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Curing Canker Sores with Diet

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Does excluding dairy products, food additives, and gluten-containing grains from one’s diet help those with recurring canker sores (aphthous ulcers)?

Recurring canker sores are the single most common inflammatory and ulcerative condition of the mouth, affecting as many as one in five people.

As I discuss in my video The Role of Dairy and Gluten in Canker Sores, canker sores can sometimes be a sign of celiac disease, the relatively rare autoimmune condition triggered by the wheat protein gluten. But what about those without celiac disease? Thirty-seven years ago, there was a report of a small group of recurrent canker sore patients who got better after removing gluten from their diet, even though they didn’t have any signs of celiac disease. Without a control group, you can’t know if they would’ve gotten better on their own, but it was an interesting enough finding to spark further study. Given that small series of patients, researchers decided to try out a gluten-free diet on 20 patients with recurring canker sores, once again explicitly excluding those known to have celiac disease. Five of the 20 seemed to get better and, critically, got worse when they were challenged with gluten. Even though there was no control group, in the few patients who got better, the ulcers came back when gluten was added back into their diet.

This was not a random group of people with canker sores, though. The reason they had gotten intestinal biopsies to rule out celiac disease was that they had some other abnormalities, so you can’t extrapolate from this study to say that one in five people with canker sores may benefit from cutting out gluten, though it does appear to help some. It would have been better if it had been a blinded challenge. If you cut out gluten (or any food) and just so happen to coincidentally feel better, you might convince yourself that gluten was the culprit. Then, when the researchers give you a piece of bread, just the stress of thinking your ulcers might come back may help trigger the ulcers to actually come back.

That’s why, ideally, you do blind gluten challenges to see if gluten really is to blame. For example, if you take people who don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy but claim to be sensitive to gluten, you can test to see whether they’re fooling themselves by randomly assigning them to take a capsule with gluten or a placebo made of rice starch. So, the subjects are on a gluten-free diet, and you give them a gluten pill, the equivalent of two pieces of bread, and see whether they get worse. As you can see at 2:17 in my video, just the thought of taking something that might contain gluten–that is, the placebo rice starch pill–made their symptoms shoot up. The reason we know this non-celiac gluten sensitivity exists is that the actual gluten pill made them feel even worse. That is precisely what happened in the case of canker sores: Those who thought they were gluten sensitive got more canker sores when they were exposed to real, as opposed to fake, gluten.

Where did they even get the idea in the original study to try cutting out gluten? Well, back in the 1960s, it was reported that the blood of patients with bad canker sores reacted to certain food proteins, such as gluten, as you can see at 3:01 in my video, but they had an even stronger reaction to the milk protein casein. This has since been more formally tested. Fifty patients with recurring canker sores were compared with 50 healthy people for their levels of anti-gluten antibodies and anti-cow’s-milk protein antibodies. Those with canker sores were no more likely to react to the gluten, but the levels of anti-milk-proteins were significantly higher. In fact, the majority reacted to the cow’s milk. These results indicate a “strong association” between high levels of anti-milk-proteins in the blood with recurring canker sores, but what we care about is whether people actually get better when they cut out milk. On hearing their results, three of the patients spontaneously decided to cut all dairy products from their diet for a few months to see what happened–and it did seem to help. There was no reappearance of the sores in the first patient or the second patient–until he had some cow’s milk ice cream. In the third patient, the ulcers seemed to come with less frequency. Those were just observations, though, not an actual study.

As you can see at 4:10 in my video, the same can be seen with certain food additives; people with recurring canker sores may react more to certain food dyes. So, if you try people on a gluten-free diet, a dairy-free diet, or a diet free of certain food additives, people will likely respond in different ways. In this case, for example, 6 out of 11 “responded to a dietary withdrawal”–some were better on the gluten-free diet, others improved on the dairy-free diet, while others still on the additive-free diet–but the responses were pretty dramatic, seen within just one week. It seems it might be worth giving these exclusion diets a try to see whether there’s a significant improvement.

Can’t you just take an allergy test or something? Apparently not. For example, one poor young woman had recurring canker sores since the age of two–“multiple painful lesions” in her mouth almost constantly. They asked her about milk, and she replied that she rarely drank it because it appeared to trigger more canker sores almost immediately. So, they decided to look into it. They tested her for sensitivities to dairy, both so-called prick and patch allergy tests, and both were negative. Even still, if she felt worse on dairy, she might as well try cutting out all dairy products completely, right? She did, and for the first time in her life, the ulcers went away and stayed away. They only started to appear again when she accidentally had milk. So, even if tests come back negative, it may be worth a try to cut out all dairy and see what happens. We know cow’s milk may play a role in other allergic and autoimmune type diseases, and reports going back decades suggest there’s a subgroup of canker sore patients for whom dairy is a causative factor. “However, awareness of this association is low among both patients and health care providers.”

Improvement can happen rapidly. For example, a boy and a girl both had frequent multiple ulcerations for years and then were apparently cured within two weeks of eliminating dairy from their diets. We don’t know how often it works; we just know it does–sometimes. So, as a 2017 paper in the Journal of the American Dental Association suggested, why not give a cow’s milk protein elimination trial a try, “particularly before use of medications with potential side effects.”

Other ways to help prevent future outbreaks can include avoiding foaming agents in toothpaste. Learn more by watching my videos Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Safe? and Is CAPB in SLS-Free Toothpaste Any Better?.

What about treatment? See Topical Honey for Canker Sores and Best Supplement for Canker Sores.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

As many as one in five people experience recurring canker sores, the most common inflammatory and ulcerative condition of the mouth.
Canker sores may be a sign of celiac disease, the autoimmune condition triggered by gluten, a wheat protein.
Researchers put 20 patients with recurring canker sores who did not have celiac disease on a gluten-free diet, and five appeared to improve and, critically, got worse when gluten was added back to their diet. There was no control group, however, and it was not a blinded challenge so it’s possible the subjects were expecting an outcome, knowing they were getting gluten.
In fact, just the thought of getting gluten made symptoms shoot up in a study performing a blind gluten challenge.
Gluten was first identified as a possible culprit in the 1960s, when it was reported that the blood of patients with bad canker sores reacted to certain food proteins, such as gluten. However, they had an even stronger reaction to the milk protein casein.
In a more formal test, those with canker sores were no more likely to react to the gluten, but the levels of anti-milk-proteins were significantly higher and the majority reacted to the cow’s milk, indicating a “strong association” between high levels of anti-milk-proteins in the blood with recurring canker sores.
Certain food dyes or other additives may also cause more reactions in people with recurring canker sores.
Exclusion diets, such as a gluten-free diet, a dairy-free diet, or a diet free of certain food additives, may be informative and seem worthwhile in trying to achieve any significant improvement. Allergy tests do not appear to be useful.
Improvement can happen rapidly. In one case, children who had suffered with frequent and multiple ulcerations for years were apparently cured within two weeks of eliminating dairy from their diets.

I’ve also explored the role of gluten-free and dairy-free diets in autism:

Autism and Casein from Cow’s Milk
Does A2 Milk Carry Less Autism Risk?
Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism Put to the Test
Are Autism Diet Benefits Just a Placebo Effect?

Pros and Cons of Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism

Should everyone avoid gluten? Check out:

Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?
How to Diagnose Gluten Intolerance
Gluten-Free Diets: Separating the Wheat from the Chat

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

2019: Evidence-Based Weight Loss

2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers

2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

2013: More Than an Apple a Day

2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Read More

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Learn More Than 97% of Doctors About Lead-Time Bias

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After reading this, you’ll know more than an estimated 97 percent of doctors about a critical concept called lead-time bias.

While running for president of the United States, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani ran a campaign ad contrasting his 82 percent chance of surviving prostate cancer in the United States with the 44 percent chance of surviving it in England “under socialized medicine” where routine PSA testing for prostate cancer is not done. “To Giuliani this meant that he was lucky to be living in New York and not in York, because his chances of surviving prostate cancer seemed to be twice as high in New York. Yet despite this impressive difference in the five year survival rate, the mortality rate”–the rate at which men were dying of prostate cancer–“was about the same in the US and the UK.” How could that be? PSA testing increased survival from 44 to 82 percent, so how is that “not evidence that screening saves lives? For two reasons: The first is lead time bias…The second is overdiagnosis.”

As I illustrate at 1:05 in my video Breast Cancer and the Five Year Survival Rate Myth, overdiagnosis is when a cancer that otherwise would have never caused a problem is detected. Consider this: Let’s say that, without screening, only 400 people out of a thousand with progressive cancer are alive five years later. That means that without screening, the five-year survival rate is only 40 percent. But, let’s say that with screening, an additional two thousand cancers are overdiagnosed, meaning cancers that would have never caused a problem or may have disappeared on their own are picked up. So, because those cancers are harmless, those overdiagnosed patients all still alive five years later, assuming their unnecessary cancer treatment didn’t kill them. In this way, the five-year survival rate has just doubled, even though in either case, the same number of people died from cancer. If that’s confusing, watch the video. That’s one way the changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates.

The other way is lead time bias. Imagine a group of patients who were diagnosed with cancer because of symptoms at age 67 and all died at age 70. Each patient survived only three years. So, the five-year survival rate for the group is 0 percent. Now, imagine that the same group underwent screening. By definition, screening tests lead to earlier diagnosis. Suppose that with screening, the cancers were diagnosed in all patients at age 60 instead of 67, but, nevertheless, they all still died at age 70. In this screening scenario, each patient survived ten years, which makes the five-year survival rate for this group 100 percent. Survival just went from 0 to 100 percent! You can imagine the headlines: ” Cancer patients live three times longer with new screening test, ten years instead of three.” All that really happened in this screening scenario, though, is that the people were treated as cancer patients for an additional seven years. If anything, that would likely just diminish their quality of life.

So, that’s the second way that changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates. In fact, the correlation is zero, as you can see at 3:14 in my video. There is no correlation at all between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates. That’s why “[i]f there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down. There is no way to disentangle lead time and overdiagnosis biases from screening survival data.” That’s why, “in the context of screening, these statistics are meaningless: there is no correlation between changes in survival and what really matters, changes in how many people die.” Yet, that’s what you see in the ads and leaflets from most of the cancer charities and what you hear from the government. Even prestigious cancer centers, like M.D. Anderson, have tried to hoodwink the public this way, as you can see at 3:57 in my video.

If you’ve never heard of lead time bias, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Your doctor may not have heard of it either. “Fifty-four of the 65 physicians [surveyed] did not know what the lead-time bias was. Of the remaining 11 physicians who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias correctly.” So, just by having read to this point in this blog post, you may already know more about this than 97 percent of doctors.

To be fair, though, is it possible the doctors don’t recognize the term but understand the concept? No. “The majority of primary care physicians did not know which screening statistics provide reliable evidence on whether screening works.” In fact, they “were also 3 times more likely to say they would ‘definitely recommend’ a [cancer screening] test” based on “irrelevant evidence,” compared to a test that actually decreased cancer mortality by 20 percent.

If physicians don’t even understand key cancer statistics, how are they going to effectively counsel their patients? “Statistically illiterate physicians are doomed to rely on their statistically illiterate conclusions, on local custom, and on the (mostly) inaccurate promises of pharmaceutical sales representatives and their leaflets.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Overdiagnosis, the detection of cancer that otherwise would never have caused a problem, can result in unnecessary cancer treatments and affect survival rates of breast cancer patients.
For example, without screening, the five-year survival rate is 40 percent. With screening, however, overdiagnosis results in more cancer patients, despite the likelihood that their cancers are harmless or may disappear on their own. And, those overdiagnosed patients should be alive after five years, which doubles the five-year survival rate, even though the same number of patients died from cancer.
Lead time bias is also an issue. Symptomatic patients may be diagnosed at a later age than had they been with screening, which, by definition, leads to earlier diagnosis. In this case, imagine patients were diagnosed without screening at age 67 and died three years later, so the five-year survival rate is 0 percent. Now imagine the group underwent screening and the cancers were diagnosed at age 60, so they were alive for ten years before dying at 70. In the screening scenario, the five-year survival rate for the group is 100 percent.
In fact, there is no correlation between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates.
It is not possible to disentangle the biases of lead time and overdiagnosis from screening survival data.
The overwhelming majority of doctors–54 out of 65 physicians surveyed–are unfamiliar with lead time bias, and of the 11 who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias accurately.
How can doctors who don’t even understand key cancer statistics effectively counsel their patients?

There is just so much confusion when it comes to mammography, combined with the corrupting commercial interests of a billion-dollar industry. As with any important health decision, everyone should be fully informed of the risks and benefits, and make up their own mind about their own bodies. This is one installment in my 14-part series on mammograms, which includes:

Nine out of Ten Women Misinformed About Mammograms
Mammogram Recommendations: Why the Conflicting Guidelines?
Flashback Friday: Should Women Get Mammograms Starting at Age 40?
Do Mammograms Save Lives?
Consequences of False-Positive Mammogram Results
Do Mammograms Hurt?
Can Mammogram Radiation Cause Breast Cancer?
Understanding the Mammogram Paradox
Overtreatment of Stage 0 Breast Cancer DCIS
Women Deserve to Know the Truth About Mammograms
Why Mammograms Don’t Appear to Save Lives
Why Patients Aren’t Informed About Mammograms
The Pros and Cons of Mammograms

For more on breast cancer, see my videos Oxidized Cholesterol 27HC May Explain Three Breast Cancer Mysteries, Eggs and Breast Cancer and Flashback Friday: Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

I was able to cover colon cancer screening in just one video. If you missed it, see Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?.

Also on the topic of medical screenings, check out Flashback Friday: Worth Getting an Annual Health Check-Up and Physical Exam?, Is It Worth Getting Annual Health Check-Ups? and Is It Worth Getting an Annual Physical Exam?.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

2019: Evidence-Based Weight Loss

2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers

2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

2013: More Than an Apple a Day

2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Read More

Continue Reading

Business

Learn More Than 97% of Doctors About Lead-Time Bias

Published

on

After reading this, you’ll know more than an estimated 97 percent of doctors about a critical concept called lead-time bias.

While running for president of the United States, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani ran a campaign ad contrasting his 82 percent chance of surviving prostate cancer in the United States with the 44 percent chance of surviving it in England “under socialized medicine” where routine PSA testing for prostate cancer is not done. “To Giuliani this meant that he was lucky to be living in New York and not in York, because his chances of surviving prostate cancer seemed to be twice as high in New York. Yet despite this impressive difference in the five year survival rate, the mortality rate”–the rate at which men were dying of prostate cancer–“was about the same in the US and the UK.” How could that be? PSA testing increased survival from 44 to 82 percent, so how is that “not evidence that screening saves lives? For two reasons: The first is lead time bias…The second is overdiagnosis.”

As I illustrate at 1:05 in my video Breast Cancer and the Five Year Survival Rate Myth, overdiagnosis is when a cancer that otherwise would have never caused a problem is detected. Consider this: Let’s say that, without screening, only 400 people out of a thousand with progressive cancer are alive five years later. That means that without screening, the five-year survival rate is only 40 percent. But, let’s say that with screening, an additional two thousand cancers are overdiagnosed, meaning cancers that would have never caused a problem or may have disappeared on their own are picked up. So, because those cancers are harmless, those overdiagnosed patients all still alive five years later, assuming their unnecessary cancer treatment didn’t kill them. In this way, the five-year survival rate has just doubled, even though in either case, the same number of people died from cancer. If that’s confusing, watch the video. That’s one way the changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates.

The other way is lead time bias. Imagine a group of patients who were diagnosed with cancer because of symptoms at age 67 and all died at age 70. Each patient survived only three years. So, the five-year survival rate for the group is 0 percent. Now, imagine that the same group underwent screening. By definition, screening tests lead to earlier diagnosis. Suppose that with screening, the cancers were diagnosed in all patients at age 60 instead of 67, but, nevertheless, they all still died at age 70. In this screening scenario, each patient survived ten years, which makes the five-year survival rate for this group 100 percent. Survival just went from 0 to 100 percent! You can imagine the headlines: ” Cancer patients live three times longer with new screening test, ten years instead of three.” All that really happened in this screening scenario, though, is that the people were treated as cancer patients for an additional seven years. If anything, that would likely just diminish their quality of life.

So, that’s the second way that changes in survival rates with screening may not correlate with changes in actual cancer death rates. In fact, the correlation is zero, as you can see at 3:14 in my video. There is no correlation at all between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates. That’s why “[i]f there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down. There is no way to disentangle lead time and overdiagnosis biases from screening survival data.” That’s why, “in the context of screening, these statistics are meaningless: there is no correlation between changes in survival and what really matters, changes in how many people die.” Yet, that’s what you see in the ads and leaflets from most of the cancer charities and what you hear from the government. Even prestigious cancer centers, like M.D. Anderson, have tried to hoodwink the public this way, as you can see at 3:57 in my video.

If you’ve never heard of lead time bias, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Your doctor may not have heard of it either. “Fifty-four of the 65 physicians [surveyed] did not know what the lead-time bias was. Of the remaining 11 physicians who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias correctly.” So, just by having read to this point in this blog post, you may already know more about this than 97 percent of doctors.

To be fair, though, is it possible the doctors don’t recognize the term but understand the concept? No. “The majority of primary care physicians did not know which screening statistics provide reliable evidence on whether screening works.” In fact, they “were also 3 times more likely to say they would ‘definitely recommend’ a [cancer screening] test” based on “irrelevant evidence,” compared to a test that actually decreased cancer mortality by 20 percent.

If physicians don’t even understand key cancer statistics, how are they going to effectively counsel their patients? “Statistically illiterate physicians are doomed to rely on their statistically illiterate conclusions, on local custom, and on the (mostly) inaccurate promises of pharmaceutical sales representatives and their leaflets.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Overdiagnosis, the detection of cancer that otherwise would never have caused a problem, can result in unnecessary cancer treatments and affect survival rates of breast cancer patients.
For example, without screening, the five-year survival rate is 40 percent. With screening, however, overdiagnosis results in more cancer patients, despite the likelihood that their cancers are harmless or may disappear on their own. And, those overdiagnosed patients should be alive after five years, which doubles the five-year survival rate, even though the same number of patients died from cancer.
Lead time bias is also an issue. Symptomatic patients may be diagnosed at a later age than had they been with screening, which, by definition, leads to earlier diagnosis. In this case, imagine patients were diagnosed without screening at age 67 and died three years later, so the five-year survival rate is 0 percent. Now imagine the group underwent screening and the cancers were diagnosed at age 60, so they were alive for ten years before dying at 70. In the screening scenario, the five-year survival rate for the group is 100 percent.
In fact, there is no correlation between increases in survival rates and decreases in mortality rates.
It is not possible to disentangle the biases of lead time and overdiagnosis from screening survival data.
The overwhelming majority of doctors–54 out of 65 physicians surveyed–are unfamiliar with lead time bias, and of the 11 who indicated they did know, only 2 explained the bias accurately.
How can doctors who don’t even understand key cancer statistics effectively counsel their patients?

There is just so much confusion when it comes to mammography, combined with the corrupting commercial interests of a billion-dollar industry. As with any important health decision, everyone should be fully informed of the risks and benefits, and make up their own mind about their own bodies. This is one installment in my 14-part series on mammograms, which includes:

Nine out of Ten Women Misinformed About Mammograms
Mammogram Recommendations: Why the Conflicting Guidelines?
Flashback Friday: Should Women Get Mammograms Starting at Age 40?
Do Mammograms Save Lives?
Consequences of False-Positive Mammogram Results
Do Mammograms Hurt?
Can Mammogram Radiation Cause Breast Cancer?
Understanding the Mammogram Paradox
Overtreatment of Stage 0 Breast Cancer DCIS
Women Deserve to Know the Truth About Mammograms
Why Mammograms Don’t Appear to Save Lives
Why Patients Aren’t Informed About Mammograms
The Pros and Cons of Mammograms

For more on breast cancer, see my videos Oxidized Cholesterol 27HC May Explain Three Breast Cancer Mysteries, Eggs and Breast Cancer and Flashback Friday: Can Flax Seeds Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

I was able to cover colon cancer screening in just one video. If you missed it, see Should We All Get Colonoscopies Starting at Age 50?.

Also on the topic of medical screenings, check out Flashback Friday: Worth Getting an Annual Health Check-Up and Physical Exam?, Is It Worth Getting Annual Health Check-Ups? and Is It Worth Getting an Annual Physical Exam?.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

2019: Evidence-Based Weight Loss

2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers

2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

2013: More Than an Apple a Day

2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

Read More

Continue Reading

Business

Does Laptop Wi-Fi Affect Fertility?

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Should laptops not be on laps? What is the effect of WiFi exposure on sperm motility and DNA damage?

“It is impossible to imagine a modern socially-active man who does not use mobile devices and/or computers with Wi-Fi function.” Might cell phones or wireless internet be harmful for male fertility? You may recall that I’ve previously discussed how the sperm of men who use Wi-Fi tend not to get along as swimmingly, but that was an observational study. You don’t really know if Wi-Fi actually damages sperm until you put it to the test, the topic of my video Does Laptop Wi-Fi Lower Sperm Counts?.

The title “Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation” kind of gives it all away. That was “the first study to evaluate the direct impact of laptop use on human spermatozoa.” As you can see at 0:43 in my video, the data from human sperm DNA fragmentation levels in samples placed near and far away from a laptop with an active Wi-Fi connection suggest that one might not want to position a Wi-Fi device near the male reproductive organs as that “may decrease human sperm quality.”

Indeed, Wi-Fi exposure may decrease human sperm motility and increase sperm DNA fragmentation, but the effect is minor. Is a 10 percent decrease in “progressive motile” sperm really going to make a difference? Fertile men release hundreds of millions. What has yet to be done is a study looking at bouncing baby endpoints. Do men randomized to a certain WiFi exposure have a tougher time having children? It’s actually a harder study to perform than one might think. You can’t just have men avoid cell phones and laptops for a day. Yes, we make millions of new sperm a day, but they take months to mature. The sperm with which you conceive today started as a preconceived notion months before. So, you can imagine why such a study has yet to be done. You’d have to randomize men to essentially avoid wireless communications completely, or maybe come up with some kind of Faraday cage underwear.

Another reason one may not want to use a laptop computer on their lap is that the heat generated by the laptop, with Wi-Fi or not, “can warm men’s scrotums,” undermining the whole point of scrotum possession in the first place–namely, to contain the male gonads in such a way as “to allow the testes and epididymis to be exposed to a temperature a few degrees below that of core body temperature.” This all dates back to a famous series of experiments conducted in 1968.

It was an illuminating study, one might say, as the subjects’ “scrota were heated with a 150-watt electric light bulb…In some of the trials, the heat from the 150-watt bulb was increased by the use of an ordinary reflector, although the bulb alone was just as effective if placed somewhat nearer the skin. This was simpler, but was more likely to cause accidental burning by contact.” (Why can’t I seem to get Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” out of my head?)

Now, we have nice, cool fluorescents instead of 150-watt bulbs, but heated car seats remain a “testicular heat stress factor.” Saunas aren’t a good idea for men trying to conceive. At 2:52 in my video, I show a chart of sperm counts before and after sauna exposure. Sauna exposure apparently cuts sperm production in half, and the sperm count was still down three months later. There was an apparent full recovery by six months, though. This is why you may want to go with boxers, not briefs, or even go commando. Who makes money on going au naturel, though? Enter the “scrotal cooling” industry, though a review noted that “more acceptable scrotal cooling technique” really needs to be developed. Why? Whatever are the researchers referring to?

It seems the “devices used to achieve testicular cooling” currently on the market are “not practical for day-to-day use. One device was a curved ice rubber collar filled with ice cubes,” and another was similar to a freezer gel pack “inserted in the participants’ underwear every night,” but don’t worry because it thaws in three to four hours, “resulting in a cooling effect.” Holy snowballs, Batman!

Do not, I repeat, do not put an ice pack on your scrotum. A few frozen peas and carrots in a strategically placed surgical glove can give you frostbite. (Maybe the one time vegetables can be bad for you!) Then, there’s the schvitzer, “a cotton suspensory bandage that releases fluid (water or alcohol) to keep the scrotum damp,” and, finally, a device attached with a belt that “achieve[s] scrotal cooling” with a continuous air stream.

With so many options to choose from, do laptop users really need protection from scrotal hyperthermia? You don’t know…until you put it to the test. Indeed, an increase in scrotal temperature was found in laptop computer users, scrotal temperatures up a feverish 5? Fahrenheit.

A little scrotal warmth didn’t sound that bad until I read this case report: A previously healthy 50-year-old scientist typed out a report one evening, sitting comfortably in his favorite chair with laptop on lap, but awoke the next day with “penile and scrotal blisters” that then “broke and developed into infected wounds that caused extensive suppuration,” that is, oozing pus.

Even third-degree burns have been reported, requiring surgical intervention with skin grafts. In one report, a man drank 12 units of vodka and passed out while watching a film on his laptop, which was resting on his bare thighs. The laptop burned his leg. The surgeons called for a “public education campaign” to “educate the public against the risks of using a laptop in its most literal sense.” That’s one approach, but why not educate the public instead against drinking 12 units of vodka?

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Researchers suggest positioning Wi-Fi devices away from male reproductive organizes as Wi-Fi exposure may decrease the quality of the sperm–decreasing its motility and increasing its DNA fragmentation.
Heat generated by a laptop, with or without Wi-Fi capability, is another reason not to place the device on the lap, as it can warm men’s scrotums. This undermines its functional purpose–that is, to contain the male gonads such that the testes and epididymis can be exposed to a temperature a few degrees lower than core body temperature.
Similarly, heated car seats can warm testes and sauna exposure has been found to cut sperm production in half, though there was full recovery by six months.
The “scrotal cooling” industry has emerged with devices intended to “achieve testicular cooling,” such as a rubber collars to be filled with ice cubes and freezer gel packs.
Among laptop computer users, scrotal temperatures were found to be elevated by 5?F, which seems insignificant. However, in one case report, a previously healthy middle-aged man typed out a report with his laptop on his lap and awake the next day with blisters on his penis and scrotum that broke and oozed pus.
In fact, even third-degree burns have been reported with laptop-on-the-lap use, requiring surgeries with skin grafts.

This may not just be an issue for men, as I described in my video Do Cell Phones Lower Sperm Counts? and Flashback Friday: Do Cell Phones Lower Sperm Counts? & Does Laptop WiFi Lower Sperm Counts?

For more on brain issues, check out:

Does Cell Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?
Cell Phone Brain Tumor Risk?
Do Mobile Phones Affect Brain Function?
The Effects of Cell Phones & Bluetooth on Nerve Function

I cover male fertility in videos such as:

The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts
Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility
Xenoestrogens and Sperm Counts
Soy Hormones and Male Infertility
Male Fertility and Diet
Yellow Bell Peppers for Male Infertility and Lead Poisoning?
The Effects of Obesity on Dementia, Brain Function, and Fertility

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live presentations:

2019: Evidence-Based Weight Loss

2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers

2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

2013: More Than an Apple a Day

2012: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death

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