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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated a mother-and-child center at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem to honor his 97-year-old mother Charlotte three years ago, has plenty of fans in Israel. And now, after the billionaire entrepreneur-turned-mayor announced he will give $125 million for a global war on smoking, he has won admirers among Israeli anti-tobacco activists.
Bloomberg's donation, which will go to as-yet-unnamed anti-smoking organizations over the next two years, is the world's largest single contribution to the fight against smoking.
"I think we've learned some important things about how to convince people to stop smoking," the philanthropist said when announcing his donation. "It is one of the world's biggest killers, but has sadly been overlooked by the philanthropic community."
The money will be used to promote smoking cessation and prevention programs, change the image of tobacco to a more negative one, monitor tobacco use worldwide and encourage governments to hike tobacco taxes and expand smoking bans.
Bloomberg, who owns the Bloomberg economic news network and is said to be worth $5 billion, has donated widely to public health causes.
Impressed by the news, Sheba Medical Prof. Ben-Ami Sela fired off a letter to Bloomberg to praise his initiative. Sela, a longtime anti-smoking activist, director of Sheba's institute of chemical pathology and a professor of clinical biochemistry at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Medical School, wrote: "The fight against tobacco tycoon industries fueling this habit is seemingly sisyphean, yet noble acts like yours give hope that eventually those who fight against smoking will prevail... As you probably know, a recent report by the World Health Organization estimates that 26 percent of men and 9% of women worldwide die prematurely of diseases brought about by smoking, and [that] amounts to one individual executed by smoking every seven seconds around the globe... I salute you for sharing with us the struggle against smoking."
WHITE WINE MAY BE AS GOOD AS RED
Although moderate amounts of red wine - which gets its color from a purple pigment in the grape skins - has for years been promoted as being good for your heart, researchers from the University of Connecticut and University of Milan scientists now claim that white wine may be just as good.
Dr. Dipak Das, who headed the team, reports in the August 23 issue of the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry that the pulp of the grapes appears to be just as heart-healthy as the skin of the fruit.
Past studies have shown that the cardioprotective compounds in grapes - antioxidant polyphenols - are located in the skin and seeds.
Grape skins that contain purple pigment are usually crushed with the pulp to make red wines.
But skins are separated from pulp to make most white wine, leading to the widely held belief that red wines and red grape juice are the best for your heart.
Although further study is needed to identify the principle ingredients in wine that are responsible for the cardioprotective abilities of all grape pulp, the researchers write: "our study provides evidence for the first time that the flesh of grapes is equally cardioprotective with respect to the skins."
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
Premature baby units, including those in Israel, have tried to cut down on noise to promote the tiny babies' welfare. Now research at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has found that constant lighting may disrupt the development of preemies' biological clocks, and that maybe the lights should be dimmed as well.
Biology Prof. Douglas McMahon, who studied newborn mice and published his findings in the journal Pediatric Research, reported that exposing baby mice to constant light keeps the master biological clock in their brains from developing properly, and this can have a lasting effect on their behavior. Newborn mice provide a good model for premature human infants because baby mice are born at an earlier stage of development than humans - a stage closely equivalent to that of premature babies.
"We are interested in the effects of light on biological clocks because they regulate our physiology extensively, and also have an important effect on our mood," McMahon said. "This study suggests that cycling the lights in neonatal intensive care units [NICUs] may be better than constant lighting from the perspective of developing their internal clocks." Although older facilities still use round-the-clock lighting, modern NICUs, like that at Vanderbilt, cycle their lighting in a day/night cycle and keep lighting levels as low as possible. Also, covers are kept over the beds that hold the babies in an effort to duplicate the dark conditions of the womb.
The finding that exposure to constant light disrupts the developing biological clock in baby mice provides an underlying mechanism that helps explain the results of several previous clinical studies. One found that infants from neonatal units with cyclic lighting tend to begin sleeping through the night more quickly than those from units with constant lighting. Other studies have found that infants placed in units that maintain a day/night cycle gain weight faster than those in units with constant light.
In all mammals, including mice and humans, the master biological clock is located in an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). It influences the activity of a surprising number of organs, including the brain, heart, liver and lungs, and regulates the daily activity cycles known as circadian rhythms. The SCN is filled with special neurons that are wired in such a way that their activity varies on a regular cycle of roughly 24 hours. In a normal brain, the activity of these clock neurons is synchronized to a single cycle, which is set by the 24-hour day/night cycle.
"This is a new area of research," said McMahon, "so there are a lot of unanswered questions. For example, could disruption of a baby's biological clock increase their vulnerability to associated mood disorders like depression and seasonal affective disorder? Could it make it harder for someone to adjust to shift work, or suffer more from jet lag? All this is speculative at this point. But, certainly the data would indicate that human infants benefit from the synchronizing effect of a normal light cycle."