Supplements and Safety

supplements_and_safety_1It’s estimated there are 85,000 dietary supplements for sale in the United States today. You might assume that some government agency has approved them before allowing them onto the market. Though the FDA does not do any review of dietary supplements before they come onto the market.

“It almost takes a sacrificial lamb to die of liver injury or some other injury before the Food and Drug Administration can take any action” – Herbert Bonkovsky, M.D.

People with health problems may need additional nutrients. But for most Americans, researchers don’t know for sure whether extra doses really help — and caution that in some cases, they might hurt. It’s incredibly hard to quantify the current problem, how much harm are supplements are doing. There’s no effective system to detect the harm.

It wasn’t until a major league pitcher, 23-year-old Steve Bechler died after taking a weight loss supplements containing an ingredient called ephedra, that sales were halted. By then, more than 160 deaths had been linked to the supplement. In another instance, the FDA has linked dietary supplement OxyElite Pro to more than 70 cases of liver damage. Are you safe?


Wood burning stove

Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Is there one thing responsible for humans becoming human? Some evolutionary biologists think that the way we process our food, namely cooking it, could explain why our species developed so differently from others. Did cooking make us human? Dr. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Dr. Rachel Carmody of UCSF and Harvard discuss the impact that cooked food has had on human evolution.

Origin Stories – The Leakey Foundation

Breaking Bad Habits

How we can regain control of our impulses – whether it’s a compulsion to constantly check social media, binge eating, smoking, excessive drinking, or any other behaviors, we may find ourselves uncontrollably repeating – explained by an associate professor in medicine and psychiatry at UMass Medical School, Dr. Judson Brewer. He has spent more than 20 years researching addiction and recently published “The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits.”

KERA’s Think

Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, Illustration by Yuko Shimizu Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

How Going Blind Helped Isaac Lidsky See More Clearly

Sight. It’s something we all take for granted…until it stops working the way it’s supposed to. Our guest today went from fully sighted to completely blind when he was a teenager. His name is Isaac Lidsky and he will explain to us why he thinks that going blind was “one of the best things that ever happened to me”. Among his accomplishments since going blind are graduating from Harvard Law School, clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court, working at a high-powered corporate law firm in NYC, and turning around a struggling construction business that now earns over $70 million in yearly revenue. During this time he also was busy being the dad of triplets.

The Art of Manliness

The Male Contraceptive Pill: How Close Are We?

Male contraceptive jab. Can you get one? Professor Richard Anderson talks about a recent World Health Organisation funded trial. Dr. Diana Blithe explains the progress being made Stateside using gels instead of jabs.  And finally, we hear about non-hormonal alternatives in development from Aaron Hamlin, executive director of the Male Contraception Initiative.

The Guardian’s Science Weekly

Overcoming Mental Illness

Jobs - Small Factory Clandestine Ties (1972) - Cruzeiro Seixas

When Zack McDermott was 26, he woke up believing he was the star of a reality show dedicated to him. That was the first of many adventures his bipolar disorder would take him on. He talks about how he ultimately got his life back on track with the help of his mother, which he writes about in “Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love”

KERA’s Think

How Casinos & Slot Machines Are Designed to Facilitate Gambling Addiction

Sideroad slot machine, photo by Skip the Filler / CC BY-NC-ND

Gamblers, and more specifically slot machine gamblers, get addicted because they crave to be in the “zone” – the feeling players describe when they’re completely absorbed in a game, claims this podcast’s guest – Natasha Dow Schüll, a cultural anthropologist at New York University. They don’t really care about winning; rather they want to escape the world and become subsumed in their game.
Casinos also facilitate this addiction by designing the most optimal gambling experience which keeps gamblers playing…and playing…and playing. This ranges from the perambulant layout of the casinos themselves to the ergonomic design of the slot machine chairs, to the games’ false wins that create an illusion of winning. And casinos are now taking advantage of big data systems which track users’ gambling preferences to incentivize players to stay in their chairs as long as possible.
Natasha Dow Schüll is the author of “Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas”.

Adam Ruins Everything


This summer’s spate of acid attacks in London have caused concern for both the public and authorities. The seemingly random selection of victims by perpetrators, and the suspected use of acid by criminal gangs, seems to be a new twist in a story which has previously seen acid used in more targeted crimes against a specific person. Journalist Ayshea Buksh explores the complexity of acid attacks and the wide range of motivations behind the use of acid as a weapon. From hate crime and domestic violence to a fight that escalates, a mugging or a gang-related attack, the weapon may be the same but the reasoning can be wildly different. It’s a crime that can take just seconds to commit, but acid attacks can have a life-long impact on survivors – not just physically, but mentally. Some survivors speaking to Ayshea are just going through their first surgery after the physical impact of the attack, while others are now living their lives at a distance from their attack but with a constant physical reminder. For some survivors, the question ‘why?’ can play constantly on their minds, while others try not to ask it as they attempt to move on with their lives.

Seriously… BBC Radio 4


The Genetics of Depression

Depression is the most disabling chronic condition worldwide affecting around 14% of world’s population. It’s very likely to cause problems at  school, damage career and disrupt relationships. It can be triggered by enviromental factors, and can run in families. Research is now underway to precisely identify the genes associated with depression and the results may lead to dramatically improved and personalised treatment.

Big Ideas – ABC Radio