Vaccination and opposition to it is nothing new.

Variolation, infecting someone with material from smallpox pustules to create natural immunity, was practiced in Asia and Africa in the 16th century. Cotton Mather, a Christian minister in Boston promoted the practice in the 1700’s having learnt the technique from his African slave. Despite its effectiveness, Mather was ostracized.

The smallpox vaccination of the late 18th century promoted by Edward Jenner, an English physician, used cowpox. …


Despite its relative neglect in the field of medicine, nutrition is recognized as an essential component of health. Adequate nutrient supply is necessary for reproduction, growth and maintenance, the fundamentals of any species’ survival. Paradoxically, the most powerful method for increasing lifespan is caloric restriction just short of starvation.

Why?

Because nutrients are so important for survival, it makes sense that systems involved in interpreting nutrient or energy levels would play a central role in regulating reproduction, growth and aging. In the setting of food scarcity, the dramatic increase in energy demands for mating, pregnancy and feeding a newborn are…


As the country begins to lift restrictions, here is a guide to minimize the risk of infection with COVID-19.

Health care workers have provided a natural experiment that is instructive. They have had greater exposure to people infected with COVID-19 than any other population. And yet their infection rate is significantly lower than the general population.

This lower rate occurred in the context of extreme exposure (not only the presence of infectious patients but many high transmission-risk procedures such as intubation), inadequate personal protective equipment and a delayed appreciation of the virus’ virulence.

This suggests that if the general public…


How to reduce susceptibility

Pandemics breed fear and false hope in equal parts. Undocumented treatments flood the media. A Google search for “covid 19 cure” generates over 2 billion hits, a remarkable number for a disease without a cure. The solution often takes the form of a supplement. However, one supplement story should be heard.

There is now good data to support a protective effect of vitamin D on severity of infection with covid 19.

The virus gains entry to the body by binding a receptor called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 or ACE2. ACE may sound familiar because ACE inhibitors (Lotensin, Vasotec, Zestril…) are…


Will antibody testing identify who is immune?

As governments grow increasingly anxious to restart economies and people yearn to return to an unfettered life, the race to develop a test to assess COVID-19 immunity is heating up. Medical diagnostic companies are scrambling, and governments are looking to order these antibody tests by the millions.

In this context, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), has chosen to relax normal assessment criteria. For instance, CTK Biotech (San Diego, CA) has developed an antibody test. Under normal circumstances, they would have to collect data for FDA approval of a novel diagnostic at three different sites. …


This third part of the series, How This Pandemic Can Make You Healthier: Turning passive to active, examines how isolation affects health and the importance of addressing loneliness in this pandemic.

We are by nature social animals. A meaningful connection to others is considered a fundamental human need. One measure of how we value interpersonal interaction is our use of isolation as punishment. Whether a child’s time out or a prisoner’s solitary confinement, we inflict suffering through separation.

Until recently, loneliness was thought only to affect us psychologically. …


This second part of the series explores how physical activity can boost immune function.

Although exercise has been seen to promote general health for centuries, an appreciation of its potent effect on the body’s defense system is recent. 90% of papers in the field of exercise immunology were published after 1990. Ironically, early publications described an association between the heavy exertion of professional athletes and transient immune dysfunction, the so-called open window hypothesis. These observations have been challenged in recent years. …


While social distancing is a necessary intervention to slow the spread of covid19, it also forces us to spend most of our time close to the people we live with, in the confines of our homes. Many who began this period of social distancing without symptoms will become ill due to earlier exposure. Social distancing will minimize spread outside the home but increase the likelihood of contaminating those we whom we live.

In such circumstances there are things we can do to minimize the spread of covid19 at home.

Obviously if someone becomes symptomatic or has covid19, attempts must be…


In this anxious season of covid19 it is easy to feel helpless. Constant news reports bombard us with the growing number of infected, the need to isolate, the absence of toilet paper… The advice usually comes in a negative form. Don’t socialize, don’t go to work, don’t touch your face… The new normal has stripped us of our routines, our professional identities and the experience of personal contact outside our homes.

Passivity is a natural consequence of this scenario. But the covid19 pandemic actually provides a remarkable opportunity to make changes in how we take care of ourselves. …


Fear is having a good season. A quick survey of the headlines provides a window on what frightens us — government, police violence, immigrants, being left behind, climate change, plane crashes and now the coronavirus.

The ability to sense and avoid harm is essential for all animals. Fear has played a central role in our survival as a species. And yet we often fail when it comes to knowing what to be afraid of.

Risk assessment is not a trivial capacity. …

Paul Spector MD

How to understand and apply scientific advances to maximize peak mind and body fitness

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store