Personal Health

 

 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Friday, March 4, 2011

FRIDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- A diet rich in foods that are loaded with potassium can reduce your risk for a stroke by 21 percent and may also lower your risk of heart disease, a new study suggests.

Good sources of potassium include bananas and other fruits and vegetables, as well as fish, poultry and dairy, the researchers noted.

And ounce per ounce, sweet potato and tomato paste top the list, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The average dietary potassium intake in most countries worldwide is much lower than recommended by health authorities, and increasing potassium intake may provide protection against stroke and other cardiovascular disorders," said lead researcher Dr. Pasquale Strazzullo, a professor of medicine at the Federico II University of Naples Medical School, in Italy.

The report is published in the March 1 online edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

For the study, Strazzullo's team pulled data about potassium and cardiovascular disease from 11 studies, which included a total of 247,510 men and women. The researchers looked at what people in these studies recalled eating in the past day.

This process is called a meta-analysis, in which researchers look for trends in the data that may support a particular conclusion, even when these data were not the main point of the study.

They found that people who consumed 1.64 grams of potassium or more a day had a 21 percent lower risk of stroke and also tended to have a lower risk of any cardiovascular disease.

Strazzullo noted that five or more servings of fruits and vegetables will provide the amount of potassium needed to get this protective effect.

"The protective effect of potassium against the risk of stroke and other vascular events may in part be traced to its blood pressure-lowering effect, particularly in hypertensive individuals and in those with elevated sodium intake," Strazzullo said.

However, other processes appear to be at work as well, he added. For example, potassium may be involved in slowing the process of atherosclerosis and preventing the thickening of the walls of arteries, all of which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

"More recently, a high-potassium diet was shown to exert a protective effect against the development of vascular damage induced by excess salt intake, thus counteracting, to some extent, the dangerous effects of eating too much salt. This large body of evidence from experimental studies provides biological plausibility to the protective effect of dietary potassium against cardiovascular events," Strazzullo said.

A higher potassium intake is safe for most people, Strazzullo said, adding that there might be some concern about elevated potassium for patients with kidney failure or those taking medicines that lower potassium. In those cases, patients should speak with their doctors, he added.

Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center, commented that "this is completely consistent with current American Heart Association dietary recommendations."

The best example is the DASH-type eating plan, which has been tested in various studies, he said. "The DASH diet is rich in fruits and vegetables and nuts, moderate in low-fat dairy products, low in sodium and high in potassium. The effect on stroke is likely mediated, at least in part, through lower blood pressure," Goldstein said.

Another expert, Dr. Gregg Fonarow, spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that "clinical trials have established that a diet high in potassium and low in sodium can significantly lower blood pressure."

Because high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, it follows that higher-potassium diets would be linked to lower risk of stroke and heart attacks, he said.

"However, a higher-potassium diet potentially has other mechanisms of benefit, including protecting blood vessels from oxidative damage and limiting thickening of the blood vessel wall," Fonarow said.

Increasing potassium in the diet while limiting sodium may help to reduce the risk of stroke and confer other cardiovascular benefits, he said. "Fruits such as bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, vegetables like tomatoes and low-fat dairy products are a good source of dietary potassium," he said.

More information

For more information on the best sources of potassium, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Some Overweight Adolescents May Be at Risk for Weak Bones

ScienceDaily

Friday, March 4, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2011) — Overweight adolescents already struggling with risk factors such as insulin resistance may need to add weak bones to their list of health concerns, researchers report.

A study of 143 overweight 14-18 year olds showed those with risk factors such as the precursor for diabetes and low levels of the blood-vessel protecting HDL cholesterol have less bone mass -- an indicator of bone strength -- than their overweight but otherwise healthy peers, according to researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University's Georgia Prevention Institute.

Other risk factors included high fat levels in the blood, higher blood pressure and a larger waist size, said Dr. Norman Pollock, GHSU bone biologist and corresponding author of the study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. In fact, total body fat didn't seem to impact bone mass: it was fat around the middle, or visceral fat, that seemed to increase the risk for bad bones just like it does the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"The more risk factors you have, the less bone mass you have," Pollock said, noting that 62 percent of the overweight adolescents had at least one risk factor. It also indicates that the concept of "fit and fat" may apply to the bones.

Study participants without one or more of these risk factors tended to get slightly more vigorous physical activity although none of the participants got the recommended 60-plus minutes of daily physical activity, Pollock said. Interestingly daily caloric intake for all study participants was in the optimal range.

"This says to kids and their parents that restricting calories is not the answer; we need to focus more on increasing vigorous physical activity," Pollock said. Vigorous activity is defined as activity that increases the heart rate high enough to cause heavy breathing, such as jogging, tennis or jumping jacks. Studies have shown that physical activity prompts bones to release a hormone called osteocalcin, which helps decrease fat-related risk factors such as insulin resistance.

"We are now beginning to respect the bones as an endocrine organ like we do now with fat and muscle," Pollock noted. Activity also increases the number of bone-producing cells called osteoblasts.

The study appears to be the first analyzing bone-fat relationships and cardiometabolic risk factors in youth. Animal studies have shown, for example, that hypertensive mice have weaker bones.

Scientific literature on the impact of fat on bone health in children and adolescents has been confusing and even contradictory, writes Dr. Heidi J. Kalkwarf, Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in an accompanying editorial in The Journal of Pediatrics. Pollock's research adds the "additional twist" that the presence of cardiometabolic risk factors indicates lower bone mass, she wrote.

The new study also raises more clinical questions, such as whether weight loss will help children improve bone mass and whether reduced mass during adolescence translates to increased fracture risk in adulthood, she wrote, noting that additional research is needed to assess long-term implications.

Peak bone mass is generally reached by early adulthood, so conditions that reduce optimal bone accumulation likely will lead to problems such as osteoporosis and fractures, the researchers report.

Dr. William B. Strong, GHSU Pediatrics Cardiology Section Chief Emeritus and Founding Director of the Georgia Prevention Institute, co-chaired the 2005 panel of the Divisions of Nutrition and Physical Activity and Adolescent and School Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity for children. Recommendations also were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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

Journal Reference:

Norman K. Pollock, Paul J. Bernard, Bernard Gutin, Catherine L. Davis, Haidong Zhu, Yanbin Dong. Adolescent Obesity, Bone Mass, and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.11.052

Strong painkillers may be linked to birth defects

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Friday, March 4, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women who take opioid painkillers such as codeine and oxycodone early in their pregnancy may be more likely to have a baby with a birth defect, according to a new study.

The link was only seen for some kinds of birth defects, however, and the overall risk remains small.

About 3 percent of babies born in the U.S. have a malformation, including cleft palate, heart defects and spina bifida, in which the fetus's spinal column doesn't close properly.

Birth defects are the leading cause of death for infants. Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects, but the cause of many birth defects is still unknown.

Whether opioid painkillers may be a contributing factor is still up for debate, and the new findings can't prove cause and effect.

"Previous studies have had some inconsistent findings, (but) some have suggested that opioids might increase the risk for heart defects and oral clefts," lead author of the new study Dr. Cheryl Broussard, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, told Reuters Health.

The current study included data on more than 17,000 women in 10 different states who gave birth to a baby with a birth defect between 1997 and 2005.

As a comparison group, the authors included about 7,000 women who lived in the same regions and gave birth around the same time, but whose babies did not have any malformations.

During the 2 years after they gave birth, all women in the study were interviewed about what medications they had taken during pregnancy. The authors were particularly interested in what drugs women had taken in the month before they became pregnant and in their first trimester, which is the most important window for the healthy development of a fetus.

Of women who had babies without birth defects, 2 percent had taken an opioid -- including codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. That number was 2.6 percent among women whose babies had a birth defect.

According to the findings, the drugs were linked to certain birth defects but not others. Mothers of babies born with spina bifida were twice as likely to have taken these medications as women whose babies didn't have a birth defect, for example.

Women whose babies had a heart defect were about 1.4 times more likely to have taken opioids shortly before their pregnancy and in their first trimester.

For some other birth defects, including cleft lip and cleft palate, there was no relationship to a mother's medication history. Broussard said that more research needs to be done to understand the connection between opioids and birth defects.

Women in the study most commonly reported taking the powerful painkillers following surgery, or when they had infections or chronic diseases.

The study, which is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, does not prove that taking medications containing opioids increases the risk of having a baby with a birth defect.

Other procedures or drugs could have been involved in the link -- for example, women who took painkillers after surgery would also likely have had anesthesia, which could potentially be linked to birth defects itself, the authors say.

The findings also don't mean that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should avoid opioid medication at all costs -- just that they should be aware of the possible risks of the drugs.

Dr. David Haas, of the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine, said that in many cases the benefits of taking these medications might be more important than the potential risk.

"Yes, there may be a slight increased absolute risk (of some birth defects), but the overall risk is still low," Haas, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health. "These conditions are still very rare."

The most important thing, Haas said, is that women have a discussion with their doctor about the risks and benefits of taking these medications early in pregnancy when they have an underlying medical condition that calls for strong painkillers.

Broussard agreed. "When making medical treatment decisions either just before or during pregnancy, it's important that women talk with their doctors and weigh their options," she said.

Source: http://bit.ly/fBRSZh

 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, online February 24, 2011.

Possible New Treatment Strategies for Pancreatic Cancer

ScienceDaily

Friday, March 4, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2011) — New University of Georgia research has identified a protein that can be modified to improve the effectiveness of one of the most common drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer

The research, published in the March edition of the journal Cancer Research, found that a cell-surface protein called CNT1, which transports cancer-killing drugs into tumor cells, was reduced in function in two thirds of pancreatic tumors. By improving the function of CNT1, the researchers increased the effectiveness of the cancer-killing drugs in pancreatic tumor cells derived from human patients, said lead-author Raj Govindarajan, assistant professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences in the UGA College of Pharmacy.

"The transporter was failing to take up the drug, so there were a bunch of different drug-resistant tumor cells," said Govindarajan. "Therapies that restore CNT1 could increase the effectiveness of the drug by helping carry the drug into the cell."

The drug most commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer is called gemcitabine and works by entering into the DNA of cancer cells and stopping replication. Many pancreatic tumor cells are resistant to gemcitabine, which makes the disease very difficult to treat, explained Govindarajan.

The researchers identified different methods to enhance CNT1 function and slow growth of the tumor cells. They found that by using additional drugs that inhibit pathways that degrade CNT1, they could partially restore its normal function and transport more gemcitabine into the tumor cells to prevent proliferation of the tumor.

The researchers attained the same results by genetically augmenting CNT1. "We over-expressed this protein in tumor cells so that it is functional continuously throughout the cell cycle, and it took up a lot of the drug and facilitated tumor killing," said Govindarajan. "So it shows potential for therapeutic aspects."

Govindarajan and his colleagues also found that CNT1 was likely regulated by tiny RNA molecules called micro-RNAs. "Micro-RNAs are clearly emerging as a new paradigm in gene regulation," said Govindarajan. "We could potentially use micro-RNAs to increase CNT1 expression and increase tumor-cell targeting of gemcitabine."

The American Cancer Society estimates that 43,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, and about 85 percent of those will die within one year of diagnosis.

Govindarajan said that the findings need to be evaluated in laboratory animals for both effectiveness and toxicity aspects to determine if they are feasible therapeutic options. He hopes that future studies will confirm the possibilities of combining additional therapies with gemcitabine to more effectively treat pancreatic cancer. "What we are trying to do is see if we can improve the standard of care for treating pancreatic cancer," he said.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and by the department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences at the University of Georgia.

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

Journal Reference:

Y. D. Bhutia, S. W. Hung, B. Patel, D. Lovin, R. Govindarajan. CNT1 Expression Influences Proliferation and Chemosensitivity in Drug-Resistant Pancreatic Cancer Cells. Cancer Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2736

Trend reversal: Big drop in kids' ear infections

By Mike Stobbe

AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe

The Associated Press

Friday, March 4, 2011

ATLANTA – Ear infections, a scourge that has left countless tots screaming through the night, have fallen dramatically, and some researchers suggest a decline in smoking by parents might be part of the reason.

Health officials report nearly a 30 percent drop over 15 years in young children's doctor visits for ear infections. That's half a million fewer trips to the doctor on average.

Why the numbers are declining is a bit of a mystery, but Harvard researchers think it's partly because fewer people smoke, meaning less irritation of children's airways. Many doctors credit growing use of a vaccine against bacteria that cause ear infections. And some think increased breast-feeding is protecting more children.

"We're sort of guessing here," said Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, a New York-based ear, nose and throat specialist who speaks about the issue for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

To be sure, middle ear infections still plague many U.S. children.

For decades, they were the most common reason parents brought young children to a doctor, according to health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hadn't bothered to issue a report on them in nearly 20 years.

Cases skyrocketed from 1975-1990. The visit rate for children 5 and under more than doubled in that time.

A big reason, Rosenfeld said, was a steady rise in dual-career families. More families put their kids in day care, and day care is a breeding ground for the germs that lead to ear infections.

But the study by Harvard University suggests another contributor: cigarette smoke.

Most ear infections occur after a cold. In children, the ear is more directly connected to the back of the nose, so infections in a child's nose and throat can easily trigger ear inflammation. Such swelling is a fertile setting for the bacteria that cause ear infections.

Cigarette smoke, inhaled through a child's nose, can trigger the same kind of irritation and swelling, said Dr. Gordon Hughes of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

CDC figures show that 88 percent of U.S. nonsmokers were exposed to secondhand smoke around 1990, but that fell to about 40 percent in 2007 and 2008.

Harvard research indicates the decline coincides with a drop in childhood ear infections.

"When people are smoking less around their kids, when homes are smoke-free, the rate of ear infections can and has decreased," said Hillel Alpert, lead author of a study published recently by the journal Tobacco Control.

At the request of The Associated Press, the CDC checked its recent trend data on ear infections, based on annual surveys of a representative sample of doctors.

For children ages 6 and under, the number of medical visits in which the main diagnosis was ear infection dropped by nearly 30 percent from 1993 to 2008 — from an estimated 17.5 million visits to about 12.5 million.

The rate of such visits dropped by about 32 percent, from 636 ear infection-related visits per 1,000 children to 431 per 1,000.

The trend downward for very young children seems to have leveled off in the last few years.

A CDC analysis of data from 2004 through 2008 found the differences year-to-year were not meaningful, said Susan Schappert of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Some doctors have noticed fewer ear infections in their waiting rooms compared to what they saw years ago. "We don't see them that much anymore," said Dr. Michael Baron, a family practice doctor in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta.

Another factor in that decline may be growing use of a vaccine that protects against strep bacteria that can cause ear infections. The vaccine, first licensed in 2000, would not account for the drop in cases in the 1990s, but probably has contributed to the decline since, several experts said.

Also, some studies have credited antibody-rich breast milk with lowering infants' risk for respiratory and middle ear infections. About 77 percent of new mothers breast-feed, at least briefly, up from fewer than two-thirds in the early 1990s.

Of course, these are just theories.

None seems to explain the Willis household in Charlotte, N.C. Neither parent smokes, both children have had all recommended vaccines, and Vanessa breast-fed each child for about three months.

Yet their 6 1/2-year-old son Hatcher got 10 ear infections in only a year when he was younger. Their 21-month-old daughter Libby Jeanne has had three or four ear infections, too, including one just last month.

Hatcher's first bouts with ear infections were particularly rough. "He would shriek and cry and we couldn't figure out what was causing him so much pain," said Vanessa, 35.

"I remember spending many nights on the couch sitting straight up, holding him against my chest," the only way the boy would sleep. "That's a miserable thing for working parents."

Jessica Hyatt, a 21-year-old mom in Spokane, Wash. whose home is also smoke-free, said her 2-year-old daughter Chesnie has had four ear infections, including a recent one that lasted close to two months.

Various treatments, including antibiotics, have not worked. Jessica, a college student, has repeatedly missed classes to be home with Chesnie.

"You feel so hopeless. You can't help them and they're so miserable. It makes you want to sit there and cry," she said.

Resveratrol May Be Useful Tool for Reducing Body Fat

ScienceDaily

Friday, March 4, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2011) — For her thesis entitled Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Resveratrol: the effect of these functional ingredients on the metabolism of triglycerides and adiposity, nutrition and obesity research team member at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Ms Arrate Lasa, studied the fat-reducing effect of CLA and resveratrol.

Obesity is a very common illness in developed countries, there being more than 1,000 million overweight persons currently in the world, of which more than 300 million suffer from obesity. This illness brings with it other, associated conditions that result in a significant increase in the morbi-mortality of these persons.

Current strategies for its treatment are various and one field of great interest is what is known as functional ingredients. These are compounds that appear in certain foods and that enhance specific corporal functions, promoting health and reducing risk of diseases.

Fat reduction with functional ingredients

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and resveratrol are two functional ingredients that, in various experiments on living beings and in vitro, have proved to have a fat-reducing effect. On the one hand, the properties attributed to CLA indicate that it prevents weight gain and the accumulation of body fat, through inhibiting the synthesis of fat and increasing the oxidation of fatty acids. However, its effects when applied in a hypocaloric diet – for the treatment of obesity – are unknown. On the other, it is known that resveratrol has hypolipemiant properties, but its effect on the use of accumulated fat has not been extensively analysed.

This thesis shows, on the one hand, the results obtained after treatment with CLA in hamsters subjected to energy restriction and, on the other, the effect of resveratrol on accumulated fat and lipolytic activity in cell cultures of adipocytes of murinae and humans. The results obtained show that CLA does not foment weight or body fat loss, induced by an energy restriction diet. Neither does it induce greater lipolysis, nor improvement in serum parameters, in glucose homeostasis or insulin function to any greater extent than with the slimming diet itself. On the contrary, resveratrol reduces the accumulation of triglycerides, in part by activation of lipolysis, in both the adipocytes of mice and of humans.

For all these reasons, it can be concluded that, while CLA may not be a molecule useful in treating obesity, when resveratrol is included in hypocaloric diet, it could well be a useful tool for reducing body fat. More studies are required regarding this latter molecule, firstly to describe other effects of resveratrol and its activating mechanisms, as well as the possible adverse effects and toxicity; secondly studies amongst humans confirm the previously observed effects.

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. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hidden veggies lower calories, may help shed pounds

By Adam Marcus

Reuters Health

Thursday, March 3, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Adding pureed vegetables to entrees reduces the number of calories the meals pack without sacrificing texture or taste, according to Pennsylvania State University researchers who tried it on unsuspecting study subjects.

Using "stealth vegetables" to pad dishes provided a double-helping of dietary benefit, the University Park group reports, because some of the participants more than doubled their intake of fiber- and vitamin-packed veggies - without even knowing it.

The study included 20 men and 21 women who agreed to eat at a laboratory once a week for 3 weeks. The meals were always the same: carrot bread for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch and chicken-and-rice casserole for dinner. Volunteers were served as much as they wanted to eat, along with side dishes like bread rolls, strawberry yogurt, broccoli and green beans, depending on the meal. They also were given snacks to take home for the evening, such as carrot sticks and fig cookies.

Portion sizes were strictly controlled by weight and the researchers kept a close account of the amount of food participants ate.

Unknown to the diners, back in the kitchen, cooks were adding vegetables that had been steamed then pureed-cauliflower, squash or carrots, depending on the entree-to some of the main dishes. The result was a helping of food that, although it looked, tasted and otherwise resembled the original, was either 15 percent or 25 percent vegetable puree by weight. Some participants got the traditional version of the entrees with no hidden veggies.

Vegetables have fewer calories, ounce for ounce, than the ingredients they replaced, so volunteers eating the doctored entrees were "still getting the same weight of food, but the calorie content is less," said Alexandria Blatt, a doctoral student in nutritional sciences who helped conduct the research.

The imposter ingredients did not seem to faze the study subjects, who all ate about the same amount of a given entree regardless of how much puree, if any, it contained. As a result, the researchers say, the subjects' calorie intake dropped substantially when they were consuming the altered foods -- by as much as 360 calories a day when the entrees consisted of 25 percent puree. Meanwhile, the subjects' vegetable intake rose by up to two servings a day, a substantial improvement over the typical American diet.

By cutting back 360 calories every day, a person could lose one pound of body fat in about 10 days.

Although nearly half the participants said at the end of the study that they could tell something was different about the doctored meals, only two said they could taste the extra vegetables. "Everybody thought it looked great, tasted great," Blatt told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

In a real kitchen where eaters don't need to be tricked with adulterated meals, cooks would have more flexibility about which vegetables they could incorporate into foods, and how much of them, Blatt said. "In the laboratory, you have to really formulate your recipes to prevent people from being able to identify the one entree that has hidden vegetables."

Richard Mattes, professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, said promoting consumption of fruits and vegetables is "highly desirable," but added that they are far from a panacea for weight loss.

Mattes, who was not involved in the Penn State research, found in another study that even people who lose weight on a diet high in fruits and vegetables said they wouldn't stick to the meal plan. "Many people said they were not going to spend the extra money on fresh fruits and vegetables, or shop more often, or spend more time preparing them," he said.

For the moment, Mattes added, Americans don't seem eager to embrace healthy diets. The very premise of the latest study -- covert feeding to encourage better eating -- underscores the resistance. "It's interesting that we have to go to such extents to get people to consume" more vegetables, he said.

The latest government diet guidelines recommend limiting portion sizes and filling half one's plate with fruits and vegetables rather than meat or carbohydrates.

Source: http://bit.ly/dPfdkJ

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online February 2, 2011.

Women Who Miscarry Continue to Have Mental Health Problems, Even After Healthy Birth

ScienceDaily

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — The depression and anxiety experienced by many women after a miscarriage can continue for years, even after the birth of a healthy child, according to a study led by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers and published online by the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"Our study clearly shows that the birth of a healthy baby does not resolve the mental health problems that many women experience after a miscarriage or stillbirth," said Emma Robertson Blackmore, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center and the lead researcher. "This finding is important because, when assessing if a women is at risk of antenatal or postnatal depression, previous pregnancy loss is usually not taken into account in the same way as other risk factors such as a family history of depression, stressful life events or a lack of social support."

"We know that maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children and families," Robertson Blackmore said. "If we offer targeted support during pregnancy to women who have previously lost a baby, we may be able to improve health outcomes for both the women and their children."

Pregnancy loss by miscarriage or stillbirth affects more than an estimated one million women in the United States annually. Between 50 and 80 percent of women who experience pregnancy loss become pregnant again.

The researchers studied 13,133 pregnant women in the United Kingdom who were taking part in a long-term study known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The women were asked to report the number of previous miscarriages and stillbirths they had experienced. They were assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety twice during their pregnancy and four times after giving birth, at 8 weeks, 8 months, 21 months and 33 months. The majority of women reported no miscarriages. But 2,823 women, or 21 percent, reported having one or more previous miscarriages, while 108 reported having one previous stillbirth and three women had two previous stillbirths.

"We found no evidence that affective symptoms associated with previous prenatal loss resolve with the birth of a healthy child. Rather, previous prenatal loss showed a persisting prediction of depressive and anxiety symptoms well after what would conventionally be defined as the postnatal period," the researchers concluded.

Of the women who had one miscarriage or stillbirth before giving birth to a healthy child, for example, almost 13 percent still had symptoms of depression 33 months after the birth. Of those with two previous losses, almost 19 percent had symptoms of depression 33 months after the birth of a healthy child.

Prenatal loss is not routinely considered a risk factor for antenatal or postpartum depression in the same way as, for instance, personal or family history of depression, exposure to stressful life events or lack of social support, according to the study. Routinely assessing loss history would be valuable as a predictor of current and postpartum risk and as a possible marker for intervention, the researcher.

"Given the adverse outcomes of persistent maternal depression on both child and family outcomes, early recognition of symptoms can lead to preventive interventions to reduce the burden of illness, provide coping strategies to reduce anxiety and depression and promote healthy adjustment of the mother, family and child," the researchers stated.

In addition to Robertson Blackmore, the authors of the study include: Denise Côté-Arsenault, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Rochester School of Nursing; Wan Tang, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Biostatistics, and Thomas G. O'Connor, Ph.D., professor of Psychiatry, both of the Medical Center; Vivette Glover, Ph.D., professor of Perinatal Psychobiology at the Imperial College School of Medicine, London, United Kingdom; and Jonathan Evans, Ph.D., consultant senior lecturer in Psychiatry, and Jean Golding, Ph.D., emeritus professor of Pediatrics and Perinatal Epidemiology, both of University of Bristol, United Kingdom.

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

Journal Reference:

Emma Robertson Blackmore, Denise Côté-Arsenault, Wan Tang, Vivette Glover, Jonathan Evans, Jean Golding, and Thomas G. O’Connor. Previous prenatal loss as a predictor of perinatal depression and anxiety. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083105

Iron in early pregnancy linked to birthweight

By Leigh Krietsch Boerner

Reuters Health

Thursday, March 3, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Heath) – Expectant moms who get a lot of iron in their first trimester tend to have heavier, although still healthy-weight, babies, English researchers say. They did not find the opposite trend - that insufficient iron intake in early pregnancy led to lower birthweights, however.

Specifically, the more daily iron women got from food or supplements, the bigger their babies, according to the report published in the journal Human Reproduction.

U.S. guidelines recommend that pregnant women get 27 milligrams of iron a day. In the U.K., all women are urged to get at least 15 milligrams a day.

That 15 milligrams equals about three pounds of roasted chicken breast, 15 cups of raw spinach, or a half-cup of iron-fortified breakfast cereal. Most prenatal vitamins contain at least 18 milligrams of iron, and cost between $3 and $40 a month.

"Iron intake affects body iron stores, which are under extra demand during pregnancy," said study co-author Nisreen Alwan, research fellow at the University of Leeds School of Food Science and Nutrition.

The majority of pregnant women in the U.K. aren't meeting even the general iron intake recommendation, Alwan said in an e-mail. Most get about 11.8 milligrams of iron per day from both food and supplements.

The researchers surveyed about 1,260 women on what they ate and whether they took iron supplements during all three trimesters of their pregnancies.

They found that for every 10 milligrams per day increase in total iron intake, there was around a 34 gram (1.19 ounce) increase in their babies' birthweights.

The low cutoff for a normal-birthweight baby is 2,500 grams (five and a half pounds). The average baby in the study weighed about 3,400 grams (around seven and half pounds), and only about one in 25 babies fell into the low-birthweight category.

"It was actually a very small effect that they picked up," said Laura Caulfield, professor at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers did find that most British women get their iron from eating vegetables rather than meat, which hasn't been shown before, she told Reuters Health.

There is some previous evidence that iron intake is associated with a greater birthweight, Caulfield said. More iron means that the developing baby can get enough oxygen, she explained.

However, the current study does not prove that the pregnant moms' higher iron intake is what caused their babies to be bigger, only that there's some association between the two.

Low birthweight is dangerous for babies, because they're more likely to have disabilities or die during before they're 1 year old.

Still, that doesn't necessarily mean women should take iron supplements during pregnancy, Alwan cautioned in an e-mail.

She suggests that pregnant women be informed about how to get enough iron in their diets, "and also how they can maximize the benefits by eating a varied diet including vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables."

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Dried beans, spinach, brewer's yeast and dried fruits are all good sources of iron, according to the American Heart Association.

Source: http://bit.ly/gObw0I

Human Reproduction, online February 7, 2011.

Liver, Not Brain, May Be Origin of Alzheimer’s Plaques

ScienceDaily

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — Unexpected results from a Scripps Research Institute and ModGene, LLC study could completely alter scientists' ideas about Alzheimer's disease -- pointing to the liver instead of the brain as the source of the "amyloid" that deposits as brain plaques associated with this devastating condition. The findings could offer a relatively simple approach for Alzheimer's prevention and treatment.

The study was published online March 3 in The Journal of Neuroscience Research.

In the study, the scientists used a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease to identify genes that influence the amount of amyloid that accumulates in the brain. They found three genes that protected mice from brain amyloid accumulation and deposition. For each gene, lower expression in the liver protected the mouse brain. One of the genes encodes presenilin -- a cell membrane protein believed to contribute to the development of human Alzheimer's.

"This unexpected finding holds promise for the development of new therapies to fight Alzheimer's," said Scripps Research Professor Greg Sutcliffe, who led the study. "This could greatly simplify the challenge of developing therapies and prevention."

An estimated 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, including nearly half of people age 85 and older. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and over with this disease will range from 11 million to 16 million unless science finds a way to prevent or effectively treat it. In addition to the human misery caused by the disease, there is the unfathomable cost. A new report from the Alzheimer's Association shows that in the absence of disease-modifying treatments, the cumulative costs of care for people with Alzheimer's from 2010 to 2050 will exceed $20 trillion.

A Genetic Search-and-Find Mission

In trying to help solve the Alzheimer's puzzle, in the past few years Sutcliffe and his collaborators have focused their research on naturally occurring, inherited differences in neurological disease susceptibility among different mouse strains, creating extensive databases cataloging gene activity in different tissues, as measured by mRNA accumulation. These data offer up maps of trait expression that can be superimposed on maps of disease modifier genes.

As is the case with nearly all scientific discovery, Sutcliffe's research builds on previous findings. Several years ago, researchers at Case Western Reserve mapped three genes that modify the accumulation of pathological beta amyloid in the brains of a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to large chromosomal regions, each containing hundreds of genes. The Case Western scientists used crosses between the B6 and D2 strains of mice, studying more than 500 progeny.

Using the results from this study, Sutcliffe turned his databases of gene expression to the mouse model of Alzheimer's, looking for differences in gene expression that correlated with differences in disease susceptibility between the B6 and D2 strains. This intensive work involved writing computer programs that identified each genetic difference that distinguished the B6 and D2 genomes, then running mathematical correlation analysis (known as regression analysis) of each difference. Correlations were made between the genotype differences (B6 or D2) and the amount of mRNA product made from each of the more than 25,000 genes in a particular tissue in the 40 recombinant inbred mouse strains. These correlations were repeated 10 times to cover 10 tissues, the liver being one of them.

"A key aspect of this work was learning how to ask questions of massive data sets to glean information about the identities of heritable modifier genes," Sutcliffe said. "This was novel and, in a sense, groundbreaking work: we were inventing a new way to identify modifier genes, putting all of these steps together and automating the process. We realized we could learn about how a transgene's pathogenic effect was being modified without studying the transgenic mice ourselves."

Looking for a Few Good Candidates

Sutcliffe's gene hunt offered up good matches, candidates, for each of the three disease modifier genes discovered by the Case Western scientists, and one of these candidates -- the mouse gene corresponding to a gene known to predispose humans carrying particular variations of it to develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease -- was of special interest to his team.

"The product of that gene, called Presenilin2, is part of an enzyme complex involved in the generation of pathogenic beta amyloid," Sutcliffe explained. "Unexpectedly, heritable expression of Presenilin2 was found in the liver but not in the brain. Higher expression of Presenilin2 in the liver correlated with greater accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain and development of Alzheimer's-like pathology."

This finding suggested that significant concentrations of beta amyloid might originate in the liver, circulate in the blood, and enter the brain. If true, blocking production of beta amyloid in the liver should protect the brain.

To test this hypothesis, Sutcliffe's team set up an in vivo experiment using wild-type mice since they would most closely replicate the natural beta amyloid-producing environment. "We reasoned that if brain amyloid was being born in the liver and transported to the brain by the blood, then that should be the case in all mice," Sutcliffe said, "and one would predict in humans, too."

The mice were administered imatinib (trade name Gleevec, an FDA-approved cancer drug), a relatively new drug currently approved for treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal tumors. The drug potently reduces the production of beta amyloid in neuroblastoma cells transfected by amyloid precursor protein (APP) and also in cell-free extracts prepared from the transfected cells. Importantly, Gleevec has poor penetration of the blood-brain barrier in both mice and humans.

"This characteristic of the drug is precisely why we chose to use it," Sutcliffe explained. "Because it doesn't penetrate the blood-brain barrier, we were able to focus on the production of amyloid outside of the brain and how that production might contribute to amyloid that accumulates in the brain, where it is associated with disease."

The mice were injected with Gleevec twice a day for seven days; then plasma and brain tissue were collected, and the amount of beta amyloid in the blood and brain was measured. The findings: the drug dramatically reduced beta amyloid not only in the blood, but also in the brain where the drug cannot penetrate. Thus, an appreciable portion of brain amyloid must originate outside of the brain, and imatinib represents a candidate for preventing and treating Alzheimer's.

As for the future of this research, Sutcliffe says he hopes to find a partner and investors to move the work into clinical trials and new drug development.

In addition to Sutcliffe, the authors of the study, titled "Peripheral reduction of β-amyloid is sufficient to reduce brain : implications for Alzheimer's disease," include Peter Hedlund and Elizabeth Thomas of Scripps Research, and Floyd Bloom and Brian Hilbush of ModGene, LLC, which funded the project.

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

Journal Reference:

J. Gregor Sutcliffe, Peter B. Hedlund, Elizabeth A. Thomas, Floyd E. Bloom, Brian S. Hilbush. Peripheral reduction of β-amyloid is sufficient to reduce brain β-amyloid: Implications for Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Neuroscience Research, March 3, 2011 DOI: 10.1002/jnr.2260

1 in 3 Americans Gets Less Than 7 Hours of Sleep: CDC

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, March 3, 2011

THURSDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-third of Americans routinely sleep fewer than seven hours a night, which affects their concentration and general health, new government research shows.

Insufficient sleep also impairs work performance and the ability to drive safely, found researchers for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which published two sleep studies March 4 in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Over the last 20 years there has been a decline in overall sleep duration in adults," said lead author of one report, Lela McKnight-Eily, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention.

Changing lifestyle habits, including longer workdays and late nights on the computer, have pared away much-needed sleep time, she noted. "Within our culture there seems to be a belief that sleep isn't a part of overall essential health," she said.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep for seven to nine hours a night to maintain good health.

But when McKnight-Eily's team studied the sleep habits of 74,571 adults in 12 states, 35.3 percent reported sleeping less than seven hours.

In addition, 48 percent reported snoring, 37.9 percent said they fell asleep at least once during the day the previous month and 4.7 percent admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drowsiness or nodding off while driving accounts for 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries a year.

Three percent of drivers in Illinois admitted to nodding off while driving the previous month, compared to 6.4 percent in Hawaii and Texas.

Hawaii also reported the highest number of people with poor sleep behaviors, the researchers noted.

For the other report, a group led by Anne Wheaton, a researcher in CDC's division of chronic disease prevention, looked at the impact of sleep deprivation on the ability to perform daily activities.

In that group, 37.1 percent reported getting less than seven hours sleep a night, and about one-quarter of these people said they had trouble concentrating. About 18 percent reported memory difficulties, and 8.6 percent said they were so sleepy during the day that it was hard to perform well at work.

People who slept less than seven hours were more likely to have all these problems, compared with people who got seven to nine hours of sleep a night, the researchers said. Increasing sleep time would likely improve everyday functioning, they added.

Chronic sleep loss also is associated with obesity, increased risk of death and other health problems, notes the CDC, which released these studies in conjunction with National Sleep Awareness Week, March 7 to 13.

For a good night's rest, people need to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and avoid stimulating activities like exercise close to bedtime, Wheaton said.

"The bedroom should be conducive to sleep. Not too hot, there is not too much light, not a lot of noise -- so it's just a comfortable environment," Wheaton said.

"Sometimes we just have to unplug," McKnight-Eily added. "Unplug the TV, unplug the radio, our BlackBerrys and computers."

Commenting on these reports, sleep specialist Dr. Shirin Shafazand said insufficient sleep "has an impact on how [people] perceive their quality of life, and their ability to concentrate, and their memory and learning skills."

Although all the benefits of sleep aren't known, studies have found it aids memory, learning and hormonal balance, which may be why lack of sleep is linked to obesity, added Shafazand, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"It is clear that a lot of restorative activities are going on in the body during sleep," Shafazand said.

"We have to make a conscious effort to pay as much attention to sleep as people do to other healthy activities like exercise and eating right, because they are all linked together," she said.

More information

For more information on sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 

New Chemo Drug May Benefit Some Breast Cancer Patients

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- The new chemotherapy drug eribulin extends the lives of metastatic breast cancer patients who have received extensive treatment, according to a new study.

The researchers found that among patients whose cancer had spread, those who took the drug lived a median of 2.5 months longer than those who received a physician-chosen treatment -- 13.1 months versus 10.6 months.

The study included 508 women who were given eribulin and 254 women who received treatment of the physician's choice, which was defined as: any single-agent chemotherapy, hormonal or biological treatment approved for cancer treatment; radiotherapy; or symptomatic treatment alone.

The most common side effects in both groups were fatigue and depletion of white blood cells. Numbness and pain stemming from nerve damage were the most common adverse event connected to eribulin that led women to drop out of the study (24, or 5 percent).

The study, known as the EMBRACE trial, was funded by Eisai Inc., which markets eribulin. Dr. Javier Cortes, of the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital and Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues published the findings in the March 3 online edition of The Lancet.

"This global phase 3 study establishes a potential new standard treatment for women with heavily pretreated metastatic breast cancer, for whom there was previously no chemotherapy treatment with proven survival benefit," the authors wrote.

In a related editorial, Drs. Nancy U. Lin and Harold J. Burstein, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: "EMBRACE provides much needed, high-level evidence for chemotherapy use in patients with heavily pretreated breast cancer. And that evidence suggests that the methods to treat advanced breast cancer are growing, the treatment challenge in refractory disease is a little bit less daunting, and the treatment results are a little bit better than they were before."

Commenting on the study, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "The findings of this trial are exciting because they will propel eribulin into wider use. This drug shows much promise, and it should certainly be included in additional trials to fully establish its benefit."

"It would be interesting to see if the drug offers the same benefit in women that have not been treated with multiple drugs before exposure to eribulin," she added.

More information

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network has more about metastatic breast cancer.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Could Be Caused by a Retrovirus, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2011) — A retrovirus that inserted itself into the human genome thousands of years ago may be responsible for some cases of the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gherig's disease. The finding, made by Johns Hopkins scientists, may eventually give researchers a new way to attack this universally fatal condition.

While roughly 20 percent of ALS cases appear to have a genetic cause, the vast majority of cases appear to arise sporadically, with no known trigger. Research groups searching for a cause of this so-called sporadic form had previously spotted a protein known as reverse transcriptase, a product of retroviruses such as HIV, in ALS patients' serum samples, suggesting that a retrovirus might play a role in the disease. However, these groups weren't able to trace this reverse transcriptase to a specific retrovirus, leaving some scientists in doubt whether retroviruses are involved in ALS.

Seeking to verify whether a culprit retrovirus indeed exists, Avindra Nath, M.D., a professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined brain samples from 62 people: 28 who died from ALS, 12 who died from chronic, systemic diseases such as cancer, 10 who died from accidental causes and 12 who had another neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson's disease, at the time of their deaths. Using a technique known as polymerase chain reaction, the researchers searched for messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts from retroviruses, a chemical signature that retroviruses were active in these patients.

In samples from the ALS and chronic disease patients, the search turned up mRNA transcripts that came from human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K). This retrovirus is one of thousands that became a part of the human genome after infecting our ancestors long ago. Nowadays, these retroviruses are no longer contagious, but are instead passed along through inheritance in part of the genome that scientists consider "junk" DNA.

When Nath and his colleagues took a closer look at the mRNA, they saw that the transcripts seemed to originate from different parts of the genome in the samples from ALS and systemic disease patients. The transcripts also came from different tissues in the brain. While patients with ALS tended to have HERV-K transcripts present in areas surrounding the motor cortex of the brain -- the area affected by the disease -- the other patients' transcripts were spread more diffusely through the brain.

Although the researchers express caution, the findings, reported in the January Annals of Neurology, suggest that HERV-K might be the ALS retrovirus that researchers have been looking for.

"This paper doesn't establish causation beyond the level of doubt, but it does provide some promising links between HERV-K and ALS," Nath says. "We've never found a putative retrovirus for this disease before, so this opens up a whole new area."

He and his colleagues plan to study whether HERV-K might cause neuronal damage, a step closer to linking this retrovirus to ALS. They also plan to study what factors may cause HERV-K to reactivate in some people and lead to ALS symptoms. Researchers might eventually be able to fight ALS, Nath adds, using antiretroviral drugs specific to HERV-K

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

Journal Reference:

Renée Douville, Jiankai Liu, Jeffrey Rothstein, Avindra Nath. Identification of active loci of a human endogenous retrovirus in neurons of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Annals of Neurology, 2011; 69 (1): 141 DOI: 10.1002/ana.22149

Diabetics have higher risk of death from cancer

By Kate Kelland and Gene Emery

Reuters

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 

LONDON (Reuters) – Doctors know that diabetics have a higher than normal risk of dying of heart attacks or strokes, but new research on Wednesday showed that having diabetes also ups the risk of dying from many cancers and other diseases.

The findings shed light on the potential burden of disease that will build in the future as the number of cases of diabetes is predicted to rise dramatically in coming decades.

"These findings highlight even more the need to prevent diabetes and to understand it better," said Emanuele Di Angelantonio of Britain's Cambridge University, who worked on the study as part of an international collaboration.

"They show that diabetes is not only a cardiovascular risk factor, but is linked as well to other conditions."

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), collated and analyzed data from 97 previous studies involving more than 820,000 people worldwide.

It found that being a diabetic hiked the odds of dying from cancer by 25 percent, and also heightened the risk of death from infection, kidney and liver disease.

The risk of death was only higher in people with poorly controlled diabetes, however, as indicated by high blood sugar levels after a fast.

Among the biggest cancer risks for diabetics were liver and pancreatic cancer, colorectal or bowel cancer, and lung cancer.

Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels with an estimated 280 million people, or 6.4 percent of the world's population, suffering from it and numbers predicted to rise further as obesity rates also increase.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says up to a third of U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 they continue to gain weight and shun exercise.

Another study published this week found that millions of people with diabetes are undiagnosed or poorly treated, raising their risk of early death from heart disease and of serious complications like blindness and chronic kidney disease.

The Cambridge-led study found that aside from cancer and vascular diseases such as stroke, diabetes was also associated with deaths from many other causes including renal disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mental disorders, pneumonia, other infectious diseases.

"A 50-year-old with diabetes died, on average, six years earlier than a counterpart without diabetes," said Cambridge University's John Danesh, who also worked on the study.

The study did not look at why these death rates were higher among diabetics, so the researchers could not say whether diabetes link was simply a proxy for generally poorer health.

"Preventing diabetes becomes that much easier when we have a complete picture of the debilitating effect it has across the body and we know what steps to take to mitigate the damage," said Stephen Holgate of Britain's Medical Research Council, which part-funded the study.

Source: http://bit.ly/g5guqz

The New England Journal of Medicine, online March 2, 2011.

Herbal Teas May Provide Health Benefits

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2011) — Those who enjoy the caffeinated lift that comes from drinking traditional coffees and teas may tend to overlook the benefits of drinking herbal infusions. Now, as explained in this month's issue of Agricultural Research magazine, the idea that herbal teas may provide a variety of health benefits is no longer just folklore.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded scientists in Boston, Mass., have looked into the science-based evidence of health benefits from drinking three of the most popular herbals in America. Diane McKay and Jeffrey Blumberg are at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. Both work in the center's Antioxidants Research Laboratory, which Blumberg directs.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency-supports the HNRCA through an agreement. The work also was funded by Boulder, Colo.-based Celestial Seasonings, a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.

Chamomile tea has long been considered a brew that soothes. But when Blumberg and McKay reviewed scientific literature on the bioactivity of chamomile, they found no human clinical trials that examined this calming effect. They did, however, publish a review article on findings far beyond sedation, describing test-tube evidence that chamomile tea has moderate antimicrobial activity and significant antiplatelet-clumping activity.

The researchers also describe evidence of bioactivity of peppermint tea. In test tubes, peppermint has been found to have significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential. Based on a human clinical trial, the team also has reported that drinking hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.

McKay and Blumberg have concluded that the available research on herbal teas in general is compelling enough to suggest further clinical studies.

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.

Study: 50-year-old with diabetes dies 6 yrs sooner

By Stephanie Nano,

Associated Press

The Associated Press

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NEW YORK – A 50-year-old with diabetes dies six years sooner than someone without the disease, and not just from a heart attack or a stroke, new research suggests.

The large international effort to measure diabetes' toll found the disease also raises the risk of dying prematurely from a host of other ailments, even breast cancer and pneumonia.

"It's quite a wide sweep of conditions," said Dr. John Danesh of Cambridge University in Britain, who led the team of researchers. While most people think of heart problems, diabetes surprisingly "appears to be associated with a much broader range of health implications than previously suspected."

Putting the six years lost in context, he said, long-term smoking shortens life by 10 years.

The analysis used pooled medical information for 820,900 people from nearly 100 studies done mostly in Europe and North America. The results are published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., affects about 26 million Americans, or 8 percent, including 7 million who haven't been diagnosed. Most in the study were thought to have the most common kind — Type 2 — which occurs when the body makes too little insulin or cannot use what it does make to regulate blood sugar.

High blood sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels, and is a major cause of heart disease.

The new research didn't include those who had heart disease when they were first enrolled. Participants were followed on average for 13 1/2 years, and there more than 123,000 deaths. Overall, death rates from various causes were higher for those with diabetes than those without.

The researchers took into account other risk factors that could influence the results: age, gender, smoking and weight. Type 2 diabetes is tied to obesity. They found that those with diabetes had double the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke, compared to those without the disorder. But they also found that diabetics had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer and were more likely to die from a variety of illnesses including infections, lung and kidney disease as well as falls.

Exactly how diabetes raises those risks isn't clear, but in the case of infections, it could be that diabetes weakens the immune system, the researchers said. Diabetes can cause vision problems and loss of feeling in the legs, which may be the reason for falls, they said.

Danesh said one intriguing finding was a higher risk of suicide in those with diabetes. Other research has linked diabetes with depression, he noted.

The results are "another reason to try to normalize blood glucose in people who have diabetes," through diet, exercise and medication, said Dr. Alvin Powers, a diabetes specialist at Vanderbilt University. "There have been smaller studies that hinted at this but nothing where a study of this size looked at so many different outcomes."

Danesh and his colleagues also estimated diabetes' effect on life expectancy. They calculated that a 50-year-old diabetic without heart disease dies about six years earlier than someone without the disease, with 40 percent of the difference due to cancer and conditions other than heart disease.

"It underscores the need to prevent diabetes," Danesh said.

Previous studies have shown a possible link between diabetes and cancer. The new paper tied some, but not all, cancers; the increased risk ranged from 25 percent for breast cancer to double for liver cancer. Danesh said people with diabetes should get age-appropriate cancer screenings.

Last year, a joint report from the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society looked at the issue and said that it wasn't clear whether any connection was direct, indirect or perhaps because the two disorders share common risk factors, like obesity.

The new research squares with that report's conclusion that "there's a lot more we need to understand about diabetes and the link to cancer," said one of the authors, Dr. Richard Bergenstal of the International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet in Minneapolis. He is a former president of the diabetes group.

While adding to the evidence, the study doesn't answer the question of why, he said.

"Diabetes is a serious condition. We often don't quite think about it quite that way," Bergenstal said.

Online:

Diabetes information: http://www.diabetes.org and http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/

New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org

Tanning Bed Exposure Can Be Deadly When Complicated by Medication Reactions

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2011) — Tanning bed exposure can produce more than some tanners may bargain for, especially when they self-diagnose and use the radiation to treat skin eruptions, according to research conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology.

"There are many reasons to be cautious of tanning bed radiation but some people use tanning beds to 'self-treat' skin eruptions," said Jeffrey B. Travers, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of a study published online in the Archives of Dermatology. "If the skin eruption is eczema or even psoriasis, a tanning bed might help. However, if the eruption is caused by a drug reaction then it can be dangerous."

Dr. Travers, who is a professor of dermatology and of pharmacology and toxicology at the IU School of Medicine, said caution should be exercised when a person has an undiagnosed skin condition.

The study reported a patient who went to a tanning bed to self-treat a mild skin rash caused by an allergy to ibuprofen. Following the tanning bed exposure, the skin subjected to the UV light developed toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) with severe blistering. Her blood pressure dropped significantly and her rash spread. TEN can be a life-threatening skin disorder that can attack the skin and other tissues causing hemorrhaging, respiratory failure, vision abnormalities and digestive track complications.

"The mortality rate of this most serious reaction is more than 20 percent by causing multi-system organ failure," said Dr. Travers.

High levels of a protein responsible for inflammation were found in the patient's skin. The researchers then used laboratory studies to show that normal skin cells when exposed to the protein for inflammation and UV radiation of the type found in tanning beds produced very large amounts of protein responsible for inflammation and cell death. These studies demonstrate that patients with rashes caused by allergic reactions to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory or prescription drugs can experience severe reactions following exposure to the radiation of tanning beds.

The researchers said that a recent random study of 1,200 individuals indicated that nearly 10 percent of those who frequented tanning salons did so in response to treatment of skin disease and only 5 percent were doing so on the advice of a physician.

"There is an increasing trend for patients to seek tanning bed radiation exposure as a means of self-treatment because, among much of the general public, the perceived benefits of tanning bed radiation include its ability to treat rashes," the study noted.

This research was funded in part by grants from the Riley Memorial Association, the National Institutes of Health and a Veterans Administration Merit Award.

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

Journal Reference:

N. T. Gatson, J. B. Travers, M. Al-Hassani, S. J. P. Warren, A.-M. Hyatt, J. B. Travers. Progression of Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis After Tanning Bed Exposure. Archives of Dermatology, 2011; DOI: 10.1001/archdermatol.2011.13

Smoking During Early Pregnancy May Put Baby's Heart at Risk

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Babies born to women who smoke in the first trimester of pregnancy are more likely to have a congenital heart defect than are the offspring of mothers who don't smoke, a new study shows.

The increased risk ranged from 20 percent to 70 percent, varying by the type of defect. Detected heart defects included those that obstruct the flow of blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs, called right ventricular outflow tract obstructions, and openings between the upper chambers of the heart, known as atrial septal defects.

For the study, published Feb. 28 in Pediatrics, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on 2,525 infants with congenital heart defects and 3,435 healthy infants born in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., from 1981 to 1989.

The findings of this and other studies suggest that eliminating smoking before or very early in pregnancy could prevent as many as 100 cases of right ventricular outflow tract obstructions and 700 cases of atrial septal defects each year in the United States, according to the CDC. For atrial septal defects alone, the agency said, that could save as much as $16 million a year in hospitals costs.

"Women who smoke and are thinking about becoming pregnant need to quit smoking and, if they're already pregnant, they need to stop," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in an agency news release. "Quitting is the single most important thing a woman can do to improve her health as well as the health of her baby."

Dr. Adolfo Correa, medical officer in the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said that "successfully stopping smoking during pregnancy also lowers the chances of pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery and that an infant will have other complications such as low birth weight."

Congenital heart defects, which impair heart function and can increase the risk of death or long-term disability, affect nearly 40,000 U.S. infants each year and contribute to about 30 percent of infant deaths caused by birth defects.

Each year in the United States, about 2,500 infants are born with right ventricular outflow tract obstructions and about 5,600 are born with atrial septal defects. In 2004, estimated U.S. hospital costs for all congenital heart defects totaled $1.4 billion, according to the CDC.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about congenital heart defects.

Study underlines cannabis link to psychosis

By Kate Kelland

Reuters

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) – People who use cannabis in their youth dramatically increase their risk of psychotic symptoms, and continued use of the drug can raise the risk of developing a psychotic disorder in later life, scientists said on Wednesday.

In a 10-year study of links between cannabis use and psychosis, Dutch researchers found that cannabis use almost doubled the risk of later psychotic symptoms.

Experts commenting on the results said the major challenge for health authorities was to deter enough young people from using cannabis so that rates of psychosis could be reduced.

"This study adds a further brick to the wall of evidence showing that use of traditional cannabis is a contributory cause of psychoses like schizophrenia," said Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, who was not involved in the research.

Wednesday's findings, published in the British Medical Journal, echo research last year which found that young people who smoke cannabis for six years or more are twice as likely to have psychotic episodes, hallucinations or delusions.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world, particularly among adolescents, and is increasingly linked to added risks of developing mental illness.

But scientists say it is not yet clear whether the link between cannabis and psychosis is causal, or whether it is because people with psychosis use cannabis to self-medicate to calm their symptoms.

For this study, a team of Dutch researchers led by Jim van Os from Maastricht University studied a random sample of 1,923 adolescents and young adults aged 14 to 24 years.

The study took place in Germany and the researchers separated out anyone who said they were already using cannabis and excluded those with pre-existing psychotic symptoms so they could look at links between new cannabis use and new psychosis.

They found that so-called "incident," or new, cannabis use almost doubled the risk of new psychotic symptoms, even after accounting for factors such as age, sex, socio-economic status, use of other drugs and other psychiatric problems.

They also found that in those who were already using cannabis at the start of the study, continued use increased the risk of persistent psychotic symptoms. There was no evidence for self-medication effects since psychotic symptoms did not predict later cannabis use, they said.

Peter Kinderman, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said the study suggested authorities should take "a cautious and thoughtful approach to cannabis legislation."

"It's important to remember that psychosis is a very complex bio-psycho-social phenomenon...but this important paper certainly reminds us that there's a strong link to the use of cannabis," he said in an emailed comment.

Source: http://bit.ly/gBMvU4

British Medical Journal, online March 1, 2011.

Tight Blood Sugar Control May Put Some Diabetics at Risk

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WEDNESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Intensive blood sugar control doesn't benefit people with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease -- and it may harm them, researchers say.

Trying to maintain the blood sugar levels typical of people without diabetes can increase the risk of death for people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease by 19 percent, according to the latest analysis from the long-running ACCORD study.

"This study reports that at least over the five-year period of time, although there continued to be a reduction in the rate of [heart attack], a significant increase in mortality still exists," said the study's lead author, Dr. Hertzel C. Gerstein, the Population Research Health Institute Chair in Diabetes Research at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

ACCORD stands for Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes. This study was designed to assess whether intensive blood sugar interventions to bring A1C levels to under 6 percent would benefit people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A1C is a long-term measure of blood sugar control, and the A1C level provides about two to three months of average blood sugar levels. A level of under 6 percent, which is considered normal or non-diabetic, can be difficult for someone with diabetes to achieve.

The people recruited for the ACCORD study were between 40 and 79 years old, and their A1C levels were above 7.5 percent at the start of the study. Study volunteers were randomly assigned to either intensive blood sugar control or to a standard diabetes program striving for levels of 7 percent to 7.9 percent.

The study began in 2001 and was halted in February 2008 when researchers realized that people in the intensive treatment group had an increased risk of dying. By then, the intensive treatment group had received 3.7 years of treatment aimed at lowering their A1C levels to below 6 percent. Achieving such tight blood sugar control often required numerous interventions, such as lifestyle changes along with medication, multiple medications or insulin therapy.

The analysis includes five years of data. For the intensive group, that meant an average of 3.7 years of intense treatment, followed by 1.3 years of standard therapy.

At the time the study was stopped, the intensive therapy group experienced a 21 percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks, but a 21 percent increase in the risk of all-cause mortality.

After five years, the researchers found that the risk of heart attacks was still decreased by 18 percent, but the increased risk of all-cause mortality also persisted. People in the intensive therapy group had a 19 percent increased risk of dying of any cause, according to the study, published March 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gerstein said many researchers have tried to tease out why intensive blood sugar control might up the risk of death, and so far, no one has succeeded. Causes that have been ruled out include low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) and the rapid change in blood sugar levels.

"This study really reminds us that we always need to be prudent. Even if we think something is the right thing to do, sometimes we may have findings that are unexpected," said Gerstein.

"This study confirms the results of the ACCORD trial over the full duration of the study," said Dr. Vivian Fonseca, president-elect of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association.

"Overall, this means that the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association hold true. In general, people with diabetes should aim for an A1C goal of less than 7 percent, but clearly individualization is important. One size does not fit all," said Fonseca.

And, the findings suggest that people with type 2 diabetes and heart disease shouldn't attempt to achieve an A1C below 6 percent, the study authors said.

Gerstein and Fonseca noted that the ACCORD findings should not be generalized for everyone with diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes and no history of heart disease were not included in this study.

"There is no reason to change current guidelines because of this study, and this study certainly doesn't support ignoring glucose control. We saw benefits in eye disease and many other outcomes with good control," said Gerstein.

More information

To learn more about the connection between diabetes, heart disease and stroke, go to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Storytelling Program Improves Lives of People With Alzheimer's

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2011) — Nearly 16 million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Symptoms include mood and behavior changes, disorientation, memory loss and difficulty walking and speaking. The effects of anti-dementia drugs on patients' emotions and behaviors are inconsistent. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that participation in TimeSlips, a drug-free, creative storytelling intervention, improves communication skills and positive affect in persons with dementia.

TimeSlips is a nationally recognized storytelling program for people with dementia that encourages participants to use their imaginations to create short stories as a group. Rather than relying on factual recall, participants respond verbally to humorous images presented by facilitators who record the responses and read narratives to further develop or end the stories.

"TimeSlips provides rich, engaging opportunities for persons with dementia to interact with others while exercising their individual strengths," said Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing. "It encourages participants to be actively involved and to experience moments of recognition, creation and celebration. Meaningful activities, such as TimeSlips, promote positive social environments that are central to person-centered care."

The storytelling program is an easy and affordable activity for long-term care facilities to implement and allows caregivers to interact with multiple residents at a time, Phillips said.

"TimeSlips offers a stimulating alternative to typical activities in long-term care facilities," Phillips said. "It is an effective and simple option for care providers, especially those who lack resources or skills required for art, music or other creative interventions."

In the study, Phillips and her colleagues delivered the TimeSlips intervention in one-hour sessions, held twice weekly for six consecutive weeks. The results included increased expressions of pleasure and initiation of social communication. Improvements in participants' affect lasted several weeks following the final session. The intervention is acceptable for people with mild to moderate dementia, Phillips said.

Phillips worked with Stephanie Reid-Arndt, assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions, and Youngju Pak, assistant professor of health management and informatics in the School of Medicine.

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

Journal Reference:

Lorraine J. Phillips, Stephanie A. Reid-Arndt, Youngju Pak. Effects of a Creative Expression Intervention on Emotions, Communication, and Quality of Life in Persons With Dementia. Nursing Research, 2010; 59 (6): 417 DOI: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e3181faff52

Potassium-rich diet tied to lower stroke risk

Reuters Health

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who get plenty of potassium-rich foods in their diet may be less likely to suffer a stroke, a new research review finds.

The review, of 11 studies following more than 247,000 adults, found that as potassium intake went up, participants' risk of suffering a stroke went down.

That does not prove that potassium, itself, deserves the credit. But the foods highest in the mineral -- including many fruits and vegetables -- are considered generally healthy choices.

So the findings support experts' advice that people eat more fruits and vegetables to help cut their risk of cardiovascular disease and other ills, the researchers report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Potassium is an important mineral that helps regulate the heartbeat, conduct nerve impulses and contract muscles. Most adults need about 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.

Potassium is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, with potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, plums and raisins among the richest sources. Other sources include beans, dairy, nuts and molasses.

In theory, a diet with enough potassium could trim a person's risk of heart disease and stroke because the mineral helps lower blood pressure. But studies so far have come to mixed conclusions as to whether people who get plenty of potassium really do have fewer strokes and heart problems.

For the new study, researchers led by Dr. Lanfranco D'Elia, of the University of Naples Medical School in Italy, combined the results of 11 international studies that followed 247,510 adults for up to 19 years.

In most of the studies, participants filled out diet questionnaires at the outset, and researchers kept track of who developed heart disease or suffered a stroke over the ensuing years. In a few studies, the researchers measured participants' potassium levels from urine samples.

Individually, the studies came to conflicting results. But with the results combined, D'Elia's team found that for every 1,640-milligram increase in people's daily potassium intake, the odds of suffering a stroke declined by 21 percent.

There was no strong link overall between potassium intake and heart disease risk, though a few individual studies did find that people with higher intakes had a lower risk.

The 21-percent reduction in stroke risk would translate into as many as 1.15 million fewer stroke deaths worldwide each year, D'Elia's team estimates.

But whether potassium is actually the reason for the lower stroke risk is not clear.

In most of the studies, researchers tried to account for other factors in stroke and heart disease risk -- like overall health, weight, exercise habits and dietary fat intake. But people who get a lot of potassium could still have lifestyle habits or other characteristics -- like more education or higher incomes -- that might explain the lower stroke risk.

Still, D'Elia and his colleagues write, boosting potassium intake -- especially by eating more fruits and vegetables -- is in line with existing recommendations for preventing or managing heart disease and stroke.

There are some people, however, who may need to be careful about potassium intake and should ask their doctors before consuming more of the mineral. They include people with kidney disease, which can reduce 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 can cause dangerous heart-rhythm disturbances.

Source: http://bit.ly/g7C9SZ

Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 8, 2011.

Vitamin D Linked to Lung Cancer Survival, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2011) — Recent research suggests vitamin D may be able to stop or prevent cancer. Now, a new study finds an enzyme that plays a role in metabolizing vitamin D can predict lung cancer survival.

The study, from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, suggests that this enzyme stops the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.

Levels of the enzyme, called CYP24A1, were elevated as much as 50 times in lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal lung tissue. The higher the level of CYP24A1, the more likely tumors were to be aggressive. About a third of lung cancer patients had high levels of the enzyme. After five years, those patients had nearly half the survival rate as patients with low levels of the enzyme.

Researchers then linked this to how CYP24A1 interacts with calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D. CYP24A1 breaks down calcitriol, which has a normal and crucial role when kept in check. But when levels of CYP24A1 climb, the enzyme begins to hinder the positive anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.

Results of the study appear in Clinical Cancer Research.

Previous studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to a higher incidence of cancer and worse survival. Researchers are looking at using vitamin D to help prevent lung cancer from returning and spreading after surgery. This new study suggests the possibility of using CYP24A1 levels to personalize this approach to those likely to benefit most.

"Half of lung cancers will recur after surgery, so it's important to find a way to prevent or delay this recurrence. A natural compound like vitamin D is attractive because it has few side effects, but it's even better if we can determine exactly who would benefit from receiving vitamin D," says study author Nithya Ramnath, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Researchers also are working to identify drugs that block CYP24A1. Blocking the enzyme would reinstate the positive anti-cancer effects of vitamin D, suggesting that this inhibitor could potentially be combined with vitamin D treatments.

Note: Current recommendations call for 600-800 IU of vitamin D daily, depending on age. Studies looking at vitamin D in lung cancer are testing medically administered doses 200 times what could be taken by mouth naturally. Taking large amounts of vitamin D supplements is not currently recommended to prevent or treat lung cancer.

Lung cancer statistics: 222,520 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 157,300 will die from the disease, making it the biggest cancer killer, according to the American Cancer Society

Additional U-M authors: Guoan Chen, So Hee Kim, Amanda N. King, Lili Zhao, Robert U. Simpson, Paul J. Christensen, Zhuwen Wang, Dafydd G. Thomas, Thomas J. Giordano, Lin Lin, Dean E. Brenner, David G. Beer

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

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

Journal Reference:

H. Meng, G. Chen, X. Zhang, Z. Wang, D. G. Thomas, T. J. Giordano, D. G. Beer, M. M. Wang. Stromal LRP1 in lung adenocarcinoma predicts clinical outcome. Clinical Cancer Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-2385

Use of Virtual Colonoscopy on the Rise in U.S. Hospitals

HealthDay News

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TUESDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- The use of virtual colonoscopies at U.S. hospitals is on the increase even though the procedure is not covered by Medicare, a new study finds.

Also referred to as computerized tomographic colonography (CTC), virtual colonoscopy uses virtual reality technology to provide doctors with a 3-D image that enables them to conduct an evaluation of the entire colon and rectum. CTC is an alternative to colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening.

An analysis of data from the American Hospital Association annual surveys showed that the use of CTC increased from 13 percent of hospitals in 2005 to 17 percent of hospitals in 2008. The researchers also found that 69 percent of hospitals that offered CTC in 2008 also offered standard colonoscopy.

Factors that motivated hospitals to offer CTC included: the desire to provide an alternative colorectal cancer screening option for frail, elderly patients and patients with failed colonoscopy; long wait times for colonoscopy; and promising evidence in published studies about CTC.

The study is published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

"Our study is unique in that we show expansion even in the absence of Medicare reimbursement for CTC for general screening. CTC's relatively easy implementation coupled with patient acceptance makes CTC a tool that holds promise for the future of colorectal cancer prevention," lead author Megan McHugh said in a news release from the American College of Radiology.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about virtual colonoscopy.

Free Radicals May Be Good for You

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2011) — Fear of free radicals may be exaggerated, according to scientists from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. A new study, published in The Journal of Physiology, shows that free radicals act as signal substances that cause the heart to beat with the correct force.

Free radicals are molecules that react readily with other substances in the body, and this can have negative effects on health in certain circumstances, through the damage caused to cells. Free radicals can be counteracted by substances known as 'antioxidants', which are common ingredients in many dietary supplements. The idea that free radicals are generally dangerous and must be counteracted is, however, a myth, according to scientists who have conducted a new study of the role that free radicals play in heart physiology.

"As usual, it's a case of everything in moderation. In normal conditions, free radicals act as important signal substances, but very high levels or long-lasting increases can lead to disease," says Professor Håkan Westerblad, who has led the study.

When the body is subject to different types of stress, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates receptors known as beta-adrenergic receptors on the surface of heart muscle cells. This leads to several changes inside the cells, one of which is the phosphorylation of proteins. This leads to the contractions of the cells becoming stronger and the heart beats with greater force.

In the current study, the scientists show that stimulation of the beta-adrenergic receptors also leads to increased production of free radicals in the mitochondria of the cells, and these then contribute to stronger contractions of the cells. When the scientists exposed the cells to antioxidants, a major part of the effect of beta-adrenergic stimulation of the heart muscle cells disappeared.

The results reveal a previously unknown regulatory mechanism of the force production in the heart, and may lead to a better understanding of various types of heart deficiency.

"Free radicals play an important role, since they contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stress-filled situations," says Håkan Westerblad. "On the other hand, persistent stress can lead to heart failure, and chronically increased levels of free radicals may be part of the problem here."

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

Journal Reference:

Daniel C Andersson, Jérémy Fauconnier, Takashi Yamada, Alain Lacampagne, Shi-Jin Zhang, Abram Katz & Håkan Westerblad. Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species contributes to the beta-adrenergic stimulation of mouse cardiomycytes. The Journal of Physiology, 28 February 2011 DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.202838

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fish Oil Seems to Help Cancer Patients Preserve Muscle

HealthDay News

Monday, February 28, 2011

MONDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may be able to avoid the accompanying muscle loss and malnutrition by taking fish oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, new research suggests.

The finding is based on a small study involving just 40 lung cancer patients. Nevertheless, it raises hope that a simple, noninvasive intervention might go a long way towards countering the fatigue, poorer prognosis and impaired quality of life that can result from chemo-induced muscle mass loss.

"Fish oil may prevent loss of weight and muscle by interfering with some of the pathways that are altered in advanced cancer," study author Dr. Vera Mazurak, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, said in a news release. "This holds great promise, because currently there is no effective treatment for cancer-related malnutrition."

Mazurak and her colleagues report their observations in the Feb. 28 online edition of Cancer.

To explore the therapeutic potential of fish oil supplements, the authors offered 16 cancer patients undergoing an initial 10-week chemotherapy regimen a daily dose of 2.2 grams of a particular omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic (EPA).

While these patients took fish oil supplements throughout their chemotherapy treatment, a second group of 24 patients underwent the same regimen minus the fish oil.

The results: continual muscle and fat measurements revealed that the group that took no fish oil supplementation lost an average of just over 5 pounds; the supplement group lost no weight.

What's more, blood analyses revealed that those in the fish oil group who had the biggest bump in bloodstream EPA concentrations also had the greatest muscle mass gains.

Specifically, nearly 70 percent of those in the fish oil group either kept their pre-chemo muscle mass or gained muscle. By comparison, less than 30 percent in the non-supplement group kept their original muscle mass.

Total fat tissue measurements were unaffected by fish oil supplementation, the team noted, and no side effects were observed.

The authors concluded that fish oil supplementation appears to be a safe and effective way to prevent malnutrition among cancer patients, and may ultimately prove to be of benefit for other groups of people, such as elderly patients who also face a significant ongoing risk for muscle loss.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Dallas, reacted with cautious optimism to the findings.

"Malnutrition is a big concern with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation," she noted. "Because first of all they do have wasting from the cancer itself, which is very metabolically active and eats up your energy stores. And then with chemotherapy, there is some inflammation that's detrimental to the heart and muscle, as it can cause muscle breakdown. And preservation of lean muscle tissue, we know, leads to better outcomes."

"So certainly this does seem to be promising," Sandon said. "And other similar studies have looked at omega-3 and muscle preservation and have also suggested that fish oil can act to prevent inflammation caused by both disease and hardcore medications, like chemotherapy agents."

"But I would caution that the amount of pure concentrated fish oil supplement the people in this study were given is a lot," she added. "Much much more than any recommended dietary allowance, along the lines of two to three servings of fish per week."

But, she said, "I would say this is certainly worthy of continuing research and exploration. But meanwhile, people should definitely not go out and start consuming huge amounts of fish oil."

More information

For more on chemotherapy, visit the American Cancer Society.

More Evidence That Alzheimer's Disease May Be Inherited from Your Mother

ScienceDaily

Monday, February 28, 2011

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2011) — Results from a new study contribute to growing evidence that if one of your parents has Alzheimer's disease, the chances of inheriting it from your mother are higher than from your father. The study is published in the March 1, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"It is estimated that people who have first-degree relatives with Alzheimer's disease are four to 10 times more likely to develop the disease themselves compared to people with no family history," said study author Robyn Honea, DPhil, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City.

For the study, 53 dementia-free people age 60 and over were followed for two years. Eleven participants reported having a mother with Alzheimer's disease, 10 had a father with Alzheimer's disease and 32 had no history of the disease in their family. The groups were given brain scans and cognitive tests throughout the study.

The researchers found that people with a mother who had Alzheimer's disease had twice as much gray matter shrinkage as the groups who had a father or no parent with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, those who had a mother with Alzheimer's disease had about one and a half times more whole brain shrinkage per year compared to those who had a father with the disease. Shrinking of the brain, or brain atrophy, occurs in Alzheimer's disease.

"Using 3-D mapping methods, we were able to look at the different regions of the brain affected in people with maternal or paternal ties to Alzheimer's disease," said Honea. "In people with a maternal family history of the disease, we found differences in the break-down processes in specific areas of the brain that are also affected by Alzheimer's disease, leading to shrinkage. Understanding how the disease may be inherited could lead to better prevention and treatment strategies."

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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

Journal Reference:

Robyn A. Honea, Russell H. Swerdlow, Eric D. Vidoni and Jeffrey M. Burns. Progressive regional atrophy in normal adults with a maternal history of Alzheimer disease. Neurology, March 1, 2011 vol. 76 no. 9 822-829 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31820e7b74

Breast cancer rates have stopped falling: study

By Julie Steenhuysen

Reuters

Monday, February 28, 2011

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Breast cancer rates among U.S. white women have stopped falling, U.S. researchers said on Monday, suggesting that the fallout from a 2002 study linking hormone replacement therapy to breast cancer was short lived.

They said breast cancer rates among white women fell 7 percent in 2003, a year after a large study showed taking hormone replacement therapy raised the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and strokes in older women.

But those declines stabilized between 2003 and 2007, said Carol DeSantis, a researcher at the American Cancer Society whose study appears online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

"We have fully felt the effects of the Women's Health Initiative study and now rates have leveled off," DeSantis, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

Sales of U.S. market leader Wyeth's combined estrogen plus progesterone pill Prempro have fallen by about 50 percent from 2001 just before results of the study were released to around $1 billion a year. The study prompted women to stop using the therapy.

Wyeth is now owned by Pfizer.

DeSantis and colleagues studied data on invasive breast cancers from a national database between 2000-2007. They found the sharp drop in breast cancer in white women between 2002 and 2003 did not continue from 2003 to 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.

There was no steep drop in breast cancer rates among black and Hispanic women in the 2002 to 2003 period, and there have been no significant changes in those groups in the 2003 to 2007 period, the team said.

DeSantis said breast cancer rates rose in the 1980s and 1990s as more women got screening mammograms. And she said rates also rose as hormone replacement therapy became more popular as a treatment for the symptoms of menopause.

But rates among white women reversed in 2002 after the Women's Health Initiative study showed that women who took estrogen plus progesterone for five years had higher rates of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, strokes and other health problems.

"There was an increase in the '80s and '90s because of mammography use and hormones," DeSantis said, but mammography screening rates have plateaued and drops in breast cancer from hormone replacement therapy have stabilized.

"It remains to be seen where the trends will go from here without those two factors playing the role that they have over the past two decades," she said.

Stress May Help Spur Weight Gain in New Moms, Study Finds

HealthDay News

Monday, February 28, 2011

MONDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The stress of parenthood can lead new moms to forego physical activity and gain weight, researchers report.

The Georgia Health Sciences University team checked the body-mass index (BMI) of 60 first-time mothers who were asked about their levels of stress and physical activity.

"Sedentary lifestyle, or a low amount of physical activity, was most influenced by the type of parenting stress [that] the mothers reported. More parenting stress, including depression, was associated with less physical activity and a higher postpartum BMI," Dr. Deborah Young-Hyman, a behavioral psychologist with the Georgia Prevention Institute, said in a GHSU news release.

She and her colleagues also found that social interaction was associated with a higher BMI.

"We think women are socializing with their friends, not isolating themselves, but they are doing sedentary things like talking on the phone, watching television or hanging out at home, instead of taking their babies on a walk together," Young-Hyman said.

And the higher BMIs packed a psychological wallop.

New moms with a higher BMI had more depressive symptoms, while those with lower BMIs were more physically active and had fewer depressive symptoms.

"We know that physical activity improves your mood and helps you lose weight, but no one has ever asked how physical activity is related to parenting stress in first-time moms," Young-Hyman said.

She noted that being in a good mood is associated with higher levels of physical activity and lower intake of calories.

The study was published recently in Women and Health.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists outlines how to get in shape after having a baby.

Study links sugary drinks with high blood pressure

By Kate Kelland

Reuters Life

Monday, February 28, 2011

LONDON (Reuters Life!) – Scientists have linked drinking sugary drinks like fizzy cola and fruit drinks with high blood pressure and say their findings suggest that cutting both sugar and salt intake could help reduce the risk.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

In a study of more than 2,500 people in the United States and Britain, researchers found that for every extra can of sugary drink consumed per day, participants had higher systolic blood pressure by an average of 1.6 mmHg and a higher diastolic reading by an average of 0.8 mmHg.

This difference was significant even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height, the scientists wrote on Monday in a study in the journal Hypertension.

Blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. Between beats, when the heart is resting, the blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.

Experts say someone with a blood pressure level in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) of 135 systolic over 85 diastolic is twice as likely to have a heart attack or a stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75.

In this study, the link between sugary drinks and higher blood pressure was especially strong in people who ate a lot of salt as well as sugar, the researchers said, supporting long-established findings that high salt intake can lead to high blood pressure.

"It's widely known that if you have too much salt in your diet, you're more likely to develop high blood pressure. The results of this study suggest that people should be careful about how much sugar they consume as well," said Paul Elliott of Imperial College London, who worked on the study.

The researchers analyzed data from 2,696 volunteers aged between 40 and 59, in eight areas of the United States and two areas of Britain.

Over an average period of three weeks, the volunteers were asked four times to report what they had eaten in the preceding 24 hours, as well as giving urine samples and having their blood pressure measured.

The researchers also found that people who drink more sugary drinks tended to have more unhealthy diets in general. As well as eating more sugar, people who drank more than one sugary drink a day consumed more calories on average, as well as less fiber and minerals.

Those who didn't drink sugary drinks had a lower body mass index (BMI) on average than those who drank more than one a day.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association (ABA) said that the blood pressure differences seen in the study were "inconsequential," and that the study could not prove a cause-effect relationship.

Ian Brown, another Imperial College researcher who worked with Elliott and U.S. colleagues agreed that it could not establish causal links because it was a population study.

"It can't say definitively that sugary drinks raise your blood pressure, but it's one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed," Brown said in a statement.

"In the meantime, we would advise people who want to drink sugar-sweetened beverages should do so only in moderation," he said.

Source: http://bit.ly/iaNDhS

Hypertension, online February 28, 2011.

Alzheimer's Risk Looks Higher if Mom Had the Disease

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, February 28, 2011

MONDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A new study adds more weight to research showing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease is greater if your mother, rather than your father, had the disorder.

Brain scans of adult children of people with Alzheimer's found more shrinkage in key brain regions of those whose mothers had the disease than in those whose fathers had it, the researchers report. Brain shrinkage is a characteristic of the age-related disorder.

"It's consistent with other studies that suggest there is something inherited from mothers that influences risk more so than what is passed down through fathers," said senior study author Dr. Jeffrey Burns, an associate professor of neurology at University of Kansas Medical Center.

Alzheimer's disease has a strong inherited component, according to background information in the study. Those whose parents had the disease are four to 10 times more likely to get the disease themselves.

In the study, researchers created three-dimensional maps, using a technology called voxel-based morphometry, of the brains of 53 people aged 60 and older. Eleven had a mother with Alzheimer's, 10 had a father with Alzheimer's and the rest had no family history of the disease.

None of the participants had dementia when they were recruited, nor did they show the signs of mental decline that can be an early indicator of the disease, researchers said.

After two years, people whose mothers had Alzheimer's had twice the amount of gray matter atrophy, or shrinkage, in brain regions known to be affected by Alzheimer's compared to those with a paternal history or no family history of the disease. The regions included the parahippocampal gyrus and the precuneus.

Those with a maternal history of Alzheimer's also had one and a half times more loss in whole brain volume each year compared to those with a paternal history or no family history of the disease.

The study is published in the March 1 issue of Neurology.

A small amount of brain shrinkage with each passing year is common among older adults and not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer's, Burns noted.

However, with Alzheimer's, the atrophy occurs much faster.

Researchers don't know what the Alzheimer's-related inheritance from mothers is, but they theorize that it may have something to do with mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria, which generate the energy that cells use to function, are inherited only from mothers.

Prior research has linked mitochondrial problems and Alzheimer's disease, Burns said.

"This suggests that the mitochondrial dysfunction may have more to do with Alzheimer's than we previously have considered," he said.

Dr. Steven DeKosky, a professor of neurology at University of Virginia School of Medicine, said too few participants were involved in the study to draw a conclusion. Larger studies are needed to confirm the findings, he said. In addition, researchers did not test for specific proteins associated with Alzheimer's, such as those found in cerebrospinal fluid.

Testing for those protein markers could confirm if the atrophy was indeed due to Alzheimer's, DeKosky said.

"I would be very cautious about reaching any firm conclusions about genetics from this study," DeKosky said.

"They probably have identified AD [Alzheimer's disease] cases which are presymptomatic, but whether the male-female difference will be maintained would await larger numbers of cases, perhaps more thoroughly characterized," he added.

With Americans living longer, cases of Alzheimer's disease are soaring in the United States. By 2030, about 20 percent of the total U.S. population will likely have the disorder, the Alzheimer's Association estimates.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on Alzheimer's.

Binge Eaters' Dopamine Levels Spike at Sight, Smell of Food

ScienceDaily

Monday, February 28, 2011

ScienceDaily (Feb. 28, 2011) — A brain imaging study at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals a subtle difference between ordinary obese subjects and those who compulsively overeat, or binge: In binge eaters but not ordinary obese subjects, the mere sight or smell of favorite foods triggers a spike in dopamine -- a brain chemical linked to reward and motivation.

The findings -- published online on February 24, 2011, in the journal Obesity -- suggest that this dopamine spike may play a role in triggering compulsive overeating.

"These results identify dopamine neurotransmission, which primes the brain to seek reward, as being of relevance to the neurobiology of binge eating disorder," said study lead author Gene-Jack Wang, a physician at Brookhaven Lab and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Previous studies conducted by Wang's team have identified a similar dopamine spike in drug-addicted individuals when they were shown images of people taking drugs, as well as other neurochemical similarities between drug addiction and obesity, including a role for dopamine in triggering desire for drugs and/or food.

"In earlier studies of normal-weight healthy people who had been food-deprived for 16 hours, we found that dopamine releases were significantly correlated with self-reports of hunger and desire for food. These results provided evidence of a conditioned-cue response to food," Wang said.

In the current study, the researchers suspected that binge-eating obese subjects would show stronger conditioned responses to food stimuli when compared with non-binging obese subjects.

"Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying food stimulation might point us toward new ways to help individuals regulate their abnormal eating behaviors," Wang said.

The scientists studied 10 obese people with a clinical diagnosis of binge eating disorder, based on evaluations at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, and 8 obese subjects who were not binge eaters.

The scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the subjects' brains after injecting a radiotracer designed to bind to dopamine receptors in the brain. Because the tracer competes with the brain's natural dopamine to bind to these receptors, the signal picked up by the PET scanner provides an inverse measure of the brain's dopamine levels: a strong signal from the bound tracer indicates low levels of natural brain dopamine; a low signal from the tracer indicates high levels of dopamine in the brain.

Each subject was scanned four times on two different days to test the effects of food stimulation vs. neutral stimulation with and without pre-administration of a drug known to amplify dopamine signals. The drug, methylphenidate, blocks the reuptake of dopamine from brain synapses, allowing it to linger longer. In scans without methylphenidate, subjects were given a placebo drug.

In the food stimulation condition, research subjects' favorite foods were heated (if appropriate) and waved in front of their mouths and noses so they could smell and even taste tiny amounts swabbed onto their tongues. For the neutral stimulation scans, researchers displayed non-food-related pictures and inanimate objects such as toys and clothing items in close proximity so research subjects could smell them while lying in the scanner. In all cases, research subjects had been fasting for 16 hours prior to scans.

Results

Food stimulation with methylphenidate significantly increased dopamine levels in the caudate and putamen regions of the brain in binge eaters but not in the non-binge eaters. Subjects with the most severe binge eating disorder, as assessed by psychological evaluations, had the highest dopamine levels in the caudate.

Dopamine levels did not rise significantly in other brain regions or under any other condition (neutral stimulation with or without methylphenidate, or food stimulation without methylphenidate) in either group, and were not correlated with body mass index of the research subjects. Assessments of the levels of receptors for dopamine also did not differ between the two groups.

"So the key difference we found between binge eaters and non-binge eating obese subjects was a fairly subtle elevation of dopamine levels in the caudate in the binge eaters in response to food stimulation," Wang said.

"This dopamine response is in a different part of the brain from what we've observed in studies of drug addiction, which found dopamine spikes in the brain's reward center in response to drug-associated cues. The caudate, in contrast, is believed to be involved in reinforcement of action potentially leading to reward, but not in processing of the reward per se. That means this response effectively primes the brain to seek the reward, which is also observed in drug-addicted subjects," Wang said.

Inasmuch as binge eating is not exclusively found in obese individuals, the scientists believe further studies are warranted to assess the neurobiological factors that may differentiate obese and non-obese binge eaters.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health through the Intramural Program of the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the General Clinical Research Center of Stony Brook University, using infrastructure supported at Brookhaven Lab by DOE's Office of Science.

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

Journal Reference:

Gene-Jack Wang, Allan Geliebter, Nora D. Volkow, Frank W. Telang, Jean Logan, Millard C. Jayne, Kochavi Galanti, Peter A. Selig, Hao Han, Wei Zhu, Christopher T. Wong, Joanna S. Fowler. Enhanced Striatal Dopamine Release During Food Stimulation in Binge Eating Disorder. Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.27