This might sound like sacrilege, but it's not hard to understand why over half of all people in the U.S. avoid getting the flu shot every year. It's a real pain—let's just start there. Lots of people hate needles or are outright afraid of them, and that's reasonable enough. Very few people want a stranger to poke them in the arm with something sharp. Sometimes you even get fatigue, or aches in your muscles. Then, to add insult to injury, you sometimes end up coming down with the flu anyway. What was even the point? And they want you to do this every year? Voluntarily?
In March, an episode of Law & Order SVU dove into murky scientific waters when it introduced a character claiming to have a gene that made him commit sexual assault. The story was never clear on what specific gene had supposedly doomed the defendant to such a life. But claiming to have DNA that predisposes one to commit a crime is decidedly non-fictional.
The bacteria inside our guts—which collectively make up the so-called gut microbiome—are incredibly diverse, with countless species and strains. But they also differ depending on the individual, with one person's microbiome having little to do with another's. And scientists have found that these differences can relate to our health. A person with diabetes is more likely to have a certain suite of microbes than a person without diabetes, for example. But the mechanisms of this bacterial influence are still pretty mysterious.
When we eat, we're not just feeding ourselves. The multitude of microbes that reside inside our guts get fed, too. These microscopic beings are crucial to our survival, yet we still know very little about how they keep us thriving. Understanding what makes a microbiome particularly healthy could help us cultivate the ideal colonies inside our stomachs. For now, all scientists really know is that it seems to be better to have a diverse group of microbes than a more homogenous bunch—and that our internal critters change drastically in response to our dietary habits.
B vitamins are often sold with the promise of boosting flagging energy levels. But men who smoke might want to skip them, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. While smoking kills some six million people a year, the study found that men who smoked and took large doses of vitamins B6 or B12 significantly increased their risk of lung cancer.