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Friday, March 25, 2011

Poor Eating Habits May Lead to Anemia in Older Women

HealthDay News

Friday, March 25, 2011

FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- A poor diet is associated with a greater risk of developing anemia among postmenopausal women, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 72,833 older women in the United States and found that deficiencies in more than a single nutrient were associated with a 21 percent increased risk of persistent anemia. Risk increased 44 percent with deficiencies in three nutrients.

Women with anemia consumed less protein, folate, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C and red meat than did others, the study found. The results are published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Inadequate nutrient intake was less frequent among whites than in other racial or ethnic groups: 7.4 percent, compared with 14.6 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 15.2 percent of Native Americans/Alaskans, 15.3 percent of blacks and 16.3 percent of Hispanics.

The researchers also found that the use of multivitamin and mineral supplements was not associated with lower rates of anemia. Age, body mass index and smoking were associated with anemia.

Anemia has been linked to an increased risk of death and, "anemia, particularly iron deficiency, has been associated with reduced capacity for physical work and physical inactivity, injury related to falls and hospitalizations, making this an important health-care concern in the aging," lead investigator Cynthia A. Thomson, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a journal news release.

"Efforts to identify anemia that may be responsive to modifiable factors, such as diet to improve health outcomes, are needed," the researchers concluded. "Additional efforts to regularly evaluate postmenopausal women for anemia should be considered and should be accompanied by an assessment of dietary intake to determine adequacy of intake of anemia-associated nutrients, including iron, vitamin B12 and folate," they wrote.

"While the type of anemia is often designated by a more comprehensive biochemical assessment than hemoglobin alone, nutritional therapy to improve overall nutrient-density and quality of the diet should also be a clinical focus," Thomson and colleagues said.

More information

WomensHealth.gov has more about anemia.

U.S. asks if food dyes make kids hyperactive

By Lisa Richwine

Reuters

Friday, March 25, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. regulators are weighing a question parents have asked since the 1970s: do artificial food dyes make children hyperactive?

A consumer group has petitioned the government to ban blue, green, orange, red and yellow food colorings. The synthetic dyes are common in food and drinks ranging from PepsiCo's Gatorade, Cheetos and Doritos to Kellogg's Eggo waffles and Kraft's Jell-O desserts.

Manufacturers say reviews by regulators around the world confirm the dyes are safe. The Center for Science in the Public Interest argues, however, there is plenty of data showing the dyes trigger hyperactivity in kids who are predisposed to it.

"There is convincing evidence that food dyes impair the behavior of some children," said Michael Jacobson, head of the consumer group famous for exposing the fat and calories in movie-theater popcorn and fast food.

Jacobson and others will testify next week before a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that will consider the question on Wednesday and Thursday. The FDA will hear the advisers' views before deciding whether to take any action, which could take months or years.

FDA reviewers, in documents prepared for the advisory panel, said scientific research so far suggested some children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be affected by food coloring. The disorder affects up to 5 percent of U.S. children, according to government statistics.

"For certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest their condition may be exacerbated" by substances in food including artificial colors, the FDA staff wrote in a preliminary analysis.

For the general population, the FDA "concludes that a causal relationship" between the dyes and hyperactivity "has not been established," the agency staff said.

At the panel meeting next week, the FDA will ask outside experts if they agree with the agency's conclusions or if they think more studies are needed.

Concerns about food dyes erupted in the 1970s when a pediatrician, Dr. Ben Feingold, claimed the colors were linked to hyperactive behavior and proposed a diet eliminating them.

Questions flared again after a 2007 British study of kids who drank fruit drinks with food colorings and preservatives.

The scientists concluded the colorings worsened hyperactive behavior and also affected kids not previously diagnosed with ADHD.

Other researchers said the study had limitations. A 2009 review by European authorities concluded all data available at the time did not support a link between food colorings and hyperactivity.

The 2008 petition from CSPI asked the FDA to ban all but one of the dyes, calling them "dangerous and unnecessary." The exception, Citrus Red No. 2, is used only on orange skins. Companies could substitute natural colors, fruit or fruit juices, CSPI said.

The group also asked the FDA to require a warning on products containing dyes until a ban takes effect.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food producers and packagers, said "extensive review" by the FDA and European authorities showed the dyes were safe.

"All of the major safety bodies globally have reviewed the available science and have determined that there is no demonstrable link between artificial colors and hyperactivity among children," the group said in a statement.

(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

Stress May Alter Gut Bacteria to Hinder Immune System

HealthDay News

Friday, March 25, 2011

FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found that stress can alter the balance of bacteria that live in the intestine, leading to immune system problems.

Stress changes the composition, diversity and number of intestinal bacteria, said the team at Ohio State University. The communities of bacteria become less varied, and there are greater numbers of potentially harmful bacteria.

The study is published in the March issue of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

"These changes can have profound implications for physiological function," lead researcher Michael Bailey said in a journal news release. "When we reduced the number of bacteria in the intestines using antibiotics, we found that some of the effects of stress on the immune system were prevented. This suggests that not only does stress change the bacteria levels in the gut, but that these alterations can, in turn, impact our immunity."

Previous research has linked intestinal bacteria to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and asthma. Future studies need to determine whether changes in intestinal bacteria may explain why these conditions tend to become worse when people are under stress, the authors say.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about stress.

Eskimo Study Suggests High Consumption of Omega-3s in Fish-Rich Diet Reduces Obesity-Related Disease Risk

ScienceDaily

Friday, March 25, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2011) — A study of Yup'ik Eskimos in Alaska, who on average consume 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than people in the lower 48 states, suggests that a high intake of these fats helps prevent obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The study, led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and conducted in collaboration with the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, was published online March 23 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Because Yup'ik Eskimos have a traditional diet that includes large amounts of fatty fish and have a prevalence of overweight or obesity that is similar to that of the general U.S. population, this offered a unique opportunity to study whether omega-3 fats change the association between obesity and chronic disease risk," said lead author Zeina Makhoul, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Prevention Program of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

The fats the researchers were interested in measuring were those found in salmon, sardines and other fatty fish: docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA.

Researchers analyzed data from a community-based study of 330 people living in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region of southwest Alaska, 70 percent of whom were overweight or obese. As expected, the researchers found that in participants with low blood levels of DHA and EPA, obesity strongly increased both blood triglycerides (a blood lipid abnormality) and C-reactive protein, or CRP (a measure of overall body inflammation). Elevated levels of triglycerides and CRP increase the risk of heart disease and, possibly, diabetes.

"These results mimic those found in populations living in the Lower 48 who have similarly low blood levels of EPA and DHA," said senior author Alan Kristal, Dr. P.H., a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division. "However, the new finding was that obesity did not increase these risk factors among study participants with high blood levels of omega-3 fats," he said.

"Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons," Makhoul said. "It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup'ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity."

While Yup'ik Eskimos have overweight/obesity levels similar to those in the U.S. overall, their prevalence of type 2 diabetes is significantly lower -- 3.3 percent versus 7.7 percent.

"While genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors may account for this difference," Makhoul said, "it is reasonable to ask, based on our findings, whether the lower prevalence of diabetes in this population might be attributed, at least in part, to their high consumption of omega-3-rich fish."

For the study, the participants provided blood samples and health information via in-person interviews and questionnaires. Diet was assessed by asking participants what they ate in the past 24 hours and asking them to keep a food log for three consecutive days. Height, weight, percent body fat, blood pressure and physical activity were also measured.

The median age of the participants was 45 and slightly more than half were female. The women were more likely than the men to be heavy, and body mass index (height-to-weight ratio) for all increased with age.

"Residents of Yup'ik villages joined this research because they were interested in their communities' health and were particularly concerned about the health effects of moving away from their traditional ways and adopting lifestyle patterns similar to those of residents in the lower 48 states," Makhoul said.

Based on these findings, should overweight and obese people concerned about their chronic disease risk start popping fish oil supplements or eat more fatty fish?

"There are good reasons to increase intake of fatty fish, such as the well-established association of fish intake with reduced heart disease risk," Makhoul said. "But we have learned from many other studies that nutritional supplementation at very high doses is more often harmful than helpful."

Before making a public health recommendation, the researchers said that a randomized clinical trial is needed to test whether increasing omega-3 fat intake significantly reduces the effects of obesity on inflammation and blood triglycerides.

"If the results of such a trial were positive, it would strongly suggest that omega-3 fats could help prevent obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes," she said.

The National Center for Research Resources, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health funded the study, which also involved investigators from the University of California-Davis.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Journal Reference:

Z Makhoul, A R Kristal, R Gulati, B Luick, A Bersamin, D O'Brien, S E Hopkins, C B Stephensen, K L Stanhope, P J Havel, B Boyer. Associations of obesity with triglycerides and C-reactive protein are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.39 

Thursday, March 24, 2011 

Dark Chocolate May Harbor Benefits for the Heart

HealthDay News

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- If you can handle the fat and calories, there may be a health benefit to enjoying dark chocolate on occasion. New research suggests that the cocoa ingredient may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels while preventing diabetes and improving the health of blood vessels.

So why not chow down on a candy bar or two every day? Here's the rub: Scientists aren't sure whether the downsides of cocoa consumption -- such as potential obesity -- could outweigh the benefits.

The research relied on mostly sugar-free dark chocolate, not the kind of chocolate normally found on the candy shelves. Participants who ate the chocolate, which contained cocoa rich in substances known as polyphenolic flavonoids, did better in several areas, including blood pressure. Levels of bad cholesterol went down in those younger than 50, and levels of good cholesterol went up.

The findings, which came from an analysis of data from 21 high-quality studies that included a total of 2,575 participants, were scheduled for presentation Wednesday at an American Heart Association conference in Atlanta. Experts note that research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny given to research published in medical journals.

It remains unclear, the researchers said, as to just why chocolate appears to have the effect that they found. It's also not known how much people would need to eat to get the benefits.

Then there's the cocoa itself, another possible complication.

"The research looks at the benefits of cocoa and used a very specifically prepared cocoa," said Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "Cocoa is an ingredient of chocolate. How the cocoa is processed makes a difference in whether or not the chocolate drink or bar it is contained in will have health benefits."

"In other words, not all chocolate or cocoa is created equal," she said.

Though chocolate in moderation may be fine for many people, Sandon said, there are better and healthier ways to boost heart health.

"Weight loss is king when it comes to preventing high blood pressure and improving insulin resistance," she said. "I do not see cocoa having the power to overcome poor health habits."

However, she said, there are ways to add cocoa to the diet that may keep fat and calories under control -- such as drinking hot cocoa with skim milk, adding dark cocoa powder to the top of a cappuccino and using cocoa powder in recipes.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on heart disease.

Magnet therapy didn't help "ringing in the ears"

By Kerry Grens

Reuters Health

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A constant annoying ringing in the ears – called tinnitus - didn't go away when researchers tried zapping patients' heads with magnetic waves in a recent study.

The researchers still think magnetic therapy could work, if they can find the right part of the brain to apply it to.

"We haven't found the sweet spot yet," said Dr. Jay Piccirillo, the lead author of the study and a professor of ear, nose and throat surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri.

Tinnitus is caused by a "phantom" sound, thought to be the result of mis-wired brain cells.

The condition is common. One study estimated that 50 million Americans experience chronic ringing in their ears at some point in their lives.

Piccirillo said most people are not bothered by the ringing. A very small fraction of people are crippled by the sound, however. Some become depressed, or even suicidal.

Doctors who treated the patients in the current study generated magnetic waves outside each person's head that traveled through the skull into the brain; the waves would temporarily rewire the brain's circuits. Several studies in Europe have found that sessions of such magnetic therapy can help relieve ear ringing.

In the United States, sending magnetic waves to the brain is approved for use in patients with depression, but it is only experimental for tinnitus.

Piccirillo and his colleagues recruited 14 patients who were severely bothered by the ringing in their ears.

All of them received 10 treatments with a magnet over a 2-week period, and another 10 sessions over another 2 weeks using a fake magnet. The order of the 2-week periods was flipped in half of the patients.

After the treatments, the ringing was no better than before.

And when Piccirillo's team asked participants which treatment they thought they received first - the real magnet or the fake magnet - the answers were right only half the time - a result just as good as chance.

Piccirillo told Reuters Health he's not giving up on magnetic therapy. "There's no doubt these magnets work to reorganize brain connections. But we don't know where to put the magnet, and for how long."

In this study, the magnet was placed near the patients' left ear, by the part of the brain that processes sound.

Dr. Robert Folmer, a professor of ear, nose and throat surgery at the Oregon Health and Science University, reviewed the study for Reuters Health.

Folmer, who was not involved in the research, suggested some reasons that could explain why Piccirillo's study didn't work, when previous studies have successfully used magnets to relieve ear ringing.

Two weeks of treatment could be too brief to allow the brain to correct the ringing, he said. And perhaps the left side of the skull is not the correct place to put the magnetic coil in every patient.

"Mostly I was kind of surprised to see how many people were in this study," Folmer said. Fourteen is "a very small number of people."

Piccirillo said his team had planned to include 55 people, but when they realized the treatment wasn't working they decided to stop.

"It's extremely unlikely that you would have seen an effect if we had continued the study," Piccirillo said.

He agreed that the treatment might have been too short. His group is starting a new experiment with 4 weeks of treatments instead of 2 weeks.

Folmer too is soon starting a study of magnetic therapy, in 160 patients with tinnitus. His group will apply the magnet to the left side of the head in some patients, and the right side in others.

The appeal of magnetic therapy is that it is expected to actually reduce the ringing in people's ears.

Currently, the available treatments - such as talk therapy and antidepressant medications - don't get rid of the noise; they only help people cope with it.

Piccirillo's federally-funded study is published in the March issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Source: http://bit.ly/dHW27Z

Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, March 2011.

More Added Sugars, More Pounds?

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- As Americans' intake of sugars added to processed and home-cooked foods rises, so, too, does body weight, according to a study that followed Minnesota residents for 27 years.

"Added sugars and body weight are increasing concurrently," said Huifen Wang, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in Minneapolis. She will present her findings Thursday at an American Heart Association meeting in Atlanta.

While added sugars can't fully explain the expanding girths of Americans, it's a contributing factor, she said.

While other research has looked at sugar-sweetened beverages and their effect on weight and overall health, Wang wanted to look at added sugars -- what is added to foods during processing, preparation or at the table.

"There is limited data available looking at how added sugar intake is related to body-mass index (BMI),'' Wang said. For the study, she used data collected in the Minnesota Heart Survey, a surveillance study of adults aged 25 to 74 living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Dietary intake was evaluated by 24-hour recall.

The survey looked at diet, height and weight of the participants from 1980-82 through 2007-2009. Over the 27 years, intake of total carbohydrate and added sugars rose among both men and women, while total fat intake decreased.

Added sugar consumption rose by 51 percent in women from 1980-82 and 2000-2002 and then declined somewhat, according to the research. Men followed the same pattern.

The researchers noted that weight-gain patterns kept pace with national ebbs and flows in added sugar consumption: as intake rose, so too did the average BMI of both men and women. When sugar consumption leveled off, BMI leveled off in women, but not in men, the researchers said.

Overall, men consumed about 15.3 percent of daily calories from added sugars in 2007-2009, a nearly 38 percent increase from 1980-82. Women ate 13.4 percent of total calories from added sugars in 2007-2009, up from under 10 percent in 1980-82.

Women ate less added sugar than men and younger adults aged 25 to 39 ate more than older adults did. The BMI rose across the six surveys overall, with the greatest increase in those aged 25 to 39.

Wang concluded that "public health efforts should advise limiting added sugar intake."

"Added sugar contributes to extra calorie intake," Wang said.

How much is too much added sugar? Most women should eat no more than 100 calories of added sugars a day, according to the American Heart Association. Most men should consume no more than 150 calories of added sugars a day.

The study has some limitations, said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis and past president of the American Dietetic Association.

Diekman wanted more information on how total calories changed, which would help explain the BMIs creeping up. "Another concern with this study is the use of 24-hour recalls, since we know people tend to have difficulty remembering, even within 24 hours, what and how much they eat."

Even so, Diekman said, added sugars do not provide much nutrition value. She suggests switching to alternative sweeteners to get the "sweet boost."

To avoid added sugars, you have to know which foods contain them, of course. Among the foods with added sugars that come as a surprise to people: granola bars, many smoothies and some trail mixes.

The study was presented at a medical meeting, and so the results should be viewed as preliminary because they have not undergone the rigorous scrutiny that studies published in medical journals typically do.

More information

To learn more about added sugars, visit the USDA.

Prostate Cancer Spreads to Bones by Overtaking the Home of Blood Stem Cells

ScienceDaily

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — Like bad neighbors who decide to go wreck another community, prostate and breast cancer usually recur in the bone, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Now, U-M researchers believe they know why. Prostate cancer cells specifically target and eventually overrun the bone marrow niche, a specialized area for hematopoietic stem cells, which make red and white blood cells, said Russell Taichman, professor at the U-M School of Dentistry and senior author of the study.

Once in the niche, the cancer cells stay dormant and when they become active again years later, that's when tumors recur in the bone. The implication is that this may give us a window as to how dormancy and recurrence take place.

Taichman and a team of researchers looked in the bone marrow and found cancer cells and hematopoietic stem cells next to one another competing for the same place. The finding is important because it demonstrates that the bone marrow niche plays a central role in bone metastasis -- cancers that spread into the bone -- giving researchers a new potential drug target.

Drugs could be developed to keep the types of cancers that likely recur in the bone from returning, Taichman said. For example, these drugs could either halt or disrupt how the cancer cells enter or behave in the niche, or keep the cancer cells from out-competing the stem cells.

Cancer cells act a lot like stem cells in that they must reproduce, so the U-M research group hypothesized that prostate cancer cells might travel to the niche during metastasis. One of the jobs of the niche is to keep hematopoietic stem cells from proliferating -- which may be the case for cancer cells, as well, the researchers found.

So why does cancer recur? Say a person has a tumor and surgeons cut it out or do radiation, but it recurs in the bone marrow five years later, Taichman said. Those cancer cells had been circulating in the body well before the tumor was discovered, and one place those cancer cells hid is the niche.

"So what have the cancer cells been doing during those five years? Now we have a partial answer -- they've been sitting in this place whose job it is to keep things from proliferating and growing," Taichman said.

"Our work also provides an explanation as to why current chemotherapies often fail in that once cancer cells enter the niche, most likely they stop proliferating," said Yusuke Shiozawa, lead author of the study. "The problem is that most of the drugs we use to try to treat cancer only work on cells that are proliferating."

Metastases are the most common malignant tumors involving the skeleton, and nearly 70 percent of patients with breast and prostate cancer have bone involvements. Roughly 15 percent to 30 percent of patients with lung, colon, stomach, bladder, uterus, rectum, thyroid or kidney cancer have bone lesions.

Researchers aren't quite sure how the cancer cells out-compete the stem cells in the niche. However, they do know the stem cells were displaced because when cancer cells were in the niche scientists also found evidence of immature blood stem cells in the blood stream, instead of in the marrow where they were supposed to be, Taichman said.

"Eventually the entire blood system is going to collapse," he said. "For example, the patient ultimately becomes anemic, gets infections, and has bleeding problems. We really don't know why people with prostate cancer die. They end up dying from different kinds of complications in part because the marrow is taken over by cancer."

The next step is to find out how the tumor cell gets into the niche and becomes dormant, and exactly what they do to the stem cells when they are there. Researchers also want to know if other types of cancer cells, such as breast cancer, also go to the niche.

The study appears online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Co-authors are: Elizabeth Pedersen, Aaron Havens, Younghun Jung, Anjali Mishra, Jeena Joseph, Jin Koo Kim, Anne Ziegler, Michael Pienta, Jingcheng Wang, Junhui Song and Paul Krebsbach of the U-M School of Dentistry; Lalit Patel, Chi Ying, Robert Loberg and Kenneth Pienta of the departments of Urology and Internal Medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Journal Reference:

Yusuke Shiozawa, Elisabeth A. Pedersen, Aaron M. Havens, Younghun Jung, Anjali Mishra, Jeena Joseph, Jin Koo Kim, Lalit R. Patel, Chi Ying, Anne M. Ziegler, Michael J. Pienta, Junhui Song, Jingcheng Wang, Robert D. Loberg, Paul H. Krebsbach, Kenneth J. Pienta, Russell S. Taichman. Human prostate cancer metastases target the hematopoietic stem cell niche to establish footholds in mouse bone marrow. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2011; DOI: 10.1172/JCI43414

'Mini Strokes' Linked to Doubled Heart Attack Risk: Study

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Having a "mini stroke," known as a transient-ischemic attack (TIA), appears to double the risk for a heart attack later, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

Although TIA symptoms may last only a few minutes, they are a warning of coronary heart disease that may be unrecognized, said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, a professor of medicine and director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

The study confirms that "people who have had a TIA or stroke should also be evaluated for coronary heart disease," said Goldstein.

TIAs usually occur when a blood clot temporarily blocks a blood vessel to the brain. TIA symptoms are similar to stroke symptoms, but they usually resolve in minutes or a few hours and don't cause long-term disability.

"They should be treated as a medical emergency warranting immediate evaluation," said Goldstein.

For the study, published online March 24 in Stroke, a team led by Dr. Robert D. Brown, Jr., chair of the neurology department at the Mayo Clinic, collected data on 456 patients in Rochester, Minn, average age 72, who had suffered a TIA between 1985 and 1994. Forty-three percent were men.

Almost 66 percent of these patients had high blood pressure, more than 50 percent were smokers and 75 percent were taking drugs such as aspirin to prevent blood clots.

During an average 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found the risk of having a heart attack was around 1 percent a year, which is double the rate for people who had never had a TIA. The increased risk lingered for years and was greatest among younger people, the researchers noted.

Those under 60 years old who had had a TIA were 15 times more likely to have a heart attack, compared with people who never had a TIA.

The average time between a TIA and a heart attack was five years, Brown's team found. In addition, TIA patients who had a heart attack were three times more likely to die than those who did not have a heart attack.

Factors linked to increased heart attack risk after a TIA included being male, older age, and use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, the researchers note.

"Physicians and other health care providers should be mindful of the increased risk for heart attack after TIA, just as they are about the increased occurrence of stroke," said Brown.

"In fact, coronary-artery disease is an even greater cause of death after transient-ischemic attack than stroke is, surprising as that may be," Brown said.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "cerebral vascular disease and coronary artery disease share common risk factors and frequently co-exist."

Patients with suspected TIA require immediate medical attention, Fonarow said.

"Along with rapid assessment and evidence-based management to prevent stroke, patients with TIA should receive comprehensive measures to prevent and treat coronary artery disease," he said.

Between 250,000 and 350,000 transient ischemic attacks occur each year in the United States, Fonarow said.

According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of a TIA include:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

More information

For more information on TIAs, visit the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

'Junk Food' Moms Have 'Junk Food' Babies

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2011) — A new research report published online in The FASEB Journal suggests that pregnant mothers who eat high sugar and high fat diets have babies who are likely to become junk food junkies themselves. According to the report, which used rats, this happens because the high fat and high sugar diet leads to changes in the fetal brain's reward pathway, altering food preferences.

Not only does this offer insight into the ever-increasing rate of human obesity, but it may also explain why some people easily resist fatty and sugary foods, while others seem hopelessly addicted.

"These results will help us to better help women about diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding for giving their infants the best start in life," said Beverly Muhlhausler, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the FOODplus Research Centre in the School of Agriculture Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia.

To make this discovery, Muhlhausler and colleagues studied two groups of rats, which during pregnancy and lactation, were either fed standard "rat chow" or a junk food diet made up of a selection of common human foods high in fat and high in sugar. After the baby mice were weaned, the pups from both groups were allowed to select their own diets from either the same range of junk food or the standard rat chow. Brains from some of the pups also were collected at different times after birth and measured for the levels of the "feel good" chemicals (dopamine and opioids) and the receptors that these chemicals act upon. The scientists found that the group of rats whose mothers had eaten the junk food diet had higher levels of the receptor for opioids after they were weaned. This group also chose to eat more of the fatty foods as compared to the pups whose mothers ate the standard rat chow. This suggests that infants whose mothers eat excessive amounts of high-fat, high-sugar junk foods when pregnant or breastfeeding are likely to have a greater preference for these foods later in life.

"How ironic that your mother nags you to eat your fruits and vegetables, but it could have been her actions that helped you to prefer junk food!" said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Perhaps in the future, studies like these will convince pregnant moms to go heavier on the green vegetables and a little lighter on the ice cream and Twinkies."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Journal Reference:

Z. Y. Ong, B. S. Muhlhausler. Maternal "junk-food" feeding of rat dams alters food choices and development of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring. The FASEB Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1096/fj.10-178392

High Levels of PFCs Might Bring Early Menopause

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Women with higher levels of certain chemicals used in many household products have lower levels of estrogen and are more likely to experience early menopause, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in products such as toys, clothing, furniture, carpets, paints and plastic food containers. This new study of 25,957 women, aged 18 to 65, found an association between PFC exposure, decreased levels of the female sex hormone estradiol, and early menopause in women over age 42.

The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The widespread use of PFCs has led to their presence in water, air, soil, plants, animals and humans. One study found that 98 percent of American adults have measurable concentrations of PFCs, according to background material in the study.

"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," study author Sarah Knox, of West Virginia University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release. "Part of the explanation could be that women in these age groups have higher PFC levels because they are no longer losing PFCs with menstrual blood anymore, but it is still clinically disturbing because it would imply that increased PFC exposure is the natural result of menopause."

It's known that PFCs have a number of harmful effects, including increased cardiovascular risk and immune system impairment.

"Our findings suggest that PFCs are associated with endocrine disruption in women and that further research on mechanisms is warranted," Knox said.

More information

The Environmental Working Group has more about PFCs.

Plant Oil May Hold Key to Reducing Obesity-Related Medical Issues, Researcher Finds

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2011) — Scientists have known for years that belly fat leads to serious medical problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found a plant oil that may be able to reduce belly fat in humans.

In his latest study, James Perfield, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR), found that a specific plant oil, known as sterculic oil, may be a key in the fight against obesity. Sterculic oil is extracted from seeds of the Sterculia foetida tree. The oil contains unique fatty acids known to suppress a bodily enzyme associated with insulin resistance, which could indirectly help with reducing belly fat. Previous studies show that reducing the enzyme in rodents improves their metabolic profile, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing chances for later chronic diseases.

"This research paves the way for potential use in humans," Perfield said. "Reducing belly fat is a key to reducing the incidence of serious disease, and this oil could have a future as a nutritional supplement."

To study the compound, Perfield added sterculic oil to the feed of rats that are genetically disposed to have a high amount of abdominal fat. He tested the rats over the course of 13 weeks and found that rats given a diet supplemented with sterulic oil had less abdominal fat and a decreased likelihood of developing diabetes. Perfield gave the rats a relatively small dose of oil each day, comparable to giving three grams to a 250-pound human.

Belly fat, clinically known as intra-abdominal fat, is between internal organs and the torso. Intra-abdominal fat is composed of "adipose" deposits. Unusually high adipose levels trigger health problems that may induce insulin resistance, which causes the body to have difficulty maintaining blood sugar levels. Initially, the body is able to compensate by producing more insulin, but eventually the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, thus increasing excess sugar in the bloodstream and setting the stage for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other obesity-associated health disorders.

Perfield plans to conduct further studies of sterulic oil in hopes of developing a natural nutritional supplement. He says future research will focus on the effectiveness of the oil in humans, as well as any side effects.

"The oil from this seed is very similar to other vegetable oils," Perfield said. "It shares many of the same chemical properties, which could allow it to be easily substituted with other oils. While eating the seed directly may be possible, it's easier to control the amount of oil if you extract it directly."

Perfield presented the research at the Diabetes, Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Dysfunction Symposium in Keystone, Colo. The research was funded by the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, MU Food for the 21st Century, and CAFNR.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Do vitamins stop cancer, heart attacks? Study: no

By Leigh Krietsch Boerner

Reuters Health

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Will taking multivitamins protect you from dying of cancer or heart disease? The answer is no, according to new research.

In a study of more than 180,000 people, scientists saw the same number of deaths from cancer and heart disease among multivitamin-takers and those who did not take the supplements.

"People need to understand that just taking these multivitamins is not sufficient to prevent disease," said Jennifer Hsiang-Ling Lin, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who did not work on the study.

Multiple past studies have shown no link between multivitamins and reduced risk of cancer or heart disease. Other recent research couldn't prove that multivitamins protect against diabetes, either.

Some small studies in the past have shown that specific vitamins, not multivitamins, may be protective against heart disease or cancer later in life. However these studies looked at undernourished people, not generally healthy adults like the U.S. population, said co-author Song-Yi Park, assistant professor of epidemiology at University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu.

On its web site, the U.S. National Institutes of Health advise that doctors should prescribe multivitamins only "for patients who need extra vitamins, who cannot eat enough food to obtain the required vitamins, or who cannot receive the full benefit of the vitamins contained in the food they eat."

But more than half of U.S. adults choose to take multivitamins, according to Lin.

Many do because they think it will prevent chronic disease, said Ross Prentice, director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, who also did not work on the new study.

Altogether, Park's team looked at the vitamin-popping habits of more than 82,000 men and nearly 100,000 women, who were an average of 60 years old. Then they tracked how many died, and the causes, over the next 11 years.

Overall, about six in 100 multivitamin users and non-users died from heart disease. Cancer claimed about five in 100 from both groups, and four in 100 died from other causes. In total, almost 29,000 people died in the 11 years of follow-up.

The multivitamins didn't seem to protect users from cancer in general, or from cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, prostate, or breast.

Each year in the U.S. about 616,000 people die from heart disease and about 560,000 die from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The researchers did not find that taking multivitamins hurts anyone, Lin noted.

However, they can be expensive. According to Consumer Reports, Americans spent almost $4.7 billion on multivitamins in 2008. Depending on the type, supplements range from $3 to $16 a month.

This study could not prove that multivitamins do or don't affect people's risks for heart disease and cancer. A large clinical trial -- one that can show cause and effect, if it exists -- is underway but the results aren't available yet.

Past studies have mostly involved Caucasians, Lin said. The current one, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, included large numbers of Latino and Japanese-American people. This shows that the lack of association held up for different racial groups as well, she said.

The best way to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, according to Lin? Exercise and eat a healthy diet.

Source: http://bit.ly/gFZKgt

 

American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 22, 2011.

Sleep Less, Eat More: Study

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- People of normal weight eat more when they sleep less, a small new study finds.

Columbia University researchers discovered that sleep-deprived adults ate almost 300 calories more a day on average than those who got enough sleep. And the extra calories mostly came from saturated fat, which can spell trouble for waistlines.

Women's diets seemed to be the most impacted by lack of sleep. They ate an average of 329 more calories a day if they weren't well-rested, while men ate 263 more calories on average.

The researchers came to their conclusions after following 13 men and 13 women of normal weight. They monitored the eating habits of the participants as they spent six days sleeping four hours a night and then six days sleeping nine hours a night (or the reverse).

The findings were scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association scientific sessions, held in Atlanta.

"If sustained, the dietary choices made by people undergoing short sleep could predispose them to obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote in an American Heart Association news release.

Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

More information

For more about obesity, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Toenail study: No heart risk from mercury in fish

By Alicia Chang

AP Science Writer

The Associated Press

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES – In an unusual health study, researchers analyzing toxin levels in tens of thousands of toenail clippings determined that mercury from eating fish does not raise the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Health experts have long urged people to eat fish to lower heart risks, but some have worried that the mercury in certain types of fish like shark and swordfish might offset any benefits. Earlier studies on mercury and heart problems in adults have yielded contradictory results.

The latest government-funded work is the largest to look at this question. Instead of relying on what people said they ate, it measured mercury in their toenails — a good gauge of long-term exposure to the metal from fish consumption.

No differences were seen in the rates of heart and stroke among those with the highest concentrations of mercury compared to those with the lowest.

"The average person should eat fish as part of a healthy diet," and not worry about ill heart effects, said Harvard School of Public Health cardiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, who led the research published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Mercury occurs naturally in soil and rocks, including coal. It gets into the air from coal-fired power plants and other sources, and settles into water. Small fish absorb mercury when they feed on plankton, and they, in turn, are eaten by bigger fish. Older and larger predator fish — like shark, swordfish and king mackerel — tend to accumulate the highest mercury levels.

In high quantities, the metal can damage the developing brain and nervous system of young children and is a special concern for pregnant women because of potential harm to the fetus.

The new research in adults used information from two studies of 174,000 health professionals. Some participants sent in toenail clippings when the work started decades ago.

Since toenails grow slowly and at different rates, they are favored over blood samples because they provide a more accurate picture of long-term mercury exposure. Toenails are also easy to collect and can be stored cheaply.

After an average of 11 years, 3,500 participants who had given nail samples had suffered strokes or developed heart disease. Researchers compared them to an equal number of participants who did not develop those health problems.

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender and smoking, there was no link between mercury exposure and risks for heart disease or stroke. This was true even at high exposure where the average toenail mercury levels were 1 microgram per gram — roughly twice the recommended limit for pregnant women.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults eat fish at least twice a week. Pregnant women and young children are advised to avoid fish with the highest mercury concentrations and limit themselves to 12 ounces of fish a week such as shrimp, salmon and catfish, which contain lower mercury levels.

While fish contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, consumers should also round out their diet with whole grains and fruits and vegetables, experts say.

"Fish intake is important, but we also have to think about the whole package," said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University nutrition professor and spokeswoman for the heart group, who was not involved in the research.

Online:

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/advisories.htm

Journal: http://www.nejm.org

Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Physical activity may diminish the negative impact of a high-salt diet on blood pressure, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that the more people exercise, the less their blood pressure will rise in response to a high-salt diet.

"For those with low physical activity, their blood pressure will increase more if they increase their sodium intake," said study co-author Dr. Jiang He, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

"It's a little bit of a surprise," He added. "But this is the first study to look at this particular association between physical activity and salt sensitivity and blood pressure. But after thinking it over it makes sense, because we already know that physical activity will reduce blood pressure."

He and his colleagues are slated to present their findings Wednesday at the American Heart Association's meeting on nutrition, physical activity and cardiovascular disease, held in Atlanta.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of stroke. Because of salt's association with high blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

To explore a potential association between exercise and the hypertensive role of dietary salt, the authors focused on roughly 1,900 men and women (average age 38) living in a rural region in northern China. None took blood pressure medication during the study.

For one week all of the participants consumed 3,000 mg of sodium a day in their diet; for another week, they were placed on a high-sodium iet -- 18,000 mg per day.

Nine blood pressure readings were taken each week, and questionnaires were completed to assess routine levels of physical activity, ranging from "very active" to "quite sedentary."

When switching from the lower-sodium to a high-sodium diet, those who experienced a 5 percent or greater boost in their systolic blood pressure (the heart contraction measure represented by the top figure of a blood pressure reading) were deemed "high salt-sensitive."

Those reporting the most physical activity had a 38 percent lower risk of being highly salt-sensitive than the least active group. This group was the least likely to see a 5 percent or greater rise in their blood pressure in response to a high-salt diet.

Compared with the most sedentary group, those in the next-to-highest activity group had a 17 percent lower risk of salt-sensitivity, and those in the next-to-lowest activity group had a 10 percent lower risk.

The team concluded that engaging in physical activity has a "significant," independent and progressively healthful impact on the degree to which salt sensitivity relates to blood pressure.

The authors acknowledged that the study needs to be repeated. Also, experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Still, "there's no reason to think these findings will not apply to a U.S. population. Stress factors for hypertension are the same for a Chinese and American population," said He.

"So the basic message here is, first we need to encourage the population to both lower their sodium intake and to increase their physical activity," He added. Those who can't increase their physical activity, perhaps because of age or disability, should still be encouraged to follow a low-sodium diet, "because sodium has a marked affect on blood pressure," He said.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said that the findings highlight some of the well-known benefits of regular exercise.

"Even if we don't understand the mechanism of how it works, we definitely do know that people who exercise regularly have healthier blood vessels," she noted. "The blood vessels are like a muscle. And if you engage in cardiovascular activity, they are more pliable and respond better to changes in blood volume and blood pressure."

Why this is so merits exploration, Sandon said. "One explanation might be that people who exercise more lose more salt through their sweat," she said. "Or it could be that activity sends a different kind of physiological message to the body to excrete sodium. Or it could be that it triggers a mechanism that tells the blood vessels to relax.

"To understand which it is will take further study," she added.

More information

For more on high blood pressure, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Metabolic Abnormalities in Obese Teens May Relate to Poor Diets

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2011) — Obese teens may feel healthy, but blood tests show they have inflammation, insulin resistance, and high homocysteine levels, researchers report at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions.

"The metabolic abnormalities suggest that the process of developing heart disease has already started in these children, making it critical for them to make definitive lifestyle and diet changes," said Ashutosh Lal, M.D., senior author of the study and a pediatric hematologist at the Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland in California.

Researchers compared the diets and blood test results of 33 obese youthss (ages 11 to 19) with 19 age-matched youths of normal weight. Obesity in youths isa body mass index (BMI) higher than the 95th percentile of children the same age. Normal weight youths had a BMI below the 85th percentile. Body mass index is a measure of weight related to height. Two thirds of the participants in both groups were girls. All of the participants were receiving regular health maintenance care at an inner city clinic in Oakland.

Blood tests revealed that the obese teens had:

C-reactive protein levels almost ten times higher than controls, indicating more inflammation in the body.

Insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, with greater amounts of insulin needed to keep blood sugar levels normal.

Homocysteine levels 62 percent higher than controls. High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are related to greater heart disease risk.

Total glutathione levels 27.9 percent lower than controls, with oxidized glutathione levels 125 percent higher. A higher ratio of oxidized to non-oxidized glutathione indicates oxidative stress, an imbalance in the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body's ability to neutralize them. Oxidative stress leads to more inflammation and an increase in blood vessel damage and stiffening.

"Looking at the numbers you would think these children might feel sick, but they did not," Lal said. "They are apparently feeling well, but there is a lot going on beneath the surface."

Dietary quality was poor in all the children -- low in fresh produce, fiber, and dairy products. On questionnaires, obese and normal-weight children reported consuming similar amounts of grains, proteins, fats and total calories. However, the obese children reported significantly fewer servings of dairy products and tended towards fewer fruit servings. The obese children's diets were lower in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin A, found in fortified dairy products and as well as in deeply colored fruits and vegetables.

With such poor dietary quality in both the obese and control groups, clinicians should pay more attention to what their young patients are eating, researchers said.

"Obese teens were consuming too few of the natural sources of anti-oxidants, fruits and vegetables, and may have increased antioxidant needs based on the inflammation associated with their extra adiposity" Lal said. "For their heart health, obese teens need to eat better, not just eat less."

Though the study's participants attended an inner city health clinic, researchers said the metabolic differences between obese and normal-weight teens would be found in all socioeconomic groups.

The children in the study were racially diverse. The obese group was 39 percent African-American, 30 percent non-African-American Hispanic, 18 percent Caucasian and 6 percent Asian and 7 percent other. The control group was 21 percent African-American, 5 percent Hispanic, 42 percent Caucasian, 21 percent Asian and 11 percent other.

This study was funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of California, San Francisco, and the Bruce and Giovanna Ames Foundation.

Co-authors are: Michele Mietus-Snyder, M.D.; Jung H. Suh, Ph.D.; Bruce N. Ames, Ph.D.; and Betty Flores, P.N.P. Author disclosures are on the abstract.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Depression May Boost Arthritis Pain

HealthDay News

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Depression can worsen the pain of knee arthritis, a new study finds.

South Korean researchers used X-rays to assess the severity of knee osteoarthritis in 660 men and women, aged 65 and older. The patients were also evaluated for the severity of their symptoms and for depression.

As expected, levels of pain were higher in patients whose X-rays showed greater joint damage. However, the researchers also found that depression was associated with an increase in pain in patients with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis, even when significant joint damage was not evident in the X-ray image.

The findings are published in the March 16 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

"Knee osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain and impairment in older adults. Often, the level of arthritic symptoms reported by patients is much more severe than what is represented by X-rays, which can make it difficult for the doctor to treat," study author Dr. Tae Kyun Kim, director of the division of knee surgery and sports medicine at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital's Joint Reconstruction Center, said in a journal news release.

"The results of this study indicate that depression can play a major role in the way patients experience the symptoms of knee arthritis, and that even when X-rays show the arthritis is not severe, patients with depression may report significant pain," Kim said.

"The relationship between pain and depression suggests that both should be considered by physicians when treating patients with knee osteoarthritis, particularly in those with X-rays not indicating severe damage to the joint," Kim added.

Kim also noted that some patients with knee osteoarthritis still experience pain and impaired movement after undergoing knee replacement surgery.

"Sometimes pain and disability after surgery is medically unexplained, so in these patients screening for depression might be a very good option," Kim suggested.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, depression often goes undiagnosed in the elderly.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about osteoarthritis.

Heart drug linked to higher breast cancer risk

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women taking the heart drug digoxin have an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study of more than 2 million Danes.

Digoxin, marketed as Lanoxin and Digitek, is used by people with heart failure or with abnormal heart beats. But it can also act like the female hormone estrogen in the body, leading researchers to wonder if it might up cancer risk the same way estrogen treatment does in older women.

About two percent of the women who took digoxin at any point during the new study eventually developed breast cancer.

Former users had the same risk as those who had never taken the drug, while those currently on it were about 40 percent more likely to get breast cancer.

That extra risk is "worth noting," said Dr. Timothy Lash of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, a breast cancer expert who was not involved in the study. But he added that it's less impressive when you consider how few women actually developed the disease.

In the U.S., about one in eight women develop breast cancer at some point, according to the American Cancer Society.

For the new study, researchers led by Dr. Robert Biggar of Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, tapped into two different country-wide databases - one that includes all prescriptions filled in Denmark and another that contains all cancer cases.

About 100,000 women age 20 and older took digoxin at some point during the course of the study, which tracked women for an average of 12 years.

The chance of getting breast cancer was highest in women who were in their first year of taking digoxin. Then it dropped off, but slowly crept up again after 3 years or more on the drug.

Digoxin is often added on top of other heart drugs, such as beta blockers and statins. There was no extra breast cancer risk linked to those drugs, however.

GlaxoSmithKline, which markets digoxin, was not available for immediate comment on the study.

The study can't prove that digoxin, also known as digitalis, actually causes breast cancer in some women. And even if it does, the heart benefits might still outweigh that risk, the researchers write in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

So the findings don't mean women should avoid taking digoxin, Lash told Reuters Health. Those who are on the drug "are receiving digoxin because they already have a fairly serious chronic disease," he said.

"It might be worth talking with their doctor about the tradeoff, (but) maintaining heart health is an important consideration," he said.

Whole Grain Cereal May Help Control Blood Pressure

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Eating breakfast cereal -- especially whole grain cereal -- may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, a new study suggests.

"We found about a 20 percent decreased risk of developing hypertension in those who consumed whole grain breakfasts cereals at least seven times a week," said lead researcher Dr. Jinesh Kochar, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the VA Boston Healthcare System.

"Along with other healthy lifestyles, such as low sodium intake and physical activity, getting whole grain from this readily available source can cut down the risk of developing chronic hypertension," he added.

Findings from the study, which received no private industry funding, were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Atlanta.

For the study, Kochar's team collected data on 13,368 male doctors who took part in the Physicians Health Study I, a landmark trial begun in 1982.

None of the men had high blood pressure at the start of the study, but during more than 16 years of follow-up, 7,267 men developed hypertension, the researchers found.

High blood pressure, which puts people at risk for heart disease and stroke, is a leading cause of death in the United States.

The men were separated into four groups based on their cereal consumption.

When researchers adjusted only for age, they found that the men who ate cereal at least once a week reduced their risk of high blood pressure 8 percent compared with men who ate no cereal. Consuming cereal two to six times a week lowered the risk 16 percent, and eating it seven or more times a week dropped the risk 25 percent.

When Kochar's group adjusted their findings to take into account smoking history, weight, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity and history of diabetes in addition to age, the difference was still significant but smaller -- 12 percent for those eating two to six servings a week and 19 percent for men eating seven or more bowls.

The association with lower blood pressure was stronger for whole grain cereals than refined grain cereals, the researchers found.

Kochar speculates the effect is partly because of whole grain cereal's high fiber content. Whole grains are also a good source of micronutrients, and they increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, he said.

Commenting on the study, Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "there has long been evidence that whole grain intake can lower blood pressure fairly acutely, and it is associated with lower blood pressure over time."

A number of mechanisms may produce this beneficial effect, he said. "They contain vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, that may directly relax blood vessels," Katz said. Another contributing factor is soluble fiber, "which helps lower blood sugar, lipid and insulin levels, and, in turn, lowers blood pressure," he added.

There's another obvious, but often overlooked explanation, Katz said: "Eating more whole grains means eating less of something else."

"When one considers the many high-sodium fast-food breakfast options, it may be as much what a bowl of cereal knocks out of one's diet, as what it puts in, that helps lower blood pressure and enhance health," Katz said.

More cereal might mean fewer scones and donuts, for example.

Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

More information

For more information on hypertension, visit the American Heart Association.

Metabolite Levels May Be Able to Improve Diabetes Risk Prediction

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2011) — Measuring the levels of small molecules in the blood may be able to identify individuals at elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes as much as a decade before symptoms of the disorder appear. In a report receiving advance online release in Nature Medicine, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers describes finding that levels of five amino acids not only indicated increased diabetes risk in a general population but also could differentiate, among individuals with traditional risk factors such as obesity, those most likely to actually develop diabetes.

"These findings could provide insight into metabolic pathways that are altered very early in the process leading to diabetes," says lead author Thomas Wang, MD, of the MGH Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC) and Division of Cardiology. "They also raise the possibility that, in selected individuals, these measurements could identify those at highest risk of developing diabetes so that early preventive measures could be instituted."

New technologies to measure levels of metabolites -- small molecules produced by metabolic activities and released into the bloodstream -- are giving investigators increased insight into an individual's metabolic status. Since the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes marks the culmination of a years-long breakdown of the body's system for metabolizing glucose, the ability to detect that breakdown at a stage when lifestyle changes could halt the process may significantly reduce the incidence of the disease. Known risk factors such as obesity and elevated glucose levels often signify that diabetes actually is present, so earlier identification of at-risk individuals is critical to more effective preventive measures, the authors note.

Some earlier studies had found elevated levels of certain amino acids in individuals who are obese or have insulin resistance, a condition that precedes full-blown type 2 diabetes. But no previous study examined whether levels of these or other metabolites predicted the future development of diabetes in currently healthy individuals. The current study began with an analysis of data from the Framingham Offspring Study, which follows a group of adult children of participants in the original Framingham Heart Study. Out of 2,400 study participants who entered the study in 1991 and 1995, about 200 developed type 2 diabetes during the following 12 years. Using the baseline blood samples, the research team measured levels of 61 metabolites in 189 participants who later developed diabetes and 189 others -- matched for age, sex and diabetes risk factors such as obesity and fasting glucose levels -- who remained diabetes free.

This analysis found that elevations in five amino acids -- isoleucine, leucine, valine, tyrosine and phenylalanine -- were significantly associated with the later development of type 2 diabetes. Several of these amino acids were the same ones found in smaller studies to be elevated in individuals with obesity or insulin resistance, and other evidence has suggested they may directly affect glucose regulation. The association of levels of these five amino acids with future diabetes development was replicated in 326 participants in the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study.

The investigators then found that measuring combinations of several metabolites, as opposed to a single amino acid, improved risk prediction. Overall, in individuals closely matched for traditional risk factors for type 2 diabetes, those with the highest levels of the three most predictive amino acids had a four to five times greater risk of developing diabetes than did those with the lowest levels.

"Several groups have suggested that these amino acids can aberrantly activate an important metabolic pathway involved in cellular growth or can somehow poison the mitochondria that provide cellular energy," says Robert Gerszten, MD, director of Clinical and Translational Research for the MGH Heart Center, the paper's senior author. "From a clinical perspective, we need to see if these markers, which we found using data from only about 1,000 individuals, do identify truly high-risk individuals who should be triaged to early preventive treatment and intensive lifestyle interventions. Additional basic investigations can reveal if these metabolites play a role in the process leading to diabetes and if there are ways we can stop the damage." Gerszten and Wang are both associate professors of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

These studies were performed in close collaboration with Clary Clish, PhD, director of Metabolite Profiling of the Broad Institute. Additional co-authors of the Nature Medicine report are Susan Cheng, MD, Elizabeth McCabe, MS, and Gregory Lewis, MD, MGH Cardiology; Eugene Rhee, MD, MGH Renal Unit; Vamsi Mootha, MD, and Jose Florez, MD, PhD, MGH Center for Human Genetic Research and the Broad Institute; Martin Larson, ScD, Ramachandran Vasan, MD, Christopher O'Donnell,MD, and Caroline Fox, MD, MPH, Framingham Heart Study; Paul Jacques, DSc, Tufts University; Celine Fernandez and Olle Melander, MD, PhD, Lund University, Malmo, Sweden; and Stephen Carr, PhD, and Amanda Souza, Broad Institute..

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Leducq Foundation, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, and the American Heart Association. The Framingham Heart Study of the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Boston University is supported by a contract from the National Institutes of Health.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Journal Reference:

Thomas J Wang, Martin G Larson, Ramachandran S Vasan, Susan Cheng, Eugene P Rhee, Elizabeth McCabe, Gregory D Lewis, Caroline S Fox, Paul F Jacques, Cιline Fernandez, Christopher J O'Donnell, Stephen A Carr, Vamsi K Mootha, Jose C Florez, Amanda Souza, Olle Melander, Clary B Clish, Robert E Gerszten. Metabolite profiles and the risk of developing diabetes. Nature Medicine, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nm.2307

Poor Diet Linked to Early Signs of Heart Risks in Obese Kids

HealthDay News

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity often saddles teenagers with a wide variety of conditions that boost the risk of heart disease, such as inflammation, insulin resistance and signs of trouble in the metabolic system, a small new study suggests.

"The metabolic abnormalities suggest that the process of developing heart disease has already started in these children, making it critical for them to make definitive lifestyle and diet changes," said study senior author Dr. Ashutosh Lal, a pediatric hematologist at the Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland in California, in a news release provided by the American Heart Association.

The findings were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the American Heart Association scientific sessions, held in Atlanta.

The researchers compared the diets of 33 young obese people (aged 11 to 19 years) to 19 people in the same age group who were of normal weight. The participants' weight category was determined using the body mass index score, which takes into account a person's height and weight.

The researchers also examined blood test results for each of the participants, all of whom received health care at an inner-city clinic in Oakland. Two-thirds the participants in each group were female, and both groups were racially diverse.

The obese teens showed signs of inflammation, insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) and oxidative stress (which can lead to blood vessel damage), the investigators found.

"Looking at the numbers you would think these children might feel sick, but they did not," Lal said. "They are apparently feeling well, but there is a lot going on beneath the surface."

The problems could be related to poor diets that are low in fruit and vegetables, fiber and dairy products. The researchers found that teens in both groups weren't getting proper nutrition because they didn't eat enough of these types of foods, but the obese teens in particular consumed less dairy and fewer servings of fruit.

Potassium and vitamins A, C and D -- which are found in fortified dairy products and deeply colored fruits and vegetables -- were all found to be lacking in the diets of the obese children, the study authors indicated.

"Obese teens were consuming too few of the natural sources of antioxidants, fruits and vegetables, and may have increased antioxidant needs based on the inflammation associated with their extra [weight]," Lal said. "For their heart health, obese teens need to eat better, not just eat less."

Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on obesity in children.

Key Protein Suppresses Prostate Cancer Growth in the Laboratory

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2011) — Cancer researchers have discovered an important protein, produced naturally inside cells, that appears to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. The findings, published February 1 in the journal Cancer Research, offer promising leads for research towards new treatments.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK, with 37,500 men diagnosed with the disease every year. Many prostate cancers are slow growing, but in some cases the cancer is aggressive and spreads to other parts of the body, such as the bone. These cases are much more likely to be fatal.

In the new study, scientists at Imperial College London found that a protein called FUS inhibits the growth of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory, and activates pathways that lead to cell suicide.

The researchers also looked for the FUS protein in samples from prostate cancer patients. They found that in patients with high levels of FUS, the cancer was less aggressive and was less likely to spread to the bone. Higher levels of FUS also correlated with longer survival. The results suggest that FUS might be a useful marker that can give doctors an indication of how aggressive a tumour will be.

"At the moment, there's no way to say whether a prostate tumour will kill you or be fairly harmless," said Dr Charlotte Bevan, senior author of the study, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London. "Current hormonal therapies only work for a limited time, and chemotherapy is often ineffective against prostate cancer, so there's a real need for new treatments.

"These findings suggest that FUS might be able to suppress tumour growth and stop it from spreading to other parts of the body where it can be deadly. It's early stages yet but if further studies confirm these findings, then FUS might be a promising target for future therapies."

Prostate cancer depends on male hormones to progress as these hormones stimulate the cancer cells to divide, enabling the tumour to grow. Treatments that reduce hormone levels or stop them from working are initially effective, but eventually the tumour stops responding to this treatment and becomes more aggressive.

Dr Bevan and her team began by exposing prostate cancer cells to male hormones and looking at how the levels of different proteins changed. They discovered that the hormones made the cells produce less of the FUS protein, and examined further whether FUS might influence cell growth by inserting extra copies of the gene for FUS into cells grown in culture. They found that making the cells produce more FUS led to a reduction in the number of cancer cells in the dish.

Greg Brooke, first author of the study, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London said: "Our study suggests that FUS is a crucial link that connects male hormones with cell division. The next step is to investigate whether FUS could be a useful test of how aggressive prostate cancer is. Then we might look for ways to boost FUS levels in patients to see if that would slow tumour growth or improve response to hormone therapy.

"If FUS really is a tumour suppressor, it might also be involved in other cancers, such as breast cancer, which has significant similarities with prostate cancer."

The study was funded by Prostate Action, the Medical Research Council, the Imperial College Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (set up with a grant from Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health) and the Prostate Cancer Charity.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Fiber May Lessen Lifetime Risk for Heart Problems

HealthDay News

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that middle-age and younger adults who eat high amounts of fiber are less likely to suffer from heart disease over their lives.

The findings add to existing research that links high-fiber diets to lower rates of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

Researchers from Northwestern University came to the conclusion after studying the results of a 2003-2008 survey of 11,079 people, all aged 20 and older, with an average age of 46. About half were women, 22 percent were black and 27 percent were Mexican-American.

The researchers divided the study participants into four groups based on how much fiber they ate a day and then predicted their lifetime risk for heart disease based on such factors as blood pressure and whether they smoked.

In people 20 to 39 years old as well as those 40 to 59 years old, those who consumed the most fiber had a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular disease than those with the least intake of fiber, the study found.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday in Atlanta at an American Heart Association scientific session on nutrition, physical activity, metabolism and cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until it has been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny required for publication in peer-reviewed medical journals.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on adding fiber to the diet.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Melanoma rates higher in wealthy white women

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Monday, March 21, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Adolescent girls and young women living in wealthy communities were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in a new study of skin cancer cases in California.

The authors think that might be because wealthier women may be spending lots of time out in the sun - at home and on vacation - and frequenting tanning beds.

"It's frightening actually," Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health.

"The message of practicing safe sun is just not getting through to the people that need to heed the warning," said Tanzi, who also heads the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C.

Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, killing almost 9,000 people in the U.S. last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is known to increase the risk of melanoma.

Cases of melanoma have been rising in young white women in the United States in recent decades, more than doubling since the early 1970s.

In the current study, Dr. Christina Clarke of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and her colleagues analyzed data from a registry of more than 3,800 melanoma cases in white California girls and women aged 15 to 39. They paired the cancer statistics with information from the U.S. census to determine the socioeconomic status of each of the women, based on household incomes and education levels in their neighborhoods.

Rates of melanoma were significantly higher in women in the highest socioeconomic categories according to the findings, which are published in the Archives of Dermatology.

In the wealthiest 20 percent of California neighborhoods, four or five out of 100,000 young white women were diagnosed with melanoma over the 5-year period from 1998 to 2002. For the poorest group, the rate was less than one in 100,000 over the same period.

Compared to data from a decade earlier (1988 to1992), rates of melanoma increased in white girls and young women as a whole - but the increases were most obvious in wealthier women.

Wealthy women weren't more likely to get melanoma just because they lived in the sunniest areas of California. When the authors calculated how much UV light women in different neighborhoods were exposed to, they found that the wealthiest women living in areas with lots of UV radiation were still diagnosed with melanoma almost 75 percent more often than the poorest women who lived in communities with the most UV radiation.

Clarke said that it also wasn't likely that wealthy girls would be diagnosed with melanoma more often just because they have better access to health care. Invasive melanoma, she told Reuters Health, "is going to get very serious very quickly" - it's not something a woman would live with for years while thinking she was healthy.

A combination of outdoor sun exposure and tanning beds were probably to blame for higher rates of melanoma in wealthier girls, Clarke said. Mid-winter trips to Mexico or Hawaii, for example, require money and can be dangerous after skin has been covered up for months, she said.

Clarke said that wealthy girls especially are surrounded by the message that being tanned all year round is cool - they even have Katy Perry singing about it. But the new findings, she said, "should really cause us to think, 'how cool is a tan if it puts lighter skinned women at risk of deadly cancer?'"

One solution, Clarke said, could be bans on tanning beds for young girls and more education for wealthy girls and women to try to make tanning "uncool."

"The thought is that 'well, it can't happen to me,'" Tanzi said. "It's the invincible nature of a teenager. Tanning is still seen as somewhat okay to do."

The message that needs to get across, Tanzi said, is that "no tan is safe."

Source: http://bit.ly/e5SbUW

 

Archives of Dermatology, online March 21, 2011.

Long-term tamoxifen boosts breast cancer survival

Reuters

Monday, March 21, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) – Breast cancer patients who take the generic drug tamoxifen for five years are less likely to see their cancer return than those who take it for only two years, according to a large long-term study by British scientists.

The findings showed that for every hundred women with breast cancer who completed a full five-year course of tamoxifen, the cancer came back in around six fewer women, compared to those who only took the drug for two years.

"Women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer who are prescribed tamoxifen are recommended to take the drug for five years, but we know that many stop after two or three," said Allan Hackshaw of the Cancer Research UK and University College London Cancer Trials Center, who worked on the study.

"Worryingly our results suggest that by doing this, they could increase their risk of cancer coming back."

Of the nearly 3,500 patients studied in the trial over 10 years, the cancer came back in around 40 percent of those who took tamoxifen for five years, compared to 46 percent among those who took it for two years.

Breast cancer kills around 500,000 people globally every year and is diagnosed in close to 1.3 million people each year. About 75 percent of these cancers are estrogen-receptor positive, meaning they are driven by hormones.

Tamoxifen was the first drug to block the effects of estrogen, and a new generation of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors has now been developed to act in a similar way.

Experts in the United States estimate that five years of tamoxifen would cost around $8,500, compared with $50,000 to more than $200,000 for chemotherapy to treat breast cancer.

The drug has side-effects. It raises the risk of blood clots, of uterine cancer and of cataracts, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute; but most experts say its benefits in reducing breast cancer risk outweigh these rarer problems.

This latest British study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on Monday, also found that an added benefit of taking tamoxifen for five years was that it reduced the risk of developing or dying from heart disease.

This effect was strongest among women aged between 50 and 59 at diagnosis, with 35 percent fewer women developing a heart condition and nearly 60 percent fewer deaths as a result, they said.

Scientists know that taking tamoxifen for five years gives the best chance of survival from breast cancer. But this trial is the first large study to compare long-term benefit of five years of tamoxifen versus two, over a 10-year follow-up period.

A study in the 1990s by British researchers found that giving tamoxifen to all breast cancer patients who need it, whatever their age, could save an extra 20,000 lives each year worldwide.

Source: http://bit.ly/g26tTI

 

Journal of Clinical Oncology, online March 21, 2011.

Extreme preemies at risk for asthma as adults

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Monday, March 21, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young adults who were born very premature may have an increased risk of asthma, a report published Monday suggests.

The study, of more than 600,000 Swedish adults born in the 1970s, found that those born very early -- between the 23rd and 27th weeks of pregnancy -- were more than twice as likely to have asthma as young adults born full-term.

There was, however, no increased risk seen among those born after the 27th week of pregnancy.

A full-term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks; any birth before week 37 is considered preterm.

The findings, reported in the journal Pediatrics, are "somewhat unexpected," said lead researcher Dr. Casey Crump, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University in California.

That's because previous research had suggested that respiratory problems after preterm birth generally wane during childhood, Crump told Reuters Health in an email.

However, he said, those studies mainly included young people who had been born moderately premature. Historically, very few extremely premature infants survived. So, only now are there enough extreme preemies who have made it to adulthood that large studies can look at their long-term health picture.

The new study is the first one to examine a big enough population to show a connection between extreme prematurity and long-term asthma risk, according to Crump's team.

The findings are based on data for all 622,616 singleton infants born in Sweden between 1973 and 1979.

Overall, four percent were born prematurely -- including 165, or 0.03 percent, who were extremely preterm.

Of those 165, 9 percent had asthma drug prescriptions at some point between 2005 and 2007, when they were 25 to 35 years old. That compared with roughly 4 percent of both the full-term and moderately premature birth groups.

When the researchers accounted for several other factors -- like family income and whether the mother was on asthma medication -- extreme preterm birth was linked to a likelihood of adult asthma 2.4 times that seen in the full-term group.

In the United States about 7.3 percent of adults (16 million) and 9.4 percent of kids under 18 (7 million) have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About $30 billion is spent annually to treat the condition, including inhalers and other drugs as well as hospitalizations.

The results of the current study do not prove that very early birth, itself, leads to asthma in some adults.

But the connection is plausible, according to Crump.

"Preterm delivery can result in immature lung development, altered immune function that is needed for normal lung function, and increased susceptibility to infection or environmental factors such as smoking," he explained.

Parents of very-preterm children, and young adults who were born very early, should be aware of the risk, Crump said. That includes having any respiratory problems checked out promptly.

And, Crump said, it's "very important" that young people avoid smoking, which would further boost any increased asthma risk.

It's not clear, though, whether the asthma risk seen in this study group will necessarily hold true for infants born in recent years.

"It's possible that their long-term risk may be different due to changes in neonatal care," Crump said, "but it will take years to answer this question."

Source: http://bit.ly/f1RBqN

 

Pediatrics, online March 21, 2011.

Scientists Create Autism-Like Traits in Mice

HealthDay News

Monday, March 21, 2011

MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists report that mutating a single gene produced mice with two of the most common autism traits, a finding they say could one day lead to the development of drugs to treat autism.

Currently, there are no effective drugs to treat the disorder.

Mutating the shank3 gene led to compulsive repetitive behavior and avoidance of social interaction in the mice, apparently caused by impaired communication between brain cells, said the researchers at Duke University and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The shank3 gene has been implicated in human autism.

The study was published online March 20 in Nature.

"We now have a very robust model with a known cause for autistic-like behaviors," senior author Guoping Feng, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, said in a McGovern Institute news release. "We can figure out the neural circuits responsible for these behaviors, which could lead to novel targets for treatment."

The genetically altered mice also provide a way to assess experimental autism drugs before they're tested in humans.

Scientists acknowledge that research involving animals often fails to result in beneficial treatments for humans.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.

Ear infections tied to sense of taste, weight

Reuters Health

Monday, March 21, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Kids with chronic ear infections tend to be heavier and have less sensitive taste buds than their peers, Korean researchers have found.

It's not the first time scientists have described this relationship, yet nobody fully understands it. One intriguing possibility is that ear infections damage the nerves conducting taste signals to the brain, and so make kids eat more.

In principle, that could play a role in obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions in many areas of the world, because ear infections are one of the most common childhood conditions sending kids to the doctor.

For the new study, Dr. Il Ho Shin of Kyung Hee University in Seoul and colleagues compared the sense of taste in 42 young kids with chronic middle ear infections and 42 kids without the disease. All were between age 3 and 7.

They found those with ear infections were heavier than the others, with a body mass index (BMI) of 20.6 compared to 17.7. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height. In kids, age is factored in, and a BMI of 17 is about average for boys, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.

The sense of taste was also impaired in those kids with ear infections, and they had more trouble tasting sugar and salt than the others.

On the other hand, there was no difference in the thresholds for bitter and sour tastes, according to the new report, published in the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

The study doesn't prove that ear infections lead to extra poundage, but the Koreans say it's possible that the inflammation may disturb the taste signals, which travel through the middle ear.

Source: http://bit.ly/eidEZf

 

Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, March 21, 2011.