from breathing properly due to excess mucus or the degeneration of the lungs. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are considered COPD diseases. About 11.4 million people in the United States suffer from COPD, with about 80 to 90 percent of COPD deaths attributed to smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.

Sometimes, those with COPD get lung transplants, replacement lungs garnered from organ donors, to save their lives. Research is also being done on growing new lungs from stem cells. Currently, stem cells extracted from the patient’s blood or bone marrow are being used as a treatment to heal damaged lung tissue.

Lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, are usually caused by viruses, but can also be caused by fungal organisms or bacteria, according to Ohio State University. Some severe or chronic lung infections can cause fluid in the lungs and other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, coughing up blood and a persistent fever.

Being overweight can also affect the lungs. “Yes, being overweight does adversely affect the lungs because it increases the work and energy expenditure to breath,” said Jacoub. “In the most extreme form, it acts like a constricting process or vest around the chest such as that seen in the ‘Pickwickian syndrome.'”

One of the best ways to promote good lung health is to avoid cigarette smoke because at least 70 out of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke damages the cells within the lungs. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. The more a person smokes, the greater the risk. Those who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a person quits, their lungs can heal from much of the damage, said Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association and a specialist in pulmonary medicine. [Do Smokers’ Lungs Heal After They Quit?]

The Rush University Medical Center also suggests practicing deep breathing exercises, staying hydrated and regular exercise to keep the lungs healthy. Parsons also recommends having homes tested for radon. “Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It typically leaks into a house through cracks in the foundation and walls. Radon is the main cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, and the second-leading cause of the disease after smoking,” said Parsons.

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Here’s What You’d Look Like As Just a Nervous System


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Here’s What You’d Look Like As Just a Nervous System

 Here's What You'd Look Like As Just a Nervous System
A pair of medical students spent 1,500 hours dissecting this in-tact nervous system in 1925.

Credit: Museum of Osteopathic Medicine

In the fall of 1925, two medical students in Kirksville, Missouri, received a cadaver and a challenge. Their assignment: to dissect the body’s nervous system, beginning at the base of the brain and working downward, leaving the system in one continuous piece.

Over the following year, the students — M.A. Schalck and L.P. Ramsdell — spent 1,500 hours of their lives completing the painstaking dissection. A viral photo posted on Reddit on Jan. 30 shows the extraordinary fruits of their labor, which remain on permanent display at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University (ATSU) in Kirksville.

“Medical students come into the museum and stare at it in amazement,” Jason Haxton, director of the museum, told Live Science. “Sometimes, they’ll run in after a test to check their work. People familiar with dissection say this is truly a miracle piece.” [Image Gallery: The Oddities of Human Anatomy]

According to Haxton, every student in Schalck and Ramsdell’s class at the Kirksville College of Osteopathy & Surgery (an institution founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1892, now part of ATSU) was required to dissect a human arm. “These two students’ dissections were so detailed, and so much better than any other student’s, that they were chosen to dissect an entire body,” Haxton said.

Schalck and Ramsdell operated downward from the body’s brain stem, exposing the spinal cord and cutting through skin, muscle and protective tissue to clear the maze of nerve fibers within.

“After they cleared each nerve, they rolled them in cotton batting soaked in some kind of preservative,” Haxton said. (The exact preservative chemicals used are unknown.) “So, as they worked their way down, there was just a mass of little rolls of cotton.”

After 1,500 hours of surgery, Schalck and Ramsdell mounted the dissected nervous system on a slab of shellacked wood. They added hundreds of paper labels to the display and exhibited the finished dissection at medical conferences and museums around the country.

Today, Haxton said, Schalck and Ramsdell’s nervous system is one of only four such dissections in the world. (He said he excludes nervous systems exhibited by the traveling exposition Body Worlds, which uses chemicals to help extract the fibers.) In 1936, researchers at ATSU dissected a second nervous system and then donated it to the Smithsonian Institution. A third sample is owned by a medical museum in Thailand, Haxton said, and a fourth is on display at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“The school anatomist [at Drexel] had a cleaning lady named Harriet,” Haxton said. “She donated her body at death, and the anatomist wanted to do something absolutely fantastic. So, in 1888, he dissected her.”

As for the person whose body ended up on Schalck and Ramsdell’s operating table, nothing is known. Whoever it was likely died in prison or in a poor house, Haxton said, as those were the main state-approved sources of medical cadavers at the time.

Whoever this long-departed Missourian may have been, though, this much is clear: He or she left behind what is now one of the most valuable nervous systems in the world. About 10 years ago, Haxton said, the exhibit was valued at $1 million.

Originally published on Live Science.

Oldest Fossil of ‘Missing Link’ Dinosaur Discovered in Germany


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Oldest Fossil of ‘Missing Link’ Dinosaur Discovered in Germany

Oldest Fossil of 'Missing Link' Dinosaur Discovered in Germany

This may be the oldest known specimen of Archaeopteryx.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4191

Germany’s Bavaria region is known today for its green hills and valleys, studded with whimsical castles and breweries. During the Jurassic period, most of this landscape was under a shallow sea, located much closer to the equator, with coral reefs and a chain of subtropical islands populated by dinosaurs.

Scientists in Bavaria have identified a new fossil from this long-gone era: what may be the oldest known specimen of Archaeopteryxonce thought to be the feathery link between dinosaurs and modern birds.

The discovery of the 150-million-year-old fossil highlights the diversity of known Archaeopteryx specimens, which may have belonged to several species, like “a Jurassic analog of Darwin’s finches,” said study leader and paleontologist Oliver Rauhut, of the Bavarian State Collections for Paleontology and Geology in Munich. [Images: Dinosaurs That Learned to Fly]

The sites in southern Germany where Archaeopteryx fossils have been found were once islands in a chain known as the Jurassic Solnhofen archipelago.

The digits of the right foot of the Bavaria <i>Archaeopteryx</i> specimen can be seen here.
The digits of the right foot of the Bavaria Archaeopteryx specimen can be seen here.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4191

When the first Archaeopteryx fossils were discovered in the 19th century, paleontologists recognized the finds’ mix of avian and reptilian features — such as feathers and a full set of teeth — and declared these raven-size creatures the earliest known birds. That title was undermined after fossils discovered more recently in Asia suggested that Archaeopteryx was just one of many bird-like dinosaurs to roam the planet.

In 2010, a private collector found an Archaeopteryx specimen at Gerstner Quarry, where tourists can dig for fossils, just outside of the Bavarian village of Schamhaupten, north of Munich. The collector alerted Rauhut, who then analyzed the fossil.

Scientists sometimes use fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites as guides to gauge which geologic period a nearby specimen comes from. Based on the ammonites found near the Schamhaupten Archaeopteryx,the researchers think this specimen dates to the boundary between the Kimmeridgian age and the Tithonian age, around 152 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, the scientists said. That might make it the oldest of the 12 fossils that have been classified as Archaeopteryx.

Based on fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites (shown here) found in the same slab that held the <i>Archaeopteryx</i> fossil, scientists dated the dinosaur to about 152 million years ago.

Based on fossils of extinct mollusks called ammonites (shown here) found in the same slab that held the Archaeopteryx fossil, scientists dated the dinosaur to about 152 million years ago.

Credit: Oliver Rauhut et al., PeerJ, https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4191

“Specimens of Archaeopteryx are now known from three distinct rock units, which together cover a period of approximately 1 million years,” Rauhut, who is also a professor at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, said in a statement. Rauhut added that the specimens also show a great deal of diversity in their physical characteristics, which suggests that the fossils could represent more than one species.

“The high degree of variation in the teeth is particularly striking,” Rauhut said in the statement, and the arrangement of teeth is different in every specimen, “which could reflect differences in diet.” He said the situation was “very reminiscent” of the finches Charles Darwin studied on the Galapagos Islands, which showed diversity in their beak shapes and famously helped inspire his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Rauhut added that Archaeopteryx could have diversified into several species on the islands of the Solnhofener archipelago.

The findings were described online Jan. 26 in the journal PeerJ.

Original article on Live Science.