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May 29, 2015

Dutch kindergartens get sex education

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 5:40 pm

10-jaar-lentekriebelsAmerican broadcaster PBS visited the Netherlands to take a look at Spring Fever, a week of sex education classes for children aged 4 to 12.

Eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. Eleven-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options. But in the Netherlands, the approach, known as ‘comprehensive sex education,’ starts as early as age 4. You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class. In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that.

Younger children get taught about the differences between boys and girls, where babies come from, love, and boundaries. This year was the 10th anniversary of Spring Fever Week.

(Illustration: RutgersWPF)

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April 11, 2015

Dutch people may be tall because of natural selection

Filed under: Health,Nature by Branko Collin @ 2:46 pm

dutch-doors-metro-centricThe Dutch are among the tallest people in the world. According to the Guardian, Dutch men average a height of 1.84 metres and women a height of 1.71 metres.

Although no-one knows exactly why this is, it has long been held that health and well-being may have something to do with it.

Cue Gert Stulp, a 2-metre-tall Dutchman working at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who says the impressive rise of 20 centimetres in the past 150 years may have to do with natural selection. Writes Science:

[Stulp] and his colleagues turned to a database tracking key life data for almost 100,000 people in the country’s three northern provinces. The researchers included only people over 45 who were born in the Netherlands to Dutch-born parents. This way, they had a relatively accurate number of total children per subject (most people stop having children after 45) and they also avoided the effects of immigration.

In the remaining sample of 42,616 people, taller men had more children on average, despite the fact that they had their first child at a higher age. The effect was small—an extra 0.24 children at most for taller men—but highly significant. (Taller men also had a smaller chance of remaining childless, and a higher chance of having a partner). The same effect wasn’t seen in women, who had the highest reproductive success when they were of average height. The study suggests this may be because taller women had a smaller chance of finding a mate, while shorter women were at higher risk of losing a child.

The result is that if tall-making genes exist, they get passed onto the children of tall men.

See also: Why are the Dutch so tall?

(Photo by Metro Centric, some rights reserved)

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April 6, 2015

Smart liquid wound dressing could trigger rapid healing

Filed under: Health,Science by Branko Collin @ 10:19 pm

gel-henningklevjerA two million euro grant could see professor Alan Rowan of Radboud University turn so-called super gel into a band-aid on steroids (figuratively, of course).

The Nijmegen-based professor of molecular chemistry accidentally discovered super gel in 2013 when his team put a jar of polymers in the fridge. Instead of gelling, the polymers dissolved completely into water, but when the researchers took the jar out of the fridge, the solution turned into a gel again.

According to Kennislink the super gel “acts the same as the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the human body. This matrix is a network of molecules connecting the cells, providing fibres with both support and elasticity. The most important constituents of ECM are the natural polymers collagen and fibrin.”

Companies from all over the world sent professor Rowan their ideas of what the new gel could be used for, from letting sports bras firm up when the wearer gets warmer to slowly releasing pesticides after they have been sprayed on plants. “Companies want a finished raw material, but we did not know anything about the gel. We needed to know whether we can guarantee the quality, whether the polymer is poisonous, how long it lasts and if the human body can digest it.”

The two million euro grant was one of five grants awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) on 5 February.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Henningklevjer, some rights reserved; link: Radboud University)

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January 11, 2015

Baby hatches to open across the country

Filed under: Health by Orangemaster @ 9:44 pm

About a year ago Dordrecht opened the first modern day baby hatch for women in dire situations to be able to drop off their unwanted babies safely as foundlings. Online news source Dichtbij.nl says that Groningen and Papendrecht each have one as well. The provinces of Zeeland and Noord-Brabant will soon be opening baby hatches, and there are plans to open some in more prominent places such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Maastricht.

Currently Dutch law forbids abandoning babies for them to be adopted as foundlings and Child Protection Services agrees, claiming children have the right to know who their parents are. The government has no plans to close down, stop or pursue anyone who would abandon a baby in these places, so the government will remain inert on the issue for now.

Sadly, an alternative that occasionally makes the news is when a child has been left in the forest or in a rubbish bin.

(Link: www.bbc.co.uk, Illustration by Leonardo da Vinci)

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December 27, 2014

Volendam: hereditary diseases and smoked eel music

Filed under: Health,Music,Science by Orangemaster @ 2:06 pm

Volendam

Traditional fishing village Volendam is the butt of jokes for many things including hard drugs and ‘palingsound’ (‘eel sound’), a type of pop music from Volendam, referring to their smoked eel speciality. Then there’s the New Year’s Eve fire of 2000 where fresh pine trees branches (yup, illegal) were used as decoration on the ceiling of a cafe overflowing with people that caught fire because of a sparkler and caused deaths and serious injuries.

Nevertheless, the jokes about inbred villagers aren’t jokes. Three quarters of locals who want to have children get themselves checked out for a total of four hereditary diseases. One out of three villagers is a carrier, and if two carriers get together, that’s a 25% chance of hitting the jackpot. The 22,000 villagers all come from the same seven to twenty original families that settled the village, which explains many of the health issues, but not their ‘eel sound’.

‘Palingpop’ as the music is also called, started in the mid 1960s with easy listening tunes that resembled the American and British bands of the era. The term was coined by a radio station (video in Dutch) that would receive smoked eel as a present every time someone from Volendam would visit them. Acts such as The Cats and BZN as well as more contemporary singers such as Jan Smit and Nick & Simon are quite famous throughout the country and beyond.

(Link: www.parool.nl, Photo of Volendam by quantz, some rights reserved)

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December 5, 2014

Dutch-American company to make marijuana gum

Filed under: Health,Science by Orangemaster @ 10:53 am

Dutch-American company Axim is working on the world’s first medicinal marijuana chewing gum, which will be produced in Almere, Flevoland. It should be on the market in two years and it is currently being tested on Dutch patients who have chronic pain due to multiple sclerosis. This special chewing gum will work like nicotine gum, with the cannabis being absorbed slowly by the body in some 20 minutes.

You can easily buy ‘nutraceutical’ chewing gum that contains cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of pot, but Axim plans to make chewing gum with THC in it, the psychoactive ingredient of pot for patients who suffer chronic pain from many different medical conditions.

(Links: www.foodlog.nl, www.in-pharmatechnologist.com)

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November 15, 2014

Dutchman has Bitcoin wallets injected in hands

Filed under: Gadgets,Health,Technology by Branko Collin @ 1:44 pm

bitcoin-key-fob-btc_keychainAmsterdam-based entrepreneur Martijn Wismeijer had two NFC chips injected into his hands earlier this month, The Telegraph writes.

The chips are to act as encrypted Bitcoin wallets. Wismeijer is the owner of Mr. Bitcoin, a company that distributes and operates ATMs for the currency.

Wismeijer told The Telegraph, “Most doctors will not want to install the implant so a body manipulation artist (preferably not just tattoo artist or piercer) will be your next best bet. Make sure they work according to strict hygiene codes and know what they are doing.”

Parool adds that Rockstart in Amsterdam (a start-up accelerator) hosted an implant session yesterday where one could have a sub-dermal NFC chip injected for about 130 euro. Wismeijer told the newspaper that currently about 2000 people have such implants.

It’s not clear from the articles whether Wismeijer uses the chips to store Bitcoins, keys to unlock Bitcoins or something else.

Check the Telegraph for a video in which the question “does it hurt” is answered. Too scared / don’t want to? Martijn Wismeijer told Parool: “They were the biggest needles I’ve ever seen.”

(Photo by BTC Keychain, some rights reserved)

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November 14, 2014

Sharp rise in euthanasia of psychiatric patients

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 6:38 pm

euthanised-psych-patients-24orangesLast year 42 people with a psychiatric disorder were euthanized in the Netherlands.

This is a sharp increase from 14 deaths in 2012 and is in fact more than all euthanasia deaths for psychiatric patients combined since euthanasia was legalised in 2002.

According to Edith Schippers, the Minister of Health, the increase of deaths is caused by a greater willingness of psychiatrists to grant a patient’s request for euthanasia, De Correspondent writes. The committee that checks euthanasia deaths for due care expects the numbers to settle at this level. Several doctors questioned by De Correspondent believe there was a taboo on euthanasia in the field of psychiatry that is now slowly ebbing away.

The six criteria for due care state, amongst others, that sufferers must be of sound mind and without hope of getting better in order to be euthanized. These criteria make it extra difficult for sufferers of psychiatric disorders to have their wish for euthanasia granted.

Some of the problems that are either unique to psychiatry or just more prevalent than in other fields of medicine:

  • The death wish can be part of the disorder.
  • Patients are often younger, making it harder to determine that their situation is without hope.
  • Psychiatric disorders are rarely lethal and treatment, even if only palliative, is often possible.
  • Conditions like depression can make a patient’s own estimate of their chances more pessimistic than warranted.

See also: Dutch death clinic working at full capacity.

November 8, 2014

The magic potion of the Hangover Information Center

Filed under: Food & Drink,Health by Orangemaster @ 3:09 pm

HIC

This fall Amsterdam opened a Hangover Information Center (HIC) in the Red Light District. Besides being very well lit but not too bright, it actually offers party-goers serious scientific information about how to prevent a hangover.

The HIC also sells RESET drinks at 5 euro a pop.

“After drinking alcohol the body needs additional water and food supplements, including vitamins and amino acids. RESET contains a combination of selected vitamins and amino acids as well as choline, which supports the liver’s clearing activity.”

Parool says the drink tastes bitter and the extra powder that needs to be added tastes salty. As long as you drink the product together with the same amount of water and alternate, it should do the trick. However, it does seem a lot to ask of someone before they go to bed drunk. You could also try and drink less, as the effects of a hangover are your body trying to send you a clear message about what you’re pouring into yourself.

(Link: www.amsterdamredlightdistricttour.com, Photo: Hangover Information Center)

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November 4, 2014

Ambulance drone could drastically reduce response times

Filed under: Health,Science by Orangemaster @ 11:29 am

Belgian engineering student Alec Momont, a graduate at the Delft University of Technology, has developed an ‘ambulance drone’, a defibrillator which can fly at 100 km/h able to reach heart attack victims very quickly. It uses the GPS of emergency calls to navigate.

This drone or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV), can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 km2 zone within a minute, reducing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent. Momont explains that it is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes, which makes the fatality rate so high.

I’m easily convinced. It reminds me of an evening in the pub recently chatting outdoors and watching an ambulance trying to find an address in Amsterdam West with their GPS but having to ask us for directions. The police was following them, got lost as well and asked us for those same directions. I’m sure that wasted at least 10 minutes.

One drone is expected to cost around 15,000 euro and could also carry other medical tools.

(Link: phys.org)

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