Lukewarm lemon

Winter is coming and with it the common cold. Some people start to gulp down litres of hot lemon in the cold season quite pointlessly when they are sick. Firstly, vitamin C has never been proven to help against the cold or boost the immune system when sick. It was only known that seafarers who did not have fruits would get scurvy. The conclusions drawn that the other way around vthat itamin C helps curing anything is wrong. Vitamin C is needed for some things anyway so it is not a bad idea to have some and if you like to drink it, but vitamin C degrades at 70 degrees Celsius meaning if you put lemon juice in boiling hot water your vitamin C degrades instantly. What does not degrade is the citric acid in the lemon irritating your stomach lining and eroding the enamel in your teeth.

As many people prefer their hot lemon with honey they take in loads of sugar as well. Honey enzymes that help fight bacteria are inactivated above body temperature meaning you basically drink hot sugar if you waste your expensive honey in hot drinks. Honey has been proven to kill bacteria but it is more efficient the more concentrated it is. When you have a cold it’s therefore more advisible to eat pure honey with a spoon several times a day. Sweet!



Fall asleep easier

Ever heard that mobile phones before bed can harm your sleep? The blue light from TV, laptop or mobile phone screens suggest to the brain that it is still day time. This results in a lower production of the sleeping hormone melatonin. With these lower levels it is much harder to fall asleep at bed time and stay asleep. You could avoid screen exposure one hour before bedtime by putting your phone away which requires a serious amount of discipline. Or you can install a blue light filter app on your phone. Set a timer for it like from nine in the evening to seven in the morning and you are sorted. Enjoy your sleep.


What to pack for a festival 2017


As more recreational drugs like MDMA, ecstasy and cocaine have been found to be cut with fentanyl in Canada, the US and the UK the question arises if European recreational drug users should be worried. Fentanyl is usually used for severe pain treatment in end cancer patients and has a very small therapeutic index meaning one grain at the size of a grain of salt can give you a high two grains will kill you. This might be a good estimate for the commercial drug fentanyl that is produced under controlled conditions but certainly not for the street drug. Drug producers don’t bother testing their products for quality or purity, making it likely to get the dose badly wrong. Fentanyl appears in two ways on the market, as counterfeit pills from street labs making the user think it is safe to take as it looks like a prescription drug or cut into recreational drugs like MDMA. It is cheap to order and easy to synthesize and has no smell, colour or taste. The main distribution way to Canada is from labs in China via the internet leaving no reason why it could not be found in European street drugs as well. If you or your friends take recreational drugs, know the symptoms of a fentanyl overdose to be able to react: Trouble breathing, cold and skin as well as trouble walking or talking, pin needle sized pupils, severe sleepiness, not being able to wake up, slow heartbeat. An untreated overdose will lead to death by deprivation of breathing. Effects can be reversed with naloxone and users of recreational drugs in Canada are advised to have naloxone-kits on hand. In persons not having taken opioids, naloxone has no effects, so you can’t harm anyone who has not taken fentanyl if you guessed wrong. Naloxone reverses the effects of fentanyl and other opioids but time is important and even an unresponsive person should be treated immediately. It might save a life of a friend to have a kit or two if you are in a risk group. How cool is that? You can get kits for about 20 quid here:



Germany: hard to get

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Good news

… you can save money and time. Just drop nutritional supplements like its hot. Unless your doctor detected a deficiency in your blood you don’t need the pills. Not only do they not contribute to your health they can actually be harmful. It was shown that carotene supplements for example show damaging effects in smokers. The reason is that carotene and other antioxidants stabilise radicals and transport them through the body so they damage far more tissues than only your lungs. So stay away at least from that if you smoke. Vitamin A overdosed can damage your nerves and it was never shown that vitamin C in humans boosts the immune system. The myth comes from a wrong conclusion that was drawn from the fact that seafarers fell sick when they did not have vitamin C sources on board. This is true but it does not mean more vitamin C does boost your immune system. There are only two compounds you should keep an eye on. One for each sex, fair enough. Women should consider folic acid if they are trying to get pregnant and man loose a lot of zinc through sperm. So if you are male and have frequent ejaculations for example when you backpack in hostels but you get sick quite often think zinc. Zinc opposite to vitamin C has shown to actually help your white blood cells fight infections but it needs to be complexed with histidine. The best source for that is chicken in any form. So there’s a good reason for chicken soup when you are ill rather than an orange juice sugar bomb, especially when you smoke, carotene you know.


Old fashioned white sunscreen saves the oceans

A phenomenon found across the world in areas of the tropics is coral bleaching. Although it is known that the major bleaching events are the result of higher carbon dioxide binding in sea water due to air pollution which acidifies the oceans and lets corals quit their job it has now been found that sunscreen has a local effect, too. Reefs of touristy areas underwent bleaching events across the world in highly frequented tropical bays of touristic destinations. The first person to investigate the issue scientifically was forensic toxicologist Craig Downs and he identified ingredients in sunscreens let the corals go infertile and reefs die. These are mainly: Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and Octocrylene.

Some companies have already picked up that issue and came out with non-oceantoxic sunscreen. If you are on a budget you can still do your part and go for sun lotions that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (you know the stuff that makes your skin white). Avoid clear lotions even when if the ingredients show zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as clear lotions contain these compounds as nano-particles which can still enter cells and cause damage. The bigger the particles become, the whiter they look. Avoid spray as most of it lands on the sand and gets washed into the oceans. Some of the zinc creams contain colorful pigments these days like in the 80’s and you can tint your face in a nice neon color of your choice. If you wear a UV-proof shirt at the beach that saves sunscreen as well. Who would have thought that if we join the surfers and nerds in looks we can do our part to save the seas.


What happens when you sleep

We all know that sleep is important and that you feel like crap when you do not get enough. Scientists have been investigating sleep for several hundred years but only in 2013 it was found out what could be the main reason WHY we need to sleep. It was discovered in a study in mice that the glymphatic system enables a liquid flow through the brain while we are asleep, much faster than the flow when we are awake. To make it more efficient certain cells in the brain shrink during sleep, resulting in an increase of 60% of the space between the cells which allows this better liquid flow that cleans out toxic cell waste from normal brain function during the day. One of the components of the toxic waste is beta-amyloid protein which builds up plaques in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Whether an insufficient clean-out is linked to the disease has yet to be answered.
But the feeling of a heavy head and dizziness after chronic sleep deprivation or a rough Saturday night of poor sleep is likely to be the result of inefficient clean-out. Literally a messy head. Happy Sunday.



Getting shit-faced to relax?

Carcinogens are substances that are known or show strong evidence of causing cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency under the umbrella of the WHO classifies substances in 5 categories. The first three are 1) Known it definitely can cause cancer 2) Probably causing cancer with strong evidence and 3) Possibly carcinogenic with some evidence. Everything that is in Class 1 is definitely known to have what it takes to turn your cells into a life-threatening mess. The first data on these compounds came from cancers of certain professions like hairdressers, coal miners, builders, people working in the chemical industry and of groups that showed a long record of consuming a certain substance over decades like people exposed to contaminated water or traditional plants of a certain area or smokers. So for Class 1 substances there is no question that they cause cancer. And did you know ethanol (alcohol) belongs to Class 1 for certain cancers? Every drink increases your risk of mouth, throat, bowel, liver and female breast cancer. Now you know.

Get dirty with potatoes

You can grow your own veg from leftovers without even having to buy pots. Spring onions from the supermarket will grow roots in water after three days. Leave some potatoes in the light for a couple of days and stick them in soil bags from the DIY market. Cut a bag in half that gives you two grow ‘containers’ and makes it super easy to harvest the potatoes later from the balcony if you don’t have a garden. After harvesting always store potatoes tubers in the dark. Once they are green they have produced higher levels of a toxin called solanine. It doesn’t cause cancer but it can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting or more rarely hallucinations and cardiac disrhythmia and especially kids can be sensitive. Solanine occurs in lower levels in potatoes skin that has not gone green yet. Solanine is soluble in water and diffused by boiling potatoes but not by baking them. If you have a sensitive stomach peeling potatoes before boiling or not eating the skin of baked potatoes might be an idea for you. Happy digging.


Eggs are friends

First of all, cholesterol is not a bad thing. It is a lipid that is needed in the human body to build structures around the cells and to synthesize certain hormones and vitamin D. High cholesterol blood levels have been associated with cardio-vascular diseases and eggs contain reasonably high levels of cholesterol. But nature is a bit more complicated than that. The cholesterol in human blood is not significantly higher after eating eggs than before. This assumption has more to do with how you cook the eggs. Cholesterol can be raised if you fry the eggs in fat. Oiling or poaching are good options.


Nuts about nuts?

High levels of substances of the group of aflatoxins have been found in peanuts and peanut products. Aflatoxins are natural compounds that are produced by mold which grows during storage and transports of the nuts especially with tropical origin due to the high humidity in air. Aflatoxins, especially aflatoxin B1, are known to cause cancer of the liver in very low doses. Treatment with fungizides can limit the levels of aflatoxins. So think twice if you buy organic peanuts. A similar issue with rice, maize and wheat by the way.