Longer Looks: Doctors And Fake News; Superfoods; And Pig-To-Human Transplants
Each week, KHN finds interesting reads from around the web.
Doctors Have Decades Of Experience Fighting “Fake News.” Here’s How They Win.
Long before Hilda Bastian was a health researcher, she endorsed a practice she believes may have cost lives. “I think people died because of me,” she said recently. “And I'll spend my whole life trying not to do it again and to make amends.” (Julia Belluz, 4/29)
The New York Times:
The Superfood Gold Rush
In the aisles of the American supermarket, hierarchies arise and collapse with the velocity of soap-opera drama. The produce section is especially cutthroat; here, because novel products are so rare, it’s the stories that must change to entice consumers. Back in the 1970s, the Chinese gooseberry went global — cultivated in New Zealand and shipped to the world — after being rechristened as the friendlier kiwi. Just a few years ago, kale was king, rehabbed as a luxury green after decades as a garnish and a Southern standby. Similarly, quinoa, long a staple crop in the Andes, has lately become a Western fixture, an ostensibly more primal alternative to rice. The latest entrant to this contest is Brazilian açaí, a purplish, antioxidant-rich stone fruit — though most call it a berry — foraged from trees in the Amazon River basin. (Jamie Lauren Keiles, 5/2)
'Big Pork' Wants To Get In On Organ Transplants
Smithfield Foods sells bacon, ham, hot dogs, pork chops, and sausages (breakfast, smoked, and dry). It also supplies pharmaceutical companies. Heparin, a molecule extracted from pig guts, is the crucial ingredient in blood-thinning drugs. It makes sense when you think about it: Meat and organs tend to come in a single package (i.e. a pig), so of course the world’s largest pork processor is also a major U.S. heparin supplier. With that in mind, it also makes sense that Smithfield has a growing interest in pig-to-human organ transplants. (Sarah Zhang, 5/1)
A Pain Doctor Explains How He Balances His Patients’ Needs With The Opioid Epidemic’s Lessons
When you ask Stanford pain specialist Sean Mackey how he deals with chronic pain patients in the middle of the opioid epidemic, he has a consistent answer: “It’s complicated.” Mackey, who describes himself as “a centrist on opioids,” says that’s how doctors should approach the decision to prescribe opioid painkillers to chronic pain patients. (German Lopez, 5/2)
Babies' EEG Brain Signals Offer Window Into Their Pain
Could a baby’s cry mean an anesthetic isn’t working well during a procedure? That a painkiller for postoperative pain has worn off? Or could it mean something else entirely? Scientists at the University of Oxford think they have found a new way around that problem. Neuroscientist Caroline Hartley and her colleagues studied 72 infants undergoing medically necessary painful procedures, like a needle prick for a blood test. They found, using electrodes on the babies’ scalps, a signature change in brain activity about a half-second after a painful stimulus. In the future, that measure could help pain researchers objectively establish if an infant is in pain and, ultimately, determine how to manage it. (Sheridan, 5/3)