The American Voice Institute of Public Policy presents

Personal Health

Joel P. Rutkowski, Ph. D., editor
September 6, 2004

Important Medical Disclaimer: The content displayed in Personal Health is designed to educate and inform. Under no circumstances is it meant to replace the expert care and advice of a qualified physician. Rapid advances in medicine may cause information contained here to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Personal Health assumes no responsibility for how information presented is used.



















PERSONAL HEALTH for the week of May 22-28




  1. Obesity/Diabetes Could Hit Life Expectancy –Experts
  2. Poll: Many in U.S. Underestimate Weight
  3. Weight Gain in Pregnancy Has Obesity Risk –Study
  4. Baker Turns Diet Sage to Counter Atkins
  5. High Blood Pressure Closely Related to Body Weight
  6. Even Preschoolers Should Have Their Vision Tested
  7. Screen Against the Sun
  8. Father's Smoking Ups Early Miscarriage Risk
  9. Health Tip: Pet Benefits
  10. Gene Linked to Lung Disease in Smokers
  11. Health Tip: The Scoop on Ice Cream
  12. Paxil Helpful for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  13. Why Light Up?
  14. Study Says Condoms Contain Cancer-Causing Substance
  15. Teens and Sun: An Unhealthy Love Affair
  16. Man Sues Atkins Diet Over Heart Problems
  17. Why Antihistamines Put You to Sleep
  18. Smoking Affects Entire Body – Report
  19. Figs Fight Off Food Poisoning
  20. CDC: Alternative Medicine More Popular
  21. Young Males at Highest Risk of Early Death
  22. Women in Power, Beware Heart Problems
  23. Soy May Stave Off Endometrial Cancer
  24. Study: N.J. Suicides Outnumber Homicides
  25. New Marker Found for Stroke Patients' Bleeding Risk
  26. Newborn Suctioning Linked to Later Problems
  27. Group Launches Program to Tackle Obesity
  28. Oily Fish in Pregnancy Wards Off Asthma in Baby
  29. Over-The-Counter Drug Abuse Rises in Wyo.
  30. U.S. Assigns Two Companies to Bird Flu Vaccine
  31. Panel: Count Footsteps and Calories
  32. Abused Girls at Risk of Later Eating Disorders
  33. Researchers Probe Link Between Acid Reflux and Sinusitis
  34. Gene Mutation Linked to Hereditary Type 2 Diabetes
  35. Health Tip: Loud Music Can Cause Hearing Loss
  36. Eat Less Harmful Fat, More Veggies - Diet Panel
  37. Health Tip: Fiber Facts
  38. Panel Recommends Changes to Fight Obesity
  39. Alcoholic Stepfathers Spell Trouble for Girls
  40. Allergies May All Be in the Gut, Study Finds
  41. Good Workout Works Your Brain
  42. Hepatitis C Drugs Found Less Effective in Blacks
  43. More Evidence That Alcoholism Runs in Families
  44. Childhood Cancer Treatments Raise Cancer Risk
  45. Food Poisoning Could Become Thing of the Past
  46. Wyeth Debuts Vitamins for Low-Carb Dieters
  47. Hypoglycemia Poses Risks for Diabetics
  48. Epilepsy Drug Linked to Risk of Liver Disease
  49. Blood Clot in Lung Can Cause Pulmonary Hypertension
  50. Antibiotic Use Linked to Allergies in Mice
  51. New Weapon Against Yeast Infections Found
  52. Prostate Cancer Not Rare in Men with Normal PSA
  53. Study Dents Reliability of Prostate Cancer Test
  54. Treating Arthritis Ups Employment Prospects
  55. Diet Experts Tell Fat U.S.--Turn Off TV, Eat Smart
  56. One High Blood Pressure Reading Ups Health Risk
  57. Aspirin Can Cut Risk of Some Breast Cancer –Study
  58. Researchers Link Alcohol to Seeing Movies
  59. Mold, Damp Can Cause Breathing Trouble – Report
  60. Avoiding Painful Side Effect of Diabetes
  61. Salsa Spice Fights Bacteria, Study Finds
  62. White Tea Kills More Germs Than Its Green Cousin
  63. Study: Mouth Bacteria May Defend Against AIDS Virus
  64. False-Positive Mammos More Common for Those Overweight
  65. Prenatal Drug Exposure Effect on IQ Varies – Study
  66. Poverty Link to Brain Cancer Found
  67. Fats in Early Milk Linked to Allergies in Kids
  68. Other Illnesses Affect the Course of Cancer Patients
  69. Probiotic May Block HIV from Breast Milk
  70. Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Has Lingering Cognitive Effects
  71. Antioxidants Don't Protect the Aging Brain
  72. Video Game Helps Players Lose Weight
  73. Smoking Keeps Blood Vessels Open After Surgery
  74. Physicians' Neckties May Harbor Bacteria
  75. Native American Women Suffer High Rates of Domestic Abuse
  76. Vigorous Exercise May Slow Women's Bone Loss
  77. Colon Cancer More Deadly For Blacks
  78. Breast Cancer on Rise in Men, Study Shows
  79. The Left Brain May be Your Infection Fighter
  80. Early Ear Implants Best for Deaf Children
  81. Green Tea Helps Keep Arteries Clear
  82. Kid-Food Makers Weigh Obesity Woes; Go Leaner
  83. Low Income Linked with Higher Risk of Brain Tumor
  84. High Rates of Diabetes in Asian Children in Britain
  85. Green Tea Chemical Doesn't Help Against Old Plaques
  86. Salt Getting Overlooked in Health Craze
  87. Global Health Leaders Adopt Diet Strategy
  88. Know Stroke's Warning Signs Before One Strikes
  89. What Every Diabetic Should Know About Heart Disease
  90. Protect Those Rotator Cuffs


Friday, May 28, 2004


Obesity/Diabetes Could Hit Life Expectancy –Experts


By Patricia Reaney


Friday, May 28, 2004

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Twin global epidemics of obesity and diabetes are out of control and could reduce life expectancy in the future, health experts said on Friday.

Obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes, already affects 300 million people worldwide while an estimated 194 million suffer from diabetes.

By 2025 the number of obese people is expected soar to 333 million.

"I suspect that within a short period of time we will begin to see a reduction in life expectancy because of the twin epidemics," said Professor Claude Bouchard, president of the International Society for the Study of Obesity (IASO).

He was speaking at the 13th European Congress on Obesity here, being attended by some 2,500 doctors and health experts. Professor Rhys Williams, a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), noted that a fall in deaths from cardiovascular disease in the United States is now showing signs of stopping.

He suspects it is due, at least partly, to the obesity epidemic, which is also contributing to rising levels of diabetes and is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

"The rise in Type 2 diabetes is, in great part, due to weight gain," said Professor Pierre Lefebvre, president of the IDF.

As many as 80 percent of cases of Type 2 diabetes are linked to overweight or obesity, particularly abdominal obesity. The disease was once thought to be limited to adults but obese children are now developing the illness.

In the United States, the prevalence of excess weight and obesity in adolescents has nearly tripled in the past two decades.

In 30 years time, the number of people in the U.S. with diabetes is expected to increase by 57 percent, according to Lefebvre. In some countries in the Middle East and Asia the number will double.

"We are facing a huge, huge, epidemic," Lefebvre added.

A new report on diabetes by the IDF and the IASO, released at the conference, estimated that at least half of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if weight gain could be prevented.

Even a small weight loss, of about five percent, can decrease or slow down the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other complications of the illness, such as a raised risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease and some forms of cancer.

"A slight decline can have a beneficial effect on diabetes risk," said Lefebvre,

The report described the twin epidemics as a global health crisis and stressed the importance of eating a low-fat healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.

"If left unchecked, the outlook for world health is bleak," the report concluded.

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Poll: Many in U.S. Underestimate Weight


By Will Lester

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Friday, May 28, 2004

WASHINGTON - Many Americans underestimate the seriousness of their own weight problem and give up on diets, only to regain at least some of the lost pounds, an Associated Press poll found.

Those could be among the causes of widespread weight problems for Americans that contribute to diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Those who do watch what they eat are more likely to trim fat than take the trendier approach of cutting carbohydrates.

Such issues are on people's minds with the approach of summer, when many will try to squeeze into swimsuits without wincing in front of the mirror.

In an overweight nation, just 12 percent say they are currently on diets, the AP-Ipsos poll found.

Most people who have been on diets say they've regained at least some of the weight they had lost.

"I've been up and down for many years — it is hard," said Ann Burris, a 59-year-old teacher from Tallahassee, Fla. "I've tried, and I understand nutrition, but it's a lack of self-discipline. I'm going to retire this year, and I want to try to get to a healthy weight."

Who's to blame for America's weight problem?

More than three-quarters said individuals bear responsibility for themselves, while 9 percent pointed to family and 8 percent blamed fast-food restaurants.

The AP poll found that six in 10 who qualify as overweight under government standards say they are at a healthy weight. Only one-quarter of those who are obese consider themselves very overweight, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

People are unlikely to admit the severity of their weight problems for fear of being seen in a bad light, said Dr. William Dietz of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) in Atlanta. Many also may be unfamiliar with government standards.

"There have been lots of changes in food intake — fast foods, increased portion sizes, soft drink consumption," said Dietz, director of the CDC's division of nutrition and physical activity. People also are exercising less, he added.

About two-thirds in the poll said they have tried to start regular programs of physical exercise in the last year.

When asked which health risk posed the greatest danger to Americans today, those in the AP-Ipsos poll were most likely to say unhealthy eating habits.

The poll asked people their height and weight and used a government formula to determine if they were overweight.

Forty-nine percent qualified as overweight or obese, based on their reported height and weight. However, respondents in a telephone poll could be inclined to understate their weight, and men were more likely than women to report weights that would make them officially overweight.

Only 36 percent described themselves as overweight, just over half the number considered overweight

A 1999-2000 government study of nutrition found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.

Almost one in six in the AP-Ipsos poll said being overweight is a major problem for them or someone in their family. More than half said it was at least a minor problem.

A majority, 56 percent, said they attempt to restrict fat in their diets, while 33 percent said they try to restrict carbohydrates, foods like bread and pasta. Low-carb approaches like the Atkins diet have been around for decades but have grown increasingly popular in the last few years.

Jennifer Bryan, a 36-year-old massage therapist in Coronado, Calif., said exercise is the key component since she has had to focus more on her weight in recent years.

"I'm not overweight on anybody else's standards," said the former NFL cheerleader. "I've always had a magnificent, fantastic body. But it's all about exercise."

In that group of people who have dieted in the past, nearly four in 10 said they either gained back most of the weight they lost (13 percent) or all of it (23 percent), and an additional 41 percent said they gained back some of the weight.

"My problem is that I have no approach to it at all," said Jim Lunger, a 44-year-old market researcher from Louisville, Ky. "I know it can be a health problem, but what a way to go."

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults was taken May 17-19 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

On the Net:

Ipsos News Center:

CDC obesity and weight page:

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Weight Gain in Pregnancy Has Obesity Risk –Study


By Patricia Reaney


Friday, May 28, 2004

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Women who gain more than 35 pounds during pregnancy have a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, Swedish scientists said Friday.

Expectant mothers put on an average of about 26 pounds and most of it disappears in the first year after birth.

Dr. Yvonne Linne, an obesity specialist at the Karolinka University Hospital in Stockholm, told a medical conference here that 26-30 pounds is fine but gaining more can cause problems.

"Over 16 kilos (35 pounds) you are at risk of retaining the weight and starting a trend toward obesity," she said.

Linne stressed that women should not diet during pregnancy or restrict their food intake but should eat sensibly.

She and her colleagues monitored the weight gain of 2,342 pregnant women in Stockholm and followed up their progress at one year and 15 years later.

Women who had gained less than 35 pounds were about three pounds heavier a year after the birth but those who put on more weight had retained 12 pounds at one year and weighed 37 pounds more 15 years later.

"Pregnancy is the only lifetime event where you are allowed to gain weight," said Linne.

She added that some women put on too much weight and think it will easily disappear during breastfeeding, but it usually doesn't happen.

"Our study showed there is no effect of breastfeeding on weight development," said Linne.

Research has also shown that weight gain is cumulative with each pregnancy and is highest between the fifth and sixth pregnancy, although most modern families are not that large.

About seven percent of the women at the start of the study were overweight. The number increased to 12 percent a year after the birth and rose to 31 percent by 15 years.

Women who were overweight or obese before the pregnancy maintained their increased weight after the birth.

"Women should try to maintain the lifestyle they had before the pregnancy and go back to their usual habits," she added.

Linne and her colleagues are now studying the children of the women who took part in the study to determine whether weight gain during pregnancy has an impact on them.

About 2,500 doctors, scientists and obesity experts are attending the four-day European Congress on Obesity.

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Baker Turns Diet Sage to Counter Atkins


By Ryan Lenz

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Friday, May 28, 2004

PORTLAND, Maine - A baker who lost nearly half of his customers to the low-carb craze has tapped Dan Brown's best-selling novel for an Atkins alternative called the "Da Vinci Diet" that he hopes will bring people back to bread.

A little math theory kneaded with biblical lore from "The Da Vinci Code" has transformed Stephen Lanzalotta into a dietary sage, answering the "carbohydrate question" with a series of lectures propounding a diet he has followed for decades to maintain a muscular 160 pounds into middle age.

Admittedly, he is neither a nutritionist nor a scholar — his background is in biology and biochemistry — but Lanzalotta argues you don't have to look far to see a worldwide problem with obesity, and people have been eating bread for too long for it to suddenly be what is making everyone fat.

"Human civilization and grain have ties that go way back. No municipal society evolved without grain, no matter what it was," said Lanzalotta, who kneads his dough by hand like ancient breadmakers. "Not that I believe bread is one of the most sacred foods, but it is one of the most important things we can eat."

Bread forms the building blocks of the body and, in moderation, can lead people to more stable moods, clearer thoughts, and a rock hard body, right down to the washboard stomach of a Renaissance statue, Lanzalotta said.

The Da Vinci Diet he created consists mostly of Mediterranean foods — the foods ancient thinkers and artists ate. Fish, cheese, vegetables, meat, nuts and wine, in addition to bread — none are taboo at Da Vinci's table.

Based on mathematic values used to build the pyramids — a value called Phi that scientists have since found existing everywhere in nature — the Da Vinci diet doesn't seek to change biochemistry the way the Atkins diet does.

Instead, a person can use the ratio and tailor the principles to a diet fitted perfectly to the body you want, Lanzalotta said.

The math formula at the heart of the diet works like this.

Take two numbers. Add them to get a third. Add the second and third to get a fourth. Continue until you have a string of about 10. The ratio of the last number to the second to last number is 1.618. Always.

The value known as the Golden Ratio, or Phi, featured in Brown's book has long fascinated artists, philosophers and mathematicians.

Lanzalotta believes it can be used to calculate what a person should eat in terms of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. The complicated formula he devised can help people choose the right foods without turning a finicky eye toward the bread humans have consumed through the ages.

It typically breaks down to a diet made up of 52 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, and 28 percent fat, which is fewer carbohydrates and more protein than current federal guidelines.

A little suspect? Maybe.

In his book "The Golden Ratio," Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and senior scientist on the Hubble Telescope, discusses the history of the number. But Livio questions whether a diet based on it is better for the body.

"I'm not surprised in the sense that the golden ratio has been incorporated into many things," Livio said. "But to claim that we are tuned precisely to the number, I don't think there is particularly strong evidence."

But Lanzalotta is not alone in looking for a carbohydrate considerate way to eat, said Dave Grotto, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association.

Grotto agrees with Lanzalotta's claim that most "Atkins friendly" foods on a grocery store shelf are mostly nonnutritive filler — low-carbohydrate cookies and snacks that critics describe as tasting like cardboard.

"The bakery industry has been in essence turned on its head," Grotto said. "But the truth of the matter, we eat because we enjoy the taste of food. And some of that gets lost in translation in low carb foods. Some of it is god awful."

When low-carbohydrate diets took off amid a burgeoning population, Lanzalotta was spending hours researching food, exploring radical dietary regimens, and finding ways to incorporate bread to make it healthy.

He actually understands why low-carb diets work and appreciates the discipline involved. The diet has its strong points, he said.

"I'm not suggesting that we eat more bread," Lanzalotta said. "I'm just trying to look at the problems with eating only meat."

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High Blood Pressure Closely Related to Body Weight


By Michelle Rizzo

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Being heavy goes hand-in-hand with having high blood pressure, especially for women, according to researchers.

Dr. Yehonatan Sharabi, of the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues examined data from the Young Adult Periodic Examination in Israel database of healthy young people, ages 25 to 45 years. A total of 38,558 subjects underwent periodic examinations between 1991 and 1999.

The team assessed the relationship between blood pressure and weight, taking into account age, sex, physical activity, and cigarette smoking.

As reported in the American Journal of Hypertension, they found that as body mass index (BMI) increased, so did blood pressure -- in both men and women.

The odds ratio for having clinical hypertension increased by 16 percent for each additional unit of BMI. Also, each year increase in age raised the odds by 6 percent.

"The relative propensity of men toward hypertension, typical of this age group, was less pronounced at higher BMI values," Sharabi's team reports.

On the other hand, the investigator told Reuters Health, "Young obese women loose their gender-related protective advantage in terms of the prevalence of hypertension."

People "should be aware that the deleterious effects of obesity come early on," Sharabi cautioned, and young women should be particularly aware that they are at risk for hypertension if they are overweight.

Source: American Journal of Hypertension, May 2004.

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Even Preschoolers Should Have Their Vision Tested  

By Charnicia E. Huggins

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parents need not wait until their children start kindergarten to have their eyes tested for vision problems.

Children under the age of 5 should undergo screening so that any signs of amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) or other visual impairment can be detected and possibly corrected, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The panel advises doctors to incorporate vision screening into each well child care exam or check-up. Their new recommendation statement is published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Up to 10 percent of all preschoolers have some type of visual impairment caused by refractive error (nearsightedness or farsightedness), lazy eye, crossed eyes or astigmatism.

If left uncorrected, researchers say, a condition such as amblyopia may affect a child's performance in school, learning ability and later self image. Amblyopia may also increase his or her future risk of total blindness.

Yet signs of amblyopia and other vision problems are often "very subtle," task force chair Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health (news - web sites) and Environment told Reuters Health.

"Parents of young children may not...notice any concerns," he said. If vision screening is not included in regular check-ups, parents "may not be able to detect these things," -- although Calonge suspects many doctors do already test their patient's sight.

While Calonge and the other task force members did not find any evidence to show that regular screening leads to better vision in preschoolers, they found some evidence that intense screening may indeed do the job.

In a United Kingdom-based study, infants and toddlers who underwent vision screening six times between 8 and 37 months had less amblyopia and better vision than those who were screened only once, at 37 months. Youngsters who did not pass a vision screening test were referred to a hospital for further testing and treatment.

The task force also found sufficient evidence that early treatment of crossed eyes, cataracts and other factors that interfere with normal vision may prevent lazy eye. Further, several studies have shown that up to 95 percent of people with lazy eye have better vision after treatment.

As for which screening test should be used, the task force recommends that doctors take the child's age into consideration. Specially trained individuals may be able to use automated techniques to conduct vision tests in children under age 3, for example, since that age group is more challenging to assess than the more verbal and cooperative older children.

Instead of reading letters from an eye chart, these youngsters can undergo photoscreening, which involves photography of the pupil to diagnose any vision problems, or a light reflex test in which doctors look for crossed eyes by observing the light's reflection on the cornea, to make sure it reflects in the same place in the child's left and right eye.

To detect lazy eye, doctors can perform a cover test, using one of their hands to cover a child's eye and then taking the hand away. That way they can see if and when the lazy eye realigns itself to focus on the same object as the other eye. This particular test can be performed as soon as an infant develops the ability to focus on an object, Calonge said.

Although the task force did not find any studies indicating that vision screening leads to permanent harm, they warn that potential harms may include the labeling of a child as vision impaired. Also, it may entail extra costs incurred by further screenings.

Still, they conclude, "the benefits of screening are likely to outweigh any potential harms."

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Source: Annals of Family Medicine, May/June 2004.

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Screen Against the Sun



Friday, May 28, 2004

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDayNews) --You know enough to know you need to use sunscreen or sunblock when spending a lot of time outdoors.

But as the long weekend that signals the start of the holiday season approaches, do you know how to use sunscreen correctly?

Doctors are spreading the word about how and when to use sunscreen as part of the American Academy of Dermatology's Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.

"If a person is going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 for basic protection year-round," Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, of the dermatology department at Wake Forest University, says in a prepared statement.

Sunscreens should be water-resistant so they aren't easily removed by sweating or swimming. And you need to use a sunscreen even on a cloudy day, as 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays pass through clouds.

Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplied every two hours. One ounce -- enough to fill a shot glass -- is considered enough to properly cover the exposed areas of the body.

Lips can get sunburned, too, so remember to use a lip balm that contains sunscreen.

You also should realize that sunscreens do not completely prevent UV light from reaching your skin, and that the SPF rating can be somewhat optimistic.

"Since an SPF measurement is the most protection a person can receive under the best possible conditions, many times sunscreens do not perform up to labeled SPF ratings," Draelos says. "This is due to a variety of factors, including the effects of wind, humidity, perspiration and facial movement, as well as uneven product application."

More information

The National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has more about melanoma.

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Father's Smoking Ups Early Miscarriage Risk


By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke -- such as when their husband smokes -- are more likely to miscarry during the first days of their pregnancy, new research shows.

"Women who are trying to become pregnant should be aware that passive smoking increases the risk of miscarriage," study author Dr. Xiping Xu told Reuters Health.

Consequently, women trying to conceive should also try to avoid places where people are smoking, he said. And if their significant others smoke, they should stop, Xu added.

People are generally aware of the dangers of smoking, he said, but "it's very good for the public to know that passive smoking is not good either."

Xu, at Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues followed 526 nonsmoking women in China who were trying to conceive. The team performed highly sensitive urine tests every day, which alerted them to a pregnancy only days after it happened.

The researchers asked the participants' husbands how much they smoked, and found that women whose husbands smoked at least 20 cigarettes each day were 80 percent more likely to miscarry within 6 weeks of their last periods than women whose husbands did not smoke.

Women whose husbands smoked less than 20 cigarettes per day showed a slightly higher risk of early miscarriage, as well.

Also, the wives of heavy smokers also appeared to take slightly longer to achieve a pregnancy that lasted at least 6 weeks than the wives of light or non-smokers, the authors report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

In an interview, Xu noted that some of the miscarriages occurred very early in a woman's pregnancy. Under normal circumstances, these women may have not even realized they were pregnant, thinking that the heavy bleeding accompanying the miscarriage was simply their period, he said.

Xu added that smoking may influence miscarriage risk by exerting a toxic effect on the pregnancy itself, or by disrupting the levels of crucial hormones.

"To maintain a pregnancy, you need appropriate hormone levels, and also you need a balance between all kinds of hormones," Xu said.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, May 15, 2004.

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Health Tip: Pet Benefits



Friday, May 28, 2004

(HealthDayNews) -- Pets can help build your child's self esteem and self-confidence, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

They can also enrich your child's emotional development by:

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Gene Linked to Lung Disease in Smokers


By Anthony J. Brown, MD

Reuters Health


Friday, May 28, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A form of a gene called MSR-1 seems to influence whether a smoker will develop lung problems such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, new research shows.

These lung conditions are classified under the umbrella term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which denotes problems moving air into and out of the lungs. "Clearly, the key risk factor for COPD is smoking," Dr. Jill Ohar, from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.

But only about 15 to 20 percent of smokers develop COPD, so presumably genetic factors must influence the risk, she explained.

Ohar said her team decided to look at the MSR-1 gene after they realized that it was involved in a number of activities that could influence the development of COPD.

MSR-1 sits on the surface of immune cells called macrophages where it helps them engulf noxious materials, she explained. Therefore, an altered form of MSR-1 could, in theory, lead to macrophages that are less effective at ridding the body of toxins, such as cigarette smoke.

In the new study, described this week at the 100th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in Orlando, Florida, the researchers tested for different forms of the MSR-1 gene in more then 500 adults who had smoked for at least 20 years.

"We know of 10 different (forms of) the MSR-1 gene," Ohar said. "One of these (forms)...was predictive of COPD in this group of smokers."

This variant was identified in 17 percent of smokers with COPD, much higher than the 6 percent rate seen in smokers without COPD. This means that smokers with this form of MSR-1 are nearly three times more likely to have COPD than smokers without this form, Ohar noted.

Although the findings shed light on why some smokers develop COPD, Ohar was quick to point out that MSR-1 is probably just one of many genes that affect susceptibility to the disease.

Ohar said that by providing a better understanding of how COPD arises, research like the current study could lead to new treatments for the disease.

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Health Tip: The Scoop on Ice Cream



Friday, May 28, 2004

(HealthDayNews) -- Kids love ice cream. But is a serving of the frozen treat a healthy dessert choice?

Here's the nutritional scoop, courtesy of the Texas Medical Center:

Because fat contains essential fatty acids needed for proper growth and development, it's recommended you don't restrict the fat intake of children under age 2. If your child is older than 2 years, serve low-fat and fat-free dairy treats. This can help keep your child's dietary fat intake at the recommended 30 percent of total daily calories.

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Paxil Helpful for Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Reuters Health

Friday, May 28, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A popular antidepressant, Paxil, significantly improves the overall well-being of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), researchers report.

Paxil is also known as Seroxat, and technically as paroxetine. In a statement, Dr. George Arnold of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said that the findings highlight "the benefits of this drug as a potential new and improved treatment for IBS."

Arnold and colleagues report the results of their study of patients who had IBS, but were otherwise healthy, in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Initially, 98 patients were on a low or medium fiber diet for their condition and were switched to a high fiber diet for 7 weeks. In total, 25 patients reported a good response and stayed on this regimen.

The other 73 patients and another 12 who had already been on a high fiber diet were randomly assigned to take paroxetine or an inactive placebo daily while they continued with their high fiber diet.

At the end of 12 weeks, overall well-being increased in 63.3 percent of the paroxetine patients versus 26.3 percent of the placebo patients. The improvements were seen in non-depressed as well as depressed patients.

The paroxetine patients also reduced their avoidance of food, and their functioning at work was "marginally" better. However, there were no differences between groups in symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating.

Given these findings, the researchers call for larger studies and evaluation of other similar antidepressants "to see whether they are as effective for the treatment of IBS as paroxetine appears to be."

Source: American Journal of Gastroenterology, May 2004.

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Why Light Up?



Friday, May 28, 2004

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDayNews) -- There are many variations in people's motivations for smoking, says an article in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology.

The article also highlights a new method for measuring tobacco addiction.

The new questionnaire designed to measure tobacco dependence -- the Wisconsin Inventory of Smoking Dependence Motives (WISDM-68) -- managed to identify a surprisingly wide range of reasons why people smoke.

Previous measures of tobacco dependence focused mainly on physical dependence. WISDM-68 rates smokers' responses to 68 questions in 13 areas, including emotional attachment to cigarettes, smoking to relieve stress, response to other smokers, and smoking without even thinking about it (automatic smoking).

"There is a great deal we don't know about tobacco dependence," article author Megan Piper said in a prepared statement.

"This measure helps us understand why people smoke and points us toward more individualized treatment for tobacco users," Piper said.

The article notes that components of WISDM-68 can help predict relapses among smokers who are trying to quit. Automatic smoking, smoking to alleviate stress, smoking to enhance mental activity, and being in a smoking environment are the motives most connected to smoking relapse.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has more about how to quit smoking.

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Study Says Condoms Contain Cancer-Causing Substance



Friday, May 28, 2004

BERLIN (Reuters) - Most condoms contain a cancer-causing chemical and their manufacture should be subject to greater quality control, a German scientific research institute said Friday.

The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, said it found the carcinogen N-Nitrosamine present in 29 of 32 types of condoms it tested in simulated conditions.

"N-Nitrosamine is one of the most carcinogenic substances," the study's authors said. "There is a pressing need for manufacturers to tackle this problem."

The carcinogen is thought to be present in a substance used to improve condom elasticity. When the rubber material comes in contact with human bodily fluids, it can release traces of N-Nitrosamine, the study said.

Local government officials said condom users should not stop using rubber contraceptives based on results of the study because N-Nitrosamine does not present an immediate health danger.

But Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said that daily condom use exposed users to N-Nitrosamine levels up to three times higher than levels naturally present in food.

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Teens and Sun: An Unhealthy Love Affair

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter


Friday, May 28, 2004

FRIDAY, May 28 (HealthDayNews) -- Across the country, millions of teens are counting down the minutes to summer vacation, eager to get to the beach, the river or just the backyard to soak up some rays.

What they don't often realize -- and don't want to hear -- is they're setting the stage for wrinkles and early skin cancer, maybe even life-threatening skin cancer, if they don't protect themselves from the sun's ultraviolet radiation.

Sun protection isn't a strong suit among America's teens, a new report from the American Cancer Society (news - web sites) shows. Experts fear the skin cancer epidemic, already exploding, will become even worse in the next few decades.

"Any overexposure to UV radiation during the teen period can set the stage for skin cancer later in life, compared to someone who didn't get much exposure," said Vilma Cokkinides, program director of risk factor surveillance for the cancer society.

"We haven't done well in communicating that message to kids," she added.

How bad are teens' sun habits? Dismal, according to findings in the cancer society's May 24 report, Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2004, which included many recently published studies.

Nearly three-quarters of young people reported getting sunburns during the summer months. Of those, more than one-third reported using a sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher when they burned -- underscoring the need to educate youth about reapplication intervals.

Ten percent of children aged 11 to 18 said they had used tanning sunlamps in the past year. If their parents also did, that rate rose to 29.5 percent.

Another study found less than one-third of youth aged 11 to 18 used any sun protection, such as hats, long pants or sunscreen.

More than 1 million cases of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites).

The most serious kind of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is expected to be diagnosed in 55,100 Americans in 2004. For young adults aged 25 to 29, melanoma is the most common cancer, according to the CDC.

Most likely to fall into the sun-worshipper category, said Cokkinides, are those youth who think their skin is more likely to tan and less likely to burn.

"What they need to understand, and probably what we haven't done well with in health messages, is the concern about overexposure to the sun," she said. "We are seeing skin cancers at younger and younger ages."

The lack of sun-protection habits among young people is "ubiquitous," said Dr. David Goldberg, a dermatologist and vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit educational group.

"They are not getting the message [about sun hazards], and I think the reason they are not getting it is the message is not being delivered correctly," he said.

"Kids are being told if you get too much sun you get skin cancer. That's too far down the line [to have an impact]," Goldberg said.

In his offices, Goldberg and his staff take a different approach. "If you get sunburned," he tells young patients, "it hurts, and it's painful and you don't want pain. Get too much sun, and you'll look like old people."

"Cancer to them is an elusive thing that only old people get," Goldberg added. "We focus on the pain issue and/or on the looking ugly issues."

Schools have been slow to join the effort, Cokkinides and Goldberg agreed. Policies for sun safety do not exist in most elementary, junior high/middle or high schools, according to a government survey.

Such policies work, said Cokkinides, and might include providing adequate outside shade in play areas or coaches handing out sunscreen.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is launching an awareness program in schools, Goldberg said, teaching kids to look for moles and to avoid the damaging effects of the sun, among other measures.

Goldberg does approve of "fake tans" -- those self-tanners applied by teens at home or sprayed on at salons. "Now, the fake tans look great," he said, compared to those of years past that tended to turn the skin orange. "And they won't harm your skin. The major ingredient, dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, is a colorless sugar that stains the skin darker."

Cokkinides urges parents, even those of headstrong teens, not to abandon the warning about ultraviolet radiation dangers. Keep telling the kids to wear sunscreen and to follow other habits such as wearing hats and long-sleeved clothing, she said. Remind them to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming.

More information

To learn more about skin cancer, visit the American Cancer Society and the Skin Cancer Foundation.

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Thursday, May 27, 2004


Man Sues Atkins Diet Over Heart Problems


By Jill Barton

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A businessman has sued the promoters of the Atkins Diet, saying the low-carb, high-fat meal plan clogged his arteries and nearly killed him.

Jody Gorran, 53, said Thursday that he was seduced "with a bacon-wrapped cheeseburger" to blindly follow the Atkins Diet, which also made his cholesterol soar to a risky level.

Gorran said the suit is not about money, noting he is seeking less than $15,000 in damages. Instead, he wants the court to ban Atkins diet books and products that do not have warning labels about potential health risks.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the aid of the Washington-based group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, also names the estate of the diet's late creator, Dr. Robert Atkins.

Atkins Nutritionals said it stands by the science that has "repeatedly reaffirmed the safety and health benefits of the Atkins Nutritional Approach." The company also questioned the motivation of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes a vegan diet banning meat, fish, dairy and egg products.

The Atkins Diet advocates meat, eggs and cheese, frowns on bread, rice and fruit, and allows up to two-thirds of calories from fat, more than double the usual recommendation.

Gorran said he started the diet in 2001 because his weight had risen from 140 to 148 pounds. In two months, he said, his cholesterol rose from a normal 146 to an unhealthy 230, and by October 2003, he needed angioplasty to clear his arteries.

"I came very close to dying, and this is from a diet I thought was marvelous," said Gorran.

Atkins medical director, Dr. Stuart Trager, said the cholesterol increase claimed by Gorran is "dramatically greater than what we have seen" in scientific studies.

Robert Atkins argued that carbohydrates generate too much insulin, which makes people hungrier and encourages them to put on fat. His books, including the best-selling "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution," have sold 15 million copies and attracted millions of followers.

The same advocacy group involved in the suit released details of Atkins' autopsy report in February, 10 months after he died after slipping on an icy sidewalk. The report showed Atkins, 72, had a history of heart trouble, including congestive heart failure and high blood pressure — details that stoked debate over the diet.

On the Net:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

Atkins Nutritionals:

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Why Antihistamines Put You to Sleep



Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Brain cells that contain the chemical histamine are critical for waking, says a study by scientists at the Veterans Affairs' Neurobiology Research Laboratory and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Neuropsychiatric Institute.

The study, which utilized dogs with the sleep disorder narcolepsy, found that cessation of activity in brain cells with histamine causes loss of consciousness during sleep. The findings may explain why antihistamine drugs cause drowsiness.

The researchers also found that cessation of activity in brain cells that contain the chemicals norepinephrine or serotonin causes loss of muscle tone during sleep.

The study appears in the May 27 issue of Neuron.

"Our findings greatly improve our understanding of the brain activity responsible for maintaining consciousness and muscle tone while awake," senior author Dr. Jerome Siegel, chief of neurobiology research at the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System in Sepulveda, said in a prepared statement.

"The findings should aid in the development of drugs to induce sleep and to increase alertness," Siegel said.

More information

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

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Smoking Affects Entire Body – Report


By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent


Thursday, May 27, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Smoking causes a range of diseases never before suspected, including cataracts, acute myeloid leukemia and cervical, kidney, pancreatic and stomach cancers, U.S. Surgeon-General Richard Carmona said on Thursday.

In fact, smoking affects virtually every organ of the body, Carmona said in the newest surgeon-general's report on smoking.

"We've known for decades that smoking is bad for your health, but this report shows that it's even worse," Dr. Carmona told a news conference.

"The toxins from cigarette smoke go everywhere the blood flows. I'm hoping this new information will help motivate people to quit smoking and convince young people not to start in the first place."

The report coincides with a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) showing that in 2002, 22.5 percent of U.S. adults described themselves as smokers, down slightly from 2001.

This rate of decline will not be enough to get the national smoking rate down to 12 percent, the goal set by the U.S. Health and Human Services (news - web sites) Department for 2010, the CDC said.

Smoking kills an estimated 440,000 Americans a year, Carmona said. He said men who smoke cut their lives short by 13.2 years on average, and female smokers lose 14.5 years.

Smoking costs the country $157 billion each year -- $75 billion in direct medical costs and the rest in lost productivity.

The poor and less educated continue to be the biggest smokers, and more efforts need to be directed at these groups to encourage them to quit smoking, the CDC said.

One Third Of Poor Smoke

Nearly 33 percent of adults living below the poverty level smoked, compared with 22 percent of those above the poverty level.

One-in-four men and one-in-five women said they were smokers. The CDC survey of 31,000 Americans found that 28.5 percent of those aged 18 to 24 years smoked but just 9.3 percent of those older than 65 did.

The CDC estimates that 45.8 million U.S. adults were smokers in 2002, and 41 percent said they had tried to quit at least once.

The CDC and Carmona said efforts need to be stepped up to help people kick the habit, including quitlines and assistance programs.

Carmona highlighted corporate programs such as one at Union-Pacific called "Butt Out and Breathe" that has reduced employee smoking rates from 40 percent in 1992 to 27 percent in 2003.

Some groups said the government needed to get much tougher on the tobacco industry.

"At the federal level, a good place to start would be the pending proposals in Congress to give authority to the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) to regulate tobacco just as it regulates other products," said American Heart Association (news - web sites) chief executive officer M. Cass Wheeler.

States should raise tobacco taxes and ban all smoking in public places, Wheeler added.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids agreed but was pessimistic.

"The House (of Representatives) leadership is concocting another backroom deal to protect the tobacco industry while deliberately avoiding any action that would reduce the death toll from tobacco use," said Campaign president Matthew Myers.

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Figs Fight Off Food Poisoning



Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Figs and fig extracts may be able to stop the growth of harmful food microbes such as Escherichia coli and salmonella.

That claim was to be made in a study presentation May 27 at the American Society for Microbiology's general meeting in New Orleans.

Researchers from North Carolina A&T State University sliced and blended figs into a liquid and then added strains of E. coli and salmonella to the liquid. Samples taken after 24 hours showed a reduction in bacterial growth. Liquid control samples not treated with fig juice had increased levels of bacteria.

"These findings can be utilized by the food industry in the future by adding fig extracts, its original and/or modified form, to processed foods. It's active component can also be isolated into pure forms as natural food additives into many food products," researcher Maysoun Salameh said in a prepared statement.

In some countries, figs and fig extracts have been used for many years to treat constipation, bronchitis, wounds, mouth disorders and other ailments.

In a related study also expected to be presented May 27, another group of researchers from the university will present data illustrating the antimicrobial properties of guava extract and its potential use as a food preservative, according to a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) has more about food safety.

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CDC: Alternative Medicine More Popular


By Daniel Yee

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

ATLANTA - Alternative medicine — including yoga, meditation, herbs and the Atkins diet — appears to be growing in popularity in the United States, perhaps because of dissatisfaction with conventional care, the government said Thursday.

More than a third of American adults used such practices in 2002, according to the government survey of 31,000 people, the largest study on non-conventional medical approaches in the United States.

If prayer is included, about 62 percent of U.S. adults used some form of alternative medicine.

The results seem to indicate more people are turning to alternative medicine, though the 2002 survey could not be directly compared to previous studies because of differences in size and survey methods, health officials said.

The top alternative therapies included prayer (43 percent of adults), natural products (19 percent), meditation (8 percent) and diets such as Atkins, Ornish, or the Zone (4 percent).

More people also are using natural products such as herbs or enzymes to treat chronic or recurring pain, said Richard Nahin of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites).

"Many conditions are not easily treated with conventional medicine," Nahin said. "It may be the public is turning to complementary and alternative medicine because it's not getting relief from conventional medicine."

But people should not be turning away from conventional treatments that are proven safe, said Dr. Stephen Straus, director of the alternative medicine center.

"People are making individual decisions to neglect those therapies and we have concerns about those choices," he said.

Health officials said they were concerned that 13 percent of those surveyed said they turned to alternative medicine because regular medicine is too expensive.

"It needs to be explored — we need to find out whether they were insured or not," Nahin said.

Health officials also were surprised that 6.6 percent of those surveyed used the supplement kava kava, which has been associated with liver disease.

"People make the assumption that because something is natural that it's safe," Nahin said. "But a number of studies have shown that natural products can be unsafe when used inappropriately or with other drugs."

He said people considering using alternative medicine should consult their doctor first.

On the Net:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

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Young Males at Highest Risk of Early Death


By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter


Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Want to know two of the biggest risk factors for an early death? How about being young and male.

That's the conclusion of a new study that found the risk of premature death is particularly high for males in the years surrounding sexual maturity, but it persists in later years as well.

"Being male is now the single largest demographic risk factor for early mortality in developed countries," said Daniel Kruger, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

He's co-leader of the study, which appears in the June issue of Evolutionary Psychology. He will also present the findings at the American Psychological Society annual meeting May 28 in Chicago.

The danger of being male rather than female is concentrated in the years between adolescence and adulthood, the study found. In those years, the death rate for men is nearly three times higher than for women.

But the difference exists years later. In the United States, the death rate for men up to the age of 50 is 60 percent higher than for women. Even at age 75, the male death rate is 46 percent higher. Overall, American men have higher mortality rates for 11 causes of death, ranging from heart disease to homicides to suicides, the study found.

"The magnitude of the sex difference is most starkly summarized by the numbers of deaths before age 50," Kruger said. "For every 10 premature female deaths, 16 men died prematurely."

Kruger and Dr. Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, got their numbers from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the World Health Organization (news - web sites) and the global Human Mortality Database. Data from 20 countries revealed the same pattern -- higher male mortality, with a peak difference at the age of sexual maturity.

The overall ratio of U.S. male-to-female mortality rates increased sharply at adolescence, peaking at 2.94 from ages 20 to 24 and slowly decreasing to 1.46 from ages 75 to 79, according to the study.

The highest male-female mortality ratio for a specific cause was 9.03 for suicide from ages 75 to 79, meaning nine men that age killed themselves for every woman who did. The next highest male-female mortality ratios were for homicide (5.72) and non-automobile accidents (4.91) from ages 20 to 24, the researchers found.

One reason for the difference is as old as time, Kruger said. Men --indeed, males of all species -- "compete for status and resources to attract attention and partnership of women," he said. "The higher degree of mating competition among males is the evolutionary reason why females live longer on average in most animal species."

"Not all men successfully get a partner," Kruger added. "Because of this, men are willing to take a higher degree of risk. Women's behavior is shaped by the needs of child care, so they have a decreased tendency for risk-taking."

Much could be done to reduce excess male mortality, Kruger said, mostly by persuading men to follow the rules of a healthy lifestyle -- proper diet, moderate drinking and exercise.

Some societal changes could also help eliminate the causes of early male death, Kruger said. But curiously, reducing the number of weapons in the hands of the American public probably wouldn't help, he said, because the male-female difference persists in countries where handguns aren't generally available.

The new report could also help, Kruger said. By bringing the mortality difference to public attention, "people would have a better idea of what is happening and might pay more attention to men's health issues," he said.

If male death rates could somehow be reduced to those of women, "one third of all male deaths under age 50 would be eliminated," Kruger said.

More information

The National Library of Medicine discusses the major issues of men's health.

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Women in Power, Beware Heart Problems


By Amy Norton

The Associated Press

Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The combination of heavy work pressure and high authority may take a toll on some women's heart health, new research suggests.

The study of more than 3,000 adults ages 18 to 77 found that over 10 years, women in demanding jobs with high levels of autonomy or authority had an increased risk of developing heart disease.

The same was not true of men, the researchers found, and highly demanding work in and of itself was not related to heart disease risk in either women or men.

Instead, other features of work life -- including authority over decision-making for women, and occupational "prestige" for men -- did seem to make a difference in heart health.

A number of studies have suggested high job strain may increase the risk of heart disease, but much of this research has suffered from a lack of consistency, including in the way "job strain" is defined.

One standard definition of high job strain used for years in research is that workers deal with high demands but have little control over their work or leeway for creativity.

But in the current study, high job strain defined in this way was not related to the risk of heart disease or death in either men or women.

On the other hand -- and "contrary to expectations" -- heart disease risk was elevated among women deemed to be under "active" job strain, meaning their work demands were high, but they were in positions of authority, making decisions and controlling how they worked.

These women were nearly three times as likely to develop heart disease during the study period as women with high work demands and little autonomy, according to findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The study suggests that work strain, when defined as high demand/low authority, is not a risk factor for heart disease for either men or women, explained lead author Dr. Elaine D. Eaker of Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises in Chili, Wisconsin.

Yet, she told Reuters Health, the findings show that some forms of job stress for women may well be risk factors.

For men in the study, higher income and higher job prestige were related to a lower risk of heart disease and death. Men who worked as laborers or operators had the highest rates of heart disease and death, while those in professional or managerial positions had the lowest.

But job strain -- whether in an occupation with high authority or one with little autonomy -- was not related to heart disease or death among men.

The various relationships between job characteristics and heart disease remained after Eaker's team accounted for factors such as age, smoking and high blood pressure.

Exactly why "active" job strain might be a heart risk for women is unclear, the authors say, but they speculate that societal factors are at work. This study, they point out, was begun in the 1980s, when U.S. women were first coming into high-power positions in significant numbers.

These women could be regarded as being on the "cutting edge of a social transition," according to Eaker and her colleagues.

"I do think that the shift in social roles is a very likely explanation of our findings," Eaker said.

The difficulty these women may have experienced in "breaking out of old roles and into roles with more authority," she noted, could have taken a toll on their health.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, May 15, 2004.

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Soy May Stave Off Endometrial Cancer


By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter


Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Chinese women have significantly lower rates of endometrial cancer compared with U.S. women, and soy may be the reason why, new research suggests.

Eating soy regularly reduced the risk of endometrial cancer by 30 percent to 40 percent among the women studied in Shanghai, according to a report in the May 29 issue of the British Medical Journal.

The protective effect of soy was particularly significant among obese women, who are at high risk for endometrial cancer.

"One reason for the fewer cases of endometrial cancer in Asian women compared with Western women is diet," said lead researcher Dr. Xiao Ou Shu, a professor of medicine from Vanderbilt University.

Soy foods may be protective because they are rich in isoflavones, which act like estrogen in the body but are not as potent as natural estrogen. They also contain high amounts of dietary fiber. Women who have high levels of estrogen-like isoflavones may be protected from endometrial cancer, Shu said.

Shu and her colleagues collected data on 832 Chinese women in Shanghai diagnosed with endometrial cancer between 1997 and 2001 and compared them with 846 healthy Chinese women.

The researchers measured the amount of soy foods eaten over five years and the women's current body weight.

The researchers found that women who ate soy regularly significantly reduced their risk for endometrial cancer by as much as 40 percent. Obese women saw the greatest reduction in risk, Shu said.

Shu added, however, that because the number of women in the study was small, further research in a larger population is needed to confirm this finding.

More people in the United States are eating soy foods, Shu said. And the American Heart Association (news - web sites) recommends soy to protect against heart disease.

Dr. Stephen C. Rubin, chief of the division of gynecologic oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, commented, "It's an interesting study, but not at all surprising."

However, he added, "there is not enough evidence on the subject at present to recommend to women that they increase soy intake as a means of decreasing the risk of endometrial cancer."

Endometrial cancer is an increasing problem in this country, primarily because of the epidemic of obesity -- obese women have higher levels of natural estrogen, which can increase the risk of endometrial cancer, Rubin said.

"Weight reduction is a much better strategy than increased soy intake to reduce the risk of the disease. Losing 20 to 30 pounds, for instance, would provide much more protection against endometrial cancer than a high soy intake," he said.

Dr. Debbie Saslow, director of breast and gynecologic cancers at the American Cancer Society (news - web sites), added, "This study has some value, but does not provide a definitive answer."

Because women in China eat more soy than most women in the United States, she said, "It is hard to look at this study from the perspective of women in the U.S. who wonder if they should do something differently to avoid this type of cancer."

However, Saslow added this is the fourth study that has reached the same conclusion. "They all show that women who have a high intake of tofu and other soy products tend to have a lower risk of endometrial cancer compared with women with a lower soy intake."

To reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, Saslow recommends healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising. "I don't think women should start eating tofu four times a day, but if they want to increase the amount of soy food, it probably won't hurt," she said.

However, she cautioned, women who have had breast or endometrial cancer should avoid too much soy, because it may increase their estrogen levels causing estrogen-sensitive cancer cells to become active.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) can tell you more about soy.

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Study: N.J. Suicides Outnumber Homicides


The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

TRENTON, N.J. - Nearly twice as many people kill themselves than are killed by others in New Jersey, according to a new study.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services report "Suicide in New Jersey, 1999-2000" finds that suicides far outpace homicides in the Garden State.

In 2000, the most recent year for which statistics were available, there were 560 suicides committed in New Jersey, nearly double the 288 homicides for that year, according to crime statistics compiled by the New Jersey State Police.

The report found that older white males and residents of less-populated counties are most likely to take their own lives. While suicide rates for men over age 65 are higher, women attempt suicide more often.

The report ranks suicide as the third-leading cause of death in the state for those ages 15-24.

Even so, the state's suicide rate (6.8 per 100,000 people) is significantly lower than the national rate of approximately 10.5. Only Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia see fewer deaths from suicide.

"This says to me that even though New Jersey is fortunate compared to the rest of the country in that we have low rates, we can look at the state and see some big differences spatially," said Katherine Hempstead, director of the department's Center for Health Statistics and author of the report said.

The report found that suicide happens most often in rural counties, where gun ownership is higher. Rates were highest in Warren, Ocean, Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties.

It notes that the causes of suicide are complex. Factors such as social isolation, untreated depression, alcohol abuse or job loss can play a role.

Although more than 90 percent of all suicide victims have a significant psychiatric illness at the time of death, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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New Marker Found for Stroke Patients' Bleeding Risk



Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- High blood levels of the cell-regulating protein called cellular fibronectin (c-Fn) can help doctors identify acute ischemic stroke patients who have an increased risk of bleeding in the brain.

That's the finding of a Spanish study published May 27 in the online issue of Stroke.

Bleeding is the most serious complication resulting from the use of clot-busting therapy when treating stroke patients. So being able to identify patients at risk for bleeding can help improve the risk-benefit ratio of using clot-busting therapy.

"This study demonstrates that blood c-Fn levels are significantly higher in patients in whom bleeding develops after clot-busting therapy. Therefore, it might be a useful marker of those patients who are at greatest risk of thrombolytic treatment," study author and neurologist Dr. Mar Castellanos of Hospital Universitari Doctor Josep Trueta in Girona, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues found c-Fn levels of at least 3.6 micrograms per milliliter of blood predicted the development of bleeding with perfect accuracy.

The study included 87 people with ischemic stroke treated at hospital within six hours after the start of their stroke symptoms.

More information

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

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Newborn Suctioning Linked to Later Problems


Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - When some babies are born, they require suctioning to clear the throat and stomach. Apparently, this procedure may lead to oversensitivity to intestinal upsets and functional disturbance in childhood and adolescence, according to a new study.

Dr. K. J. S. Anand, from the Arkansas Children's Hospital, in Little Rock, and colleagues in Sweden came up with the idea that "noxious" stimulation at birth may increase the long-term risk of developing mind-body disorders in later life.

To investigate the possibility, the team retrieved birth records of 1100 children who had a birth complication or experienced birth asphyxia. Overall, functional intestinal symptoms occurred more frequently among these children than in the general population, at 9.5 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

One hundred eight of the children had been hospitalized for functional intestinal symptoms, and these subjects were compared with 116 unaffected siblings.

Gastric suction at birth had occurred in 24 of the 108 cases (22.2 percent) and 13 of the 116 sibling controls (11.2 percent), the team reports in the Journal of Pediatrics. No differences in birth trauma or birth asphyxia were seen between the two groups.

Compared with controls, infants who underwent gastric suctioning at birth had nearly a three-fold increased risk of having a functional intestinal disorder later in life

"Our research suggests that exposure to adverse conditions or noxious procedures during the first few minutes or days after birth, may cause persistent changes in brain development at that time, thus creating a propensity for specific patterns of behavior and an increased vulnerability to various psychosomatic disorders," Anand told Reuters Health.

Source: Journal of Pediatrics, April 2004.

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Group Launches Program to Tackle Obesity


By Emma Ross

AP Medical Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

PAGUE, Czech Republic - Efforts to fight obesity across the world gained momentum Thursday with the launch of a professional certification program for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, and fitness trainers.

"It will be a serious vetting process to weed out the people who are serious from the amateurs — to professionalize the whole field," said Neville Rigby, director of policy at the International Obesity Task Force, which will run the initiative.

The move was announced at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague, attended by more than 2,500 scientists. The meeting is the first gathering of obesity experts since the world's health ministers on Saturday adopted a landmark World Health Organization (news - web sites) plan to tackle obesity and other diseases caused by bad diet and exercise habits.

"We are now on the move," said Dr. Philip James, president of the International Obesity Task Force, a global coalition of obesity scientists and research centers.

A mini version of the program — SCOPE, or Specialist Certification of Obesity Professionals in Europe — was unveiled last year as a pilot project .

By the end of this year, the program — the first certification effort of it's kind in the world — will expand globally and nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, dietitians and exercise and fitness professionals will also be eligible, along with other groups who intend to work in the community management of obesity.

"This will become an important qualification for those non-medical professionals who want to be involved in helping to tackle obesity and will enable the public and patients to identify whether fitness instructors, dietary advisers and others offering counseling services on obesity are properly qualified to do so," said Dr. Vojtech Hainer, president-elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

Hainer and other experts gathered in Prague called on the European Union (news - web sites) to make the battle against obesity a priority.

In most European countries, more than half of the population are overweight or obese. Countries in central and eastern Europe, which joined the European Union this month, have the worst problem.

England has the fastest growing epidemic, but the fattest of them all remains the United States, where two-thirds of people are either overweight or obese, according to the International Obesity Task Force.

In another indication that efforts to fight the flab are getting more concrete, the first Europe-wide guidelines for doctors on how to treat obesity were released at the meeting.

To reinforce the gravity of the condition, the guidelines classify overweight people "pre-obese."

Obesity is defined by a complicated formula involving height and weight, called the body mass index, or BMI. A BMI of 18 to 25 is considered healthy. People with a BMI over 25 are considered overweight and those whose BMI is 30 or more are classified as obese.

About 1.7 billion people around the world are overweight or obese. Among children, one in 10 is too fat. The prevalence is doubling every 10 years.

The guidelines advise doctors to look out for eating disorders, stress, smoking cessation and other factors that contribute to obesity and say that everything from high cholesterol to low self esteem need to be addressed.

A loss of between 5 percent and 15 percent of body weight is advised for most obese people, they say, and a loss of more than 20 percent may be considered for particularly obese people — those with a body mass index above 35.

The guidelines recommend that calorie restriction should be individualized and take into account genes, exercise and previous dieting attempts. For most people, a cut of 600 calories a day, which would trim about half a kilogram (one pound) a week, is considered sufficient and appropriate. The body's drive to maintain a high weight would overwhelm any deeper cuts than that, experts say.

Treatment for depression, anxiety and stress should be incorporated, as those conditions interfere with successful weight management, the guidelines recommend.

For people the "pre-obese," prevention of further weight gain may be an appropriate target, the guidelines say.

The Czech government became the first to launch a national obesity task force Thursday, just days after the world's health ministers agreed their global strategy to prevent obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Two main goals of the task force will be to improve diets by reducing the intake of sugary and fatty food and increasing the consumption of high fiber foods, as well as promoting more exercise.

On the Net

International Obesity Task Force:

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Oily Fish in Pregnancy Wards Off Asthma in Baby


By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Eating oily fish such as salmon or trout during pregnancy appears to help protect babies predisposed to asthma from developing the condition during their first years of life, according to new study findings reported this week.

A family history of asthma puts children at risk of developing the disease themselves, said study author Dr. Frank Gilliland. Among children of asthmatic women, those whose mothers ate oily fish regularly during their pregnancies were 70 percent less likely to develop asthma before age 5 than children whose mothers never ate oily fish while pregnant.

And the more oily fish an asthmatic woman ate while pregnant, the less likely her child was to develop asthma.

These findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish somehow dampen the type of inflammation involved in asthma in children predisposed to the condition, he explained.

"The basic idea is that (oily fish) turns down the inflammatory response," he said.

However, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles researcher cautioned that many types of oily fish contain a large amount of the pollutant mercury, which can interfere with fetal mental development.

To get around this, Gilliland said that pregnant women may be able to obtain the same respiratory benefits for their children by taking fish oil supplements, which likely contain less mercury than fish.

He pointed out, however, that researchers have not yet demonstrated that supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids carry the same anti-asthma benefits as oily fish, and pregnant women should not change their eating habits solely based on the findings from this study.

"More work needs to be done before we can get to that point," Gilliland said.

Gilliland and his colleagues presented their findings during the American Thoracic Society International Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

The researchers interviewed 691 mothers, half of whom had children who developed asthma before the age of 5. Mothers reported how often they ate oily fish while pregnant years before.

Gilliland and his team found that children whose mothers were asthmatic and ate oily fish between once a week and once a month while pregnant were 70 percent less likely to develop asthma than children of asthmatic mothers who said they never ate oily fish while pregnant.

Eating oily fish during pregnancy appeared to have no effect on the risk of asthma in children with no family history of asthma.

In an interview, Gilliland suggested that children with no family history of asthma may develop the condition via other mechanisms than children who are genetically predisposed to it, and those non-hereditary mechanisms may be less influenced by oily fish.

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Over-The-Counter Drug Abuse Rises in Wyo.


The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Abuse of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines has become one of the biggest problems in the area's schools, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration official.

Dawn Gay told about 30 parents at Central High School on Wednesday that inhalants, alcohol and marijuana are problems as well.

She said Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, is the main drug in the medications youngsters are seeking. When used as directed, it is safe and has few side effects. But misuse can cause depressant and hallucinogenic effects including blurred vision, slurred speech, involuntary muscle movement, vomiting of blood, paranoia, excessive sweating, irregular heartbeat, loss of consciousness and, rarely, death.

"Kids aren't just taking two or three of these," Gay said. "They're taking two or three blister packs, or 20 to 30 pills at a time."

Out of 12 children in Southeast Wyoming Mental Health's intensive outpatient program for adolescents, three have been abusing over-the-counter medicine addictions.

Gay outlined a variety of signs that children might be abusing drugs or alcohol, including a sudden increase in grades if the student is using a stimulant, or long periods of wakefulness, weight gain or loss, irritability, loss of interest in activities that were once important and the disappearance of valuables from around the house.

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U.S. Assigns Two Companies to Bird Flu Vaccine



Thursday, May 27, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two vaccine makers have been given contracts to make vaccines against a feared strain of bird flu virus that can kill people, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (news - web sites) said on Thursday.

It said Aventis Pasteur Inc. of Swiftwater, Pennsylvania and Chiron Corporation of Emeryville, California would use a strain of H5N1 avian influenza taken from a Vietnamese patient in February to make the vaccines.

"If a pandemic of H5N1 avian influenza were to occur in humans, production of such a vaccine on a commercial scale could be used to protect laboratory workers, public health personnel at risk and, if needed, the general public," the NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), said in a statement.

"The outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza again in Asia earlier this year, which resulted in 34 documented cases of human illness and 23 deaths, underscores the national and international imperative to develop new and improved medical tools to prepare for the threat of pandemic influenza," added NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"Vaccines are key to preparing for the public health emergency that pandemic influenza would entail."

All influenza comes to people from animals but usually with several mutations. But in 1997 a purely bird strain called H5N1 infected 18 people in Hong Kong and killed six.

Although the virus did not spread easily between humans, scientists fear a few simple mutations could turn it into a worldwide epidemic called a pandemic. It has the potential to kill millions.

"Aventis Pasteur and Chiron will each produce between 8,000 and 10,000 doses of the investigational vaccine made through established techniques in which the virus is grown in eggs and then inactivated and further purified before being formulated into vaccines," the NIAID said.

"As the world's largest producer of influenza vaccine, it is important for us to partner with the government to expand our knowledge of how to prepare a safe and effective vaccine in as short a time frame as possible," David Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Aventis Pasteur, added in a separate statement.

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Panel: Count Footsteps and Calories


By Ira Dreyfuss

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2004

WASHINGTON - Americans who plan to follow federal dietary guidelines now in development could wind up counting footsteps as well as calories.

The advisory panel working on the guidance on how to eat right — and less — also is making proposals on how to exercise more.

"The underlying theme of this entire report is to keep your energy intake within your limits," said the panel's chair, Janet King of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California.

The Agriculture Department will use the panel's work to update its familiar food guide pyramid for 2005. With about two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese, the department wants to shift the focus of the guidelines from maintaining a healthy diet to losing weight. And the panel is giving weight control a healthy dose of attention.

"Regular physical activity reduces risk for the development of chronic diseases and is essential to the maintenance of a healthy weight," the committee decided in a two-day meeting this week in Bethesda, Md.

The committee suggested at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity for health reasons. That's what the U.S. Surgeon General's office recommends. Exercise scientists say such activities could include brisk walks.

The panel also said more exercise is needed to keep weight from coming back once it's lost — possibly an hour or more of moderate to vigorous activity. Vigorous activity could include jogging. And the panel cautioned against living on the couch. It said people ought to limit sedentary activities such as watching television or videos.

But there's more to weight control than working out, and the panel also looked at dieting. It decided people should pay more attention to counting calories than to counting carb or fat grams. People lose weight when they take in fewer calories than they burn, and the origin of those calories is not the crucial part, the panel said.

Balanced eating habits are a long-standing focus of the dietary guidelines, and the panel included an acknowledgment that a wide variety of foods in the basic food groups is needed to have a healthy diet "without exceeding your daily calorie limit."

The committee said people could eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and nonfat or lowfat dairy products. It suggested people substitute some of those foods for refined grains.

The committee suggested two servings a week of fish with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon and tuna. And it suggested adults should cut their intake of salt, which is linked to high blood pressure, to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. That's about one level teaspoon, and it is 100 milligrams below the daily value that people see on the Nutrition Facts labels of food packages.

The panel also said trans fats, which are linked to higher cholesterol levels, should be kept as low as possible. It considered 1 percent of calories a good target.

Salt and trans fats are common ingredients in processed foods. But an official of the National Food Processors Association, who was attending the hearing, said the industry could live with what the panel has been doing. Companies can reformulate their products to use less salt, and might develop new products in whole grains and fish, said Regina Hildwine, senior director for food labeling and standards.

The findings so far, however, are not the last word. The panel plans to meet again Aug. 10-11 to work on turning the scientific findings in the latest session into dietary recommendations. And the recommendations must meet the approvals of the secretaries of agriculture and health and human services before they can be issued in 2005.

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Abused Girls at Risk of Later Eating Disorders


Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who were physically abused as children are twice as likely as other women to suffer from an eating disorder, new study findings show.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School (news - web sites) found that among 732 women between the age of 36 and 44, those who said they were physically abused in childhood were at twice the risk of having either a full-blown eating disorder or at least some symptoms of one.

The risk was even greater among women who were abused both physically and sexually as girls, according to findings published in the medical journal Epidemiology.

Childhood abuse has long been thought a risk factor for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Abuse can make victims feel powerless, the study authors note, and eating disorders are thought to arise, in part, from a desire to take control of one aspect of life.

Most studies, however, have focused on the role of sexual abuse in eating disorder risk, according to the Harvard team.

Dr. Bernard L. Harlow and associates surveyed women on whether they ever suffered physical or sexual abuse as children. Abuse included actual assault as well as the fear of being abused or seeing a family member victimized.

Assessments for anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder showed that overall, 102 women had some symptoms, while 49 met the criteria doctors use to diagnose the disorders.

Those who were physically abused as girls were twice as likely as those reporting no abuse to have an eating disorder or some symptoms of one. These risks were three to four times higher among women who reported both physical and sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse alone did not seem to be a risk factor, Harlow's team found. However, they point out, only a small number of women reported sexual abuse, which makes it hard to draw conclusions.

The overall findings, they say, underscore the need for doctors to screen for physical and sexual abuse for both the treatment and prevention of eating disorders.

Source: Epidemiology, May 2004.

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Researchers Probe Link Between Acid Reflux and Sinusitis


By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter


Thursday, May 27, 2004

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDayNews) -- Specialists treating acid reflux disease or chronic sinusitis

Now, scientists believe they are reaching a better understanding of the link between troubled stomachs and stuffy noses.

Acid reflux disease "is probably not the cause of sinusitis, but it may be participating in some cases," said Dr. Timothy Smith, a professor of otolaryngology and chief of rhinology and sinus surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Sinus specialists see the two conditions "intersecting fairly consistently in clinical practice," he added.

Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn and discomfort linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition characterized by frequent entry into the esophagus of harsh stomach acids. Besides being uncomfortable, GERD raises risks for more serious conditions, such as esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus and even esophageal cancer.

An estimated 34 million Americans also suffer from chronic sinusitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages. The inflammation shrinks the passages so mucus can't drain properly, causing the discomfort and infection that are hallmarks of sinusitis.

And a large proportion of sinus patients are also affected by acid reflux. However, connections between the two ailments have remained unclear.

"When people think of reflux and sinusitis, they're picturing reflux making its way up from the stomach into the nose and sinuses, but it may not be that simple," Smith said.

To start with, there's a lot of anatomical distance to cover between the two areas. In GERD, reflux splashes into the lower esophagus as it breaches a sphincter separating the esophagus from the upper stomach. But to reach the throat, reflux has to break through another sphincter located at the very top of the esophagus.

Dr. Brian L. Matthews, a professor of otolaryngology at Wake Forest University, describes this type of reflux as a less common, distinct condition called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

With GERD, reflux leaks into the esophagus at a steady rate and is most active during sleep. But in patients with LPR, the reflux occurs more sporadically, occurring maybe three or four times a day during waking hours, Matthews said.

While the esophagus is somewhat toughened to resist reflux, the throat is much more vulnerable to acid damage.

"Once reflux gets into the pharynx, it can also get into the lungs," Matthews explained. "LPR has been implicated in exacerbating asthma, since reflux is an irritant. It might also have the same effect in chronic sinusitis -- it might not be the cause, but it might exacerbate problems that are already there."

That theory could explain the results of a small study conducted in 2002 by researchers at the University of Nebraska. They reported a "modest improvement" of sinus symptoms in patients with both chronic sinusitis and reflux who took the popular anti-reflux medication Prilosec (omeprazole) for 12 weeks.

For his part, Smith believes acid may not have to reach the sinuses or even the throat to exacerbate sinus woes. Instead, GERD or LPR could trigger neurological changes linked to sinusitis.

"Even if we have refluxate only making its way into the lower esophageal region, that may set off some neural mechanism that then causes inflammatory changes in the upper aero-digestive area," he said.

Links between reflux and sinusitis become much clearer in cases involving children. In fact, reflux in children "commonly presents as respiratory-type problems," Matthews said. He explained that in children, the distance between the lower esophagus and the nasal passages is much shorter, so that when reflux occurs it is more likely that acids will reach the nasal area. The good news, however, is that children with reflux tend to outgrow the condition.

Research into links between reflux and sinusitis in adult patients remains "in its infancy," Smith said. But he's optimistic that someday it may yield clues that will "open new treatment pathways for these patients."

In the meantime, treating acid reflux in patients with chronic sinus trouble remains a good idea, experts say, since it may lower symptoms in a subset of patients plagued by both conditions.

More information

For tips on identifying and treating sinusitis, head to the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology. For information on acid reflux disease, visit the American College of Gastroenterology.

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Gene Mutation Linked to Hereditary Type 2 Diabetes


Reuters Health

Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Type 2 diabetes, in which the problem stems from poor response to insulin rather than a lack of insulin, is usually an acquired disorder often related to obesity. However, a rare form of type 2 diabetes is hereditary, and now scientists think they've uncovered the genetic culprit.

As reported in this week's issue of the journal Science, they identified a missense mutation in a gene called AKT2 in a family whose members inherited severe insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Stephen O'Rahilly, at the University of Cambridge in the UK, and colleagues had screened DNA from 104 unrelated subjects with severe insulin resistance. They found that one participant -- 34-year old non-obese women who developed diabetes at age 30 -- had a mutation in the AKT2 gene.

The researchers then identified three maternal relatives who had the same mutation and had greatly increased levels of insulin. Two of the three had developed diabetes while in their late 30s.

The mutation was not found in three other normal first-degree relatives or in 1500 Caucasian control subjects.

Animal experiments showed that this mutation impairs fat production. Consistent with this observation, the original subject with the mutation had a 35 percent lower body fat composition than other women of similar weight and height.

"These findings demonstrate the central importance of AKT signaling to insulin sensitivity in humans," the authors write, which should lead to "important clues to understanding more common forms" of diabetes.

Source: Science May 28, 2004.

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Health Tip: Loud Music Can Cause Hearing Loss



Thursday, May 27, 2004

(HealthDayNews) -- The next time you're tempted to crank up your stereo, you'd be wise to note the link

Scientists measure the levels of different sounds with a unit called the A-weighted decibel (dBA), according to Health Canada.

Here's how different volumes can affect hearing:


Reduce your risk of hearing loss by:

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Eat Less Harmful Fat, More Veggies - Diet Panel


By Charles Abbott


Thursday, May 27, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans, often guilty of overeating, should cut harmful fats, get more exercise and watch their weight under a new set of U.S. government dietary guidelines being written by nutrition experts.

A preliminary version of the rules for healthful eating, unveiled on Thursday, flatly tells Americans to cut consumption of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

The draft guidelines also warn Americans not to eat more food than they need, to "be physically active every day," and to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to reduce the chance of chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and childhood obesity is ballooning. Poor diet and physical inactivity, blamed for 400,000 deaths a year, may soon overtake smoking as the No. 1 cause of preventable death.

Panelists were unable to finish their work and set another meeting for Aug. 10 and 11 to wrap up suggestions for the new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, slated for release in January. First published in 1980, the guidelines are updated every five years to reflect new research on nutrition.

Often reduced to a handful of short reminders, such as "choose and prepare foods with less salt," or a pamphlet, the Dietary Guidelines also are a 44-page document expanding on the pithy advice.

If it follows the committee's proposals, the new edition would explicitly tell Americans to balance food intake with physical activity while eating a variety of foods. The current advice is "aim for a healthy weight."

Overeating "is a big problem right now," said panelist Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University.

A long-standing admonition to "moderate your intake of sugars" was dropped from the tentative guidelines. Panel members disagreed whether sugary drinks lead to obesity.

"I don't like targeting a single item," said Theresa Nicklas of the Baylor College of Medicine. Joanne Lupton of Texas A&M University said research found no clear result.

Carlos Camargo of the Harvard Medical School (news - web sites) said three studies showed a link. Many people do not offset calories from drinks by eating less food, he said.

Panel members settled on language saying people who consume food and beverages high in added sugar consume more calories overall and that "sugar-sweetened beverages are not as well-regulated as calories in solid form" by the body.

Experts acknowledged that the 2005 guidelines were unlikely to include any major changes.

"We're really talking about a fine-tuning of messages," said Regina Hildwine, senior director of food standards for the National Food Processors Association. "I think there are going to be some opportunities here for food companies," she said, such as those selling foods that use more whole grains.

Margo Wootan of the activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest said America's bulging waistline was the result of eating too-large portions of food, She called for easy-to-follow advice on trimming calories from the diet.

While advising Americans to eat less saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, linked to clogged arteries, the advisory committee gave a green light to omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish. Omega-3 acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

But the panel noted there should be a general warning about mercury in fish. The government said in March that shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish contain too much mercury to be eaten by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children and women who may become pregnant. Adults can eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) a week of seafood lower in mercury.

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Health Tip: Fiber Facts



Thursday, May 27, 2004

(HealthDayNews) -- While you may know how much fiber your diet should include each day, do you know the appropriate amounts for your children?

The easy way is to add five to your kids' ages. The answer will tell you how many grams of fiber they need, according to Genesys Regional Medical Center in Michigan. As an example, if your child is 7 years old, he needs about 12 grams of fiber a day.

Fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables and whole grain breads or cereals are all good sources of fiber.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Panel Recommends Changes to Fight Obesity


By Beth Gardiner

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

LONDON - Food companies should use a "traffic light" system of red, orange and green symbols to help shoppers quickly determine how healthy their products are, a British parliamentary committee recommended Thursday.

In a report that criticized the government, food manufacturers and advertisers for failing to do enough to fight obesity, the House of Commons Health Committee recommended the industry be given three years to voluntarily implement measures including the informational symbols.

If companies fail to do so voluntarily, the government should require them to, the lawmakers said.

The committee also urged companies to withdraw junk food commercials aimed at children, particularly those that use athletes and other celebrities to sell foods like chocolate and potato chips.

It said obesity rates in Britain had quadrupled in 25 years and three-fourths of adult Britons were either overweight or obese. The problem costs $13.3 billion a year, the committee said.

Under the traffic light labeling system, high-calorie foods would have a red light on their labels and healthier, low-cal options would get a green light.

The Tesco supermarket chain announced it would try the system on some foods, including snacks and prepared meals, starting in September. It said it would use the labels to warn shoppers which foods were high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar.

"We've listened to our customers, and they find current labeling confusing," said Tesco director Tim Mason. "We think the eye-catching traffic light system may be an easy, open and honest way of labeling our products so customers can see exactly what they're eating."

The health committee also said most British children were not physically active for the recommended two hours per week and suggested the target be boosted to three hours. It recommended schoolchildren's body mass index, a measure of the amount of fat on a person's body, be tested annually.

The government should launch a public education campaign to inform Britons of the risks caused by being too heavy, the report said. A Cabinet-level public health committee should be set up to coordinate anti-obesity efforts, it said.

"Our inquiry is a wake-up call for government to show that the causes of ill health need to be tackled by many departments, not just health," said committee chairman David Hinchliffe.

The committee did not recommended imposing a "fat tax" on unhealthy foods, as some in the food industry had feared.

Health Secretary John Reid said he shared the committee's worries about obesity but tackling the problem was the responsibility of individuals, and the food and exercise industries, as well as government.

"We at the department of health are already working closely with colleagues ... to encourage and enable people to eat more nutritious food and take more exercise," he said.

Industry had a mixed response to the report.

"The entire food and drink chain, from farmers to caterers, is clear that our industry must be a part of the solution," said Martin Paterson of the Food and Drink Federation. "However, the obesity problem is complex and multifaceted. There are no quick fixes."

The British Retail Consortium said the proposed labeling system would be confusing, since some foods like meat and dairy were high in calories and could appear to be unhealthy according to the traffic light.

Sue Davies of the Consumers' Association said the committee's suggestion that the food industry get three years to regulate itself voluntarily was too generous.

"We've seen little evidence to date that industry is ready to accept this responsibility," she said.

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Alcoholic Stepfathers Spell Trouble for Girls



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Girls living with an alcoholic stepfather face a higher risk of developing behavior problems than boys in the same household situation do.

That gender divergence is reported in the May issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The study also found that risk for behavior problems was higher among girls who live with an alcoholic stepfather than girls who live with their alcoholic biological father.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, interviewed 1,580 twin youths from intact families and 166 youths from stepfather families, assessing whether they suffered psychatric problems. Parents and stepfathers were interviewed about their lifetime history of alcoholism, antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, panic disorder or social phobia.

"Our findings suggest that alcoholism in a stepfather may explain a significant portion of the increased risk for conduct disorder symptoms in girls in stepfamilies, perhaps as a result of the disrupted and stressful family environment often associated with parental alcoholism," lead author Debra L. Foley said in a prepared statement.

Mothers in stepfamilies suffered more alcoholism, antisocial behavior, major depression and social phobia than mothers in intact families, while stepfathers had a higher incidence of alcoholism and major depression than biological fathers in intact families.

More information

The National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) have more about alcoholism.

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Allergies May All Be in the Gut, Study Finds



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bugs in the gut may be causing many allergy symptoms felt in the head, from runny noses to trouble breathing, researchers said on Wednesday.

And antibiotics could be to blame, the researchers told a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

The findings could help explain the puzzling rise in asthma and allergies across the developed world in recent decades, the University of Michigan researchers said.

Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they can kill beneficial bacteria living in the intestines and colon. Many doctors recommend that patients taking antibiotics also eat "live" yogurt to replace some of these helpful microbes.

"We all have a unique microbial fingerprint-- a specific mix of bacteria and fungi living in our stomach and intestines," said Dr. Gary Huffnagle, an associate professor of internal medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan.

"Antibiotics knock out bacteria in the gut, allowing fungi to take over temporarily until the bacteria grow back after the antibiotics are stopped. Our research indicates that altering intestinal microflora this way can lead to changes in the entire immune system, which may produce symptoms elsewhere in the body."

Experiments on mice suggest that altering the balance of these so-called intestinal flora can affect the immune system.

"After antibiotics changed the mix of microbes in the gastrointestinal tract, the mice developed an allergic response in the lungs when exposed to common mold spores," Huffnagle said in a statement. "Mice that didn't receive the antibiotics were able to fight off the mold spores."

Huffnagle told the meeting that if the findings also hold true in people, they could help explain why asthma and allergies are on the rise.

"Anything you inhale, you also swallow," Huffnagle said in a statement.

"So the immune cells in your GI (gastrointestinal) tract are exposed directly to airborne allergens and particulates. This triggers a response from immune cells in the GI tract to generate regulatory T-cells, which then travel through the bloodstream searching the body for these antigens."

The immune system cells then block the development of allergic responses.

When antibiotics wipe out the bacterial population in the GI tract, yeast and fungi move in and multiply.

Fungi may secrete compounds called oxylipins, which can control the type and intensity of immune responses, Huffnagle told the meeting, being held in New Orleans.

Having too many oxylipins may prevent the development of the regulatory T-cells, in turn allowing for a hyperactive immune response against allergens such as pollen, he proposed.

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Good Workout Works Your Brain



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Exercise can stimulate growth in injured neurons, claims a study in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites).

This finding may provide scientists with a better understanding of synaptic plasticity, which refers to the ability of neurons to make or sever connections based on usage.

Researcher studied the growth of sensory neurons from rats that exercised on running wheels for three or seven days compared to rats that had no exercise. They found sensory neurons taken from rats that exercised grew longer neurites (a type of extension) than sensory neurons taken from sedentary rats.

The more time the rats spent on the running wheel, the longer their neurite length.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has information about spinal cord injuries.

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Hepatitis C Drugs Found Less Effective in Blacks



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

BOSTON (Reuters) - A treatment for the liver disease hepatitis C is far less effective among African-Americans than it is among whites, researchers said on Wednesday.

According to a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), researchers from Duke University Medical Center found 52 of 100 non-Hispanic whites showed no evidence of the hepatitis virus in their blood six months after treatment with the combination of peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin.

The response rate was just 19 percent among the 100 African-American volunteers in the study.

The reason the treatment is less effective in blacks is unknown and more research is necessary, said Andrew Muir, the study's chief author.

He said African-American patients should be warned that the drugs may not be effective, but they should continue to be considered for treatment.

Nearly all the volunteers in the study suffered from the most common form of hepatitis C, one that is difficult to treat.

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More Evidence That Alcoholism Runs in Families



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- A gene linked to alcohol dependency has been identified by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

They found laboratory mice with a deficiency in the CREB gene consumed excessive amounts of alcohol. The mice preferred ethanol to water and were highly anxious while doing maze tests.

The CREB gene produces a protein that regulates brain function during development and learning.

"This is the first direct evidence that a deficiency in the CREB gene is associated with anxiety and alcohol-drinking behaviors," Subhash Pandey, director of neuroscience alcoholism research at the UIC College of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Pandey suggested the mice with the CREB gene deficiency preferred ethanol to water because the ethanol reduced their anxiety, a situation often found in humans.

"Some 30 to 70 percent of alcoholics are reported to suffer from anxiety and depression. Drinking is a way for these individuals to self-medicate," Pandey said.

The study appears in the May 26 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians (news - web sites) has more about alcohol abuse.

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Childhood Cancer Treatments Raise Cancer Risk


Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The radiation and drugs that are given to children with cancer may raise their risk of later developing soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer involving tissues like fat and muscle.

Soft tissue sarcoma is one of the most common new cancers to appear in teenagers or young adults who've battled another cancer during childhood, according to the report in the International Journal of Cancer. However, the risk factors for these second cancers remain unclear.

To identify these risk factors, Dr. Florent de Vathaire, from Gustave Roussy Institute, Villejuif, France and colleagues analyzed data from 4400 patients who survived a first cancer during childhood.

Sixteen soft tissue sarcomas were observed at least three years after diagnosis of the first cancer, the authors report, for an overall rate of 0.6 percent. Although this rate is very low, it is 54 times higher than that seen in the general population.

Fourteen of the 16 sarcomas occurred in or close to where radiation was given for the first cancer, the report indicates, and the risk of soft tissue sarcoma as a second malignant neoplasm increased as the dose of radiation to the site increased. In addition, treatment with a drug called procarbazine seemed to raise the risk of sarcoma.

"The association of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which is responsible for most of the soft tissue sarcomas, is also responsible for the increase in survival of childhood cancer," de Vathaire told Reuters Health. This means that to decrease the very low risk of sarcomas, one would have to stop therapies that are proven to increase survival.

Nevertheless, de Vathaire said, the results suggest that the risk of sarcoma could be reduced by limiting the exposure of healthy tissues to high doses of radiation.

Source: International Journal of Cancer, May 2004.

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Food Poisoning Could Become Thing of the Past


By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Imagine the day when you can eat any food you like anywhere without worrying about food poisoning.

That day may be closer than you think.

Researchers have apparently made headway in developing various vaccines against foodborne illnesses. Their findings were detailed this week at several presentations at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in New Orleans.

"What we've developed is sort of a versatile vaccine-delivery system that you could plug in any antigen of interest for any organism that you're interested in developing a vaccine to," said John Gunn, lead author of one of the papers and an associate professor at the Center for Microbial Interface Biology at Ohio State University.

An antigen provokes the immune system to produce antibodies against it.

The paper Gunn presented showed that one vaccine conferred 100 percent protection against the bacteria salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in mice for six months.

In the future, he added, "we hope to be able to load up multiple antigens in the system so that one vaccine would be protective against a number of different organisms."

In this case, Gunn and his colleagues used modified salmonella bacteria to deliver a protective antigen for L. monocytogenes. "We cloned that into the vaccine-delivery system so it's salmonella expressing this one protein from listeria," Gunn explained.

The salmonella was engineered so it was missing genes needed to make and transport a certain amino acid. "It's sort of crippled unless you give it this amino acid," Gunn said. "It can't obtain the amino acid in the host so it dies after it goes through the intestine. We want it to die and not cause any diseases but we want it to survive long enough to deliver antigens to the immune system."

The next step would be to test the vaccine in primates and, if all goes well, in humans.

Another group of researchers is working on an edible vaccine against a form of Escherichia coli.

There may be some public policy implications to these advances, warned other experts.

"The opportunity to protect people from a foodborne agent by immunizing them against the agent decreases societal insistence that food products themselves be pure," said Dr. Robert Sprinkle, an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and editor-in-chief of Politics and the Life Sciences. "In other words, if everyone's immune, then do we really need to pay so much attention and spend so much money eliminating a particular organism from food products themselves?"

The answer appears to be yes. The issue, Sprinkle pointed out, is that no immunization program can expect to be universally successful. You will always have people who don't "take" to the vaccine, who refuse to get it for whatever reason or who are simply overlooked.

"If you rely on vaccination to deal with an industrial hygiene problem then you're going to protect many people very well but other people will not be protected at all so you would then tend to concentrate difficulties," Sprinkle said. "If you come to rely on vaccination of the population rather than maintenance of strict hygiene standards in the food industry, then any vulnerable person might actually be at increased risk."

"This policy concern is not an argument against pursuing this very promising research, but it is a caution and it's one that there are analogies elsewhere in food policy these days," he continued.

More information

The U.S. government has information on food safety and on "Bad Bugs".

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Wyeth Debuts Vitamins for Low-Carb Dieters



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wyeth, the maker of Centrum vitamins, is joining the low-carb diet craze.

The company said Wednesday it is introducing Centrum Carb Assist, a multivitamin for people that are on diets that restrict starches, pasta and other carbohydrates, such as the Atkins Diet.

"By severely limiting -- or completely cutting -- carbohydrates from their diets, many people may not be getting the full complement of nutrients required for optimal health," said Andy Davis, senior vice president for Wyeth Consumer Healthcare.

Wyeth, a drug maker based in Madison, New Jersey, said the low-carb diets may not provide enough folic acid, which is found in whole wheat bread, leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds, in the diet. A lack of folic acid in a pregnant woman's diet can lead to birth defects.

Wyeth cited an Opinion Dynamics Corp. poll that 26 million Americans are following low-carbohydrate diets. Restaurants have capitalized on the craze by featuring low-carb foods on the menus. The low-carb craze has been blamed for weak quarterly results at General Mills Inc. and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.

Centrum Carb Assist is formulated with high levels of the B vitamins -- niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12 -- as well as the antioxidants selenium, manganese, and vitamins C, D and E. It also has 100 percent recommended daily requirements of iron, zinc and copper.

Several studies presented at the American Heart Association (news - web sites) meeting in March showed that Americans eat too much, their diets are too high in fat and they do not get enough high fiber foods, calling into question whether the low-carb diets work.

However, two studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month showed faster weight loss in the short term and greater improvements in blood fat levels compared with conventional low-fat diets, according to the Web Site (

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Hypoglycemia Poses Risks for Diabetics

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) --Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a relatively common side effect of treating type 1 or severe type 2 diabetes with insulin.

The biggest problem is that after hypoglycemia occurs once, the warning signs that normally signal impending low blood sugar are blunted, making people unaware that it's recurring.

In a review article in the May 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), Dr. Philip Cryer, a professor of medicine from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, explained that "hypoglycemia unawareness" occurs because even one episode of hypoglycemia reduces the body's normal defenses against hypoglycemia. This sets up a vicious cycle that can be hard for someone with diabetes to break out of without careful monitoring.

"While there have been steady advances in the management of diabetes, with type 1 diabetes, hypoglycemia is a fact of life," Cryer said.

That's because people with type 1 or severe type 2 diabetes must take insulin to lower their blood sugar, because their bodies can no longer do so on their own. If blood sugar isn't sufficiently controlled, numerous serious complications can occur, such as blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.

But if blood sugar is lowered too much, hypoglycemia results. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include heart palpitations, sweating, hunger, confusion, abnormal behavior and visual disturbances. Left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause a loss of consciousness because the brain needs a constant supply of glucose and can't function properly without it.

Treatment for hypoglycemia is simple, however. Most people with diabetes know to carry glucose tablets or a sweet snack that they can eat quickly to raise their blood sugar if they feel it dropping.

In his article, Cryer explained that once hypoglycemia has occurred, the body reduces the release of the hormone epinephrine during subsequent episodes. This reduces the symptoms that a person with low blood sugar will feel.

Cryer also said that a recent episode of hypoglycemia reduces cognitive function, making it less likely that the person with diabetes can recognize symptoms of low blood sugar.

Fortunately, with careful monitoring, diabetics can break the cycle. According to the article, after two to three weeks with no hypoglycemic episodes, you can improve your awareness of the condition.

"Frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose can help prevent hypoglycemia," Cryer said. Along with regular monitoring, people with diabetes should also check their blood sugar to confirm it actually is low before treating hypoglycemia.

Cryer also noted two special situations where hypoglycemia occurs --during and after exercise and while sleeping.

"If blood sugar is well controlled and you exercise, it can go down even further," Cryer said. He added that while hypoglycemia can occur during exercise, it also can strike hours later and people with diabetes need to be aware of this.

"Sleep does two things to further reduce defenses against hypoglycemia," Cryer said. While sleeping, there's a reduced epinephrine response, which is normally lower in people with diabetes already. Also, diabetics are much less likely to be aroused from sleep by hypoglycemia, he said.

Dr. Bantwal Suresh Baliga, chief of clinical diabetes in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said anyone newly diagnosed with diabetes should undergo diabetes education with a diabetes nurse educator.

Baliga said a nurse educator will teach diabetics strategies for avoiding hypoglycemia. For example, by eating a snack with protein in it at bedtime, you can often prevent hypoglycemia while sleeping. During the day, some people need to have a small snack between meals to keep their blood sugar from dropping too low, he said.

"The gold standard of diabetes treatment is not having hypoglycemic episodes," said Baliga. "Even one episode of hypoglycemia impairs the ability to recognize future episodes."

Like Cryer, Baliga said the best way to prevent hypoglycemia is by monitoring your blood sugar carefully. But, he noted, many people don't like to do this because it requires drawing a small amount of blood from one of the fingers.

More information

To learn more about hypoglycemia and diabetes, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases or the National Library of Medicine.

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Epilepsy Drug Linked to Risk of Liver Disease

Reuters Health


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The results of a small study confirm previous findings that treatment with the anti-epilepsy drug valproate tends to increase body weight. The results also show that patients treated with the drug appear to have an increased risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

"Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease was defined recently as another symptom of insulin resistance," Dr. Gerhard J. Luef and colleagues from Innsbruck University Hospital, Austria, explain in the Annals of Neurology. "Continuous therapy with valproate can result in increased body weight and insulin resistance, but no data are yet available on a possible relationship between valproate and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease."

To investigate, the team recruited 45 non-diabetic patients with epilepsy who were being treated with either valproate or another anti-seizure drug, carbamazepine.

Signs of fatty liver disease -- known technically as steatosis -- were seen on ultrasound in 14 of the 23 valproate-treated patients but in only 5 of the 22 carbamazepine-treated patients. Also, participants in the valproate group had higher levels of steatosis than those in the carbamazepine group.

"In both treatment groups, patients with steatosis had a higher body mass index than did those without," Luef and colleagues note.

Based on these findings, they conclude, "the risk of developing NALFD...appears to be increased in patients treated with valproate."

Source: Annals of Neurology, May 2004.

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Blood Clot in Lung Can Cause Pulmonary Hypertension

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- An unexpectedly large number of patients who survive a blood clot in the lungs develop potentially dangerous high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, Dutch researchers report.

"We found that pulmonary hypertension occurs far more frequently than we had expected," said study author Dr. Anthonie W.A. Lensing, a professor of medicine at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.

Pulmonary embolism, a blockage of an artery in the lungs, strikes an estimated 600,000 Americans every year and causes 60,000 deaths. It is, in fact, one of the leading causes of sudden death in this country.

Pulmonary hypertension, on the other hand, is a condition that can strain the heart, which must work harder to push blood through the lungs, but one that is often ignored because it causes few or no symptoms in many patients, Lensing said.

It has been thought that only a few of those who survive an embolism go on to develop pulmonary hypertension -- one in 1,000 at most. But the incidence among the 223 patients studied by Lensing and his colleagues was much higher, says a report in the May 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites).

Hypertension generally develops slowly after a pulmonary embolism, Lessing said. There is "a honeymoon period" of a few months, and then the incidence begins to increase, he noted.

"At six months, 1 percent of patients had pulmonary hypertension," Lensing said of his findings. "That increased to 3.1 percent after one year and 3.8 percent after two years."

The new report adds to the list of conditions that can cause pulmonary hypertension, said Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

The condition can be caused by lung disease, by failure of the left side of the heart or by a congenital heart disorder such as a faulty valve. In a small number of cases, usually involving young women, there is no apparent cause.

"These often are difficult to diagnose and have treatments that are quite different," Fuster said. For example, if the cause is a bad heart valve, surgery is done to replace the valve. If the cause is lung disease, treatment is aimed at correcting the lung condition.

When the cause is a pulmonary embolism, an effective treatment is endarterectomy, surgery to remove the clots that are blocking the artery. The technique was developed at the University of California, San Diego, and is now widely used.

Often, the only warning sign of pulmonary hypertension is shortness of breath, Fuster said. "You have to think about it when a patient is always short of breath," he added.

More information

The pulmonary hypertension story is told by the American Heart Association.

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Antibiotic Use Linked to Allergies in Mice

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Antibiotic therapy is associated with the development of an allergy to mold in mice, new research shows.

The link between antibiotic use and lung allergy may be through antibiotic-induced changes in the bacteria and fungi that live in the stomach and intestines, Dr. Mairi C. Noverr of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, commented in a press release.

The increased rate of allergies over the past several decades correlates with the widespread use of antibiotics and changes in gut microbes, Noverr and colleagues reported this week at the annual meeting of American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.

To further investigate, the researchers treated mice with antibiotics for 5 days. A comparison group of mice received no antibiotics.

Unlike the comparison animals, antibiotic-treated mice showed changes in the types of bacteria found in the gut.

Upon exposure to mold, the mice treated with antibiotics were more likely to experience lung allergies than were untreated animals. This response to mold was even more pronounced in animals that were infected with yeast.

"The studies presented here are the first direct demonstration that antibiotic therapy can promote the development of an allergic airway response," Noverr noted. However, these findings still need to be verified in humans.

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New Weapon Against Yeast Infections Found


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WEDNESDAY, May 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Millions of women who have suffered through yeast infections might welcome this news: Another treatment for the common condition is on the horizon.

Positive trial results for the peptide molecule CZEN-002 for treatment of vaginal yeast infection were announced this week by Zengen Inc.

The open label, non-randomized study of 20 women with yeast infections (17 completed the study) evaluated the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of CZEN-002. The study found that five days of treatment provided evidence of its efficacy.

The trial results also indicated that CZEN-002 is safe and well-tolerated, with no severe adverse reactions among the study volunteers.

"This trial clearly established the efficacy of CZEN-002," lead investigator Dr. William Smith, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine and Louisiana State University Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

"The encouraging results provide hope that this compound may become a new treatment option for the millions of women diagnosed each year" with yeast infections, Smith said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about vaginal yeast infection.

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Prostate Cancer Not Rare in Men with Normal PSA

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) usually indicate the presence of prostate cancer, but the disease can occur in up to 15 percent of men with normal PSA levels, according to a new report.

The new information, which appears in this week's New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), comes from a study of men who participated in a prostate cancer prevention trial. Nearly 3000 of the participants never had a PSA above the normal level of 4.0 and had normal rectal examinations.

Nonetheless, 15.2 percent of these men were found to have prostate cancer when they underwent a prostate biopsy after seven years of participation in the trial.

Dr. Ian M. Thompson, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and colleagues found that the rate of prostate cancer increased as the PSA level rose, ranging from 6.6 percent for PSA levels of 0.5 or lower to 26.9 percent for levels between 3.1 and 4.0 ng/mL.

Even with such low PSA levels, high-grade cancers were still seen, the investigators point out. The prevalence of such cancers was directly related to the PSA level. Among patients with the highest levels, 25 percent of the cancers were high-grade malignancies.

The finding that prostate cancer is common among men with normal PSA levels "underscores the need to consider fundamental changes in the approach to diagnosing prostate cancer," the researchers state.

Despite these findings, an author of a related editorial does not believe that the usual PSA threshold of 4.0 for performing a prostate biopsy should be lowered -- because prostate cancer is often not fatal. Some 16 percent of men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, but only three percent die of the disease.

"This, together with the absence of proof that PSA screening saves lives," writes Dr. H. Ballentine Carter, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, "should cause physicians to be circumspect about routinely recommending a prostate biopsy" for men with a PSA level of 4.0 or lower.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, May 27, 2004.

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Study Dents Reliability of Prostate Cancer Test


By Gene Emery



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

BOSTON (Reuters) - A widely used test for prostate cancer may not be as safe as once thought, according to a study released on Wednesday that sparked debate on whether the screening process should be overhauled.

The study found that 15 percent of men with a "normal" reading on the PSA blood test had a prostate tumor. In 2 percent of the men, the cancer was life-threatening.

"There are many men walking around with high-grade prostate cancer who think they don't because they have a normal PSA," Ian Thompson of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, the leader of the study, told Reuters.

The team, writing in this week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), said the finding "underscores the need to consider fundamental changes in the approach to diagnosing prostate cancer."

But in an editorial in the Journal, Ballentine Carter of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said there were good reasons for not changing the PSA standard.

Carter said there was no evidence, at least not yet, that lowering the definition of "normal" would save lives or help men live longer.

"The unexpected detection of cancer at lower PSA levels is more likely to identify disease for which treatment may not only be unnecessary, but also may fail to improve survival," Carter said.

The PSA test has been around since 1979 and is increasingly used as a harbinger of prostate cancer, the second-most common cause of cancer death among U.S. males.

Not Foolproof

The test, credited with cutting that death rate, measures a chemical called prostate-specific antigen in units of nanograms per milliliter of blood. A nanogram is a billionth of a gram.

A reading of 4.0 or less is regarded as normal. If the reading is above 4.0, a doctor may recommend the removal of small bits of tissue from the walnut-sized prostate to check for cancer.

Doctors have known for years that the test is not foolproof. Men with low readings can turn out to have deadly tumors, but some prostate cancers can grow so slowly there's little point in treating them -- especially in older men, who are more likely to die of something else.

To gauge the risk of having cancer with a normal PSA reading, the Thompson team evaluated volunteers who had been involved in the seven-year study of the prostate drug finasteride. All 2,950 men had been given a placebo instead of the drug, their PSA readings had remained below 4.0, and rectal exams showed no evidence of a swollen prostate.

At the end of the study, biopsies showed that 15 percent of the men had prostate cancer and, among those tumors, 15 percent were in an advanced stage.

The risk varied depending on the PSA reading, although the men found to have cancer were more likely to have a life-threatening tumor if the PSA reading was higher.

The problem with lowering the "normal" range from the PSA test is that it would mean a lot more men -- most of them healthy -- would need to have tissue samples taken, which can be painful.

Thompson said the trick was to find better markers that that combine diagnosis and prognosis.

"Most men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough. I don't want to find them. I want to find the ones whose prostate cancer poses some risk," he said.

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Treating Arthritis Ups Employment Prospects

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are liable to find daily tasks becoming more and more difficult, maybe to the point that they lose their jobs. But this can be averted if the condition is treated adequately, new research shows.

This study "underscores the importance of early intervention in order to maintain long term functioning, employability, and quality of life in patients with RA," Dr. Arthur Kavanaugh and colleagues from the University of California San Diego in La Jolla write in the Journal of Rheumatology.

The researchers evaluated associations between functional disability, joint damage, and employment status at baseline in 428 patients enrolled in an arthritis treatment trial. They also determined the impact of improved physical functioning after effective therapy on participants' employability, overall healthcare costs, and quality of life.

At the start of the study, there was a significant association between functional status and employment. Patients with the most joint damage were less likely to have a full-time job than those with lesser degrees of joint damage.

After 54 weeks, 64 percent of participants had achieved a clinically important improvement in their condition. According to the researchers, these patients had a "significant improvement" in their employability (21 percent versus 3 percent) compared with patients who did not show marked improvement, and in their time lost from work (7 versus 30 days).

Patients with good improvement also had significant reductions in their medical costs and improvements in their quality of life.

These findings "substantiate previously published data correlating functional status and employment," the authors note. The data also show that effective treatment can produce "substantial health economic and quality of life benefits" for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Source: Journal of Rheumatology, May 2004.

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Diet Experts Tell Fat U.S.--Turn Off TV, Eat Smart


By Charles Abbott


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Increasingly overweight Americans should turn off the TV, get some exercise and eat "a wide variety of foods," a panel of dietary experts said on Wednesday, giving a cold shoulder to the craze for high-protein diets.

The 13-member panel, commissioned to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans -- the government's tipsheet for healthful eating -- said Americans need to balance food intake with their activity level to avoid gaining weight.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and childhood obesity is ballooning. Poor diet and physical inactivity, blamed for 400,000 deaths a year, may soon overtake smoking as the No. 1 cause of preventable death.

At a session called to wrap up their suggestions for the new edition of the guidelines, panelists agreed "a wide variety of foods," including fruits, vegetables, grains, milk products and meat and other proteins, "contribute to meeting nutrient recommendations."

After assessing nutrition research, the advisory committee planned to write its version of the new guidelines on Thursday. Chairwoman Janet King, who is senior scientist at Oakland Childrens Hospital Research Institute, said another meeting would be called if consensus was elusive.

The new guidelines are due for release in January.

"During leisure time, all individuals, especially children and adolescents, should limit their sedentary behaviors, such as TV watching and video viewing," the panel said.

Adults need "30 minutes of at least moderate physical activity most days," it said in a so-called conclusive statement. Many adults need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity for good health and to avoid weight gain.

"We thought that was important ... to talk about people becoming less sedentary," said panelist Xavier Pi-Sunyer, an obesity researcher at Columbia University.

Americans tend to spend leisure time sitting around, added Benjamin Caballero, a nutrition professor at Johns Hopkins.

Committee members were deadlocked whether sugar-sweetened beverages were to blame for weight gain, despite agreeing there was strong documentation that people who consume foods or beverages high in added sugars consume more calories than people who consume low amounts of added sugar.

"I would feel more comfortable without targeting an individual food," said panelist Theresa Nicklas, of the Baylor College of Medicine,

Carlos Camargo, of the Harvard Medical School (news - web sites), argued three studies clearly showed that obesity rates went up as children drank more and more sugary drinks.

"I read these papers. I find them suggestive," said Camargo, citing his expertise as an epidemiologist.

The panel agreed to study the issue overnight.

Under the draft presented to the committee, the current set of 10 guidelines would be slimmed down to seven, putting more emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables and balancing food consumption with exercise.

The draft language "is not as straight forward as I think it needs to be," said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for activist group Center for Science in the Public Interest. "You have to cut calories, too."

The panel's work is also being closely watched by farm and food industry groups. Foodmakers say it would be unfair to target any foods as "bad" and that eating is an individual choice by consumers. Food activists want plain talking about foods larded with fats, sugars and salt.

The last time the government updated the guidelines in 2000, it urged Americans to be physically active every day, to eat a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables daily, and to control fat, sugar and salt intake.

The revision of the guidelines is overseen by both the U.S. Agriculture Department, which promotes farm products, and the Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites).

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One High Blood Pressure Reading Ups Health Risk

By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among patients treated for high blood pressure, one high blood pressure reading at a doctor's visit increases the risk of health problems, new research indicates.

Patients who showed a single 10-point increase in systolic pressure -- the top number on a blood pressure reading -- had a higher risk of experiencing kidney problems, heart disease, stroke and heart attack within the next five years.

These findings suggest that a single spike in blood pressure can have serious consequences for health, study author Dr. William Tierney told Reuters Health.

Tierney, based at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, explained that he hears many excuses from patients as to why their blood pressure might be higher than usual -- they are upset, they ran from the parking lot, they forgot to take their medicine that morning.

"So we doctors think, 'I'll check it again next time'," Tierney said. "Next time it may still be up, and the patient has another excuse. Our study suggests that we ignore the excuses and instead use the elevated blood pressure as our excuse to intensify their blood pressure regimen."

When a spike in pressure occurs in a patient being treated for high blood pressure, Tierney recommended that doctors increase the dose of one or more medications, add a new blood pressure medication, and check to make sure patients are taking their prescribed drugs everyday.

The study was funded by Bristol-Meyers Squibb, which sells a number of cardiovascular medications.

Tierney and his colleagues reviewed the medical records of 5,825 patients treated for high blood pressure, or hypertension. The researchers noted the blood pressure measurements taken at one doctor's visit in 1993, and who developed health problems over the next 5 years.

Reporting in the Annals of Family Medicine, Tierney's team found that people with a 10-point increase in systolic pressure during the visit had a 13 percent higher risk of kidney problems, a 9 percent higher risk of heart disease, a 7 percent higher risk of stroke, and a 6 percent higher risk of experiencing their first stroke or heart attack.

In addition, people whose heart rates were 10 beats higher per minute during the doctor visit showed a 16 percent higher risk of dying over the next 5 years.

Although blood pressure can vary widely throughout the course of the day, Tierney said that he hopes doctors who treat patients with high blood pressure take the dangers of single spikes in pressure to heart.

"Since I saw our study results, I have been much more aggressive with treating elevated blood pressures whenever I see them," he said.

Source: Annals of Family Medicine, May/June 2004.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Aspirin Can Cut Risk of Some Breast Cancer –Study



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Aspirin and some similar drugs can help reduce the risk of certain types of breast cancer, according to a study released on Tuesday.

Women in the study who used aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at least once per week for six months or longer had a 20 percent lower risk of breast cancer, the authors said. Those who used seven or more tablets a week had a 28 percent lower risk.

"These data add to the growing evidence that supports the regular use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as effective chemopreventive agents for breast cancer," the report concluded. It did not specify the dosage taken by women in the study.

Other research has shown that aspirin and other NSAIDs have been associated with a decrease in the risk of several cancers, including breast cancer, said the study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites).

"Our data, supported by other epidemiologic and laboratory evidence, bolster the case for the use of aspirin and NSAIDs as chemopreventive agents against breast cancer, particularly among post-menopausal women," researchers at Columbia University in New York said.

But the while the reduction in risk with aspirin was seen among those with a certain type of breast cancer tumor believed associated with estrogen, it was not seen in women with tumors that are not linked to that hormone.

Results with ibuprofen were generally weaker and use of acetaminophen, which works differently, did not show a reduction in breast cancer.

Aspirin is an attractive agent to try to prevent breast cancer, because of its ease of use and its association with reduced risk of other health problems, the authors said. A small dose of aspirin, for example, is recommended for some patients to help prevent heart attacks.

"The potential benefits need to be balanced against potential harmful effects of long-term aspirin use such as peptic ulcer disease and gastrointestinal bleeding," the researchers said.

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Researchers Link Alcohol to Seeing Movies


The Associated Press

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

HANOVER, N.H. - Children in junior high school who watch lots of movies showing alcohol use are more likely to try drinking than those who aren't exposed to those films, Dartmouth Medical School researchers said in a symposium on substance abuse.

The symposium touched on scientific research, public policy and personal stories on addictions.

Dr. James Sargent, who spoke at Friday's symposium — the first one at the school devoted to substance abuse — said his research showed that middle school students in Vermont and New Hampshire who watched lots of movie scenes depicting alcohol use were more than three times as likely to try drinking than those with little exposure.

Although previous studies had looked at whether advertising affected teenager's drinking behavior — with conflicting results — no one had ever looked at the impact of the entertainment industry, Sargent said. Drinking during the early teenage years is associated with alcohol abuse later on.

Other conclusions reached by researchers are that patients who participate in integrated treatment for their substance-abuse problems and mental illness have a far greater chance of being able to lead satisfying lives than those who don't; and people with a psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia may have a biological predisposition to substance-abuse disorders.

On the first point, Dr. Robert Drake said his research team has found that drug and mental health treatment should be integrated for people suffering from a substance-abuse problem and a mental illness. After three years, more than half of people receiving integrated treatment saw their illness go into stable remission, while only 15 percent of those who got nonintegrated treatment made the same progress.

Drake also said that about 50 percent of people with a mental illness also have a substance-abuse disorder that makes it more likely they will relapse, fail to take their medications, be hospitalized or suffer diseases such as HIV (news - web sites) or hepatitis.

Also speaking was former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who urged compassion for people with substance-abuse problems.

"Public health should be the driving force in all our coordinated efforts," he said. "Addiction is our antagonist — not addicted people."

Another speaker was a physician in recovery. Dr. Mark Logan, coordinator of oncology programs at DHMC, read from the obituary of a physician friend and colleague who died at age 31 of an apparent accidental drug overdose.

One out of 10 medical professionals will have an addiction in their lifetime, a rate equal to that of the general population, Logan said.

"Medical professionals — and it's not just doctors — are surrounded by a conspiracy of silence," he said. The good news is that health care professionals have estimated recovery rates of 90 percent and are highly motivated to get better, Logan said.

Information from: Lebanon Valley News,

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Mold, Damp Can Cause Breathing Trouble – Report


By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mold and dampness can cause coughing and wheezing, but there is no evidence linking so-called toxic mold to cancer, fatigue or neurological problems, U.S. health specialists said on Tuesday.

People with asthma are the most susceptible to mold but even completely healthy people may develop mild respiratory symptoms if they are exposed, the Institute of Medicine (news - web sites) panel found.

More research is needed to find out just how mold may affect people, they said. Meanwhile, homeowners, builders, architects and developers should focus on designing buildings that stay as dry as possible.

"If you have visible mold it should be cleaned up or removed from the building," said panel member William Fisk of the Indoor Environment Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

The institute, an independent nonprofit body that advises the federal government, was asked to look into the matter by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites).

It appointed a panel led by Noreen Clark, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, and including toxicologists, epidemiologists and pediatricians.

"The committee found sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to damp indoor environments and ... upper respiratory tract (nasal and throat) symptoms, cough, wheeze, and asthma symptoms in sensitized asthmatic persons," the report reads.

Studies also show that mold can cause an immune condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible people.

Exhaustive Review

Some limited evidence suggested dampness could cause shortness of breath and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children, and the development of asthma in susceptible persons, the report said.

This could be due to mold, fungi, bacteria, dust mites or even cockroaches, the report said.

But there is no hard evidence to show dampness or mold could cause other ills including a serious condition called acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants.

"Because there is a dearth of studies available on these topics, the committee wasn't able to rule out a possible association," Clark told a news conference.

News reports have said "toxic mold" could cause serious illnesses including debilitating fatigue, neuropsychiatric disorders, cancer and reproductive problems.

Clark said the panel did not address the issue of whether "toxic mold" exists but suggested such issues could be better communicated to the general public.

"There are certain molds that can produce toxic agents under certain conditions at a certain point of their life cycle that no doubt occurs at some point in buildings," said Fisk.

He said no one knows if these toxins can affect people.

Reports have focused on families who complained of serious problems that stopped days after they left a moldy house, only to return when they moved back in.

Clark said such reports are useless to a scientific panel.

"One can't use anecdotal data or individual cases to determine the extent to which a problem exists or doesn't exist for a population of people," she said.

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Avoiding Painful Side Effect of Diabetes



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- A Midwestern University study may help explain why people with type 2 diabetes and women with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) than people with type 1 diabetes.

The researchers focused on the effects of insulin on Escherichia coli bacteria, which commonly cause UTIs. They found that concentrations of insulin and glucose similar to levels found in the urine of people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes increase the ability of E. coli to adhere in the bladder.

The researchers also found insulin affects the cell surface of E. coli in ways that may help protect the bacteria against antibiotics.

"Based on our observations, it appears that insulin with glucose affects the growth and some of the surface characteristics of E. coli that correlate with its ability to cause urinary tract infections," researcher Karolina Klosowka said in a prepared statement.

"These findings bring a new perspective in helping to understand why patients with type 2 diabetes and females with gestational diabetes have a higher incidence of urinary tract infections," Klosowka said.

The study was presented May 25 at the American Society for Microbiology general meeting in New Orleans.

More information

The American Foundation for Urologic Disease has more about urinary tract infections.

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Salsa Spice Fights Bacteria, Study Finds



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Another reason to eat spicy foods: cilantro, a herb key to many cuisines and central to salsa, can kill food poisoning bacteria, researchers said on Tuesday.

U.S. and Mexican researchers said they had identified a compound in cilantro that kills harmful Salmonella bacteria. They hope it can be developed into a safe food additive that could help prevent foodborne illness.

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, shows why salsa, a staple of Mexican food, and many other spicy foods seem to have innate antibacterial activity. It fits in with other studies done over the years that show popular spices can keep food from spoiling.

The compound, called dodecenal, is found in the fresh leaves and the seeds of cilantro, also known as coriander.

In lab dishes dodecenal was twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin against Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness.

"We were surprised that dodecenal was such a potent antibiotic," Isao Kubo, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley who led the study, said in a statement.

But it is not potent enough to fight food poisoning in naturally occurring amounts, Kubo said.

"If you were eating a hot dog or hamburger you would probably have to eat an equivalent weight of cilantro to have an optimal effect against food poisoning," Kubo said.

Kubo's team also found a dozen other antibiotic compounds in fresh cilantro that showed some activity against a variety of harmful bacteria.

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White Tea Kills More Germs Than Its Green Cousin



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- White tea seems to be more effective than green tea in fighting germs, says new Pace University research.

"Past studies have shown that green tea stimulates the immune system to fight disease," study author Milton Schiffenbauer, a microbiologist and professor in Pace's department of biology, said in a prepared statement. "Our research shows that White Tea Extract can actually destroy in vitro the organisms that cause disease."

"Study after study with tea extract proves that is had many healing properties. This is not an 'old wives' tale,' it's a fact," Schiffenbauer added.

The study was presented May 25 at the American Society for Microbiology general meeting in New Orleans.

The researchers found that:


More information


The U.S. National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has information about tea and cancer prevention.

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Study: Mouth Bacteria May Defend Against AIDS Virus



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bacteria in the mouth can latch onto the AIDS (news - web sites) virus and prevent it from infecting cells -- which could help protect infants from catching the deadly virus from their mothers, researchers reported on Tuesday.

Two strains of Lactobacillus bacteria can hook onto HIV (news - web sites) and stop it from getting into cells. The bacteria also cause immune cells to clump, which could be used to stop HIV-infected cells from infecting other cells, the researchers told a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.

"While studies have been done so far only in the laboratory, we believe this work opens up new possibilities for preventing the transmission of HIV through mothers' milk," said Lin Tao, associate professor of oral biology in the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Dentistry.

"Unlike standard retroviral drugs, which are too toxic for newborns, lactobacilli are 'friendly' bacteria already inhabiting the human digestive tract and milk products, and so should pose no danger to infants."

The AIDS virus affects an estimated 43 million people worldwide and has killed more than 25 million. It is passed through body fluids like blood, semen and mother's milk.

Many babies born free of HIV are infected by breast feeding -- an estimated 25 percent in some areas. Up to 800,000 babies are infected each year globally.

Giving the mother and baby antiretroviral drugs, especially one called nevirapine, can protect the infants at birth, but they risk becoming infected later if they are breastfed.

"This discovery opens up a possible means of preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to infant through breast feeding," Tao, who led the study, said in a statement.

Tao's team studied bacteria taken from volunteers.

"The two strains were found to bind with several varieties of HIV, the related simian immunodeficiency virus, and immune cells that HIV targets for infection," Tao said. "Further analysis showed that the bacteria inhibited HIV infection of immune cells in the laboratory."

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False-Positive Mammos More Common for Those Overweight



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- Overweight or obese women are more likely to get a false positive mammography screening result than normal weight and underweight women, says a study in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine (news - web sites).

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle analyzed results of 100,622 screening mammographies.

"Compared with underweight or normal weight women, overweight and obese women were more likely to be recalled for additional tests after adjusting ... for age and breast density," the study authors wrote.

They found overweight women were 17 percent more likely to be recalled for additional testing while obese women were 27 percent to 31 percent more likely to be recalled for more testing.

"A woman's weight may influence the accuracy of screening mammography in several important ways," the authors wrote.

"Obese women had more than a 20 percent increased risk of having a false-positive mammogram result compared with underweight and normal weight women. We did not find statistically significant improvements in sensitivity in obese women to counter this increase in false-positive rates. Understanding the quality of mammography among obese women is important, especially since the American population is becoming more obese and obesity is a modifiable risk factor," the authors wrote.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute (news - web sites) has more about screening mammograms.

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Prenatal Drug Exposure Effect on IQ Varies – Study



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A nurturing environment appears to raise the IQ scores of children exposed to cocaine before birth, a study published on Tuesday said.

"The very positive news from our study is that a stimulating, responsive environment in which learning is encouraged can yield positive results for cocaine-exposed children just as it does for any child," said Lynn Singer of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, chief author of the report.

"The effects (of cocaine exposure) are not as devastating as we once thought, but they are still real, and they are real effects that tend to be related to how children do in school later on and may be related to learning disabilities later on," she added.

Cocaine is known to cross the placental and fetal brain barriers during pregnancy, but studies have been mixed on whether it harms child development, the report said.

The study involved 190 cocaine-exposed children and 186 who were not exposed. They were screened as infants and checked at 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 4 years.

Tests of children at age 4 found that cocaine exposure was unrelated to lower full-scale IQ scores, verbal or performance IQ scores. While the scores of the cocaine-exposed group were on average lower, they were within two or so points of the other children.

But in subsets of scores, cocaine-exposed children "had lower information, arithmetic, and object assembly scores than non-exposed children," said the report.

And prenatal cocaine exposure was also associated with a lower likelihood of above-average scores, it added.

An analysis found that cocaine-exposed children who were in foster or adoptive care had verbal, performance and full-scale IQs equivalent to non-exposed children.

Cocaine-exposed children who were still with their drug-taking mothers or living with other relatives, however, had lower scores on the two specific measures than unexposed children.

That difference emerged even though children in foster or adoptive care had twice the severity of cocaine exposure as measured by the amount of cocaine their mothers reported using weekly during pregnancy.

How long a child had been in foster or adoptive care was also positively related to full-scale IQ results, it added.

The report was published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites).

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Poverty Link to Brain Cancer Found


By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- Poverty boosts your risk of brain cancer, new research contends.

Michigan State University researchers compared the rate of brain cancer among Medicaid enrollees to all others who developed brain cancer in the state of Michigan during 1996 and 1997.

The overall rate of cancer of the brain was 8.1 per 100,000 in the 1,006 cases they studied. But among those with low incomes, the rate was 14.2 cases per 100,000, nearly double the 7.5 cases per 100,000 for all others. The findings appear in the May 25 issue of Neurology.

"We've identified this group of people with very low incomes as being very prone or susceptible to developing brain cancer," said lead researcher Paula R. Sherwood, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

"We really don't know what causes brain tumors," Sherwood said. However, the low income association may eventually lead to more clues, she added.

While it is possible the results spring from the fact that people with brain tumors are eligible for Medicaid (the U.S. government program providing medical assistance for those with very low income) because the tumor is a disability, the researchers feel there are other reasons for the results.

Sherwood said the short survival time for brain cancer, combined with the Medicaid requirement that you spend down your assets and be disabled for at least 12 months may have made it difficult for a middle-class person to have become eligible for Medicaid during the research project's two-year study period. When the researchers analyzed only those who were eligible for Medicaid before their diagnosis, the pattern supported the study findings.

Exactly why low income is associated with higher rates of brain cancer isn't known. Low-income persons "have more environmental exposures to environmental toxins," Sherwood said. And, she added, those with lower incomes may have less access to health care or may have a level of education that could limit their knowledge of how to access treatment.

The associations were strongest in younger people, she found. Men under age 44 who had low incomes were at least four times as likely to develop brain cancer as those not having low income. Women under age 44 with low incomes were 2.6 times more likely to get brain cancer than those who didn't have low incomes.

For the 1997 year, according to the study, enrollment in Medicaid had a poverty threshold of $8,183 for a single-person household and $10,473 for a two-person household.

Another expert questioned whether the income level was the key factor that makes a difference.

"It is an interesting association, but my guess is the income is a surrogate for something else," said Dr. Lauren Abrey, an assistant attending neurologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"One thing that is associated [with brain tumors] is working with the petroleum industry," she added, questioning whether most Medicaid patients live in Detroit, which has a lot of factories.

Or, she noted, the income level may trigger stress.

"Are these people's lives so stressful that they are set up to develop brain tumors?" she asked.

About 18,400 malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord are expected to be diagnosed this year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (news - web sites).

More information

To learn more about brain tumors, visit the National Brain Tumor Foundation. To learn more about the brain, visit the American Academy of Neurology Foundation.

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Fats in Early Milk Linked to Allergies in Kids


Reuters Health

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The fat content in a mother's early milk -- known as colostrum -- may influence the risk of their child developing allergies in the coming months.

The findings, which are reported in the medical journal Allergy, are based on analysis of maternal colostrum for 218 children at high risk for allergies because of low birth weight or other factors.

Dr. Peter Reichardt, from Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues found that the fat content of colostrum was not linked to allergic skin disease at 1 year. However, a high level of a particular fat, called linoleic acid, was linked to test results indicative of allergies.

"Our data show that links between the fat...status of breast milk and (allergic) sensitization in children can be observed as early as during the first few days of lactation, in colostrum," the researchers state.

Source: Allergy, April 2004.

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Other Illnesses Affect the Course of Cancer Patients


By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- It might seem obvious that the outlook for someone with cancer will be influenced by other medical problems the patient may have, but a new study says most cancer doctors don't pay attention to that possibility.

"As simple and as straightforward as it sounds, a number of my colleagues have never heard of this concept of comorbidity," said Dr. Jay F. Piccirillo, an associate professor of otolaryngology and medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Piccirillo is one of a relatively small number of researchers who are working to have doctors make a routine assessment of comorbidity -- the medical term for an illness found in a patient already diagnosed with another illness.

Piccirillo's work focuses on cancer patients.

His latest effort is a report in the May 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites), in which he and some colleagues show comorbidity can have a significant effect on many different kinds of cancer.

The study included more than 17,700 patients with a wide range of cancers, including prostate, breast, lung, head and neck, and gynecological tumors.

"Severity of comorbidity strongly influenced survival in a dose-dependent fashion, and the impact of comorbidity was independent of cancer stage," the study said. It included data on 27 serious illnesses, such as heart failure, diabetes and kidney disease.

In general, the impact of other illnesses was greatest in "those cancers that are least lethal," Piccirillo said. For example, comorbidity was an important predictor of outcome for men with prostate cancer, where the survival rate is high. But lung cancer, where the median survival time is six months, "is so lethal that comorbidity doesn't make a difference," he said.

For some cancers, comorbidity can influence treatment, Piccirillo said. For example, a doctor may choose radiation therapy rather than surgery for a patient with a severe illness, such as heart failure.

William A. Satariano is a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. "The report makes a convincing case that information on comorbidity should be collected as part of regular cancer surveillance," he said.

One problem is that different illnesses can affect the health of different patients in different ways. "There is no opinion about the best way to summarize the situation. We certainly need some standardization in this area," said Satariano, who is also a member of a group recently created by the National Institute on Aging to examine the issue of comorbidity.

Steps to have cancer specialists consider comorbidity are being taken in the United States and abroad, he said. The British National Health Service has told doctors to consider the issue patient by patient. In the United States, the Commission on Cancer, a consortium of 40 medical organizations organized by the American College of Surgeons, has mandated that information on comorbidity be included in all hospitalizations.

Still, standard reference books on cancer list projected survival times only on the basis of the size and site of a tumor, with no reference to comorbidity, Piccirillo said.

"We are working on a computer program that will incorporate comorbidity" into treatment regimens, Piccirillo said. The hope is the program will be available to all physicians within nine months.

More information

Five-year survival rates for different cancers are given by the National Cancer Institute. For more on comorbidity and cancer, visit Washington University School of Medicine.

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Probiotic May Block HIV from Breast Milk


By Karla Gale

Reuters Health

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Lactobacillus, a benign gut microbe that helps prevent more serious infections such as diarrhea in children, could become a weapon in the war on AIDS (news - web sites).

Colonizing an infant's digestive tract with the so-called "probiotic" may protect them from being infected with HIV (news - web sites) present in breast milk, according to a report at the American Society for Microbiology general meeting in New Orleans.

With the success of treating HIV-infected mothers before delivery to prevent transmission of the virus to the baby, breast-feeding is now the major route by which infants do become infected in Africa.

However, anti-HIV drugs to prevent infection cannot be used in infants, Dr. Lin Tao explained. "So we sought to block HIV transmission from mother to child using a more innovative approach," added Tao, of the University Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.

Lactobacillus, commonly found among the normal bacteria populating the intestines, seemed to be such an option.

The researchers obtained saliva samples from more than 100 healthy volunteers, from which they isolated 170 strains of Lactobacillus. Testing showed that nine were probably capable of binding to HIV. One in particular -- L. fermentum OLB-19a -- stopped HIV from infecting immune cells, the investigators found.

Because "the stomach and intestine is where active absorption of milk takes place, it will be very important to have the bacteria in the oral cavity and throughout the intestinal tract," Tao explained. To that end, his group is attempting to develop a formulation of Lactobacillus that can be administered to infants.

Their current research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites), the researcher noted. The group's challenge now is to find a sponsor to fund the next steps in developing a product. Because the Lactobacillus preparation is intended for underdeveloped countries, it is unlikely that a pharmaceutical company will be interested in investing in a product that is unlikely to earn a profit, Tao said.

But if this approach works, freeze-dried Lactobacillus has the potential to prevent half a million HIV infections annually, he added.

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Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Has Lingering Cognitive Effects


By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

TUESDAY, May 25 (HealthDayNews) -- The long-term consequence of cocaine exposure in the womb may not be as dire as once predicted, but it can still cause cognitive impairment and a reduced likelihood of an above-average IQ.

That's the conclusion of new research, published in the May 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (news - web sites), which also found that a positive home environment can make a difference to such kids.

"While prenatal cocaine exposure is not as devastating as was once thought, there are significant deficits in areas of intellectual functions that are important later in life, and these deficits are there even when you control for environmental effects," said study author Lynn Singer, deputy provost at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

When a mother ingests cocaine during pregnancy, the drug passes through the placenta, enters the baby's bloodstream and passes through the fetal brain barrier, according to the study. Some studies on the long-term effects of such exposure haven't found an association between cocaine and deficits in cognitive development, while others have found cocaine exposure negatively affects cognitive development.

For this study, the researchers recruited almost 400 pregnant women from a large urban teaching hospital, all of whom were believed to be at high risk for drug use. Once they'd given birth, tests revealed that 190 of the babies had been exposed to cocaine in utero, while 186 had not.

The children were assessed at 6, 12 and 24 months. When they were 4 years old, they were tested using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence-Revised. Along with IQ scores, this test also provides information on arithmetic, vocabulary, verbal comprehension, object assembly, block design and picture completion skills. None of the researchers administering the tests knew which children had been exposed to cocaine in utero.

The children's primary caregivers were also asked to complete a questionnaire to help the researchers assess the quality of the home environment.

The researchers found overall IQ scores were not significantly different between the cocaine-exposed children and the non-exposed youngsters. The children exposed to cocaine, however, were 74 percent less likely to have an above-average IQ, and their scores on some of the subtests were also significantly lower.

However, those children who were exposed to cocaine but raised in foster or adoptive care had higher IQ scores than cocaine-exposed kids who were raised by their biological mothers or a relative. In fact, the researchers found, their full-scale IQ scores were one point higher than those of non-exposed children.

But Singer pointed out this difference was most significant when you looked at children who scored under 70 on the full-scale IQ, because less than 70 is the line of mental retardation and kids with scores that low may never function independently.

Twenty-five percent of the cocaine-exposed children raised by their mothers or a biological relative scored under 70, while only 10 percent of the cocaine-exposed children raised in foster or adoptive care did.

"In utero cocaine exposure definitely causes some sort of insult to the fetal brain, and the higher the exposure, the greater the insult," said Dr. Ernest Krug, head of the Center for Human Development at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

"But positive environmental exposure can modify this brain insult. It really appears that the environment does have a critical impact on these kids. The brain has an amazing ability to lay down new pathways if the environment is stimulating and allows it to happen," Krug added.

"Home environment appears to be a major determining factor," said Dr. Harley Ginsberg, medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital in New Orleans.

To help youngsters who have been exposed to cocaine in utero, Ginsberg said it might be "more advantageous to increase support services to the home. We can't undo what went on during pregnancy, but we can alert social services and the baby's pediatrician, and get drug counseling folks in touch with the mother. With close follow-up and a review of the environment, we can still have a big impact and help this baby do well."

More information

To learn more about the effects of cocaine use during pregnancy, visit the March of Dimes or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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Antioxidants Don't Protect the Aging Brain


By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Upping your intake of antioxidants in middle age won't do much to keep your mind sharp into old age, new research indicates.

Investigators found that men who consumed relatively large amounts of beta-carotene, flavonoids and vitamins E and C in middle age appeared no less likely to develop various forms of dementia nearly 30 years later.

Despite these findings, the antioxidants featured in the current report are found in many healthy foods that carry numerous other benefits, study author Dr. Lenore Launer told Reuters Health.

"Individuals should be encouraged, for many reasons, to follow a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables," said Launer, based at the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Researchers have suggested that formation of free radicals, which is blocked by antioxidants, may be involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites) and other dementias.

However, previous investigations into the benefits of antioxidants in preventing dementia have yielded mixed results. Two recent studies found that eating foods rich in antioxidants may protect people from Alzheimer's, but did not show the same benefits from taking antioxidant supplements.

To investigate whether adding antioxidants to the middle age diet protects the brain later in life, Launer and colleagues reviewed dietary information collected from nearly 2,500 men between the ages of 45 and 68.

As described in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers measured the amount of antioxidants in the diet by adding up the antioxidants from all of the food the men remembered eating over the past 24 hours. All of the men were residents of Hawaii, where the main sources of antioxidants include tea, sweet potato, taro, bok choy, turnips, macadamia nuts and mango.

Nearly 30 years later, a total of 235 men had developed dementia. The amount of antioxidants they ate appeared to have no clear influence on their risk of developing the disease, the researchers report.

Launer explained that the negative results may stem, in part, from the fact that it is often difficult to measure the exact amount of antioxidants people are consuming. In addition, experts still know relatively little about how different antioxidants interact in the brain, the researcher noted.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology, May 15, 2004.

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Video Game Helps Players Lose Weight


By Anita Chang

Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Forget the image of paunchy video gamers holed up in a dark room, surrounded by sticky Twinkie wrappers and empty soda cans — Dance Dance Revolution players burn extra pounds along with their quarters.

Weight loss is an unexpected benefit of a game designed for dance music.

Natalie Henry, 14, was drawn to the pulsing techno songs, and didn't realize she had slimmed down until she went clothes shopping.

"I went to go buy pants and the 14s were too big. The more I played, I gradually had to get smaller size pants," said Natalie, who now buys size 8 baggy cargoes.

The premise of DDR is simple: Players stand on a 3-foot square platform with an arrow on each side of the square_ pointing up, down, left and right. The player faces a video screen that has arrows scrolling upward to the beat of a song chosen by the player. As an arrow reaches the top of the screen, the player steps on the corresponding arrow on the platform.

Sound easy? Throw in combinations of multiple arrows and speed up the pace, and the game is as challenging and vigorous as a high-impact aerobics class.

Most beginners look like they're stomping on ants and are flushed in the face after one or two songs.

"At first I was playing it for fun, but when you see results you're like, 'Yeah!'" said Matt Keene, a 19-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina, who used to weigh more than 350 pounds and wear pants with a 48-inch waist.

Also aided by better eating habits, the 6-foot-5 Keene explained in a phone interview he had dropped to about 200 pounds. Now he works out on a weight bench to bulk up because he thinks he's too skinny.

More than 1 million copies of DDR's home version have been sold in the United States, said Jason Enos, product manager at Konami Digital Entertainment-America, which distributes the Japanese game in the United States. About 6.5 million copies have been sold worldwide.

The home version, which costs about $40 for a game and $40 for a flat plastic dance pad, includes a "workout mode" that can track how many calories the user burns while playing.

The game was designed to be fun. But "what the creators knew is that this is a physical game no matter how you dice it," said Enos, who says he has lost 30 pounds playing DDR. "At some level there's going to be people who want to focus on that element of the game for their own physical health or for exercise."

One pediatrician is so convinced of the health benefits that he's planning a six-month study of DDR and weight loss among 12- to 14-year-olds, in an effort to give the game credibility among physicians.

Dr. Richard Adler, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, said he likes the game because it "gets the kids off their butts and they lose weight."

"Just like the kids are addicted to regular video games where they use their hands and thumbs, they just don't want to stop," said Adler, who drives a sport utility vehicle with a license plate urging people to "xrsighz."

One possible down side, Adler said, is that DDR might cause discomfort in the joints of players who are heavy and have arthritis.

DDR has been so effective in getting teens off the couch that some schools have incorporated it into their physical education programs.

The chief drawback fans cite is that DDR can be addictive, and therefore expensive. In the arcade, it costs from $1 to $1.50 to dance for about six minutes.

Natalie spent $150 the first four months she played.

"Unless you have the money to do it, you shouldn't do it. I came here with $3," she said.

As she cooled herself in front of a fan at a video arcade, two teenage boys danced on a machine nearby. Their sneakers pounded out a staccato rhythm at a pace so fast that "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley would be envious.

Not everyone sees dramatic results. Seventeen-year-old Justin Meeks says his body is more toned, but his weight hasn't changed. He's pleased to point out, though, that his dancing skills have helped him get girls.

"Two. I'm guilty of that," Justin said with a grin as he watched friends play DDR.

Others say the game has changed their lives dramatically.

Four years ago, Tanya Jessen was an unhappy college freshman in Seattle, eating fast food and spending most of her time on the computer.

Her weight hovered around 235 pounds, despite weight-loss efforts.

"I thought I was fine until I hit about 220 pounds, and I was steadily gaining weight," Jessen said in a telephone interview.

She knew if she kept on that path, she'd weigh 300 pounds by age 25.

Then when Konami released DDR USA two years ago, Jessen got hooked, playing at a Gameworks arcade before and after class. After a year, the 5-foot-8 college student had lost 60 pounds. That motivated her to become more health-conscious — cutting back on high-calorie foods and drinking water instead of soda.

Jessen, 22, is now a svelte 140 pounds and says self-confidence has made her more outgoing and particular about her appearance.

"There's something about not having to shop in the men's section anymore," she said.

On The Net:

DDR and weight loss

DDR fan site

Konami Digital Entertainment-America

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Smoking Keeps Blood Vessels Open After Surgery


Reuters Health

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Smoking cigarettes may reduce the risk of a blood vessel closing up after angioplasty and other minimally invasive procedures, new research shows. Still, this one potential benefit for smoking is easily outweighed by the numerous well-known risks associated with the habit.

In patients with diabetes and other risk factors, arteries in the legs can become blocked or narrowed over time. With angioplasty, a catheter with a tiny balloon is inserted and then inflated in the hopes re-opening the blocked vessel. However, this immediate re-opening is only half the battle: the real goal is to have the artery stay open for years to come.

"Smokers exhibit a higher blood concentration of carbon monoxide, a potent anti-inflammatory agent known to (open up) blood vessels," lead author Dr. Martin Schillinger, from the University of Vienna in Austria, said in a statement. Carbon monoxide can also block the growth of certain cells that lead to blood vessel blockage, he added.

The findings, which appear in the medical journal Radiology, are based on a study of 650 patients who were treated for blood vessel problems in their legs. The subjects were divided into groups based on the number of cigarettes smoked per day: nonsmokers, light smokers (1 to 9), habitual smokers (10 to 20), or heavy smokers (> 20).

A year after their procedure, light smokers were 51 percent more likely to experience a recurrent blockage than nonsmokers, the authors note. In contrast, habitual and heavy smokers were about 50 percent less likely to develop a repeat blockage than their non-smoking peers.

Despite the apparent benefits of smoking at least 10 cigarettes per day in preventing re-blockage, "our findings...certainly do not suggest that we should recommend smoking to patients or rush to treat patients with carbon monoxide inhalation therapy," the authors write.

Source: Radiology, June 2004.

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Monday, May 24, 2004


Physicians' Neckties May Harbor Bacteria


By Karla Gale

Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A change in fashion by physicians may decrease the spread of infections, according to a presentation at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

That's because neckties worn by doctors were eight times more likely to harbor pathogens than were those of hospital workers not normally in contact with patients, according to the results of a new study.

While working at New York Hospital in Queens, lead author Steven Nurkin, a medical student at the American-Technion Program at the Bruce Rappaport Facility of Medicine in Haifa, Israel, noticed that physicians' neckties often come into contact with patients or their bedding.

After examining a patient or conducting procedure, he told Reuters Health, "they would wash their hands, and then adjust their tie," perhaps recontaminating their hands.

So he and his colleagues swabbed 42 neckties worn by physicians who regularly saw patients and 10 neckties worn by security personnel. They then dabbed the swabs onto laboratory plates and identified the microorganisms that grew.

Twenty of the clinicians' neckties carried pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Aspergillus. In contrast, the tie of only one security guard carried a single pathogen, S. aureus.

Nurkin pointed out that neckties are encouraged because they are believed to project an aura of professionalism and increase patients' confidence, but they may not be cleaned as often as other articles of clothing.

Options to reduce the risk of disease transmission, he suggested, include switching to bow-ties or using tie tacks that hold ties to physicians' shirts. Doctors could also decontaminate ties with a "high quality detergent spray that wouldn't ruin the tie" or even use a "necktie condom."

Another option would be to abandon neckties altogether.

Nurkin's group is considering further studies with larger sample sizes to confirm their findings.

The ASM conference is being held this week in New Orleans.

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Native American Women Suffer High Rates of Domestic Abuse



Monday, May 24, 2004

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDayNews) -- Rates of domestic abuse among low-income Native American women are much higher than among average American women, says a study in the current issue of BMC Medicine.

The University of New Mexico and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center study found low-income Native American women are at least twice as likely as average women to be physically or sexually assaulted by their partner.

That risk of domestic abuse was much greater for low-income Native American women if they lived in extremely poor socioeconomic circumstances.

The study included 312 Native American women who visited a clinic for low-income pregnant and childbearing women. More than half the women reported they'd been assaulted by a partner during their lifetime and one in eight of the women said they'd been raped by a partner.

Thirty-nine percent of the women reported they'd been severely assaulted by a partner. This included being kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, choked or hit with an object. One in five of the women said they'd been beaten up and one in 10 had been threatened with a gun or knife.

Thirty percent of the women currently in a relationship had been abused by their partner during the previous year and more than half of them had suffered injuries as a result of abuse.

"These rates are far higher than population-based national and state estimates for reproductive age U.S. women," the study authors wrote.

"The severely depressed socioeconomic conditions under which a disproportionate percentage of Native American families live may explain their higher rates of 'intimate partner violence,'" they wrote.

More information

The National Library of Medicine has more about domestic violence.

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Vigorous Exercise May Slow Women's Bone Loss


By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who run, jump and pump iron after menopause may ward off bone loss, back pain and high cholesterol, a study released Monday suggests.

Researchers in Germany found that a supervised exercise program that included running, aerobics, jumping and strength training helped prevent bone loss among postmenopausal women over a two-year period.

Compared with non-exercisers, women in the program reported less back pain and had lower cholesterol levels, according to findings published in the May 24th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (news - web sites).

The study's lead author, Dr. Wolfgang Kemmler of the University of Erlangen, pointed out that the study focused on women who had recently gone through menopause, a time when bone loss accelerates and heart disease risk rises due to declining estrogen levels.

Experts know exercise can cut the risk of both cardiovascular disease and the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis, but different types and intensities of activity may be necessary. While moderate exercise like walking can be enough to improve fitness and general health, it may take higher-impact activity that puts some stress on the bones to make a difference in bone density.

Kemmler told Reuters Health his team's exercise plan had a "multiple-purpose strategy" aimed primarily at preventing bone loss, and also boosting cardiovascular fitness and quality of life.

The study included 50 women between the ages of 48 and 60 who took part in the exercise program, and 33 women the same age who were told to follow their usual lifestyle habits. All of the women were showing some bone-density decline in the spine or hip, and all were given calcium and vitamin D to help slow their bone loss.

Women in the exercise group went through a supervised program that grew in intensity over time and eventually got them running, performing jumping exercises and strength training with weights, machines and other equipment. They exercised four times a week, with half the time spent in group classes, the other half at home.

After two years, Kemmler's team found that the exercisers showed improved endurance and strength, while their bone density remained largely stable, and even increased in the spine. In contrast, women in the comparison group remained at the same level of fitness and showed further bone loss.

In addition, women in the exercise group saw a dip in blood fats, including total cholesterol and triglycerides, while these levels tended to go up in the comparison group. Back-pain complaints also declined in the exercise group.

This latter finding, Kemmler and his colleagues note, shows that, despite the fact that high-impact exercise carries a risk of causing low-back pain, a "carefully increased exercise regimen" can actually help ease the problem.

Kemmler stressed the importance of progressing toward intense exercise such as jumping. "During the first months of our study the exercise regime was increased slowly," he said, noting that high-impact activities did not begin until the fifth month to reduce the risk of injury.

He advised that postmenopausal women who want to ramp up their activity levels should first consult their doctors, then take part in supervised programs or classes.

Source: Archives of Internal Medicine, May 24, 2004.

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Colon Cancer More Deadly For Blacks


By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter


Monday, May 24, 2004

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDayNews) -- Black Americans who have had colon cancer surgery are 67 percent more likely to die within five years than whites are, a new study says.

This was despite the fact that their cancers were diagnosed at the same stage and treated the same. This suggests racial differences in survival rates may be due to genetic or underlying biological factors, researchers noted.

Results of the study appear in the May 24 online issue of Cancer.

"Several previous studies have attributed lower survival in African-Americans to late staging of their tumors and to the treatment options," said study co-author Upender Manne, an assistant professor in the department of pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He said to compensate for these factors, the researchers only studied people who had undergone surgery to treat their colon cancer and compared people with the same stage of cancer.

"The key point is that even if you provide uniform treatment options, you still have some differences in long-term survival," Manne said.

Nearly 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon and rectal cancers every year, according to the American Cancer Society (news - web sites). More than 56,000 people die from the disease annually, the society reports.

For this study, the researchers compared 199 blacks and 292 non-Hispanic whites who had surgery for colon or rectal cancer at some point between 1981 and 1993. None had any other treatment for their cancer. The average age was 64.8 years, and 60 percent were male.

Overall, blacks had a 67 percent higher chance of dying in the first five years following surgery, and a 52 percent greater risk of dying in the 10-year period following surgery compared to whites.

The greatest differences were seen in people with stage II cancer, in which the tumor had not spread beyond the colon. Blacks with stage II colon cancer were 2.5 times more likely to die within five years, and had an 82 percent greater risk of death from their cancer over 10 years than whites did.

There were no statistically significant differences for people with rectal cancer.

Dr. Peter Kozuch, a hematologist and oncologist at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, said the study was very intriguing, but added, "I think the real issue is that not all stage II cancers are the same." He said it's possible the tumors in the blacks were deeper and there may have been other risk factors.

He also pointed out that the blacks in the study had more tumors on their right side, which could have implications in terms of screening.

Both Kozuch and the study authors agreed more research needs to be done on these differences. In the meantime, they emphasized the need for regular screening exams.

Kozuch said the development of colon cancer is largely a failure of screening. "Ninety-five percent of colon cancer comes from polyps," said Kozuch, and polyps can be removed during colonoscopy, thereby preventing the cancer from ever developing.

The cancer society recommends that after age 50, people should have a yearly fecal occult blood test, and either a sigmoidoscopy every five years or a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Kozuch said colonoscopy is the gold standard in diagnosing colon cancer, and added that a prudent lifestyle, including plenty of exercise and eating right, could help prevent colon cancer.

More information

To learn more about colon cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute or the National Library of Medicine.

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Breast Cancer on Rise in Men, Study Shows


By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent


Monday, May 24, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Male breast cancer is on the rise in the United States -- bad news for men and their doctors, who do not even know to look for it, researchers reported on Monday.

Although the disease remains extremely rare -- just 1,600 cases are predicted for 2004 -- the 25 percent increase in 25 years is worrying, said Dr. Sharon Giordano of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who led the study.

"I don't think anybody had specifically looked to see if male breast cancer had been increasing over time, because it is so rare," Giordano said in a telephone interview.

"I was surprised to find that it was increasing, although in retrospect I should have known. We have seen a huge increase in breast cancer in woman, as well."

No one knows why, added Giordano, a specialist in breast cancer. In both sexes breast cancer is related to the hormone estrogen, so obesity could be a factor. Fat cells produce estrogen.

So could environmental chemicals, or changes in lifestyle.

Giordano stresses that a great deal more study is needed but noted, "Anecdotally, the male patients I am seeing and treating haven't been heavy and overweight."

Even with the increase, male breast cancer represents just 0.6 percent of all breast cancers and less than 1 percent of all malignancies in men, Giordano's team reports in the July issue of the journal Cancer, published online this week.

Her team analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute (news - web sites)'s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 1973 to 1998 database, which represents about 14 percent of the U.S. population.

They found the incidence of male breast cancer rose from 0.86 per 100,000 men in 1973 to 1.08 per 100,000 men in 1998.

"While, it's not as high of an increase in cases as that in women, men should be alert to the possibility that the disease could affect them," Giordano said.

They looked specifically at 2,524 cases of male breast cancer and 380,856 cases of female breast cancer over the 25 years. Compared to female patients, men with breast cancer were older when diagnosed, age 67 for men versus 62 for the average woman, and were more likely to have advanced disease that had spread.

"Overall, if you look at raw numbers it looks worse but it really reflects the fact that it is diagnosed at later stages, and when men are older. If you look at it look at stage by stage it is the same," Giordano added.

"It's perhaps ironic that tumors in men are easier to feel than they are in women, yet the disease is being discovered at a later stage in men than in women."

One reason is that men and their doctors may assume they are experiencing a common and benign condition called gynecomastia, or enlargement of the breasts, Giordano said.

Breast cancer overall will affect more than 200,000 Americans this year and will kill 40,000, the American Cancer Society (news - web sites) says.

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The Left Brain May be Your Infection Fighter


By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter


Monday, May 24, 2004

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDayNews) -- Researchers have long known that different sides of the brain control language versus visual and spatial functions.

Now, it appears that different brain hemispheres have differing effects on the immune system. When right-handed people had a portion of the left side of the brain removed, they became more susceptible to infection, a new study says.

This finding dovetails with previous research that demonstrated that people who had strokes on the left side of the brain also tended to develop more infections.

"It means that there are probably differences in the ways different sides of the brain modulate the immune system," said Dr. Kimford Meador, lead author of the study appearing in the May 24 issue of the Annals of Neurology.

"It's similar to the different roles the two sides have in emotions," added Meador, chairman of neurology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

And while this new study doesn't seem to have any immediate practical implications, it does open up a multitude of new avenues for research, Meador said. "Eventually there is a practical implication," he said. "Here it's primarily a research question about how the brain and the body interact."

Little is known about the asymmetries of the human brain. Animal studies, however, have shown a connection between different sides of the brain and immune responses.

Meador, in fact, had read a paper by a French researcher who found that putting lesions on one side of a rat's brain had a different effect on the immune system than putting lesions on the opposite side.

"I thought if rats do this, maybe humans do this," Meador recalled.

Such a theory posed some formidable methodological problems, however. "We don't just willy nilly put lesions in human brains," Meador said.

But if people were going to have surgery anyway, it might be possible to observe them before and after, he reasoned.

Meador and his colleagues examined the immune systems of 22 people with epilepsy before and after they underwent surgery to remove small pieces of their brain in an effort to control their seizures.

Patients who had surgery on the left side of their brains demonstrated a decrease in immune function, namely a reduction in the lymphocytes and T-cells that fight infection. Patients who had surgery on the right side of their brains had increased levels of lymphocytes and T cells. The changes were not related to alterations in mood, stress or cortisol hormone levels, the researchers said.

"T-cells and lymphocytes had this diametrically opposite effect," Meador said.

This finding may only be true for right-handed people, however, because the study did not include enough left-handed and ambidextrous people to assess the effect in them.

Histamine skin testing revealed similar asymmetries. People who had had surgery on the right side of their brain had a bigger allergic reaction on the left arm.

A few previous studies have suggested that people who have strokes on the left side of their brain have lower T-cell levels. The new finding suggests these patients may need to be watched more closely for signs of infection, Meador said.

The next step for researchers, Meador said, is to reproduce these results in a larger number of people and to look at different components of immune system functioning.

They also need to discover the mechanism behind these differences. "Understanding that might lead to new ways to approach treatments for different types of immune disorders," Meador said.

More information

For more on right and left brain activity, visit Indiana University or San Diego State University.

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Early Ear Implants Best for Deaf Children


Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2004  

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Hearing-impaired children experience the greatest improvement in communication skills when inner ear or "cochlear" implants are placed early in life, according to reports in the Archives of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery.

Amy McConkey Robbins at Communication Consulting Services in Indianapolis and colleagues compared the communication skills of 107 hearing-impaired children who received cochlear implants and 109 normal-hearing children. These skills were assessed indirectly by having the parent complete a questionnaire.

A large proportion of children who received implants between 12 and 23 months of age developed communication skills within a few months, which were comparable to those of normal hearing children. In contrast, nearly all children who received implants later in life had skills that lagged behind their peers with normal hearing.

Dr. Thomas P. Nikolopoulos, at Athens University, Greece, and associates followed 82 deaf children who received implants before the age of 7 years. The implant procedures were performed before the age of 4 years in 38 children and later in 44 children.

At 30 years after implantation, 60 percent of those in the younger group and 23 percent in the older group tested above the first percentile of normal-hearing children.

Their findings show that "performing implantation in children with profound hearing loss at the youngest age possible allows the best opportunity for them to acquire communication skills that approximate those of their peers with normal hearing," Robbins' group concludes.

Nikolopoulos and associates reach similar conclusions, writing that their findings support "the trend toward device implantation at a younger age if grammatical competence in spoken language is to be achieved."

Source: Archives of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, May 2004.

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Green Tea Helps Keep Arteries Clear


By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter


Monday, May 24, 2004

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're going to drink green tea in hopes of preventing heart disease, you should start sipping before your arteries begin to harden.

A new animal study suggests that while an important antioxidant in green tea can help prevent the formation of plaques that can block blood flow, it has no effect on the fatty deposits once they have formed. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles report the finding in the May 25 issue of Circulation.

The study used the antioxidant epigallotcatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the most powerful of the flavonoids that have been shown to provide protection against heart disease and cancer.

The EGCG, provided by Lipton Tea, was injected into mice that were genetically predisposed to rapid development of plaque whose arteries had been injured to spur that development. Other mice of the same strain with similar damage did not get the antioxidant.

Examination of the arteries after three and six weeks showed that the formation of new plaque in mice who got EGCG was reduced significantly, while plaques continued to form in the mice that did not get the antioxidant. However, the treatment had no effect on plaque that existed when the injections began.

"It appears that antioxidant therapy would have therapeutic benefits only if initiated during a critical window very early in the formation of plaque," said study author Dr. Kuang-Yuh Chyu, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Antioxidants are believed to prevent atherosclerosis by protecting the delicate inner surface of the blood vessels. But while antioxidants have worked in laboratory tests and animal studies, results in human trials have been disappointing.

Most animal studies "are started when the animals are young, while randomized clinical trials typically enroll adult patients with varying stages of plaques," Chyu noted.

The study is "a small step toward understanding why the antioxidant story is very complex," said Dr. Robert A. Vogel, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who has done research in the field.

"We think antioxidants are good," Vogel said. "However, when you look at the many human trials that have been undertaken with antioxidants, the results have been disappointing."

There is always a difference between animals kept under carefully controlled conditions and "free-living human beings doing lots of good and bad things," Vogel said.

As for the timing of antioxidant use, "until a trial in humans shows that they reduce atherosclerosis, we don't know if they will be effective early, late or any time," he said.

There is no harm and some possible good in drinking green tea, Vogel said, but he advised against antioxidant supplements.

"Data on vitamin supplements to prevent heart disease is totally lacking," he said.

More information

An explanation of how antioxidants work is offered by the American Heart Association. The University of Nebraska Medical Center has more on the health benefits of green tea.

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Kid-Food Makers Weigh Obesity Woes; Go Leaner


By Nichola Groom


Monday, May 24, 2004

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Some of the biggest U.S. food and restaurant companies are changing the way they make kids' favorite foods as they face increased scrutiny in light of a nationwide childhood obesity epidemic.

In recent months, Americans' growing health-consciousness has pressured major food makers like Kraft Foods Inc. and restaurant chains like McDonald's Corp. to reformulate the fat, calorie and carbohydrate contents of foods like cookies and French fries.

But as concerns fester regarding the roughly 15 percent of U.S. children and adolescents who are considered overweight, companies are also taking action to slim down the nutritional content of products made specifically for kids.

Casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday Inc. next month will launch a new children's menu that includes grilled chicken and roast turkey entrees with side dishes of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

The new meals have less fat and fewer calories than the burgers, fried chicken strips and French fries often found on kids' menus, said Julie Reid, Ruby Tuesday's director of culinary research and development.

"The parents who feed their kids healthy at home now know they can eat healthy at the restaurant," Reid said in an interview.

Ruby Tuesday's move comes as several major food makers are announcing plans to offer healthier versions of their most popular kids' foods. The industry, which last year witnessed McDonald's become the target of a well-publicized obesity lawsuit, wants to insulate itself from litigation blaming specific foods for making people fat.

Cereal maker General Mills Inc. said last week it will introduce reduced-sugar versions of the popular kids' cereals Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs next month. Rival Kellogg Co. launched reduced-sugar versions of kids' cereals like Frosted Flakes earlier this year.

Other companies are making changes in response to moves by some of the largest U.S. public school systems to ban soft drinks, candy and fat-laden snacks from vending machines and cafeterias.

Frozen French fry maker J.R. Simplot Co., for instance, said last week it developed a new line of fries made specifically for school lunches. The reformulated fries, which schools in San Diego and Alabama plan to use, are baked rather than fried and do not contain artery-clogging trans-fats.

Another company that has perhaps made the most drastic change to its business is Atlanta-based Innovative Candy Concepts, which said last week it is removing refined sugar from its entire product line, which includes the Too Tarts candy brand.

"The demand is already there," Armand Hammer, Chief Executive of I.C.C., said in a statement. "The kids candy market has been ignored. That is changing and we're a big part of that change."

The rejigged brand, renamed Too Tarts SmartChoice, will hit store shelves in July.

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Low Income Linked with Higher Risk of Brain Tumor


By Alison McCook

Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People enrolled in the government healthcare plan Medicaid are more likely to develop a brain tumor than those not on Medicaid, researchers reported on Monday.

All participants in the current study were diagnosed in Michigan, where the household income must fall below 150 percent of the poverty line to qualify for Medicaid.

More research is needed to determine why earning less money may raise the risk of being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, study author Dr. Paula Sherwood told Reuters Health.

"This study was a beginning step to identify a group of people that are at risk," she said.

Working out of Michigan State University in Flint, Sherwood and her colleagues reviewed all cases of malignant brain tumors diagnosed in Michigan between 1996 and 1997 among people between the ages of 25 and 84 years.

Overall, brain tumors were diagnosed in approximately 8.1 out of every 100,000 people. However, among Medicaid recipients, that figure rose to 14.2 out of every 100,000 people. Brain tumors occurred in 7.5 out of 100,000 people not receiving Medicaid, the authors report in the journal Neurology.

Looking closer, Sherwood and her team found that the disparities between Medicaid recipients and non-recipients were most pronounced among younger adults. For instance, male Medicaid recipients under the age of 44 were at least 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumor than men of the same age not enrolled in Medicaid.

Among female Medicaid recipients under the age of 44, the risk of brain cancer was more than twice as high as that seen among their female peers not receiving Medicaid.

However, the disparities between Medicaid recipients and those who were not on Medicaid tended to disappear with increasing age.

"Poverty may accelerate the onset of (brain tumors) among those who are biologically predisposed and may thus deplete the ranks of the predisposed before old age," they suggest.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that the risk of brain cancer may also increase with income, with tumors occurring more frequently in people who live in more affluent areas.

Sherwood said that she and her colleagues looked at non-Medicaid-recipients as a whole, and did not distinguish between middle- and high-wage earners. "It may be the case that people with both high and low incomes are at risk," she said.

Source: Neurology, May 25, 2004.

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High Rates of Diabetes in Asian Children in Britain



Monday, May 24, 2004 

LONDON (Reuters) - South Asian children in Britain have more than 13 times the rate of Type 2 diabetes as other youngsters, according to a new survey published on Tuesday.

The illness used to be considered an adult disease but rising levels of childhood obesity mean more children are developing the disease.

"Type 2 diabetes is 13.5 times more common in South Asian children than in white children," said Dr Timothy Barrett of Birmingham Children's Hospital in England.

Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of the illness, results from the body's inability to respond to the action of insulin produced by the pancreas. It is strongly linked to being overweight or obese.

In a report in Archives of Disease in Childhood, Barrett and his colleagues collected data on the illness in children up to 16 years old from 228 diabetic centers in Britain.

Children with the disease were about 13 years old when they were diagnosed and were usually overweight or obese girls who had a relative with the disease.

If the illness is not treated, it can lead to serious complications later in life including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.

Blurred vision, unusual thirst, frequent urination and tiredness are symptoms. Type 2 diabetes occurs in about 0.14 to four percent of obese children.

An estimated 1.8 million British schoolchildren are overweight and a further 700,000 obese.

"UK children still have a low prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. Children from ethnic minorities are at significantly higher risk," said Barrett.

"We need to tackle the causes of diabetes in the whole population and the link to the obesity epidemic."

No reason was given as to why the disease might be so much more prevalent in South Asian children.

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Green Tea Chemical Doesn't Help Against Old Plaques  


Reuters Health

Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An antioxidant found in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been shown to block blood vessel plaques, but now, findings from an animal study indicate that EGCG only works against developing plaques not against ones that have been around for a while.

These results may help explain why antioxidants haven't proven very effective in studies of patients with established plaques.

"Most animal experiments evaluating the effects of antioxidants are started when the animals are young, while (human) trials typically enroll adult patients with varying stages of plaques," lead author Dr. Kuang-Yuh Chyu, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a statement. "This discrepancy supports speculation that antioxidant treatment affects early but not later stages of plaque development."

In the new study, Chyu's team evaluated the effects of EGCG in mice with high cholesterol levels. New and old plaques were assessed after 21 and 42 days of treatment.

The researchers' findings are published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association (news - web sites).

Compared with animals treated with an inactive solution, EGCG-treated mice showed a reduction in the size of developing plaques, but not established ones.

Our findings "reinforce the theory that intervention (with antioxidants) is effective in early but not late stages of (plaque) development," Chyu noted.

Source: Circulation, May 25, 2004.

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Sunday, May 23, 2004


Salt Getting Overlooked in Health Craze


The Associated Press

Sunday, May 23, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa - Amid the flurry of efforts by restaurant chains to serve healthier food, one key ingredient is being largely overlooked: Salt.

Medical experts agree that Americans consume excessive quantities of sodium, which makes up 40 percent of table salt, or sodium chloride.

"On average we take in about twice the recommended amount," said Paul K. Whelton, a physician at Tulane University in New Orleans. Earlier this month he co-authored a study that found increasing evidence of high blood pressure among American children and adolescents. One in four American adults, or perhaps 50 million people, has high blood pressure, the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) has estimated.

Health professionals say public ignorance about sodium is a major challenge.

"We can see our bellies getting bigger, so we know we should do something about our weight," Whelton said. Not so with salt.

Yet while high sodium intake has long been associated with hypertension, stroke and other health risks, there are few indications that either fast-food or casual-dining restaurants are making lower sodium levels a high priority.

Indeed, at times the opposite seems to be true.

When Wendy's International Inc. rolled out a line of Chicken Temptations sandwiches last month, each contained more sodium than the sandwich it replaced. The fast-food chain's new spicy chicken fillet sandwich, for example, has 1.48 grams of sodium — 0.26 grams more than the previous spicy chicken version. Wendy's new Ultimate Chicken Grill sandwich contains 1.1 grams of sodium, a 50 percent increase from the former grilled chicken sandwich.

"Our research showed that consumers wanted bigger, bolder taste above all else," said Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini, describing the products' development process. He attributed the higher sodium counts to changes in the sandwiches' breading and marinade.

Still, the hamburger chain is "actively working with our suppliers to find ways to minimize the level of sodium in our products, while meeting our customers' high taste expectations," said Bertini. "For example, our R&D team is exploring ways to reduce the sodium in our salad dressings and other menu items."

But the emphasis at most chains today is on obesity. Because of growing public and government attention to what is perceived as a serious national health problem, restaurant operators are focusing their attention on reducing fat, calories and carbohydrates.

Although the recommended government guideline for a healthy American adult is no more than 2.4 grams of sodium a day, or about one teaspoon of salt, several studies suggest much lower amounts. The Institute of Medicine (news - web sites) of the National Academy of Science recently concluded that 1.5 grams daily is sufficient for most individuals. The body uses sodium to regulate blood pressure and blood volume, and it is critical for the functioning of muscles and nerves.

But a meal out can deliver one day's quota in a single sandwich. For example, the club sandwich at Denny's Inc. family restaurants contains 2.45 grams of sodium. The Italian submarine sandwich at Arby's restaurants comes with 2.44 grams of sodium, while the Deli Trio Pannido at Jack In The Box Inc. stores has 2.53 grams.

That favorite American food, the hamburger, also can deliver a hefty dose of sodium. McDonald's Corp.'s Big Mac contains 1.05 grams, or 44 percent of the recommended daily intake. Burger King's flagship Whopper, served with a slice of cheese, has 1.45 grams of sodium, or 60 percent of the recommended total.

Salads, touted for their healthful attributes, nonetheless may make it difficult for customers to shake the sodium habit. The Greek salad at Jack In The Box includes 2.625 grams of sodium, the chain's Southwest chicken salad 2.155 grams.

Dressings often are the culprit. At Burger King, the Fire-Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with creamy garlic Caesar dressing has 1.61 grams of sodium. Holding the dressing cuts that by 0.71 grams.

Customers may be hard-pressed to learn the amount of sodium in their food when they dine out. Most restaurants don't post nutritional analyses of their fare, and some of those who do have it on Web sites but not on the premises.

Among chains that do disclose it, McDonald's is among the most advanced. Besides using its Web site, plus tray liners and brochures in its restaurants, the fast-food giant is considering printing a meal's nutritional components on the customer's sales slip. While the information would come too late to affect that purchase, it might alter those on future visits, the thinking goes.

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Global Health Leaders Adopt Diet Strategy


By Emma Ross

AP Medical Writer

The Associated Press

Sunday, May 23, 2004

GENEVA - The world's health leaders formally adopted a global strategy to combat bad diet and exercise habits Saturday, part of a wave of determination to fight diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.

The voluntary plan offers a blueprint for countries trying to develop policies that make it easier for people to eat healthier food and exercise more. Diseases linked to poor diet cause more than half of all deaths worldwide and are becoming an increasing problem in poor countries.

The governing body of the World Health Organization (news - web sites) formally adopted the plan Saturday after tentatively agreeing upon it Friday.

"We will go home with this global strategy in hand, share it with our colleagues in the various ministries and get on with the job of improving the diets of our people," the delegation of the Philippines said.

The agreement sets out recommendations such as the reduction of sugar, fat and salt in processed food; the control of food marketing to children and of health claims on packaging; and more comprehensive nutrition labeling and health education.

It also provides ideas on ways to make healthy choices easier at school, work and home, such as safer walkways and more cycling tracks and the subsidization of fruits and vegetables in school lunch rooms.

Regardless of whether countries end up using the unprecedented plan, experts say the pace of obesity's spread across the planet, the predictions of what it will cost to deal with the consequences, and the food industry's lingering fears of a successful lawsuit by fat people are all forces certain to motivate changes.

The problem of excess weight and obesity, which now afflicts more people than malnutrition does, has been thrust into the spotlight like never before, said Dr. Derek Yach, who spearheaded the development of the plan at the World Health Organization.

"This is one that won't get shelved because you are dealing with massive corporate interests," he said.

Companies are dogged by worries that one day they will face massive damages if a lawsuit blaming them for making people fat succeeds. Analysts have published reports advising investors that some food company stocks may be a risky addition to a portfolio because of the obesity-promoting nature of some of their products.

Still, the WHO diet and exercise plan is not a legally binding treaty, and experts say and its test will be whether and how nations use it.

"This is going to need champions in each country," said Dr. Jim Kiely, a member of the Irish delegation. "It's simply not going to happen because the health minister has been here and goes back and says this is a very good document."

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Know Stroke's Warning Signs Before One Strikes


By Adam Marcus
HealthDay Reporter


Sunday, May 23, 2004

SUNDAY, May 23 (HealthDayNews) -- Stroke is the leading cause of disability for American adults

But many don't recognize its first signs.

Ask yourself this: Can you name any of the most common symptoms of stroke?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke offers this list:


If you came up with one or more of these symptoms, you deserve some congratulations. Better still, you might be one of the lucky people who, should you suffer a stroke, will have the wherewithal to seek treatment fast enough to save your brain from devastating injury.


If you didn't know any of the symptoms, now might be the time to learn since May is National Stroke Awareness Month.


Strokes come in two varieties: Ischemic attacks, in which a clot blocks blood flow in an artery or vessel; and hemorrhagic, in which a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, the loss of blood starves brain cells in the affected area of nutrients, causing cells to die.


When a stroke is mild, the loss of brain cells can have little or no impact on a person's ability to function. But when neurons die in important centers of the organ, people can be left without the ability to speak, walk or remember.


Treating stroke involves administering a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) soon after an attack. This substance is a powerful clot dissolver -- the circulatory system's version of Drano -- and it can reduce the neurologic damage from stroke significantly.

Although the National Stroke Association says "time is brain", most people in the United States don't get treated rapidly enough after a stroke begins. According to the group, 13 hours was the median time from onset of the attack to when patients arrived at the hospital in 1993. One in two stroke patients who die do so before they reach a hospital, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites).


That's especially worrisome because people who reach the hospital within three hours of the start of a stroke have a 30 percent to 50 percent chance of a near or total recovery from the attack, said Dr. Steven R. Levine, a neurologist at the stroke program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


"The brain is an exquisite organ that's very sensitive to time," Levine said. "The sooner you treat within the three-hour window, the better outcome for the patient."


But what happens to areas of the brain affected by blood loss? Can they be regenerated? "That's the zillion-dollar question," Levine said. Experiments with stem cells and other neuron-promoting therapies are under way, he said, but nothing is available yet.


While strokes may occur in the body's hidden machinery, they can be prevented. Smokers, diabetics and people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure are at greater risk of stroke than others. Controlling these risks -- by quitting smoking, exercising and keeping blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in check -- can reduce the odds of a brain attack.


Medications can also help. Drugs such as ACE inhibitors, which control blood pressure, and statins, which lower cholesterol, lower the risk of stroke.


Recent decades have seen major improvements in stroke care beyond the arrival of tPA, which was first approved for use in heart attack patients in 1987. (The drug was approved for use in ischemic stroke patients nine years later.)


Structural changes in stroke care have made a difference, Levine said. These include designating certain hospitals as stroke centers, and transporting patients to these specialized facilities instead of to conventional emergency rooms. Another big advance:

Keeping stroke patients in dedicated stroke wards with expert nurses who are trained to watch for signs of infections, leg clots and other complications that can kill stroke victims during recovery.


It pays to learn where your nearest stroke center is, Levine said, in case you need to direct someone, including an ambulance crew, there. "It's a great concept to keep in your mind. It may not be that the ambulance knows where to go."


Most important, he said, know what a stroke feels like -- before you suffer one.


More information


The National Stroke Association tells you how to recognize the symptoms of stroke. The American Heart Association (news - web sites) has more on tissue plasminogen activator.

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Saturday, May 22, 2004


What Every Diabetic Should Know About Heart Disease


By Janice Billingsley
HealthDay Reporter


Saturday, May 22, 2004

SATURDAY, May 22 (HealthDayNews) -- Most people with diabetes are keenly aware they have to worry about the threat of kidney problems, nerve damage that can lead to amputation, and blindness.

But most don't know their disease also dramatically raises their risk of heart disease or stroke.

"Two out of three people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease, not from other related complications," said Joann Gallivan, director of the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites)'s National Diabetes Education Program.

Yet two-thirds of those diagnosed with diabetes don't think of heart disease as a serious problem, she added.

This, despite a spate of recent attention paid to the problem, including guidelines issued last April by the American College of Physicians. They recommend that diabetics over the age of 55, or those with diabetes under that age with risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure, start taking cholesterol-fighting drugs called statins.

This knowledge gap could be partly due to the fact that only in the last few years has research begun to establish the diabetes-heart disease link. Even many doctors have only recently become aware of the high risk of heart disease among diabetic patients, Gallivan said.

"In the past we've focused on diabetes-management issues like blindness, kidney problems and nerve damage and didn't emphasize enough the cardiovascular disease risk," said Dr. Nathaniel G. Clark, national vice president of the American Diabetes Association.

But even when doctors discuss cardiovascular risks with their patients with diabetes, the patients aren't always grasping the new information, he said.

"In surveys we did of doctors and patients, we found that diabetes patients were being managed correctly by doctors. But when we interviewed the patients, they said their doctors hadn't told them that heart disease and diabetes are linked," he said.

Those patients include Linda Rooks-Dimps, a 50-year-old librarian with the Washington, D.C., public library system, who has had diabetes for seven years. She credits her doctor with regular warnings about her heightened risk for kidney disease, enough so that she began several years ago to exercise regularly diet, and eat more healthfully. To date, she's lost 38 pounds.

But she had no idea diabetes dramatically increased her risk for heart disease until she attended a recent health conference.

"My doctor never said anything about heart disease and stroke, and I didn't realize what a big effect diabetes has on the heart," she said.

People with diabetes run the same risk of heart disease or a heart attack as someone who has already had a heart attack, Clark said.

To focus attention on the link between diabetes and heart disease, the American Diabetes Association, the American College of Cardiology and the National Diabetes Education Program have created a program called Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes. It encourages diabetes patients to ask their doctors to test them not just for blood sugar levels, but for blood pressure and cholesterol as well.

The "A" stands for a glucose test called A1C, which doesn't require fasting and can be done in the doctor's office. "B" stands for a blood-pressure test, and the "C" represents a cholesterol test.

The three groups behind the Control the ABCs of Diabetes campaign recommend that the glucose test result be 7 percent or less; the blood pressure reading be no higher than 130/80 mmHg; and the combined cholesterol number not exceed 200 mg/dl.

"If a person has diabetes, it becomes crucial that these targets, which have been determined by clinical trials, be met," said Dr. James R. Gavin III, chairman of the National Diabetes Education Program and president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Gavin recommends patients and their doctors establish a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes, such as more exercise and a better diet, and, when necessary, medication.

There are approximately 18.2 million Americans with diabetes, and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.

What's more, the disease is on the rise -- from 1990 to 1998 its prevalence increased by one-third among Americans, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care. One out of five adults aged 65 or older has the more common type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites).

Just last week, U.S. health officials announced that 41 million Americans have blood sugar levels high enough to put them at risk of developing diabetes -- more than twice the previous estimate.

The new number means two of every five adults aged 40 to 74 is now considered to have "pre-diabetes," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites) reported.

More information

For a comprehensive look at Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes program, visit the National Institutes of Health. The American Heart Association offers a thorough explanation of what cholesterol is and recommended levels.

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Protect Those Rotator Cuffs


Saturday, May 22, 2004

SATURDAY, May 22 (HealthDayNews)-- Spring is here, and that means warmer weather, more baseball, more tennis and more rotator cuff injuries.

The rotator cuff muscles hold the shoulder bones together and let them move when, for example, you throw a ball.

When you repeatedly stress this set of muscles with overhead movements, injuries can occur. In addition to these "overuse" types of injuries, a single traumatic event can also hurt the rotator cuff.

The best strategy is prevention, says Dr. Peter D. McCann, director of the Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

Check out these tips:

Here are some good rotator-cuff exercises to help you ease into your workout:


If you have pain that persists for 10 to 14 days, stop any activity and see a doctor.


More information


The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has more on rotator cuff injuries.

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