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Friday, August 19, 2011

Women who take vitamins have fewer preemies: study

Reuters Health

Friday, August 19, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who take multivitamins regularly around the time they get pregnant appear to have a lower risk of going into labor prematurely or having a smaller-than-normal baby.

That's according to a study of nearly 36,000 pregnant Danish women, who were asked about their diet, weight and vitamin use, among other things.

Poor nutrition is thought to play a role in pregnancy complications, such as preterm births and poor growth rates within the womb.

The new study strengthens that link, but it doesn't prove that taking multivitamins is a good idea for women who plan to get pregnant or already are, researchers warn in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In fact, U.S. health officials advise expectant mothers against taking regular vitamins, which might harm the baby. But they do recommend supplementing the diet with folic acid, which cuts the chance of certain birth defects.

The new work looked at multivitamin use around the time of conception -- four weeks before and eight weeks after a woman's last period -- which hasn't been studied much.

Among women who said they had taken multivitamins at least eight out of the 12 weeks, there were 4.3 percent preterm births (before 37 weeks). For those who didn't take the supplements, the number was 5.3 percent.

The vitamin-popping women were also less likely to have a smaller-than-normal baby.

Those links held even after accounting for differences between the two groups -- such as diet and smoking -- but only in normal-weight women. The reasons aren't clear, but could be linked to problems in absorbing the nutrients, suggest Janet M. Catov, of the University of Pittsburgh, and her colleagues.

Still, they stop short of recommending that women start taking multivitamins when trying to get pregnant.

First, women who took the supplements appeared to be healthier in the first place, and there is no perfect way to prevent that from muddying the findings.

And second, there is a dearth of studies to test the effects of vitamins on babies' health.

Source: http://bit.ly/rcMDx6

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online July 27, 2011.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Test for Calcium Buildup May Spot Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

HealthDay News

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A calcium test performed with the assistance of a CT scanner seems to provide insight into the likelihood that certain patients at moderate risk of heart problems will have a heart attack or stroke, researchers say.

The test to detect coronary calcium can help physicians determine whether the patients should take cholesterol-lowering drugs to reduce their cardiovascular risks, the study authors explained.

At issue are people who fall into the middle area between those who are at high risk of heart problems due to factors like high blood pressure and those who are at low risk. People in the so-called "gray zone" may have risk factors, such as being overweight or having high blood sugar levels, but they aren't considered in great danger.

The question is: Should those in the middle range of risk -- an estimated 6 million people in the United States -- be prescribed the anticholesterol drugs known as statins, which often work well but have side effects?

The study, published in the Aug. 19 issue of The Lancet, sought to determine whether a test of calcium in the arteries is more helpful at estimating risk than a blood test that examines levels of C-reactive protein.

The researchers tracked 2,083 people for six years. They found that 13 percent of those with the highest levels of calcium in their arteries had a heart attack or stroke during that time period. But just 2 percent of those with high levels of C-reactive protein -- and no calcium buildup -- had a heart attack or stroke.

Not everyone needs a calcium test, said lead study author Dr. Michael J. Blaha, a cardiology fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. However, he stated in a Hopkins news release, "we believe looking for calcification in coronary vessels in certain patients makes sense in order to predict who may benefit from statin therapy, because the test gets right to the heart of the disease we want to treat."

"Our data support recent American Heart Association guidelines, which say it is reasonable to order a coronary calcium scan for adults who are considered to be at intermediate risk of a heart attack over the next 10 years. A high coronary calcium score would indicate that statin therapy would likely be a useful strategy to lower that person's cardiovascular risk," study co-investigator Dr. Roger Blumenthal, director of the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins University, said in the news release.

Commenting on the study, cardiologist Dr. Vijay Nambi, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, said that most insurance companies don't cover the calcium tests, which cost in the range of $200-$400. "Sometimes people have to pay for it out of pocket," said Nambi, who thinks it's a useful test. "It helps physicians in a lot of respects."

Test results can also help patients make decisions when they're worried about taking anticholesterol drugs, Nambi added.

More information

For more about heart disease, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Doctors screen for cervical cancer too often: study

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Most doctors opt for screening women for cervical cancer more often than guidelines suggest, according to a new study.

Researchers based at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that many primary care doctors would bring women back for cancer screening annually -- while recommendations generally call for a three-year wait after normal tests.

That means more costs to women and the healthcare system, as well as a risk of unnecessary treatment for false-positive test results -- with very little additional cancer-catching benefit.

"There's really no advantage to annual screening compared to screening every two or three years," lead author Katherine Roland told Reuters Health.

Guidelines from the American Cancer Society and other organizations recommend that women age 30 and older are screened using Pap smears and tests for the human papillomavirus, or HPV. (For younger women, the ACS recommends starting testing at age 21 or three years after beginning sexual activity.)

If both tests are normal, those guidelines call for a three-year wait before the next screening. That's because HPV -- which causes changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer -- may take a decade to progress to that point.

"No test is perfect," said Philip Castle, an HPV expert at the American Society for Clinical Pathology in Chicago. But, he added, "a single negative HPV test is very good at ruling out disease."

Even when doctors use just a Pap test, Roland said, a woman who has had a few normal tests in a row can go two or three years before her next screening.

For the current study, she and her colleagues sent out questionnaires to a representative sample of about 600 office-based doctors and hospital departments around the country. They asked doctors and staff what tests they used for cervical cancer screening and presented them with three patient scenarios.

In those scenarios, a woman age 30 to 60 has had two consecutive normal Pap tests but no HPV tests; two normal Paps and a negative HPV test; or a negative HPV test but no recent Pap tests.

In all of those cases, guidelines recommend waiting three years before screening the patient again, the authors explain in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. But for each scenario, between 67 percent and 85 percent of doctors said they would bring the woman back in a year.

And those extra tests aren't harmless.

Roland pointed to the extra costs women may incur to get childcare and make it to the doctor's office -- plus the costs to a strained healthcare system of ordering more tests.

And any extra screening increases the chance of getting a "false positive" result on a test -- meaning the test finds something that doesn't turn out to be cancer. In that case, women would need more invasive tests to rule out disease, Roland said, and risk "undue harm" from those procedures.

"Some of it is, don't go looking before you need to go looking because you'll find stuff that you'd rather not find," said Castle, who was not involved in the new study.

Results from a survey of the same doctors have shown that many also give the HPV test alongside Pap smears to women under 30 -- which is not recommended, because HPV is common in young women and often goes away on its own.

Castle said there could be a few reasons that doctors opt to screen women more often than is recommended. First, they might not know about the guidelines. But women may also be used to annual testing and ask for it themselves.

In addition, Roland added, some doctors might be afraid of missing very early cervical cancer and getting sued if they screen less frequently.

But if doctors and hospitals want to rein in spending and limit unnecessary risks, that attitude has to change, researchers agreed.

"We need to shift toward the wellness visit as opposed to, 'You have to come in here every year for a Pap,'" Castle said.

Women should talk to their doctors about screening, especially if they think they are being screened too often, researchers added.

"A woman should know what test is being used," said Dr. Mona Saraiya, a co-author on the new study. "Often a provider just does the HPV test" without telling the patient. "A woman should say, 'What screening tests are you doing on me?'"

And if doctors want women to come back again next year, women should ask them why, Saraiya said.

Source: http://bit.ly/qdt5M1

American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online August 18, 2011.

Muscle-Building Effect of Protein Beverages for Athletes Investigated

ScienceDaily

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2011) — Physical activity requires strong, healthy muscles. Fortunately, when people exercise on a regular basis, their muscles experience a continuous cycle of muscle breakdown (during exercise) and compensatory remodeling and growth (especially with weightlifting). Athletes have long experimented with methods to augment these physiologic responses to enhance muscle growth. One such ergogenic aid that has gained recent popularity is the use of high-quality, high-protein beverages during and after exercise, with dairy-based drinks enriched with whey proteins often taking front stage.

Many studies have documented a beneficial effect of their consumption. Of particular interest is the effect of the essential amino acid leucine contained in these products. Two papers, published in the September 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, report the results of two independent studies conducted to understand better how amino acids influence protein synthesis in recreational athletes.

According to ASN Spokesperson Shelley McGuire, PhD: "These studies, and others like them, help us understand and apply something we all inherently know: the human body works in a complex, yet completely logical way! It makes good sense that consuming a food containing high-quality protein (like milk) during and/or immediately following exercise would help muscles get stronger. Muscle strength doesn't just happen on its own -- our muscles need to be both encouraged (as happens via exercise) and nourished (as happens when we eat well). Now we have even more scientific proof for this common-sense concept."

In the first study, researchers led by Stuart Phillips (McMaster University) investigated whether postexercise muscle protein synthesis is different when a large, single dose of whey protein (25 g) is consumed immediately after activity compared with when smaller doses (2.5 g) are consumed 10 times over an extended period. The idea with the small "protein shots" was to mimic how another milk protein, casein, is digested. Participants (8 men; mean age: 22 y) performed 8 sets of 8-10 repetitions on a leg-extension machine; each subject participated in both dietary treatment regimens. In the second study led by Stefan Pasiakos from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, active-duty military personnel (7 men and 1 woman; mean age: 24 y) consumed a high-protein beverage (10 g protein as essential amino acids) containing 1.87 or 3.5 g leucine while exercising on a stationary bicycle. In both studies, postexercise muscle protein synthesis was evaluated.

Consuming the large bolus of whey protein immediately after exercise increased muscle protein synthesis more than when periodic smaller doses of protein were consumed. In the second study, muscle protein synthesis was 33% greater after consumption of the leucine-enriched protein beverage than after the lower-leucine drink.

The researchers concluded that muscle metabolism after exercise can be manipulated via dietary means. In terms of the most beneficial timing of protein intake, immediate postexercise consumption appears to be best. Furthermore, leucine may play an especially important role in stimulating muscle growth in the postactivity recovery period.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Society for Nutrition, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal References:

  1. D. W. West, N. A. Burd, V. G. Coffey, S. K. Baker, L. M. Burke, J. A. Hawley, D. R. Moore, T. Stellingwerff, S. M. Phillips. Rapid aminoacidemia enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis and anabolic intramuscular signaling responses after resistance exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013722
  2. S. M. Pasiakos, H. L. McClung, J. P. McClung, L. M. Margolis, N. E. Andersen, G. J. Cloutier, M. A. Pikosky, J. C. Rood, R. A. Fielding, A. J. Young. Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.017061

US says Legionnaires cases triple over decade

By Mike Stobbe  

AP Medical Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) — Cases of Legionnaires' disease have tripled in the last decade, U.S. health officials said Thursday, but the risk of dying from it is lower because of more effective treatment.

Legionnaires most often strikes the elderly and can cause deadly pneumonia. The germ spreads through mist or vapor from contaminated water or air conditioning systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 3,522 cases in 2009, the most since Legionnaires was first identified in 1976. There were only 1,110 cases in 2000. CDC officials think the increase may be partly because there are more old people.

To be sure, Legionnaires remains uncommon. Just 8 percent of its victims died in the last decade, compared to 20 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. But it still kills hundreds of Americans each year. Despite the low case count, experts believe the disease sickens and even hospitalizes thousands every year whose cases aren't reported.

The increase in cases is worrisome, said study co-author Dr. Lee Hampton, a CDC epidemiologist. "We need to minimize the risk of people dying from this," he said.

The disease got its name from an outbreak at a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion in 1976 when more than 200 people were sickened and 34 died. The outbreak drew intense media coverage, and months later health investigators fingered the bacterial cause. The germ apparently had spread through the convention hotel's air-conditioning system.

Early signs of the disease can include high fever, chills and a cough. Fortunately, some of the drugs most commonly used against pneumonia are first-line treatments against Legionnaires.

Cases of the disease held relatively steady in the 1980s-90s, but rose since 2000.

The CDC relies on doctors, hospitals and state health departments to report cases when they occur, and agency officials believe the national case count is an underestimate.

Online:

Report: http://tinyurl.com/Legionnaires-report

Treatment With Vitamin C Dissolves Toxic Protein Aggregates in Alzheimer's Disease

ScienceDaily

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 18, 2011) — Researchers at Lund University have discovered a new function for vitamin C. Treatment with vitamin C can dissolve the toxic protein aggregates that build up in the brain in Alzheimer's disease.

The research findings are now being presented in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The brains of people with Alzheimer's disease contain lumps of so-called amyloid plaques which consist of misfolded protein aggregates. They cause nerve cell death in the brain and the first nerves to be attacked are the ones in the brain's memory centre.

"When we treated brain tissue from mice suffering from Alzheimer's disease with vitamin C, we could see that the toxic protein aggregates were dissolved. Our results show a previously unknown model for how vitamin C affects the amyloid plaques," says Katrin Mani, reader in Molecular Medicine at Lund University.

"Another interesting finding is that the useful vitamin C does not need to come from fresh fruit. In our experiments, we show that the vitamin C can also be absorbed in larger quantities in the form of dehydroascorbic acid from juice that has been kept overnight in a refrigerator, for example."

There is at present no treatment that cures Alzheimer's disease, but the research is aimed at treatments and methods to delay and alleviate the progression of the disease by addressing the symptoms.

That antioxidants such as vitamin C have a protective effect against a number of diseases, from the common cold to heart attacks and dementia, has long been a current focus of research.

"The notion that vitamin C can have a positive effect on Alzheimer's disease is controversial, but our results open up new opportunities for research into Alzheimer's and the possibilities offered by vitamin C," says Katrin Mani.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Lund University.

Journal Reference:

F. Cheng, R. Cappai, G. D. Ciccotosto, G. Svensson, G. Multhaup, L.-A. Fransson, K. Mani. Suppression of Amyloid β A11 Antibody Immunoreactivity by Vitamin C: Possible Role Of Heparan Sulfate Oligosaccharides Derived From Glypican-1 By Ascorbate-induced, Nitric Oxide (NO)-catalyzed Degradation. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2011; 286 (31): 27559 DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M111.243345

Study finds mother's fat harms embryo development

Reuters

Thursday, August 18, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - Exposing eggs to high levels of saturated fatty acids of the type commonly found in the ovaries of obese women and those with diabetes can harm the development of the embryo, according to research published Wednesday.

The findings lend further support to health guidelines which recommend that women should strive to be a healthy weight before they start trying to become pregnant.

Scientists from Belgium, Britain and Spain found that when embryos resulting from cattle eggs were exposed to high levels of fatty acids, they had fewer cells, altered gene expression and altered metabolic activity -- all factors likely to make them less viable or less able to develop normally.

Although the study was done on eggs from cows, the researchers said the findings could help to explain why women suffering from disorders like obesity and type 2 diabetes can sometimes struggle to conceive.

"In cows we can induce very similar metabolic disorders leading to reduced fertility...and compromised egg quality," said Jo Leroy from the University of Antwerp, who led the study. "This is one of the reasons that bovine eggs are a very interesting model for human reproductive research."

Obese or diabetic people tend to metabolize more of their stored fat, leading to higher levels of fatty acids in the ovaries which research has shown can be toxic for the growing eggs before ovulation, the researchers explained in a paper in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One.

"We know from our previous research that high levels of fatty acids can affect the development of eggs in the ovary, but this is the first time we've been able to follow through to show a negative impact on the surviving embryo," Leroy said.

The scientists tested the embryos eight days after fertilization, when they had developed into blastocysts containing around 70 to 100 cells.

"Where eggs were exposed to high levels of fatty acids, the resulting embryos showed increased amino acid metabolism and altered consumption of oxygen, glucose and lactate -- all of which indicates impaired metabolic regulation and reduced viability," said Roger Sturmey from Britain's University of Hull, who also worked on the study.

The researchers also found that the embryos had high levels of specific genes which are linked to cellular stress, suggesting they were less likely to survive or develop normally.

Source: http://bit.ly/mUpO2z

PLoS One, August 17, 2011.

Thin Children Have More Energy-Burning 'Brown Fat'

HealthDay News

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Brown fat, also known as "good fat," burns more energy in active, thinner children and may help fight against obesity and diabetes, according to a new study.

Unlike white fat, which stores energy and appears to promote inflammation, brown fat actually burns energy.

These findings could help develop medications as well as drug-free ways to boost brown fat activity in overweight children, according to researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center and Children's Hospital Boston.

Being able to evaluate brown fat's activity through non-invasive PET imaging "may possibly provide insights into the treatment of childhood obesity," the study's first author, Dr. Laura Drubach, of the Children's Hospital program in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, said in a Joslin news release.

After conducting PET scans on 172 study participants ranging in age from 5 to 21 years, the researchers detected active brown fat in 44 percent of the children. They pointed out that boys and girls had roughly the same amount.

Children aged 13 to 15 years old had the highest levels of brown fat and brown fat activity. Those with the lowest body mass index (the thinnest teens) showed the most energy-burning activity in their "good fat."

The study authors said the inverse relationship between body mass index and levels of brown fat activity -- and the increase in brown fat activity from childhood into adolescence -- suggests "good fat" may play a significant role in children's metabolism, energy balance and weight regulation.

And contrary to previous studies that showed brown fat in adults was more active in cold weather, the researchers found outdoor temperatures had no effect on brown fat in children.

The researchers concluded that their findings could help develop ways to combat obesity by boosting brown fat activity in children, such as lowering indoor temperatures in homes where obese children live. They noted, however, that more research is needed to explain whether thin children have more brown fat because they are thin or whether having more brown fat makes them thin.

"That's the billion dollar question," concluded the study's senior author, Dr. Aaron Cypess, assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin. "But we do know that brown fat is a core component of pediatric and likely adult metabolism," he said in the news release.

The study was released online Aug. 12 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on brown fat.

Can "biofield healing" relieve cancer fatigue?

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study suggests that "biofield healing" -- and in some cases, even fake versions of the energy-field therapy -- may help ease fatigue in breast cancer survivors.

Biofield healing, researchers said, in theory helps balance the energy field around the body and draw out toxic substances. It's been linked -- based on varying degrees of evidence -- to pain and anxiety relief in some patients.

In the new study, a type of biofield healing called energy chelation, in which practitioners place their hands in standard positions across the body in silence, was linked to a decrease in fatigue in women who recently recovered from breast cancer.

But so was a mock treatment, in which scientists were trained to do the identical hand placements without concentrating on healing the patient.

"Touch appears to matter, rest appears to matter, interaction with a practitioner appears to matter," said study author Shamini Jain, from the University of California, San Diego and the Samueli Institute, an Alexandria, Virginia, organization that researches healing.

"What it still doesn't tell us is whether there are specific methods of biofield healing that are over and above that," Jain added.

Her team's research, published in Cancer, involved 76 women who had been treated for breast cancer in the past 10 years and suffered from fatigue. The women were randomly assigned to get four weeks (eight hour-long sessions) of biofield healing or fake therapy -- without being told which one they were getting. A third group was placed on a wait list and didn't get any treatment until after the study was completed.

Patients in both the real and fake treatment groups reported less fatigue than the wait list group after attending the therapy sessions. Women who had real biofield healing also reported a greater decline in "general fatigue" than those in both other groups.

There was no difference between the groups in reports of depression.

Women in the biofield healing group, however, did see changes in their levels of cortisol -- a hormone related to stress, immune system function and metabolism. While the hormone also seems to be involved in fatigue, it's hard to tell what the cortisol results really mean, researchers said.

Regardless of which treatment group they were in, participants who believed they were getting biofield therapy also reported an increase in their quality of life over the four weeks.

In general, "the findings are promising, but at this point they're very limited," said Susan Lutgendorf, who has studied biofield healing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City but was not involved in the new research.

She told Reuters Health that this is not a treatment meant to substitute for drugs or any "proven medical therapies" -- but that patients who are interested might consider using it in addition to their standard treatment.

And the quality-of-life findings show that "belief plays a huge role," Jain added, saying that "patients should trust their own gut and their own decision-making" when it comes to alternative medicine.

Researchers who study biofield healing are still trying to understand how it might work. For now, "there don't seem to be any major harms in recommending this," Jain said.

Then again, it's hard to deduce any real benefit based on the new findings, said Dr. Peter Lipson, an internist in southeastern Michigan not linked to the research.

"Fatigue is such a vague symptom of such natural variability," he told Reuters Health.

"It's a completely subjective measurement. Any results you get when you measure fatigue could mean anything."

But Jain said the findings were "hopeful" and warrant further study, in part because many cancer patients are tired frequently and "there's no gold standard treatment for cancer-related fatigue."

She added that some hospitals have volunteers come in and do biofield healing with cancer patients, whereas other patients would have to go out and find a practitioner on their own. In that case, sessions would typically cost about $100 per hour, she said.

Source: http://bit.ly/nx5PRW

Cancer, online August 5, 2011.

Nearly 1 in 10 U.S. Kids Diagnosed With ADHD

By By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Over the last decade, an increasing number of American children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new government survey reveals.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 2007 and 2009, an average of 9 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 were diagnosed with the disorder. This compared with just under 7 percent between 1998 and 2000.

The survey also indicated that previously notable racial differences in ADHD incidence rates have narrowed considerably since the turn of the millennium, with prevalence now comparable among whites, blacks and some Hispanic groups.

"We don't have the data to say for certain what explains these patterns, but I would caution against concluding that what we have here is a real increase in the occurrence of this condition," stressed study author Dr. Lara J. Akinbami, a medical officer with the National Center for Health Statistics. The findings appear in an Aug. 18 report from the agency.

"In fact, it would be hard for me to argue that what we see here is a true change in prevalence," Akinbami added. "Instead, I would say that most probably what we found has a lot to do with better access to health care among a broader group of children, and doctors who have become more and more familiar with this condition and now have better tools to screen for it. So, this is probably about better screening, rather than a real increase, and that means we may continue to see this pattern unfold."

According to the National Institutes of Health, ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder among children.

Children with ADHD are apt to have problems staying focused, and often suffer learning and behavioral problems as a result of a tendency to engage in hyperactive and/or impulsive behaviors.

The new survey was conducted by interviewers from the U.S. Census Bureau through face-to-face and telephone interviews involving a nationally representative group of parents. Basic family demographic information was collected, along with the ADHD status of each household's children.

Although rates rose among both boys and girls, a greater percentage of boys were diagnosed with ADHD overall, rising from roughly 10 percent in 1998-2000 to more than 12 percent between 2007 and 2009. Across the same time frame, the prevalence rate among girls rose from just below 4 percent to between 5 percent and 6 percent.

One group, however, appeared to buck the trend: Mexican children. This group consistently registered the lowest ADHD prevalence rate, both in 1998-2000 as well as a decade later in 2007-2009. Akinbami said the reason for this remains unclear, although she suggested that less access to health care and/or particular cultural proclivities might contribute to fewer diagnoses overall.

In addition to the principal findings, the authors were also able to track both financial and geographical trends.

For example, ADHD prevalence hit above-average levels among two groups: households where the family income was below the poverty line (10 percent) and households where income fell somewhere between the poverty line and double the poverty line (11 percent).

Location also seemed to play a role, as the current prevalence rate among those living in both the Midwest and the southern part of the country shared an above-average prevalence rate of 10 percent. This was a shift from 10 years earlier, when the South had a higher prevalence rate than all other regions.

"Even if we're not exactly clear on what accounts for the rise in ADHD, on a population level the increase of this condition really signals a challenge for the education system and the health care system," said Akinbami.

"Children of ADHD," she noted, "use a lot more health care dollars than their peers, because the condition itself requires a lot of monitoring. And they are also much more likely to have other chronic health care conditions, such as asthma or learning disabilities or conduct diagnoses like conduct disorder, which makes managing them for schools and physicians and parents much more difficult. So, it's clearly something for public policy experts to be concerned about."

Dr. Tanya Froehlich, a developmental and behavioral pediatric specialist at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said discerning what is driving the higher numbers will be difficult.

"There's no way to tell just based on this data," she said. "But we know that there has been a great emphasis over the last 10 years on raising doctor awareness of ADHD and giving them better tools to diagnose."

"For instance," Froehlich noted, "in 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics put out clinical practice guidelines on the assessment and treatment of children with ADHD. And a tool kit was also put out giving physicians actual measures to use to assess ADHD. All of this has really empowered physicians and parents. So given that, I would not really be surprised if that's why more and more kids have been diagnosed."

More information

For more on ADHD, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Potassium-rich diet tied to lower stroke risk

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who eat plenty of high-potassium fruits, vegetables and dairy products may be less likely to suffer a stroke than those who get little of the mineral, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the journal Stroke, come from an analysis of 10 international studies involving more than 200,000 middle-aged and older adults.

Researchers found that across those studies, stroke risk dipped as people's reported potassium intake went up. For each 1,000-milligram (mg) increase in daily potassium, the odds of suffering a stroke in the next five to 14 years declined by 11 percent.

That would translate into a modest benefit for any one person, the researchers say. And the findings do not prove that potassium, itself, is what produces the positive effect.

But they strengthen existing evidence that it might, said lead researcher Susanna C. Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Since high-potassium foods are generally healthy ones -- including beans, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy -- the findings offer one more reason for people to eat more of them, Larsson told Reuters Health in an email.

Potassium is an electrolyte needed for maintaining the body's fluid balance. It's also involved in nerve and muscle control and blood pressure regulation. A number of studies have suggested that diets high in potassium help maintain a healthy blood pressure and possibly protect against heart disease and stroke.

Of the nearly 270,000 participants Larsson and her colleagues included in their study, 8,695 (about one in 30) suffered a stroke. But the drop in stroke risk seen with every 1,000 mg increase in daily potassium was with factors like age, exercise habits and smoking taken into account.

Potassium was specifically linked to reduced risk of ischemic strokes -- those caused by a blockage in an artery feeding the brain. They account for about 80 percent of strokes.

The mineral was not, however, linked to a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when there is bleeding in the brain.

It's not clear why that is, according to Larsson, who noted that only a few of the studies actually broke strokes down into subtypes.

If potassium protects against ischemic stroke only, that would suggest there are reasons other than better blood pressure control, the researchers say.

The findings are in line with a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that followed more than 12,000 adults for 15 years.

Researchers found that people who downed a lot of sodium but little potassium were more likely to die from any cause during the study period.

Potassium helps balance the effects of sodium, keeping blood pressure down and helping the body excrete excess fluids. So the combination of too much sodium and too little potassium may be especially harmful.

But experts say that imbalance is common in the U.S. diet, with about 90 percent of Americans getting more sodium than is recommended -- often from processed foods.

According to the CDC, the average adult should get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Certain people -- adults older than 50, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease -- should limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day.

As for potassium, the CDC advises adults to get 4,700 mg a day from food.

There are some people, though, who need to be careful about potassium. They include people with kidney disease, which can hinder the body's ability to clear potassium, and those on certain blood pressure drugs.

Too much potassium in the blood can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia, which may cause dangerous heart-rhythm disturbances.

Source: http://bit.ly/pp9xgv

Stroke, online July 28, 2011.

Ultrasound of Neck Arteries May Help Gauge Stroke Risk

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- People who have narrowed carotid arteries in the neck and show no symptoms may be at risk for stroke and not know it, but a simple ultrasound test can identify the problem, a new study suggests.

This condition, known as asymptomatic carotid stenosis, is caused by plaque build-up in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. This can cause less blood to reach the brain and, in rare cases, may also trigger a stroke if plaque breaks off and becomes lodged in the small vessels in the brain.

"Only a small minority of patients with carotid stenosis will suffer a stroke," said lead researcher Dr. Raffi Topakian, from the Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Linz, Austria.

The problem is identifying the patients at the highest risk for stroke, he said. Most patients with carotid stenosis can be managed with medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure-lowering drugs and blood thinners such as aspirin, he added.

But those at highest risk may need a surgical procedure called an endarterectomy, which clears the carotid arteries of plaque.

"We found with two ultrasound methods we could differentiate the patients who are at very low risk of suffering a stroke -- lower than 1 percent per year -- from patients at high risk of stroke -- higher than 8 percent per year," Topakian said.

The patients who are at high risk are candidates for surgery, he said. Endarterectomy is not recommended for most people with carotid stenosis since the problem can be managed with drugs and there are risks, including stroke, with the procedure, Topakian said.

Those who would benefit from the ultrasound test are people with known carotid stenosis who are fit for surgery, Topakian said. "If they are too sick or frail for surgery, it makes no sense to do the ultrasound," he said.

In addition, people at high risk for stroke are also candidates for ultrasound, Topakian said. This would include people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease, he said. "This test could be a good tool to identify the right patients for surgery," Topakian said.

Of course, anyone with symptomatic carotid stenosis is a candidate for immediate surgery, Topakian said. Warning signs include transient ischemic attacks (TIAS), or mini-strokes, which cause no permanent damage but are often followed by a stroke within a few days.

The report was published in the Aug. 17 online edition of Neurology.

For the study, a research team led by Topakian followed 435 people with asymptomatic carotid stenosis for two years.

Each participant had an ultrasound to see if there were signs that a stroke might occur. These included tiny blood clots, which pass into the brain, and a type of plaque called echolucent plaque, which is fattier than other plaque and linked with an increased risk for stroke.

Among those in the study, 38 percent had the fattier-than-normal plaque, 17 percent had signs of blood clots and 27 percent had both the fattier plaque and blood clots, the researchers found.

In addition, over the two years of the study, 10 people had TIAs.

Moreover, people with the fattier plaque were more than six times more likely to have a stroke than those people without the plaque, and those with the fattier plaque and clots had a risk that was 10 times higher, Topakian's team found.

Nonetheless, some experts said that research suggests that patients with no symptoms are better off without the surgery.

Dr. Lars Marquardt,a professor of surgery at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said surgery for people with asymptomatic carotid steno sis is done too frequently.

Marquardt noted that the risks associated with the surgery are a lot higher than leaving the stenosis as it is and starting aggressive medical treatment.

"Patients with symptomatic carotid stenosis don't get the surgical procedure early enough, and patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis have too many surgical interventions," Marquardt said.

When treating asymptomatic carotid stenosis, Marquardt doesn't think the case has been made for distinguishing between high- and low-risk patients. Right now, the work done by Topakian's group is still "experimental," he said.

Another expert, Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke University Stroke Center, said that "what remains uncertain is whether surgical intervention would result in an overall improvement in stroke-free survival."

"It is also unclear how optimal medical management [lifestyle changes in addition to anti-platelet medication and statins] would affect overall stroke and cardiovascular risk, and stroke-free survival," he said.

Both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Heart Association currently recommend against general population screening for asymptomatic carotid artery stenosis, Goldstein noted.

More information

For more information on stroke, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

More evidence links pesticides, diabetes

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with relatively high levels of certain pesticides in their blood may have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes -- particularly if they are overweight, a new study suggests.

The study, reported in the journal Diabetes Care, is not the first to link chemical pollutants to diabetes.

A number of studies have found a connection between diabetes risk and exposure to older pesticides known as organochlorines, PCBs and other chemicals that fall into the category of "persistent organic pollutants."

Organochlorines are now banned or restricted in the U.S. and other developed countries, after research linked them to cancer and other potential health risks. PCBs, which were once used in everything from appliances to fluorescent lighting to insecticides, were banned in the 1970s.

However, as the name suggests, persistent organic pollutants remain in the environment for years and build up in animal and human body fat.

In the U.S., diet is the main potential source of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- with fatty foods, like dairy products and oily fish, topping the list.

Lab research has suggested that some persistent organic pollutants impair the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, which could help explain the link to type 2 diabetes.

Some of the compounds also have been shown to promote obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for diabetes, noted Riikka Airaksinen of Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare, who led the new study.

For the study, Airaksinen's team measured blood levels of several persistent organic pollutants in about 2,000 older adults.

Just over 15 percent had type 2 diabetes. The risk was higher, the researchers found, among people with the highest levels of organochlorine pesticides.

Those with levels in the top 10 percent were about twice as likely to have diabetes as their counterparts in the bottom 10 percent.

But the link appeared to be limited to people who were overweight or obese.

That, the researchers write, suggests that the pollutants and body fat "may have a synergistic effect on the risk of type 2 diabetes."

The results alone do not prove that organochlorine pesticides were the reason for the higher diabetes risk, Airaksinen told Reuters Health in an email.

The researchers accounted for participants' age, sex, waist size and blood pressure levels. But they had no information on things like diet and exercise habits -- which might help explain the pesticide-diabetes link.

But the overall body of research, according to Airaksinen, is pointing toward a cause-and-effect relationship.

The findings are "highly concordant" with past studies on persistent organic pollutants and diabetes risk, agreed Dr. David R. Jacobs, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who has worked on some of that research.

"I fear that the association of chlorinated persistent organic pollutants with diabetes is causal," Jacobs, who was not involved in the current study, told Reuters Health in an email.

"There is a large scientific background of cell-based and animal research that shows that these compounds disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function," he noted.

And unlike the current study, which was done at one time-point, some others have found that people's levels of persistent organic pollutants predict their odds of developing diabetes in the future, Jacobs said.

Experts say that one way to limit your exposure to the chemicals is to limit the animal fat in your diet.

The fat in fish like salmon and tuna, however, is considered generally healthy.

"In Finland," Airaksinen noted, "we have studied a group of professional fishermen who consume a lot of fish in their diet, and have found that their mortality from various common diseases is actually lower than the general Finnish population. This suggests that the health benefit from eating fish surpasses the potential health risks."

Though most persistent organic pollutants have been long banned, Jacobs said, "they are generally all around us in fatty tissues of living organisms." Those chemicals are released in various ways, he said, and are being constantly recycled.

Pesticides and other industrial chemicals in use now are safer, in the sense of not being persistent, Jacobs said.

"But," he added, "a chemical that is bad for the health of one life form -- say insects and weeds -- is not likely to be good for humans. We need much better and more thorough safety testing for substances that we use in industry and for pest control."

Source: http://bit.ly/nXH1xS

Diabetes Care, online August 4, 2011.

Fish Oil's Impact On Cognition and Brain Structure Identified in New Study

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2011) — Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital's Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center have found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements. The findings suggest possible benefits of fish oil supplements on brain health and aging.

The results were reported at the recent International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, in Paris, France.

The study was led by Lori Daiello, PharmD, a research scientist at the Rhode Island Hospital Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center. Data for the analyses was obtained from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a large multi-center, NIH-funded study that followed older adults with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's Disease for over three years with periodic memory testing and brain MRIs.

The study included 819 individuals, 117 of whom reported regular use of fish oil supplements before entry and during study follow-up. The researchers compared cognitive functioning and brain atrophy for patients who reported routinely using these supplements to those who were not using fish oil supplements.

Daiello reports that compared to non-users, use of fish oil supplements was associated with better cognitive functioning during the study. However, this association was significant only in those individuals who had a normal baseline cognitive function and in individuals who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's Disease known as APOE4. This is consistent with previous research.

The unique finding, however, is that there was a clear association between fish oil supplements and brain volume. Consistent with the cognitive outcomes, these observations were significant only for those who were APOE4 negative.

Daiello says, "In the imaging analyses for the entire study population, we found a significant positive association between fish oil supplement use and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus), as well as smaller brain ventricular volumes compared to non-users at any given time in the study. In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements during the ADNI study compared to those who didn't report using them."

Daiello continues, "These observations should motivate further study of the possible effects of long-term fish oil supplementation on important markers of cognitive decline and the potential influence of genetics on these outcomes."

The research team included Brian Ott M.D., director of the Rhode Island Hospital and Memory Disorders Center, Assawin Gongvatana Ph.D., Shira Dunsiger Ph.D. and Ronald Cohen Ph.D. from The Miriam Hospital and the Brown University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior (Gonvatana and Cohen), and Department of Behavior and Social Sciences (Dunsiger).

Daiello is a research scientist at Rhode Island Hospital, a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island and an assistant professor of neurology (research) at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Direct financial and infrastructure support for this project was received through the Lifespan Office of Research Administration. The study was supported by career development grants from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (Daiello) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Gongvatana).

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Lifespan, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. 

Stroke screening raises hopes, worries

By Frederik Joelving

Reuters Health

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new test may be able to spot people at high risk of stroke, although it's too early to be excited, researchers said Wednesday.

Yet some already are. That's because the test is able to separate people with clogged neck, or carotid, arteries into those who are relatively likely to suffer a stroke and those who aren't.

That could help decide who would benefit from a controversial surgery in which doctors clean out cholesterol buildups blocking the carotid artery.

"Currently in the U.S. and Canada, too many patients get the surgery" though they don't have any symptoms, said Dr. Lars Marquardt, who wrote an editorial about the findings.

"There is a subset of patients who need it, and this new test will probably -- I'm sure it will -- help identify those," Marquardt, a neurologist at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, told Reuters Health. "It wasn't a huge study, but it is very promising."

The test is based on two types of ultrasound scans, one of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain and one of the arteries in the brain itself.

Both are readily available at hospitals, although the brain scan takes about an hour and is not easy to interpret.

In the new study, 428 symptom-free patients with clogged carotid arteries, so-called carotid stenosis or plaque, had both scans done and were then followed for two years.

Of those who started out with warning signs on both scans, the yearly stroke risk was nine percent.

Those without suspicious-looking results on the two scans -- about 94 percent of the patients -- had a risk of less than one percent per year, however.

"In other words, our study suggests that we can identify those few subjects who are candidates for carotid surgery due to their high risk despite best medical treatment," said Dr. Raffi Topakian, whose findings appear in the journal Neurology.

"Of course, it's still too early to be too enthusiastic about our findings," Topakian, of the Academic Teaching Hospital Wagner-Jauregg in Linz, Austria, told Reuters Health by email. "Ideally, our findings should be corroborated by other studies."

Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year, with about a sixth of them dying of it and many more left disabled.

Clogged carotid arteries are a risk factor for stroke, but many doctors believe doing surgery to clean them out is too hazardous for symptom-free people at average risk.

"There is a very important story to be told about unnecessary carotid surgery and stenting in the U.S.," said Dr. David Spence, a stroke prevention researcher at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.

"Ninety-five percent of these procedures are for asymptomatic stenosis, and our work shows that 90 percent of these patients would be better off without surgery," he told Reuters Health in an email.

Overall, only about two percent of people with symptom-free carotid stenosis suffer a stroke per year when their condition is managed with drugs and lifestyle changes.

By contrast, carotid surgery performed by experienced surgeons triggers a fatal stroke in as many as three percent.

That's why the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally funded expert panel, recommends against screening for carotid stenosis in the first place.

"If you are screening lots of people to identify those who have plaques, there's an awful lot of harm associated with that," said Dr. Patrick O'Malley of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland.

Although it might sound ensnaring, he said, introducing the new test could lead to more screening for carotid stenosis, which hasn't been shown to cut stroke rates.

"It's limited by the problem that we don't know if screening works in the first place," O'Malley, who wasn't involved in the study, told Reuters Health. "They are missing the first step."

Harms from screening include getting unnecessary surgeries and medications, which have complications and side effects.

Topakian acknowledged those drawbacks.

"The tests are practically risk-free," he said, "the consequences (surgery etc.) are not."

Source: http://bit.ly/Q5TNl

Neurology, online August 17, 2011.

Popular Herbal Supplements May Adversely Affect Chemotherapy Treatment

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2011) — Acai berry, cumin, herbal tea, turmeric and long-term use of garlic -- all herbal supplements commonly believed to be beneficial to your health -- may negatively impact chemotherapy treatment according to a new report presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago. Researchers from Northwestern Memorial hospital say there is growing evidence that these popular supplements may intensify or weaken the effect of chemotherapy drugs and in some cases, may cause a toxic, even lethal reaction.

"With the growth of the Internet, patients have better access to information about alternative products and often turn to dietary and herbal supplements to treat their illness because they think they're natural and safe," said June M. McKoy, MD, geriatrician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and lead investigator on the ASCO presentation. "What people don't realize is that supplements are more than just vitamins and can counteract medical therapies if not taken appropriately."

McKoy, who is also director of geriatric oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, says more research is needed to understand which supplements interact with chemotherapy drugs and the extent of those interactions and encourages patients to openly communicate with their physicians about the use of supplements.

"Patients need to tell their doctors what medications they are taking -- including vitamins and supplements -- to avoid any possible interaction," said McKoy who is also an assistant professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Herbal supplements, defined as plant or plant parts used for therapeutic purposes, can interact with chemotherapy drugs through different mechanisms. Some herbs can interfere with the metabolism of the drugs, making them less effective while other herbs such as long-term use of garlic may increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. While culinary herbs used in small quantities for flavoring are generally safe, consuming large amounts for prolonged periods of time may have a negative effect on the body when going through chemotherapy. "

Recent research shows that 50 percent of patients undergoing chemotherapy did not tell their doctor they were taking alternative therapies. "Some believe it's not important, while others are uncomfortable admitting they are pursuing alternative therapies," said McKoy. "The truth is, integrative approaches can be beneficial for cancer patients, but it's important to take these approaches at the right time and under the supervision of your doctor."

McKoy urges patients to stop taking herbal supplements while receiving chemotherapy until more is known about possible interactions, but encourages those who are interested in complementary approaches to have a conversation with their doctor about other approaches that may be beneficial.

"Integrative therapies such as massage, acupuncture and meditation can address important patient needs by alleviating stress, addressing pain and helping patients cope," said Melinda Ring, MD, medical director for the Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group's Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness.

No matter the course of treatment, McKoy stresses the importance of physicians and patients being more cognizant of this potential interaction and encourages communication about all herbal supplement intakes. "Patients should bring in labels and bottles to their appointments. This can help the doctor calibrate drug dosage with other supplements in mind in order to prevent toxicities," stated McKoy.

McKoy plans to launch a pilot study this summer to examine how frequently conversations about supplements come up between cancer patients and their doctors.

"By identifying communication barriers, we can take steps to improve doctor patient communication in order to prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions," said McKoy.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Research Reveals Brain's Protection Mechanism During Stroke

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2011) — Neuroscientists have identified a natural protection mechanism in some of the brain's nerve cells during the onset of stroke. The findings, published Aug. 17 in the Journal of Neuroscience, could be used to develop treatments to protect other nerve cell types responsible for speech and movement.

Stroke -- the third largest cause of death in the UK -- causes disruption to the blood supply to the brain, depriving nerve cells of oxygen and nutrients. This leads to the death of nerve cells and the consequent loss of the brain's cognitive functions such as speech and movement. However, not all nerve cells are equally susceptible to stroke-induced damage.

The research, led by Dr Jack Mellor from the University of Bristol, examined two types of nerve cell in a part of the brain called the hippocampus -- the region linked to memory and navigation. One of these cell types, the CA1 cell, is highly susceptible to damage after stroke whereas the other, the CA3 cell, is much more resistant despite many other similarities between the two cell types.

Dr Mellor, Senior Lecturer in the University's School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said: "We hope that if we can understand why some nerve cells are resistant to stroke damage we may be able to develop strategies to protect those cells that are sensitive."

The researchers found that the CA3 cells possess a mechanism for reducing their susceptibility during, and immediately after, a laboratory-based model for stroke. This mechanism involved making the CA3 cells less sensitive to the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is released in large quantities during stroke, by removing glutamate receptor proteins from the surface of these cells.

The removal of glutamate receptors was triggered by adenosine A3 receptors that are activated by very high levels of the neurotransmitter adenosine found only during stroke conditions. Interestingly, CA1 cells that are susceptible to stroke damage did not have adenosine A3 receptors and did not respond to the stroke model by removing surface glutamate receptors. The findings reveal that CA3 cells possess a mechanism for neuronal protection during stroke.

Dr Mellor added: "Historically, stroke has been very difficult to treat because of its unpredictability and the need to administer drugs within minutes of the onset of a stroke. These problems will not be overcome by our research but our findings do reveal a natural protection mechanism in some nerve cells, which may be useful in developing treatments to protect other nerve cell types."

The research, entitled 'Oxygen/glucose Deprivation Induces a Reduction in Synaptic AMPA Receptors on Hippocampal CA3 Neurons Mediated by mGluR1 and adenosine A3 Receptors', is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Bristol.

Journal Reference:

S. H. Dennis, N. Jaafari, H. Cimarosti, J. G. Hanley, J. M. Henley, J. R. Mellor. Oxygen/Glucose Deprivation Induces a Reduction in Synaptic AMPA Receptors on Hippocampal CA3 Neurons Mediated by mGluR1 and Adenosine A3 Receptors. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31 (33): 11941 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1183-11.2011

Some Thyroid Cancer Patients May Get Radioactive Iodine Unnecessarily

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TUESDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Some thyroid cancer patients with early disease may be given radioactive iodine unnecessarily, while others with more advanced tumors who should get the treatment don't, a new study suggests.

More than 44,000 people are diagnosed with thyroid cancer annually in the United States, according to the study. When caught early, it is highly treatable by surgically removing the thyroid, and the vast majority of people survive.

To kill off any remnants of cancerous tissue, patients are often treated with radioactive iodine.

But the new study finds wide variation from hospital to hospital in the percentage of thyroid cancer patients getting radioactive iodine.

"We found that there was wide variation in the use of radioactive iodine, and the hospital where you received care made a difference in whether or not you received it," said study author Dr. Megan Haymart, an assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan. "Whenever there is so much variation it suggests there is uncertainty -- that physicians are uncertain when radioactive iodine is indicated and when it's not."

The study is published in the Aug. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Current guidelines recommended radioactive iodine to reduce recurrence in advanced thyroid cancer, including larger tumors and cancer that seems to be moving outside the thyroid. For less advanced, "low- risk" disease, the research isn't there to support the widespread use of radioactive iodine, Haymart said.

To determine how radioactive iodine is being used throughout the nation's hospitals, researchers looked at information from the U.S. National Cancer Database on nearly 190,000 thyroid cancer patients treated at 981 hospitals between 1990 and 2008.

During that period, the use of radioactive iodine increased from about 40 percent of patients in 1990 to 56 percent of patients in 2008.

While patients who had "low-risk" disease (stage 1) were less likely to receive radioactive iodine than patients with advanced thyroid cancer (stage 4), people with stage 2 and stage 3 cancers were just as likely as those with stage 4 tumors to receive the treatment.

The likelihood of receiving radioactive iodine also had a lot to do with where people were treated.

Overall, about 37 percent of women under age 45 with stage 1 tumors received radioactive iodine. But that ranged from 0 percent at some hospitals to more that 90 percent at others.

For a high-risk case -- a man over age 45 with stage 3 or 4 disease, the odds of getting radioactive iodine ranged from 25 percent at some hospitals to 90 percent at others. In this case, the guidelines would call for him to receive iodine treatment.

"The number of patients receiving radioactive iodine has increased significantly, and the researchers find that people with these earliest cancers are getting it with no apparent explanation as to why," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "There is a lot of variation in the use of radioactive iodine, which appears to be based more on preferences of the physician, patients or both, than any particular scientific or evidence-based reason."

Radioactive iodine treatment carries some risks, including a slight increase in the chances of getting leukemia or damage to nearby tissue such as salivary glands. Women have to avoid getting pregnant for six months to a year, and have to stay away from young children for about a week after treatment.

"The risk may be relatively minimal, but it's not without some risk," Lichtenfeld said.

But Dr. Edward Livingston, chairman of gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, took the research to task, saying that the data doesn't support a conclusion that radioactive iodine is being given inappropriately to low-risk patients

The data used in the analysis isn't detailed enough to know why physicians decided to give the radioactive iodine. Some surgeons may purposefully leave a bit of thyroid tissue to avoid damaging nerves around the gland -- a complication of thyroid surgery -- and then use radioactive iodine to kill the remaining tissue.

"You don't really know enough about what the decision-making was for an individual patient or an individual surgeon," Livingston said.

And there is very little downside to radioactive iodine, he added, with the risk of additional cancers "pretty remote."

To truly compare whether giving radioactive iodine is the best course of treatment in most cases, researchers would need to track outcomes for those who received the treatment and those who didn't over the long-term.

"You really can't look at this intermediate measure of whether they got this iodine or not. You have to look at whether they got cancer again," Livingston said. "Those studies take a long time and they're expensive, but they're worth it because you can only make conclusions about the effectiveness of a particular treatment by knowing that."

On that point, the other experts agreed.

"It all points to the fact that we need better research on thyroid cancer management, so that then the clinical guidelines clearly direct patients and physicians to which patients actually need to radioactive iodine," Haymart said.

More information

The Hormone Foundation has more on thyroid disease.

Malignant Stem Cells May Explain Why Some Breast Cancers Develop and Recur

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2011) — Mutations that are found in stem cells could be causing some breast cancers to develop and may be the reason the disease recurs. These abnormal cells are likely controlling cell functions in the tumor and, given they are not targeted by chemotherapy and radiation, they enable the disease to recur.

The mutations were discovered in a study conducted by scientists and physicians at the Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute. The study, which examined breast cancer cells removed during surgery, was recently published online in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

"By studying normal and malignant cells that were collected from breast tissues removed during surgery, we were able to look at what is occurring in the body," said SuEllen J. Pommier, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and associate research professor in the division of surgical oncology at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

Working with samples taken directly from surgeries made the findings in this study possible, Pommier said, because the biology of breast stem cells could be compared with their malignant counterparts in a way that hadn't been done before. The cultured cell lines used in most studies can't provide accurate information about normal breast stem cells.

The study, which was funded primarily by the Avon Foundation for Women, may prove that some current therapies that target mutations in the tumor won't be effective in stamping out the disease for some patients. It also suggests that more research should be done in two areas:

Determining the role of PIK3CA/AKT1 signaling mutations, which were found in 73 percent of the tumors in this study of fresh surgical specimens - an occurrence rate that is much higher than previously detected in stored samples.

And, exploring the importance of the loss of CD24 expression, which previously was considered a requirement for breast cancer stem cells, but may not be a characteristic of all breast cancer stem cells.

Understanding the biology of individual tumors is the primary mission of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. "This study provided us with new insights into breast cancer stem cells and possibly into the earliest mutations. That information is crucial for developing treatments," Pommier added.

In addition to support from the Avon Foundation for Women, this study was funded by a Vertex Pharmaceutical/Oregon Health & Science Collaborative Research Grant.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University.

Bladder Cancer Risk Even Higher for Smokers Than Thought

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TUESDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Almost half of all bladder cancers can be attributed to smoking cigarettes, and the risk of bladder cancer has increased significantly for smokers in the past three decades, a new study finds.

Smokers now face a four times higher risk of developing bladder cancer than someone who has never smoked. Thirty years ago, that risk was about three times that of never-smokers.

Even smokers who've quit the habit still face an increased risk -- 2.2 times higher -- than people who've never smoked, though the risk lessens with time.

"The best way to prevent bladder cancer is for people not to smoke," said study author Neal D. Freedman, an investigator at the National Cancer Institute. "Our study emphasizes the importance of preventing smoking initiation, or for smoking cessation for those who already smoke."

Results of the study will be published in the Aug. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More than 350,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year, according to the study. More than 70,000 of those cases occur in the United States, according to the study. And, although the incidence rates for bladder cancer appear to be remaining stable, the researchers noted that findings from several studies suggested that rates for smokers seemed to be rising.

Tobacco smoking is the most significant risk factor for the development of bladder cancer, and previous estimates were that smoking increased the risk of bladder cancer nearly threefold.

To get a better idea of the current risk, Freedman and his colleagues reviewed data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, which was conducted between 1995 and 2006. The study included 281,394 men and 186,134 women between the ages of 50 and 71. The volunteers lived in one of eight states: California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Almost 4,000 men and 627 women were diagnosed with bladder cancer during the study.

The researchers found that current smokers now had four times the risk of developing bladder cancer compared to people who never smoked.

Overall, smoking was attributed to the development of about half of all bladder cancers.

And, the risk of bladder cancer tends to rise with the number of cigarettes smoked, according to Freedman. Even people who smoke one to 10 cigarettes a day have a significantly higher risk of bladder cancer than people who don't smoke, according to the study.

He also noted that while the risk of bladder cancer remains elevated for former smokers, it does go down the longer someone stays off cigarettes.

Freedman said the authors don't know exactly why the risk of bladder cancer has increased for smokers, but they suspect changes in the composition of cigarette smoke. Cigarettes contain less tar and nicotine now, but cigarette smoke is likely have more cancer-causing chemicals such as beta-napthylamine, which is known to cause bladder cancer, suggest the authors.

"Cigarettes may be even more toxic now than they were years ago," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

"People who consider themselves casual smokers may think they're not getting as many of the bad effects of smoking, but in this study, the impact of smoking increases the risk of bladder cancer dramatically," he pointed out.

Lichtenfeld advised that anyone who smokes should stop, though he acknowledged that doing so isn't easy. "Cigarettes are a very powerful addiction that's difficult to quit."

But, both experts agreed that for preventing bladder and other cancers, as well as for heart health, quitting smoking -- or never starting to smoke -- is one of the best things you can do.

More information

Learn more about bladder cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Enzyme Found Disrupting Nerve Cell Communication in Alzheimer's Disease

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2011) — Alzheimer's disease is characterized by abnormal proteins that stick together in little globs, disrupting cognitive function (thinking, learning, and memory). These sticky proteins are mostly made up of beta-amyloid peptide. A better understanding of these proteins, how they form, and how they affect brain function will no doubt improve the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

To this end, a research team led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) found that beta-amyloid-induced destruction of synapses -- the connections that mediate communication between nerve cells -- is driven by a chemical modification to an enzyme called Cdk5. The team found that this altered form of Cdk5 (SNO-Cdk5) was prevalent in human Alzheimer's disease brains, but not in normal brains. These results, published online the week of August 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that SNO-Cdk5 could be targeted for the development of new Alzheimer's disease therapies.

Cdk5 is an enzyme known to play a role in normal neuronal survival and migration. In this study, Dr. Lipton and colleagues found that beta-amyloid peptides, the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, trigger Cdk5 modification by a chemical process called S-nitrosylation. In this reaction, nitric oxide (NO) is attached to the enzyme, producing SNO-Cdk5 and disrupting its normal activity.

"After NO is attached to Cdk5, it then jumps like a 'hot potato' to another protein called Drp1, disrupting its function and fragmenting mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of nerve cells. When the mitochondria are damaged, the synapses, which normally require a lot of energy for their function, are destroyed. This scenario disrupts communication between nerve cells, and thus memory and cognitive ability in Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Lipton, professor and director of Sanford-Burnham's Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging and Stem Cell Research Center. Dr. Lipton is also a neurologist who sees Alzheimer's disease patients in his own clinical practice, and is credited with characterizing and developing memantine (Namenda®), the latest FDA-approved drug for Alzheimer's disease.

In the current study, Cdk5 is shown to perform a new function not previously known -- the ability to transfer NO from one protein to another. Until now, Cdk5 was only known to influence the function of other proteins by tagging them with phosphate groups in a process known as phosphorylation. The new study shows that the addition of NO sends Cdk5 into overdrive and allows it to also S-nitrosylate other proteins, in this case Drp1 on mitochondria. Most notably, the transfer of NO from SNO-Cdk5 to Drp1 triggers the loss of synapses, the part of a nerve cell that transmits electrochemical signals to other nerve cells. Loss of synapses is known to correlate with the degree of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease.

Taking the study a step further, the team compared SNO-Cdk5 levels in brain tissue from healthy people and from Alzheimer's disease patients. SNO-Cdk5 was dramatically elevated in human brains with Alzheimer's disease.

"Our experiments using human brain tissue from patients with Alzheimer's disease give this finding clear clinical relevance," Dr. Lipton said. "SNO-Cdk5 could provide a new target for treating this devastating condition."

As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, currently the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Co-authors include Jing Qu, Tomohiro Nakamura, Gang Cao, Emily A. Holland, Scott R. McKercher, and Stuart A. Lipton, all located at Sanford-Burnham in La Jolla, Calif.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Jing Qu, Tomohiro Nakamura, Gang Cao, Emily A. Holland, Scott R. McKercher, and Stuart A. Lipton. S-Nitrosylation activates Cdk5 and contributes to synaptic spine loss induced by β-amyloid peptide. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 15, 2011 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105172108

The Fattier Your Heart, the Greater Your Heart Disease Risk

By By John Leighty
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TUESDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The amount of hidden fat that collects around the heart may be a stronger indicator of cardiac disease risk than a bulging waistline or flabby thighs, a new study reports.

Heart fat hidden behind the rib cage -- known as pericardial fat -- appears to promote irregular plaque build-up along coronary artery walls that causes atherosclerosis and can trigger heart attacks, the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the study.

"It turns out there are specific areas around the heart where hidden fat seems to be promoting coronary disease, even in people without symptoms," said senior study author Dr. David Bluemke, director of radiology and imaging sciences at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Care.

"This is chest fat you'd never see by looking at someone," he added.

Pericardial fat is linked to being overweight or obese, according to the study in the Aug. 16 online edition of the journal Radiology.

The findings are from the ongoing Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a study of 6,800 participants aged 45 to 84 from six communities around the country who had no heart disease at enrollment. In this study, researchers looked at a smaller slice of the volunteers: 89 women and 94 men with an average age of 61 who, although most were overweight, were representative of the general population.

To look for signs of heart disease, the research team used noninvasive MRI to screen for plaque on the walls of the coronary artery and compared it with CT scans of heart fat volume. The NIH-sponsored study highlighted three main findings:

In people with no symptoms of coronary artery disease, the fat volume of the membrane around the heart is closely associated with the heart artery-clogging plaque found on the MRIs.

This pericardial fat appears to be more strongly related to coronary artery plaque buildup than is body mass index (a measure of obesity) or waist circumference.

Examining coronary artery walls through MRIs and CT heart fat scans may be useful in assessing the risk of heart disease.

High-risk patients with chest pain and known coronary risk factors such as obesity should have a traditional angiogram or advanced diagnostic procedures, said Bluemke. "However, low or intermediate risk patients may eventually benefit from understanding that fat deposits around the heart increase their risk of coronary disease," he said.

And while MRI was used as the "gold standard" for NIH research on fat distribution and the dangers of obesity, the expensive procedure isn't necessary in typical patient screening for cardiac risk, Bluemke added.

Bluemke said CT scans are one of the fastest growing medical procedures in the country and may increasingly be used to evaluate coronary artery disease. Scanning often provides data on calcium in the heart vessel, and can calculate a 'fat score' index for tissues around the heart as a best practice procedure that could save lives, he said.

"Two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese and at risk of coronary artery disease and plaque buildup," said Bluemke, noting that extra fat forms "preferentially" in vulnerable areas of the heart of typical overweight patients. "This research says we should be telling doctors about the amount of fat in a patient's chest that shows up on a CT scan, but cannot be seen from outside the body and was previously ignored."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared obesity a national epidemic and a major contributor to the leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease. Slightly more than one adult in three is obese, and one child in six is obese, the CDC reports.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at UCLA, agrees that CT scans may eventually help doctors determine who is most vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. However, he cautions patients not to rush out for expensive and unnecessary scans or MRI screenings just to find hidden heart fat that might be temporary or not pose a long-term problem.

"The research is really to generate new knowledge and information, not to be a risk predictor or screening tool for the general population," said Fonarow.

An interesting finding is the volume of fat around the heart being positively related to the plaque burden in asymptomatic men and women, most of whom need to shed a few pounds, Fonarow said: "This shows a new reason why overweight people have a higher rate of cardiovascular risk and gives the public another reason to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle."

More information

Find out more about heart disease at the American Heart Association.

Confirmation That Vitamin D Acts as a Protective Agent Against the Advance of Colon Cancer

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2011) — A study conducted by VHIO researchers confirms that a lack of vitamin D increases the aggressiveness of colon cancer.

The indication that vitamin D and its derivatives have a protective effect against various types of cancer is not new. In the field of colon cancer, numerous experimental and epidemiological studies show that vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol) and some of its derivatives inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Researchers at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), in collaboration with the Alberto Sols Institute of Biomedical Research (CSIC-UAB), have confirmed the pivotal role of vitamin D, specifically its receptor (VDR), in slowing down the action of a key protein in the carcinogenic transformation process of colon cancer cells. These results are being published in the journal PLoS ONE.

This protein, known as beta-catenin, which is normally found in intestinal epithelial cells where it facilitates their cohesion, builds up in large quantities in other areas of the cells when the tumour transformation begins. As a result of these changes, the protein is retained in the cell nucleus, where it facilitate the carcinogenic process, and this is the point at which vitamin D intervenes, or rather, the vitamin D receptor (VDR). "Our study has confirmed the pivotal role of the VDR in controlling the anomalous signal that sparks off the growth and uncontrolled proliferation of colon cells which, in the final instance, ends up causing a tumour to emerge", says Héctor Palmer, the coordinator of this study and head of the VHIO's Stem Cells and Cancer laboratory. He continues, "The stimulation of this receptor suppresses the action of the beta-catenin protein, intercepting the series of events that change the intestinal cell into a malignant tumour cell."

The study was conducted on mice and human colon cancer cells. The mice were used as a model to replicate the initial phases of colon cancer. "These findings show that mice of this kind, which also lack the VDR and hence do not respond to vitamin D, present larger and more aggressive tumours than mice with the VDR", explains Dr. Palmer, and concludes: "The number of tumours is not influenced by the absence of VDR, which would indicate that this factor does not protect against the appearance of the tumour but does intervene in its growth phase, reducing its aggressiveness."

The researchers then analysed the effect of the VDR on human colon cancer cell cultures and observed that the concentration of the altered protein, beta-catenin, increased in cells without the VDR. These findings were repeated in the three types of colon cancer cells studied, and confirmed the results observed in the mice.

In two-thirds of advanced colon cancer tumours there was a lack of VDR in the cancer cells, and this circumstance leads us to believe that this loss may contribute to speeding up the growth of the tumour. The findings of this study confirm this supposition.

Vitamin D: essential in the initial phases of colon cancer

In light of these findings, chronic vitamin D deficiency represents a risk factor in the development of more aggressive colon tumours. Patients in the initial stages of colon cancer, the time when the VDR still has a substantial presence in the cells, could benefit from being treated with vitamin D3. However, this would not be useful in the advanced stages of the disease when the presence of the VDR is very much reduced.

The study data support the development of anti-tumour medicines based on the structure of vitamin D, although their use in patients will require further research in the next few years.

The body not only obtains vitamin D from food, especially milk and fish oils, but also manufactures it from exposure to sunlight. Prolonged exposure is not necessary; just 10 minutes in the sun every day when it is not at its peak is sufficient to stimulate its production. During the summer, when we are more likely to sunbathe, it is important to use the appropriate protective measures against sunburn to avoid future sun damage. Use high-factor solar protection products and do not expose the skin to the sun in the middle of the day to protect against skin cancers.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), via AlphaGalileo.

Journal Reference:

María Jesús Larriba, Paloma Ordóñez-Morán, Irene Chicote, Génesis Martín-Fernández, Isabel Puig, Alberto Muñoz, Héctor G. Pálmer. Vitamin D Receptor Deficiency Enhances Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling and Tumor Burden in Colon Cancer. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (8): e23524 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023524

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caffeine Lowers Risk of Skin Cancer: Coffee-Based Sunscreen Might Work Best

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 15, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — There might be a time when instead of just drinking that morning cup of coffee you lather it on your skin as a way of preventing harmful sun damage or skin cancer.

A new Rutgers study strengthens the theory that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting a protein enzyme in the skin, known as ATR. Scientists believe that based on what they have learned studying mice, caffeine applied directly to the skin might help prevent damaging UV light from causing skin cancer.

Prior research indicated that mice that were fed caffeinated water and exposed to lamps that generated UVB radiation that damaged the DNA in their skin cells were able to kill off a greater percentage of their badly damaged cells and reduce the risk of cells becoming cancerous.

"Although it is known that coffee drinking is associated with a decreased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, there now needs to be studies to determine whether topical caffeine inhibits sunlight-induced skin cancer," said Allan Conney, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research.

In this newly-published study, instead of inhibiting ATR with caffeinated water, Rutgers researchers, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington, genetically modified and diminished ATR in one group of mice. The results: the genetically modified mice developed tumors more slowly than the unmodified mice, had 69 percent fewer tumors than regular mice and developed four times fewer invasive tumors.

The study also found, however, that when both groups of mice were exposed to chronic ultraviolet rays for an extended period of time, tumor development occurred in both the genetically modified and regular mice. What this seems to indicate, says Conney, is that inhibiting the ATR enzyme works best at the pre-cancerous stage before UV-induced skin cancers are fully developed.

According to the National Cancer Institute, sunlight-induced skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States with more than 1 million new cases each year. Although multiple human epidemiologic studies link caffeinated beverage intake with significant decreases in several different types of cancer, including skin cancer, just how and why coffee protects against the disease is unknown.

"Caffeine might become a weapon in prevention because it inhibits ATR and also acts ad as a sunscreen and directly absorbs damaging UV light," said Conney.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Rutgers University.

Journal Reference:

Masaoki Kawasumi, Bianca Lemos, James E. Bradner, Renee Thibodeau, Yong-son Kim, Miranda Schmidt, Erin Higgins, Sang-wahn Koo, Aimee Angle-Zahn, Adam Chen, Douglas Levine, Lynh Nguyen, Timothy P. Heffernan, Isabel Longo, Anna Mandinova, Yao-Ping Lu, Allan H. Conney, and Paul Nghiem. Protection from UV-induced skin carcinogenesis by genetic inhibition of the ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) kinase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 15, 2011 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1111378108

Vitamin D Levels Linked to Certain Skin Cancers, Study Finds

By By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, August 15, 2011

MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The higher a person's vitamin D levels, the higher the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, finds new research.

But the study, appearing in the Aug. 15 issue of the Archives of Dermatology, stops short of saying that high vitamin D levels might actually cause these types of cancer, the most common malignancies in the United States.

And because ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is necessary for vitamin D production in the body, it might simply mean that people with more sun exposure tend to develop more non-melanoma skin cancers. It's unclear whether it's the damage from UV rays that accounts for the risk, or rising vitamin D levels that accompany exposure to the rays.

"This adds to the murky water [surrounding the relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer]," said Dr. Vijay Trisal, assistant professor of surgical oncology at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. "Is it vitamin D or sun exposure? The two go hand-in-hand."

Other scientists have investigated a possible relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer, but so far the results have been limited and conflicting.

One study suggested that higher vitamin D levels might actually protect against skin cancer. This could be because vitamin D may inhibit a pathway involved in cancer, said Dr. Melody Eide, a dermatologist with Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and lead author of the current study.

But two other studies had results suggesting the opposite.

Eide and colleagues based their findings on 3,223 mostly female, white patients in a Detroit health maintenance organization who had visited a doctor either because they had osteoporosis or low bone density.

Many more patients (2,257) had too-low levels of vitamin D than had adequate levels (966).

Over a follow-up period of almost 10 years, 163 participants developed basal cell carcinoma, 49 developed squamous cell carcinoma, and 28 developed both.

Those with vitamin D levels above a certain threshold had a 70 percent greater risk of developing one of these cancers. (That threshold was 15 nanograms per milliliter; people with less than that were considered deficient in vitamin D.)

People with higher vitamin D levels also tended to develop their skin cancer on parts of the body not typically exposed to sunlight, like the arms and legs, but that finding was not statistically significant, the researchers reported.

At this research stage, it's difficult to untangle the possible mechanisms behind this.

"It's a triangular relationship between UV light with the production of Vitamin D and the induction of skin cancer," Eide said. "That makes it difficult to know."

The study didn't take into account lifetime sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, vitamin D supplementation, exercise, smoking or several other factors that might have influenced the outcome of the study. In addition, the study authors noted that it was "highly likely" that the participants' exposure to sunlight might have skewed the results.

"We need some measure of lifetime cumulative UV exposure, which is very difficult to measure," Eide said. "We tend to move around a lot; people go on vacations. There could be critical windows during our life."

More information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on all forms of skin cancer.

Inhibiting Key Enzymes Kills Difficult Tumor Cells in Mice

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 15, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — Tumors that do not respond to chemotherapy are the target of a cancer therapy that prevents the function of two enzymes in mouse tumor cells, according to Pennsylvania medical researchers.

"We've known for well over a decade that when tumors become hypoxic they become resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy," said Wafik S. El-Deiry, M.D. Ph.D., American Cancer Society Research Professor, Rose Dunlap Professor and chief of hematology/oncology, Penn State College of Medicine. "This is a huge problem in the treatment of patients with cancer. As tumors progress, they have regions that are not well perfused with blood vessels and tumors become hypoxic."

A hypoxic tumor lacks oxygen because there are not enough blood vessels within the tumor to allow red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the tumor.

El-Deiry and his team report in a recent issue of Cancer Research that the drug sangivamycin-like molecule 3 (SLM3) helps keep tumor cells from multiplying in lab mice.

Treating a tumor with SLM3 inhibits two kinase, or enzymes: GSK-3ß, which regulates cell growth and cell death, and CDK1, which regulates cell division and blood vessel growth. Tumor cells treated with SLM3 become more sensitive to chemotherapy and die, according to El-Deiry and his colleagues.

"If you just inhibit GSK-3ß, that may not be enough and not necessarily desirable," said El-Deiry, who is also the associate director for translational research, Cancer Institute. "But there's something fortuitous about the dual targeting of these two kinases, (GSK-3ß and CDK-1), with respect to cancer therapy. If you inhibit these two kinases, the dual inhibition works together to kill hypoxic tumor cells.

"While pure inhibition of GSK-3ß can promote cell proliferation, the combination of GSK-3ß and CDK-1 inhibition not only inhibits cell proliferation but also promotes cell death," El-Deiry added.

To find SLM3, the researchers screened a chemical library looking for molecules that induce apoptosis -- cell death -- in hypoxic tumor cells. SLM3 does that, and the researchers found eight molecules whose structures were similar.

SLM3 was the version that induced the most cell death in concert with TRAIL, a naturally occurring molecule in the body that tells a cell it is time to die. TRAIL sets a process in motion that targets and shuts down tumor cells and keeps them from spreading.

SLM3, a nucleoside analog, helps keep tumor cells from multiplying by stopping cells before they duplicate their DNA. Nucleosides are the building blocks of nucleic acids and molecules like ATP -- the energy source for the body. A nucleoside analog competes with ATP and inhibits kinases, like GSK-3ß and CDK1.

GSK-3ß helps regulate cell growth and cell death. CDK1 decreases the tumor's ability to divide and generate more blood vessels. SLM3 inhibits both these kinases.

"The bottom line is the molecules actually work to shrink tumors when these molecules are combined with chemo or TRAIL therapy," El-Deiry said. "We think that these are important observations that need to be tested further in the clinic."

Other Penn State College of Medicine researchers include Nathan G. Dolloff, assistant professor of hematology/oncology; Joshua E. Allen, graduate student, hematology/oncology; Yingqiu Y. Liu, research specialist; and David T. Dicker, technical specialist.

Also working on this research were Patrick A. Mayes, former graduate student, now at GlaxoSmithKline; Colin J. Daniel, graduate student, and Rosalie C. Sears, associate professor, molecular and medical genetics, Oregon Health Science University; J. Judy Liu and David I. H. Jee, graduate students, Harvard University; Lori S. Hart, research associate, and Jay F. Dorsey, assistant professor, radiation oncology, Emma E. Furth, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and Peter S. Klein, associate professor of hematology/oncology, University of Pennsylvania; Kageaki Kuribayashi, Sapporo Medical University, Japan; and J. Martin Brown, professor of radiation oncology, Stanford University.

The National Institutes of Health supported this research.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Penn State, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

P. A. Mayes, N. G. Dolloff, C. J. Daniel, J. J. Liu, L. S. Hart, K. Kuribayashi, J. E. Allen, D. I. H. Jee, J. F. Dorsey, Y. Y. Liu, D. T. Dicker, J. M. Brown, E. E. Furth, P. S. Klein, R. C. Sears, W. S. El-Deiry. Overcoming Hypoxia-Induced Apoptotic Resistance through Combinatorial Inhibition of GSK-3  and CDK1. Cancer Research, 2011; 71 (15): 5265 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-1383

Exercise May Help Prevent Brain Damage Caused by Alzheimer's Disease

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 15, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — Regular exercise could help prevent brain damage associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, according to research published this month in Elsevier's journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

"Exercise allows the brain to rapidly produce chemicals that prevent damaging inflammation," said Professor Jean Harry, who led the study at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States. "This could help us develop a therapeutic approach for early intervention in preventing damage to the brain."

Previous research has already demonstrated that exercise after brain injury can help the repair mechanisms. This new study shows that exercise before the onset of damage modifies the brain environment in such a way that the neurons are protected from severe insults. The study used an experimental model of brain damage, in which mice are exposed to a chemical that destroys the hippocampus, an area of the brain which controls learning and memory. Mice that were exercised regularly prior to exposure produced an immune messenger called interleukin-6 in the brain, which dampens the harmful inflammatory response to this damage, and prevents the loss of function that is usually observed.

Pharmacological therapies to downregulate inflammation and address cognitive decline in older adults, and those with Alzheimer's disease, have been less successful. This research helps understand how exercise could be used to affect the path of many human conditions, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, as a chemical model of neuronal damage was used, it also raises the possibility that exercise could offer protection against the potentially harmful effects of environmental toxins.

"This elegant series of experiments reveals an alternative pathway by which voluntary physical exercise may protect hippocampal neurons," said Dr. Ruth Barrientos from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado. "The study on the role of exercise as a therapeutic intervention will undoubtedly get a workout in the years to come. Perhaps the greatest challenge with this line of research will not be more discoveries of compelling evidence of the anti-neuroinflammatory effects of exercise, but instead, getting humans to exercise voluntarily and regularly."

The research was funded by the Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and 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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Elsevier, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Jason A. Funk, Julia Gohlke, Andrew D. Kraft, Christopher A. McPherson, Jennifer B. Collins, G. Jean Harry. Voluntary exercise protects hippocampal neurons from trimethyltin injury: Possible role of interleukin-6 to modulate tumor necrosis factor receptor-mediated neurotoxicity. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2011; 25 (6): 1063 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.03.012

15 minutes of exercise a day can extend life by three years

By Tan Ee Lyn

Reuters

Monday, August 15, 2011

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Doing just 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day may add three years to your life, a large study in Taiwan has found.

Most people struggle to stick to the standard guideline of 30 minutes a day of exercise, five days a week, and experts hope that by identifying a lower dose, more people will be motivated to get off the couch.

Lead researcher Chi Pang Wen of Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes said dedicating 15 minutes a day to a moderate form of exercise, like brisk walking, would benefit anyone.

"It's for men, women, the young and old, smokers, healthy and unhealthy people. Doctors, when they see any type of patient, this is a one-size-fits-all type of advice," Wen told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Wen and colleagues, who published their findings in medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday, tracked over 416,000 participants for 13 years, analysing their health records and reported levels of physical activity each year.

After taking into account differences in age, weight, sex and a range of health-related indicators, they found that just 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day increased life expectancy by three years compared to those who remained inactive.

"The first 15 minutes ... the benefits are enormous," Wen said.

Daily exercise was also linked to a lower incidence of cancer, and appeared to reduce cancer-related deaths in one person in ten.

"Sooner or later, you are going to die. But compared to the inactive group, the low exercise group has a reduction of 10 percent in cancer mortality," Wen said.

Wen said the Taiwan findings were consistent with similar studies in the past using Caucasian participants, but his team was the first to come up with the minimum level of exercise necessary.

"None of the other papers were able to conclude ... what specific amount of exercise would be enough. Ours is the first one to say that 15 minutes would be enough," he said.

"We hope this will make it more attractive for inactive people, that they can allocate 15 minutes a day, rather than 30, which is more difficult."

(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

Many More Kids Hospitalized for Mental Illness: Study

By By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, August 15, 2011

MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Short-stay hospitalizations of children with mental illnesses surged between 1996 and 2007, while psychiatric admissions among the elderly declined in that period, according to a new study examining changing patterns in psychiatric hospitalization in the United States.

Admissions for children aged 5 to 13 surged 81 percent in that time period-- from 156 per 100,000 children in the general population each year to 283 per 100,000 children, the study found. Psychiatric admissions for teenagers aged 14 to 19 rose by nearly 42 percent.

"A substantial increase in acute care psychiatric hospitalization rates and inpatient occupancy for children and adolescents, a moderate increase in the hospitalization rate of adults, and a steep decline for elderly individuals represent significant developments in mental health treatment in the United States with potentially strong ramifications for quality of care and service financing," wrote report author Joseph C. Blader, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York.

"The fact that this recent rise occurred despite pressures toward minimizing hospitalizations for psychiatric illness suggests that rising hospitalization rates for youth more likely correspond to clinical need rather than overuse," Blader said in a university news release.

For teenagers, the rate of acute psychiatric admissions was nearing the rate for adults by 2007, the study said.

Admissions for adults aged 20 to 64 increased by 8 percent, the study found, but acute psychiatric hospitalization for people aged 65 or older fell by 17.5 percent.

The researchers also noted more admissions for bipolar disorder and fewer primary diagnoses of anxiety disorder.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics, a program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on short-stay (fewer than 30 days on average) hospitalization trends for psychiatric patients.

During the study period, private insurance reimbursements declined, but coverage from government sources rose, the study authors said.

Also, while short hospital stays increased for psychiatric conditions, long-term psychiatric hospitalization decreased from 1970 through the 1990s.

The study, published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry, will appear in the journal's December print edition.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health provides more information on child and adolescent mental health.

Chinese herb mix may shorten flu fever

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Monday, August 15, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In mild cases of H1N1 influenza, a traditional Chinese herb mixture may relieve a fever about as well as the antiviral drug Tamiflu, researchers reported Monday.

The herb product, called maxingshigan-yinqiaosan, is not widely available on store shelves in western countries.

But in a study of 410 Chinese adults with H1N1 flu (also known as swine flu), those who took the herb mixture typically saw their fevers resolve after 16 hours, versus 26 hours in patients in a "control group" whose only flu treatment was acetaminophen (Tylenol) if their fever passed 102 degrees F.

Patients in a third group received the prescription antiviral drug Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir. With Tamiflu, fevers typically resolved after 20 hours, or six hours sooner than in the control group.

A fourth study group received both the herb mix and Tamiflu, with their fevers generally disappearing in 15 hours, according to findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Exactly what the results mean for flu sufferers around the world is not clear.

The study included only young and middle-aged adults who, other than having a fairly mild case of the flu, were healthy. Tamiflu and another antiviral drug, Relenza (zanamivir), are usually reserved for people with severe cases, or those at high risk of flu complications like pneumonia.

The elderly and people with certain chronic health conditions, like heart or lung disease, are among those at high risk.

It was necessary to first study the effects of maxingshigan-yinqiaosan in low-risk people with milder cases of the flu, said Dr. Lixing Lao, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore who was not involved in the research.

But that's also a limitation of the study, he noted.

"In people with severe illness, this herb may not work. We don't know yet," said Lao, who also directs the traditional Chinese medicine research program at the university's Center for Integrative Medicine.

And for healthy people with mild cases of the flu, there's the question of availability.

The herbs used in the study, which were heated and made into a beverage, have a long history of use in China for colds and flu.

They are also widely available in certain other countries, like Japan, Korea and Germany, according to Drs. Cheng Wang and Bin Cao of the Beijing Institute of Respiratory Medicine, who led the study.

It's possible, the researchers say, that maxingshigan-yinqiaosan could offer a flu-fighting alternative in certain places where Tamiflu is scarce -- like rural China.

But one of the key ingredients is ephedra, or ma huang, which is banned from use in dietary supplements in the U.S. and Canada. Those bans came after ephedra in weight-loss and body-building supplements was linked to heart attacks, strokes and deaths in some users.

That ban did not apply to ephedra's use in Chinese medicine, where small doses are mixed with other traditional herbs -- in contrast to the single, higher doses used in the banned supplements.

However, Americans cannot go to their local store and pull maxingshigan-yinqiaosan off the shelf. They would need to go to a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Lao said.

Properly using the right mix of herbs, he said, "requires some knowledge."

Lao said he was happy to see that a prestigious medical journal published a study on a traditional Chinese remedy as it is actually practiced -- combining small doses of different herbs.

"If you only look at one herb, it may not work," Lao told Reuters Health.

He also pointed out that the small herb doses used in practice limit the risk of side effects.

In this study, two of the 103 patients who used maxingshigan-yinqiaosan alone developed nausea and vomiting. There were no side effects reported in the other three study groups.

The H1N1 swine flu broke out in 2009 and quickly spread around the world, killing more than 18,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO declared the H1N1 flu pandemic over in August of last year, but H1N1 has now taken over as the main seasonal flu strain in circulation around the world.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Tamiflu and Relenza for treating the flu in people who are very sick or at high risk of complications.

But in general, the agency says, flu sufferers who are otherwise healthy do not need the drugs. They can recover by getting plenty of rest and fluids, and using over-the-counter remedies like acetaminophen for fever.

According to Lao, the current findings are a "good first step" in showing through a controlled clinical trial that traditional Chinese herbs may also battle flu symptoms.

The CDC stresses, however, that the best defense against the flu is the flu vaccine. Experts recommend that everyone older than six months receive a yearly flu shot, which now includes a vaccine against H1N1.

Source:  http://bit.ly/lKiQRq

Annals of Internal Medicine, August 16, 2011.

How Fatty Diets Cause Diabetes

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 15, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — Newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics tend to have one thing in common: obesity. Exactly how diet and obesity trigger diabetes has long been the subject of intense scientific research. A new study led by Jamey D. Marth, Ph.D., director of the Center for Nanomedicine, a collaboration between the University of California, Santa Barbara and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham), has revealed a pathway that links high-fat diets to a sequence of molecular events responsible for the onset and severity of diabetes.

These findings were published online August 14 in Nature Medicine.

In studies spanning mice and humans, Dr. Marth's team discovered a pathway to disease that is activated in pancreatic beta cells, and then leads to metabolic defects in other organs and tissues, including the liver, muscle and adipose (fat). Together, this adds up to diabetes.

"We were initially surprised to learn how much the pancreatic beta cell contributes to the onset and severity of diabetes," said Dr. Marth."The observation that beta cell malfunction significantly contributes to multiple disease signs, including insulin resistance, was unexpected. We noted, however, that studies from other laboratories published over the past few decades had alluded to this possibility."

In healthy people, pancreatic beta cells monitor the bloodstream for glucose using glucose transporters anchored in their cellular membranes. When blood glucose is high, such as after a meal, beta cells take in this additional glucose and respond by secreting insulin in a timed and measured response. In turn, insulin stimulates other cells in the body to take up glucose, a nutrient they need to produce energy.

In this newly discovered pathway, high levels of fat were found to interfere with two key transcription factors -- proteins that switch genes on and off. These transcription factors, FOXA2 and HNF1A, are normally required for the production of an enzyme called GnT-4a glycosyltransferase that modifies proteins with a particular glycan (polysaccharide or sugar) structure. Proper retention of glucose transporters in the cell membrane depends on this modification, but when FOXA2 and HNF1A aren't working properly, GnT-4a's function is greatly diminished. So when the researchers fed otherwise normal mice a high-fat diet, they found that the animals' beta cells could not sense and respond to blood glucose. Preservation of GnT-4a function was able to block the onset of diabetes, even in obese animals. Diminished glucose sensing by beta cells was shown to be an important determinant of disease onset and severity.

"Now that we know more fully how states of over-nutrition can lead to type 2 diabetes, we can see more clearly how to intervene," Dr. Marth said. He and his colleagues are now considering various methods to augment beta cell GnT-4a enzyme activity in humans, as a means to prevent and possibly cure type 2 diabetes.

"The identification of the molecular players in this pathway to diabetes suggests new therapeutic targets and approaches towards developing an effective preventative or perhaps curative treatment," Dr. Marth continued. "This may be accomplished by beta cell gene therapy or by drugs that interfere with this pathway in order to maintain normal beta cell function."

In the United States, more than 24 million children and adults -- nearly eight percent of the population -- have diabetes. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. This study was primarily funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Co-authors of this study include Kazuaki Ohtsubo at Sanford-Burnham and Mark Z. Chen and Jerrold M. Olefsky from the University of California, San Diego.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Kazuaki Ohtsubo, Mark Z Chen, Jerrold M Olefsky, Jamey D Marth. Pathway to diabetes through attenuation of pancreatic beta cell glycosylation and glucose transport. Nature Medicine, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nm.2414

Obesity Before Pregnancy May Raise Child's Asthma Risk

HealthDay News

Monday, August 15, 2011

MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Teens of mothers who were overweight or obese when they became pregnant may be at increased risk for asthma symptoms, according to a new study.

It included nearly 7,000 teens aged 15 and 16 who were born in northern Finland between July 1985 and June 1986. The researchers also looked at health information collected from the teens' mothers, including height and weight before pregnancy.

About 10 percent of the teens had wheezing, about 20 percent had wheezing at some point, 6 percent had asthma and 10 percent had asthma at some point. After accounting for a number of other factors, the researchers found that a mother's weight before she became pregnant had a strong effect on a teen's wheeze/asthma risk.

Teens were 20 to 30 percent more likely to wheeze/have a history of wheezing, or to have asthma or a history of asthma, if their mothers were seriously overweight or obese before pregnancy.

Every excess kilogram (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs) of weight on the mother at pregnancy was linked with a 2.7 to 3.5 percent increased risk of wheeze and asthma among teens, the researchers from Imperial College London calculated.

And after other factors were accounted for, teens with the heaviest mothers had a 47 percent increased risk of severe wheezing.

The study appears online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The hormonal and metabolic effects of being overweight during pregnancy may interfere with normal fetal development, including the lungs, the researchers suggested.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about obesity and pregnancy.

Garlic Doesn't Just Repel Vampires

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 15, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2011) — The folk wisdom that eating garlic fights illness is ancient. In these more modern times, fruit and vegetable extracts that can inhibit the growth of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms are actually being evaluated as food preservatives, in part because consumers are demanding fewer synthetic chemical food preservatives. Now, a team led by researchers from Washington State University, Pullman, has found, contrary to expectations, that a group of garlic-derived organosulfur compounds has greater antimicrobial activity than garlic-derived phenolic compounds.

The research is published in the August 2011 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"The novelty of this paper is that we found that diallyl sulfides contribute more to antimicrobial activity of garlic extract than do phenolic compounds," says coauthor Xiaonan Lu. "We used biophysical techniques, namely infrared and Raman spectroscopy, to demonstrate that diallyl sulfide can freely penetrate bacterial membranes and combine with sulfur containing proteins and enzymes, which is the major antimicrobial mechanism of these organosulfur compounds."

"This is the first time researchers have combined infrared spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy, which are complementary techniques, to study the mechanisms of bacterial injury and inactivation," says Lu. "While previous studies have validated that volatile thiosulfinates, a group of intermediate, unstable and volatile bioactive sulfur-containing compounds, have antimicrobial activity against Helicobacter pylori, our result demonstrated that the garlic-derived organosulfur compounds have the potential to be used as antimicrobial agents."

Campylobacter jejuni, the target microbe in this study, is thought to be the most prevalent cause of bacterial food-borne illness in the world, causing abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea accompanied by gross blood and leukocytes. There are no previous reported studies investigating the ability of allium species, including garlic, to control the growth of C. jejuni.

The history of using garlic to fight disease goes back several thousand years, says Lu. That history probably contributed to the notion that garlic could repel vampires, which predates Bram Stoker's Dracula, according to the website garlic-central.com. "In ancient society," says Lu, "people used garlic to cure diseases; however, they did not know why it worked." Now we are finding out.

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Society for Microbiology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

X. Lu, B. A. Rasco, J. M. F. Jabal, D. E. Aston, M. Lin, M. E. Konkel. Investigating Antibacterial Effects of Garlic (Allium sativum) Concentrate and Garlic-Derived Organosulfur Compounds on Campylobacter jejuni by Using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, and Electron Microscopy. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2011; 77 (15): 5257 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02845-10

Sunday, August 14, 2011 

Arthritis Sufferers' Increased Risk of Heart Disease Due to Disease-Related Inflammation and Other Factors, Study Finds

ScienceDaily

Sunday, August 14, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2011) — Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are at an increased risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease. A new five year study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research & Therapy showed that the risk of cardiovascular disease for people with RA is due to disease-related inflammation as well as the risk factors which affect the general population. Treatment of arthritis with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) also reduced the patient's risk of heart disease.

Over 400 people with RA were followed from date of diagnosis for five years. Progression of their disease was measured using chemical markers of inflammation and physical appearance. Treatment regimes were monitored along with risk factors for heart disease, including weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

After five years, 97% of the patients had been treated with DMARDs, reducing both the chemical markers of inflammation and the physical appearance of their arthritis. Patients were also looking after themselves better -- fewer patients were smokers and their BMI, and blood pressure, had reduced (due in part to treatment for high blood pressure).

Analysis of the patient data revealed that a new cardiovascular event such as heart disease, stroke or DVT could be predicted by intensity of their arthritis and by presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and the level of triglycerides. Encouragingly treatment with DMARDs decreased the risk but COX-2 inhibitors appeared to predict a new event.

Dr Wållberg-Jonsson from University Hospital, Umeå, in Sweden said, "Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis increases patients risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular events. However it is possible to reduce this risk in a two-pronged attack by treating both the inflammation and traditional risk factors for heart disease."

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.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by BioMed Central, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

Lena Innala, Bozena Möller, Lotta Ljung, Staffan Magnusson, Torgny Smedby, Anna Södergren, Marie-Louise Öhman, Solbritt Rantapää-Dahlqvist and Solveig Wållberg-Jonsson. Cardiovascular events in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are a result of inflammatory burden and traditional risk factors: a five year prospective study. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 2011 [link]