Exploring multiple facets of modern men’s health

2695540485_7fed1903e5_zJune is Men’s Health Month! This is a time to bring awareness to preventable health issues and encourage early detection of diseases affecting men. As we wind down from celebrating Father’s Day this past weekend, here are a few articles focusing on some important men’s health issues.

Lowering salt intake helps alleviate a number of health concerns, such as decreasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and stomach cancer. However, how easy is it to reduce your sodium intake without compromising taste, or your wallet?  In a recent study, researchers sought to determine how feasible a low-sodium, inexpensive and nutritious meal for men could be. The authors used cost and nutritional data to model and optimize familiar diets. In this analysis, they showed that it is possible to decrease sodium levels to well below the recommended maximum, proving that nutrition does not need to be compromised when preparing an enjoyable low-cost meal.

So what should men be consuming to help with disease prevention? Olive plant leaves (Olea europaea L.) have been used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes for centuries. In a PLOS ONE clinical trial published this year, researchers investigated the effects of olive polyphenols on insulin balance.  In this study, 46 male participants received either capsules of olive leaf extract or a placebo for 12 weeks.  Through their observations, the researchers found that olive leaf extract significantly improved two factors related to Type 2 Diabetes (insulin sensitivity and pancreatic ?-cell secretory capacity) in overweight, middle-aged men.

What about prostate health, you might ask? The Prostate Specific Antigen test, along with digital rectal examination is widely used for prostate cancer screening. PSA, which stands for Prostate Specific Antigen, is a glycoprotein secreted by epithelial cells of the prostate gland, and individuals with prostate cancer have a higher than normal amount of this compound in their systems. PSA levels can also change in response to external factors like surgery, though, so understanding these other forces is crucial for the test to be effective.  In a recent study, authors investigated whether bike riding affects PSA concentration in men. The researchers took blood samples from 129 male participants 60 minutes before a bike ride and 5 minutes after completion. They found that cycling caused their PSA to increase an average of 9.5% when measured within 5 minutes after completing the ride. Based on these findings, the authors suggest a 24–48 hour period of abstinence from cycling before a PSA test to avoid any false positive results.

These articles are just a taste of the published articles touching on men’s health; for more research visit PLOS ONE here.



Wilson N, Nghiem N, Foster RH (2013) The Feasibility of Achieving Low-Sodium Intake in Diets That Are Also Nutritious, Low-Cost, and Have Familiar Meal Components. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58539. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058539

de Bock M, Derraik JGB, Brennan CM, Biggs JB, Morgan PE, et al. (2013) Olive (Olea europaea L.) Leaf Polyphenols Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Middle-Aged Overweight Men: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57622. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057622

Mejak SL, Bayliss J, Hanks SD (2013) Long Distance Bicycle Riding Causes Prostate-Specific Antigen to Increase in Men Aged 50 Years and Over. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056030

 Image Credit: on Flickr by Lindz Graham

PLOS ONE – Measuring Article Impact

citation counts2

A common misconception of PLOS ONE is that just because we don’t consider perceived impact or novelty when deciding what to publish, doesn’t mean we don’t care about the impact of articles we publish. We of course understand that some papers are more impactful than others. That’s why we’re committed to developing new tools that realistically and unbiasedly evaluate how our papers shape their fields.

The number of citations an article collects offers one perspective on how the work has influenced its field, and is one of the many diverse measures that PLOS Article-Level Metrics provide to help the community measure article impact (others include usage and social sharing).

We recently plotted all citations to every PLOS ONE paper published in 2010 (thanks to our ALM guru Martin Fenner, and to Scopus for the data in the graph above)

The graph tells an interesting story about the range of papers published in PLOS ONE, showing that, from ground-breaking, highly-cited research to small studies that appeal to niche audiences, the journal really is for all of science. But another important thing that arose from this analysis was how much the variability in citations came from the range of subjects we publish. Fields like cell biology are huge and well-funded, with thousands of research groups around the world publishing tens of thousands of papers, while others such as ophthalmology are quite small, with only a few groups actively publishing research. All those extra cell biology papers mean lots of extra citations for the whole field, so papers in this area receive many more citations overall compared to ophthalmology, where only a few hundred papers are published each year.

The catch-all nature of journal metrics, such as the Impact Factor, means that PLOS ONE is considered a ‘top journal’ in the field of ophthalmology, as its Impact Factor is higher than any specialist journal in that field, whereas in the cell biology world we are ‘mid-level’. To address this discrepancy between fields, PLOS now includes relative metrics on all our papers, so readers can see the activity around a paper (just page views so far) relative to others in its field. As a result, you can see at the article level the impact of specific research on its field.

My feeling is that PLOS ONE has a wider citation distribution than most other journals, although I haven´t seen their data to say for certain (I would love for more journals to start displaying their full citation data!). But while it’s great to see a good number of PLOS ONE papers receiving very high numbers of citations, I think the more notable achievement is that we really are publishing all kinds of research, regardless of its estimated impact, and letting the community decide what is worthy of citation. With the usual flurry of Impact Factor announcements due to start any day now, it’s a good time to remember that it is the papers, not the journals they´re published in, that make the impact.

Graph: This is a kernel density estimation of citation distribution rather than actual numbers, hence the fact that it looks like some papers have received fewer than zero citations (credit Martin Fenner)



Tuberculosis: Raising Awareness Through Research

One of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases has been with us since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It has been found in thousand-year-old Egyptian mummies and is still present in millions of homes today. What is this ancient disease you may ask? Tuberculosis.

Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection in the lungs, which can spread to other organs. According to the CDC, TB is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. And although significant progress has been made to eliminate this illness, 9 million new cases of tuberculosis were reported in 2011.

Tuberculosis is spread when an individual is exposed to a sneeze or cough of a person suffering from the disease. TB can also be contracted if someone has poor nutrition or living conditions.  In some cases, the infection can lie dormant in the body for years, and in others, it may become active and cause major complications. The primary stage of tuberculosis has no symptoms, but as the disease progresses, patients can suffer from bloody coughs, fatigue, fever and weight loss.

Ancient Roman physicians recommended treatments including bathing in human urine, eating wolf livers and drinking elephant blood. Today, though, modern medicine has found that Tuberculosis is preventable and treatable by more modern methods,  with early treatment being essential to stopping its progression.

In honor of World TB Day, observed yesterday on March 24th, here are some recently published papers from PLOS ONE on the subject:

Diabetes is a risk factor for TB, and it can also affect the severity of the infection and success of treatment. In a recent study, authors have researched the connection between diabetes, smoking and tuberculosis.  The cohort study featured patients suffering from their first episode of tuberculosis. Out of the 657 participants analyzed, diabetes was present in 25 percent, which increased the risk of death in the first 12 months after enrollment. Tobacco smoking also increased the risk of TB and caused further complications among diabetic patients.

In another recently published paper, researchers have investigated the outcome of aggressive treatments for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. The patients analyzed were treated in a national outpatient program in Peru from 1999 to 2002. Participants received individualized regimens for laboratory-confirmed tuberculosis.  In this cohort examination, authors found that TB was cured in 66 percent of the patients, showing that aggressive regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis can be extremely successful.

Lastly, the link between poverty and TB has been well established, but the mechanisms behind this link have not.  In a third PLOS ONE paper, authors investigated why the poor are at a greater risk for tuberculosis in India.  With data from the 2006 Demographic Health Survey, researchers analyzed incidences of TB and household economic status. They found low body mass index and air pollution may be partly responsible for the link between poverty and tuberculosis.

Further initiatives are needed to assist in the global eradication of tuberculosis. To expand your own awareness of this infectious disease, please explore additional PLOS ONE research here.



Reed GW, Choi H, Lee SY, Lee M, Kim Y, et al. (2013) Impact of Diabetes and Smoking on Mortality in Tuberculosis. PLoS ONE 8(2): e58044. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058044

Mitnick CD, Franke MF, Rich ML, Alcantara Viru FA, Appleton SC, et al. (2013) Aggressive Regimens for Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis Decrease All-Cause Mortality. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58664. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058664

Oxlade O, Murray M (2012) Tuberculosis and Poverty: Why Are the Poor at Greater Risk in India? PLoS ONE 7(11): e47533. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047533

Image: By isafmedia on Flickr

Heart Health Awareness Month

Before this month comes to a close, let us not forget to honor February as American Heart Month.

According to the CDC, heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease,  claims 600,000 lives in the U.S. each year. Heart disease refers to the plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Other heart conditions include arrhythmia, congenital defects, heart failure and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Researchers continue to study the best ways to properly care for and treat the beating organ within us. Last September, we discussed cardiovascular heath among women, and highlighted related articles published. Today, in honor of American Heart Month, we bring you recently published research that increases awareness and insight to heart health.

Did you ever feel there was a connection between your heart beat and self-image? PLOS ONE authors have attempted to answer this question by investigating the relationship between self-objectification and the beating heart in a recent article. Using a heartbeat perception task and questionnaire, researchers found that women who were able to hear their own heart beat were less likely to objectify themselves, proving yet another link between heart health and overall wellbeing.

In another recently published study, researchers explored the connection between white blood cell count and heart disease risk in young adults. The authors tested the white blood cell counts for over 29,000 healthy young men over an average of seven and a half years and also screened the participants for signs of coronary artery disease. Their investigation found that a higher white blood cell count correlated with coronary artery disease risk in young men. They concluded that white blood cell count may help in identifying young men with low or high risk for heart disease progression.

In a third article published by PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Granada investigated heart rate variability and cognitive performance. Participants were divided into a high-fit group and a low-fit group, and the authors measured the effects of three cognitive tasks on the participant’s heart rate variability. The researchers found that cognitive processing has an effect on heart rate variability, and the main benefit of fitness level was associated with processes involving sustained attention.

These articles are just a taste of the PLOS ONE research into cardiovascular health and the prevention of heart disease. As American Heart Month comes to an end, explore more research on the topic here.


Ainley V, Tsakiris M (2013) Body Conscious? Interoceptive Awareness, Measured by Heartbeat Perception, Is Negatively Correlated with Self-Objectification. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055568

 Twig G, Afek A, Shamiss A, Derazne E, Tzur D, et al. (2012) White Blood Cell Count and the Risk for Coronary Artery Disease in Young Adults. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47183. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047183

 Luque-Casado A, Zabala M, Morales E, Mateo-March M, Sanabria D (2013) Cognitive Performance and Heart Rate Variability: The Influence of Fitness Level. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56935. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056935

Image Credit: natalie419 on Flickr

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Health risks can be frightening, but ignorance to these risks can be even more terrifying. In the past, we have discussed a range of women’s health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and ovarian cancer.  To continue our commitment to health awareness, we would like to honor January as Cervical Health Awareness month.

PLOS ONE has published research tackling many aspects of cervical health, including cervical cancer and human papillomavirus.

Human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, at least 50% of sexually active people will contract the virus at some point in their lives.  There are more than 40 types of HPV, some of which may lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening and vaccination to help prevent human papillomavirus.

To further expand our knowledge and understanding of cervical health, researchers from across the globe continue to explore HPV, the vaccine and its social effects.

For example, in a study published in PLOS ONE, authors in Tanzania explored the reasoning behind young girls receiving or not receiving the HPV vaccination. After interviewing both adults and students, researchers found that vaccine education and parental meetings were crucial for vaccine acceptance. Knowing women who had suffered from cervical cancer was also a factor in the decision-making.

The effectiveness of the vaccine is also a common concern. In another article, Canadian researchers developed a system to track the effectiveness of the HPV vaccination in preventing the virus.  The authors created a protocol for linking multiple data registries to allow for ongoing monitoring of the vaccines effectiveness, while also ensuring patient privacy was taken into account. This research aims to understand the long term effects of the vaccine and future vaccination tracking initiatives.

This study expands our knowledge on the vaccination results, but what about transmission of the virus? In a third PLOS ONE report, researchers explored the prevalence of HPV in the DNA of males with infected female sexual partners.  The authors found that HPV was prevalent in 86% of the male participants surveyed. These men had the same high risk viral type as the infected women, supporting the importance of awareness in men to protect themselves and their partners. This area of investigation is important in expanding our knowledge of transmission of the virus and the risk of cervical cancer development.

All these studies are aimed at improving our understanding of HPV risks and vaccination, and there are many more. As Cervical Health Awareness month draws to an end, explore more PLOS ONE research on the subject here.


Watson-Jones D, Tomlin K, Remes P, Baisley K, Ponsiano R, et al. (2012) Reasons for Receiving or Not Receiving HPV Vaccination in Primary Schoolgirls in Tanzania: A Case Control Study. PLoS ONE 7(10): e45231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045231

El Emam K, Samet S, Hu J, Peyton L, Earle C, et al. (2012) A Protocol for the Secure Linking of Registries for HPV Surveillance. PLoS ONE 7(7): e39915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039915

Rocha MGdL, Faria FL, Gonçalves L, Souza MdCM, Fernandes PÁ, et al. (2012) Prevalence of DNA-HPV in Male Sexual Partners of HPV-Infected Women and Concordance of Viral Types in Infected Couples. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40988. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040988

Image: Glass sculpture of human papillomavirus.  Photograph by Luke Jerram, “Papilloma 2011″