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Friday, July 29, 2011

Some Ethnic Groups More Vulnerable to Dangerous Fat

HealthDay 

HealthDay News

Friday, July 29, 2011

FRIDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Some ethnic groups are more likely than others to store dangerous fat around their internal organs as they gain weight, according to a new study.

This organ-hugging fat, which can lead to diabetes and coronary artery disease, is more common among people from South Asia, the Canadian researchers reported in the July 28 online edition of the journal PLoS ONE.

"The new study showed South Asians have less space to store fat below the skin than white Caucasians," Dr. Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, said in a university news release. "Their excess fat, therefore, overflows to ectopic compartments, in the abdomen and liver where it may affect function."

This extra fat surrounding vital organs, known as visceral fat, is also associated with metabolic problems, including elevated blood sugar and abnormal blood fats -- risk factors that ultimately lead to coronary artery disease, the study authors explained.

The researchers found that, compared with white people with the same body mass index (BMI), people who originate from the Indian subcontinent have more risk factors for heart disease including type 2 diabetes, low HDL ("good") cholesterol and more abdominal obesity.

"Many Canadians of South Asian descent -- as well as those of Aboriginal, African and Chinese descent -- are experiencing historic levels of risk for heart disease and stroke. It is only through research like this that we can learn how better to treat and prevent these diseases, so lives are not cut short," said Mary Lewis, vice-president of research, advocacy and health promotion of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

"This study helps explain why South Asians experience weight-related health problems at lower BMI levels than [whites]. For the clinician, this also means that individuals of South Asian heritage need to be screened for the presence of heart disease and diabetes at lower BMIs," Dr. Arya Sharma, a co-author of the study and director of the Canadian Obesity Network, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about obesity .

Can chewing more help you eat less?

By Eric Schultz

Reuters Health

Friday, July 29, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study finds that people who chew their food more take in fewer calories, which may help them control their weight.

Chewing food 40 times instead of a typical 15 times caused study participants to eat nearly 12 percent fewer calories, according to results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Jie Li and colleagues from Harbin Medical University in China gave a typical breakfast to 14 obese young men and 16 young men of normal weight to see if there were differences in how they chewed their food. The researchers also looked to see whether chewing more would lead subjects to eat less and would affect levels of blood sugar or certain hormones that regulate appetite.

Previous research has explored the connection between obesity and chewing, with mixed results. Several studies have found eating faster and chewing less are associated with obesity, while others have found no such link.

In the current study, the team found a connection between the amount of chewing and levels of several hormones that "tell the brain when to begin to eat and when to stop eating," said co-author Shuran Wang in an email.

More chewing was associated with lower blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, as well as higher levels of CCK, a hormone believed to reduce appetite.

These hormones may "represent useful targets for future obesity therapies," Wang told Reuters Health, since regulating their levels may help people control their appetite.

The authors found no difference between the size of bites taken by obese or normal-weight men, and no link between chewing duration and blood sugar or insulin levels in any of the men.

Since the study was small and only included young men, it does not necessarily predict how extended chewing will affect the calorie intake of other people, the authors noted.

The 12 percent reduction in calories eaten by the group who chewed their food 40 times in the study could potentially translate into significant weight loss, however.

If the average person cut their calorie intake by 12 percent, they would lose nearly 25 pounds in one year, said Adam Drewnowski, director of the University of Washington Center for Obesity Research in Seattle.

But since the typical diet includes foods that are not chewed -- such as soup and ice cream -- the actual amount of weight one is likely to lose by chewing more is much less, he cautioned.

"I suppose that if you chew each bite of food 100 times or more you may end up eating less. However, I am not sure that this is a viable obesity prevention measure," said Drewnowski, who was not involved in the current study.

Despite the study's limitations, the authors say the relationship between eating behaviors and obesity is worth studying further, to help slow a growing health problem worldwide.

More than a third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity is an important risk factor for a number of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. A 2010 study from the Brookings Institution estimated the economic cost of obesity in the U.S. to be over $200 billion per year.

Source: http://bit.ly/mTVbpm

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online July 20, 2011.

Drop in Breast Cancer Death Rates May Not Be Linked to Screening Rates

HealthDay News

Friday, July 29, 2011

FRIDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Developed countries have seen a drop in breast cancer death rates in recent years, but a new international study suggests this trend is less about rising screening rates and more about the availability of increasingly effective treatments and improving health-care systems.

The finding stems from an analysis of World Health Organization (WHO) breast cancer data collected between 1980 and 2006, in which French, British and Norwegian researchers compared the screening and fatality rates of several Western European countries. The observations were presented online July 29 in the British Medical Journal.

"The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality," a team of researchers led by Philippe Autier, research director of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, said in a journal news release.

To explore to what degree breast cancer screening rates appeared to be related to fatality rates, the authors chose six countries for points of comparison.

Northern Ireland was stacked up against the Republic of Ireland; the Netherlands was compared with Belgium/Flanders; and Sweden was examined alongside Norway.

The team noted that medical services and the prevalence of breast cancer death risk factors were comparable in each pairing. However, in the space of the study, the second country of each of the three groups was 10 to 15 years behind the first country in terms of their implementation of mammography screening protocols.

The results: Breast cancer death rates, which dropped across the board, were more or less similar in each country pairing, despite stark differences in screening histories.

For example, fatalities between 1989 and 2006 had plummeted by 29 percent in Northern Ireland, as compared with 26 percent in the Republic of Ireland.

The Netherlands registered a 25 percent drop, compared with a 20 percent to 25 percent drop in Belgium/Flanders, while the downward trend of 16 percent in Sweden compared with 24 percent in Norway.

In general terms, Autier's team also noted breast cancer death rates were not that different among women who had undergone almost no screening as compared with those who had been screened quite often.

And the biggest death rate drop seen overall was among women between the ages of 40 and 49, whether or not they had undergone screening.

Dr. Lauren Cassell, chief of breast surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital (affiliated with Northshore/LIJ) in New York City, cautioned that it's not clear that the current findings are easily generalizable to other nations.

"I'm not sure how well this finding would translate in comparison with the U.S.," she noted. "I suspect that we may be more aggressive in our screening protocols, and our health system is very different from the ones they looked at."

"And, in any case, I would certainly say that people should continue getting screened," Cassell stressed. "Because we still do know that catching any cancer at an earlier stage does translate into better outcomes and maybe less treatment. Because even if the end result is the same, and fatal, I certainly would like to have a cancer that could be treated with hormonal treatment and not chemotherapy, if possible."

More information

For more on breast cancer screening guidelines in the United States, visit the American Cancer Society.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can vitamins help boost your memory?

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adults who took vitamin and mineral supplements for almost a decade performed better on one type of memory test than those who didn't take the supplements, according to a new study from France.

The researchers say the findings suggest that getting enough nutrients could aid thinking and memory skills as people get older. But further studies are needed to confirm the results, they add.

The effect was "nothing wild that you'd say, 'Everybody should take these,'" said Geraldine McNeill, a nutritionist at the University of Aberdeen in the UK.

But McNeill, who wasn't involved in the new study, said some people -- especially those who are deficient in vitamins and minerals -- might get a memory benefit from boosting the nutrients in their diet.

Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot of the University of Paris XIII in France and colleagues write that the link between a higher intake of some nutrients and thinking and memory skills has been shown before in so-called observational studies. But those studies can't get at a cause-and-effect relationship.

"The question is, does the cognitive performance depend on the diet, or does the diet depend on the cognitive performance?" McNeill told Reuters Health. It's possible that people who have better thinking and memory skills might pay closer attention to what they're eating, she explained.

To try to get a clearer picture of the association, Kesse-Guyot and her colleagues conducted a study of close to 4,500 French men and women.

In 1994, when the study participants were 45 to 60 years old, researchers split them randomly into two groups. Half of them took a daily supplement that included vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, and beta-carotene for eight years. The others took a nutrient-free placebo pill each day.

None of the participants knew whether they were taking the vitamin or the sham pills.

When the eight years were up, researchers stopped giving participants their assigned pills, and they could choose on their own whether or not to take vitamin supplements.

Six years after that, the investigators brought them back to the lab for a round of memory tests.

The tests included word and number problems to measure different types of memory and "mental flexibility."

While the supplement and placebo groups performed similarly on most tests, the nutrient-boosted participants beat their peers on one test of long-term memory in which participants had to recall words in different categories.

"Our results have to be considered carefully," the authors wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Because they did several tests, it's more likely that the one difference they found was due to chance.

Still, they added, the "findings support a beneficial effect of a well-balanced intake of antioxidant nutrients at nutritional doses for maintaining cognitive performance, especially verbal memory."

McNeill said that most people could probably get the vitamin and nutrient doses used in the study through tweaks in their diet -- for example, drinking fruit juice to get Vitamin C and using plant oil, which is a good source of Vitamin E.

"Taking supplements for me is a last resort," she said.

Barbara Shukitt-Hale, a nutrition researcher at Tufts University in Boston, said it's important for people to know that boosting brainpower requires more than just taking a vitamin pill every day.

"Vitamins and minerals are important for memory, but they're not the only thing that's important," she told Reuters Health. "The most important thing is eating a healthy diet, being active, and keeping your brain sharp."

Source: http://bit.ly/ntXIcp

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online July 20, 2011.

Building Muscle May Reduce Diabetes Risk, Study Says

HealthDay News

Thursday, July 28, 2011

THURSDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing your muscle mass can help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from 13,644 adults who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III between 1988 and 1994. They found that for each 10 percent increase in the skeletal muscle index (SMI) -- the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight -- there was an 11 percent reduction in insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

There was also a 12 percent reduction in pre-diabetes, a condition characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, said the researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass," Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, said in a UCLA news release.

"This is a welcome message for many overweight patients who experience difficulty in achieving weight loss, as any effort to get moving and keep fit should be seen as laudable and contributing to metabolic change," she added.

The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

More information

The U.S. National Diabetes Education Program outlines ways to prevent diabetes.

No clear link between statins and kidney cancer

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are not linked to an increased risk of kidney cancer, suggests a new study. But there also isn't enough evidence to say that they offer any protection against the disease, researchers say.

One in four adults age 45 and older in the U.S. takes a statin to lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Some researchers were concerned when the drugs first hit the market that they might up cancer risks.

So far, the evidence on such a link "has been all over the place," said study author Dr. Toni Choueiri, from Harvard Medical School in Boston.

For kidney cancer in particular, "you had studies that showed increased risk (and) studies that showed no association," he told Reuters Health.

Choueiri and his colleagues used two large national data sets to hone in on the link between statin use and kidney cancer, which strikes more than 50,000 Americans each year.

The study involved close to 120,000 nurses and other health professionals who were followed for about 15 years. Every two years, the participants reported to researchers what medications they were taking, including statins, and any new diseases they had been diagnosed with.

Over the course of the study, 277 people were diagnosed with kidney cancer -- 66 of whom were taking statins at the time of the diagnosis.

When the researchers took into account factors such as smoking, weight, and diet, men who were taking statins had the same chance of being diagnosed with kidney cancer as men who weren't taking the drugs.

The researchers did find signs that women currently taking the drugs might have less cancer, but that finding could have been due to chance. Further studies will be needed to clear up that link, they wrote in the journal Cancer.

On the other hand, the authors didn't find that people who took statins for many years were protected against kidney cancer compared to those who only took them for a short time only.

Researchers have thought statins might affect cancer risk by altering the growth of tumors and the blood vessels that feed them.

But for now, "there's no convincing data that statins increase the risk of any cancer, but there's also no convincing data that statins decrease the risk," said Dr. Brian Strom, an epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

There's no question that statins are beneficial for people with heart disease, and they're also very safe, said Strom, who wasn't involved in the new study. "People shouldn't either take (a statin) or stop taking it because of risk of cancer," he told Reuters Health.

Choueiri and his colleagues noted that they couldn't look at the link between individual drugs and kidney cancer risks, and it's possible that some statins may have an effect on cancer, while others don't.

Source: http://bit.ly/qHI9gp

Cancer, online July 12, 2011.

Pregnancy-Related Strokes Jump 54 Percent

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, July 28, 2011

THURSDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of suffering a stroke during -- or soon after -- pregnancy has increased dramatically in recent years, according to new U.S. government research.

From the mid-1990s to 2006-2007, the rate of pregnancy-related stroke hospitalizations went up by 54 percent.

"When we started this study, we expected to see some increase in pregnancy-related stroke, but we did not expect to see such a big increase," said study author Dr. Elena Kuklina, an epidemiologist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

But, pregnancy-related stroke is still "pretty rare," she added. About 4,000 strokes a year occurred at the start of the study, compared to more than 6,000 at the end.

Results of the study, published online July 28, will appear in the September print edition of the journal Stroke.

The study wasn't designed to assess what factors influenced the increased risk of stroke, Kuklina said. But, women today are often older when they get pregnant, and they may be overweight or obese, which are known risk factors for stroke, she noted.

Also, more women who become pregnant have pre-existing chronic medical conditions, such as congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and autoimmune diseases, she said. In the past, many of these women would have been discouraged from attempting pregnancy.

Data for the study came from a national database that gathers discharge information from 1,000 hospitals.

The rate of hospitalization for stroke during pregnancy went up 47 percent from 1994-95 to 2006-2007, according to the study. In the postpartum period (after the birth of the baby), the rate of stroke hospitalizations jumped even more -- 83 percent -- during the same time period. Rates of stroke hospitalizations remained the same during delivery.

Nearly one-third of the women who had a stroke during pregnancy, and more than half who had a stroke during the postpartum period, had high blood pressure or a history of heart disease, the study found.

Women between the ages of 25 and 34 were hospitalized for stroke more often than younger or older women.

Kuklina said that all women should try to be as healthy as possible before they get pregnant, and "try to stick to a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy." She recommended healthful eating, regular physical activity and not smoking.

She also advised women who have a chronic condition to make sure it is as well-controlled as it can be prior to conception. In some cases, she said, doctors might recommend blood-thinning medication to help prevent stroke.

Dr. Mary Rosser, an obstetrician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, said she was happy to see a study drawing attention to this issue.

"This is a very telling article that will raise awareness. Women might brush off some of the symptoms [of stroke], and just think they're exhausted because they're pregnant or just had a baby," she said.

Some of the symptoms that signal a need for immediate medical attention, Rosser said, include:

Sudden confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding others

Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs, especially if this occurs only on one side

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Trouble walking or coordinating movements

Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Rosser said some of the signs that a woman may be developing dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy include:

  • Headache
  • Swelling in the face or hands
  • Visual changes
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

These symptoms are of more concern when one or more occur at the same time, she said. She tells her patients to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a headache, but if pain persists after 30 minutes to call the doctor. If you already have a known history of high blood pressure, she said that experiencing any of the symptoms listed should prompt a phone call to the doctor.

Women who have chronic conditions at the start of pregnancy should consider seeing a high-risk obstetrician who may be more experienced in handling such conditions, Rosser added.

More information

Learn more about stroke from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 

Menopause Does Not Boost Diabetes Risk, Study Finds

HealthDay News

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WEDNESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Menopause does not raise a woman's odds of developing diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System found this was true for both women who underwent natural menopause and those who had their ovaries removed.

"In our study, menopause had no additional effect on risk for diabetes," the study's lead author, Dr. Catherine Kim, associate professor of internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System, said in a university news release. "Menopause is one of many small steps in aging and it doesn't mean women's health will be worse after going through this transition."

In conducting the study, published in the August issue of Menopause, researchers examined more than 1,200 women between the ages of 40 and 65 with what's known as glucose intolerance (a pre-stage to diabetes characterized by high blood sugar levels).

The study found that for every year 100 women were observed, 11.8 premenopausal women developed diabetes, compared to 10.5 among women in natural menopause and 12.9 cases among women who had their ovaries removed.

Meanwhile, women who had their ovaries removed but also lost 7 percent of their body weight and exercised for at least 150 minutes per week actually saw a decline in their risk for diabetes. The researchers found that for every year 100 of these women were followed, only 1.1 of them developed the disease.

The results among this group, the study authors pointed out, were surprising considering that nearly all of the women who had their ovaries removed were on hormone replacement therapy -- a treatment that may put them at risk for an array of health problems. They added that additional research is needed on the role of hormone therapy and diabetes risk.

"Physicians can be empowered to tell women that lifestyle changes can be very effective, and that menopause does not mean that they have a higher risk of diabetes," concluded Kim.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information on menopause.

Non-Coding RNA Has Role in Inherited Neurological Disorder, and Maybe Other Brain Diseases Too

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2011) A team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have uncovered a novel mechanism regulating gene expression and transcription linked to Spinocerebellar ataxia 7, an inherited neurological disorder. The discovery promises to have broad ramifications, suggesting that abundant non-coding transcripts of ribonucleic acid (RNA) may be key players in neurological development and function, and could be powerful targets for future clinical therapies.

The research, headed by Albert La Spada, MD, PhD, chief of the division of genetics in the UCSD department of pediatrics, and professor of cellular and molecular medicine, neurosciences and biological sciences, is published in the June 22 issue of the journal Neuron.

"Our paper highlights a number of important emerging themes in our understanding of gene regulation in the brain," said La Spada, who is also associate director of the UCSD Institute for Genomic Medicine.

"With the advent of new technologies, science has learned that the vast majority of our transcripts are non-coding," said La Spada. "The challenge going forward is to determine what they do do, and if they have specific functions. It now seems increasingly likely that a multitude of these non-coding RNAs help finely tune transcription regulation in the brain, and perturbation of their work is linked to disease. If we can figure out exactly how, we should be able to gain new insights into how the brain is so precisely regulated -- knowledge that may help us better understand how the brain works."

Spinocerebellar ataxia 7 is one of several types of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), genetic degenerative disorders characterized by atrophy in the cerebellum of the brain, progressive loss of physical coordination -- and in the case of type 7 -- retinal degeneration that can result in blindness. There is currently no known cure.

Many SCAs are classified as polyglutamine diseases, caused when a protein associated with the disease contains too many repeats of the amino acid glutamine. Polyglutamine diseases are also known as "CAG Triplet Repeat Disorders" because CAG is the sequence of nucleic acids that codes for glutamine.

La Spada and colleagues have long studied SCA. In 2001, they were the first to demonstrate that SCA7 retinal degeneration was the result of transcription dysregulation of ataxin-7, the protein associated with SCA7. Following up, they decided to learn how the gene that expresses ataxin-7 is itself regulated.

The researchers found not one, but two, regulators. The first is called CTCF, a highly conserved protein that regulates a variety of transcriptional processes, most notable establishing insulator domains and controlling genomic imprinting. But they also discovered an adjacent, alternative promoter dubbed intron 2 promoter (P2A) and a transcribed antisense, non-coding RNA, which they labeled SpinoCerebellarAtaxia-AntisenseNoncodingTranscript1 or SCAANT1.

Antisense RNA is single-stranded ribonucleic acid whose primary function appears to be as an inhibitor or suppressor of a gene, though sometimes it can promote gene expression instead. Most antisense RNAs are non-coding, meaning that their sequences do not provide information for making proteins. Even though non-coding RNAs do not provide instructions for the production of vital proteins, they comprise the bulk of the human genome. A major challenge for biomedical research in the 21st century is to figure what they do, and how they do it.

In their Neuron paper, La Spada and colleagues highlight one function, at least for SCAANT1. When they investigated how CTCF regulated ataxin-7 gene expression in transgenic mice, they discovered that CTCF promotes the production of SCAANT1 which in turn represses the newly discovered ataxin-7 sense promoter P2A. In mice lacking SCAANT1, sense promoter P2A is de-repressed, allowing a mutant ataxin-7 gene to be expressed, resulting in mice with a version of SCA7. The scientists found a similar lack of antisense SCAANT1 in the fibroblasts and white blood cells taken from human patients with SCA7, implicating deregulation of this pathway in the disease process.

As many inherited neurological disorders are now known to exhibit such overlapping "bidirectional" transcription, the findings in SCA7 could shed light on similar abnormalities with non-coding RNA function in a number of brain diseases.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the NIGMS of the National Institutes of Health.

Co-authors of the research are Bryce L. Sopher, Victor V. Pineda, Randell T. Libby and Cortlandt P. Thienes, Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Paula D. Ladd, Department of Pediatrics, UCSD; Susan M. Sunkin, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA; James B. Hurley, Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle; Terry Gaasterland, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Institute for Genomic Medicine, UCSD; Galina N. Filippova, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of California - San Diego. The original article was written by Scott LaFee.

Journal Reference:

Bryce L. Sopher, Paula D. Ladd, Victor V. Pineda, Randell T. Libby, Susan M. Sunkin, James B. Hurley, Cortlandt P. Thienes, Terry Gaasterland, Galina N. Filippova, Albert R. La Spada. CTCF Regulates Ataxin-7 Expression through Promotion of a Convergently Transcribed, Antisense Noncoding RNA. Neuron, 2011; 70 (6): 1071 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.05.027

Age-Related Memory Loss May Be Reversible, Animal Study Suggests

HealthDay News

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WEDNESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Age-related memory problems occur due to declines in the neural networks of a certain area of the brain, but this problem may be reversible, a new study in animals suggests.

Yale University researchers found that the neural networks in the prefrontal cortex of older lab animals have weaker connections and fire less strongly than in younger animals.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher cognitive and executive functions, including working memory. Working memory, which is the basis for abstract thought and reasoning, enables humans to recall information such as where they left their car keys.

The researchers also found that certain compounds -- such as one used in a medication that has been approved for treating high blood pressure in adults -- helped improve prefrontal cortex neuronal firing rates in older animals, according to the report published July 27 in the journal Nature.

"Age-related cognitive deficits can have a serious impact on our lives in the 'information age' as people often need higher cognitive functions to meet even basic needs, such as paying bills or accessing medical care," study author Amy Arnsten, a professor of neurobiology and psychology and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, said in a Yale news release. "These abilities are critical for maintaining demanding careers and being able to live independently as we grow older."

Researchers note that studies involving animals often fail to produce similar results or benefits in humans.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about age-related memory loss.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 

Adding a Stent During Minimally Invasive Surgery to Repair Aneurysms Prevents Recurrence, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 26, 2011) The addition of a simple stent can help prevent potentially lethal blood vessel bulges in the brain from recurring after they are repaired in a minimally invasive "coiling" procedure, according to new research by Johns Hopkins physicians. A report on the research, published in the July Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery, could make coiling a more viable option for the 30,000 people diagnosed with brain aneurysms each year in the United States, the investigators say.

Cerebral aneurysms, abnormal outward pouching of blood vessels in the brain, are traditionally repaired by an "open" operation, in which surgeons remove part of the skull, cut into the brain to reach the affected blood vessel, and then place a metal clip on the vessel where it balloons outward to close it down. In the past several years, surgeons are increasingly repairing aneurysms through coiling, in which they thread a platinum wire into a small incision in the groin, push it through the body's network of blood vessels to the bulging one, then pack the wire into the bulge where a natural clotting reaction closes it off.

Though endovascular (through the vessel) coiling has significant benefits compared to clipping, such as a lower risk of infection and recovery times measured in weeks instead of months, it also comes with a significant drawback -- recurrence of the aneurysm about a third of the time, says study leader Alex Coon, M.D., assistant professor of neurosurgery, neurology and radiology and director of endovascular surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Traditional aneurysm surgery has a low recurrence rate of about two percent.

To avoid recurrence and the need for further surgery, some surgeons have experimented with insertion of a stent, or small tube, in the blood vessel near the neck of the aneurysm. The goal is to prop open the affected vessel so that more wire can be packed into the bulge.

To learn whether stents actually prevent recurrence or add complications, Coon and his colleagues looked at medical records of 90 people whose aneurysms were repaired by coiling at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between May 1992 and March 2009. A stent was used in a third of the operations.

After two years of follow-up, the researchers found that aneurysms recurred in more than 40 percent of patients who did not have stents. The recurrence rate in the stented patients was only about 15 percent, and stented patients had no more complications than those without stents.

Coon notes that endovascular surgery for aneurysms is becoming more common, and knowing what can prevent recurrence will help surgeons and patients make informed decisions about the choice of procedure.

"It's easy to treat someone's aneurysm, but can you treat it durably and make it last? We've now shown in our study that stenting -- something that makes sense from an engineering perspective, a clinical perspective and a common sense perspective -- truly works," he says.

Other Johns Hopkins researchers who participated in this study include Geoffrey P. Colby, Alexandra R. Paul, Martin G. Radvany, Dheeraj Ghandi, Philippe Gailloud, Judy Huang, and Rafael J. Tamargo.

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

Story Source:

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

Poor Health Linked to Very Preemie Birth Stabilizes by Adolescence

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are born at extremely low birth weights (below 2.2 pounds) are susceptible to a number of chronic health conditions, such as asthma. But, new research suggests that between 8 and 14 years of age, any lingering chronic illness in extremely low birth weight babies tends to stay about the same -- not getting better, but also not getting worse.

Ironically, the one exception was obesity. The rate of obesity was 12 percent when the children were 8 years old, but by 14, the rate of obesity was 19 percent in the extremely low birth weight group. Rates of obesity in children who were born at normal weights were 16 percent at age 8 and 20 percent at age 14, according to the study.

"As these children get older, most conditions are stable, but they did catch up in obesity," said the study's lead author, Dr. Maureen Hack, a professor of pediatrics and co-director of high risk follow-up at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

That means that parents of children who were born at an extremely low birth weight should be aware that their children are at risk of becoming obese later in life. She said these findings suggest that in addition to a healthy diet, parents should encourage exercise in their children, to help keep weight in the normal range.

The findings are published in the July 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Before the 1990s, babies who were born at extremely low birth weights often didn't survive. But, changes in postnatal medical care in the 1990s improved survival for these tiny infants, according to background information in the study. What wasn't clear, however, was how these smallest of babies would do in the long term.

To get a better idea of how these children fared as they grew up, the researchers began following a group of extremely low birth weight babies who were born between 1992 through 1995 at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

The current study includes information from 181 of those children when they were between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. The researchers compared this group of children to a group that was the same age, but born at normal weights.

Parents filled out questionnaires regarding their child's health, and brief physical assessments were conducted.

The researchers found that the overall rates of chronic conditions remained stable from 8 to 14 years old for the extremely low birth weight children. Rates of asthma stayed the same -- at 23 percent from 8 to 14 years old for extremely low birth weight children. That trend held true even as the number of kids with asthma increased dramatically for teens born at a normal birth weight, rising from 8 percent to 17 percent.

The rates of functional limitations in the low birth weight group actually decreased during the age 8 to 14 time period, from 56 percent to 46 percent, the study found.

However, obesity rates rose. When the extremely low birth weight group was 8 years old, just 12 percent of them were obese. By 14 years, 19 percent of these children were considered obese. That compares to a 20 percent rate of obesity at age 14 for the children born at normal weights, according to the study.

Hack said the researchers aren't sure why rates of obesity increased so significantly during this time period. There are some factors that may make children born at extremely low birth weights more susceptible to gaining weight, however. She said that periods of very rapid growth at young ages may make later weight gain more likely. And, she said, previous research has shown that children who are born prematurely often exercise less than their peers born at term.

"Very low birth weight infants seem to be more at risk for obesity," said Dr. Dilek Bishku, pediatrician and vice president of medical affairs at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago. But, she added, when they're younger, they're also at risk for malnutrition.

"We should approach the idea of catch-up weight in extremely low birth weight children with an open mind, because there's still a lot we don't know. And, this study doesn't definitively tell us what to do," she said.

More information

Learn more about low birth weight babies from the March of Dimes.

Methamphetamine Abuse May Raise Parkinson's Risk

HealthDay News

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- People who abuse methamphetamine or other stimulants are at increased risk for Parkinson's disease, a new study warns.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of 40,472 people aged 30 and older in California who were hospitalized because of methamphetamine- or amphetamine-use disorders between 1990 and 2005.

They were compared to 207,831 people with no addiction who were admitted for appendicitis and 35,335 admitted for cocaine-use disorders during the same period.

The patients with methamphetamine- or amphetamine-use disorders were 76 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those not using the drugs.

This means that over 10 years, 21 out of 10,000 people with methamphetamine or amphetamine dependence would develop Parkinson's, compared with 12 out of 10,000 people in the general population.

"This study provides evidence of this association for the first time, even though it has been suspected for 30 years," lead researcher Dr. Russell Callaghan, a scientist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said in a news release from the center.

Parkinson's disease results from low levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Animal studies have shown that methamphetamine damages dopamine-producing areas in the brain.

"It is important for the public to know that our findings do not apply to patients who take amphetamines for medical purposes, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), since these patients use much lower doses of amphetamines than those taken by patients in our study," co-author Dr. Stephen Kish, a scientist at the center, said in the news release.

Methamphetamine and similar stimulants are the second most widely used class of illegal drugs in the world.

More information

We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's the best exercise for heart health?

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Monday, July 25, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A combination of weight training and aerobic exercise might be the best prescription for overweight people at risk for diabetes and heart disease, a new study suggests.

People doing only aerobic exercise dropped weight and inches off their waistlines -- so an aerobic-only program is also a good (and less time-consuming) option, researchers said. Those in the study who just lifted weights saw very little benefit in terms of heart health, although they did gain strength.

"Aerobic plus resistance is clearly the optimal program," said Dr. Timothy Church, who studies exercise and disease at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

The findings, he told Reuters Health, are in line with other recent research and physical activity guidelines that suggest mixing in a little resistance training with regular aerobic exercise.

Researchers led by Lori Bateman of the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina randomly assigned 196 overweight, sedentary adults to three different exercise programs.

One group did resistance training three days a week, working out on eight different weight machines to target upper and lower body muscles. A second group did two hours of aerobic training per week on gym machines -- the equivalent of about 12 miles of walking or jogging over the course of the week. The third group was assigned to do both the weight-training and aerobic-exercise programs.

More than one quarter of the exercisers dropped out of the study during the eight-month exercise programs and some others didn't have complete before-and-after health readings for researchers to compare.

In the end, Bateman and her colleagues analyzed the pre-exercise and post-exercise status of 86 participants.

On average, people in the weight-training group who completed the exercise program gained about 1.5 pounds and added a smidgen to their waistline, without changing any of their other heart or diabetes risk factors.

Those in the aerobic group lost an average of 3 pounds and half an inch from their waists.

Study participants who did both weight and aerobic training dropped about 4 pounds and 1 waistline inch. That group also saw a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure reading) and in a "metabolic syndrome" score that reflects combined heart and diabetes risk factors.

However, statistical analyses showed that participants doing both aerobics and weight training didn't necessarily have better outcomes than those who just did aerobic training.

The researchers said it wasn't clear if the apparent marginal benefits of the combination regimen -- the 4-pound weight loss versus 3, for instance -- were due to the effects of weight training, or just more total time in the gym.

Resistance training builds muscle and bone, which can actually add weight to the body, although it is leaner, stronger body mass.

Both the aerobic-only group and the combined-exercise group also lowered their levels of triglycerides -- a type of fat in the blood.

Church, who wasn't involved in the new study, said that the number of drop-outs made the data harder to interpret, but that the trends are consistent with what other researchers have found. Previous studies have also shown that weight training by itself has a very minimal benefit for heart health, he said.

Because aerobic exercise alone seemed to be almost as good, if not as good, as aerobic and resistance training combined, Bateman said that "when you're weighing the time commitment that you're going to spend, if your overall goal is to...improve your diabetes and heart disease risks, our study would suggest that aerobic exercise is the best way to better those outcomes."

That said, "we're not trying to send a message that resistance training is not good for things like increasing lean body mass or increasing strength," she told Reuters Health.

Source: http://bit.ly/on9sNn

American Journal of Cardiology, online July 7, 2011.

Exercise Has Numerous Beneficial Effects On Brain Health and Cognition, Review Suggests

ScienceDaily

Monday, July 25, 2011

ScienceDaily (July 25, 2011) It's no secret that exercise has numerous beneficial effects on the body. However, a bevy of recent research suggests that these positive effects also extend to the brain, influencing cognition. In a new review article highlighting the results of more than a hundred recent human and animal studies on this topic, Michelle W. Voss, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues show that both aerobic exercise and strength training play a vital role in maintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life. However, they also suggest that many unanswered questions remain in the field of exercise neuroscience -- including how various aspects of exercise influence brain physiology and function and how human and animal studies relate to each other -- and issue the call for further research to fill in these gaps.

The article, "Exercise, Brain and Cognition Across the Lifespan," is published in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Methodology

Using the findings from 111 recent studies, the researchers write a brief review showcasing the effects of aerobic exercise and strength training on humans ranging in age from children to elderly adults. They relate these findings to those in lab animals, such as rats and mice, which provide a window on the pathways through which exercise may enhance brain function.

Results

The review suggests that aerobic exercise is important for getting a head start during childhood on cognitive abilities that are important throughout life. For example, physical inactivity is associated with poorer academic performance and results on standard neuropsychological tests, while exercise programs appear to improve memory, attention, and decision-making. These effects also extend to young and elderly adults, with solid evidence for aerobic training benefiting executive functions, including multi-tasking, planning, and inhibition, and increasing the volume of brain structures important for memory. Although few studies have evaluated the effects of strength training on brain health in children, studies in older adults suggest that high-intensity and high-load training can improve memory.

Animal studies, primarily models that test the influence of aerobic exercise, suggest a variety of mechanisms responsible for these effects. For example, exercise appears to change brain structure, prompting the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. It also increases the production of neurochemicals, such as BDNF and IGF-1, that promote growth, differentiation, survival, and repair of brain cells.

Though this collection of studies clearly reveals the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain, it also highlights gaps in the scientific literature. For example, the review authors note that more research is needed on how exercise type might promote different effects on brain health and cognition. Similarly, they say, future research that integrates human and animal work will be necessary, such as studies that incorporate exercise over animals' life spans to understand the effects of exercise at different time points, or human studies that include measures of BDNF, IGF-1, or other neurobiological markers.

Importance of the Findings

The reviewed studies suggest that both aerobic exercise and strength training can have significant positive effects on brain health and function, but more research is needed to better elucidate these effects.

"It is increasingly prevalent in the print media, television, and the Internet to be bombarded with advertisements for products and programs to enhance mental and physical health in a relatively painless fashion through miracle elixirs, computer-based training, or gaming programs, or brief exercise programs," the authors say. "Although there is little convincing scientific evidence for such claims, there have been some promising developments in the scientific literature with regard to physical activity and exercise effects on cognitive and brain health."

Study Team

In addition to Dr. Voss, the study team was composed of Arthur F. Kramer, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lindsay S. Nagamatsu and Teresa Liu-Ambrose, both of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

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

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Physiological Society.

Journal Reference:

M. W. Voss, L. S. Nagamatsu, T. Liu-Ambrose, A. F. Kramer. Exercise, Brain, and Cognition Across the Lifespan. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2011; DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00210.2011