Gadgets track food and mood
Ask a medical patient how he feels about the Internet and he may well wax lyrical. The web offers copious information about symptoms, diagnoses and treatments - empowering the individual to understand and discuss their illness.
Ask a physician, however, and you may well be met with a resigned roll of the eyes. Even if a patient has tapped into a reliable source of information, their understanding of how it applies to them may be way off-base.
One can easily imagine this divide widening thanks to the "self-tracking" movement, which stands to revolutionize doctor-patient relationships. Monitoring your own vital signs promises significant benefits: continual health checks, advance warning of illness and personalized medicine.
But here's the rub. How should a doctor react to someone with no symptoms anxiously brandishing their own analysis of data from a consumer gadget? Equally, will patients eventually be compelled to understand or even conduct such analyses to secure proper treatment? Taking our health into our own hands is about to get a lot more complicated.
Coffee can relieve tremors in those with Parkinson's
Coffee can give you the shakes, but caffeine seems to have the opposite effect in people with Parkinson's disease, helping to relieve tremors and get them back on the move.
In the past, caffeine has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson's, but its effects have never been tested in people who already have the disease.
Ronald Postuma, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and colleagues gave 61 people with Parkinson's a six-week course of pills containing the caffeine equivalent of about three cups of coffee every day, or a placebo.
Only people in the caffeine group showed a significant improvement in tests for motor problems, such as the severity of their tremors, and general mobility.
Motor problems associated with Parkinson's are caused by a lack of dopamine in areas of the brain where dopamine-producing cells are destroyed. Adenosine receptors normally inhibit the production of dopamine. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and so acts to boost available dopamine.
Drugs that target adenosine receptors are already in clinical trials but caffeine could provide a cheaper alternative.