Smoking shisha; is the WHO right?

I have decided to write an article because I had once been asked to smoke shisha, being insisted that there were no health implications involved and shisha was essentially the perks of smoking without the drawbacks, such as the continuity of use being able to possibly cause lung cancer! My decision to write this article was also perhaps encouraged by the growing market of shisha, which to has seen roughly a 210% rise in the number of cafes offering in since the smoking ban was implemented in 1 July 2007, as reported by the Independent. Moreover, there were 179 shisha bars in 2007 but there were 556 in 2012. So I now will begin writing a little bit of what I know to do with this subject.

“An oriental tobacco pipe with a long, flexible tube that draws the smoke through water contained in a bowl” describes ‘hubble-bubble’, ‘hookah’, ‘waterpipe smoking’ and any other alias the infamous shisha tends to spread under. First discovered by Abul-Fath Gilani according to popular belief, the upcoming craze originated from the humble, and likewise, booming country that used to be Persia; India – though this is said to be a disputed merit.

Shisha, often written under as a safer alternative to cigarettes, is a ‘glass-bottomed waterpipe’ which emits radiant fruity smells of your desires. But, surprisingly, for such a simple task of smoking, shisha requires a rather sophisticated device, inclusive of many components from grommets to diffusers. Thus, there is already a physical distinction from its cigarette counterpart. However, it is from the water jar where, unsurprisingly, most of the common misconceptions about shisha arise.

So the misconceptions, which are often seen as a major contributor to why shisha has become increasingly popular since the noughties, become intriguing as a blur between fact and fiction becomes visible. The first main myth to this tobacco craze would be the bubbling water creates the illusion of the smoke being cleansed and purified thus apparently being made healthy. Although, in reality the water, bubbling it may be, does not filter out all the toxins and the fruity smell is only the guise for the smoke which contains the otherwise cancer causing chemicals. Dr Sellehudin Abu Bakr even goes as far as to call the water ‘filter’ a ‘gimmick’. Additionally, passive smoking can be dangerous as it can be the smoke and its composition which causes harm. In the smokes composition exist an addictive substance: nicotine, which can cause a dependence upon this social commodity which increasingly seems harmful. Unfortunately, this is not where the problems end, as sharing a mouthpiece increases the risk of infection with TB or hepatitis, both of which come with disastrous implications.

As a result of public unawareness, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had, from their research published as ‘Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking’ in 2005, which found that, contrary to ancient lore and popular belief, the smoke of shisha contained many toxicants which can cause lung cancer, heart disease and can have other detrimental effects to your body. The WHO also came to the conclusion that 1 hour of smoking shisha is equivalent to up to 200 cigarettes worth of smoke, and this isn’t particularly ‘good’ smoke as the heat sources for shisha are often cinders or charcoals. These are dangerous as they release carbon monoxide.

Additonally, shisha delivers nicotine which as many of you may know, is an addictive substance. Despite the water absorbing some of it, it still enters your body in substantial amounts, so much so, that it can cause addiction, like other tobacco products. The study also highlighted the dangers of second-hand shisha smoking. So by even entering a shisha bar where others are smoking, even by not smoking yourself, you can still be endangered. Also, another important note to focus on is that in this research, they had showed shisha, like cigarettes to contain the capacity to have an adverse effect on the unborn baby during pregnancy. So by smoking shisha, one can potentially harm their baby.

Therefore, one must ask the question on whether smoking shisha is really as harmless as others advocate. In light of the WHO research, it becomes increasingly clear that there are dangerous aspects to this craze, but the research isn’t conclusive enough, many seem to argue. Thus, in order to really clear the misconceptions surrounding shisha, more research needs to be carried out.

How Medical Technologies are Revolutionising Everyday Treatments

Medical professionals worldwide look to technology to drive through improvements in treatment, research and patient care.

From the invention of the ultrasound scan in the 1950’s to the world’s first computerised bionic leg in 2012, technology allows us to see the human body in new ways and to diagnose and map treatment and recovery with increasing efficiency. Sometimes real breakthroughs have sprung from collaborations with other fast-developing industries such as engineering or computer software development.

Here is an overview of some widespread and groundbreaking technological developments in recent years:

Filmless Radiology
Hospitals all over the globe are making a commitment towards achieving filmless radiology, which means that when a patient has an x-ray or scan, the image is transferred directly to a computer screen. The benefits of filmless radiology include being able to distribute images quickly and use computer programmes to map out pre-operative plans including programmes for fracture management, which can apply electronic templates to x-ray scans to work out the right course of treatment for mending breaks without wasting resources. Advances in radiology also allow us to see further into the body without resorting to surgery. Organs, such as the heart, which were once considered inaccessible by traditional one-dimensional x-rays, are now more easily examined.

Nanopore Sequencing
Nanopore sequencing works by passing a single strand of DNA through a protein pore formed in a membrane (imagine threading a piece of hair through a thin piece of fabric). Next an electric current is streamed through the pore. ‘DNA bases’ are the building blocks of the double helix DNA structure and they disrupt the electrical current in different ways, which allows the sequencing machine to electronically read out the sequence and interpret DNA bases directly. The technology could make genome sequencing faster, cheaper, and even handy enough to allow doctors to order sequencing as they would a routine blood test, making the technology accessible to more and more patients. DNA sequencing can help to identify mutations in cancerous tumors and personalize a patient’s treatment.

Heart Pumps
A shining example of collaboration between industries can be seen in the development of the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) in the 1990’s.  NASA engineers in Houston worked with Doctors to develop an artificial heart pump, which was based on the space shuttle’s own fuel pumps. The pump helps to keep people healthy as they await heart transplants — and can, on occasion, remove the need for a transplant. In the UK in 2009, surgeons removed a donor heart from a toddler after her own VAD assisted heart had recovered.

Bendable Microchips
In 2012 a Belgian company introduced the bendable microchip, which measures just 30 micrometers in length (that’s 3 hundredths of a millimeter) and can be inserted directly into the human body, where it can internally process and relay important information about changes in a patient’s physiological condition.  These innovative microchips are made from ‘off the shelf’ computer microchips, which are ground down to create their tiny flexible counterparts. This technology is still in prototype stage but could signal a major shift in patient monitoring and speed of diagnosis.

Charlotte is a freelance science and technology writer.

Great News about Chocolate | It may be good for you after all

I was recently listening to a medical podcast from 2011 (a BMJ one I think )  in which they discussed some recent research that suggested that chocolate may be good for our health possibly because of the anti-oxidants-although they were cautious about the findings and said more research was need.

Today I heard via BBC health the wonderful news that ” Chocolate may help keep people slim”

On reading the article caution is once again advised-this is not an excuse to go on a chocolate binge. It is probably similar to the benefits from red wine. Small quantities in moderation have health benefits however over indulgence has more negative consequences than positive as chocolate is also high in sugar & fat.

As a chocolate lover myself I have decided to stop depriving myself and to indulge in a small amount of high quality dark cholcolate more frequently. The higher quality darker chocolate such as Green and Blacks contains higher quantities of the antioxidants.

Find out more about chocolate & health research here

Oops cant believe I just published a post about chocolate immediately after the article on cholesterol tests

Health issues in the news recently

A recent long term study of 30,000 people has suggested that the development of Parkinsons disease may be related to low levels of Vitamin D

Find out more about this story at BBC health

High stress levels may reduce fertility in women & delay conception. A recent study by Oxford university experts of 274 healthy women between the age of 18-40 has shown for the first time that high stress levels in women may delay pregnancy & that relaxation may help.

Read more about this research at BBChealth

Read more fertility related issues at UK Fertility Blog