What Science Has To Say About Transgender Athletes

With athletes such as Caster Semenya and Dutee Chand excluded from athletic competitions on the basis of gender identity, concerns regarding trans womens’ participation in athletic competition continues to surface in conversation and has fostered polarizing sides (“Dutee Chand on Semenya Ruling”).

There has been an outcry concerning violations of trans rights, and equity in an athletic environment with blurring of gender binaries. Concerns regarding unfair biological advantages in trans women have fueled the opposition and raised questions.


While the physiological advantages which arise from male development supposedly provide trans women with an advantage over their cisgender competitors, which fails to foster a level field, ultimately transgender athletes are entitled to respect for their intrinsic value as human beings and should not be ostrasized from professional competitions on the sole basis of their identity. Therefore, trans women deserve the right to compete in athletic environments as long as the physiological requirements in athletic committees are consistently met.  

As of 2016 trans women are required by the International Olympic Committee to maintain testosterone levels under 10 nanomoles/L for one year to be eligible (Pavitt). Whether this hormonal treatment cancels out biological advantages developed through male puberty is of major concern and has been championed by those who aim to exclude trans women.

On Good Morning Britain, former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies stated, Quote(s): “If you go through puberty you have all the benefits of having a male body, and even if you transition and reduce your testosterone, you’re still gonna have those benefits, you’re gonna have the bone structure, the slightly bigger heart, more red blood cells, so therefore a female athlete competing with a transgender female is always gonna be at a disadvantage” (“Do Trans Athletes Have an Advantage”).

Tweet By Sharon Davies regarding trans women setting records in women’s powerlifting.

 Testosterone increases strength and size of muscles and bone structure (“Testosterone, What it Does and Doesn’t Do”). So does the yearlong hormonal treatment truly reduce the magnitude of these benefits? 

In 2019, A study conducted by scientists within the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published by Oxford Academic found that yearlong testosterone therapy did not effectively reduce strength levels and muscle density of trans women (Wiik et al.).

(Wiik et al.)

“Thigh muscle volume increased (15%) in TM, which was paralleled by increased quadriceps cross-sectional area (CSA) (15%) . In TW, the corresponding parameters decreased by –5% (muscle volume) and –4% (CSA), while density remained unaltered.“ The changes in trans women regarding anterior, posterior, and total thigh strength are modest compared to those of trans men (Wiik et al.).

 According to results of this SPECIFIC study transwomen are not experiencing significant changes as a result of this therapy, fostering unfair advantages in sports. This highlights why sports are sex segregated to begin with, to elimiate discrepancies. 

In spite of claims that trans women should not be allowed in professional sports on the basis of identity and modest changes in muscle, other studies have found significant performance changes. 

In 2015 Medical Physicist Joanna Harper conducted a study, published in The Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, of 8 trans women and their long distance running performance before and after hormone therapy (Harper 1).

“Transgender women who have undertaken testosterone suppression change from normal male testosterone levels to normal female levels, after surgery their testosterone levels are below the mean for 46,XX women. Largely as a result of their vastly reduced testosterone levels, transgender women lose strength, speed, and virtually every other component of athletic ability” (Harper 6).

(Harper 5). 

All the trans women had significantly reduced performance in long distance running. By 11.5%, from before testosterone suppression, which is the average percent difference in performance between men and women (Harper 5).

Hemoglobin is linked to endurance capabilities. “One year after testosterone suppression, hemoglobin levels in transgender women fell from 9.3 to 8.0 mmol/l. This latter number is statistically identical to the mean hemoglobin level for cisgender women” (Harper 6).

Published in European Journal of Endocrinology, scientists found within one year of gender reassignment surgery and treatment, testosterone and hemoglobin levels of trans and cis women were equal (Gooren and Bunk 427).

(Gooren and Bunk 427)

With identical hemoglobin and testosterone levels, trans women appear to be significantly affected by treatment, further affecting body composition. Hence, they do not necessarily disrupt the fabric of women’s sports and have a significant advantage- according to this study. 

Some feel that 1) the IOC policy on trans athletes polices what constitutes a woman or not, which has only ostracized trans athletes further & 2) the IOC has failed to protect their rights. 

In the publication Body and Society, in 2005, Sheila Cavanaugh and Heather Sykes from York and Toronto University stated “The IOC’s determination to provide access to fair, equitable competition for genetic women is, curiously, coming at a time when transsexuals and intersexuals are gaining access to basic civil rights…The IOC commitment to neutralizing an alleged masculine competitive advantage in women’s sport is only manifestly about the rights of genetic women. The latent anxiety is driven by a compulsive attempt to validate the age-old Western, categorical gender binary.” (Cavanaugh and Skyes 6).

In the publication, Gendered Oppression and its Intersections, Veronica Ivy, a trans Olympic cyclist and Aryn Conrad, an attorney with a PHD from Duke Graduate School with specializations in Philosophy of Biology and Metaethics stated, “Inclusion of trans athletes in competition commensurate with their legal gender is the most consistent position with these principles of fair and equitable sport….excluding legally recognized women for high endogenous testosterone values constitutes discrimination on the basis of a natural physical trait” (Ivy and Conrad 103).

The IOC’s actions have served to protect the interest of cis athletes, more than the rights of transwomen, who threaten gender binaries which define society (Ivy and Conrad 103). Because trans athletes blur these categories in sports, which heavily rely on sex segregation, they are erased. This consistent erasure only compounds the exclusion trans females experience in daily life. 

In Conclusion: 

Trans women deserve to be recognized in the field of sports as authentic competitors. To exclude trans women on the sole basis of gender identity despite certain studies proving their equity, and erase them in athletic environments as they fight for basic rights in their daily lives is immoral. That being said, much research still must be done in order to guarantee the fairest outcome for all; it is difficult to form an immediate solution based on just a few studies. To ensure that the voices of cisgender women are considered and the integrity of sport remains, the IOC could maintain the hormone requirement and after discussion with scientists, possibly identify other standards trans women could meet for eligibility; as long as this further decreases the gap between trans and cisgender athletes and is fair to both parties. 

Works Cited

Cavanaugh, Sheila L, and Heather Sykes. “Transsexual Bodies at the Olympics: The International Olympic Committee’s Policy on Transsexual Athletes at the 2004 Athens Summer Games.” Body and Society, 2 May 2005. 

“Do Transgender Athletes Have an Advantage in Female Sporting Events? | Good Morning Britain.” Youtube, 4 Mar. 2019, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I75kfAVF64A

Gooren, Louis J G, and Mathijs C M Bunck. Review of Transsexuals and competitive sports, European Journal of Endocrinology, 2004, docs.google.com/document/d/1Rb7ZikIldsW1L6kL5QqCM_WQtPjcYA0yjocix0-A5p0/edit#. 

Harper, Joanna. “Race Times for Transgender Athletes.” Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, 2015, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1e6a/bd2c1e03ba88e9ac8da94ea1d69ff3f4878a.pdf?_ga=2.70412694.766566412.1560828260-902131801.1560828260 . 

Ivy, Conrad. “Including Trans Women Athletes in Competitive Sport: Analyzing the Science, Law, and Principles and Policies of Fairness in Competition.” Philosophical Topics, vol. 46, no. 2, 2018, pp. 103–140. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26927952. 

Pavitt , Michael. IOC Guidelines on Transgender Athlete Eligibility Remain in Place for Tokyo 2020, 3 Mar. 2020, http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1091417/ioc-guidelines-transgender-tokyo-2020

Pti. Dutee Chand on Caster Semenya’s Court Ruling: It Is Wrong. 2 May 2019, http://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/26654107/dutee-chand-caster-semenya-court-ruling-wrong. 

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Testosterone – What It Does And Doesn’t Do.” Harvard Health,www.health.harvard.edu/drugs-and-medications/testosterone–what-it-does-and-doesnt-do. 

Wiik, Anna, et al. “Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-Affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 3 Dec. 2019, academic.oup.com/jcem/article/105/3/e805/5651219 . 

Works Consulted

Aschwanden, Christie. “Trans Athletes Are Posting Victories and Shaking Up Sports.” Wired, Conde Nast, 28 Aug. 2019, http://www.wired.com/story/the-glorious-victories-of-trans-athletes-are-shaking-up-sports/. 

Blunt, Tom. “Tom Blunt: Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Trans Women In Sports.” Athlete Ally, 1 Mar. 2019, http://www.athleteally.org/tom-blunt-trans-women-sports/. 

“Home.” USA Powerlifting, http://www.usapowerlifting.com/transgender-participation-policy/. 

Huber, Martin Fritz. “The Controversy Around Caster Semenya Explained.” Outside Online, Outside Magazine, 12 July 2017, http://www.outsideonline.com/2198906/caster-semenya-debate. 

Jr., John D. Hagen. “OPINION EXCHANGE: Con: Transgender Policy Defies Common Sense.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 4 Dec. 2014, http://www.startribune.com/transgender-policy-defies-common-sense/284678481/. 

Knox, Taryn, et al. “Transwomen in Elite Sport: Scientific and Ethical Considerations.” Journal of Medical Ethics, Institute of Medical Ethics, 1 June 2019, jme.bmj.com/content/45/6/395. 

“Opinion | Should Trans Women Compete in Women’s Sports?” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 12 Nov. 2019, http://www.wsj.com/articles/should-trans-women-compete-in-women-s-sports-11573602744. 

Petrow, Steven. “Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage at the Olympics?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Aug. 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/do-transgender-athletes-have-an-unfair-advantage-at-the-olympics/2016/08/05/08169676-5b50-11e6-9aee-8075993d73a2_story.html. 

“Understanding the Transgender Community.” HRC, http://www.hrc.org/resources/understanding-the-transgender-community. 

What is Herd Immunity and how does it relate to COVID-19?

When it comes to preventing a disease like Covid-19 from further spreading, Herd Immunity is crucial! Herd Immunity is when a large sector of a population becomes immune to a disease, usually through vaccination (through which the body is exposed to the virus and develops antibodies against it through primary response). As a result, this hinders the spread of disease through the community and serves as a layer of protection for all individuals, whether vaccinated or not.


Herd Immunity is extremely beneficial as it helps protect those (pregnant women, newborns, immunocompromised individuals, or lower income individuals) who are unable to take vaccinations, by slowing the spread of disease through the community and petering it out of the population. 

In order for a disease to spread, a specific percentage of the overall community population must be capable of contracting that disease- known as the threshold population.  In the event the amount of individuals in the community which are immune is greater than this threshold, rates of disease spread will decrease- herd immunity threshold.

The threshold varies based on the disease at hand. If the disease is more contagious, the threshold will be higher, if not, the threshold will be lower. A prime example of this is measles, in which nearly 94% of the population must be immune in order to reduce infection rates. It is important to note that even after the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, it is still likely that certain individuals may contract the disease. The instance in which someone is in contact with another person, who recently came back from a foreign country, and has traces of this disease is one manner in which outbreaks can happen. 

Covid-19 is an extremely infectious disease, hence a significant portion of the general population will have to be immune to decrease spreading rates and achieve herd immunity. Some researchers believe that 50-67 percent of the population will need to be immune to this virus (through vaccination) to achieve herd immunity and lower infection rates. Currently there is no vaccine for Covid-19 being distributed to the general public but given the great efforts of numerous companies and foundations it is only a matter of time! 





What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease. For most the name feels familiar, but the science behind this condition is still a haze. To the basics!

Celiac Disease is a very prevalent condition, affecting millions of people each year in the US alone. It is a genetic immune related condition in which people cannot eat gluten as it causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. This damage prevents the individual from absorbing ample nutrients from the food they’re consuming. 

Understanding Celiacs Disease (Link Below)

Why is this? The small intestinal lining consists of many hairlike projections called villi. These structures are responsible for the diffusion of nutrients from the small intestine, into the capillaries of the mesentery, and into the bloodstream. 

In individuals with Celiac Disease, when they consume gluten, the immune system has an abnormal response in which the immune system attacks the villi, damaging the lining (giving it a flat appearance).

Furthermore, with a damaged intestinal lining, no matter how much the individual consumes, the small intestines will be unable to absorb ample amounts of nutrients. With little nutrients being absorbed, children with celiacs disease do not grow at normal rates.

Gluten Testing (Link Below)

Though the magnitude of symptoms is dependent on the person [some have severe symptoms, and some have none], if gluten is eaten, inflammation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, infertility, rashes, and even early osteoporosis can be caused. Irritability and depression are also common effects in many individuals.

Physicians check for Celiac Disease either by doing Blood Work, or by conducting a Biopsy. In Blood Work, physicians measure the relative amounts of antibodies in the patient’s bloodstream. Typically patients with Celiacs Disease have higher than normal amounts. 

Though Celiac Disease has no cure, patients can lower the intensity of symptoms by simply avoiding gluten. With research progressing rapidly and new innovations surfacing everyday, maybe on day, there will be a cure.


“Celiac Disease | Gluten Intolerance.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 June 2020, medlineplus.gov/celiacdisease.html.

“Celiac Disease.” Celiac Disease | Johns Hopkins Medicine, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/celiac-disease.

Ruiz, Atenodoro R. “Small Intestine – Digestive Disorders.” Merck Manuals Consumer Version, Merck Manuals, Oct. 2019, http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/digestive-disorders/biology-of-the-digestive-system/small-intestine. 


What are GMOs and why do they have a bad rep?

With non GMO ice cream, strawberry yogurt, fresh corn, and seeds filling up the aisles in Safeway, it seems pretty much everyone associates GMOs with ‘bad’, but what is actually harmful about GMOs? Why did they get such a terrible reputation?

First off, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are any organisms whose genetic makeup has been manipulated in a laboratory through transgenic technology or genetic engineering in order to exhibit favorable traits. The combinations of genes from plants, animals, bacteria, viruses, or other genes do not occur naturally (even by natural crossbreeding). 


This genetic modification was used at first to make plants/ animals able to withstand herbicide, or even produce insecticide. However, these technologies are now being utilized to create new organisms and to even keep crops ripe for unnatural periods of time. Additionally, there has been no substantial evidence that GMOs provide benefits for consumers.

Animal products such as eggs, milk, seafood, meat, and honey are highly impacted by the surge of GMOs, as GMOs are usually present in animal feed. GMOs can also be present as processed crop derivatives in molasses, sucrose, flavoring, vitamins, sweeteners, and yeast products.

How are GMOs unhealthy then? No one really knows. Without long term studies of the effects of GMOs regarding health, the true safety of GMOs has not been established. This uncertainty and grey area has contributed to GMOs bad reputation. However, recent studies have not shown any highly concerning effects of GMOs. Regardless, people have chosen to avoid GMOs because of this reason, the unknown can be daunting. It’s better to be safe than sorry.







Why do smells evoke vivid memories?

You may find that the smell of a gymnasium revives insanely vivid memories of your first ever gymnastics class, or the smell of coconut ice cream brings you to the lively beach boardwalk. But the same memories aren’t as vivid when you touch, see, hear, or taste something. Smell clearly seems to evoke memories, but what is the scientific explanation behind this? What difference in smell processing explains why memories aren’t as vivid in response to the 4 other senses? 

Live Science (Image Link Below)

Here is the reason. Whenever you taste, touch, see, or hear something, sensory information is sent to the thalamus, which then sends that information to corresponding and relevant parts of the brain which sometimes includes the amygdala, which handles emotional integration, and the hippocampus, which handles memory and cognition. 

However, with smells, the pathway for incoming information is slightly different. Sensory information from smells bypasses the thalamus and heads straight for the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to the limbic system which consists of the amygdala and the hippocampus, and the bulb passes on the info to this system. This explains why certain scents trigger immediate emotional responses and/or memories. In fact, the principle of emotion and memory invoking through smell is the very basis of the perfume industry! 

The limbic system. (Image Link below)

There is another interesting revelation which further supports this idea. A 2017 study conducted by Denise Manahan-Vaughan and Christina Strauch in Ruhr University [Germany] indicated that the olfactory bulb may also store memories itself. This phenomenon is due to the piriform cortex found in the olfactory bulb. The piriform cortex is connected to many parts of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex. Strauch and Manahan-Vaughan found that piriform cortex may actually serve as a long term memory archive, but only with instruction from orbitofrontal cortex: the part of the brain responsible for making judgements.

Through an evolutionary lense, the distinction in how smells are processed compared to the 4 other senses makes sense. One of the key ways in which many ancient organisms navigated and understood their surroundings was through smell. Many single celled organisms interacted with the surrounding chemicals and responded accordingly. Smell detection was a major advantage to many organisms, and has been developing for many years. This provides a reasonable idea to why humans have only 4 types of light and 4 types of touch receptors, while we have thousands of smell receptors.

Pragmatically, the reason scents invoke intense memories is because the location of brain scent info is sent to (the olfactory bulb) is directly connected to the memory center of the brain (the hippocampus) and the emotion processing sector (the amygdala). 

So, the next time the smell of your skates bring back memories of your figure skating championship, or the whiff of popcorn revives your first date, enjoy the memories which come along with the specific wiring of your brain! 


Holohan, Meghan. “Smells like Nostalgia: Why Do Scents Bring Back Memories?” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 19 July 2012, http://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/smells-nostalgia-why-do-scents-bring-back-memories-895521.

“Psychology and Smell.” Fifth Sense, http://www.fifthsense.org.uk/psychology-and-smell/.

Strauch, Christina, and Denise Manahan-Vaughan. “In the Piriform Cortex, the Primary Impetus for Information Encoding through Synaptic Plasticity Is Provided by Descending Rather than Ascending Olfactory Inputs.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 24 Nov. 2017, academic.oup.com/cercor/article/28/2/764/4656154.

Urry, Lisa A, et al. Campbell Biology. 11th ed., Pearson.

Walsh, Colleen. “How Scent, Emotion, and Memory Are Intertwined – and Exploited.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 27 Feb. 2020, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/02/how-scent-emotion-and-memory-are-intertwined-and-exploited/.

Image Links:



The Opioid Catastrophe!

With 10.3 million misused opioids, 130 people dying from opioid related causes every day, and 2.0 million people with opioid addiction disorders in the US in 2018 alone, how did we get here? 

Tincture- The Opioid Crisis: Time for a Change

In the past, opioids were only given to those who were terminally ill, had very severe acute pain, or were suffering from cancer. 

In the mid 1990s, physicians began providing opioids to patients to relieve pain, at alarmingly high rates as a result of pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketing “less addictive” opioids such as oxycontin. This led to increased accessibility of opioids to the general public.

The NY Times- Damage From OxyContin Continues to Be Revealed

The majority was unaware of opioids true addictive qualities, hence patients continued to request doses, and physicians to prescribe. It was only when this small mishap transformed into a national crisis- when opioid prescriptions exploded- that the pharmaceutical companies and physicians realized their mistake: that these ‘new’ opioids are still dangerously addictive. But why?

Opioids are most commonly used as painkillers. Codeine, morphine, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are all types of opioids. Opioids are used to treat very severe persistent pain and are also used for anesthesia. They can be prescribed to those with migraines, injuries from sports or accidents, back pain, or pain associated with cancer or surgery. 

Opioids attach to the opioid receptors found most on nerve cells in the spinal cord, brain, and gut. This binding prevents pain signals from the body to reach nerve cells in the brain, hence working as a painkiller. Opioids essentially prevent a nerve cell from doing its job.


With repeated use, drug dependence occurs, where the neurons adapt to only function properly in the presence of the drug. While effective at reducing pain, opioids can be extremely addictive. Reason being that opioids condition the body to believe that opioids are necessary for survival and ease. Opioids stimulate the reward areas of the brain, stimulating dopamine production and creating a feeling of euphoria. Opioids are able to do so by binding to inhibitors, in the VTA (Ventral Tegmental Area) of the brain, thus preventing these inhibitors from doing their job, which is to inhibit dopamine production unless something good occurs. This lack of inhibition causes great production of dopamine, making the person feel euphoric. 

Patients often get addicted to this feeling of euphoria, and ease of pain. Over time, the body learns to tolerate certain opioid doses, more opioid receptors are created, and then begins to crave larger and larger doses, which can lead to addiction. 

MATclinics -Why is it so hard to stop using Suboxone?

The explanation for this cycle is tolerance. As the body’s tolerance of opioids increases, the person needs more and more opioids in order to stimulate dopamine production. Hence, the person increases their dose amounts. This cycle is dangerous, as withdrawal makes it extremely tough to break free. The road to recovery is possible but extremely tough.

Another major issue which poses thousands of former opioid users is heroin, an opioid made from morphine. Many people recovering from addiction get addicted to heroin, completely stunting their chances of full recovery. 

In the midst of this calamity, there still remains hope. With increased awareness in the past few years about opioids, measures being made, and serious discussions being conducted about the ethics of these painkillers, there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel. 


Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs (ASPA). “What Is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?” HHS.gov, https://Plus.google.com/+HHS, http://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html.

Lipari, Rachel N, et al. “WHY DO ADULTS MISUSE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS?” Why Do Adults Misuse Prescription Drugs?, 27 July 2017, http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3210/ShortReport-3210.html.

Margolis, Elyssa. “The Role of the VTA-Lateral Habenula Circuit in Opioid Mediated Behaviors.” Grantome, NIH, 1 Sept. 2017, grantome.com/grant/NIH/R01-DA042025-01A1.

“Opioid Overdose.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 May 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/.

“Understanding the Epidemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html.“What Are Opioids? – When Seconds Count.” When Seconds Count | Anesthesia, Pain Management & Surgery, http://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/opioid-treatment/what-are-opioids/.




Understanding Naloxone


Vegan Pet Food: Is it feasible?

With thousands of picture perfect recipes plastered all over Pinterest and Instagram, Vegan lifestyles have taken the internet by storm. Usually adopted for the health benefits and the reduced ecological footprint, numerous people are incorporating plant based diets in the USA and UK. Major pet food companies Purina, V-Dog, WildEarth, Natural Balance, Pedigree, and PetGuard have begun offering alternative plant based products- some vegetarian, and some vegan.

Photo by | GoodStuffPartners-VDog and SFChronicle

With 60.2 million dogs and 47.1 million cats constituting the pet population in the US [2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey] and UCLA researcher Gregory Okin finding that dogs and cats ate approximately the same number of calories as 62 million Americans in 2017 alone [Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats], transitioning pets to vegan diets can greatly reduce the collective ecological footprint.The raised awareness on environmental impacts and the ethics of the meat industry has brought forth the iconic question, can household pets also live a vegan lifestyle just as humans can?

To this, many scientists and nutritionists continue to carry out in depth research. 

One promising stable called Koji, and is the center of the vegan pet food explosion. Koji, a principal component of the asian diet, is the primary source of protein in the majority of proposed pet foods. Koji is often compressed into kibble to create solids. Koji solids contain a substantial amount of protein (50%) compared to steak which contains significantly less protein(30%). Other nutrients and vitamins can also be added to Koji solids to ensure they are successfully meeting the dietary requirements of pets. Koji is an attractive protein source for animals and is capable of satisfying dogs’ dietary needs for protein and is also being plant based. Dogs mainly require 20-35 % of their calories from protein, which can be fully met by a vegan diet with Koji. 

Picture of Koji Chunks. Photo By | Medium

Other sources of protein found in yeast, fungi, algae are also great plant based protein alternatives. Yeast is a very attractive choice as it provides high quality protein, probiotics, and the 10 amino acids a dog needs.

A common misconception about dogs is that as descendants of carnivorous wolves, dogs require a diet constituted of meats. However, as dogs have evolved, they have evolved amylase genes and thus have developed the ability to better digest carbohydrates. Hence, dogs are classified as omnivores and possibly can adopt vegan or vegetarian lifestyles.

Photo By | Veterinary Practice News

A 2009 study by The British Journal of Nutrition observed the red blood cell counts and performance of Siberian huskies after placing them on meat free diets. The study established a control group (six dogs on a meat inclusive diet) and an experimental group (6 dogs on a meat free diet) and observed both through and after 16 weeks of maintenance. Researchers also incorporated two weeks of training, ten weeks of competitive racing, and finally four weeks of rest during the 16 weeks. After the duration, they found that both groups were in excellent physical conditions and that red blood cell counts actually increased over the duration of the study. This brought forth questions regarding the possible advantages and benefits of vegan diets for dogs.

Common advantages of vegan diets [in dogs] include healthier coats, weight control, increases in vitality, diabetes and arthritis regression, decreased allergies, and better bowel movements. Even with the advantages, owners still need to implement vegan diets responsibly. The primary concern for these vegan diets are owners not conducting thorough research and hence not providing nutrient dense foods to meet nutrient requirements, or choosing plant based foods which are hard for dogs to digest properly. Regardless, the future still looks bright.

While the vegan possibilities fare well for dogs, they do not for cats. Carnivorous household cats require certain nutrients such as arachidonic acid and taurine which are present only in meat. These nutrients are necessary for proper function, and cats can die without them. Without taurine, cats can develop DCM, a condition in which their heart weakens, preventing them from efficiently distributing blood and oxygen to their organs. DCM can be fatal if not treated early on.

Photo By | Plant Based News Academy

Cats are also not adapted to plant based diets, and may have severe digestion issues. Hence, whether cats can safely adopt vegan diets remains uncertain. Cat owners may still integrate more plant based foods into their cats diets, but they must remember that cats still need more fats and proteins than both dogs and humans. However, as research continues to be conducted, researchers may possibly find ways to create a feasible vegan cat diet.

With this vegan surge being fairly recent, researchers have yet to observe the long term impacts of vegan food on pets. This makes any possible long term disadvantages of a vegan lifestyle blurry for the time being. Despite this, vegan diets have not been found to induce any health risks at the moment. 

It still remains unclear whether cats and dogs may adopt vegan lifestyles, however dog owners may consider simply integrating more plant based foods into their diets and testing the waters (all with guidance from a veterinarian of course). Regardless, the underlying message is still clear, to ensure through whatever diet taken, that one’s pet is obtaining all the necessary nutrients and vitamins. 


“2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.” American Pet Products Association, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/pubs_survey.asp.

“Are Vegan or Vegetarian Diets Good for Pets?” Veterinary Practice News, 1 Oct. 2019, http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/are-vegan-or-vegetarian-diets-good-for-pets/.

Brown, Wendy Y, et al. “An Experimental Meat-Free Diet Maintained Haematological Characteristics in Sprint-Racing Sled Dogs.” Http://Www.vegepets.info/, 2009, http://www.vegepets.info/resources/Publications/Veg-dogs-Brown-et-al-Br-J-Nutr-2009.pdf.

Caplan, Christy. “Here’s What Science Says About Feeding Dogs a Vegan Diet.” Wide Open Pets, 21 Mar. 2020, http://www.wideopenpets.com/heres-what-science-says-about-feeding-cats-and-dogs-a-vegan-diet/.

Dowling, Stephen. “Can You Feed Cats and Dogs a Vegan Diet?” BBC Future, BBC, 4 Mar. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200304-can-you-feed-cats-and-dogs-a-vegan-diet.

Duggan, Tara. “How to Raise a Vegan Dog.” SFChronicle.com, San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Oct. 2019, http://www.sfchronicle.com/culture/article/How-to-raise-a-vegan-dog-14499422.php.

Earth, Photograph Courtesy of Wild. “Can Dogs and Cats Be Vegan? Science Weighs In.” Can Dogs and Cats Be Vegan? Science Weighs In on New Pet Food., 15 Mar. 2018, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/can-pets-be-vegan-food-koji-dogs-cats-wild-earth-science/.

“Is It Safe To Feed Your House Cat A Vegan Diet?” Transformative Video Courses From World Class Thought Leaders, academy.plantbasednews.org/blog/cat-vegan-diet.

Okin, Gregory S. “Environmental Impacts of Food Consumption by Dogs and Cats.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2 Aug. 2017, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0181301.

“V-Dog Branding and Packaging.” Good Stuff Partners, http://www.goodstuffpartners.com/vdog-vegan-dog-food-company-branding-packaging.

Comorbidity in the American Population

As the years progress, comorbidity has become the norm in America, with 80% of Medicare spending targeted to patients with more than 4 chronic conditions. As spending grows exponentially, scientists and practitioners are trying to gain a better grasp on the effects of comorbidities on mortality rates, quality of life, and quality of healthcare.

Comorbidity is the presence of 2 or more illnesses/ diseases in a patient. Common overlapping conditions are cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular illnesses, dementia, and mental conditions relating to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. A person who is diagnosed with social anxiety and a depressive disorder is said to have comorbid depressive and anxiety disorders. 

Above is an array of mental illnesses and other disorders which are closely correlated and frequently can be present as comorbid conditions in patients. Credit: Neurological Disorders and Comorbidity

It is common for patients to have comorbidities, especially when relating to mental illnesses. As many patients are diagnosed with a regular illness, but also diagnosed with a mental illness in addition [or vise versa]. Studies have been conducted on the number of patients with comorbidities. In the US National Comorbidity study, 51% of patients who were diagnosed with major depression had at least one additional anxiety related disorder. Only 26% of patients diagnosed with depression had no other mental illnesses. There is a recurring pattern of anxiety being diagnosed in addition to other physical conditions.

The impacts of obesity on health also increases the number of comorbidities in the American population, with overlapping conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, and many more.

There are many reasons why comorbidities occur. Many illnesses are influenced or may be brought forth by similar behavioral habits (Ex: Smoking -> Lung Cancer and/ or Ischemic Heart Disease). Some conditions are triggered by other illnesses (Eating Disorders and Depression). Many conditions also have no correlation and develop independently. 

Regardless, the price of comorbidities in healthcare is taxing, and greatly increases risk factors of developing more health conditions. Patients are also found to have higher chances of mortality by Advanced Heart Failure if they have comorbid conditions. Sometimes treatment for these conditions fails to take into account of other underlying conditions, which affects how the patient’s body responds to certain medicines. Hence, professionals should continue considering the effects of certain medicines on patients with comorbid conditions.

In the face of viral infections and pandemics, underlying conditions do increase risks and rates of mortality, as seen with Covid-19- where immunocompromised patients or those with comorbid conditions are the most vulnerable.

Works Referenced

Ahluwalia, Sangeeta C, et al. “Impact of Comorbidity on Mortality among Older Persons with Advanced Heart Failure.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Springer-Verlag, May 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326095/.

fichter, Brittany. “Comorbidity in Neurological Disorders.” Brittany F. Writes, 19 Feb. 2014, brittanyfichterwrites.com/neurological-disorders-and-comorbidity/.

He, Vincent Y.F., et al. “Long-Term Outcomes From Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.” Circulation, 12 July 2016, http://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.020966.

Maj, Mario. “’Psychiatric Comorbidity’: an Artefact of Current Diagnostic Systems?: The British Journal of Psychiatry.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 2 Jan. 2018, http://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/psychiatric-comorbidity-an-artefact-of-current-diagnostic-systems/9DAFC6B16152FFE0F297E4A9DB0A1674.

Park, Chanhyun, et al. “Comorbidity Status and Annual Total Medical Expenditures in U.S. Hypertensive Adults.” Ajpmonline, 2017, http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30390-2/pdf.

Roca, M., et al. “Prevalence and Comorbidity of Common Mental Disorders in Primary Care.” Journal of Affective Disorders, Elsevier, 10 Apr. 2009, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016503270900127X?via=ihub.

Vaidyanathan, Uma, et al. “Patterns of Comorbidity among Mental Disorders: a Person-Centered Approach.” ScienceDirect, 6 Oct. 2010, linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0010440X10001732.

Valderas, Jose M, et al. Defining Comorbidity: Implications for Understanding Health and Health Services. 2009, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2713155/.

Human Genome Project

Credit: Genetic Literacy Project

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international research project with the primary objective of sequencing and determining the base pairs in human DNA, and the exact location and functions of various genes. [A genome is the complete set of DNA of an organism] The HGP lasted from 1990-2003, and was led by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, which were both funded by congress to conduct further research on the human genome. The final sequence was published in April of 2003 and had great impacts on genomic research.

What was the practice?

The practice involved finding and establishing the order of the 3 billion DNA nitrogenous bases, mapping out the bases according to their location on the chromosomes, and creating linkage maps (which are used to track deleterious alleles, leading to genetic diseases, through numerous generations). The genomes of other organisms, such as the fruit fly, roundworm, or mouse- which have been used to advance medical research- were also sequenced.

What were the findings?

The researchers discovered that there are 20,500 human genes, and the functions and locations for them. This gene number was much lower as compared with previous estimates for 100,000’s of human genes. By uncovering the functions and structure of genes, scientists were able to advance research greatly and create a ‘blueprint’ for a human being.

What was the impact?

The HGP was monumental to advancing research regarding cures for diseases, gene therapy, early disease detection. The primary practice and strategies used also helped promote the study of similar genes in other organisms, which are also present in the human genome. By identifying common genes in the genomes of different organisms, researchers were able to identify genes vital for life. 

Works Referenced:

Collins, Francis S, and Leslie Fink. “The Human Genome Project.” Alcohol Health and Research World, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1995, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6875757/.

Gannett, Lisa. “The Human Genome Project.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 26 Nov. 2008, plato.stanford.edu/entries/human-genome/.

“Human Genome Project Information Archive1990–2003.” Human Genome Project Information, web.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/index.shtml.

“What Is the Human Genome Project?” Genome.gov, http://www.genome.gov/human-genome-project/What.

“What Was the Human Genome Project and Why Has It Been Important? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/hgp/description.

“What Were the Goals of the Human Genome Project? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/hgp/goals.

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle Cell Anemia (one of a group of disorders referred to as Sickle Cell Disease)  is an inherited blood disorder in which the body lacks sufficient red blood cells to transport and distribute oxygen to the organs and tissues. Reason being that instead of the red blood cells maintaining a classic round shape, the sickle cells resemble half moons. 

The right are sickle cells, and to the left, healthy cells. Picture Credits: Britannica

These abnormally shaped cells often clog blood vessels, preventing blood flow. Sickle cells are weak, and have significantly shorter lifespans than normal cells; this causes a blood cell shortage throughout (Normal Red blood cells live for approximately 120 days; sickle cells live for 10-20). 

What are the common symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia?

As the essential element of Cellular Respiration in cells, oxygen is necessary for our bodies to generate energy-to function- and to grow. Sickle Cell Anemia causes oxygen shortages and thus fatigue. Major pain crises are also caused when sickle cells block blood flow to certain areas. These pain crises occur as episodes which can vary with time and intensity. Certain crises persist for hours, while others for weeks. Some patients may have a few crises a year, whereas others may have a dozen. Blockage of blood flow also leads to swelling of the extremities. Shortage of oxygen also hinders growth in children and delays puberty in teenagers. Sickle cell blockage in the vessels connected to the eyes can damage the retina, and thus impair vision. 

Sickle Cell Anemia may also lead to stroke if there are blood blockages in the cerebral artery, responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The consistent lack of oxygen also causes organ damage.

How is it caused?

Sickle Cell Anemia is caused by a point mutation in the sickle cell allele of the DNA. An adenine nucleotide (the sickle cell allele) replaces a wild type (thymine), which alters the amino acid produced, and thus causes hydrophobic interactions of the proteins of hemoglobin-which enables red blood cells to transport oxygen. Therefore, the sickle cell proteins form chains and bind into a fiber-like structure-which does not occur under normal conditions. These fibers lead to misshapen, weak, sticky, and rigid red blood cells. 

Homozygous Individuals which inherit 2 sickle cell alleles, one from each parent, have sickle cell disease, and can likely have sickle cell anemia. Heterozygous Individuals which inherit only one sickle cell allele and one healthy allele, still have sickling present in the blood, but the sickling is not severe enough to cause Sickle Cell Disease, although they still carry the sickle cell trait and can pass it to offspring. 

What are the outcomes? Is Sickle Cell Anemia Fatal? 

To date, there is no cure for Sickle Cell Anemia. However, patients may take folic supplements (to promote blood cell creation), hydroxyurea (to reduce the stickiness of cells), blood transfusions, and pain relievers during pain crises or headaches. Scientists have proposed Stem Cell transplants, unfortunately this process is expensive, new, and not readily available to the majority of patients. Gene Therapy is also an alluring option, as the deleterious alleles can be extracted and replaced with healthy alleles. However, this option is also fairly new and requires more testing.

Works Referenced:

“Sickle Cell Anemia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 Jan. 2020, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355876.

“Sickle Cell Disease.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sickle-cell-disease.

“Sickle Cell Disease.” Sickle Cell Disease | Johns Hopkins Medicine, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sickle-cell-disease.

Team, The Healthline Editorial. “Sickle Cell Anemia: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 June 2010, http://www.healthline.com/health/sickle-cell-anemia.