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Friday, January 13, 2012

Dark Chocolate and Red Wine Are Heart-Healthy Foods of Love, Dietitians Say

ScienceDaily

Friday, January 13, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2012) — Forget the oysters and the champagne this Valentine's Day. If you want to keep your true love's heart beating strong, Susan Ofria, clinical nutrition manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, said the real food of love is dark chocolate and red wine.

"You are not even choosing between the lesser of two evils, red wine and dark chocolate have positive components that are actually good for your heart," said Ofria, a registered dietitian at the Loyola University Health System's Melrose Park campus.

Red wine and dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher contain resveratrol, which has been found to lower blood sugar. Red wine is also a source of catechins, which could help improve "good" HDL cholesterol.

Ofria, who is also a nutrition educator, recommends the following list of heart-healthy ingredients for February, which is national heart month, and for good heart health all year.

Eight Ways to Say "I Love You" -- Top Heart-Healthy Foods Red Wine -- "Pinots, shirahs, merlots -- all red wines are a good source of catechins and resveratrol to aid 'good' cholesterol."

Dark chocolate, 70 percent or higher cocoa content -- "Truffles, soufflιs and even hot chocolate can be a good source of resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) as long as dark chocolate with a high content of cocoa is used."

Salmon/tuna -- "Especially white, or albacore, tuna and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and canned salmon contains soft bones that give an added boost of calcium intake."

Flaxseeds -- "Choose either brown or golden yellow, and have them ground for a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, phytoestrogens."

Oatmeal -- "Cooked for a breakfast porridge or used in breads or desserts, oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, niacin, folate and potassium."

Black or kidney beans -- Good source of niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, soluble fiber.

Walnuts and almonds -- "Both walnuts and almonds contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats."

Blueberries/cranberries/raspberries/strawberries -- "Berries are a good source of beta carotene and lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber."

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Loyola University Health System, via Newswise.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Bored Workers Often Turn to Chocolate, Booze, Study Finds

HealthDay News

Friday, January 13, 2012

FRIDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic boredom grips one-fourth of office workers, which may affect their quality of work as well as their physical and mental health, a new study suggests.

British researchers asked 102 office workers if they got bored at work and how they managed that boredom. Of those surveyed, 25 percent said they are chronically bored, and often eat chocolate or drink coffee to cope. The apathetic workers also said they were more likely to drink alcohol at the end of day.

Boredom also affected how well the workers performed their jobs. Nearly 80 percent of those polled said boredom caused them to lose their concentration, and more than half said it caused them to make mistakes. About half of the workers admitted that boredom might force them to leave their job.

"My analysis of the results suggests that the most significant cause of office boredom is an undemanding workload. So managers should look at ways of reducing sources of workplace boredom and at encouraging healthier ways of coping," said Dr. Sandi Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire in a news release. "We also found that some people are far more prone to boredom than others. Managers might consider using boredom-proneness as a tool when they are selecting staff or making decisions about staff development."

The researchers noted that job rotation and other enrichment programs might help reduce boredom in the workplace. Providing workers with healthy snacks and drinks might encourage them to avoid unhealthy indulgences, they said.

The findings are slated for presentation Thursday at a meeting of the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology in Chester, England. Data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on promoting health and well-being of workers.

Magnesium-rich diet tied to lower stroke risk

By Andrew M. Seaman

Reuters Health

Friday, January 13, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A fresh look at past research concludes that people who eat lots of greens and other foods rich in magnesium have fewer strokes -- a finding that supports current diet guidelines.

But because the research focused on magnesium in food, the authors stopped short of recommending that people take a daily magnesium supplement. It's possible that another aspect of the food is responsible for the finding.

What the results do suggest is that people eat a healthy diet with "magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains," said lead author Susanna Larsson, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Larsson and her colleagues combed through research databases spanning the last 45 years to find studies that tracked how much magnesium people ate and how many of them had a stroke over time.

In seven studies published in the past 14 years, about 250,000 people in the U.S., Europe and Asia were followed for an average of 11.5 years. About 6,500 of them, or three percent, had a stroke in the time they were followed.

For every extra 100 milligrams of magnesium a person ate per day, their risk of an ischemic stroke -- the most common kind, typically caused by a blood clot -- fell by nine percent.

The median magnesium intake for U.S. men and women included in the analysis was 242 milligrams a day (mg/d). The U.S. recommends men and women over age 31 eat 420 and 320 mg/d of magnesium, respectively.

Most of the studies allowed the researchers to rule out other factors, such as family history, from the results, but Larsson told Reuters Health in an email that she cannot say whether other aspects of what the people ate partially or entirely explain the finding.

Because the papers included in the analysis, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, are so-called observational studies, they also cannot prove that the magnesium is what's actually reducing the stroke risk.

Larsson told Reuters Health that more in-depth studies are needed before researchers can say that.

Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of the stroke center at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health that although the findings from reviews like Larsson's are limited, they are consistent with what doctors typically recommend.

"It's a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables and grains," said Goldstein. "Those are things that have low sodium, high potassium and high magnesium."

"It's again the diet per se, not any one individual component of the diet," Goldstein said.

Source: http://bit.ly/AhalBY

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online December 28, 2011.

Need to Exercise More? Think How It Will Help You Now

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Friday, January 13, 2012

FRIDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Health and fitness experts have for years tried to entice people to exercise more by flogging long-range benefits such as losing weight or avoiding long-term illness caused by chronic disease.

They might have been going about it all wrong. Research now appears to show that "improve your heart health" may be a less effective message than "feel better now."

A University of Michigan study found that people are more apt to exercise when they're given reasons that apply to their immediate, day-to-day life. For example, telling someone they will have more energy after working out seems to be a more effective motivation than telling them they will be less likely to develop diabetes.

Michelle Segar, the study's lead author, said she believes the results indicate a need to "rebrand" exercise so that health organizations that promote exercise will see better results from their efforts.

"We need to develop new messaging that teaches people that physical activity is a way to reduce their stress in the moment, feel better in the moment, create more energy in the moment," said Segar, a research investigator with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. "You're a more patient parent. You enjoy your work more. You don't snap at your spouse as much. The benefits of exercise help you lead a more pleasant and productive life. The messaging needs to go there."

The study focused on a randomly selected set of 385 women, 40 to 60 years old, who were given several questionnaires over the course of a year related to exercise and health.

The women's responses indicated that they valued long-term goals like weight loss as much as short-term goals more directly linked to day-to-day quality of life, such as stress reduction. Nonetheless, Segar and her team found that women who cited short-term factors exercised more often than those who felt long-term goals were most important.

"The women who exercised for quality of life did significantly more exercise than the other two groups," Segar said. Those who exercised based on daily quality of life worked out 15 percent to 34 percent more often, the study found.

This argues strongly for a reassessment of how exercise is promoted, Segar said.

"Health and healthy aging are very abstract," she said. "We may endorse them as important, but the problem lies in the fact that we live very busy, complicated lives. When you're looking at your daily to-do list, how compelling is fitting in exercise for a reason that's far in the future, where you might never notice? If you're exercising to enhance the quality of your daily life because it reduces your stress or improves your mood, you notice those things immediately. And if you don't exercise, you immediately notice you feel worse."

Messages that might resonate better with people who need to exercise more often, she said, include that exercise is a way to:

Become a more pleasant member of your family by feeling better.

Improve your productivity at work because working out makes your mind more focused.

Relieve day-to-day stress.

Improve your mood.

Enjoy higher levels of energy and vitality.

Spend more social time with others.

Take time to enjoy the outdoors.

Though those are compelling arguments for exercise, groups might want to think twice before removing long-term goals from their marketing strategies, said Walter Thompson, a professor of exercise science in the department of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine.

Long-term goals like weight loss tend to be measurable, whereas short-term goals like improved energy are largely subjective, Thompson said.

"The problem with the long-term goal is they can get to the 5½-months point and not lose a pound," he said. "That's the argument for the short-term goal. But without a long-term goal, it's hard to come up with short-term goals."

Short-term goals also might not apply to everyone because they're subjective, he added.

"I like to run, but I remember days when I just felt miserable after my run," Thompson said. "If I only looked at short-term goals, if I felt bad one day, I may not do it the second day."

More information

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports offers guidelines for personal exercise programs.

 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No Link Found Between Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke and Autism, Swedish Study Finds 

ScienceDaily

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2012) — A large population-based study in Sweden indicates that there is no link between smoking during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children. The study, led by Dr. Brian Lee, an assistant professor at Drexel University and a team of international collaborators, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and was published online in December.

Researchers have considered a variety of chemical exposures in the environment during pregnancy and early life as possible contributing factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders. Many have considered prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke a possible cause due to known associations with behavioral disorders and obstetric complications. Past studies of maternal smoking and autism have had mixed results.

"We found no evidence that maternal smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of autism spectrum disorders," said Lee, an epidemiologist at Drexel's School of Public Health, who led the research in collaboration with researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institute and the University of Bristol (Bristol, UK). "Past studies that showed an association were most likely influenced by social and demographic factors such as income and occupation that have associations with both the likelihood of smoking and with the rate of autism spectrum disorders."

In the new study, Lee and colleagues analyzed data from Swedish national and regional registries for a set of 3,958 children with autism spectrum disorders, along with a control set of 38,983 children born during the same period who did not receive an ASD diagnosis. Overall, 19.8 percent of the ASD cases were exposed to maternal smoking during pregnancy, compared to 18.4 percent of control cases. These rates showed an association between maternal smoking and the odds of an autism spectrum disorder, in unadjusted analyses. However, the association disappeared when the analysis was adjusted for sociodemographic factors such as the parents' income level, education, and occupation.

The report helps to reassure mothers who smoked during pregnancy that their behavior wasn't likely responsible for their child's autism, Lee said, and "crosses off another suspect on the list of possible environmental risk factors for ASD." He cautioned, however, that smoking during pregnancy is still unhealthy for mothers and has other known risks for their children.

Lee received his Ph.D. and M.H.S. degrees in Epidemiology from The Johns Hopkins University, and graduated Cum laude with an A.B. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard College. His research interests include the epidemiology of neurological development, maintenance and decline, including prenatal environmental exposures and autism risk; gene-environment interaction; and epidemiological methods including causal inference methodology, data mining and machine learning algorithms.

Lee was recently awarded a 3-year grant from Autism Speaks to study whether early immune system abnormalities are associated with the risk of autism spectrum disorders.

The maternal smoking risk study was funded by a grant from the Stockholm County Council.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Drexel University, via Newswise.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Brian K. Lee, Renee M. Gardner, Henrik Dal, Anna Svensson, Maria Rosaria Galanti, Dheeraj Rai, Christina Dalman, Cecilia Magnusson. Brief Report: Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s10803-011-1425-4

Frequent eating tied to less weight gain in girls

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Girls who ate frequent meals and snacks put on fewer pounds and gained fewer inches to their waistlines over the next decade than those who only ate a couple of times each day, according to a new study.

Researchers said that one explanation is that smaller, more frequent meals and snacks kept girls satisfied for longer, and prevented them from over-eating.

But it's too early to say if that style of eating should be recommended to help prevent obesity in girls, or in the general population.

"Maybe if you eat smaller meals or you eat more frequently you're less likely to have a very large meal or be extremely hungry and over-eat at a meal," said Alison Field, who studies kids' eating at Children's Hospital Boston but didn't participate in the new research.

Still, "There's always the possibility... that people who decide to eat frequently are just inherently different people than people who just decide to eat a couple times a day," and that could explain changes in fat and weight gain in different girls, she told Reuters Health.

The new report, from Lorrene Ritchie at the University of California, Berkeley, is based on data from a government-funded study of black and white girls in Berkeley, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Starting when girls were nine and 10 years old, they filled out food records of what they ate and when for a few days at a time and reviewed those records with nutritionists.

Over the next 10 years, researchers continued to track more than 2,100 girls' height, weight and waist size.

Ritchie used those records to compare the number of meals and snacks girls ate at the start of the study with changes in their weight and waist size through age 19 to 20.

Girls initially reported eating an average of about two and a half meals and another two and a half snacks each day.

As expected, no matter how frequently they ate, participants gained weight and waist inches over the study period as they went through puberty.

But the fewer snacks and meals girls ate during the day, the more fat they ended up putting on, Ritchie reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Over the ten years, those who started out eating more than six times a day climbed 6.5 points on the body mass index (BMI) scale, which is a measure of weight in relation to height. Girls that ate three times or less went up 7.8 points.

That works out to about eight extra pounds gained by the least-frequent eaters.

Girls who ate most frequently gained an average of four inches around their waists by the time they were 19 or 20, compared to almost five inches in girls with the fewest meal and snack times.

That was after taking into account other measures of health and lifestyle that could affect weight gain, including how often girls exercised or watched TV and how heavy they were to begin with.

Moderation Is Key

Ritchie said that some previous studies have linked more frequent snacks and meals with lower weight, but what's missing is research showing that if people change their diet habits to eat more often, they'll be able to shed pounds.

"The jury is still out," she told Reuters Health.

"I wouldn't recommend that people go out and say, 'Oh, I eat three meals a day and now I'm going to eat five to try to prevent weight gain,'" Ritchie said.

Moderation, she added, seems to be what matters.

"I would not skip meals as a way to prevent weight gain -- it doesn't seem be helpful, and I wouldn't necessarily avoid snacks."

Field pointed out that the study didn't take into account exactly what girls were eating at each snack and meal time -- and that could have an important effect on how much weight they ended up gaining and their overall health.

"If you're frequently eating but what you're eating is carrots and apples, that's really different than if you're frequently eating candy bars," she said.

Source: http://bit.ly/xgbx3w

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online January 4, 2012.

The Microbiome and Disease: Gut Bacteria Influence the Severity of Heart Attacks in Rats

 

ScienceDaily

Thursday, January 12, 2012

 

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2012) — New research published online in the FASEB Journal suggests that the types and levels of bacteria in the intestines may be used to predict a person's likelihood of having a heart attack, and that manipulating these organisms may help reduce heart attack risk. This discovery may lead to new diagnostic tests and therapies that physicians use to prevent and treat heart attacks. In addition, this research suggests that probiotics may be able to protect the heart in patients undergoing heart surgery and angioplasty.

"Our discovery is a revolutionary milestone in the prevention and treatment of heart attacks," said John E. Baker, Ph.D., study author from the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. "The biochemical link between intestinal bacteria, their metabolites, and injury to the heart will reduce the risk of death from a heart attack and, coupled with the use of probiotics, will ultimately be able to improve the overall cardiovascular health of the human population."

To make this discovery, Baker and colleagues conducted experiments involving three groups of rats. The first group was fed a standard diet. The second group was treated orally with the antibiotic vancomycin in the drinking water. The third group was fed a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus plantarum, a bacterium that suppresses the production of leptin.

The group treated with the antibiotic had decreased levels of leptin (a protein hormone that plays a key role in appetite and metabolism), which resulted in smaller heart attacks, and improved recovery of mechanical function as compared to the group fed a standard diet. The antibiotic reduced total bacterial numbers in the intestines and altered the abundance of specific types of bacteria and fungi that live in the gut. Treating these rats with leptin was shown to offset the protection produced by the antibiotic treatment. The third group was fed a probiotic that also altered the numbers and types of bacteria and fungi living in the gut. Like those fed the antibiotic, these rats also had decreased leptin levels, resulting in smaller heart attacks and greater recovery of mechanical function as compared to the first group. Treating these rats with leptin also was shown to offset the protection produced by the probiotic.

"We may not be ready to prescribe yogurt to prevent heart attacks, but this research does gives us a much better understanding of how the microbiome affects our response to injury," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "Just as physicians use cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall body composition as measures of heart disease risk, we may soon evaluate our body's susceptibility to disease by looking at the microbes that inhabit the gut."

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Vy Lam, Jidong Su, Stacy Koprowski, Anna Hsu, James S. Tweddell, Parvaneh Rafiee, Garrett J. Gross, Nita H. Salzman, and John E. Baker. Intestinal microbiota determine severity of myocardial infarction in rats. FASEB J., 2012 DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-197921

Antidepressants While Pregnant Linked to Slight Risk of Lung Problem in Babies


By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, January 12, 2012

THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Women who use antidepressants called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and Celexa during pregnancy run a slight risk of having an infant with high blood pressure in the lungs, a new Swedish study finds.

The condition, known as persistent pulmonary hypertension, can lead to shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Although rare, severe disease is associated with heart failure, the investigators noted.

"Infants born to women treated with SSRIs in late pregnancy had a twofold increased risk [of] their infants having persistent pulmonary hypertension," said lead researcher Dr. Helle Kieler, head of the Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.

"The increased risk seemed to be a class effect of SSRIs, as risks for the specific SSRIs were of similar magnitude," she added.

Women taking SSRIs should be informed about the increased risk, but they should also be told that persistent pulmonary hypertension is a rare disease that affects fewer than two of 1,000 newborns, Kieler said.

"If possible, non-medical treatment for depression during pregnancy should be considered," she said. "For women where treatment with an SSRI is the only or best option, the choice of substance is of less importance."

Dr. Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at The Hospital for Sick Children at the University of Toronto and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said this finding does not prove that SSRIs cause persistent pulmonary hypertension.

"It is important that, before we scare pregnant women not to treat their depression in pregnancy, we ensure that the science overcomes its methodological limitations," he said.

"Most notably, the authors have chosen SSRIs as the potential cause for persistent pulmonary hypertension, while their results show that untreated depression can also do it," Koren said.

Based on these data, "we cannot yet conclude that use of SSRIs causes persistent pulmonary hypertension in some babies," he said.

The report was published in the Jan. 12 online issue of the BMJ.

For the study, Kieler's team collected data on more than 1 million births from 1996 and 2007 in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Among the mothers, nearly 11,000 took SSRIs during late pregnancy and about 17,000 took them during early pregnancy. Most of these women were older and smoked, researchers reported.

In addition, more than 54,000 mothers had been previously diagnosed with mental problems, but were not taking any medication.

Among the women taking SSRIs, Kieler's group looked at the use of fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and escitalopram (Lexapro).

Fluvoxamine was rarely used and none of the children with persistent pulmonary hypertension were exposed to it, the researchers noted.

Of the nearly 11,000 mothers who used an SSRI in late pregnancy, 33 babies (0.2 percent) were born with persistent pulmonary hypertension, the researchers found.

Of the more than 17,000 women who used SSRIs in early pregnancy, 32 babies (less than 0.2 percent) suffered persistent pulmonary hypertension, they added.

Among the 54,000 mothers who had previously been diagnosed with a mental problem but who did not take SSRIs during their pregnancy, 114 infants were born with persistent pulmonary hypertension, Kieler's group found.

Other factors such as Cesarean delivery or low birth weight were not associated with persistent pulmonary hypertension, they noted.

Another expert, Dr. Ilene Sosenko, a professor of pediatrics and neonatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, said this study won't change clinical practice.

"The risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension is very low and even though there is a higher risk with SSRIs, the risk remains extremely low," she said. "From a clinical standpoint, the risk is not increased to the point where it would change the pattern of the way doctors are managing their pregnant women," she said.

Managing the depression is probably more important than worrying about the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension, Sosenko said.

"Depression can impact on how the mother eats or whether she takes other drugs or whether she gets her prenatal care," she said. "Although there is a very small increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension, the benefit of remaining on SSRI medication is important."

More information

For more on depression during pregnancy, visit the American Pregnancy Association.

Sugary soda ups risky fat deposits

By Kerry Grens

Reuters Health

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking a liter of regular cola every day increases the amount of fat in the liver and in the muscles and surrounding the organs in the belly, according to a new Danish study.

That kind of fat buildup has been linked in other studies to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"This study suggests that the adverse effects of sugary beverages go beyond just weight gain or fat gain. It's the gaining of the wrong fat in the wrong places," said Dr. Frank Hu, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in this study.

The researchers, led by Dr. Bjrn Richelsen at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark asked people to drink either a liter of water, milk, diet cola or regular cola each day for six months.

The 47 people who participated in the study were all overweight or obese.

Richelsen said his team chose to study this group because they anticipated overweight or obese people would be more sensitive to dietary changes than people of normal weight.

At the end of the study the regular cola drinkers ended up with 25 percent more fat surrounding their organs, and just about doubled the amount of fat in the liver and muscle.

Such increases "are in most studies associated with an enhanced risk for developing the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes...cardiovascular diseases, and non-alcoholic liver diseases," Richelsen told Reuters Health by email.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health factors that is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The type of fat Richelsen's group studied -- called ectopic fat -- is thought to be more dangerous to people's metabolic health than "subcutaneous" fat, the kind that collects under the skin.

"It is well-established that ectopic fat is 'unhealthy' and induces dysfunction of the organs involved," Richelsen said.

Hu said the results from Richelsen's experiment complement those that have surveyed people about their soda drinking habits.

"This study provides another piece of evidence to support the recommendations for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption," Hu told Reuters Health.

Do Soda Taxes Work?

The American Heart Association recommends drinking no more than about three cans of soda a week, while young men far exceed that, with about two cans a day on average (see Reuters Health report of August 31, 2011).

Some cities and states in the United States have batted around the idea of a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to curb people's consumption.

Denmark has instituted a tax on sugary items, but Richelsen said it's not clear how it has impacted consumers.

One study at a hospital cafeteria found that raising the price of soda by 35 cents reduced sales by 26 percent (see Reuters Health report of June 18, 2010).

The current study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, did not find that the cola drinkers gained more weight than the other groups.

Richelsen said it's possible that the people reduced the amount of calories they ate or drank to compensate for the extra calories in the pop.

The researchers point out in their study that the sugar in soda from Denmark is different from most sodas in the United States.

In Europe, the sweetener is sucrose, as opposed to the high fructose corn syrup used in the U.S.

"It is quite convincing from the scientific literature that it is the fructose part of the sugar molecule...that is the primary culprit in inducing fat synthesis in the liver," Richelsen said.

Given that there is extra fructose in high fructose corn syrup, Richelsen said, soda from the U.S. could lead to more pronounced problems with fat gain.

Source: http://bit.ly/x5kwKU

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online December 28, 2011.

Does Deodorant Ingredient Affect Breast Cancer Risk?

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, January 12, 2012

THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- For several years, researchers have studied a possible link between substances called parabens -- widely used as a germ-fighting preservative in cosmetics such as deodorant/antiperspirants -- and breast cancer.

Investigators have learned that parabens, also found in some drugs and food products, can mimic weakly the action of the female hormone estrogen -- an established risk factor for breast cancer. And the fact that a disproportionate number of breast tumors occur nearer the underarm also had scientists wondering.

But now, British researchers who examined breast tissue samples from 40 women who had mastectomies have found that traces of parabens are widespread in tissues, even in the seven women who said they'd never used underarm products.

"The implication is that in these seven nonusers, the paraben measured must have come from another product or products," said Dr. Philippa Darbre, a cancer researcher at the University of Reading who has long studied the issue.

In the study, published online in January in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, Darbre and her colleagues report that one or more kinds of parabens were found in 158 of the 160 samples taken from the tissue collected from the 40 women. They found 96 samples contained all five of the most common paraben esters (forms).

The levels of paraben found were higher, by about four times, than Darbre found when she did a similar but smaller study in 2004. "Since 2004, many manufacturers (although not all) have been removing parabens from the underarm deodorant/antiperspirant products and so I was rather surprised when we found higher levels of parabens in these breast tissues (sourced after 2004)," Darbre said.

Higher levels of one form of paraben were found in the region of the breast closest to the armpit, she said, and the women had a disproportionate incidence of breast cancer in that area.

However, Darbre cautioned that the research cannot be taken to imply cause and effect.

"Although estrogen is an acknowledged component in the development of breast cancer, it remains to be established as to whether environmental chemicals with estrogenic [estrogen-like] properties contribute a functional component to the disease process," she said.

"I remain as ambivalent as ever about hounding any one chemical," she added. "I feel sure the issue is bigger than one chemical." Darbre believes the parabens found in breast tissue come from a wider range of products than underarm cosmetic products.

More research is needed, Darbre noted. Meanwhile, she suggests women cut down or cut out the use of cosmetic products as much as possible. "We simply use too much in the modern world -- too much for our body systems and too much for the wider environment," she said.

For its part, the American Cancer Society finds no clear link between deodorant/antiperspirants and breast cancer. In a posting on its Web page, it notes that, "There are no strong epidemiological studies in the medical literature that link breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, and very little scientific evidence to support this claim."

Dr. Michael J. Thun, vice president emeritus of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society, reviewed the new study findings. The fact that the preservatives were found in the majority of the breast tissue samples cannot be taken to imply they actually caused the breast cancer, he said, reiterating a point the authors also emphasized.

"Rather," Thun said, "the study merely confirms earlier, smaller studies which detected parabens in breast tissue of women with cancer. It shows that parabens can be absorbed (probably from personal care products) and the underarm deodorant is not the only source."

Other studies have found that parabens, also found in lotions, makeup and sunscreen products, can be absorbed through the skin, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the society says more and larger studies are needed to find out what effect, if any, the parabens might have on breast cancer risk.

More information

To learn more, visit the American Cancer Society .

Diet Counts: Iron Intake in Teen Years Can Impact Brain in Later Life

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2012) — Iron is a popular topic in health news. Doctors prescribe it for medical reasons, and it's available over the counter as a dietary supplement. And while it's known that too little iron can result in cognitive problems, it's also known that too much promotes neurodegenerative diseases.

Now, researchers at UCLA have found that in addition to causing cognitive problems, a lack of iron early in life can affect the brain's physical structure as well.

UCLA neurology professor Paul Thompson and his colleagues measured levels of transferrin, a protein that transports iron throughout the body and brain, in adolescents and discovered that these transferrin levels were related to detectable differences in both the brain's macro-structure and micro-structure when the adolescents reached young adulthood.

The researchers also identified a common set of genes that influences both transferrin levels and brain structure. The discovery may shed light on the neural mechanisms by which iron affects cognition, neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration, they said.

Their findings appear in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Iron and the proteins that transport it are critically important for brain function. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, causing poor cognitive achievement in school-aged children. Yet later in life, iron overload is associated with damage to the brain, and abnormally high iron concentrations have been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington diseases.

Since both a deficiency and an excess of iron can negatively impact brain function, the body's regulation of iron transport to the brain is crucial. When iron levels are low, the liver produces more transferrin for increased iron transport. The researchers wanted to know whether brain structure in healthy adults was also dependent on transferrin levels.

"We found that healthy brain wiring in adults depended on having good iron levels in your teenage years," said Thompson, a member of UCLA's Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. "This connection was a lot stronger than we expected, especially as we were looking at people who were young and healthy -- none of them would be considered iron-deficient.

"We also found a connection with a gene that explains why this is so. The gene itself seems to affect brain wiring, which was a big surprise," he said.

To assess brain volume and integrity, Thompson's team collected brain MRI scans on 615 healthy young-adult twins and siblings, who had an average age of 23. Of these subjects, 574 were also scanned with a type of MRI called a "diffusion scan," which maps the brain's myelin connections and their strength, or integrity. Myelin is the fatty sheath that coats the brain's nerve axons, allowing for efficient conduction of nerve impulses, and iron plays a key role in myelin production.

Eight to 12 years before the current imaging study, researchers measured the subjects' blood transferrin levels. They hoped to determine whether iron availability in the developmentally crucial period of adolescence impacted the organization of the brain later in life.

"Adolescence is a period of high vulnerability to brain insults, and the brain is still very actively developing," Thompson said.

By averaging the subjects' transferrin levels, which had been assessed repeatedly -- at 12, 14 and 16 years of age -- the researchers estimated iron availability to the brain during adolescence, he said.

The team discovered that subjects who had elevated transferrin levels -- a common sign of poor iron levels in a person's diet -- had structural changes in brain regions that are vulnerable to neurodegeneration. And further analyses of the twins in the study revealed that a common set of genes influences both transferrin levels and brain structure.

One of the genetic links -- a specific variation in a gene called HFE, which is known to influence blood transferrin levels -- was associated with reduced brain-fiber integrity, although subjects carrying this gene variant did not yet show any symptoms of disease or cognitive impairment.

"So this is one of the deep secrets of the brain," Thompson said. "You wouldn't think the iron in our diet would affect the brain so much in our teen years. But it turns out that it matters very much. Because myelin speeds your brain's communications, and iron is vital for making myelin, poor iron levels in childhood erode your brain reserves which you need later in life to protect against aging and Alzheimer's.

"This is remarkable, as we were not studying iron deficient people, just around 600 normal healthy people. It underscores the need for a balanced diet in the teenage years, when your brain's command center is still actively maturing. "

The findings, he said, may aid future studies of how iron transport affects brain function, development and the risk of neurodegeneration.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council; the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. The original article was written by Mark Wheeler.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

N. Jahanshad, O. Kohannim, D. P. Hibar, J. L. Stein, K. L. McMahon, G. I. de Zubicaray, S. E. Medland, G. W. Montgomery, J. B. Whitfield, N. G. Martin, M. J. Wright, A. W. Toga, P. M. Thompson. PNAS Plus: Brain structure in healthy adults is related to serum transferrin and the H63D polymorphism in the HFE gene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105543109

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Coffee Drinking Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2012) — Why do heavy coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a disease on the increase around the world that can lead to serious health problems? Scientists are offering a new solution to that long-standing mystery in a report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.

Ling Zheng, Kun Huang and colleagues explain that previous studies show that coffee drinkers are at a lower risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes cases in the world. Those studies show that people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily have a 50 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. And every additional cup of coffee brings another decrease in risk of almost 7 percent. Scientists have implicated the misfolding of a substance called human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) in causing Type 2 diabetes, and some are seeking ways to block that process. Zheng and Huang decided to see if coffee's beneficial effects might be due to substances that block hIAPP.

Indeed, they identified two categories of compounds in coffee that significantly inhibited hIAPP. They suggest that this effect explains why coffee drinkers show a lower risk for developing diabetes. "A beneficial effect may thus be expected for a regular coffee drinker," the researchers conclude.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Basic Research Program of China and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Biao Cheng, Xinran Liu, Hao Gong, Lianqi Huang, Hong Chen, Xin Zhang, Chuanzhou Li, Muyang Yang, Bingjun Ma, Lihua Jiao, Ling Zheng, Kun Huang. Coffee Components Inhibit Amyloid Formation of Human Islet Amyloid Polypeptide in Vitro: Possible Link between Coffee Consumption and Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011; 59 (24): 13147 DOI: 10.1021/jf201702h

Choose chicken over beef to cut stroke risk: study

Reuters

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

(Reuters) - While a high-protein diet may have health benefits, not all protein is equal -- eating lots of red meat raises the risk of having a stroke while poultry lowers it, according to a U.S. study.

"The main message from this paper is that the type of protein or the protein package is really important for the risk of stroke," Frank Hu at the Harvard School of Public Health said of the study, which was published in the journal Stroke.

"We have to consider protein in the context of the foods."

Hu and a team of researchers collected data from two massive health surveys that tracked nearly 130,000 men and women from roughly middle age to their senior and elderly years.

Over the 20-some years of the study, nearly 1,400 men and more than 2,600 women had a stroke.

To see what influence different types of dietary protein had on the risk of stroke, the researchers divided up the people in the study based on how much red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and other sources of protein they typically ate each day.

Men who ate more than two servings of red meat each day, which was at the high end of the meat eaters, had a 28 percent increased risk of stroke compared to men who on average had a third of a serving of red meat each day, the low end of the meat eaters.

Women who ate nearly two servings of red meat a day had a 19 percent higher risk of stroke than women who ate less than half a serving each day.

Swapping in one serving of poultry lowered stroke risk by 27 percent, a serving of nuts or fish was linked to a 17 percent drop, and a serving of dairy dropped the risk by 10 to 11 percent.

A serving of red meat was considered to be 113 to 170 grams (4 to 6 oz) of beef, or a hamburger patty. A serving of poultry was considered to be 113 grams.

People who ate the most chicken or turkey each day, about a half serving for women and three-quarters of a serving for men, had a 13 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with those who ate barely more than a serving a day.

Researchers did not prove that beef is to blame for the increased number of strokes, but Adam Bernstein, lead author of the study, said it could be that the fat and iron in red meat play a role.

An earlier study led by Susanna Larsson at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, also found that eating red meat had a link to the risk of stroke.

"I do not think that poultry has been considered as a protein source that might lower the risk of stroke. This is new," Larsson told Reuters Health in an email.

One surprise was that fish seemed to offer no protection against stroke, although Bernstein said it was possible that the benefits of fish depend on how it's served.

"There's a lot of variation in how people cook and prepare fish, and we couldn't get down to that level," he said.

Source: http://bit.ly/w2FeDQ

(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; Editing by Elaine Lies and Yoko Nishikawa)

Diet Rich in Slowly Digested Carbs Reduces Markers of Inflammation in Overweight and Obese Adults 

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2012) — Among overweight and obese adults, a diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and other high-fiber foods, significantly reduces markers of inflammation associated with chronic disease, according to a new study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Such a "low-glycemic-load" diet, which does not cause blood-glucose levels to spike, also increases a hormone that helps regulate the metabolism of fat and sugar.

These findings are published online ahead of the February print issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

The controlled, randomized feeding study, which involved 80 healthy Seattle-area men and women -- half of normal weight and half overweight or obese -- found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet reduced a biomarker of inflammation called C-reactive protein by about 22 percent.

"This finding is important and clinically useful since C-reactive protein is associated with an increased risk for many cancers as well as cardiovascular disease," said lead author Marian Neuhouser, Ph.D., R.D., a member of the Cancer Prevention Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center. "Lowering inflammatory factors is important for reducing a broad range of health risks. Showing that a low-glycemic-load diet can improve health is important for the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese."

Neuhouser and colleagues also found that among overweight and obese study participants, a low-glycemic-load diet modestly increased -- by about 5 percent -- blood levels of a protein hormone called adiponectin. This hormone plays a key role in protecting against several cancers, including breast cancer, as well as metabolic disorders such as type-2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hardening of the arteries.

"Glycemic load" refers to how the intake of carbohydrates, adjusted for total grams of carbohydrate, affects blood-sugar levels. Lentils or pinto beans have a glycemic load that is approximately three times lower than instant mashed potatoes, for example, and therefore won't cause blood-sugar levels to rise as quickly.

Study participants completed two 28-day feeding periods in random order -- one featuring high-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which typically are low-fiber, highly processed carbs such as white sugar, fruit in canned syrup and white flour; and the other featuring low-glycemic-load carbohydrates, which are typically higher in fiber, such as whole-grain breads and cereals. The diets were identical in carbohydrate content, calories and macronutrients. All food was provided by the Hutchinson Center's Human Nutrition Laboratory, and study participants maintained weight and physical activity throughout.

"Because the two diets differed only by glycemic load, we can infer that the changes we observed in important biomarkers were due to diet alone," Neuhouser said.

"The bottom line is that when it comes to reducing markers of chronic-disease risk, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Quality matters," she said. "There are easy dietary changes people can make. Whenever possible, choose carbohydrates that are less likely to cause rapid spikes in blood glucose." These types of low-glycemic-load carbs include whole grains; legumes such as kidney beans, soy beans, pinto beans and lentils; milk; and fruits such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and pears. Neuhouser also recommends avoiding high-glycemic-load carbohydrates that quickly raise blood glucose. These include highly processed foods that are full of white sugar and white flour, and sugar-sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute's Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Initiative.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

M. L. Neuhouser, Y. Schwarz, C. Wang, K. Breymeyer, G. Coronado, C.-Y. Wang, K. Noar, X. Song, J. W. Lampe. A Low-Glycemic Load Diet Reduces Serum C-Reactive Protein and Modestly Increases Adiponectin in Overweight and Obese Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.149807

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Herbal Medicines for Arthritis Not Backed by Evidence

HealthDay News

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- There is little evidence to support the widespread use of herbal medicines to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, according to a review of these products.

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that involves damage to cartilage and other structures in and around the joints, particularly the fingers, knees and hips. It differs from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an immune-based disorder.

Devil's claw, cat's claw, ginger, nettle, rosehip, turmeric, willow bark, Indian frankincense and vegetable extracts of avocado or soybean oils are all among the herbal medicines traditionally used to treat osteoarthritis.

"Unfortunately, a large number of people suffer from osteoarthritis pain," said one expert, Dr. Robert Graham, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"Current pharmacological management is largely focused upon reduction of pain and of inflammation with the use of NSAIDs [painkillers] and Tylenol, offering only temporary pain relief at the expense of known adverse effects associated with NSAID use," he added. "Patients have and will continue to use herbal and dietary supplements with hopes of finding the 'cure' for osteoarthritis pain, many times without sharing this with a conventional medical professional."

However, few studies on the use of herbal medicines for osteoarthritis have been conducted, according to the authors of the review in the January issue of the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. Many of the studies that have been carried out had design flaws and limitations, included too few patients, or weren't long enough, according to a journal news release.

The available clinical trial evidence suggests that the vegetable extracts, Indian frankincense and rosehip may be effective and produce few unwanted side effects, but more "robust data are needed," according to the journal.

Evidence in favor of the use of other herbal medicine is at best equivocal or unconvincing, the review found.

"Use of herbal supplements comes up a lot in the treatment of joint pain," said Dr. Victor Khabie, chief of surgery and sports medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital Center, in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "I have never seen a study that has convinced me that its use is beneficial."

The journal also warned that herbal medicines can interfere with other medicinal products and prescription drugs. For example, extensive use of nettle can interfere with drugs used to treat diabetes, lower blood pressure and depress the central nervous system. Willow bark can cause digestive and kidney problems.

"Herbal medicines have traditionally been used for the relief of osteoarthritis symptoms. However, there is a lack of licensed herbal medicinal products on the market for such symptoms, and none specifically licensed for osteoarthritis," the journal concluded.

"Also the efficacy and safety of such products is generally under- researched and information on potentially significant herb-drug interactions is limited," the release added.

For his part, Graham said that some patients do seem to be helped by herbal remedies.

"In some cases patients may be able to lower or stop the use of NSAIDs and to avoid the adverse effects of NSAIDs," he said. "Unfortunately, the [review] authors did not review the popular dietary supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination, which has been shown to be effective in a subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe pain.

"Although prospective studies are needed, I do believe that their use should be discussed with [patients'] physicians and physicians should consider integrating some of the more promising and/or safest herbals and dietary supplements into their standard of practice -- their patients are already doing it," Graham said.

Khabie agreed that certain herbals might seem to work for some patients, although the reasons remain uncertain. "I do have patients who tell me that various supplements have relieved their joint pain, and it is unclear whether they are responding to a placebo effect," he said. "Some herbal supplements can act as blood thinners, which could complicate upcoming surgery, so I usually ask my patients to discontinue their use two weeks prior to their procedure."

Doctors treating patients with osteoarthritis should routinely ask them if they are taking any herbal products, the journal suggested.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about osteoarthritis.

Increase Dietary Fiber, Decrease Disease

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2012) — We should all be eating more dietary fiber to improve our health -- that's the message from a health review by scientists in India. The team has looked at research conducted into dietary fiber during the last few decades across the globe and now suggests that to avoid initial problems, such as intestinal gas and loose stool, it is best to increase intake gradually and to spread high-fiber foods out throughout the day, at meals and snacks. Writing in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, the team offers fruit, vegetables, whole-grain foods, such as muesli and porridge, beans and pulses, as readily available foods rich in dietary fiber.

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage, is the general term of the non-digestible parts of the fruit and vegetable products we eat. There are two forms soluble and insoluble. Soluble (prebiotic, viscous) fiber that is readily broken down or fermented in the colon into physiologically active byproducts and gases. The second form is insoluble fiber, which is metabolically inert, but absorbs water as it passes through the digestive system, providing bulk for the intestinal muscles to work against and easing defecation.

Vikas Rana of the Rain Forest Research Institute, in Assam, India, and colleagues point out that research has shown that modern food habits have, it seems, led to an increase in the incidence of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. These are growing more common even in developing nations where a "western" diet of highly processed foods, high in sugars and saturated fats, beef and dairy products and low in dietary fiber is displacing more traditional options. The team suggests that evidence points to a loss of dietary fiber in the diet as being a major risk factor for health problems but one of the simplest to remedy without recourse to major changes in diet or the addition of supplements or so-called functional foods and nutraceuticals to the diet.

Given that dietary fiber has physiological actions such as reducing cholesterol and attenuating blood glucose, maintaining gastrointestinal health, and positively affecting calcium bioavailability and immune function, it is important for the current generation and future generations that this component of our diets be reasserted through education and information.

"Consuming adequate quantities of DF can lead to improvements in gastrointestinal health, and reduction in susceptibility to diseases such as diverticular disease, heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes. Increased consumption has also been associated with increased satiety and weight loss," the team concludes. Given the ready availability particularly in the West and in the relatively richer parts of the developing world of vegetables, fruit and other foods high in dietary fiber it is a matter of recommending that people eat more dietary fiber rather than consistently taking the unhealthy low-fiber option throughout their lives.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Inderscience Publishers, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Vikas Rana, Rakesh Kumar Bachheti, Tara Chand, Anjan Barman. Dietary fibre and human health. International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, 2011; 4 (2/3/4): 101 DOI: 10.1504/IJFSNPH.2011.044528

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Autism Gastro Problems May Be Linked to Gut Bacteria

HealthDay News

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism have bacteria in their gut that is different from the bacteria seen in kids who do not have the disorder, researchers have found.

In their report, published Jan. 10 in the online journal mBio, researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City suggested that this finding could help explain the link between autism and gastrointestinal problems, such as inflammation.

The study authors added, however, it is still unclear if these differences are a cause of autism or a result of the condition.

"The relationship between different microorganisms and the host and the outcomes for disease and development is an exciting issue," the study's editor, Christine Biron, a professor of medical science at Brown University, said in an American Society for Microbiology news release. "This paper is important because it starts to advance the question of how the resident microbes interact with a disorder that is poorly understood."

The researchers found a relatively large amount of Sutterella bacteria in 12 out of 23 tissue samples taken from the guts of children with autism. In contrast, they did not find this type of bacteria in any samples taken from children without autism who were studied for comparison.

"Sutterella has been associated with gastrointestinal diseases below the diaphragm, and whether it's a pathogen or not is still not clear," explained a reviewer of the research, Jorge Benach, chairman of the microbiology department at Stony Brook University. "It is not a very well-known bacterium," he pointed out in the news release.

The findings are significant because digestive complications can be very serious in kids with autism, contributing to their behavioral problems, the study authors noted.

The study results are also more definitive than previous studies that used stool samples, because tissue samples surgically removed from the gut are more reflective of the bacteria found in the children's intestinal walls.

While the study uncovered an association between the bacteria and autism, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, so more research is needed to explore the link between Sutterella and gastrointestinal problems in autism, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development has more about disorders associated with autism.

Diabetes Study Shines Spotlight On Lifestyle Interventions

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2012) — An Emory University study published in the January issue of Health Affairs assesses real-world lifestyle interventions to help delay or prevent the costly chronic disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans.

Researchers from Emory's Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH) systematically reviewed the published literature and analyzed 28 studies that tested adaptations of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) trial in real-world settings. Published in 2002, this major clinical trial showed that structured lifestyle programs for people with prediabetes could halve the progression to diabetes.

"Participants in the DPP trial received exercise shoes, meal replacement shakes, personal (one-on-one) coaching by degree-holding professionals (exercise physiologists, nutritionists, nurses), and gym memberships that all together cost about $1,400 per person during the first year of the study," says lead investigator Mohammed Ali, MBChB, MSc, assistant professor of global health at Emory's RSPH.

"Over the years, a number of studies have tried to adapt the program and make it more affordable. My colleagues and I scanned the literature to find all such studies in the US, and combined the data to see what kind of average weight loss benefit is possible across all of these studies as moderate (5-7 percent) weight loss was the key driver of success in the DPP trial," says Ali.

The researchers found that a year after enrollment in these lifestyle programs, the average participant had lost about four percent of baseline body weight, an amount that may offer diabetes protection. The weight loss was the same regardless of whether the program relied on higher-salaried health professionals or lower-cost lay staff who are trained to deliver healthy eating and fitness advice. The authors concluded that costs associated with diabetes prevention can be lowered without sacrificing effectiveness and that motivating higher session attendance in structured programs seemed to be the key driver of success in achieving weight loss.

Ali's study is part of a special thematic issue of Health Affairs exploring the efficacy, costs, and value of lifestyle changes and other measures to control diabetes. Commentaries and analyses by his Emory colleagues Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD, and K.M. Venkat Narayan, MD, also are featured in the diabetes issue.

According to Thorpe, chair and professor of health policy and management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, flaws in the current health care system often lead to fragmented and expensive care for chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes. His article, entitled "Building A National Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Strategy: Opportunities Provided by the Affordable Care Act," maximizes diabetes control opportunities under the ACA by focusing on three strategies: expanding the diabetes prevention program nationally; building care coordination capability by establishing community health teams; and using the Medicare teams to connect public health, prevention and treatment.

Thorpe says taking advantage of the opportunities that the ACA and the Prevention and Public Health Fund provide can significantly lower health care costs, particularly for Medicare. He says programs like the DPP can effectively and sustainably encourage lifestyle modifications that prevent diabetes, achieve better health outcomes and lower costs.

Narayan's commentary and analysis focuses on the need for major policy changes to help prevent and control diabetes. In his article entitled, "Global Prevention And Control Of Type 2 Diabetes Will Require Paradigm Shifts In Policies Within and Among Countries," Narayan says continued increases in the prevalence of and disproportionate health spending associated with type 2 diabetes underscore the need for policies focused on preventing and treating it appropriately.

Narayan, the Ruth and O.C. Hubert Professor of Global Health at RSPH, outlines four policy paradigm shifts that will be necessary to achieve that specific emphasis on type 2 diabetes: conceptually integrating primary and secondary prevention along a clinical continuum; recognizing the central importance of early detection of prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes in implementing cost-effective prevention and control; integrating community and clinical expertise and resources, within organized and affordable service delivery systems; and sharing and adopting evidence-based policies at the global level.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Emory University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

K. E. Thorpe. The Affordable Care Act Lays The Groundwork For A National Diabetes Prevention And Treatment Strategy. Health Affairs, 2012; 31 (1): 61 DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2011.1023

Too Much Vitamin D Could Be Harmful to Heart

HealthDay News

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Studies have shown that vitamin D is critical for bone health and could have a protective benefit for the heart, but new research suggests that too much of it could actually be harmful.

"Clearly, vitamin D is important for your heart health, especially if you have low blood levels of vitamin D. It reduces cardiovascular inflammation and atherosclerosis, and may reduce mortality, but it appears that at some point it can be too much of a good thing," study leader Dr. Muhammad Amer, an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

In conducting the study, published in the Jan. 15 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers examined five years of data from a national survey of more than 15,000 adults. They found that people with a normal levels of vitamin D had lower levels of a c-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation of the heart and blood vessels.

On the other hand, when vitamin D levels rose beyond the low end of normal, CRP also increased, resulting in a greater risk for heart problems.

"The inflammation that was curtailed by vitamin D does not appear to be curtailed at higher levels of vitamin D," Amer explained.

The researchers concluded that people should be aware of the potential risks associated with taking supplements, particularly vitamin D.

"People taking vitamin D supplements need to be sure the supplements are necessary," Amer said. "Those pills could have unforeseen consequences to health even if they are not technically toxic."

It is unclear why higher levels of vitamin D are not beneficial for the heart, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on vitamin D.

Cancer Cells Feed On Sugar-Free Diet

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2012) — Cancer cells have been long known to have a "sweet tooth," using vast amounts of glucose for energy and for building blocks for cell replication.

Now, a study by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere shows that lymph gland cancer cells called B cells can use glutamine in the absence of glucose for cell replication and survival, particularly under low-oxygen conditions, which are common in tumors.

Writing in the Jan. 4, 2012, edition of Cell Metabolism, Anne Le, M.D., and a team of investigators collaborating with the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, say the finding is critical for developing innovative cancer therapies because it offers "proof of concept" evidence that curbing the growth of B cell cancers can be accomplished by inhibiting a glutamine enzyme called glutaminase.

Le notes that although little is known about glutamine's role in the growth of B cell cancer, the amino acid circulates in the blood at the highest level among the 20 amino acids that do so.

The tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA or Krebs cycle) is classically regarded as a pathway for glucose oxidation. However, the experiments by Le and the team show that B cells oxidize glutamine when glucose is absent.

The study also found that when oxygen is scarce, there is enhanced conversion of glutamine to glutathione, an important agent for controlling the accumulation of oxygen-containing chemically reactive molecules that cause damage to normal cells.

When the investigators used a glutaminase inhibitor, cancerous growth of B cells was stopped in petri dishes.

"The flexibility of the TCA cycle in using both glutamine and glucose pathways may be important for cancer cells to proliferate and survive, especially under the low-oxygen and nutrient-deprived conditions often encountered in the tumor microenvironment," says Le.

Now, perhaps, scientists can exploit that survival strategy to stop cancer, according to former Johns Hopkins scientist Chi Dang, M.D., now at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "A broader and deeper understanding of cancer cell metabolism and cancer cells'ability to reprogram biochemical pathways under metabolic stress can be a rich ground for therapeutic approaches targeting tumor metabolism," he says.

In addition to Le, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, other researchers from Johns Hopkins who participated in this study include Sminu Bose, Arvin Gouw, Joseph Barbi, Takashi Tsukamoto, Camilo J. Rojas and Barbara Slusher. The Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, where Tsukamoto, Rojas and Slusher are faculty, is pursuing the development of new glutaminase inhibitor drugs.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Anne Le, Andrew N. Lane, Max Hamaker, Sminu Bose, Arvin Gouw, Joseph Barbi, Takashi Tsukamoto, Camilio J. Rojas, Barbara S. Slusher, Haixia Zhang, Lisa J. Zimmerman, Daniel C. Liebler, Robbert J.C. Slebos, Pawel K. Lorkiewicz, Richard M. Higashi, Teresa W.M. Fan, Chi V. Dang. Glucose-Independent Glutamine Metabolism via TCA Cycling for Proliferation and Survival in B Cells. Cell Metabolism, 2012; 15 (1): 110 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2011.12.009

An Apple a Day Isn't Enough: Many People Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2012) — Adults from 30 to 60 years old, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, aren't consuming the daily recommended levels of fruits and vegetables. Quebecers, however, eat more of nature's produce than their fellow Canadians.

These are some of the findings of a new Concordia University study, published by Nutrition Journal, which sheds light on who reaches in their fridge crisper often enough to gain the health benefits of a balanced diet composed of fruits and vegetables.

"People from the Atlantic to the western provinces consume fruits and vegetables less frequently compared to Quebecers," says lead author Mesbah Sharaf, a PhD candidate in Concordia's Department of Economics. "This could be due to cultural influence, since Quebec is a predominantly a French-speaking province with a long history of farming, fruits, vegetables and dairy products."

Co-author Sunday Azagba, who is also a PhD candidate in the Concordia Department of Economics, says: "This study furthers our understanding of how finances or lifestyle influence fruit and vegetable consumption to eventually target groups to promote better nutrition policies."

The researchers analyzed data collected from almost 94,000 people, aged 18 to 69 years, from the Canadian Community Health Survey. They looked at factors such as gender, education, income, marital and smoking status to reveal differences in how often people of various backgrounds consume fruits and vegetables.

The analyses revealed that people with low education and low income ate fruits and vegetables less frequently -- about 4.5 times per day. Individuals with higher education and income, for their part, ate nature's produce a little over five times per day.

"There are also significant disparities in the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption by demographics and lifestyle," Azagba says.

Men, singles, smokers, people in their 40s and households with no children, for example, reached for the fruit bowl less often. The research team also found that:

Quebecers went to the crisper more often than their counterparts in any other province. (The territories were not included).

Women tended to munch on fruit and vegetables more frequently (5.4 times a day) than men (4.5 times).

Those who have a weak social network didn't have as much appetite for fruit and vegetables as those who have strong networks of friends.

People with a higher level of education ate carrots and apples more frequently -- regardless of other demographic and lifestyle factors.

Getting the message out

Eating a daily minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables is proven to have a slew of health benefits. According to the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization, an adequate intake of farm produce reduces the risks of diabetes, strokes, obesity and high blood pressure.

Despite this evidence, the study authors found fruit and vegetable consumption for most people is below the daily recommended value. They suggest that people may be encouraged to eat more broccoli and berries by raising their awareness of the health benefits through media and community-based nutrition programs, as well as through government subsidies of such produce.

"There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to promote healthy eating behaviour; a multifaceted approach would be required to successfully address the low consumption of fruit and vegetables, especially among people from low socioeconomic backgrounds," says Sharaf.

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.

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Concordia University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Sunday Azagba, Mesbah F Sharaf. Disparities in the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption by socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics in Canada. Nutrition Journal, 2011; 10 (1): 118 DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-118

 

Monday, January 9, 2012

 

Exercise May Help Those at Higher Risk for Alzheimer's: Study

HealthDay News

Monday, January 9, 2012

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that an active lifestyle may help protect against Alzheimer's-related brain changes in people who have a well-known genetic risk factor. This factor is the e4 allele (version) of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene.

"The presence of an APOE e4 allele is the most established genetic risk factor for Alzheimer disease, with a higher percentage of individuals with Alzheimer's disease having an e4 allele in comparison with the general population," the authors write in the article published online Jan. 9 in the journal Archives of Neurology.

It's been suggested that the presence or absence of this gene variant might affect the relationship "between lifestyle factors such as exercise engagement and risk of cognitive decline and dementia," added researcher Denise Head and colleagues at Washington University, St. Louis.

They examined the association between exercise and amyloid deposits in the brain among 201 cognitively normal patients, ages 45 to 88, with and without the APOE e4 allele.

Deposits of amyloid protein in the brain have long been associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Patients with an active lifestyle had less cerebral amyloid deposition than those with a sedentary lifestyle, the study found.

The researchers conclude that the presence of the APOE e4 gene "is associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and elevated amyloid deposition." But they add that, "exercise engagement has been associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline and lower levels of amyloid deposition."

"In summary, our findings suggest that exercise at levels recommended by the AHA [American Heart Association] may be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of brain amyloid deposition in cognitively normal e4-positive individuals," they concluded.

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more about Alzheimer's disease.

B vitamins may modestly boost memory: study

Reuters

Monday, January 9, 2012

(Reuters) - Older adults who took vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements for two years had greater improvements on short- and long-term memory tests than adults who did not take the vitamins, according to an Australian study.

The benefits were modest but encouraging, said author Janine Walker, a researcher at Australian National University, of the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"(Vitamins) may have an important role in promoting healthy ageing and mental wellbeing, as well as sustaining good cognitive functioning for longer on a community-wide scale," said Walker in an email to Reuters Health.

The researchers asked more than 700 people aged 60 to 74 years to take a daily dose of folic acid and vitamin B12, or placebo pills that resembled the vitamins. The vitamin dose included 400 micrograms of folic acid and 100 micrograms of vitamin B12, and participants didn't know which they were assigned to take.

The people taking part in the study showed signs of depression, but none had been diagnosed with clinical depression, the researchers said.

"We felt that older people with elevated depressive symptoms were an important cohort to target given evidence that late-life depression is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment," Walker said.

After 12 months, there seemed to be no difference between the groups in how well people scored on mental tests, including memory, attention and speed.

But after two years, those who took the vitamins showed more, if modest, improvement in their scores on the memory tasks.

For instance, on a short term memory test, those who took the fake pills improved their score from about 5.2 to about 5.5 over two years. Those who took the vitamins increased their test scores from 5.16 to about 5.6.

Short term memory is used to dial a number someone has just told you, while long term memory comes into play when you try to call that number a day or week later.

It's not yet clear how taking vitamins might work to boost brain functioning, and not all studies have agreed on their benefits.

One idea is that the vitamins reduct the body's levels of a molecule called homocysteine, which is linked to cardiovascular disease and poor cognitive function. The thinking goes that lowering homocysteine could perhaps reduce the cardiovascular risk, and in turn affect mental functioning.

Joshua Miller, a professor at the University of California, Davis, said it's difficult to translate the memory improvement on the tests into real life benefits, with some people likely having larger memory improvements and others much less.

"For any given individual, there may or may not be an effect," he said.

"But on a population level, a small increase in cognitive function can have very real ramifications on the functioning of the population as a whole, and on the costs of healthcare."

Further tests are needed, including whether other groups of people, especially those older than people in the new study, would also benefit from taking vitamins, Walker said.

Source: http://bit.ly/yyx6YW

(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

Diet Might Have Some Effect on ADHD

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay News

Monday, January 9, 2012

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- There's limited evidence that any particular diet or supplement helps kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but at least some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help while fatty "Western-style" diets do these children no favors.

Researchers from Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago reviewed previous studies on diets and supplements that have been tried in children with ADHD. Among the diets tested: restricting sugar, which some parents believe worsens hyperactivity; avoiding food containing additives and preservatives, known as the "Feingold diet"; an "elimination diet" that avoids foods most often implicated in food allergies; and supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil capsules.

Little research supports the idea that sugar or artificial sweeteners affect children's behavior, according to the review. Nor is there much evidence from controlled trials to support the Feingold diet, which first became popular in the 1970s and advocates avoiding food that contains red and orange dyes and preservatives (including apples, grapes and lunch meats).

Yet, some studies have suggested some kids with ADHD benefit from an elimination, also known as a hypoallergenic, diet. But that typically means forgoing cow's milk, cheese, wheat cereal, eggs, chocolate, nuts and citrus foods, which can be tough on the child and on the family, said study author Dr. J. Gordon Millichap, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University Medical School and neurologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Moreover, the results of studies on hypoallergenic diets have been mixed. "We find the hypoallergenic diet might be effective, but difficult for families to manage them," Millichap said.

One study by Australian researchers suggested that kids who ate a typical "Western-style" diet that's high in fat, salt and refined sugars had a higher risk of ADHD than kids who had a healthier diet that was rich in fish, vegetables, fruit and whole grains and that contained lots of fiber, folate and omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. Roberto Lopez-Alberola, an associate professor and chief of pediatric neurology at University of Miami School of Medicine, said he strongly advocates children with ADHD following such a healthier diet and avoiding dyes, preservatives and other additives.

Though the precise biological mechanism hasn't yet been uncovered, Lopez-Alberola believes the increase in obesity rates and in ADHD are not unrelated, and unhealthy modern diets may be contributing to the problem.

"I am a firm believer that we ultimately are what we eat, and unfortunately as a result of our poor Western diet, we see this in the increase in the rate of obesity, particularly in the young population," Lopez-Alberola said. "The fast foods. The processed food. The preservative-rich foods . . . In the same way we see an impact physically, it's going to have an impact from the neurodevelopmental standpoint. It's not surprising we see a parallel in the increase in obesity and in ADHD."

Another study, conducted by researchers in England in children who were excessively clumsy -- some of whom also had ADHD -- found that omega-3 supplements didn't help with motor skills, but did seem to help with attention.

Other research has found that many kids with ADHD had unusually low levels of iron in the blood. One Israeli study found that the parents of kids given iron supplements reported less ADHD symptoms in their kids, but teachers saw no such effect.

Therein lies much of the problem with research that looks at dietary interventions for ADHD, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.

The placebo effect can be powerful. Much of the research on dietary interventions compares dietary interventions to no treatment, while there's little research that compares a diet to stimulant medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine), which have decades of research showing that they're effective in kids with ADHD, Adesman said.

"For better or worse, medications are the single most effective treatment available for ADHD," Adesman said. "We don't have data to suggest dietary interventions are any more effective than medications, and there is little, if any, data to suggest dietary interventions are as effective as medications."

The review is published in the February issue of Pediatrics.

ADHD affects an estimated 5 percent to 8 percent of school-aged children. Symptoms, which often persist into adulthood, include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity beyond what's normally seen, given a child's age and development.

Understandably, many parents are reluctant to medicate their young children, and so there's lots of interest in alternative treatments, experts said.

"We do find parents are becoming more interested in the possibility of using diets rather than, or as a complement to, medication," Millichap said.

While the first line of treatment for ADHD is medication and behavioral therapy, which uses positive reinforcement to help kids learn to control impulsivity, parents who want to try dietary interventions should be supported in their efforts, Millichap said.

"Diets can be used in the treatment of ADHD, but it's usually not a first choice with most parents," he said. "But some parents prefer it and don't like medications at all. That's one of the reasons for considering the diets. Another is if there are side effects or adverse effects from the medications. Then one might turn to dietary treatments."

Added Adesman: "Families are welcome to explore and pursue alternative approaches, but they need to recognize that oftentimes there is limited research to support or justify their use and the benefits will likely be less substantial than conventional treatment."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on ADHD.

Study: Statins linked with small diabetes risk

By Lauran Neergaard

The Associated Press

Monday, January 9, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new side effect seems to be emerging for those cholesterol-lowering wonder drugs called statins: They may increase some people's chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

A study published Monday adds to the evidence, finding a modest risk among older women who used a variety of statins.

It's a puzzling link, and specialists say people who most need statins because of a high risk for a heart attack should stick with the drugs.

"What I fear here is that people who need and will benefit from statins will be scared off of using the drugs because of reports like this," says Dr. Steven Nissen, cardiology chairman at the Cleveland Clinic, who wasn't involved with the research. "We don't want these drugs in the water supply, but we want the right people treated. When they are, this effect is not a significant limitation."

But more and more doctors are urging otherwise healthy people to use the pills as a way to prevent heart disease. For them, the findings add another potential complication as they consider whether to tackle their cholesterol with diet and exercise alone or add a medication.

"The statin should not be seen as the magic pill," says Dr. Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who led the study of postmenopausal women.

Statins are one of the most widely prescribed drugs, and among the most touted with good reason. They can dramatically lower so-called "bad" LDL cholesterol. Studies make clear that they save lives when used by people who already have heart disease.

What's debated is how much the drugs help people who don't yet have cardiovascular disease but whose chances are higher because of other factors such as smoking or high blood pressure — or diabetes. In fact, long-term diabetes is so heart-risky that the American Diabetes Association urges fairly aggressive statin use by many diabetics. For everyone else, Nissen says the general rule is statins help people who have at least a 10 percent chance of a heart attack in the next 10 years, something a doctor can calculate.

All drugs have side effects that are important to consider while deciding whether they're a good bet for an individual. Statins have long been known to cause muscle pain that on rare occasions becomes a serious breakdown of muscle that can lead to kidney failure, even death.

But whether statins can make blood sugar rise enough that someone crosses the threshold to diabetes has been confusing.

After all, some of the same risks for heart disease — such as being overweight and sedentary — also increase the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes. And Ma says too many statin users wrongly assume the pills will let them eat whatever they want.

Ma's team examined a huge government study that tracked the health of postmenopausal women for many years. They culled the records of more than 153,000 women who didn't have diabetes when they enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative in the 1990s. Just 7 percent were taking statins at the time.

Fast forward to 2005: Nearly 10 percent of the statin users had developed diabetes, compared with 6.4 percent of the older women who hadn't used the drugs at the study's start, Ma concluded. The findings were reported online Monday by the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

This is what scientists call an observational study, which can hint at a risk but can't prove it.

But it comes after a number of smaller but more precise studies — where patients were randomly assigned to take a statin or some other treatment — that also have found a link. The first to prompt doctor head-scratching was in 2008, a study of the drug Crestor. Last June, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed five additional randomized trials and concluded the increased risk was small but real for people taking higher doses of any statin.

That report calculated that one fewer patient would experience a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem for every 155 patients treated for a year — and there would be one additional case of diabetes for every 498 patients treated.

At the National Institutes of Health, diabetes specialist Dr. Judith Fradkin says statins' benefits outweigh the potential side effect, and that newly developed diabetes won't harm right away.

"The danger here is alarming people and having them go off a medication that's of proven benefit," she says.

But Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, welcomed the new study as a needed note of caution for women, saying there's less certainty about the drugs' overall effects in them. Stay tuned: Her own research aims to narrow down which statin users are more likely to experience a blood-sugar jump.

Editor’s Note: Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.

Low-Dose Aspirin to Prevent First Heart Attack or Stroke? Not So Fast

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, January 9, 2012

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- For years, people have been told that low-dose aspirin can help reduce their risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or cancer even if they are healthy. Now, a new evidence review calls this advice into question.

Low-dose daily aspirin therapy does not reduce risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to a new study in the Jan. 9 online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, experts not affiliated with the study caution that there is not a simple one-size-fits-all answer, and that anyone currently taking low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk for a first heart attack or stroke should talk to their doctor before they stop.

The analysis conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom included nine studies and more than 102,000 participants who were followed for about six years. Daily low-dose aspirin resulted in a 10 percent reduction in heart attack or stroke, mainly driven by a reduction in nonfatal heart attacks. There was no reduction in death from heart disease, stroke or cancer seen among people taking low-dose aspirin. And the review confirmed aspirin's risk for serious bleeding events.

The study only looked at aspirin as primary prevention -- preventing a first heart attack or stroke. By contrast, secondary prevention refers to staving off a recurrence or worsening of a preexisting condition such as heart attack or stroke. Individuals should still take low-dose aspirin for secondary prevention, the authors and outside experts agree.

"Taken in the aggregate, the modest benefit of aspirin on patients without established cardiovascular disease has to be carefully balanced against the excess risk caused by the therapy," said Dr. Jeffrey Berger, director of cardiovascular thrombosis at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Because aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, widely available and inexpensive, people assume there is really very little risk, and while the risk is small, the benefit in a lower-risk population is not as great as we once thought."

It comes down to weighing your risks versus your benefits, explained Berger, who was not part of the study team.

American Heart Association spokesperson Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Women's Heart Program at the NYU Langone Medical Center, agreed.

"It is very important [for patients] to talk to their doctor about whether or not [aspirin] is appropriate," she said. "If you have heart disease, prior heart surgery or chronic chest pain due to clogged arteries, this study is not about you," Goldberg stressed.

"Some people may have heart problems they don't know about or multiple risk factors where the risk of bleeding may not outweigh the benefit, so they need to work with their doctor to get this straight," Goldberg said. "Heart disease risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, [being] poor, family history of heart disease and smoking. These can add up and place an otherwise healthy individual at moderate or elevated risk for heart disease."

Also commenting on the study, Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and president-elect of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, said that the decision to start taking low-dose aspirin as primary prevention is highly individualized. But if you are already taking low-dose aspirin as primary prevention, he said, "do not stop. Talk to your doctor and at least go over the pros and cons."

Dr. Samia Mora, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote a journal editorial accompanying the new study. "For individuals without evidence of heart or vascular disease, it is an individualized decision that should be discussed with their physician or health care provider since it is a matter of weighing the risks and benefits of taking aspirin," she said.

"For healthy individuals who are at low risk for developing heart or vascular disease, there is generally little benefit from routine aspirin use," Mora pointed out.

Goldberg added: "Aspirin is so readily available and people watch commercials about how it has saved a person's life, and go to the drug store and think 'this could save my life,' but they may not have the same situation as people in the TV commercials."

More information

Are you at risk for heart disease? Find out at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Blood Thinner Linked to Higher Heart Attack Risk

By By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, January 9, 2012

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The anticoagulant Pradaxa (dabigatran) is associated with a small increase in the risk of heart attack, a new review finds.

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio looked at seven trials involving Pradaxa that included more than 30,000 patients. This process, called a meta-analysis, uses data from published clinical trials to tease out a pattern that might not show up in a single study.

The researchers found Pradaxa was associated with an increased risk of heart attack or acute coronary syndrome (heart attack or angina), compared with two other commonly used blood thinners, warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) and enoxaparin (Lovenox).

Among those taking Pradaxa, 1.19 percent had a heart attack or suffered from acute coronary syndrome compared with 0.79 percent of those taking either of the other drugs, they noted.

Although there was a 33 percent increase in relative risk for a heart attack among those taking Pradaxa, the absolute increased risk -- that is, the added risk for any one individual of having a heart attack if on Pradaxa -- was 0.27 percent, researchers said.

Pradaxa was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2010 for people with a common heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk for stroke and are often prescribed medication to prevent clotting.

Pradaxa is often prescribed as an alternative to warfarin, a medication that has been used for a long time but which can raise the risk of bleeding and is difficult to dose properly.

Pradaxa is also used to prevent blood clots in people who've had joint replacement surgery.

"For persons with atrial fibrillation, dabigatran has a favorable benefit-risk profile, but for other uses the risk of heart attack has to be taken into account," said lead researcher Dr. Ken Uchino, director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship Training Program at the Cleveland Clinic.

The report was published in the Jan. 9 online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the large study that led to the approval of Pradaxa, there was a suggestion that Pradaxa might be associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, Uchino explained.

However, the drug's benefit for patients with atrial fibrillation outweighs the risk, he said.

"The increase of [heart attack] risk associated with dabigatran is small, and the benefit in prevention of stroke among persons with atrial fibrillation is greater," Uchino said.

Why Pradaxa is associated with an increased heart attack risk isn't clear, they say. It's possible Pradaxa doesn't increase heart attack risk directly, but it may not be as effective as warfarin and aspirin in preventing heart attacks, he added.

Dr. John Smith, senior vice president for clinical development and medical affairs at Boehringer Ingelheim, the makers of Pradaxa, said that "we don't agree with the conclusion and the method used for this meta-analysis. Based on all the data, we conclude that heart attack is not an adverse consequence of Pradaxa treatment."

Another expert said that the risk of heart attack does not outweigh the benefits of the drug, especially taking the risk of serious bleeding with warfarin into account.

"I would be cautious about this meta-analysis. It doesn't convince me," Dr. William O'Neill, a professor of cardiology and executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami School of Medicine, said. "I am unimpressed by the data."

Warfarin, O'Neill added, "is a pretty lousy drug."

Although he estimated about one in 10 patients can't tolerate Pradaxa because of severe gastrointestinal side effects, "you don't have to monitor it the way you have to with warfarin. It's a big improvement over warfarin."

Dr. Jeremy Jacobs, a lecturer in geriatric medicine at Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem and author of an accompanying editorial, said the study shows the importance of continuing to track new drugs after they've been approved and placed on the market.

"The dabigatran debate is a good example which raises issues concerning post-marketing surveillance, and pharmaco-vigilance," Jacobs said. "Who takes responsibility? Industry? Independent researchers? National bodies?"

"I personally tend to favor the latter, since the stakes are very high for new drugs, and it is difficult for industry-backed research to overcome conflicts of interest that inevitably arise," he added.

As far as dabigatran is concerned, Jacobs said that physicians should be cautious, especially when prescribing it to patients with known heart disease. The issue will only be clarified as more data about the risk accumulates and how it measures up against the dangers of bleeding posed by warfarin, he said.

More information

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

To optimize exercise, heed your heart rate training zone

By Dorene Internicola

Reuters

Monday, January 9, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whether you're interested in running a marathon or staving off the chronic diseases of ageing, to reap the rewards of your efforts getting into the zone is essential.

Experts say knowing and staying within your heart rate training zone is an easy way to pace the intensity of your workout.

"Exercisers need to get to at least a moderate level of physical activity in order to reap the benefits," said Dr. Adrian Hutber of the American College of Sports Medicine. "Your goal is to get to a stage where you're fit enough to exercise within your heart rate training zone."

Your heart rate training zone, or target heart rate, is based on your maximum heart rate (MHR), which is roughly calculated as 220 minus your age.

"It's not exact but it doesn't need to be," said Hutber. "It's a really good indicator."

For moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50 to 70 percent of MHR, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vigorous exercisers should aim for 70 to 85 percent.

A 62-year-old woman has an estimated target heart rate zone of 111-134 beats per minute. An 18-year-old boy has a range of 141-172.

Science tells us you need at least 150 minutes of moderate-level physical activity per week to be healthy, said Hutber, quoting U.S. government guidelines.

Heart rate is a user-friendly way to track intensity level, according to Hutber. METS (Metabolic Equivalent of Task), which measures energy consumption, is another and VO2, which measures oxygen uptake, is a third.

"But for the public it's easier to talk about percentage of maximum heart rate," he said.

So short of wearing a heart monitor, how can you be sure you're training in the zone? Most modern treadmills, elliptical trainers, and other cardio machines will tell you if you feed it your correct age. And experts say you should.

"For the beginner who wants the most benefits and results, getting in that range is more important than worrying about calories burned," said Deborah Plitt, a trainer with Life Fitness, the equipment manufacturer.

She said the training zone is tied to age because as the heart gets older and becomes less efficient, it beats faster.

But as you become more fit your heart muscle recovers from exercise more quickly, returning sooner to the resting heart rate.

"Your resting heart rate becomes lower than it was because the same workout is getting easier," she explained. "The heart is a muscle and as it gets stronger it doesn't have to pump as many times ... It becomes more efficient."

People can check their heart rate any time simply by taking their pulse for 15 seconds and multiplying that number by four to calculate beats per minute.

A less disruptive way to check the intensity of your workout is the sing-talk test.

"It's a very approximate but very good litmus test for moderate physical activity," Hutber said. "If you're exercising hard enough that you can still carry on a conversation but you couldn't sing, that's moderate intensity. If you can't talk you're moving into vigorous."

And if you're able to both chat and carry a tune?

"Then you haven't brought your activity up to a moderate level," he said. "That shouldn't be your goal."

(This story corrects hours to minutes in eighth paragraph.)