Personal Health



Friday, May 7, 2010


Are taller men at greater risk of blood clots?


By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Friday, May 7, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Men who are six feet tall or taller may have a higher risk of blood clots in their veins than do their shorter counterparts, while height does not seem to have an impact on women's risk, a new study suggests.

The blood clots, known as venous thromboembolisms, include clots in the deep veins -- usually in the legs -- and pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when a deep-vein blood clot travels to the lungs.

Certain situations can lead to clots in some people, such as being immobilized after surgery or taking a long-haul flight. There are also lifestyle-related factors, such as obesity and smoking, which can leave a person more vulnerable to the blood clots.

Some studies have found a correlation between height and clot risk, with greater height equaling greater risk. But those studies have only included men.

In the new study, of nearly 27,000 Norwegian adults followed for 12 years, researchers confirmed an association between height and clots among men, but found no similar pattern among women.

Overall, the tallest men -- those who were taller than 181 centimeters, or roughly 6 feet -- had double the clot risk of men who were shorter than 173 centimeters, or 5 feet, 8 inches. That was with factors such as weight, smoking habits and diabetes taken into account.

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, do not prove that greater height itself is a risk factor for clots.

The researchers accounted for a number of factors that could have explained the link, but there may be other variables at work that were unmeasured in the study, according to lead researcher Dr. Sigrid K. Brakken, of the University of Tromso in Norway.

However, Brakken told Reuters Health by email, it is plausible that taller height could affect the odds of blood clots in the veins -- due to what's known as "venous stasis," or slowed blood flow in the veins, particularly those of the legs. That slower flow increases the potential for blood clotting.

The reason the association is seen only in men, according to Brakken, is likely because fewer women are tall enough for their height to affect clot risk.

The findings are based on data from 26,727 Norwegians between the ages of 25 and 96 who were followed for 12 years. During that time, 462 developed a first-time clot; they were often related to specific causes, like surgery, trauma or medical conditions such as cancer -- but in 42 percent of cases, there were no such "provoking" factors.

Among men who stood at six feet or taller, there were 1.68 clots per 1,000 men per year. That compared with a rate of 0.84 per 1,000 men per year among those who were shorter than 5 foot 8.

When the researchers accounted for weight and several other factors that affect clot risk, the tallest men still had double the risk of the shortest men.

If further research confirms that greater height is a risk factor for clots, Brakken said, it could help identify those people who need to take steps to prevent the blood clots.

Not smoking, losing excess weight and getting regular exercise are among the ways to lower clot risk.


 American Journal of Epidemiology, online April 23, 2010.

No Link Between Coffee, Sodas and Colon Cancer


HealthDay News

Friday, May 7, 2010

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Got a cola habit or a coffee addiction? Good news: A new review suggests even high amounts of coffee and sugary soft drinks might not boost your colon cancer risk.

Previous research has been inconsistent about whether coffee and tea boost the risk of cancer. Sugary sodas, meanwhile, are linked to obesity and other conditions that are thought to boost the risk of colon cancer in particular.

In the new review, published online May 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Xuehong Zhang and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health examined 13 studies from North America and Europe. Together, the studies analyzed more than 730,000 people, of whom more than 5,600 developed colon cancer.

Drinking more than six 8-ounce cups of coffee a day didn't boost the risk of colon cancer. Nor did drinking more than 18 ounces a day of sugary soft drinks, although the researchers cautioned that there were few of those people in the study, and their small numbers may have thrown off the results.

The researchers said the findings weren't affected much by factors such as gender, smoking and alcohol consumption.

There was a small boost in colon cancer risk for heavy tea drinkers (more than four 8-ounce cups of non-herbal tea a day), but there weren't many people that consumed that much tea, so researchers suggested that further study is needed.

In a commentary, researchers from the Arizona Cancer Center said that, "contrary to coffee and tea consumption, intake of sweetened beverages begins in childhood in many countries. Furthermore, sweetened beverage consumption is generally much lower among older adults. These differences in exposure suggest that intake of sweetened beverages may need to be assessed earlier in life to adequately assess its association with health outcomes."

More information

For more on colon cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Smoking moms tied to lasting kids' sleep woes


By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Friday, May 7, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have children with sleep problems from birth all the way through age 12, new research shows.

"The more cigarettes that mothers smoked during pregnancy, the more sleep problems the children had," Dr. Kristen Stone of Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, one of the study's authors, told Reuters Health.

What's more, while most of the women who smoked during pregnancy used at least one other drug, Stone and her team found that nicotine was the only substance associated with sleep problems.

Stone and colleagues from centers in Miami, Detroit, and Memphis are following nearly 1,400 children born in 1993, 1994 or 1995 to investigate the long-term effects of exposure to substances during pregnancy.

The current study included children for whom data was available up to age 12. Among the 808 study participants, 374 had been exposed to cocaine or opiates such as heroin before birth, while 434 had not.

Children's mothers or other caregivers reported on whether a child had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep during three periods: one month to four years of age; five to eight years, and nine to 12 years. Being exposed to cocaine, opiates, marijuana, or alcohol in the womb had no effect on a child's risk of having sleep problems, but nicotine did, and problems were seen at each of the three time points.

The researchers do not report what percentage of children had sleeping problems, but used a common measure of such problems that assigns points for items such as talking in one's sleep, sleepwalking, and having trouble falling asleep.

The link remained even after the researchers took into account factors such as socioeconomic status, whether or not a child had been abused, and whether the mother or caregiver smoked after the child was born.

The findings shouldn't be seen as showing that prenatal use of alcohol and drugs aside from cigarettes isn't as harmful to a child's sleep as smoking in pregnancy, Stone noted. Cigarettes are different from other substances, she explained, in that a person who smokes will typically do so much more frequently than a drug abuser uses cocaine or opiates.

Further, she said, many of the mothers in the study were using multiple substances while they were pregnancy. "When those substances are inside of us at the same time, they basically become a whole new substance because of their interactions with each other," she added. All of this makes it difficult to tease out the effects of nicotine and other drugs, according to the researcher.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Drs. Gideon Koren and Irena Nulman of the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, note that smoking mothers are different from nonsmoking mothers in many ways, and that Stone and her team were unable to account for all of them.

Until it's possible to identify all these factors and use statistical techniques to adjust for them, they add, it would be "premature" to say that cigarette smoke exposure in the womb caused a child's sleep problems.

When a child does have sleep problems, Stone said, "early and careful attention" to these issues can go along way toward helping that child sleep better.

"Even an emphasis on basic behavioral sleep education could serve those children well," she added. "Doing that would then likely improve the daytime experience for those children as well."


Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, May 2010.

Tumor Cells in Blood Affect Breast Cancer Survival


HealthDay News

Friday, May 7, 2010

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- The number of circulating tumor cells in the blood of metastatic breast cancer patients directly affects their survival, new research has found.

Circulating tumor cells are found in 50 percent to 80 percent of patients whose breast cancer has spread (metastatic breast cancer). It was already known that patients with five or more of these cells in 7.5 milliliters (mL) of blood have shorter average survival than those with fewer than five cells.

In this new study, researchers used an artificial neural network to analyze data from 516 metastatic breast cancer patients in order to learn more about the impact that increasing levels of circulating tumor cells have on survival.

"We found that there was a linear relationship between the number of circulating tumor cells and the risk of death in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Most importantly, the risk of death after one year for patients with 40 circulating tumor cells in 7.5 mL of blood was about twice that for patients with none," Dr. Antonio Giordano, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a news release from the European Society for Medical Oncology.

"These results show that the simple cutoff number of five circulating tumor cells probably does not adequately represent the complexity of this prognostic variable," he added.

The findings, scheduled to be presented this week at the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels, Belgium, may help improve personalized treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about metastatic cancer.

Is OJ as good a source of vitamin D as supplements?


By Lynne Peeples

Reuters Health

Friday, May 7, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A glass of orange juice may not only help the vitamin pill go down. A new study suggests that fortified varieties can also help the body's vitamin D levels go up - just as effectively as the supplement itself.

The finding could bring a welcome addition to a very short list of sources for vitamin D, which is thought to help fend off an array of health problems including brittle bones, diabetes, and cancer.

"A lot of people don't drink milk," which has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s, "but they do drink OJ in the morning," the study's study author, Dr. Michael Holick, of the Boston University School of Medicine, told Reuters Health.

Simply adding a vitamin to a food does not guarantee its absorption in the body. In fact, since vitamin D dissolves in fat but not water, there was concern that only fatty foods such as milk could be used.

But preliminary research several years ago by Holick and his team suggested that orange juice - not known for its fat content -- might be an effective way to deliver the vitamin. This prompted Minute Maid and Tropicana to begin adding it, along with calcium, to some of their products. (A division of Coca-Cola, which owns Minute Maid, funded Holick's study.)

Still, the question remained of whether the body could make use of as much vitamin D from orange juice as it could from a supplement. So the team recruited about 100 adults and had them drink a glass of orange juice every morning and to swallow a capsule every night for 11 weeks.

Some of the juices were fortified with 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D; others were vitamin-free placebos that looked and tasted the same. The capsules also came with or without vitamin D. Participants were randomly assigned one of each.

About 85 percent of the participants began the study with blood levels of vitamin D below the recommended healthy minimums, report the researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over the course of the 11 weeks, levels among those receiving vitamin D rose significantly. And the rise appeared to be the same regardless of whether the vitamin was consumed in juice or capsule form.

As expected, participants who had received both placebos showed no improvement in their vitamin D levels.

"The consumer now has one more option for obtaining vitamin D in the diet," Dennis Wagner, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Health by email. His research group recently added to the list themselves: cheese.

Unfortunately, he said, government regulations currently allow only 100 IU of vitamin D to be added to a serving of food or drink.

While that number could go up when the U.S. government revises its dietary guidelines this summer, Holick is concerned that it will still be too low to ensure healthy levels of vitamin D through diet alone. He recommends 2,000 IU a day for adults, and 1,000 IU for children.

Natural food sources are rare - mostly just oily fish and mushrooms - and Holick thinks it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to start taking supplements.

His solution is a controversial one: short spurts of unprotected time in the sun, the major natural source of vitamin D. He does, however, advise always protecting the face.

"Mother Nature designed the system very early to guarantee that we got enough vitamin D," said Holick. "Everyone was outside all the time, making it for free.'"

Wagner agrees, saying that humans are able to make a healthy dose of vitamin D in a relatively short amount of time before the skin starts to turn red and the risk of skin cancer begins to rise.

"However, the reliance on sunlight exposure as the primary source of vitamin D is often impractical, especially in northern latitudes during the winter," added Wagner. "An increase in the number and variety of foods fortified with vitamin D will increase the availability of this important vitamin ... and prevent the detrimental health consequences associated with vitamin D deficiency."


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 28, 2010.

Diabetes Test Results May Be Deceptive in Black Children

HealthDay News

Friday, May 7, 2010

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Black children with type 1 diabetes score higher than whites with similar blood glucose levels on a critical test, potentially leading their physicians to give them the wrong treatment, a new study says.

The test "can be deceptive in African-American children with diabetes, misleading their doctors into believing that glucose levels are higher than they really are," research team member Dr. Stuart A. Chalew, professor of pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, said in a news release from the school.

If doctors don't take both the test and self-monitored blood sugar levels into account, "they are likely to unintentionally provoke increased episodes of life-threatening hypoglycemia [low blood sugar] in African-American patients," Chalew said.

Chalew and colleagues tracked 276 children with type 1 diabetes for six years at Children's Hospital of New Orleans. The average age was 12.5 years and they had had diabetes for about five years, on average.

Researchers looked at results of the hemoglobin A1c screening test, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels over the previous two or three months. They also tracked blood sugar levels from glucose tests that the participants gave themselves for at least a month.

The researchers found racial disparities in the screening test results. "Besides the risk of over-treating with insulin and provoking hypoglycemia, the data also suggest that there is a need for alternate therapies to reduce diabetes complications other than insulin and other glucose-lowering agents," Chalew said.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

More information

To learn more about kids and diabetes, see

Couple of coffees may help some heart patients


Friday, May 7, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) – A couple of cups of coffee a day may help some heart attack patients to avoid further serious problems, provided they have normal blood pressure, researchers said on Friday.

The finding is somewhat surprising, given the fact that strong coffee can cause palpitations, but it underlines the complex nature of coffee's effect on the body.

A study of 374 patients who had a heart attack or other acute coronary event found those with normal blood pressure drinking one or two coffees a day were 88 percent less likely than non-coffee drinkers to develop a condition in which the heart fails to pump blood effectively.

So-called left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) is a common precursor of heart failure.

The protective effect, however, was not seen in patients with high blood pressure, where coffee drinking was actually associated with an increased likelihood of developing LVSD.

"Coffee contains several biologically active compounds, which may have either beneficial or harmful effects on the cardiovascular system," said investigator Christina-Maria Kastorini.

On the plus side, it is a rich source of chlorogenic acid and antioxidants, which are thought to be protective, but in people with hypertension its bad effect on blood pressure appears to cancel this out.

The research, by a team at Harokopio University and the Hippokration Hospital in Athens, Greece, was presented at a European Society of Cardiology meeting in Prague.

Cancer Society Says U.S. Report Failed to Prove Health Risks


By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Friday, May 7, 2010

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- One day after a report from the President's Cancer Panel faulted the United States for not doing enough to reduce the incidence of environmentally induced cancers, the American Cancer Society took issue with that conclusion.

The society agrees that many of the points raised in the report are important, but disagrees with the conclusion that it's an established fact that the effect of pollution -- especially from chemicals -- on cancer is much greater than had been thought. That connection remains unproven, said Dr. Michael J. Thun, the society's vice president emeritus for epidemiology and surveillance.

"We are not picking this fight because we like pollution," said Thun. "We hate pollution as much as anyone else. It's simply that cancer is a very important disease, pollution is a very important problem, but it's not clear how much the degree of overlap is."

According to Thun, the report's emphasis on pollution as an underestimated cause of cancer is partly due to Congress' reconsideration of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require reporting, record-keeping, testing and restrictions relating to chemical substances.

"The report was written in a way to draw attention to the issue and reflects the belief of the authors," he said.

Environmental factors are important and pollution contributes to some extent to cancer, Thun said. "The issue is at the dose to which we are exposed -- it's not clear that that has a large effect on cancer," he said. "It could have a large effect on cancer, but the evidence is not there yet."

Thun said the report also undervalued key cancer-prevention efforts, such as tobacco control; the development of a vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer; as well as a greater understanding of the role that infections and obesity can play in certain cancers.

"What I objected to is that in trying to draw emphasis to this particular aspect [pollution] that relates to cancer prevention, it was implied that the others are minor," he said.

In the report released Thursday, the President's Cancer Panel said the United States isn't doing enough to reduce the incidence of environmentally induced cancers. The report said that risk has been "grossly underestimated."

The report authors pointed to the apparent health effects of 80,000 or so chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA), that are used daily by millions of Americans. Studies have linked the plastics chemical with different types of cancer, at least in animal and laboratory tests.

"The real burden of environmentally induced cancer greatly underestimates exposure to carcinogens [and] is not addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program," said Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., chair of the panel that released the report and Charles R. Drew professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. "We need to eliminate these carcinogens from workplaces, homes and schools, and we need to start doing that now. There's ample opportunity for intervention and change, and prevention to protect the health of all Americans."

Despite advances, cancer is still a major public health problem in the United States and about 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives, the report stated. Twenty-one percent will die of the disease.

The President's Cancer Panel is an advisory group appointed to monitor the development and execution of the National Cancer Program. The group's report addresses a different topic every year.

This year's document stated that while chemicals such as radon, formaldehyde and benzene are ubiquitous in the United States and exposure is commonplace, the public is not aware of the harm these chemicals may be causing to individuals.

More information

View the full report at the President's Cancer Panel.

Stress early in pregnancy increases risks to babies


By Rachael Myers Lowe

Reuters Health

Friday, May 7, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Stressful situations in early pregnancy can lead to the birth of babies who are underweight or born too early, new research from China shows. Timing of the stress, the researchers found, was the key.

"The findings are modest, but significant," the authors write in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The risks of premature births increased two-fold in women who were exposed to severe life events during their first and second trimesters - weeks 1-12 and 13-24, respectively. Premature birth, the authors note, is the single largest contributing factor in infant deaths in the developing world.

Researchers from Anhui Medical University, led by Dr. Peng Zhu, followed 1,800 pregnant women receiving prenatal treatment in 2008 at one hospital. The participants were surveyed on financial conditions, emotional support, traumatic events and their relationships with their spouses. Were jobs or fortunes lost, were family members cheated, did the family move, did a family member die or suffer an illness, or was there fighting or divorce?

There were 96 (5.3 percent) premature births and 55 (3.1 percent) low birth-weight babies.

Earlier studies have found that future moms with stressful lives were at greater risk of delivering preterm or low birth-weight babies. This study - looking at a long list of potentially stressful events experienced during pregnancy only - concluded that the earlier in pregnancy the stress occurred, the greater the risk.

The Zhu team found that premature birth was more than twice as likely if severely stressful events occurred during the first and second trimesters, but not the third. Low birthweight was nearly three times more likely if stress happened during the first trimester, compared to if it happened during the second or third trimester.

While for the most part consistent with earlier research, the Chinese researchers caution that the reach of their findings could be limited.

For instance, they warn that faulty memories, the small number of women in some of the stress categories, and the possibility that the list of stress events was flawed could weaken the power of the results.

The Zhu team concluded that health planners seeking to reduce the incidence of pre-term and low-weight births must take maternal stress into account when designing intervention programs.

However, Drexel University's Dr. Robert L. Goldenberg, who was not involved in the study, said the findings will not change current practice.

"There aren't even any hints about what those interventions might be," Goldenberg told Reuters Health. "While they suggest the need for interventions, they do nothing to move knowledge forward."

Interventions that have been tested in well-designed clinical trials, such as counseling and home care assistance, have not demonstrated any benefit, Goldenberg said.

"If we want to improve outcomes, we must now figure out interventions that will reduce the effects of the problem," he said.


 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, online April 26, 2010.

No Link Between Childhood Infections, Autism


By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Friday, May 7, 2010

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Infections during infancy or childhood do not seem to raise the risk of autism, new research finds.

Researchers analyzed birth records for the 1.4 million children born in Denmark between 1980 and 2002, as well as two national registries that keep track of infectious diseases. They compared those records with records of children referred to psychiatric wards and later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Of those children, almost 7,400 were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The study found that children who were admitted to the hospital for an infectious disease, either bacterial or viral, were more likely to receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

However, children admitted to the hospital for non-infectious diseases were also more likely to be diagnosed with autism than kids who were never hospitalized, the study found.

And the researchers could point to no particular infection that upped the risk.

They therefore conclude that childhood infections cannot be considered a cause of autism.

"We find the same relationship between hospitalization due to many different infections and autism," noted lead study author Dr. Hjordis Osk Atladottir, of the departments of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus in Denmark. "If there were a causal relationship, it should be present for specific infections and not provide such an overall pattern of association."

The study was published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by problems with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted interests and behaviors.

The prevalence of autism seems to be rising, with an estimated 1 in 110 children affected by the disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite significant effort, the causes of autism remain unclear, although it's believed both genetic and environmental factors contribute, said Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, director of medical research at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

Previous research has suggested that children with autism are more likely to have immune system abnormalities, leading some to theorize that autism might be triggered by infections, Zimmerman said.

Some parents of children with autism have also reported that their children have more frequent infections. While a few studies have shown children with autism may suffer slightly more ear and respiratory infections compared to normally developing children, others found no such connection, Atladottir said.

In addition, there are anecdotal reports of children developing autism after serious infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, Zimmerman said.

In the study, researchers searched for any connection between those particular illnesses, as well as a host of others, including bacterial, viral and fungal infections, and respiratory illnesses, herpes virus and urinary tract infections, specifically. They came up empty handed.

"Yes, there is an increased rate of hospitalization preceding the diagnosis of autism, but it doesn't support a causal relationship between autism and infections," Zimmerman said.

There is a wide range of reasons why children with autism may be more likely to be hospitalized for an illness, the study authors said. For example, autistic children could be more prone to physical illnesses, either due to autism or other medical conditions.

Parents of children with autism frequently report that their children are prone to gastrointestinal problems, such as chronic diarrhea and constipation. Some estimates put the number of kids with autism and gastrointestinal difficulties at 40 percent, Zimmerman said.

Another reason kids with autism might be more likely to be hospitalized for infectious or other illnesses is that their parents are worried about their child's development and are therefore more likely to seek out medical care.

More medical visits might also help prompt an autism diagnosis, Atladottir said. "It could be that medical professionals see the developmental problems in the child and refer the child further to a child psychiatrist," he explained.

Although this study found no link between autism and childhood infections, prenatal infections -- particularly during the first and second trimesters -- may up the chances children will have autism, prior research has found.

A study published online April 23 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders by the same group of researchers found a link between autism and hospitalization for maternal viral infection in the first trimester, such as flu, and bacterial infection in the second trimester.

Children whose mothers had a viral infection requiring hospitalization during the first trimester had nearly three times the risk of a later autism diagnosis, according to that study.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on autism.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Vitamin D Best Taken With Largest Meal of Day, Study Finds


HealthDay News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Your body may make better use of a vitamin D supplement if you take it with your largest meal, new research suggests.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic examined 17 patients with vitamin D deficiency who weren't getting better under treatment. Over a period of two to three months, the patients were told to take vitamin D supplements with the biggest meal they ate each day.

This boosted the level of vitamin D in their blood by an average of 56 percent, the researchers said.

"This is an important finding for patients being treated for vitamin D deficiency," study senior author Dr. Angelo Licata said in a news release from the Cleveland Clinic. "By doing something as simple as changing when you take your vitamin D supplement, you can improve the level in your blood by over 50 percent."

The study was recently published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

More information

For more about vitamin D, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Low vitamin D common even among southern teens


Reuters Health

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Most black adolescents have insufficient amounts of the sunshine vitamin in their blood, even those living in the sunny southeastern US, new research shows.

About a third of white teens also had insufficient vitamin D levels, Dr. Yanbin Dong of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues found. And while actual deficiency of the vitamin was rare among whites -- seen in only 3 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys -- it was common for black adolescents, especially girls.

Several studies have found a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in adolescents, the researchers note. However, investigations in sunnier locales have looked at vitamin D levels in the winter months, when scarcer sun means levels are lower.

To investigate how vitamin D levels vary with the seasons in more southerly US locations, the researchers looked at 559 14- to 18-year-olds living near Augusta, Georgia. Forty-five percent were black, and 49 percent were female.

Overall, the researchers found, 56 percent of the teens had insufficient vitamin D levels, defined as less than 75 nanomoles per liter of blood, while nearly 30 percent had vitamin D deficiency, meaning their levels were below 50 nanomoles per liter of blood. And in all four seasons, levels were lower for blacks than whites.

When the researchers looked at whites and blacks separately, they found stark differences. Thirty percent of white girls and white boys had insufficient vitamin D, compared to 94 percent of black girls and 83 percent of black boys. Vitamin D deficiency was seen in 74 percent of black girls and 47 percent of white boys.

None of the white study participants had vitamin D deficiency in the summer, the researchers found, but 55 percent of black study participants did. And for black girls, average levels never climbed above 50 nanomoles per liter in any season.

The researchers also found that with any measure of body composition they looked at, including body mass index, waist size, or proportion of body fat, vitamin D levels fell as fatness increased. Teens that got more vigorous physical activity had higher vitamin D levels.

Black people are believed to have lower levels of vitamin D because their more heavily pigmented skin doesn't produce the vitamin as readily as paler skin does, the researchers note. Some investigators have suggested that the greater percentage of obesity among black individuals may also be a factor.

But in the current study, race was far more influential than obesity; the researchers calculated that it accounted for 48 percent of the variation in vitamin D levels, while season accounted for just 3 percent and fat mass and physical activity counted for 1 percent each.

Vitamin D levels among teens have been declining over the past 10 to 15 years, the researchers note. "Taken together, these findings suggest that low vitamin D status is a growing national problem for adolescents in the United States, regardless of latitude," they conclude.

Source: Pediatrics, June 2010.

Study Disputes Link Between Milk and Kidney Cancer

HealthDay News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- If you were worried about drinking milk because of a reported link with a type of kidney cancer, you can relax. A new study suggests no such association exists.

"The data in this study provide no concrete evidence of a need to alter milk drinking in any way," the study's lead author, Nicholas Timpson, a lecturer in genetic epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "If anything, the failure of genetic findings to replicate the association between milk and renal cell cancer suggests that fears that milk consumption might elevate cancer risk are likely to be unfounded."

Timpson and his colleagues studied patients at hospitals in four European countries from 1999 to 2003, looking to see whether a genetic variation associated with lactose tolerance could be a marker for a link between milk consumption and the risk for renal cell carcinoma, a type of cancer that affects small tubes in the kidney.

"We found evidence for the often-questioned relationship between milk consumption and cancer, yet when we used genotypes to verify this relationship, there was no corroboratory evidence," Timpson said. "This does suggest that the basic findings may be subject to the kinds of biases and inaccuracies that often upset epidemiological research." He added that research would be needed "on a much larger scale in order to verify these initial findings."

The study is in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Johanna Lampe, a nutrition scientist in the division of public health sciences at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, wrote in an accompanying commentary that the study is "a reminder to proceed with caution when interpreting data that suggest an association between intake of specific foods and risk of a particular cancer."

"Human diet is complex and typically involves adherence to certain dietary patterns that are also tied to other lifestyle behaviors," Lampe wrote.

More information

For more about renal cell carcinoma, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Alcohol in pregnancy may boost child's leukemia risk


By Megan Brooks

Reuters Health

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women who drink alcohol while pregnant raise the risk that their child will develop a rare type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a new study suggests.

In a pooled analysis of data from published studies, researchers found that drinking alcohol during pregnancy was associated with a 56 percent increased risk of AML in children.

But in an email to Reuters Health, Dr. Julie Ross of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was not involved in the study, said it's important for women to know that childhood AML is rare (about 700 cases are diagnosed each year) and likely has many causes.

Moreover, she said: "The vast majority of women who consume alcohol during pregnancy will not have a child who develops leukemia. However, given other risks associated with alcohol drinking during pregnancy, these results can help to reiterate the message that it is probably best to abstain from alcohol if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant."

What causes leukemia in children is largely unknown, but researchers suspect it may be an interaction between genes and the environment, including drinking alcohol, Dr. Paule Latino-Martel of the Research Center for Human Nutrition in France and colleagues note in a report published online today.

When the researchers looked at 21 previous studies of women's drinking habits during pregnancy and childhood leukemia, they found that women who drank during pregnancy had a 56 percent increased risk of childhood AML, they report in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Ross cautioned, however: "While a 56 percent increased risk sounds like a lot, in real terms it means that with a childhood AML incidence rate in the US of about 8 cases diagnosed per million children, the risk might increase to about 12 cases diagnosed per million children. Thus about 4 more cases per million children."

Despite the recommendation that women abstain from alcohol while pregnant, it's estimated that 60 percent of Russian women drink while pregnant, as do 59 percent of their Australian counterparts. Fifty-two percent of French women, 30 percent of Swedish women and 12 percent of American women drink while pregnant, according to estimates.

For American women, Ross further explained: "If we are to believe that the risk (of childhood AML) is increased by about 56 percent, and that about 12 percent of US women drink alcohol sometime during pregnancy, this means that perhaps up to about 6 percent of childhood AML in the US might be attributable to alcohol consumption."

On the flip side, "this also means that 94 percent might be attributable to other causes," Ross noted.

Only a few of the studies reviewed by Latino-Martel's group reported results according to type of alcohol consumed -- beer, wine, or spirits -- and the existing evidence does not suggest that one type of alcohol could be more related to leukemia risk than another, they say.

The limited available data also make it impossible to tell whether it matters when women drink in the course of a pregnancy, although risk tended to be higher when alcohol was consumed later in pregnancy.

The researchers say it's possible the results were skewed because some women who drank during pregnancy did not admit to it "due to the stigma." There were other limitations: Only a few of the studies adjusted for smoking during pregnancy and factors such as exposure to pesticides, folate intake, birth weight and age of the women were largely not taken into account.

Despite these limitations and caveats, the current findings serve to strengthen the public health recommendation against drinking alcohol during pregnancy, the study team, and Ross, conclude.

Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, online May 6, 2010.


Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer


HealthDay News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Eating broccoli just might have benefits in the fight against breast cancer.

At least in mice, a compound derived from broccoli appears to be able to kill breast cancer stem cells, which help tumors grow, according to a new study. But it's too soon to know if the compound would work in people. And the amount tested is larger than the amount people could consume in their diet.

The compound, known as sulforaphane, "has been studied previously for its effects on cancer, but this study shows that its benefit is in inhibiting the breast cancer stem cells," study co-author Duxin Sun, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, said in a university news release.

The researchers administered sulforaphane to mice with breast cancer and monitored the number of cancer stem cells in their tumors. They found that the treated mice had fewer of the cells and that they couldn't generate new tumors. Tests on human breast cancer cells in the laboratory resulted in similar decreases in cancer stem cells, they reported.

"This research suggests a potential new treatment that could be combined with other compounds to target breast cancer stem cells," Dr. Max S. Wicha, an oncology professor and director of the university's Comprehensive Cancer Center, and also a study co-author, said in the news release. "Developing treatments that effectively target the cancer stem cell population is essential for improving outcomes."

The study was published May 1 in Clinical Cancer Research.

More information

Visit the American Cancer Society for more about breast cancer.

Mom's depression doesn't affect kids' growth


Reuters Health

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young children whose mothers have long-lasting postpartum depression do not seem to suffer any ill effects on their growth and weight gain, new research suggests.

In theory, mothers' depression, particularly if it's lasting, could impair babies' and young children's growth -- by, for instance, making it harder for new moms to breast feed or, at later ages, making sure their children have a healthy diet.

To investigate the question, Brazilian researchers followed nearly 3,800 children and their mothers over the children's first four years of life. They found that 30 percent of the mothers screened positive for postpartum depression at some point -- including nearly 5 percent who persistently had symptoms during the study period.

Initially, children whose mothers had lasting depression appeared to have heightened risks of both stunted growth -- shorter than the norm for their age -- and being underweight.

Six percent of children whose mothers had long-term depression showed stunted growth, versus 3 percent of children whose mothers were never depressed after giving birth. The corresponding rates for underweight were nearly 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

However, after the researchers accounted for factors such as family income and mothers' education, postpartum depression itself was no longer linked to children's growth.

Dr. Ina S. Santos and colleagues at the Federal University of Pelotas report the findings in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The results, the researchers write, suggest that while poorer growth was more common among children of chronically depressed mothers, the problem stems from factors other than the depression.

However, they also point out that this may not be universally true.

Studies in India and Pakistan, for example, have linked mothers' depression to impaired child growth. It's possible, Santos and her colleagues write, that in some countries where women "face great adversities and are less empowered," depression may make it difficult for a mother to ensure her children are well-nourished.

The findings also highlight just how common postpartum depression is, the researchers write, with 30 percent of mothers in this study screening positive at some point during their children's first four years.

That high prevalence, Santos and her colleagues write, suggests that "healthcare workers need to be prepared to screen and recognize maternal depression and treat it appropriately."

Source: Journal of Pediatrics, online April 19, 2010.

Brain Develops Differently in Fragile X Syndrome

HealthDay News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Brain development in very young boys with fragile X syndrome differs from that in boys without the genetic disorder, a new study has found.

Fragile X syndrome, which is triggered by a mutation in a gene on the X chromosome, is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability and autism. Though the syndrome affects about one in every 4,000 people, males with the disorder experience more significant symptoms than females.

U.S. researchers used high-resolution MRI to monitor long-term changes that differentiated the brain anatomy of 41 boys with fragile X syndrome and a control group of 21 healthy boys and seven other children who were experiencing developmental delays not caused by fragile X syndrome.

Detailed images of the children's brains were first taken when they were 1 to 3 years old. Follow-up images were taken up to two years later. The first sets of images revealed that the children with fragile X syndrome had an overabundance of gray matter in some brain regions (caudate and thalamus) and a reduced amount of gray matter in a part of the cerebellum called the vermis.

The findings suggest that the genetic mutation had already started to cause identifiable, consistent alterations in brain development, perhaps even before birth, the study noted.

The researchers also found that other areas of the brain, such as the basal forebrain and many regions of the cerebral cortex, were the same in children with fragile X syndrome and those in the control group at the first imaging session. However, differences were seen two years later, which suggests that certain effects of the X chromosome mutation become evident only later in brain development.

The study findings were published online May 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"A number of years ago, we saw new treatments [for fragile X syndrome] quickly coming down the line," Dr. Allan Reiss, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and radiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the study's senior author, said in a university news release. "We wanted to provide information that could be used to guide those treatments."

Knowing where and when fragile X syndrome affects brain development can help researchers monitor the effects of new treatments, Reiss explained.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about fragile X syndrome.

Genes Tie Blood Fat to Heart Disease

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter by Steven Reinberg
HealthDay News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have long debated the role triglyceride levels might play in heart disease, and finally they have genetic evidence linking high concentrations of the blood fat to an increased risk of heart trouble.

Until now, cholesterol levels were the key targets of heart disease prevention efforts, but experts say a new report in the May 8 issue of The Lancet may revise that thinking.

Triglycerides, a major source of human energy, are produced by the liver or derived from foods. "Despite several decades of research, it has remained uncertain whether raised levels of triglyceride can cause heart disease," said lead researcher Nadeem Sarwar, a lecturer in cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of Cambridge in England.

"We found that people with a genetically programmed tendency for higher triglyceride levels also had a greater risk of heart disease," Sarwar said. "This suggests that triglyceride pathways may be involved in the development of heart disease."

To explore a genetic link between triglycerides and heart disease, Sarwar's team collected data on 302,430 people who participated in 101 studies. "We employed novel genetic approaches -- so-called 'Mendelian randomization analysis,'" he said.

Specifically, the researchers looked at mutations in the apolipoprotein A5 gene, a known determinant of triglyceride concentrations. They found that for every copy of the variant, there was a 16 percent increase in triglyceride concentrations, so two copies increased triglyceride levels 32 percent.

People with two such variants had a 40 percent increased risk of developing heart disease, the researchers calculated.

Although these genetic findings indicate a causative role for triglyceride pathways in the development of heart disease, they do not replace the need for large randomized clinical trials of medications that lower blood triglyceride levels, Sarwar said.

Such trials should help establish whether reducing triglyceride concentration can reduce the risk of heart disease, he said. "There are several medications currently available or under development that can influence blood triglyceride levels," he noted.

Drug maker Novartis, the British Heart Foundation and the UK Medical Research Council funded the study.

Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, also said more research is needed.

"Elevated LDL cholesterol has been definitively established as a major modifiable cardiovascular risk factor," he said. "There is also strong evidence that low levels of HDL identify individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular events. However, the independent role that elevated triglyceride levels play in cardiovascular risk has been more difficult to establish and controversial," he said.

This study suggests a modest independent association between triglycerides and coronary heart disease, Fonarow said.

"Despite these findings it still remains to be demonstrated whether lowering triglyceride levels in patients with -- or at risk for -- cardiovascular disease will in and of itself reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and if so by how much," he said.

Another expert, Dr. Byron Lee, an assistant professor of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, suggested the study could alter the guidelines for heart prevention. "Traditionally, clinicians have focused only on getting our patients' LDL down and our HDL up because we thought that these were the major players in heart disease," he said.

"However, this study indicates that we need to now worry about high triglyceride levels as well," he added.

More information

For more information on heart disease, visit the American Heart Association.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


How Dark Chocolate May Guard Against Brain Injury from Stroke



Wednesday, May 5, 2010


ScienceDaily (May 5, 2010) — Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.


Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals' brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the epicatechin suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.


While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two- to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.


Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pharmacology and molecular sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says his study suggests that epicatechin stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways -- Nrf2 and heme oxygenase 1 -- are activated. In mice that selectively lacked activity in those pathways, the study found, epicatechin had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.


The study now appears online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.


Eventually, Doré says, he hopes his research into these pathways could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.


The amount of dark chocolate people would need to consume to benefit from its protective effects remains unclear, since Doré has not studied it in clinical trials. People shouldn't take this research as a free pass to go out and consume large amounts of chocolate, which is high in calories and fat. In fact, people should be reminded to eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.


Scientists have been intrigued by the potential health benefits of epicatechin by studying the Kuna Indians, a remote population living on islands off the coast of Panama. The islands' residents had a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Scientists who studied them found nothing striking in the genes and realized that when they moved away from Kuna, they were no longer protected from heart problems. Researchers soon discovered the reason was likely environmental: The residents of Kuna regularly drank a very bitter cocoa drink, with a consistency like molasses, instead of coffee or soda. The drink was high in the compound epicatechin, which is a flavanol, a flavanoid-related compound.


But Doré says his research suggests the amount needed could end up being quite small because the suspected beneficial mechanism is indirect. "Epicatechin itself may not be shielding brain cells from free radical damage directly, but instead, epicatechin, and its metabolites, may be prompting the cells to defend themselves," he suggests.


The epicatechin is needed to jump-start the protective pathway that is already present within the cells. "Even a small amount may be sufficient," Doré says.


Not all dark chocolates are created equally, he cautions. Some have more bioactive epicatechin than others.

"The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light" he says. "In the process of making chocolate, you have to make sure you don't destroy it. Only few chocolates have the active ingredient. The fact that it says 'dark chocolate' is not sufficient."


The new study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart and Stroke Association.


Other Johns Hopkins researchers on the study include Zahoor A. Shah, Ph.D.; Rung-chi Li, Ph.D.; Abdullah S. Ahmad, Ph.D.; Thomas W. Kensler, Ph.D.; and Shyam Biswal, Ph.D.

Journal Reference:

Zahoor A Shah, Rung-chi Li, Abdullah S Ahmad, Thomas W Kensler, Masayuki Yamamoto, Shyam Biswal and Sylvain Dor. The flavanol (−)-epicatechin prevents stroke damage through the Nrf2/HO1 pathway. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2010.53

Asians risk of age-related blindness equals whites


Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Aging Asians appear to be as vulnerable to age-related vision loss as their white counterparts, a new review and analysis of the medical literature shows.

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a leading cause of blindness in older people. In AMD, the center of the retina deteriorates, causing people to lose their sharp central vision. Studies have found nearly 30 percent of people over age 75 have the disease, according to the National Eye Institute, and rates are rising around the world.

The conventional wisdom has been that Asians are less likely to develop AMD than whites, based on studies in hospitalized patients. But this type of study doesn't really show how common a disease is in the general population.

To investigate, Dr. Ryo Kawasaki of the University of Melbourne in Australia and colleagues looked at nine different studies done in four different Asian populations, comparing the rates of both early AMD and advanced AMD in Asians to estimates in whites.

Among 40- to 79-year-old Asians, the researchers found, 7 percent had early AMD, while less than half a percent had advanced disease. These percentages are comparable to what's been seen in age-matched whites (9 percent early AMD and less than 1 percent advanced AMD).

Asian men, the researchers found, were more likely than white men to have late-stage AMD, while the reverse was true for women. The researchers were unable to compare risks in people 80 and older because there were too few study participants in this age group.

Some researchers have suggested that certain subtypes of AMD might be more common in Asians than whites, Kawasaki and colleagues note. Further research is needed, they conclude, to better explain why early AMD is less common among Asians, and why it is relatively rare among Asian women.

Source: Ophthalmology, May 2010.

Bad night's sleep can hamper body's insulin use

By Kate Kelland


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) – Just one sleepless night can hamper the body's ability to use insulin to process sugar in the bloodstream, according to a study which scientists say might help explain why diabetes is on the rise.

Researchers said their findings suggest it may be no coincidence that while sleep duration has shortened in western societies in the past decade there has also been an increase in cases of "insulin resistance" and adult-onset diabetes.

"Our findings show a short night of sleep has more profound effects on metabolic regulation than previously appreciated," said Esther Donga, director of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, who led the study published on Wednesday.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to adequately use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to control glucose sugar produced from food. Sugar levels rise and can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and major arteries.

The disease, linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, is reaching epidemic levels. An estimated 180 million people now suffer from diabetes around the world.

Previous studies have found that several nights of poor sleep can result in impaired use of insulin, but Donga said this was the first study to examine the effects of only a single bad night's sleep.

The Dutch scientists examined nine healthy people -- once after a night of eight hours sleep and once after a night of just four hours.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), showed that partial sleep restriction during a single night reduced some types of insulin sensitivity by 19 to 25 percent.

"Our data indicate that insulin sensitivity is not fixed in healthy (people), but depends on the duration of sleep in the preceding night," Donga wrote in the study.

"In fact it is tempting to speculate that the negative effects of multiple nights of shortened sleep on glucose tolerance can be reproduced, at least in part, by just one sleepless night."

A study by U.S. scientists published last year found that people who slept less than six hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to develop abnormal blood sugar readings in six years compared with those who slept longer.

Experts say adults typically need between seven and nine hours sleep a night.

Donga said further studies were needed to see whether ways of improving sleep duration could help stabilize glucose levels in patients with diabetes.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

Light drinking after heart attack may have benefits

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Moderate drinkers who continue the habit after suffering a heart attack may fare better than their counterparts who give up alcohol, a new study suggests.

Many studies have linked light-to-moderate drinking to a lower risk of developing heart disease, compared with both heavy drinking and abstention. The new findings, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, are the first to link moderate drinking after a heart attack to health benefits.

Researchers found that among 325 moderate drinkers followed for several years after having a heart attack, those who continued their usual drinking habits generally had better physical function than those who quit drinking.

They also tended to have less chest pain and report a higher health-related quality of life, but those differences were not significant in statistical terms, so may have been chance findings.

The findings do not prove that moderate drinking is the reason for the better physical function.

But the results are in line with past studies pointing to health benefits from moderate drinking, particularly red wine, according to senior researcher Dr. James H. O'Keefe, of the Mid America Heart Institute of St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.

He said that heart attack patients who have always been moderate drinkers -- up to a drink a day for women and up to two per day for men -- should talk to their doctors about whether it is all right to continue that pattern.

"This study," he said in an interview, "suggests that, unless their doctors tell them not to, they can continue to drink and feel good about it."

The findings are based on data from 325 heart attack survivors treated at 19 U.S. hospitals who said they had been moderate drinkers before the attack. Overall, 84 percent kept up that drinking pattern, while 16 percent quit drinking.

One year after the heart attack, patients who were still drinking moderately generally had higher scores on a standard questionnaire of physical functioning -- which gauges people's ability to climb stairs, carry groceries and perform other day-to-day tasks.

Drinkers also had a lower death rate after three years -- 6 percent, versus 10 percent among quitters -- and fewer repeat hospitalizations in the first year post-heart attack. However, when the researchers accounted for patient factors such as age and overall health at the time of the heart attack, moderate drinking itself was no longer strongly linked to lower death rates or hospitalizations.

In contrast, moderate drinking remained linked to better physical function even when other factors were considered. That, O'Keefe said, suggests that drinking may bestow the benefit.

He noted that studies have pointed to a number of mechanisms by which moderate drinking may do the body good -- including raising "good" HDL cholesterol, reducing body-wide inflammation, and improving sensitivity to the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

O'Keefe cautioned, however, that heavier drinking is linked to a number of increased health risks compared with both moderate drinking and abstention. Heavy drinking can, for example, raise blood pressure, promote blood clotting and contribute to heart-rhythm disturbances.

Experts also generally do not recommend that non-drinkers start drinking for the sake of the potential heart benefits, as it is not possible to predict which non-drinkers might develop alcohol abuse problems.

Source: American Journal of Cardiology, online April 26, 2010.

Heavier Birth Weight Tied to Later Conduct Troubles

HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Among twins whose weight differs markedly at birth, the heavier child is more likely to have conduct problems at ages 3 and 4, a new study finds.

"The findings suggest an effect of birth weight differences on development of subsequent conduct problems," researchers led by Dr. David Mankuta of Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital in Jerusalem, said in a news release. "Further studies are needed to clarify the mediating factors of this effect."

The team studied 112 pairs of Israeli twins in which one weighed at least 20 percent more than the other. The twins were born in 2004 and 2005.

The researchers found that the heavier twin had more conduct problems in 41 percent of the twin pairs. The twin who weighed less had more conduct problems in only 21 percent of the cases.

The study findings were published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

For more on twins, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Does working nights cause breast cancer?

By Frederik Joelving

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Whether breast cancer should be labeled as an occupational disease is still unclear, researchers behind a new study from China suggest.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, and so far only one country (Denmark) has awarded compensation to shift workers who develop the disease.

If more were to follow suit, it could have far-reaching economic consequences. Just last week, for instance, the Health and Safety Executive -- a UK public body -- issued a report estimating that almost 2,000 British women get breast cancer every year due to shift work, and more than 550 die.

The Chinese study, however, showed no sign of a connection between night-shift work and breast cancer.

"We basically found no association, even among women who had more than 25 years of shift work," said Wong-Ho Chow, a researcher with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who worked on the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

With colleagues from US and Chinese universities, Chow followed more than 70,000 women in Shanghai, inquiring about their work and cancer status.

Earlier research in animals had suggested that disturbances in the light-dark cycle could knock certain chemicals in the body -- for instance, melatonin and estrogen -- off balance, and as a result increase cancer risk.

"We wanted to explore this hypothesis," Chow told Reuters Health.

Over a decade, about one in a hundred women in the study developed breast cancer. But the risk didn't increase for women who worked nights, regardless of how long they had done so.

"There is really not much that you can criticize from reading the paper," said Dr. Kurt Straif, an expert in occupational medicine, who was not involved in the research.

But, he added, "One has to keep in mind that this is the first study from a non-Western country."

In 2007, a team headed by Straif at the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer had concluded that night-shift work was a probable cause of cancer.

Based on animal research as well as studies of nurses and flight attendants, the team listed shift work in the second-highest cancer-risk category, group 2A, which includes diesel engine exhaust and fumes from high-temperature frying.

Although the evidence wasn't clear-cut, Straif said, six out of eight studies found an increased risk of at least 50 percent.

Denmark reacted to the team's conclusion by granting breast cancer the status of occupational disease. In 2009, the Scandinavian country began awarding compensation to affected women who had no other obvious risk factors.

"We have a pretty expansive attitude toward recognizing occupational hazards," said Johnni Hansen of the Danish Cancer Society, who has spent a decade studying shift work and breast cancer.

"In most other countries," he told Reuters Health, "you need to have a more solid connection."

He added that the compensation was still fairly limited, averaging only about $10,000 to $12,000 per case.

Both Straif and Hansen said that at this point, it is too early to consider changing the World Health Organization's classification of night-shift work.

For one thing, the specific type of shift work -- rotational or regular -- could make a difference. In addition, the study followed only people who were healthy to begin with, and so may have missed some long-term effects that would only show up after the follow-up ended. And finally, environmental and genetic differences between West and East could in principle play a role.

Straif said several new studies were underway. While he declined to comment on Denmark's policy regarding breast cancer cases, he said he "would be more worried about the many countries that do not compensate" people who have been exposed to definite occupational carcinogens such as secondhand smoke.


American Journal of Epidemiology, online April 7, 2010.

Risks Rise for Other Surgeries After Stent Implants


By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- People who've had a stent implanted to keep a coronary artery open face an increased risk for heart complications and death if they have non-cardiac surgery in subsequent weeks, a new Scottish study has found.

"We looked at the risks connected to four and six weeks after surgery," said study author Nicholas L.M. Cruden, a former cardiology lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and now a consultant for the National Health Service in Scotland. "Most of the risk was in the first six weeks. Between six weeks and one year, the risk was somewhat reduced, but still higher than expected."

The study, published online May 4 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Interventions, found that 42 percent of people undergoing non-cardiac surgery within six weeks of stent implantation were more likely to have such complications as decreased blood flow to the heart and heart attacks or to die. These outcomes were found in just 13 percent of those whose surgery was done more than six weeks after stent implantation.

The risk of heart problems after non-cardiac surgery was even greater for the 65 percent of people whose stents were inserted because of a recent heart attack, compared with those had stable but chronic heart disease when they were given stents, the study found.

There are no formal British guidelines about surgery after stent implantation, Cruden said, but in France, he said, guidelines recommend that such surgery be postponed at least for a year.

Guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and other organizations in the United States recommend delaying surgery for at least a year after a stent implant, said Dr. Charles W. Hogue Jr., associate professor of anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The pros and cons of using clot-preventing drugs such as Plavix after stent implants have been debated for years, Hogue said. "The guidelines set antiplatelet therapy for a year or maybe indefinitely," he said. "If you stop, you run the risk of stenosis [artery blockage]. But what happens if you have a tendency to bleed? That can cause all kinds of problems, particularly for the brain or the eye."

Use of clot-preventing medication has to be decided patient by patient, Hogue said. "You have to judge risk vs. benefit on an individual basis," he said. "This is a big public health issue because a lot of stents are being implanted."

About 1.3 million artery-opening procedures are performed annually in the United States, Hogue said.

The Scottish study is the largest done to date on the effects of surgery after stent implants, Cruden said. The study shows a 50 percent increase in the risk for bleeding in such cases but no impact on surgical mortality, he said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on stents.

Think you're lactose intolerant? You might be wrong


By Frederik Joelving

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – If you've cut down on milk because you think your gut can't tolerate the sugar in it -- called lactose -- you might be doing your health a disservice, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that in fact, more than half the patients who thought they couldn't digest lactose were mistaken. When they drank a lactose solution corresponding to an entire quart of milk in the lab, their gut absorbed the sugar normally and they experienced less cramping, gas and other bowel trouble than at home.

"There is extended belief among patients with abdominal symptoms that these are caused by lactose in dairy products," the Spanish researchers write in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

"Although one should think that symptom intensity has to be greater after a large lactose load than in daily life at home, our study shows just the opposite," they add.

The ability to digest lactose depends on an enzyme in the gut called lactase. When there isn't enough of this enzyme, bacteria feast on the leftover sugar, producing lots of gasses in the process.

In contrast to this so-called lactose malabsorption or maldigestion, lactose intolerance refers to the symptoms -- for instance, flatulence and stomach pain -- that occur after ingesting lactose.

The new study adds to a body of evidence showing that perceived lactose intolerance may actually not be rooted in a biological inability to absorb the sugar. Of 353 individuals referred to specialists for suspected lactose maldigestion, as many as 189 turned out to absorb the sugar normally, with fewer symptoms than at home.

It's not entirely clear why people who have no trouble digesting lactose would get symptoms. The Spanish researchers, from the Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona, speculate that some patients could be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, which has similar symptoms.

Another possibility is that the symptoms are linked to a memory of earlier over-consumption.

"If you did have an instance when you consumed too much, then you'd have symptoms, and you'd remember that," said Carol J. Boushey, a nutritional scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who was not involved in the study. "It's something that's in your head after a while."

Boushey, who is also a registered dietitian, said that cutting back on dairy products as a result of perceived lactose intolerance could have a negative health impact, including lower bone mass, higher blood pressure and colon cancer.

She recommends that people who think they are lactose intolerant try to drink small amounts of milk.

"You could drink a quarter cup of milk and see if you can handle it," she told Reuters Health. "But don't ever go over a cup. Every single person that I asked to do that came back and said you're right."


Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, online April 10, 2010

Older Adults Have Lower Rates of Mood, Anxiety Disorders


HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- A new report finds that older people have lower rates of mental illnesses related to mood and anxiety than younger people, but the conditions remain common, especially in women.

Researchers led by Amy L. Byers of the University of California at San Francisco analyzed a survey of 2,575 people aged 55 and older.

Five percent said they'd had a mood disorder -- such as depression or bipolar disorder -- within the past year. Twelve percent reported anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and 3 percent said they had both mood and anxiety disorders.

The oldest people in the study, those aged 85 and older, were the least likely to report having the conditions.

In general, women had around double the rate of the disorders as men did.

"Given the rapid aging of the U.S. population, the potential public health burden of late-life mental health disorders will likely grow as well," the researchers wrote. They stressed the importance of "continued epidemiologic monitoring of the mental health status" of older Americans, from the youngest in that age group to the oldest.

The study appears online May 3 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

More information

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has more on mental illness in older people.

Bypass, stents equally safe five years on: study



Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Patients who got heart bypass surgery and those who got their blocked arteries propped open with stents fared equally well five years after their procedures, South Korean doctors reported on Wednesday.

The study of more than 2,200 patients showed no difference in death, heart attack or stroke between the two groups, Dr. Duk-Woo Park of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul and colleagues reported.

The patients all had a serious heart blockage called unprotected left main coronary artery stenosis, which doctors agree needs treatment.

But heart surgeons have disagreed about whether stretching the artery open and inserting a wire mesh tube called a stent is as effective as more traditional bypass surgery.

"There was no significant difference in the risks of death," the researchers wrote in the journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The European Society of Cardiology's spokesman William Wijns said the study showed that angioplasty with a stent should be considered as an option for patients who do not want bypasses.

Both parents' race may affect gestational diabetes risk


Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Asian and Hispanic women may have a heightened risk of developing pregnancy-related or "gestational" diabetes -- and so may women with partners of those same backgrounds, a new study finds.

Researchers found that among nearly 140,000 women in one large California health plan, Asian women had the highest rate of gestational diabetes, at nearly 7 percent. They were followed by Native American women, at 5.6 percent, and Latina women, at 5 percent.

Rates of gestational diabetes among white and black women, meanwhile, stood between 3 and 4 percent.

But it wasn't only women's race and ethnicity that mattered, the study found. Expectant fathers' backgrounds also showed an independent association with the risk of gestational diabetes.

When the father was Asian or Hispanic, the researchers found, a woman's risk of gestational diabetes was 41 percent and 29 percent higher, respectively, compared with when the father was white. That was with other factors -- including the mother's race and ethnicity, age, body weight and education -- taken into account.

Native American ethnicity was also linked to relatively higher risks, though the association was weakened when other factors were considered.

Estimated to affect between 3 percent and 8 percent of pregnant women in the U.S., gestational diabetes arises during pregnancy and goes away soon after childbirth, though women who develop it have a higher-than-average risk of eventually developing type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can raise the risk of certain pregnancy complications, like high blood pressure in the mother and having a larger-than-normal baby, which may require a C-section.

Studies have shown that in the U.S., minorities generally have a higher risk of gestational diabetes than white women do.

These latest findings, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, confirm a role for women's race and ethnicity in gestational diabetes risk.

But they also suggest that "in addition to women who are Asian, Latina, or Native American, women whose partners are of these racial/ethnic groups also appear to be at higher risk for (gestational diabetes)," write Dr. Aaron B. Caughey and his colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco.

The findings may help guide gestational diabetes screening, the researchers note.

For women at average risk of gestational diabetes, doctors typically perform a blood sugar test at some point in the second trimester. Those considered to be at high risk may be screened at their first prenatal visit and then retested later in pregnancy.

It is not clear why certain racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk of gestational diabetes, but genetic predisposition likely plays a role, according to Caughey's team.

They point out that a number of studies have found increased risks among Asian women, despite the fact that they have relatively low levels of obesity, a risk factor for both gestational and type 2 diabetes.

As for why the father's race and ethnicity matters, the researchers explain that fathers' genes, as well as mothers', influence hormones in the placenta. Placental hormones, in turn, affect a pregnant woman's sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Impaired insulin sensitivity can then lead to gestational diabetes.

Source: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online April 19, 2010.

If Your Spouse Gets Alzheimer's, You Might, Too


HealthDay News

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WEDNESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults whose spouse has Alzheimer's or another form dementia face an increased risk of dementia themselves, a new study finds.

It included 2,442 people (1,221 married couples), aged 65 and older, in Utah who were dementia-free at the start of the study. During 12 years of follow-up, 125 husbands and 70 wives developed dementia, and both the husband and wife developed dementia in 30 couples.

After adjusting for a number of factors, the researchers found that people with a spouse who developed dementia were six times more likely to develop dementia themselves than people whose spouses never had dementia. Men had a higher risk than women. Older age was also significantly associated with dementia risk.

"Future studies are needed to determine how much of this association is due to caregiver stress compared to a shared environment," study leader Dr. Maria Norton, of Utah State University, said in a news release. "On the positive side, the majority of individuals with spouses who develop dementia did not themselves develop dementia, therefore more research is needed to explore which factors distinguish those who are more vulnerable."

The study was published May 5 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

"Given the significant public health concern of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and the upcoming shift in population age composition, continued research into the causes of dementia is urgent," Norton said.

More information

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dementia.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Behavioral therapy can quickly calm irritable bowels


By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Some people with irritable bowel syndrome see a rapid improvement with behavioral therapy, with the benefits lasting at least several months, a small study finds.

The findings bolster evidence that "talk therapy" -- also called cognitive behavioral therapy -- is effective for some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They also suggest that so-called "rapid responders" are particularly likely to fare well in the longer term.

The study found that of 71 adults randomly assigned to receive cognitive behavioral therapy for IBS, 30 percent were rapid responders. That meant that within four weeks of starting therapy, the patients reported "adequate relief" of abdominal pain and bowel symptoms, and showed a significant decline in symptom scores on a standard questionnaire.

Of the rapid responders, researchers found, nearly all -- 20 of 21 -- maintained those improvements for three months after their therapy sessions ended. In comparison, of the 50 study patients who had not shown a rapid improvement, only 28 percent were considered treatment responders at the three-month mark.

The study findings are published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

"We've known that (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a very promising treatment for IBS," said lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey M. Lackner, of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The current findings, he told Reuters Health, help zero in on which patients are most likely to maintain a positive response.

However, the study was small, and it is still unclear how long the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy may last. Lackner said he and his colleagues are now conducting a larger, longer-term study.

"We want to see, 'Do the benefits carry over to nine months, or a year?'" he said.

People with IBS have bouts of abdominal cramps, bloating and changes in bowel habits -- diarrhea or constipation, or sometimes alternating episodes of both. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but people with IBS may find that they have certain symptom "triggers" -- such as particular foods, larger-than-normal meals and emotional stress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help people with IBS recognize their symptom triggers and learn practical ways to manage them.

For their study, Lackner and his colleagues randomly assigned patients to either 10 weekly sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy or four therapy sessions spread out over 10 weeks.

Across the two groups, 30 percent of patients showed a treatment response within four weeks. Surprisingly, the researchers found, a rapid response was just as likely in the four-session group -- where patients were only on their second therapy session at week four.

At the first therapy session in both groups, Lackner explained, patients were given the task of "self-monitoring" -- keeping close track of their symptoms, the circumstances under which they occurred, and their thoughts, feelings and physical responses before and after the flare-ups.

That self-monitoring, the researchers say, may have helped some patients quickly gain some control over their symptoms.

Exactly what makes some people more likely than others to be rapid responders is unclear, according to Lackner. He said it would be interesting for future research to try to undercover the patient characteristics -- as well as the components of the therapy, or the characteristics of the therapist -- that may make a quick improvement more likely.

For now, Lackner said, people with IBS should be aware that the condition is treatable, and that "you can see the fruits of therapy rather quickly."

However, people interested in trying cognitive behavioral therapy may not be able to find it where they live. Therapy specifically for IBS is not yet widely available, Lackner said.

Other treatment options for IBS include general diet changes, like cutting down on gas-producing foods; fiber supplements, if constipation is a primary symptom; and anti-diarrheal medications, when that is a primary symptom.

There are also two prescription medications for specific cases of IBS: Lotronex, approved for women with diarrhea-predominate IBS that has not responded to other treatments; and Amitiza, approved for women who have IBS with constipation.

It's estimated to up to 20 percent of U.S. adults have symptoms of IBS, with women being affected at about twice the rate of men.

Source: Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, May 2010.

Your Arteries May Be Suffering Insulin Resistance, Too



Tuesday, May 4, 2010


ScienceDaily (May 4, 2010) — In people with insulin resistance or full-blown diabetes, an inability to keep blood sugar levels under control isn't the only problem by far. A new report in the May issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows that our arteries suffer the effects of insulin resistance, too, just for entirely different reasons.


"We think about insulin resistance in liver, muscle, and fat, but insulin also works on vascular cells," said Christian Rask-Madsen of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.


And what insulin does in our arteries sends a signal that helps prevent the buildup of fatty plaques that can cause arteries to harden, new research in mice shows.


Earlier studies showed that in the context of systemic insulin resistance, blood vessels become resistant, too. Doctors also knew that insulin resistance and the high insulin levels to which it leads are independent risk factors for vascular disease. But it wasn't clear if arteries become diseased because they can't respond to insulin or because they get exposed to too much of it.


Now comes evidence in favor of the former explanation. Rask-Madsen along with George King and their colleagues find that mice prone to atherosclerosis fare much worse when the linings of their arteries can't respond to insulin. The animals' insulin-resistant arteries develop plaques that are twice the size of those on normal arteries.


Insulin-resistant blood vessels don't open up as well, and levels of a protein known as VCAM-1 go up in them, too.


VCAM-1 belongs to a family of adhesion molecules, Rask-Madsen explained. "It sits on the endothelium and binds white blood cells." Those cells can enter the artery wall, where they start taking up cholesterol, and an early plaque is born.


"The results provide definitive evidence that loss of insulin signaling in the endothelium, in the absence of competing systemic risk factors, accelerates atherosclerosis," the researchers conclude.


The findings should come as good news to those on insulin therapy, since they suggest the hormone itself should not cause harm to arteries, as some had feared. "If anything, it should be beneficial in preventing atherosclerosis," Rask-Madsen said.


The results also suggest drugs specifically designed to treat insulin resistance in the vasculature might prevent cardiovascular complications in people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, the researchers say.

While the researchers emphasize that it will remain critical to keep blood sugar in check with more traditional therapies, new treatments aimed at blood vessels could mean big gains for those with diabetes. After all, atherosclerosis is responsible for many of diabetes' worst complications -- heart disease, stroke, and leg amputations among them.


"Atherosclerosis is the main reason for shorter life spans in diabetes patients," Rask-Madsen said.

The researchers include Christian Rask-Madsen, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Qian Li, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Bryn Freund, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; Danielle Feather, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; Roman Abramov, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; I-Hsien Wu, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Kai Chen, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Junko Yamamoto-Hiraoka, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Jan Goldenbogen, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Konstantinos B. Sotiropoulos, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Allen Clermont, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Pedro Geraldes, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Claudia Dall'Osso, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Amy J. Wagers, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; Paul L. Huang, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; Mark Rekhter, Lilly Research Laboratories, Indianapolis, IN; Rosario Scalia, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; C. Ronald Kahn, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, MA; and George L. King.

Journal Reference:

Christian Rask-Madsen, Qian Li, Bryn Freund, Danielle Feather, Roman Abramov, I-Hsien Wu, Kai Chen, Junko Yamamoto-Hiraoka, Jan Goldenbogen, Konstantinos B. Sotiropoulos, Allen Clermont, Pedro Geraldes, Claudia Dall'Osso, Amy J. Wagers, Paul L. Huang, Mark Rekhter, Rosario Scalia, C. Ronald Kahn, George L. King. Loss of Insulin Signaling in Vascular Endothelial Cells Accelerates Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E Null Mice. Cell Metabolism, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2010.03.013

Aspirin May Increase Risk of Crohn's Disease


By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter
HealthDay News

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new British study finds that people who take aspirin every day have a higher risk of developing Crohn's disease, a potentially devastating digestive illness.

But it's still not very likely that aspirin users will develop the condition, and the study's lead author said patients should keep in mind that aspirin lowers the risk of heart disease.

"If the link with aspirin is a true one, then only a small proportion of those who take aspirin -- approximately one in 2,000 -- may be at risk," said study author Dr. Andrew Hart, a senior lecturer in gastroenterology at University of East Anglia School of Medicine. "If aspirin has been prescribed to people with Crohn's disease or with a family history by their physician, then they should continue to take it. Aspirin has many beneficial effects and should be continued."

An estimated 500,000 people in the United States have Crohn's disease, which causes digestive problems and can boost the risk of bowel cancer. In some cases, patients must undergo surgery; many have to take medications for the rest of their lives.

While aspirin is known for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, it can cause stomach ulcers, and research in animals has suggested it can be hard on the intestines, too. The study authors decided to see if it had the same effect in humans, Hart said.

In the new study, researchers tracked 200,000 volunteers, aged 30 to 74, from several European countries.

The researchers found that aspirin use for a year or more boosted the risk of Crohn's disease by five times.

However, the study only suggests there's a link between aspirin use and the disease; it doesn't prove that aspirin actually increased the risk. And the researchers didn't know how much aspirin each person took.

Why might aspirin boost the risk of Crohn's disease? Dr. William J. Sandborn, vice chair of Mayo Clinic's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said it might have something to do with aspirin damaging the lining of the bowel, potentially triggering the condition in those who are susceptible to it because of their genetic makeup.

Sandborn, who's familiar with the findings, agreed with Hart that patients need to think about the benefits of aspirin use, including the reduced risk of not only heart disease but also colorectal cancer.

The study found no link between aspirin use and ulcerative colitis, another digestive disorder.

Future research is needed to confirm the aspirin-Crohn's disease link and determine what aspirin has to do with the higher risk, Hart said.

"If it does turn out to be a true link in the future, then it will be only one of many factors involved in causing Crohn's disease," he said. "Because aspirin has benefits, users should continue with it."

The study was to be presented Monday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.

More information

For more about Crohn's disease, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


Monday, May 3, 2010


U.S. reviews diabetes, heart risk with prostate drugs



Monday, May 3, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is examining if certain hormone treatments for men with prostate cancer pose a greater risk of diabetes or heart problems than other therapies.

The FDA is looking at data from published studies to determine the risks with commonly used Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) agonist drugs, the agency said on Monday.

The products include Abbott Laboratories' Lupron, AstraZeneca Plc's Zoladex, Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc's Trelstar, Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc's Vantas, Sanofi-Aventis SA's Eligard and Pfizer Inc's Synarel.

The agency said it has not made any conclusions about GnRH agonists, which suppress the production of testosterone, a hormone that helps fuel growth of prostate cancer.

Suppressing testosterone has been shown to shrink or slow the growth of prostate cancer. The treatment is known as androgen deprivation therapy.

However, the FDA noted that patients should be monitored for potential onset of diabetes or cardiovascular disease that can cause heart attacks, stroke and sudden cardiac death.

The FDA said six studies showed a small increased risk of diabetes or heart disease in patients treated with the drugs when compared with other prostate cancer therapies.

"However, these studies have design limitations that make it difficult to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship," an agency statement said.

The studies included limited information about drug exposure, varying definitions for heart disease, missing data on heart disease risk factors and other problems, the FDA said.

Patients should not stop taking the drugs unless a doctor tells them to, the FDA advised.

Some GnRH agonists also are prescribed at times to women and children to treat other conditions. The FDA said there were no known comparable studies that evaluated the risk of diabetes and heart disease in those groups.

Sanofi is evaluating cases of elevated insulin and blood clots "to determine whether labeling changes or other actions are required," company spokeswoman Emmy Tsui said.

The company "remains confident in the overall safety profile of Eligard based on clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance," company spokeswoman Emmy Tsui said.

Abbott spokeswoman Elizabeth Hoff said the prescribing instructions for Lupron list diabetes, increased glucose and cardiovascular events as potential problems.

Officials at Pfizer and AstraZeneca had no immediate comment. Other companies did not immediately respond.

In February, various doctors' groups wrote in the journal Circulation that they felt androgen deprivation treatment was likely to raise the risk of heart attack. They called for studies to determine the level of risk.

The FDA posted its notice on its website at

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernard Orr and Richard Chang)

Parent Error Common When Medicating Chronically Ill Kids


HealthDay News

Monday, May 3, 2010

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that parents often make mistakes when they give medicine to their chronically ill children.

"Giving these medicines in exactly the right way is vital and sometimes lifesaving for children with chronic conditions," said study lead author Dr. Kathleen E. Walsh, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Massachusetts Medical School, in a statement.

The study authors reached their conclusions after visiting the homes of 83 chronically ill children and adults aged 6 months to 20 years. The patients had cancer, sickle cell disease and epilepsy.

The researchers checked on 544 drugs and watched 166 drugs being administered. Two doctors followed up by analyzing the results.

The study reports that mothers gave medications 79 percent of the time, while fathers only did 7 percent of the time. Other guardians administered medication 14 percent of the time.

Despite a high education level among parents, with 37 percent having bachelor's degrees and 12 percent holding advanced degrees, mistakes happened often. "For example, we visited families who did not use the proper syringe to measure liquid medicine or a pill cutter to cut tablets, resulting in children getting too little pain medicine or chemotherapy," Walsh said.

Researchers noted 128 medication errors, including incorrectly labeled chemotherapy drugs and insufficient doses of painkillers. Of those mistakes, 73 could have hurt children, and 10 actually did injure kids. (One mistake resulted from an incorrect chemotherapy dosing label, which called for six tablets a day when the child was supposed to have seven a week.)

The researchers write that parents need help administering complicated drug regimens, even if they're highly educated. "If parents or caregivers are not sure exactly how to give the medicine, they should ask their child's doctor," Walsh said.

The study is to be presented Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

More information has more on illnesses facing children.

Mammograms catch few cancers in young women: study



Monday, May 3, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mammograms detect few cancers in women under the age of 40 but cause expense and anxiety because women frequently get "false positives" that require follow-up to rule out cancer, researchers reported on Monday.

Mammograms did not detect any tumors among women under the age of 25, the researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study of more than 117,000 U.S. women may reinforce controversial recommendations about the use of mammograms to screen for breast cancer among younger women.

Radiologist Bonnie Yankaskas of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues examined the records of women aged 18 to 39 when they got their first mammograms starting in 1995, following them for a year to see what happened.

There were no tumors among the women under 25. For women aged 35 to 39, 12.7 per 1,000 got called back for further checks after the mammogram produced a suspicious-looking lesion. Very few actually had a tumor.

"In a theoretical population of 10,000 women aged 35 to 39 years, 1,266 women who are screened will receive further workup, with 16 cancers detected and 1,250 women receiving a false-positive result," Yankaskas and colleagues wrote.

"Harms need to be considered, including radiation exposure because such exposure is more harmful in young women, the anxiety associated with false-positive findings on the initial examination, and costs associated with additional imaging," they added.

About 29 percent of U.S. women aged 30 to 40 say they have had a mammogram.

Dr. Ned Calonge of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the findings suggest that women under 40 should not get mammograms unless they have symptoms of breast cancer, such as a lump.

Last November the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal scientific advisory panel, said women in their 40s with an average risk for breast cancer did not need annual mammograms to screen for the disease.

The guidelines touched off a debate among cancer doctors.

Calonge noted that most groups agree that women under 40 probably do not need mammograms to screen for cancer and Monday's study supports this approach.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, accounting for around 16 percent of all female cancers. It kills around 465,000 people globally each year.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


Stress-Response System in the Ear Protects Against Hearing Loss



Monday, May 3, 2010


ScienceDaily (May 3, 2010) — An in vivo study shows for the first time that there is a stress-response system within the cochlea that mirrors the signaling pathways of the body's fight or flight response. Researchers have identified a hormone-like signaling system of the inner ear that sets baseline hearing sensitivity and helps protect against noise-induced hearing loss.


"Our research shows, for the first time, that the cochlea's protective mechanism is likely to be largely a locally-produced phenomenon. The current theory of protection is that signals from the cochlea travel to the brain and back. While this theory does work under certain circumstances, we have known that it requires moderately-high intensity sounds to function. Our study demonstrates that a previously unrecognized signaling system involved in noise-induced hearing loss exists entirely within the ear. This signaling system works at lower intensity sounds -- typical of our everyday environment -- than the pathway involving the brain," explained Doug Vetter, PhD, senior author and lecturer in the department of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine.

"The local signaling system that we identified in the cochlea mirrors the molecular signaling pathways of the body's physiological fight-or-flight response, which is triggered by the release of molecules from the adrenal glands during times of physical stress. It may be that activation of the cochlea's protective mechanism from physical stress changes the way the cells of the inner ear respond to the next exposure. In this way, protection may be established based on previous exposures, and prior to the next exposure to potentially damaging sounds," continued Vetter.


As many as 26 million Americans, or 15 percent of the adult population, suffer from hearing loss, some of which may have been caused by exposure to loud noise, according to an estimate by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common occupational injuries in the United States, and is most prevalent in the general manufacturing, mining, and construction industries. Daily exposure to noise, including listening to music too loudly, can also result in permanent hearing damage. In order to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, NIDCD suggests that "a good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are 'too loud,' and 'too close' or that last 'too long.'"


Vetter and colleagues focused on a specific receptor for corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a peptide that acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter. In the typical hormone signaling system served by CRF, the hypothalamus secretes CRF in response to stress and triggers the release of glucocorticoids, which are involved in the body's immune and inflammatory responses.


Mice that were missing a gene responsible for making CRFR2, a specific CRF receptor, had increased sensitivity to sound. While this may seem to be an advantage, when exposed to an environment of broad frequency sounds similar in intensity to normal conversation, Vetter and colleagues found that the mice with a genetic deficit of CRFR2 receptors experienced significant hearing damage, while normal mice experienced no hearing loss at all. In another experiment, mice were exposed to high intensity sound levels, comparable to that of a passing subway train at about ten feet, or most MP3 players at maximum volume. As expected, under these conditions, the mice with the normal CRFR2 genes experienced some hearing loss, but the mice lacking the CRFR2 genes experienced twice as much hearing loss compared to the normal mice.


"Our research shows that the CRFR2 receptors have a role in the cellular reaction to environmental stressors acting on the inner ear, such as moderate and loud noise exposure. Identifying the role of CRF receptors in the inner ear may ultimately help us understand why some individuals are more susceptible than others to noise-induced hearing loss. It is possible that there is some variability in the activity or expression of the receptors," said first author Christine Graham, a graduate student in neuroscience at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.


Johnvesly Basappa, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in the department of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the Vetter laboratory was a co-author on the study.

The study was published in the May issue of Neurobiology of Disease.


This research was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health; and by the Tufts Center for Neuroscience Research. The Tufts Center for Neuroscience Research is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, also part of the National Institutes of Health; and by Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center.

Journal Reference:

Christine E. Graham, Johnvesly Basappa, Douglas E. Vetter. A corticotropin-releasing factor system expressed in the cochlea modulates hearing sensitivity and protects against noise-induced hearing loss. Neurobiology of Disease, 2010; 38 (2): 246 DOI: 10.1016/j.nbd.2010.01.014

has most obese kids; Oregon the least


By Anne Harding

Reuters Health

Monday, May 3, 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The childhood obesity epidemic is hitting some states much harder than others, threatening to further worsen geographic disparities in health, new research shows.

Adults in the southeastern US-the so-called "Stroke Belt"-are known to be fatter and sicker than Americans living elsewhere. And at least in terms of overweight and obesity, the same pattern holds for kids, Dr. Gopal K. Singh of the US Health Resources and Services Administration in Rockville, Maryland, and his colleagues found.

Singh and his team compared state-by-state changes in rates of overweight and obesity between 2003 and 2007, using data from the National Survey of Children's Health. They report their findings in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The percentage of children 10 to 17 years old across the US who were overweight rose from 31 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2004, while obesity rates went from 15 percent to 16 percent.

But within states, there were much sharper differences, with the states that already had the biggest problems often showing the biggest jumps. For example, in 2003, 37 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds in Mississippi were overweight and 18 percent were obese; by 2007, those numbers had jumped to 45 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Oregon had the fewest obese kids, at 10 percent; it also was the only state to show significant declines in childhood obesity and overweight between 2003 and 2007.

Overweight and obesity rose much more sharply for girls than boys across the US, and in many states. The percentage of obesity among boys was the lowest in Oregon, at 11 percent, and the highest in Arkansas, at 27 percent. Wyoming girls had the lowest rate of obesity (6 percent), while Texas had the highest (20 percent).

There were eight states where a third or more of the youth population was overweight in 2003, but 15 in 2007. What's more, the "epidemic" of child overweight and obesity was no longer limited to mostly southeastern states by 2007, but had spread to the Midwest-and even Alaska.

The states with bigger childhood obesity problems were-no surprise-also the states where kids spent more time watching TV and less time being physically active. Singh and his team estimated that these and other social and environmental characteristics, for example ease of access to parks and playgrounds and availability of sidewalks and walking paths, accounted for more than 40 percent of the state-by-state differences.

It will take more investigation to find out what Oregon might be doing right, Singh said.

The next National Survey of Children's Health will be done in 2011, Singh noted. It's impossible to predict what it will find, he added; "I think the best thing at this point that we can anticipate is a stabilization of the trend. Hopefully we have seen the worst."

Source: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, online May 3, 2010.

'Junk DNA' Drives Cancer Growth, Hodgkin's Lymphoma Study Finds



Monday, May 3, 2010


ScienceDaily (May 3, 2010) — Researchers from the University of Leeds, UK, the Charité University Medical School and the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin, Germany, have discovered a new driving force behind cancer growth.


Their studies have identified how 'junk' DNA promotes the growth of cancer cells in patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Professor Constanze Bonifer (University of Leeds) and Dr Stephan Mathas (Charité, MDC) who co-led the study suspect that these pieces of 'junk' DNA, called 'long terminal repeats', can play a role in other forms of cancer as well. The work is published in Nature Medicine.


The researchers uncovered the process by which this 'junk DNA' is made active, promoting cancer growth.

"We have shown this is the case in Hodgkin's lymphoma, but the exact same mechanism could be involved in the development of other forms of blood cancer," said Prof. Bonifer. "This would have implications for diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy of these diseases."


'Long terminal repeats' (LTRs) are a form of 'junk DNA' -- genetic material that has accumulated in the human genome over millions of years. Although LTRs originate from viruses and are potentially harmful, they are usually made inactive when embryos are developing in the womb.


If this process of inactivation doesn't work, then the LTRs could activate cancer genes, a possibility that was suggested in previous animal studies. This latest research has now demonstrated for the first time that these 'rogue' active LTRs can drive the growth of cancer in humans.


The work focused on cancerous cells of Hodgkin's lymphoma (the Hodgkin-/Reed Sternberg cells) that originate from white blood cells (antibody-producing B cells). Unusually, this type of lymphoma cell does not contain a so-called 'growth factor receptor' that normally controls the growth of other B-cells.


They found that the lymphoma cells' growth was dependent on a receptor that normally regulates the growth of other immune cells, but it is not usually found in B-cells. However in this case, the Hodgkin-/Reed Sternberg cells 'hijacked' this receptor for their own purposes by activating some of the 'junk DNA'. In fact the lymphoma cells activated hundreds, if not thousands, of LTRs all over the genome, not just one.


Hodgkin-/Reed Sternberg cells may not be the only cells that use this method to subvert normal controls of cell growth. The researchers found evidence of the same LTRs activating the same growth receptor in anaplastic large cell lymphoma, another blood cancer.


The consequences of such widespread LTR activation are currently still unclear, according to the study's authors. Such processes could potentially activate other genes involved in tumour development. It could also affect the stability of chromosomes of lymphoma cells, a factor that may explain why Hodgkin-/Reed Sternberg cells gain many chromosomal abnormalities over time and become more and more malignant.




1. There are about 1,300 new cases of Hodgkin's lymphoma each year in the UK, including 150 in children.

2. LTR fragments were originally formed by infection with retroviruses, a type of virus that can integrate their own genetic material into a host gene. The human genome contains thousands of these LTR fragments.

3. The receptor that was observed to control cell growth in Hodgkin-/Reed Sternberg cells is known as CSF1R (the colony stimulating factor 1 receptor).

Journal Reference:

Björn Lamprecht, Korden Walter, Stephan Kreher, Raman Kumar, Michael Hummel, Dido Lenze, Karl Köchert, Mohamed Amine Bouhlel, Julia Richter, Eric Soler, Ralph Stadhouders, Korinna Jöhrens, Kathrin D Wurster, David F Callen, Michael F Harte, Maciej Giefing, Rachael Barlow, Harald Stein, Ioannis Anagnostopoulos, Martin Janz, Peter N Cockerill, Reiner Siebert, Bernd Dörken, Constanze Bonifer & Stephan Mathas. De-repression of an endogenous long terminal repeat activates the CSF1R proto-oncogene in human lymphoma. Nature Medicine, May 2, 2010 DOI: 10.1038/nm.2129

Study shows vitamin A doesn't cut maternal deaths



Monday, May 3, 2010

LONDON (Reuters) – Giving vitamin A to women aged between 15 and 45 in poor nations does not cut maternal death rates, scientists said Tuesday in a study which contradicts earlier research showing a dramatic drop in death rates.

Researchers working in Ghana on a trial involving almost 208,000 women found there was no difference in pregnancy-related death rates between those who were given vitamin A pills and those given placebos, or dummy pills.

Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, particularly in Africa and South-East Asia, hitting young children and pregnant women in low-income countries the hardest.

It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and can increase the risk of disease and death from severe infections, according to the World Health Organization.

But Betty Kirkwood, a nutrition and public health specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the Ghana study, said her trial showed that giving vitamin A pills did nothing to cut maternal death rates.

"Our results suggest that vitamin A supplementation once a week in women of reproductive age has no beneficial effect on their survival or on the survival of their babies in rural Ghana," she wrote in the study published in The Lancet journal.

The trial results showed there were 39,601 pregnancies and 138 pregnancy-related deaths among those who took vitamin A supplements, and 39,234 pregnancies and 148 pregnancy-related deaths in the placebo group -- a difference that is not statistically significant.

Kirkwood noted that the Ghana findings contradicted previous results from a trial in Nepal which showed a 44 percent decrease in maternal death among women given vitamin A.

She said the discrepancy showed why it is wise not to rush to change maternal health policies on the basis on one piece of research.

"Research is as important to identify potentially good ideas that do not work, as it is in establishing those that do," she wrote. "This avoids governments wasting resources on ineffective interventions."

The Ghana study also found that giving vitamin A to women had no effect on the rate of stillbirths, or neonatal and infant survival -- results which echoed those of the Nepal trial.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland)

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Gastrointestinal Problems Common in Children With Autism



Sunday, May 2, 2010


ScienceDaily (May 2, 2010) — Parents of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) sometimes report that their children suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as diarrhea and constipation. However, studies on how prevalent these symptoms are have had conflicting results.


A new study conducted by Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network (ATN) shows that GI symptoms occur in nearly half of children with ASD, and the prevalence increases as children get older.


Results of the study, and three others conducted by the ATN, were presented on May 2 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


An estimated one in 110 U.S. children has autism, a group of complex developmental brain disorders that affect behavior, social skills and communication.


The ATN, which includes 14 treatment and research centers in the United States and Canada, enrolls patients ages 2-18 years with a diagnosis of autism, Asperger's syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified.


In this study, researchers sought to determine how frequently parents of children enrolled in the network reported GI symptoms and what factors might be associated with these symptoms. Families filled out a battery of questionnaires, including a GI symptom inventory tailored to the needs of nonverbal children, a behavior checklist, sleep questionnaire and quality of life survey.


Data from 1,185 children showed that 45 percent had GI symptoms at the time of enrollment, with abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea reported most commonly. Reports of symptoms were more common in older children (39 percent of children under 5 years of age vs. 51 percent of children 7 and older).


In addition, children with GI symptoms had a higher rate of sleep problems than those without GI issues (70 percent vs. 30 percent), more behavior problems and an overall lower health-related quality of life.

No relationship was found between GI symptoms and type of autism, gender, race or IQ.


"These findings suggest that better evaluation of GI symptoms and subsequent treatment may have benefits for these patients," said Daniel Coury, MD, medical director of the ATN and professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at The Ohio State University. "Primary care physicians and specialists should ask families about these symptoms and address these as part of the overall management plan for the child or adolescent with ASD."

Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network (ATN) is the first network of hospitals and physicians dedicated to developing a model of comprehensive medical care for children and adolescents with autism. The ATN offers families care from doctors highly experienced in helping individuals with autism and providing treatment for associated conditions such as gastrointestinal and sleep disorders, while disseminating best practices to the greater medical community.


Colon Polyps More Common in Hispanic Men Than Women


HealthDay News

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SUNDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Among Hispanics, men are twice as likely as women to have colon polyps and are also more likely to have multiple polyps, a new study in Puerto Rico has found.

The researchers also found that the study patients older than 60 were 56 percent more likely to have polyps than those younger than 60.

Polyps are growths in the large intestine. Some polyps may already be cancerous or can become cancerous.

The study included 647 patients aged 50 and older undergoing colorectal cancer screening at a gastroenterology clinic in Puerto Rico. In 70 percent of patients with polyps, the growths were on the right side of the colon. In white patients, polyps are typically found on the left side of the colon. This difference may result from underlying molecular differences in the two patient groups, said study author Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa, an associate professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center.

The finding about polyp location is important because it highlights the need to use colonoscopy when conducting colorectal cancer screening in Hispanics. This is the most effective method of detecting polyps on the right side of the colon.

The study was to be presented Sunday at the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in New Orleans.

"Colorectal cancer screening rates among Hispanics are dangerously low. Currently only 40 percent get screened despite the fact that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death among Hispanic women. As Hispanics become more acculturated to the U.S. lifestyle, they are losing the protective factor of their diet, which may account for the higher rates of colorectal cancer seen in U.S. Hispanics compared to the expected rates of cancer in their country of origin," Cruz-Correa said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer screening.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease



HealthDay News

Saturday, May 1, 2010


SATURDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing your intake of olive oil may help protect against ulcerative colitis, a new study finds.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon, resulting in abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. This study found that people whose diet was rich in oleic acid were far less likely to develop ulcerative colitis.

Oleic acid is a monosaturated fatty acid found in foods such as olive oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, butter and some margarines.

This study included more than 25,000 people, aged 40-65, in Norfolk, U.K. who were recruited between 1993 and 1997. None of the participants had ulcerative colitis at the start of the study. By 2002, 22 participants had developed ulcerative colitis. The researchers compared the diets of these people to those who didn't develop the disease and found that those with the highest intake of oleic acid were 90 percent less likely to develop ulcerative colitis.

"Oleic acid seems to help prevent the development of ulcerative colitis by blocking chemicals in the bowel that aggravate the inflammation found in the illness," study leader Dr. Andrew Hart, of the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, said in a news release.

"We estimate that around half the cases of ulcerative colitis could be prevented if larger amounts of oleic acid were consumed. Two-to-three tablespoons of olive oil per day would have a protective effect," he said.

The study was presented Saturday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.

More information

The American Society of Colon and Rectum Surgeons has more about ulcerative colitis.