Is DDT a time-bomb behind the obesity epidemic? | Grist

ddt_adMichael Skinner didn’t start the experiment with the hypothesis that he’d find a connection between the insecticide DDT and obesity.

“We didn’t expect to find that,” he said. “In fact, the frequency of obesity really came as a surprise.”

Skinner, a scientist at Washington State University, wanted to take a close look at the way DDT affected inheritance. So his team injected DDT into pregnant rats and watched first their children, and then their grandchildren (or is it grandrats?). It was only in the third generation, the great-grand-rat, that they saw it: Fully half of these rats were obese. The implication is that the same thing could be happening with humans.

Michael Skinner
Michael Skinner.

“Is there a correlation between the fact that we were all exposed to DDT in the 1950s for 10 years, and the fact that we are now seeing high levels of obesity?” Skinner asked. His work suggests that there could be.

Of course, the more immediate cause of obesity is too many calories. But there may be more going on here than too much food. Humans are getting fat, so are our pets, so are wild animals. There’s a trend toward obesity in nearly every species scientists have studied.

Of course it’s too early to lay the blame on DDT. This study simply raised the possibility. But the findings are plausible.

“I do believe that the observed obesity is real,” emailed Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Austin. Other experiments have already shown that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause obesity generations after exposure, Gore said.

Skinner had already seen that he could trigger the inheritance of disease with various chemicals. There’s a narrow window during the gestation, where an exposure to lots of things can cause heritable epigenetic changes.

“The majority of things we’ve tested came up positive,” he said.

So the obvious question: Is this a problem specific to DDT, or would we have seen similar results if Skinner’s team had decided to inject the rats with vitamin C? In other words, is this about the chemical, or just the timing of the exposure?

If the DDT had caused kidney disease, Skinner said, he would have been reassured. A lot of things seem to have epigenetic effects that lead to kidney disease. But obesity is unusual — that suggests a problem with DDT itself, Skinner said.

Skinner started this experiment after the World Health Organization lifted the ban on DDT to help fight malaria. That was a good decision based on the available information, Skinner said, but no one had looked to see if DDT had an effect on subsequent generations. “On the one hand, there are 2 million deaths per year in Africa from malaria. On the other hand, we’re looking at the possibility of metabolic disease in every generation to come,” Skinner said.

The word “possibility” there is key. This wasn’t a risk assessment study, and we don’t know if we’d see something similar in humans from environmental exposure to DDT, as opposed to direct injection. But this study should give pause to the people arguing to reintroduce DDT to places even without a malaria problem, Skinner said. It’s now being used in France, among other places. And once you spray DDT, it’s out there for a long time.

“If you go to any river in the U.S., and push your finger down into the mud one or two inches, the primary contaminant you will find there is DDT,” Skinner said. The stuff just takes a really long time to break down, and Skinner’s research suggests that its effects could last much longer.

George Clooney’s brush with malaria

George Clooney has been bringing the plight of refugees to the media and it was during his most recent visit to war-torn Sudan that he contracted malaria.

The Oscar-winning actor caught the potentially fatal tropical disease in the first week of January while he was visiting the North East African country to work on a project with the United Nations and Google to help stave off a new civil war.

The news of the 49 year old’s illness was announced by CNN talk show host Piers Morgan, who wrote on his Twitter page: “BREAKING NEWS: George Clooney has contracted malaria following recent trip to Sudan.”

Piers then humorously revealed that he’d received thousands of offers from women keen to nurse him back to health, tweeting: “Clooney malaria update: now have 24, 563 offers to nurse him. But his rep says his medication worked and he’s OK. Sorry ladies.”

Clooney’s rep has also confirmed that the Hollywood star is in the clear, saying: “This was his second bout with it. This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa, can be reduced to a bad ten days insteay of a death sentence.”

[adsense]Malaria is spread by mosquitos infected with malaria parasties. With just one mosquito bite the parasites are injected into the victim’s body and from the bloodstrea the disease makes it’s way to the liver. From there it will affect the red blood cells. This phase, where the parasite matures in the liver, is called the incubation period, and can last anywhere from 7 to 30 days before the first symptoms appear. Read more about malaria and the common symptoms of the illness here.

During the interview, which will air on Friday at 9 pm ET on Piers Morgan on Friday, Clooney joked: “I guess the mosquito in Juba looked at me and thought I was the bar.”

Read our coverage of World Malaria Day.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Malaria almost claimed Cheryl Cole’s life

In her first interview since recovering from Malaria,  Cheryl Cole said on Pierce Morgan’s ITV1 show Life Stories that the mosquito-transmitted disease left her on the brink of death.

The X factor judge contracted the illness during a recent holiday in Tanzania. Because Malaria is an illness that produces symptoms that are similar to a flu in the beginning, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose it in its early stages.

The 27-year-old singer was working on a photo shoot for her second album when she reportedly collapsed and fainted on set. Cole ended up in intensive care and soon she was struggling for her life.

During the TV interview, she told Pierce: “It was touch and go for 24 hours. It was serious.” In fact, it was so serious that, according to Daily Mail, a source on the show said: “She was given 24 hours to survive and told if her condition did not improve she would die.”

Cheryl said in the interview that with the threat of death imminent, she even drew up a will and considered how to divide her posessions between her family and friends.

She told Morgan: “I thought I was going to die, I actually thought I was going to die. I thought if I’m going to die I want to die soon because I was in so much pain”.
Although the former Girls Aloud singer couldn’t take part in the ‘boot camp’ stage of the current series of X Factor, she was well enough to return last weekend, when the live shows started.
The interview will be aired on ITV on 23 October.
Every year on April 25, World Malaria Day , organizations and individuals across the globe unite in commemorating the world-wide effort to eliminate the tropical disease. Read more about celebrity efforts to fight Malaria here.
Images: PR Photos

Cheryl Cole felt ‘betrayed’ by husband’s sex addiction

It seemed like a match made in heaven: He was one of the most talented soccer players in the country, and she was one its most beautiful and talented singers. After the wedding, they soon became England’s darlings; a power couple of glamour and fame.

The perfect image of the pair was shattered as British media broke the story that would see them separate and divorce: Ashley Cole cheated on his wife. Although the couple survived the first allegations of infidelity 18 months after their 2006 wedding, the newest allegations, which hit early this year, left Cheryl fed up and feeling “betrayed”.

Desperate to save their marriage, Ashley reportedly admitted to having a problem; he was addicted to sex. Shortly after Cheryl decided to separate from him in February this year, Ashley reportedly bombarded her with phone calls, begging her to take him back, even suggesting he get professional help to treat his sex addiction, reports.

Now, Cheryl, who has kept a dignified silence about the matter, has spoken out in an interview to British Vogue about the break up of her marriage.

When she was asked whether she felt betrayed, Cheryl, 27, said: “Yes, definitely I do, but I’ve got to take everything that’s happened and learn from it,” reports.

“I accept that that’s a chapter of my life that’s finished.

“And I’ve just got to be grateful that I’ve got so many good things going on, I have and there’s no children, you know?

“Some people’s lives fall apart – of course, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s not anything remotely like it could have been and I’m very, very thankful for that.”

Cheryl is now officially divorced from Ashley, 29.

Cheryl was recently in hospital battling malaria.

Celebrities who have battled sex addiction include Tiger Woods and Jesse James.

Images: PR Photos

Cheryl Cole loses weight, battles malaria

Cheryl Cole continues to battle malaria, and has drastically lost weight in doing so. Friends and family are concerned for the formerly slender singer, who now only weighs a frail 98lbs at a height of 5ft 3in.

A source close to Cheryl told British tabloid News of the World: “Cheryl is far too thin. She was 7½st (105lbs) to 8st (112) before but she doesn’t have any meat on her now. Her hipbones literally stick out.”

Cheryl caught malaria after traveling to the African nation of Tanzania with friend Derek Hough, who gave her the trip as a present to get away from the media as her divorce from soccer player Ashley Cole continues.

A week after returning from the trip, Cheryl reportedly collapsed during a photo shoot and was rushed to a London hospital, as we reported.

See article: Cheryl Cole in hospital with malaria

Her mother has reportedly been trying to feed Cheryl up, and everyone, including Cheryl, know how important it is for her to focus on herself, relax and eat well as she recovers.

“Cheryl understands that she now has to follow medical advice,” the source added to News of the World. “Her ridiculously busy work routine is off so there’s time for her to focus on getting healthy and putting the weight back on.”

While Cheryl has been able to leave the hospital and return to her home, she remains under constant care. According to The Sun, Cheryl has hired a nurse to watch over her and be on call 24 hours a day as she continues to battle the illness.

“It’s important now she’s out of hospital her condition doesn’t get worse again,” A source told The Sun. “The nurse will be on call 24 hours a day to make sure Cheryl gets everything she needs.”

What is malaria?

Other celebrities who have recently been in hospital include Joe PerryPinkDean McDermottKaty Perry and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Images: PR Photos

Cheryl Cole in hospital with malaria

Cheryl Cole is currently in a London hospital getting treatment for tropical disease malaria. The 27-year-old singer was working on a photo shoot for her second album when she reportedly collapsed and fainted on set.

Many assume Cheryl contracted the disease after being bitten by a mosquito during a recent holiday in Tanzania. Malaria is an illness that produces symptoms that are similar to a flu in the beginning, and is therefore sometimes difficult to diagnose in its early stages.

“Cheryl hadn’t been feeling herself for about a week [after returning on June 22],” a friend told Britain’s The Daily Mail yesterday. “She was feeling tired and listless. In the end, this must have been the beginning of the virus. During Sunday afternoon, Cheryl went downhill quickly. She was sweating and shaking and in a bad way.”

According to Cheryl’s publicist, who confirmed the singer would be in hospital for a few days, Cheryl had taken the full prescription of malaria tablets. Some strains of malaria, however, are drug resistant.

The former Girls Aloud singer, who has celebrated huge international success with her solo album and has had a grueling work schedule since her split from husband Ashley Cole, was told by colleague Simon Cowell to take it easy and make sure to recover completely before returning to work.

“Don’t rush back,” the BBC quotes Simon as telling Cheryl, who is also a judge on UK’s ‘The X Factor’ show. “Health is a priority and get some rest to recover properly.”

Cheryl was reportedly holidaying in Tanzania, which is on Africa’s east coast, with her dancer and friend Derek Hough.

Other celebrities who have recently been in hospital include Dean McDermott, Katy PerryShawn King and Jennifer Capriati.

Images: PR Photos

What is malaria?

Malaria is commonly known as a fever that can be contracted by mosquitoes when traveling to an exotic country. This is true, but there is so much more to the disease that affects nearly half the global population.

Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite. In order for the life cycle of the parasite to function, two hosts are needed: namely the anopheles mosquitoes and humans. A mosquito that carries the parasite will transmit the disease into the human body when biting them. The disease will enter the human’s blood stream, where it will make its way to the liver. From there it will affect the body’s red blood cells. This phase, where the parasite matures in the liver, is called the incubation period, and can last anywhere from 7 to 30 days before the first symptoms appear, the Center for Disease Control writes.

The CDC lists the following as the most common symptoms of malaria:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue, weakness

More complicated infections of malaria carry far more severe symptoms, including neurologic abnormalities (seizure, coma), kidney failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome. To find out more about the symptoms, please click here to go to the CDC website.

Malaria usually occurs in stages. It begins with a “cold stage”, where the patient may shiver and feel cold. This is followed by what is called “the hot stage”, where the patient will present symptoms of fever and headaches. The third stage is referred to as the “sweat stage”, where the patient’s temperature slowly returns to normal and sweats.

Malaria is typically diagnosed via a blood test, in which a lab technician will recognize the parasite (under a microscope) in the patient’s red blood cells.

Anopheles mosquito

Where does malaria exist?

When considering malaria affects nearly half the world population, one could assume it is found in 50 percent of the globe. Not so. Malaria is restricted to these key areas: Central Africa, India, some parts of South East Asia, and some parts of Latin America. For a map of where malaria occurs and what conditions it needs to survive, click here.

How is malaria treated?

The first and most important step in treatment is prevention. Prophylactic drugs are currently available for individuals to consume before and during trips to where malaria exists. This oral medication that are used to treat patients suffering from malaria, are also used (in smaller dosages) preventatively, writes.

Another effective method to prevent malaria include long-lasting nets to sleep in, and indoor residual spraying, in which insecticides are sprayed onto the walls of the home. These practices are currently being implemented strongly in Africa, where one in five babies will die because of malaria.

Other tips include having mosquito repellent with you at all times, and spraying your body and your clothing with it.

While generations of research have been put into finding a malaria vaccine, no effective vaccine has so far been found. Malaria is generally not a fatal disease, particularly in a mild form, however appropriate medical care is a necessity.

Read our coverage of World Malaria Day.