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Pesticide Might Be The Cause Of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus, New Study Says

Pesticide Might Be The Cause Of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus, New Study Says

Especially now that the Zika virus has officially arrived in the United States (via Florida), pregnant women across the country are worried about the possible effects that contracting this mosquito-born virus might have on their unborn children.  Many health organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have concluded that the Zika virus is responsible for microcephaly (a condition where a baby is born with a smaller than normal head and can have long-term cognitive problems because of it). However, a new study raises some questions about these conclusions.

The New Study: does Zika Really Cause Microcephaly?

This new study was undertaken by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) and recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In it, researchers did a large study of 12,000 pregnant Columbian women who showed signs and symptoms of the Zika virus.  What is interesting about this study, though, it that none of these 12,000 women gave birth to babies with microcephaly.

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At this time, there were four cases of microcephaly reported, but this would considered to be at the normal rate of this birth defect, which occurs in approximately 2 out of every 10,000 births even in unaffected populations.

The researchers estimate that, throughout Columbia, there are or have been around 60,000 pregnancies affected by the Zika virus, so the absence of microcephaly births raised the inevitable question: if the Zika virus is not causes microcephaly, then what is?

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A New Culprit is Named

So if the Zika virus is not causing these birth defects, what is?

The NECSI believes that the real culprit might well be a pesticide called pyriproxyfen, which, ironically, is widely used in Brazil to help control the mosquito population. The chemical is used in areas which have been particularly affected by microcephaly — and it has been used in the public water supplies at unprecedented levels.

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The researchers, in making their argument, pointed out the following facts:

  1. Pyriproxyfen works to control the mosquito population by interfering with the development of larvae — and might well interfere with the development of human babies.
  2. Its chemical structure is similar to a form of vitamin A known as a retinoid. The use of retinoids with women during pregnancy has been linked with a variety of serious birth defects, including microcephaly.
  3. Pyriproxyfen has been used in Brazil in the public water supply at unprecedented levels — and this usage happened just before the outbreak of microcephaly in this country.
  4. The fact that other countries who have suffered from Zika virus outbreaks have not suffered from large numbers of microcephaly is suspicious.

The Study in Context

This study should be looked at in context in order to really appreciate its importance. To begin with, the manufacturer of pyriproxyfen has denied any link between its pesticide and birth defects. However, this has been belied by a neurodevelopmental psychologist from the Harvard School of Public Health whose research found a link between this chemical and smaller skull size in laboratory animals.

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In the meantime, the use of this pesticide remains widespread in Brazil despite worries that it might be causing these defects in unborn children. The good news is that some countries are exploring alternatives to mosquito control, that does not harm the human population in any way. This includes the use of larvae-eating fish and mosquito traps.

The long and short of it is that the Zika virus, while certainly a threat to public health, may not be the culprit behind the outbreak of microcephaly — and alternatives to the use of pyriproxyfen should be investigated in order to reduce the potential health risk to pregnant women and their developing babies.

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Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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