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DAILY DOSE: South Asia on guard against Cyclone Biparjoy; Berberine can help you lose weight (but does it really?).

India and Pakistan are bracing for the first severe cyclone of the year, named Cyclone Biparjoy, which is expected to hit their coastal regions later this week. Fishing activities have been halted, rescue personnel deployed, and evacuation plans announced for those at risk.

The cyclone, originating from the Arabian Sea, is forecasted to make landfall on Thursday with maximum wind speeds of up to 200 kph (124 mph). Karachi in Pakistan and the ports of Mundra and Kandla in Gujarat, India, are likely to be affected. Authorities in both countries are taking measures to ensure the safety of residents and infrastructure. The increase in cyclones in the Arabian Sea region is attributed to climate change, with warmer ocean temperatures creating favorable conditions.

Experts emphasize the need for better preparation and policies to mitigate the impact of natural disasters in coastal cities. The last severe cyclone, Cyclone Tauktae in 2021, caused significant damage and loss of life in the same region. (Associated Press)

Marriages in China hit a record low in 2022, according to Yicai, a local news outlet. The number of couples completing marriage registrations dropped to 6.83 million, a decrease of about 800,000 compared to the previous year. The decline in marriages can be attributed to factors such as the strict COVID-19 lockdowns, which confined millions of people to their homes or compounds for extended periods. This trend coincides with China’s efforts to address a declining birth rate and an aging population.

In 2022, China experienced its first population decline in six decades, signaling a potentially prolonged period of decreasing citizen numbers with significant implications for the economy and the world. China’s birth rate also reached a historic low of 6.77 births per 1,000 people, prompting concerns about an aging workforce and the financial burden on local governments.

To address these issues, China has announced plans to promote marriage and childbirth, including pilot projects in several cities and extended paid marriage leave in some provinces. (Reuters)

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The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has introduced stricter oversight measures on its subawards, particularly for foreign recipients, igniting controversy among researchers. The policy, which takes effect from 1 October, mandates that all pertinent lab notebooks, data, and documentation be regularly provided to the primary grantee.

Researchers have criticized the policy as an encumbrance that could deter international collaboration and require substantial time for compliance. They also question why the policy predominantly targets foreign entities.

The NIH has been criticized for its handling of a grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which had a subaward with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to study coronaviruses. NIH terminated the subaward when EcoHealth couldn’t meet certain conditions, including obtaining WIV’s lab notebooks. The NIH maintains that the policy ensures the free flow of information and empowers primary recipients. (Nature)

The growing demand for the diabetes drug Ozempic, noted for its weight loss properties, has sparked discussions on social media about alternatives like berberine, a chemical compound extracted from plants. Used in Asia for centuries to treat gastrointestinal complaints, berberine is now being explored for potential benefits in managing hypertension and insulin resistance.

Despite its proven metabolic effects and promising results in some preliminary studies, experts caution that claims about its weight loss properties are unverified, lacking robust clinical trial data. Side effects such as nausea, elevated blood pressure, and potential interactions with other medications are also a concern. Furthermore, the supplement industry’s regulatory limitations may result in issues with product adulteration or misrepresentation.

While berberine shows promise in certain health areas, its efficacy and safety as a weight loss supplement are uncertain. (New York Times)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)


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