Health and Medicine

On adult picky eaters

The Wall Street Journal looks at adult picky eaters — adults who won’t eat anything but a very small list of foods.

Unlike people with anorexia or bulimia, picky eaters don’t seem to make food choices based on calorie content. They aren’t necessarily skinny or obsessed with looking a certain way. Researchers don’t know yet what drives the behavior, but they say textures and smell can account for a picky eater’s limited diet. Some will only eat foods with one consistent texture or one taste, leading some medical experts to speculate that picky eaters have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Doctors worry that over the long term such eating habits could lead to nutritional deficiencies linked to health concerns, including bone and heart problems.
Picky eaters tend to gravitate to certain foods, including blander products that are often white or pale colored, like plain pasta or cheese pizza. For reasons that aren’t clear, almost all adult picky eaters like French fries and often chicken fingers, health experts say.

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Medical isotopes and me

The federal Liberals are attacking the Harper government for failing, in their view, to deal with the medical isotope shortage. The shortage, which was triggered by the (second) shutdown of the Chalk River NRU reactor last May, will be exacerbated by the shutdown of the Dutch Petten reactor for repairs, which start this month and will run through the summer.

I didn’t say anything about the isotope issue while I was working for Health Canada (though, strictly speaking, Natural Resources is the lead department on this issue, I did edit some work on this issue), but I’m not working there any more — and I just figured out that I have direct experience with the medical isotopes that are now in short supply.

One of the isotopes produced by the NRU reactor is technetium-99m, which, among other things, is used in bone scans. In late 1997, it was a bone scan that revealed activity in my heels and sacroiliac joint and suggested the likelihood of ankylosing spondylitis. Had that bone scan not been available, I would not have received the right diagnosis as quickly, and I cannot imagine how things would have turned out then. Most people with my disease go years before getting the right diagnosis; I was damn lucky to get it only six months after the onset of severe symptoms.

If bone scans are harder to come by as a result of the isotope shortage, people like me will be considerably worse off.

Is there a vaccine against collective amnesia?

A worthy contribution to the fight against the anti-vaccination nutters comes, as many worthy things often do, from Jim Macdonald at Making Light, who points out that the diseases we vaccinate our children against used to kill them in great numbers. (Yes, even measles.) That these diseases don’t any more is because we vaccinate our children.

As a historian, I am often struck by how often people forget why things are the way they are today. It’s easy to fulminate against a social safety net when you’ve never lived without one, for example, but the Great Depression, when unemployment meant utter destitution, meant you had nothing, started only 80 years ago. (Fun fact: government social programs were often enacted not by liberal governments who thought that the poor should be bribed with taxpayers’ money but by conservative governments who hoped to stave off a Communist uprising from a starving and desperate population.)

Still, anyone over the age of 50 will remember what it was like to grow up with the risk of getting polio. That’s not that long ago. There are still people living in iron lungs, for crying out loud.

That people honestly believe that getting vaccinated is a greater risk than not getting vaccinated is — well, I can’t believe people forget so soon.

(For more words in support of vaccination, don’t miss Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s posts found in his antiscience category.)