Nutritionists have long told us “You are what you eat,” an adage embodied in the food pyramid every child learns in school. Now, out of the Netherlands comes evidence that what’s in our gut has a connection to a variety of illnesses including osteoarthritis, heart disease and diabetes.

Presenting the findings of a broad study of 422,417 unrelated adults of British ancestry, author Dr. Hilde Groot of University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands, said the bacteria and other microorganisms found in the human digestive tract – the gut microbiome — influence our health.

Speaking at the virtual meeting last month of the European Society of Cardiology, Groot said, “Our study indicates that microbiota might have an important role in maintaining health and could help us develop novel treatments.”

Higher levels of 11 types of bacteria were associated with a total of 28 health and disease outcomes. These included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), atopy (a genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases like asthma and eczema), frequency of alcohol intake, high blood pressure and high blood lipids.

A number of previous studies have found a relationship between the gut microbiome and individual diseases. Medicine has sometimes turned to fecal transplants to rebuild colonies of helpful bacteria wiped out by heavy antibiotic use.

The Netherlands study is the first one to investigate multiple diseases and other traits in a single group of individuals.

Rather than attempt to measure the make-up of each study subject’s microbiome, the researchers used genetic data from the UK Biobank as a proxy. They also collected information on a wide range of diseases and other characteristics including body mass index and blood pressure.

“Considering that the results were observed in one cohort, this cautiously supports the notion that microbiota and the substances they produce (called metabolites) provide links between numerous diseases and conditions,” said Groot.

She cautioned however that “More research is needed to validate our findings.”

“Follow-up studies are required to study causality before giving concrete advice to the public and health professionals. This study provides clues where to go.”

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

AI Chatbots Could Ease Demand on COVID-19 Hotlines

A solution to overtaxed COVID-19 hotlines could be only a chatbot away.

Researchers from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business found that when callers felt comfortable in the chatbot’s ability they considered the bot at least as good as a human.

“The primary factor driving user response to screening hotlines — human or chatbot — is perceptions of the agent’s ability,” said Alan Dennis, chair of internet systems at Kelley and corresponding author of the paper to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

“When ability is the same, “he said, “Users view chatbots no differently or more positively than human agents.”

Noting that, as they write in their report, “The sudden unprecedented demand for [COVID-19] information is overwhelming resources,” Dennis and three other researchers set out to learn if people would use a chatbot and follow its advice. They presented text chats between callers and agents. Each study participant saw the same exact chat. Some were told the agent was a bot; others were told it was a human.

The researchers found the participants biased, believing the chatbots less able than a human agent. Those who trusted the provider of the chatbot service were more comfortable in the bot’s ability.

“The results show that the primary factor driving patient response to COVID-19 screening hotlines (human or chatbot) is users’ perceptions of the agent’s ability,” the researchers wrote. Driving that perception is the user’s trust in the provider of the screening hotline.

“A secondary factor for persuasiveness, satisfaction, likelihood of following the agent’s advice, and likelihood of use was the type of agent, with participants reporting they viewed chatbots more positively than human agents.”

“This positive response may be because users feel more comfortable disclosing information to a chatbot, especially socially undesirable information, because a chatbot makes no judgment,” they theorized.

To make hotline callers more comfortable and confident speaking with a chatbot, the researchers suggest the sponsoring organization develop “a strong messaging campaign that emphasizes the chatbot’s ability. Because trust in the provider strongly influences perceptions of ability, building on the organization’s reputation may also prove useful.”


Jun 6, 2023

In Recognition of Perioperative Nurses

You may never have heard of a perioperative nurse, but if you’ve had surgery, that’s who cared for you before, during and after the procedure.

These healthcare professionals are warriors and advocates for patients and their families, declares the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, reason enough to join with them this week in celebrating Perioperative Nurses Week.

In medical dramas, the nurses you see in the operating rooms selecting and passing instruments to the surgeon and jumping in to assist are perioperative nurses. Especially in complex surgeries when multiple practitioners are involved, these RNs will also serve as circulating nurses, managing the nursing care and ready to assist wherever they may be needed.

What you won’t see on TV is the less dramatic, yet just as essential role of perioperative nurses in caring for patients immediately following a procedure, counseling them and their families and educating patients and caregivers on what they need to do to ensure a speedy and safe recovery.

Perioperative nurses work in hospitals, outpatient centers and in doctors’ offices, working with new patients and are in regular contact with surgeons and other members of the surgical team. The Mayo Clinic says that though the work environment is stressful, “many nurses find it a rewarding role.”

Hopefully, you’ll never need surgery, but if you do, know that a perioperative nurse will be there as your advocate.

Join with us at Green Key Resources in recognizing perioperative nurses for the work they do.

Photo by Graham Ruttan on Unsplash