Of sunbeams, sunscreens, and SPF’s lower than 50!

Those of us who are now middle-aged white people remember when SPF 15 was the maximum coverage product, and it was powerful. It even worked for the freckly kids who had to wear t-shirts over their bathing suits.  If your skin tone allowed you to get little tan, wearing SPF 8 was considered prudent.

Yet now, in 2019, it is impossible to find sunscreen with a protection factor of even ten. Below 15 SPF cannot be sold at CVS, everything is PABA-free, and sun products with 50 SPF labels seem to be waiting primly for a spot in Miss White’s designer handbag. 

Why the SPF 50 when 15 used to be just fine? What is PABA, and why must one be free from it?  And what really happens to beams when they meet a cream?

SPF is only half of the protection story.

First, SPF, if you didn’t know, means “Sun Protection Factor,” and refers to time.  If you could normally stay in the sun for a half hour without burning, but a cream lets you go burn-free for twelve, then its SPF would be 24, as in twelve times as long, i.e. the whole day. But SPF pertains only to burning, and does not indicate how safe you may or may not be from slower cooking UV-A rays.

The SPF does not tell you about the other damage.

The sun protection factor indicates how long you are safe from UV-B radiation, which has shorter-wavelength, more powerful, beams. Since UV-A rays cause ageing and collagen damage, we also need to know about them. So…designer handbag people, beware: a high SPF might not repel UV-A rays at all. 

Only sunblock prevents UV-A damage. 

To achieve total shade from UV-A radiation, current products must find a way to block them. A sunblock (like zinc oxide) contains opaque pigments (chemically rendered invisible to the human eye) that reflect the light, preventing it from penetrating the skin. 

But let’s go back to sunscreen. If sunblock is like a paint that blocks the rays, what is a sunscreen, and how does the screen part work?

When sunbeams meet sunscreen… 

Many sunscreens work via an organic substance such as the bugaboo PABA – para amino benzoic acid- whose chemical structure is in sync with the sun’s radiation.  A white powder before it’s added to a cream, PABA’s structures vibrate at the same frequency as the sun’s 280-320 nanometer UV-B rays (Field 8).  The sun beats down on skin covered in a PABA cream, and the para amino benzoic acid molecule’s different electrons, held in a ring-like benzine structure connected to a carboxyl group, shoot back and forth.  As it moves the electrons, the radiation expends its energy on the surface of the product (instead of penetrating to blood vessels beneath) and disperses back into the atmosphere as “gentle heat” (Emsley 23). Thus, the cream filters the sun’s radiation.  Other chemical filters that work the same way include oxybenzone, camphor, and cinnamic acid, and their variants.  They all contain a carbon grouping and so are called “organic.”

So what’s the danger with PABA?   

Well, “tests on human cells showed that, while PABA itself did not cause cancer, it increased the formation of cancer precursors” (Emsley 24).   Oh, and in 1% of cases, those who used PABA sunscreens became more photosensitive (24). Oxybenzone faces criticism now, too, but for slightly different reasons. Both still work for most people.

Only astronauts without space suits burn in seconds.

Interestingly, the human body’s natural defense is typically amino acids on the outer layer of skin.  These absorb UV rays safely for a little while (Emsley 18), perhaps just enough time to use the sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. – AB


Emsley, John. Vanity, Vitality, and Virility: The Science Behind the Products You Love to Buy. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Field, Simon Quellen.  Why There’s Antifreeze in Your Toothpaste: The chemistry of household ingredients. Chicago Review Press, 2008.


Shapiro, Nina, and Loberg, Kristin. Hype: A Doctor’s guide to medical myths, exaggerated claims, and bad advice- how to tell what’s real and what’s not.  Saint Martin’s Press, 2018.

Stockton, Nick. “Big question: How does sunscreen shield your skin with science?” Wired Magazine, July 2015. www.wired.com/2015/07/big-question-sunscreen-shield-science/



http://www.physics.org /article-questions.asp?id=46

www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1004/para-aminobenzoic-acid-paba     (7/23/19)

www.wired.com/2015/07/big-question-sunscreen-shield-skin-science/    (7/23/19)

www.yalescientific.org/2012/05/how-does-sunscreen-protect-you/       (7/23/19)

Calcium and wine

Grapevines, too, need their calcium, and they share it with humans through wine. Soil rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium makes for healthy vines. A grape can contain 14 mg of calcium. (Compare that with its 4 mg of vitamin C.)

Thus, grape juice contains calcium, and wine contains even more after the wine-making process. A clay-filtration step can add calcium, as can a finishing with calcium bicarbonate to soften an overly acidic cru

You can find 43 mg (between 1-4% DV) of calcium in a glass of wine.  This is about half the amount found in a glass of Gerolsteiner mineral water.  Since wine doesn’t contain any protein, however, it’s still not advisable to go pour yourself a bottle for dinner.  Alas!


Forkaš, Ján, Technology and Biochemistry of Wine.  New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1988.

Puckette, Madeline, https//winefolly.com/review/wine-additives-explained/

Haas, Jason, https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2010/05/why-limestone-matters-for-viticulture.html

Le calcium et le vin

Les vignes aussi ont besoin de calcium, et elles le partagent avec le consommateur humain par leur vin.  Un terrain riche en calcium, magnesium, potassium et sodium favorise le développement de la plante, ce qui expliqe comment un raisin peut contenir 14 mg de calcium. (Il contient 4 mg de vitamine C en moyenne.)

Plus de 20 mg de calcium peuvent être rajoutés à travers le traitement du vin.  S’il est filtré à travers de l’argile, il y en accumule plus, et à un vin trop acide, on met du carbonate de calcium. 

Somme toute, on retrouve 43 mg (entre 1-4% DV) de calcium dans un verre de vin.  C’est un peu près la moitié du contenu en calcium d’un verre d’eau minérale de la marque Gerolsteiner.  Et comme le vin ne contient aucune protéine, ce n’est pas conseillé de se verser une bouteille pour le dîner.  Dommage!


Forkaš, Ján, Technology and Biochemistry of Wine.  New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1988.

Puckette, Madeline, https//winefolly.com/review/wine-additives-explained/

Haas, Jason, https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2010/05/why-limestone-matters-for-viticulture.html

Wine: Two parts healthy, two parts not-so-much?

Wine, Sorceress, changes an unexciting meal into communion, and draws, from the acid of imperfection, tannic philosophy and sweet laughter.  A glass of the liquid transforms defeat into graceful concession, partnership into romance.  With wine flows exchange, tolerance, largesse.

So wine drinkers believe, and so, to them, the news of its alleged cardioprotective and even cancer-fighting properties is well, not really news.

Yet, while two of red wine’s chemical ingredients, flavonoids and resveratrol, both polyphenols, seem likely to have positive effects on the cells of the human body, two of its other ingredients could cause damage.  Let’s take a good look and find out if we should have a daily glass of burgundy for our health, or make ourselves a nice berry tea, instead.

The parts of red wine that are considered beneficial are the flavonoids (associated with helping prevent the hardening of the arteries), and found in both red and white wine, and the resveratrol, found in red and purple grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries, and thus only in red wine.  Resveratrol seems to inhibit cancer growth through its interactions with certain enzymes that suppress tumors.

The problematic parts of red wine are the alcohol and the sugars.  Its alcohol (scientifically known as ethanol) also interacts with enzymes, but these interactions seem more likely to cause cancer, by contributing to lipid peroxidation, which “can cause damage to cell membranes, sometimes irreversible to the cell” (Markosi).

Sugar, in excess, causes harm as well, via the inflammatory effects of too much glucose on pathways in the cells (Peiró, Concepción, et al.).

So, seen under the microscope, red wine seems to have as many downsides to our physical health as upsides, and white wine, since it does not contain resveratrol and contains even more sugar than red, might be said to have less benefits.

But….what about wine’s effect on the psyche?  The mellow, relaxed, it’s all-been-done-before feeling that puts us in the mood to be together?  Can the health benefits of dealcoholized wine compensate for our absence of intoxication?  Can grape juice make a party out of an assembly?  Or a tea of red berries turn the two-step into a tango?

Should it?

Please leave a thought and/or a recommendation here!


Antioxidant: a substance capable of neutralizing oxygen free radicals, the highly active and damaging atoms and chemical groups produced by various disease processes, and by poisons.

Enzyme:  any of numerous complex proteins that are produced by living cells and catalyse specific biochemical reactions at body temperatures.

Flavonoids: a group of naturally occurring phenolic compounds, many of which are plant pigments. They are strong antioxidants in their natural state, but are poorly absorbed from the intestine.

Lipid: any of a group of naturally occurring fats or fat-like substances characterized by being insoluble in water but soluble in solvents such as chloroform or alcohol.

Polyphenols: a variety of aromatic compounds in plant foods that have multiple hydroxyl groups; they are generally considered to have beneficial antioxidant action.

Resveratrol: a stilbene and potent antioxidant

Wine: On average, wine is 86% water, 12% ethanol, 1% glycerol and polysaccharides or other trace elements, different types of acids 0.5%, and volatile compounds, 0.5 %


Markosi, Melissa, “Molecular Properties of Red Wine Compounds and Cardiometabolic  Benefits” in Nutritional and Metabolic Insights Vol. 9 U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.  08/02/2016

Peiró, Concepción, et al. “Inflammation, glucose, and vascular cell damage: the role of the pentose phosphate pathway.” Cardiovascular Diabetology 2016; 15:82, published online June 1st 2016, doi 10.1186/s12933-016-0397-2

Image: in  Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387


Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387

Lehman, Shereen, “Overview of Stilbenes in Plants” in Very Well Fit  http://www.verywellfit.com/stilbenes-plant-antioxidants-2507072

Senior, Kathryn, “Molecular explanation for cancer-prevention properties of red wine.”  The Lancet Oncology, Vol. 3 No. 4, p. 200.  April 2002

Skerett, Patrick J. “Resveratrol- the hype continues,” Harvard Health Publishing  February 3, 2012 http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/resveratrol-the-hype-continues-201202034189


Le bilan du vin – deux pour; deux contre

Le vin, sorcier, change un repas ordinaire en communion et tire, de l’acide de l’imperfection, de la philosophie tannique et le doux rire.  Un verre de la liquide transforme la défaite en concession gracieuse, l’association en complicité.  Avec le vin coulent les échanges, la tolérance, la largesse.

En tout cas c’est ce que les buveurs habituels de vin ont tendance à croire, et c’est peut-être pourquoi pour ceux-là, la nouvelle de ses bienfaits pour le coeur (et contre le cancer) n’en est pas une. 

Cependant, alors que deux de ses ingrédients, les flavonoïdes et le resvératrol, tous les deux des polyphénols, ont des bénéfices pour l’organisme humain, deux autres ingrédients peuvent être nocifs.  Décidons-nous après avoir étudié la question, s’il nous faut après tout un bon verre de vin de Bourgogne, ou s’il nous faut plutôt une bonne petite tisane aux fruits rouges. 

Les éléments du vin rouge qui sont censés nous faire du bien sont les flavonoïdes (qui peuvent prévenir le durcissement des artères), et qui se trouvent et dans le vin rouge et dans le vin blanc, et le resvératrol, qui réside uniquement dans les raisins rouges, les myrtilles, les framboises et les canneberges, et donc dans le vin rouge seulement.  Le resvératrol semble inhiber la croissance du cancer par ses interactions avec les enzymes qui suppriment les tumeurs.

Les éléments plus problématiques du vin rouge sont l’alcool et les sucres.  Les interactions de l’alcool avec les enzymes sont moins salutaires que celles du resvératrol, et en fait semblent plus favorables au cancer du fait qu’elles contribuent à la peroxydation des lipides, qui « peut produire des dégâts (parfois irréversibles) à la membrane cellulaire. » (Markosi traduit par A. Bayliss)

Le sucre, lui, en excès, a des effets inflammatoires sur les voies dans les cellules.  (Peiró, Conceptión, et alias). 

Alors, finalement, vu au microscope, le vin rouge semble posséder autant d’inconvénients que bienfaits, mais le bilan du vin blanc serait nettement négatif, comme il n’a pas de resvératrol et contient plus de sucre que le rouge. 

Mais….qu’en dit-on de l’effet salutaire du vin sur le psyché ? L’effet pompette, détendu, pas-de-souci qui nous met en esprit de se réunir ?  Les bénéfices du vin sans alcool peuvent-ils compenser la manque d’intoxication ?  Le jus de raisin serait-il capable de transformer assemblé en fête ? La marche en macarena ?  Devraient-ils ?    

Veuillez laisser vos pensées et suggestions ici !


Une enzyme:  une des nombreuses protéines complexes produites par des cellules vivantes qui  catalysent des réactions biochimiques à certaines températures du corps.

Des flavonoïds: un groupe de composés phénoliques trouvés dans la natures, dont nombreux sont à l’origine des pigments végétaux.  Dans leur état d’origine, ils sont de très forts antioxydants, mais ils sont mal absorbés par l’intestin humain. 

Un lipide: un parmi le groupe des matières grasses ou substances semblables aux matières grasses qui se caractérise par être insoluble dans l’eau mais soluble dans des un solvant tel le chloroform ou l’alcool.    

Des polyphénols: Des composés aromatiques végétaux.  Ils sont censés être antioxydants. 

Le resvératrol: une stilbène et antioxydant puissant.

Le vin : en moyenne, le vin est composé de 86% eau, 12% éthanol, 1% glycérol et des polysaccharides ou d’autres oligo-éléments, de différents types d’acides 0.5%, et des composés volatils, 0.5 %


Markosi, Melissa, “Molecular Properties of Red Wine Compounds and Cardiometabolic  Benefits” in Nutritional and Metabolic Insights Vol. 9 U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.  08/02/2016 

Peiró, Concepción, et al. “Inflammation, glucose, and vascular cell damage: the role of the pentose phosphate pathway.” Cardiovascular Diabetology 2016; 15:82, published online June 1st 2016, doi 10.1186/s12933-016-0397-2

Image: in  Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387


Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387

Lehman, Shereen, “Overview of Stilbenes in Plants” in Very Well Fit https://www.verywellfit.com/stilbenes-plant-antioxidants-2507072


“What lies within us”

All the buzz about live yogurt cultures may have you ruminating.  Yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented foods are said to balance  your gut flora, or intestinal bacteria.  This couldn’t just be marketing hype, could it?   To “heal” the gut, bacteria cells would have to plunge unscathed through the stomach’s deadly acid.  Can tasty live yogurt cultures survive an acid bath in order to emerge live in your intestines and bolster your immune response? It turns out that not all, but some, can and do.  How do we know?

First, terms!  A bacterium is a single cell microscopic organism.  As a group of living things, bacteria have their own category, like animals, fungi, and plants.

Familiar bacteria: E- Coli, Clostridium Difficile, C-Diff for short, and MRSA.  Those will kill you if they overpopulate.  But acidophilus and lactobacillus delbrueckii, along with 500 other bacteria found in the body, keep them in check.

Cultures – cultivation of living material in prepared nutrient media.  Yogurt cultures contain live bacteria.

Gut – a short term for the small and large intestines.  Parts of the gut play a role in immunity.   There are little patches of lymph, or immune cell growth areas, from the midpoint of the small intestine (duodenum) to the large, some of which are called Peyer’s patches.

Peyer’s patches – the circle of immune cells congregating inside the intestinal wall (see illustration above).

Antibiotic – a substance that can kill bacteria, which is actually derived from a fungus.  An antibiotic is a chemical defense that fungi have “evolved against bacterial competitors,” according to Dr. Andrew Weil.

Fiber – here, this means “roughage,” i.e. vegetable fibers that are hard to break down. It may provide safe passage through the stomach by binding to some good bacteria.

Binding – Bacteria can be protected from low pH by binding to food constituents.

A team of researchers studying yogurt consumption and bacterial survival published an interesting study from early 2006.  It looked at yogurt before and after it had been eaten, (euphemistically) to see if any of the good bacteria remained alive after passing through the stomach and intestines.

This French study tested for the survival of Lactobacillus delbrueckii in fecal samples.  Twenty people ate about 4 ounces of yogurt twice a day for a week.  The end project showed that the Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies, bulgaricus, appeared to survive the digestive process, while the subspecies streptococcus thermophilus did not.   So….yes, some of the good kind of bacteria have been found to survive the stomach and enter the gut, where they can help keep the bad kind from overpopulating.

Works Cited

Kapit, Wynn, and Elson, Lawrence, “Mucosal Associated Lymphoid Tissue (MALT)” The Anatomy Coloring Book, 3rd ed., Benjamin Cummings, 2002

Weil, Andrew, M.D., Mind over Meds, Little, Brown, and Co., 2017

Works Consulted

Elli, Marina, et al. “Survival of Yogurt Bacteria in the Human Gut” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2006 Jul; 72(7) pp. 5113-5117

This blog is original content by Ann Bayliss.  If you wish to quote any of this content, please contact her through wordpress, or simply cite as follows:  https://wordpress.com/post/tgrtranslation.wordpress.com/148.  Thank you.

Qui rogat, non errat; à bon questionneur, salut

Version française:

Y-a-t-il d’autres personnes qui ont fait une visite médicale récemment, et trouvé suprenant le silence de l’infirmière qui vous examine? 

Quand un infirmier ou une infirmière prend note des informations sur nous sans nous lire nos résultats, nous ignorons tous les détails de nos mensurations. Ce qui n’est pas souhaitable.

Même au cours d’un entretien médical fait exprès pour la discussion d’un résultat anormal, le médecin ne semblait pas avoir le résultat sous la main pendant la consultation, de sorte que la patiente risquait de ne recevoir ni explication, ni résultats imprimés!

Quand il s’agit d’une visite pour soi-même, on peut demander ces informations, mais quand on interprète pour un malade qui ne connait ni la langue ni le protocol ici, la règle de la profession oblige le silence.

La règle de l’impartialité veut que l’interprète évite de conseiller son client.

Mais rester muet devant des oublis du personnel médicaux fait en sorte que le client risque de rater des informations importantes.  Comme la fonction de l’interprète est de faciliter la communication pour que le client reçoive des informations dont il aura besoin, est-ce un conflit entre le protocol et le service au client ? 

Jusqu’à ce que ceci est résolu par les règles professionnelles de l’interpretation, j’invite tous mes clients et chaque patient de garder en tête le dicton latin : « Qui rogat, non errat,» ou «Qui demande, ne se trompe pas.» Si votre infirmier ou infirmière semble se concentrer sur la tâche d’entrer vos résultats dans un fichier éléctronique, il n’y a pas de mal à lui demander de repéter vos résultats plus lentement pour que vous puissiez les retenir, ou bien de les noter ou les imprimer.  En fin de compte, même dans les meilleures circonstances, vous pourriez venir en aide à la tâche de votre infirmière ou médecin en posant des questions a propos de vos résultats.

Qui rogat, non errat; who asketh, no mistaketh maketh

English version: 

Has anyone else been surprised lately by the silence of a nurse taking your vitals?  Twice recently, a nurse took my blood pressure, temperature, and weight and entered them into a computer without telling me what they were.  Even during an appointment made specifically for discussion of medical results, I had to ask for the printout of said results.  

The absence of information about vital measurements is problematic when it’s about you, but when you are an interpreter for a patient, it could put the patient’s health at risk. Not familiar with the protocol or the language, the patient will often go quietly along with the nurse or doctor’s omission. An undesirable outcome, yet protocol forbids the interpreter to intervene

The rules of interpreting are strict: an interpreter must interpret only what is said, and must not attempt to advise the client. Yet in this instance, remaining silent about silence potentially allows a client to miss valuable information. 

Since the interpreter’s reason for being is to make sure our clients get the information they need, is this a conflict between the protocol and the patient’s best interest?  Until this is resolved by the professional rules of interpretation, I invite all of my clients and every patient to keep in mind the following Latin proverb:  “Qui rogat, non errat.”  Or, “who asks, does not err.”  If your nurse seems focused on entering your information into a computer as fast as possible, you should ask him or her to repeat your readings and explain what they mean. I even write my results down.

Ultimately, no matter how hard a nurse or doctor may try, anyone can make a small mistake.  Ask, ask, ask until you understand – this is, after all, your appointment and your health.  Doctors and nurses may be specialists, but you are an equal partner with them where your body is concerned.  Once you leave the doctor’s office, it’s you who is taking care of you, so know what’s going on, and what those numbers mean!

Auto-translation bloopers

Avec remerciements à la série télévisée américaine, E.R. – Thank you, ER!

This is Ozzie – Ceci est Ozzie

Here’s Doctor Benton –  Voici Dr. Courbé-sur

Til he gets here, we’re it – Jusqu’a ce qu’il obtienne ici, nous sommes it.

I never said you were boring – Je n’ai jamais dit que vous étiez forage.

RE: A turkey someone shot for Thanksgiving and brought into the hospital:

A propos d’une dinde qu’on vient de tuer pour le Thanksgiving, apporté par hasard à l’hôpital:

Is that a Narraganset Tom?  – Est-ce que une Narraganset Tom?

He’s a big fellow, too – Il est un grand campagnon aussi.