New England Journal of Medicine

  1. Give it a rest, doc!

    One of the biggest reasons for all the hospital screw-ups you've been hearing about is that too many doctors are dead tired most of the time -- and they're not wiped out from cashing insurance checks or test-driving new Mercedes models.

    Hospital docs, surgeons and interns work insane hours -- they're allowed to work 30 hours straight, the kinds of shifts that would knock anyone in any industry flat out.

    Those little energy drinks won't do much for that kind of exhaustion.

    Now, some researchers are finally calling for an end to this madness, or at least the beginning of the end. They wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that hospitals should not allow surgeons to perform elective procedures if they worked through the previous night.

    And at the very least, they said surgeons should warn a patient when they're functioning on little sleep -- and allow the patient to back out and reschedule.

    I don't know about you, but if my surgeon told me he had been up all night, you wouldn't be able to get me out of there fast enough... so naturally, surgeons are dead-set against it.

    In a competing editorial, three members of the American College of Surgeons insist they can handle surgery without sleep... which is like a drunk insisting he's OK to drive.

    No exaggeration here -- because we know that sleep deprivation can have the same impact on the body as an all-night bender.

    And we also know that sleepless docs and surgeons screw up more.

    One study in 2009 found that patients operated on by sleep-deprived docs have nearly twice the rate of complications. An earlier study found that docs who worked long shifts were five times more likely to make diagnostic errors.

    And you're expected to let this guy come at you with a scalpel? I wouldn't let him prepare a sandwich!

    Enough's enough -- we force pilots, truck drivers, and nuclear power workers to take breaks because lives are on the line.

    Why should docs be any different?

  2. Overall Benefits of Tipping a Daily Glass or Two

    Overall Benefits of Tippinga Daily Glass or Two

    Glasses for lasses

    Good drinking = good thinking

    As you well know, a regular feature of the Daily Dose involves me singing the praises of moderate consumption of alcohol. It's an easy topic to revisit often, since lots of studies are proving the health plusses of responsible drinking. Often, this research focuses on the overall benefits of tipping a daily glass or two - things like an increased resistance to heart disease, certain cancers, etc.

    But rarely do such studies separate out these effects respective to the sexes. Although an occasional nip is good for just about everybody, men and women can benefit in different ways. I've come across some studies that show that regular imbibing can carry some particularly attractive benefits for women.

    First off is the U.S. study of women over 70 that concluded a daily alcoholic drink may stave off age-related mental decline. As reported in 2005 by the New England Journal of Medicine, a Harvard University-affiliated study reinforces previous studies' suggestion that moderate drinking may reduce the effects of dementia.

    This research, conducted on a sample of over 11,000 women aged 70-81 for 2 full years, found that those who consumed at least one alcoholic beverage every day scored better on cognitive and memory tests than non-drinkers. The drinkers were also found to run lower risks of mental impairment and cognitive decline over time than the teetotalers. The study made no distinction between types of alcohol: Beer, wine, and liquor all seemed to contribute to the positive effects.

    The study's author, a doctor from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, theorized that alcohol's proven benefits to the heart and blood vessels may also be the root causes of its brain-boosting powers - via improved circulation and blood cholesterol, and by aiding in the body's insulin processing.

    Encouraging news, huh ladies?

    But that's only the beginning: Some Portuguese research found that compounds called polyphenols - antioxidants in wine and beer long known to have anticancer and antiviral properties - appear to significantly reduce women's risk of breast cancer. Keep reading


    Beer batters wine and liquor in cancer fighting?

    Even the medical establishment has embraced polyphenols (antioxidant compounds in beer and wine) as powerful weapons against heart disease for people of both sexes, and all ages. But most research lately has focused on the polyphenols found in red wine, specifically a powerful one called resveratrol.

    But here's an interesting note about polyphenols, courtesy of the British Beer and Pub Association: The Portuguese study mentioned above found another polyphenol called xanthohumol was actually MORE powerful than resveratrol at slowing breast cancer cell growth. And where can you girls get xanthohumol?

    Beer, of course.

    Also according to the British suds lobby, a glass of the average beer contains only 41 calories - less then either milk or fruit juice, and far below wine's 77 calories or hard liquor's whopping 250!

    That means for those watching their waistlines hoisting a daily pint or two may be the best way to go to get all the health benefits of alcohol with the minimum of caloric impact. If you ask me, though (remember, I don't work for the beer lobby), however you get your daily drink is perfectly fine

    Especially if you want to stay mentally sharp and cancer-free, ladies.

    Tipping a glass, but not tipping the scales,

    William Campbell Douglass II, MD

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