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Friday, August 5, 2011

Smoking Linked to Raised Risk of Irregular Heartbeat, Study Finds

HealthDay News

Friday, August 5, 2011

FRIDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking increases the risk of developing a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, a new study warns.

U.S. researchers reviewed data from more than 15,000 people, aged 45 to 64, who were followed for an average of 13 years, and found that there were 876 atrial fibrillation events during that time.

The risk of the abnormal heart rhythm was 1.32 times higher in former smokers and two times higher in current smokers, compared to people who never smoked, according to the report in the August issue of the journal HeartRhythm.

Atrial fibrillation "is a serious health issue that decreases quality of life and significantly increases the risk of stroke," co-author Alanna M. Chamberlain, of the department of health sciences research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a journal news release.

About 160,000 new cases of atrial fibrillation are diagnosed each year in the United States. Previous research has identified a number of risk factors for atrial fibrillation, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about atrial fibrillation.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Have Protective Benefits When Taken During Pregnancy, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Friday, August 5, 2011 

ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2011) — An Emory University study published online on August 1 in Pediatrics suggests consuming Omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy helps protects babies against illness during early infancy.

The randomized, placebo-controlled trial followed approximately 1,100 pregnant women and 900 infants in Mexico. The women were supplemented daily with 400 mg of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) supplements in the algal form or placebo from 18 to 22 weeks gestation through childbirth.

Researchers found those whose mothers took DHA supplements had fewer colds and shorter illnesses at one, three and six months of age.

"This is a large scale, robust study that underscores the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy," says Usha Ramakrishnan, PhD, associate professor, Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. "Our findings indicate that pregnant women taking 400 mg of DHA are more likely to deliver healthier infants."

At one month of age, the infants in the DHA group experienced a reduced occurrence of cold symptoms by 25 percent, including a shorter duration of cough, phlegm and wheezing.

At age three months, the infants in the DHA group spent 14 percent less time ill.

At six months of age, infants in the DHA group experienced shorter duration of fever, nasal secretion, difficulty breathing and rash, though longer duration of vomiting. Ramakrishnan and her colleagues have previously reported findings that show offspring of women pregnant with their first child who received 400 mg DHA during pregnancy delivered babies who were 100 grams heavier at birth and 3/4 cm longer at 18 months of age.

The study, funded by the NIH and the March of Dimes Foundation, also found increased DHA levels in breast milk. All of the infants participating in the study were breastfed.

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 Emory University.

Journal Reference:

Beth Imhoff-Kunsch, Aryeh D. Stein, Reynaldo Martorell, Socorro Parra-Cabrera, Isabelle Romieu, and Usha Ramakrishnan. Prenatal Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation and Infant Morbidity: Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, September, 2011 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-1386

Smokers Mistakenly Believe Vitamins Protect Them From Cancer

HealthDay News

Friday, August 5, 2011

FRIDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers who take a multivitamin pill may think they can smoke more because the supplement protects them from the harmful affects of cigarettes, according to a new study.

Researchers found that some people who smoke mistakenly believe the vitamins will reduce their risk of cancer, allowing them to light up more often. The study noted that such trading of a virtuous behavior for a subsequent indulgence, known as the "licensing effect," could undermine smokers' urge to kick the addiction.

"Smokers who take dietary supplements can fool themselves into thinking they are protected against cancer and other diseases. Reminding health-conscious smokers that multivitamins don't prevent cancer may help them control their smoking or even encourage them to stop," said the study's lead author, Wen-Bin Chiou in a journal news release.

The study, published online Aug. 2 in the journal Addiction, involved two experiments. In the first experiment, a group of 74 daily smokers were given a placebo (dummy) pill, but half were told they were taking a vitamin C pill. After taking the pills, the smokers were allowed to smoke freely as they took an unrelated hour-long survey.

Researchers found the smokers who thought they had taken vitamins smoked nearly twice as many cigarettes than those who knew they took the placebo. They also reported having greater feelings of invincibility.

In the second study, 80 smokers were also given a placebo, with half being told they were taking a multivitamin. Afterwards, they were allowed to smoke while they took a survey, which contained questions about their attitudes towards multivitamins.

Not only did those who took multivitamins smoke more, but those who reported believing in the health benefits of vitamins had a greater surge in their feelings of invincibility and smoked still more than those who were less optimistic about the vitamins' effects.

The study's authors concluded health-conscious smokers who take vitamins may wrongly feel less vulnerable to the harmful effects of cigarettes. As a result, the researchers added, they may smoke more, increasing their overall health risks.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on how to quit smoking.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eating healthy food costs more money in U.S.

Reuters

Thursday, August 4, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eating healthier food can add almost 10 percent to the average American's food bill -- and that is just to boost a single nutrient like potassium.

Researchers from the University of Washington looked at the economic impact of following new U.S. dietary guidelines, which recommend eating more potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium, and avoiding saturated fat and added sugar.

The diet recommendations try to fight rising rates of obesity in the United States, but the study findings underline some of the obstacles to adopting new habits.

In an article in Health Affairs published on Thursday, the researchers reported that eating more potassium, the most expensive of the four nutrients, can add $380 to the average person's yearly food costs.

Americans spend about $4,000 on food each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At the same time, getting more calories from saturated fat and sugar reduces overall food costs, the study said.

Pablo Monsivais, acting assistant professor at the University of Washington and one of the study's authors, said the government should consider the economic impact of food guidelines.

"We know that dietary guidelines aren't making a bit of difference in what we eat and our health overall," he said. "And I think one missing piece is that they have to be economically relevant."

"They emphasize certain foods without much regard for which ones are more affordable."

More than one-third of children and two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

In the study, the authors collected questionnaires on the typical eating habits of 1,123 people in King County, Washington, and calculated how much each diet cost based on retail food prices in three local supermarkets.

However, they did not factor in costs for food bought outside grocery stores, such as fast food -- which would likely increase the food cost for each person.

The study also found that it is more expensive to eat more dietary fiber and vitamin D, and that people with higher average incomes were more likely to eat healthier food.

Monsivais said when talking about eating more fruits and vegetables, the government should also mention the most cut-price options. For examples, bananas and potatoes are the cheapest sources of potassium.

"(Guidelines) should tell people where you get the most bang for your buck," he said. "By putting the economic dimension on dietary guidelines, it would be very helpful for those on the economic margins, but also for everyone ... trying to save money in the current economy."

(Editing by Michele Gershberg and Robert MacMillan)

Are Pet Owners Healthier and Happier? Maybe Not

ScienceDaily

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2011) — For many people, Fido and Fluffy are more than just pets, they're true and equal members of the family. And it's not hard to see why. Our pets greet us at the door after a long day of work, settle in our laps while we're watching TV, or 'sing' along when we hum a tune. They provide companionship and even a sense of comfort. We like to believe that our pets are good for us, that they enrich our lives and make us happier, and messages in media and advertising reinforce these beliefs. But is there really a universal 'pet effect' on human mental and physical health?

According to Harold Herzog, Professor of Psychology at the Western Carolina University , there simply isn't strong evidence for the general claim that living with a pet makes for a happier, healthier or longer life.

In a new article, to be published in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Herzog argues that existing research on pet ownership has produced very conflicting results. While some studies suggest that owning a pet is associated with positive health outcomes like reduced rates of depression or lower blood pressure, other studies suggest that pet owners are no better off, and may even be worse off in some ways, than people who don't own pets. The reason for these inconsistencies, Herzog says, is that studies on pet ownership often suffer from methodological problems, such as small, homogeneous samples, lack of appropriate control groups, and reliance on self-report to measure participants' health and well-being. Furthermore, very few studies have used the kind of experimental design necessary to show that pets actually cause improvements in their owner's health and happiness.

Herzog, who is author of the book Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it's so hard to think straight about animals, is quick to point out that he himself is a pet owner and pet lover. "I'm not trying to denigrate the role of animals in human life, I'm trying to do just the opposite," he says. It's entirely plausible that our pets really do provide medical and psychological benefits, but "we just don't know how strong that effect is, what types of people it works for, and what the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms might be."

The notion that pets have psychological benefits has led to a blurring between what we consider companion animals and what we consider therapeutic or service animals. Herzog notes that the Americans with Disabilities Act had to be revised recently in order to clarify the fact that only trained dogs and miniature horses that fulfill a specific service function could legally qualify as service animals.

In order to truly understand the effects that pets have on our lives, Herzog says we need more rigorous research. Animals are important in many aspects of human life, and research on human-animal relationships is important because it "offers a window into really big issues in human psychology" and can help to shed light on many of our cultural and ethical practices. On a more practical level, it's clear that pets can serve a therapeutic function in certain situations -- the issue is figuring out which ones. "Let's say it turns out that some kids with autism benefit from interacting with animals -- wouldn't it be great to be able to know which kids are going to benefit and which aren't?"

Herzog points out that the scientific community is starting to take these issues seriously. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health began a program to fund studies that examine the medical and psychological benefits of pets on children. Herzog is encouraged that that psychological scientists are really becoming involved in this research: "I think in five years we're going to have some answers to our questions."

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 Association for Psychological Science.

Americans' Use of Antidepressants On the Rise: Study

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Thursday, August 4, 2011

THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are popping more antidepressants than ever before to deal with everyday stress, and non-psychiatrists are increasingly willing to prescribe the drugs to patients with no mental health diagnosis, a new study finds.

Antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro are now the third most widely prescribed group of drugs in the United States, and many people may take them for minor complaints without being fully aware of potential risks, the researchers said.

"Both consumers and prescribers of antidepressants should be more knowledgeable about the indications (or symptoms) that antidepressants are better for," said study lead author Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "Although these drugs do not have many acute side effects, there may be more long-term adverse effects."

The study authors said the increases don't necessarily mean that the drugs are being used inappropriately, but it's necessary to understand why antidepressant use is growing and, if necessary, to develop policies that ensure patients get the most effective treatment.

Using data from annual surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers reviewed the records of 233,144 adult patients who made doctor visits between 1996 and 2007.

The study, published in the August issue of Health Affairs, found that the percentage of prescriptions for antidepressants written by non-psychiatrists more than doubled from about 4 percent to almost 9 percent over the 12-year period.

This included 9,454 antidepressant prescriptions for patients without a diagnosis of depression or other mental illness typically treated with the medication. For that group, the rate jumped from 2.5 percent at the start of the study period to 6.4 percent, the researchers said.

The study cautioned that a psychiatric diagnosis could have been made in some cases, but simply wasn't noted in the records studied.

By contrast, prescriptions for antidepressants for patients with diagnoses such as major or chronic depression increased by 44 percent, a much smaller increase.

About 4,000 patients who did have a mental health diagnosis received the drugs from non-psychiatrists in the study period.

The drugs prescribed to patients without a diagnosed mental health condition were more likely provided to white women between the ages of 35-64 and patients with public insurance and chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. The data also suggested that people complaining of nervousness, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction and an inability to quit smoking may be taking antidepressants, the study said.

Americans are turning to drugs to deal with everyday stress more frequently as the stigma of using antidepressants decreases, said Mojtabai, noting more than 10 percent of Americans now take antidepressants in any given year.

Direct marketing to consumers and reports of fewer side effects may help explain why patients and doctors are more open to antidepressants, he said.

But there may be consequences to that choice.

Some research has shown that withdrawal from antidepressants after many years "is not pleasant," said Mojtabai, who added that a possible link to diabetes has also been found. Not enough is known about how their use plays out in the long term, said Mojtabai.

"Pharmaceutical companies aren't interested in long-term effects because they don't need that for FDA approval," said Mojtabai, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approves drugs for use in the United States.

Another expert agreed that Americans are turning more to prescribed pills to deal with the ups and downs of life, but he noted that in the past, alcohol and other drugs served the same purpose.

"Before antidepressants came along, many people simply turned to drinking and smoking to cope with minor stress," said Tony Tang, adjunct professor in the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Although the study did not "solve the mystery" of why antidepressant prescriptions are increasing, it showed "how antidepressants are actually used in the real world," and on a "national scale," said Tang.

Doctors are likely more aware today of the symptoms of depression, which has "increased substantially in the past decade," he said.

More information

To learn more about depression, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cooked Green Vegetables, Dried Fruit, Legumes, and Brown Rice Associated With Fewer Colon Polyps

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2011) — Eating legumes at least three times a week and brown rice at least once a week was linked to a reduced risk of colon polyps by 33 percent and 40 percent respectively, according to Loma Linda University research recently published in Nutrition and Cancer. High consumption of cooked green vegetables and dried fruit was also associated with greater protection, the study shows.

"Eating these foods is likely to decrease your risk for colon polyps, which would in turn decrease your risk for colorectal cancer," says lead author Yessenia Tantamango, MD, a post-doctoral research fellow with Adventist Health Study-2 at Loma Linda University. "While a majority of past research has focused on broad food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, in relation to colon cancer, our study focused on specific foods, as well as more narrowed food groups, in relation to colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer. Our study confirms the results of past studies that have been done in different populations analyzing risks for colon cancer."

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the third most common cancer in both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Results also show that consuming cooked green vegetables once a day or more, as compared to less than five times a week, was associated with a 24 percent reduction in the risk of rectal/colon polyps. Consuming dried fruit three times a week or more, versus less than once a week, was associated with a 26 percent reduced risk.

The protective effects of these foods could be due in part to their cancer-fighting agents, the study reported.

"Legumes, dried fruits, and brown rice all have a high content of fiber, known to dilute potential carcinogens," Dr. Tantamango says. "Additionally, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain detoxifying compounds, which would improve their protective function."

Past studies examining the effect of meat intake and legumes on colon cancer have shown that people eating meat, associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, may receive some protection when they also consume legumes. Dr. Tantamango says this suggests that besides fiber content, there may be something else present in legumes that provides a protective effect.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,818 subjects who participated in Adventist Health Study-1 (administered from 1976-77) and who answered a follow-up survey 26 years later from Adventist Health Study-2. The first survey asked respondents to indicate how often, on average, they consumed specific foods. The follow-up survey asked respondents who had undergone colonoscopies to indicate physician-diagnosed colorectal polyps. During the 26-year follow-up, 441 cases of rectal/colon polyps were identified.

The study assessed several possible confounding factors, including a family history of colorectal cancer, education, physical activity level, alcohol intake, smoking, constipation, intake of sweets, pain medication, and multivitamins, as well as different food variables. The study then adjusted for those factors that were shown to distort the effect of the foods and food groups under study. About 25 foods and food groups in total were examined.

Dr. Tantamango says there is a need for future studies to examine foods shown to reduce the risk of colon polyps, since it is possible that interactions between various nutrients with anti-cancerous properties will be better able to explain these findings.

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 Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Scientists find new superbug strain of salmonella

Reuters

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have identified an emerging "superbug" strain of salmonella that is highly resistant to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, or Cipro, often used for severe salmonella infections, and say they fear it may spread around the world.

The strain, known as S. Kentucky, has spread internationally with almost 500 cases found in France, Denmark, England and Wales in the period between 2002 and 2008, according a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

French researchers who led the study also looked at data from North America and said reports of infection in Canada and contamination of imported foods in the United States suggest the strain has also reached there.

The study was published Wednesday as U.S. health officials reported a multi-state outbreak of another strain of antibiotic-resistant salmonella - called S. Heidelberg - which has so far made 77 people sick and killed one.

Salmonella infection is a major public health problem worldwide. There are an estimated 1.7 million infections in North America each year and more than 1.6 million cases were reported between 1999 and 2008 in 27 European countries.

Although most salmonella infections produce only mild gastroenteritis with stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea, older people or those with weaker immune systems are particularly at risk of life-threatening infections.

These cases are typically treated with drugs in a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, which includes the commonly-used medicine ciprofloxacin. Cipro was originally developed by Bayer and is now available as a generic.

But as with many bacteria, multi-drug-resistant, or "superbug," strains of salmonella infection have developed as the bacteria has found new ways of outfoxing the drugs, and these can spread in food and from person to person.

In the French-led study, Francois-Xavier Weill and Simon Le Hello from the Institut Pasteur looked at surveillance data from the European countries and the United States and found 489 reported cases of the superbug S. Kentucky strain. Case numbers rose every year from 3 cases in 2002 to 174 cases in 2008.

They said the earliest infections seemed to have been picked up mainly in Egypt between 2002 and 2005, but since 2006 the infections have also been acquired in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.

"The absence of reported international travel in approximately 10 percent of the patients suggests that infections may have also occurred in Europe through consumption of contaminated imported foods or through secondary contaminations," they wrote.

As part of the study, multi drug-resistant S. Kentucky was also isolated from chickens and turkeys from Ethiopia, Morocco, and Nigeria, suggesting "poultry is an important agent for infection" the researchers said, adding the common use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in chicken and turkey production in Nigeria and Morocco "may have contributed to this rapid spread."

They said the study highlights the importance of public health surveillance in a global food system.

"We hope that this publication might stir awareness among national and international health, food and agricultural authorities so that they take the necessary measures to control and stop the dissemination of this strain before it spreads globally," the researchers said.

Source: http://bit.ly/qxzLO5

Journal of Infectious Diseases, August 2, 2011.

New Link Found Between Obesity and Insulin Resistance

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2011) — Obesity is the main culprit in the worldwide avalanche of type 2 diabetes. But how excess weight drives insulin resistance, the condition that may lead to the disease, is only partly understood. Scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center now have uncovered a new way in which obesity wreaks its havoc, by altering the production of proteins that affect how other proteins are spliced together.

Their finding, published in Cell Metabolism, may point toward novel targets for diabetes drugs.

Scientists in the lab of Mary-Elizabeth Patti, M.D., began by examining the levels of proteins in the livers of obese people, and finding decreases in number for certain proteins that regulate RNA splicing.

"When a gene is transcribed by the cell, it generates a piece of RNA," explains Dr. Patti, who is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "That piece of RNA can be split up in different ways, generating proteins that have different functions."

"In the case of these proteins whose production drops in the livers of obese people, this process changes the function of other proteins that can cause excess fat to be made in the liver," she adds. "That excess fat is known to be a major contributor to insulin resistance."

Additionally, the researchers showed that these RNA splicing proteins are diminished in samples of muscle from obese people.

The investigators went on to examine a representative RNA-splicing protein called SFRS10 whose levels drop in muscle and liver both in obese people and in over-fed mice. Working in human cells and in mice, they demonstrated that SFRS10 helps to regulate a protein called LPIN1 that plays an important role in synthesizing fat. Among their results, mice in which they suppressed production of SFRS10 made more triglycerides, a type of fat circulating in the blood.

"More broadly, this work adds a novel insight into how obesity may induce insulin resistance and diabetes risk by changing critical functions of cells, including splicing," says Dr. Patti. "This information should stimulate the search for other genes for which differences in splicing may contribute to risk for type 2 diabetes. Ultimately, we hope that modifying these pathways with nutritional or drug therapies could limit the adverse consequences of obesity."

Jussi Pihlajamäki and Carles Lerin of Joslin are co-first authors on the paper. Markku Laakso of the University of Eastern Finland co-supervised the project. Other contributors include Tanner Boes, Joshua Schroeder, Farrell Dearie, Sarah Crunkhorn, Furkan Burak, Josep C. Jimenez-Chillaron and Allison B. Goldfine of Joslin; Paula Itkonen, Tiina Kuulasmaa and Pekka Miettinen of the University of Eastern Finland; Thomas Floss and Wolfgang Wurst of the Technical University of Munich; Peter Park of Children's Hospital Boston; Imad Nasser of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Zhenwen Zhao and Yan Xu of Indiana University Schoolf of Medicine; and Zhaiyi Zhang, Hongmei Ren, Andrew J. Morris and Stefan Stamm of University of Kentucky/Lexington. Lead funders were the National Institutes of Health and the Lilly Foundation.

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 Joslin Diabetes Center.

Journal Reference:

Jussi Pihlajamäki, Carles Lerin, Paula Itkonen, Tanner Boes, Thomas Floss, Joshua Schroeder, Farrell Dearie, Sarah Crunkhorn, Furkan Burak, Josep C. Jimenez-Chillaron, Tiina Kuulasmaa, Pekka Miettinen, Peter J. Park, Imad Nasser, Zhenwen Zhao, Zhaiyi Zhang, Yan Xu, Wolfgang Wurst, Hongmei Ren, Andrew J. Morris, Stefan Stamm, Allison B. Goldfine, Markku Laakso, Mary Elizabeth Patti. Expression of the Splicing Factor Gene SFRS10 Is Reduced in Human Obesity and Contributes to Enhanced Lipogenesis. Cell Metabolism, Volume 14, Issue 2, 208-218, 3 August 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2011.06.007

Stomach Cancer Tumors Have Genetic Differences: Researchers

HealthDay News

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Stomach cancer tumors have genetic differences, which determine how they respond to treatment, researchers have found.

In identifying two distinct versions of the disease, scientists found that a certain regimen of chemotherapy is more effective on one tumor type, while another drug works best on the other. The study authors said their findings would help doctors more effectively treat gastric cancer patients.

"Our study is the first to show that a proposed molecular classification of gastric cancer can identify genomic subtypes that respond differently to therapies, which is crucial in efforts to customize treatments for patients," study senior author Dr. Patrick Tan, associate professor in the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program at the Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School, said in a university news release.

A microscopic pathology test developed in the 1960s, known as the Lauren classification, is a general description (either intestinal or diffuse) of how well the tumor cells clump together. The Singapore-based team at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, however, was able to distinguish gastric cancer tumors where the Lauren test could not.

"There is a general assumption in the field that intestinal and diffuse gastric cancers [as classified by Lauren] represent two very different versions of gastric cancer, and now genomic data confirms this by demonstrating that the two genomic subtypes have very different molecular patterns," said Tan.

In profiling 37 stomach cancer cell lines, the researchers found two distinct patterns. Moreover, in accurately defining these tumor subtypes, they were also able to observe differences in how well each responded to chemotherapy.

"The exact mechanistic reasons for this difference are currently unclear, and this is an area that we are actively working on," noted Tan, adding that the researchers are working to find more specific vulnerabilities to drugs.

The researchers said they plan further research in which gastric cancer tumors will be genetically profiled to determine the most effective treatment.

The study findings were published in the Aug. 1 edition of Gastroenterology.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about stomach cancer. 

New Antidepressants Can Increase Risks for Elderly, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 3, 2011) — Older people taking new generation antidepressants are at more risk of dying or suffering from a range of serious health conditions including stroke, falls, fractures and epilepsy, suggests a new study involving researchers at The University of Nottingham.

The research, published on the British Medical Journal website, discovered that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are more strongly associated with an increased risk of several adverse outcomes in people over the age of 65 with depression compared with older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

The authors say the risks and benefits of different antidepressants should be carefully considered when prescribing these drugs to elderly patients and have called for further research to investigate the findings.

Dr Carol Coupland, Associate Professor in Medical Statistics in The University of Nottingham's Division of Primary Care said: "We've found some evidence from our study that the older tricyclic antidepressants may be associated with lower risks of several adverse outcomes compared with newer antidepressants in older people diagnosed as having depression.

"This was an unexpected finding, and so further research using other data sources is needed to confirm these findings as well as provide more evidence on the benefits of different antidepressants in this group of people."

Depression is a common condition in older people and antidepressants -- particularly SSRIs -- are widely used. However, very little is known about the safety of these drugs in older people.

The team of researchers from the Universities of Nottingham and East Anglia set out to investigate the potential link between antidepressant treatment and the risk of a number of potentially life-threatening outcomes in older people.

They identified 60,746 UK patients aged 65 and over with a newly diagnosed episode of depression between 1996 and 2007 using the QResearch primary care database. Many patients had other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, and were taking several medications.

Patients were tracked until the end of 2008. During this time, 89 per cent (54,038) received at least one prescription for an antidepressant, and a total of 1,398,359 prescriptions for antidepressants were received. Of these 57 per cent were for SSRIs, 31 per cent for TCAs, 0.2 per cent for monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and 13.5 per cent for other antidepressants.

Antidepressant use was then analysed against several adverse outcomes including all-cause mortality, attempted suicide or self harm, heart attack, stroke, falls, fractures, epilepsy or seizures and high salt levels in the blood (hyponatraemia).

After adjusting for factors that could affect the results, including age, sex, severity of depression, other illnesses and use of other medications, the team found that SSRIs and drugs in the group of other antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of several adverse outcomes compared with TCAs.

Those taking SSRIs were more likely to die, suffer a stroke, fall or fracture, have epilepsy or a seizure and have hyponatraemia compared with TCAs. The group of other antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of mortality, attempted suicide or self-harm, stroke, fracture and epilepsy or seizures.

Patients in the study had a seven per cent risk of dying over one year while they were not taking antidepressants, while the comparable risks were 8.1 per cent when taking TCAs, 10.6 per cent for SSRIs and 11.4 per cent for the group of other antidepressants. For stroke, one-year risks were 2.3 per cent, 2.6 per cent and three per cent (compared with 2.2 per cent when not on antidepressants) and for fracture they were 2.2 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent compared with 1.8 per cent.

Among individual drugs trazodone, mirtazapine and venlafaxine carried the highest risk for some adverse outcomes.

Rates of most adverse outcomes were highest in the 28 days after starting the antidepressant and also in the 28 days after stopping.

The authors also point out that TCAs were prescribed at lower doses than SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs, which they say "could in part explain our findings." They also caution that differences between patients prescribed different antidepressant drugs may account for some of the associations seen in the study, underlining the need for further research to confirm the findings.

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 Nottingham, via AlphaGalileo.

Journal Reference:

C. Coupland, P. Dhiman, R. Morriss, A. Arthur, G. Barton, J. Hippisley-Cox. Antidepressant use and risk of adverse outcomes in older people: population based cohort study. BMJ, 2011; 343 (aug02 1): d4551 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d4551

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can Eggs Be a Healthy Breakfast Choice?

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2011) — Eggs, one of the most commonly consumed breakfast foods in the United States, have long been a subject of controversy. Are they healthy or are they a high-cholesterol trap? The answer depends on what the hen eats, says a Tel Aviv University researcher.

Dr. Niva Shapira of Tel Aviv University's School of Health Professions says that all eggs are not created equal. Her research indicates that when hens are fed with a diet low in omega-6 fatty acids from a young age -- feed high in wheat, barley, and milo and lower in soy, maize and sunflower, safflower, and maize oils -- they produce eggs that may cause less oxidative damage to human health. That's a major part of what determines the physiological impact of the end product on your table.

Her findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cholesterol oxidation: an industry standard?

Eggs high in omega-6 fatty acids heighten cholesterol's tendency to oxidize, which forms dangerous plaque in our arteries. Dr. Shapira's research shows that eggs laid by hens with healthier feed can lessen oxidation of LDL (low density lipoprotein), the body's "bad cholesterol."

But healthier eggs are likely to cost more, Dr. Shapira says. The price of chicken feed varies from region to region, and in many areas, feed containing products high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as maize, soy, and their oils, are much cheaper for egg producers to purchase.

To test the effect of a healthier feed on the eventual composition of the egg, Dr. Shapira and her fellow researchers designed feeds that were high in anti-oxidants and lower in omega-6 fatty acids, based on wheat, barley, and milo. The specialized feed was given to young hens who had not yet accumulated n-6 fatty acids in their tissues, and the composition of their eggs was then tested. When researchers achieved the desired composition of low omega-6 and high anti-oxidants, the eggs were given to test participants, who were instructed to eat two of these special eggs daily. Their results were measured against daily intake of two standard grocery store eggs, and a weekly intake of only two to four standard eggs.

There were vast differences in outcome among the treatments. Daily consumption of two industry-standard eggs, high in omega-6, caused a 40 percent increase in LDL oxidizability in participants. After eating two per day of the specially-composed eggs, with both high anti-oxidant and low omega-6 levels, however, LDL oxidation levels were similar to the control group eating only two to four eggs a week.

Surprisingly, with the "healthier" eggs, we might be able to eat more than twice today's generally recommended egg intake and still maintain a healthy level of LDL oxidation, Dr. Shapira concludes.

Demanding a better product

The drawback is that these eggs aren't being widely produced. For now, consumers can only buy what the grocery store stocks.

Dr. Shapira recommends that consumers demand "health-oriented agriculture." "In addition to factoring in the cost of the chicken feed, farmers need to think about the health of the consumer," she says. To produce healthy foods, they need support from local authorities and increased consumer awareness. That would help to expand access to better foods.

As her study demonstrates, consumers should beware of egg studies that draw a single conclusion about the health value of all eggs, Dr. Shapira cautions, because the outcome could have a lot to do with how the egg was produced. In Europe, corn and soy are less commonly used in chicken feed, whereas in North America, these two ingredients often make up the bulk of the hen's diet.

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 Friends of Tel Aviv University.

Regular Exercise Boosts the Brain, Too

HealthDay News

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

TUESDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Regular workouts not only do a body good, they may improve the mind as well, a new review of the data on the subject finds.

Human brains seem to benefit from regular aerobic exercise and strength training, the study found, but the researchers added that more investigation is needed to determine how exercise affects brain structure and function.

In their report, published in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers led by Michelle W. Voss, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reviewed 111 prior studies. They found that both aerobic exercise and strength training are key to brain health and good cognition.

The study revealed that aerobic exercise during childhood, especially, is essential to the development of cognitive abilities that remain important throughout life. Experts have long known that being sedentary is associated with poorer academic performance, the research team pointed out. In contrast, exercise programs have been shown to improve people's memory, attention and decision-making abilities.

The study authors offered a few possible reasons why brain health might get a boost from regular exercise. After examining previous animal studies, they suggested that exercise might alter people's brain structure, triggering the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. Physical activity also increases the production of certain brain chemicals that promote the growth and repair of brain cells, they said.

But they added that more research is needed to examine the individual effects of different types of exercise on brain health and cognition.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about the health benefits of exercise.

New Antidepressants Can Increase Risks for Elderly, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2011) — Older people taking new generation antidepressants are at more risk of dying or suffering from a range of serious health conditions including stroke, falls, fractures and epilepsy, suggests a new study involving researchers at The University of Nottingham.

The research, published on the British Medical Journal website, discovered that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are more strongly associated with an increased risk of several adverse outcomes in people over the age of 65 with depression compared with older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs).

The authors say the risks and benefits of different antidepressants should be carefully considered when prescribing these drugs to elderly patients and have called for further research to investigate the findings.

Dr Carol Coupland, Associate Professor in Medical Statistics in The University of Nottingham's Division of Primary Care said: "We've found some evidence from our study that the older tricyclic antidepressants may be associated with lower risks of several adverse outcomes compared with newer antidepressants in older people diagnosed as having depression.

"This was an unexpected finding, and so further research using other data sources is needed to confirm these findings as well as provide more evidence on the benefits of different antidepressants in this group of people."

Depression is a common condition in older people and antidepressants -- particularly SSRIs -- are widely used. However, very little is known about the safety of these drugs in older people.

The team of researchers from the Universities of Nottingham and East Anglia set out to investigate the potential link between antidepressant treatment and the risk of a number of potentially life-threatening outcomes in older people.

They identified 60,746 UK patients aged 65 and over with a newly diagnosed episode of depression between 1996 and 2007 using the QResearch primary care database. Many patients had other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, and were taking several medications.

Patients were tracked until the end of 2008. During this time, 89 per cent (54,038) received at least one prescription for an antidepressant, and a total of 1,398,359 prescriptions for antidepressants were received. Of these 57 per cent were for SSRIs, 31 per cent for TCAs, 0.2 per cent for monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and 13.5 per cent for other antidepressants.

Antidepressant use was then analysed against several adverse outcomes including all-cause mortality, attempted suicide or self harm, heart attack, stroke, falls, fractures, epilepsy or seizures and high salt levels in the blood (hyponatraemia).

After adjusting for factors that could affect the results, including age, sex, severity of depression, other illnesses and use of other medications, the team found that SSRIs and drugs in the group of other antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of several adverse outcomes compared with TCAs.

Those taking SSRIs were more likely to die, suffer a stroke, fall or fracture, have epilepsy or a seizure and have hyponatraemia compared with TCAs. The group of other antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of mortality, attempted suicide or self-harm, stroke, fracture and epilepsy or seizures.

Patients in the study had a seven per cent risk of dying over one year while they were not taking antidepressants, while the comparable risks were 8.1 per cent when taking TCAs, 10.6 per cent for SSRIs and 11.4 per cent for the group of other antidepressants. For stroke, one-year risks were 2.3 per cent, 2.6 per cent and three per cent (compared with 2.2 per cent when not on antidepressants) and for fracture they were 2.2 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent compared with 1.8 per cent.

Among individual drugs trazodone, mirtazapine and venlafaxine carried the highest risk for some adverse outcomes.

Rates of most adverse outcomes were highest in the 28 days after starting the antidepressant and also in the 28 days after stopping.

The authors also point out that TCAs were prescribed at lower doses than SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs, which they say "could in part explain our findings." They also caution that differences between patients prescribed different antidepressant drugs may account for some of the associations seen in the study, underlining the need for further research to confirm the findings.

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 Nottingham, via AlphaGalileo.

Journal Reference:

C. Coupland, P. Dhiman, R. Morriss, A. Arthur, G. Barton, J. Hippisley-Cox. Antidepressant use and risk of adverse outcomes in older people: population based cohort study. BMJ, 2011; 343 (aug02 1): d4551 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d4551

Larger Dose of Zinc Lozenges May Shorten Colds

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

 TUESDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- There's still no cure for the common cold, but there may be a way to shorten its misery: A new study suggests that higher doses of zinc lozenges in certain formulations may cut the length of colds by more than 40 percent.

Researcher Dr. Harri Hemila, of the University of Helsinki in Finland, reviewed 13 placebo-controlled trials examining the effect of zinc lozenges on cold infections. Three of them found that zinc acetate in daily doses of more than 75 milligrams (mg) shortened colds' duration by 42 percent, on average.

Five trials using zinc salts other than acetate in daily doses greater than 75 mg shortened colds by an average of 20 percent, while another five using less than 75 mg per day produced no effect.

"Much of the variation in the published study findings can be explained by the daily dose of zinc administered in the zinc lozenges," said Hemila, who funded the research himself. "When focusing on those studies which have used large daily doses of zinc, there is strong evidence that zinc lozenges shorten the duration of colds."

The study is published in The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.

Despite the popularity of zinc supplements, controversy over their effectiveness has continued since a much-publicized 1984 study first suggested a cold-limiting effect. Allowing the lozenge to dissolve instead of swallowing it seemed to provide a therapeutic effect. Since then, more than a dozen studies have been carried out, but data on the trace mineral's effectiveness has been mixed.

All of the trials examined by Hemila compared zinc lozenges to placebos. While surprised to note how strong the correlation was between daily doses of zinc and its effect on colds' duration, he said he and his colleagues still don't know why it seems to work.

"In the evidence-based medicine framework, we are primarily interested in the question whether there is an effect, and how great, whereas the mechanism of the effect is a secondary issue," he said.

No prior studies showed zinc lozenge use -- even up to 150 mg per day -- might cause harm aside from bad taste or constipation, Hemila said, and the most recent trial on zinc acetate indicated no significant differences between zinc and placebo groups in adverse effects even though the daily zinc dose was 92 mg.

Dr. Lisa Winston, an epidemiologist at San Francisco General Hospital, praised the study as a "pretty good synthesis of the data," although she noted that the trials Hemila reviewed involved small numbers of participants.

"It's an area of controversy and question . . . but I don't think the evidence is strong enough, nor do I think the author is suggesting, that we can base clinical practice on it," said Winston, also an associate professor in the University of California-San Francisco Department of Medicine. "I would tell my patients we still don't have a cure [for the common cold], and we don't know if zinc works."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about the common cold.

Bear Bile Chemical Could Help Keep Hearts in Rhythm

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2011) — A synthesised compound which is also found in bear bile could help prevent disturbances in the heart's normal rhythm, according to research published in the journal Hepatology by a team from Imperial College London.

Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is manufactured as a drug to decrease production of cholesterol in the body and to dissolve gallstones. It is also present in many traditional Chinese medicines made from bear bile.

The new study suggests it could also potentially treat abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia, both in the fetus and in people who have suffered a heart attack. Laboratory tests suggested that UDCA acts on non-beating pathological heart cells called myofibroblasts, which interfere with how electrical signals travel across the heart.

UDCA is already used to treat a condition called obstetric cholestasis, which affects around one in 200 pregnant women in the UK and is linked to a higher risk of arrhythmia and sudden death in the fetus. UDCA lowers the levels of harmful bile acids which build up in the mother's blood in the disease and can pass into the infant through the placenta.

The study just published demonstrates for the first time that UDCA can prevent arrhythmia by altering the electrical properties of myofibroblasts. These cells are found in the fetal heart but disappear shortly after birth. However, they reappear in patients that have had a heart attack, when they are involved in laying down scar tissue. The study found that these cells disrupt the transmission of electrical signals that control the heart's rhythm.

The study is the result of a long-term collaboration between two Imperial research groups, headed by Dr Juila Gorelik, at the National Heart and Lung Institute and Professor Catherine Williamson at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology.

"These findings are exciting because the treatments we have now are largely ineffective at preventing arrhythmia in patients who develop an abnormal heart rhythm after a heart attack," said Dr Julia Gorelik, the study's senior author.

"Our results from the lab suggest that UDCA could help the heart muscle conduct electrical signals more normally. We're hoping to set up a clinical trial to test whether these results translate to patients with heart failure."

The researchers became interested in the role of myofibroblasts after observing that they appear in the heart tissue in the second and third trimesters of gestation, when sudden death of the infant is most common in pregnancies affected by obstetric cholestasis.

The researchers grew myofibroblasts on top of heart muscle cells in the laboratory to create a model for studying the fetal heart. Then they used a number of specialised microscopic techniques to study how the cells communicate to relay electrical signals.

Exposing the cells to high level of bile acid, as found in the mother's and fetal blood in obstetric cholestasis, caused the cells to conduct electrical signals more slowly and increased the likelihood of arrhythmia. This effect was not seen when there were no myofibroblasts present among the heart muscle cells, as in the healthy adult heart.

When the cells were exposed to bile acids and UDCA, it altered the electrical properties of the myofibroblasts, and the electrical signals propagated across the cell culture more regularly.

"Myofibroblasts affect the propagation of electrical signals that co-ordinate the pumping function of the heart," said Dr Michele Miragoli, first author of the study. "Complications from obstetric cholestasis occur most commonly in the last trimester of pregnancy, when the density of myofibroblasts is highest in the fetal heart.

"Our study suggests that it is the appearance of myofibroblast cells that make the fetus vulnerable to arrhythmia in obstetric cholestasis. We think that targeting these cells could be an important new approach for preventing abnormal heart rhythm, not just in the fetus, but also in people who have had a heart attack."

The study was funded by Action Medical Research, the Wellcome Trust, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the Imperial Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre, which was established by a grant from the National Institute of Health Research.

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

Story Source:

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

Journal Reference:

Michele Miragoli, Siti H. Sheikh Abdul Kadir, Mary N. Sheppard, Nicoló Salvarani, Matilda Virta, Sarah Wells, Max J. Lab, Viacheslav O. Nikolaev, Alexey Moshkov, William M. Hague, Stephan Rohr, Catherine Williamson, Julia Gorelik. A protective antiarrhythmic role of ursodeoxycholic acid in an in vitro rat model of the cholestatic fetal heart. Hepatology, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/hep.24492

Dropping weight won't add years in elderly: study

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Dieting to lose weight may not help older overweight adults live any longer, suggests a new study.

But dropping a few pounds on purpose also does not seem to cause any harm to the elderly -- which had been a concern raised by previous studies, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"There is a general sense in geriatrics...that weight-loss is a bad thing," said study author Stephen Kritchevsky, from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Improvements in diet and weight loss in the overweight and obese are linked to blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes benefits, including in the elderly.

Still, "there's been a little bit of a conundrum on whether it's a wise thing or not to ask an overweight older adult to lose weight."

That's because some research has linked weight loss in older adults with a higher rate of death -- probably because unintentional weight loss in the elderly is often due to an underlying illness, Kritchevsky added.

While the new findings don't show that dropping weight can extend an older adult's life, "if an older person is overweight or obese and has weight-related health conditions, they should not be concerned that losing weight would be bad for them," he concluded.

Kritchevsky and his colleagues looked back on data from a past study of overweight and obese adults with high blood pressure, some of whom had received training and counseling to help them lose weight and keep it off.

Participants in the weight-loss group had dropped an average of close to 10 pounds, while those in the other groups -- who were assigned to tweak the amount of salt in their diets or to not change their diets at all -- lost about 2 pounds.

Twelve years later, the researchers used national death records to figure out which of the original participants were still alive. By then, they would have been in their late 70s, on average.

Out of about 600 people split between the weight-loss and non-weight-loss programs, about 50 died in each group. When Kritchevsky's team took into account factors such as age, race and smoking, participants assigned to lose weight weren't any more or less likely to die during the follow-up than those not in the weight-loss group.

When analyzed separately from women, men from the weight-loss assignment group did seem to have a lower risk of death that those who hadn't tried to drop any extra pounds. But the researchers weren't sure why that was the case and cautioned it would have to be tested again in a larger study.

For now, Kritchevsky called the findings "a reassuring message that weight loss is potentially beneficial regardless of your age, if you're overweight or obese."

And even if losing weight might not add a lot of years to an elderly person's life, it can have many other health benefits, he added -- from easing disease risks to making activities like walking up the stairs easier and reducing osteoarthritis pain.

Source: http://bit.ly/mYPSpV

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

Exposure to Magnetic Fields in Pregnancy Increases Asthma Risk, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2011) — Women with high exposure to magnetic fields during pregnancy may have a higher risk of asthma in their children, according to a Kaiser Permanente study appearing online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

In this prospective study, researchers compared the daily magnetic field exposure of 801 pregnant women in Kaiser Permanente Northern California and used electronic medical records to follow their children for 13 years to see which children developed asthma. The study found that women with high MF exposure in pregnancy had a more than threefold risk of asthma in their offspring compared with mothers whose exposure level was low.

This is the first study to demonstrate a link between maternal magnetic field exposure in pregnancy and the risk of asthma in offspring. Previous research has found that MF -- generated typically by power lines and appliances such as microwave ovens, hair dryers and vacuum cleaners -- could lead to miscarriage, poor semen quality, immune disorders, and certain type of cancers. Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO agency, classified radio frequency EMF as a possible carcinogen.

"While the replication of the finding is needed, the message here is exposure to electromagnetic fields is not good, and we need to pay attention to its adverse effect on health," said study lead author De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. Dr. Li published the original study in 2002 that found high MF exposure can lead to miscarriage.

The prevalence of asthma has been steadily rising since the 1980s, making it the most common chronic condition among children. Thirteen percent of children under 18 have asthma, which is caused by malfunction of the respiratory organs and the immune system.

"EMF exposure is ubiquitous. Because of the widespread exposure, any adverse health effect of EMF could impact many people and cause a serious public health problem," said Dr. Li.

Studying the EMF health effect has been difficult because everyone is exposed to EMF at some level, so there is no truly "unexposed control group" for easy comparison, researchers said. Health researchers must rely on comparing those with high EMF exposure levels to those with low EMF exposure levels to detect potential adverse EMF effects, Li said.

Women in this study wore a small meter during their pregnancy that measured their daily exposure to low frequency MFs from electricity-related sources such as microwave ovens, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, fans, coffee grinders and fluorescent light bulbs, power lines, and transformer stations. This study did not measure high frequency (radio frequency) MFs from wireless networks, wireless towers and wireless devices such as cell phones and smart meters. The researchers adjusted for study participants who lived near freeways but it did not change the results of the EMF-asthma association.

"In this study, we observed a dose-response relationship between mother's MF level in pregnancy and the asthma risk in her offspring. In other words, a higher maternal MF exposure during pregnancy led to a higher asthma risk in offspring," Dr. Li said.

In this new study, the researchers also found that two known risk factors for asthma, maternal history of asthma and being the first-born child, exacerbated the MF effect on the asthma risk. "This finding further supports the MF-asthma association," says Dr. Li.

"The best way to reduce your magnetic field exposure is distance. Magnetic field strength drops dramatically with increasing distance from the source," said Li. "So pregnant women should try to limit their exposure to known MF sources and keep distance from them when they are in use."

The study was funded in part by the California Public Health Foundation. Co-authors on the study include Hong Chen, MPH, and Roxana Odouli, MSPH, both of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

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

Story Source:

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

Journal Reference:

De-Kun Li, Hong Chen, Roxana Odouli. Maternal Exposure to Magnetic Fields During Pregnancy in Relation to the Risk of Asthma in Offspring. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2011; DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.135

Comfort eating helps stave off the blues: study

By Alice Baghdjian

Reuters

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

LONDON (Reuters) - A sweet tooth might not be the only reason why we reach for ice cream and cake in times of stress.

Comfort from the consumption of fatty foods is not derived purely from the pleasurable sensory experience of eating but also through gut-brain signaling, according to a study by scientists at the University of Leuven, in Belgium.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, used MRI scans to investigate the effects of fatty acids on emotion when directly injected into the stomach.

Scientists played mournful music and showed sad images to a group of 12 participants before giving half the group fatty acids through a feeding tube and a saline solution to the rest.

Without knowing which substance they received, the volunteers rated their mood on a scale of one to nine before and during scanning.

The results showed that those who were injected with fatty acids were only half as sad after watching the images and listening to the music as the participants who were given the saline solution.

"Eating fat seems to make us less vulnerable to sad emotions, even if we don't know we're eating fat," Lukas van Oudenhove, who led the research, told medical research news website HealthDay.

"We bypassed sensory stimulation by infusing fatty acids directly into the stomach, without the subjects knowing whether they were getting fat or saline," he said.

Although the study has implications for obesity, depression and eating disorders, more research is needed to determine whether the findings may have any value in treatment of the illnesses, van Oudenhove said.

(Edited by Paul Casciato)

Stool test good for catching colon cancer: study

By Amy Norton

Reuters Health

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The inexpensive tests that look for hidden blood in a person's stool are effective for colon cancer screening, a study out Tuesday confirms.

The findings, reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, give some extra weight to fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) as a valid option for early detection of colon cancer.

Experts generally recommend that people at average risk of colon cancer start screening tests for the disease at age 50. And they can pick from a number of tests that have all been found to cut the risk of dying from colon cancer.

Along with stool tests -- done once a year at home -- the choices include two invasive procedures: colonoscopy done every 10 years and flexible sigmoidoscopy done every five years.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally supported expert panel, recommends that people at average risk of colon cancer choose any of the three methods.

FOBT detects hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer or pre-cancerous growths called polyps. Positive results on the screen prompt a follow-up colonoscopy to investigate the source of the blood.

Advances in the stool tests in recent years have made them more effective. A newer version called immunochemical FOBT (iFOBT) is supposed to zero in on colon growths better than an older version known as guaiac FOBT -- which often picked up bleeding originating in the upper digestive tract, such as from a stomach ulcer.

Immunochemical FOBT is now largely replacing the older test. But there's been surprisingly little evidence that it really is highly "specific" to colon cancer, according to Dr. Yi-Chia Lee of National Taiwan University Hospital, one of the researchers on the new study.

So for their study, the researchers followed nearly 2,800 adults who all volunteered to have iFOBT, a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy to check for problems in the upper digestive tract.

They found that of 28 people confirmed to have colon tumors after a colonoscopy, all but one had also a positive iFOBT result.

"It means that almost every case with colon cancer can be identified by iFOBT," Lee told Reuters Health in an email. "It is a strong support to iFOBT as an effective screening tool."

The researchers also found that iFOBT had "specificity" for colon cancer of close to 90 percent, meaning the test would accurately give a negative result to almost 90 percent of people who did not have colon cancer.

Of three study participants who were found to have cancers of the stomach or esophagus, for instance, none had a positive result on the iFOBT test.

Like any screening test, iFOBT does have a risk of false-positive results, which leads to unnecessary invasive testing in some people. In this study, about 10 percent of all participants had a false-positive finding on the stool test.

Among the risk factors for false-positives the authors identified were the use of anticlotting drugs and low levels of the iron-rich molecule hemoglobin in the blood.

In practice, a positive iFOBT result would be followed by colonoscopy, in which a scope is used to investigate the interior of the colon.

Whether used for first-line screening or as a follow-up, colonoscopy has the advantage of allowing doctors to spot and remove pre-cancerous growths called polyps -- which means the test can prevent cases of colon cancer.

But as far as cutting the risk of death from colon cancer, stool testing is similarly effective, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

And it's much cheaper: iFOBT is more expensive than the older stool tests, but it is still roughly $30. A screening colonoscopy averages around $3,000.

The downside of iFOBT being specific to colon tumors is that it is not useful for catching cancers of the stomach or throat.

That's particularly important in Asia, where those cancers are common.

Lee said researchers there are looking into whether combining iFOBT with the older guaiac test is useful for catching cancers in the lower and upper digestive tract -- and whether adding a third stool test, which looks for the ulcer-causing bacteria H. pylori, can help as well. Infection with H. pylori is associated with increased risks of stomach and throat cancers.

In the U.S., cancers of the upper digestive tract are relatively uncommon. The average American has a one in 200 chance of developing esophageal cancer, while the risk of stomach cancer is one in 114.

In contrast, Americans' lifetime risk of colon cancer is about one in 19, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 50,000 Americans died of the disease in 2010.

Source: http://bit.ly/mUOj1

Canadian Medical Association Journal, online August 2, 2011.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Smoking, Diabetes, Obesity May Shrink Your Brain

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, August 1, 2011

MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- As if there weren't already enough good reasons to avoid smoking and keep your weight, blood sugar levels and blood pressure all under control, a new study suggests these risk factors in middle age may cause your brain to shrink, leading to mental declines up to a decade later.

Evaluating data from 1,352 participants whose average age was 54 in the Framingham Offspring Study -- which began in 1971 -- researchers from the University of California, Davis found that smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight were each linked to potentially dangerous vascular changes in the brain.

"We can't cure disease or cure aging, but the idea of a healthy body, healthy mind is very real," said study author Dr. Charles DeCarli, director of UC Davis' Alzheimer's Disease Center. "People should stop smoking, control their blood pressure, avoid diabetes and lose weight. It seems like a no-brainer."

The study is published Aug. 2 in the journal Neurology.

Participants were given blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes tests and had their body mass and waist circumference measured. They also underwent MRI brain scans over the course of a decade, the first one about seven years after the initial risk factor exam.

Those with stroke and dementia were excluded at the outset, and between the first and last MRIs 19 participants suffered a stroke and two developed dementia.

Those with high blood pressure experienced a more rapid worsening of test scores of planning and decision-making, which corresponded to a faster rate of growth of small areas of vascular brain damage than those with normal blood pressure.

Those with diabetes in middle age experienced brain shrinkage in an area known as the hippocampus faster than those without, and smokers lost brain volume overall and in the hippocampus faster than nonsmokers, with a more rapid increase of small areas of vascular brain damage.

Meanwhile, participants who were obese at middle age were more likely to be in the top 25 percent of those with faster declines in tests of executive function, DeCarli said. Those with a high waist-to-hip ratio were more likely to be among the 25 percent with a faster drop in brain volume.

"I do think it's an important study and has practical importance in confirming there are things we can do in middle age that can have effects 10, 20 and 30 years down the line to improve cognitive health," said Dr. Raj Shah, medical director of the Rush Memory Clinic in Chicago. "It may seem we're talking about things that are somewhat common knowledge, but really, we always hypothesize these things could happen, but to show they actually do in a study is very important."

DeCarli noted that the effects of the risk factors studied are likely to be even more compelling in the general population, since study participants were largely healthy individuals with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and a low diabetes rate.

"It could be so much worse in a representative group of Americans," he said, adding that all study participants were white and only 5 percent were diabetics, compared to a nearly 50 percent rate for Hispanics over age 65. And, "the study certainly doesn't represent the growing obesity problem seen in the South."

One of the strengths of the research was that it used a large sample of people from a well-known study, said Catherine Roe, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. However, the results don't prove these risk factors caused the brain changes, she added.

"We know smoking and being overweight are bad for other parts of your health," Roe said. "This is just one more reason to get these things under control."

More information

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has more about the warning signs of dementia.

DHA in moms may help babies fight infection: study

By Genevra Pittman

Reuters Health

Monday, August 1, 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Giving pregnant moms omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help prevent infection in their infants, suggests new research.

But the benefit of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, wasn't always obvious in the study of Mexican moms, and researchers say not all babies will necessarily be better off because of it.

With a boost in moms' DHA, "there are not dramatic effects. What we did find, however, is a general trend toward benefit," said study author Usha Ramakrishnan, of Emory University in Atlanta.

Fatty acids like DHA are found in the body's disease-fighting cells. But studies that have looked at the effect of fatty acid supplements in kids or adults have shown "inconsistent effects" on the immune system, the authors explain in Pediatrics.

Whether giving pregnant women extra DHA could improve their infants' immune systems has been even less clear.

To investigate that question, Ramakrishnan and her colleagues recruited more than 1,000 pregnant women -- all four or five months along - who were receiving prenatal care at a hospital and several health clinics in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Half the volunteers took two 200-milligram DHA supplements each day. The other half of the women, serving as a comparison group, took twice-daily placebo capsules containing a blend of corn and soy oils.

Women continued taking the supplements until they gave birth. Then, they brought their new babies back to the general hospital in Cuernavaca at one, three, and six months, and reported on the infants' recent sickness symptoms.

At one month, babies of moms who had taken DHA had a trend toward fewer total cold symptoms than babies of moms who weren't supplemented. About 38 percent of DHA group babies showed cold symptoms in the couple of weeks before that appointment, compared to 45 percent of placebo babies.

But the authors couldn't rule out that the difference was due to chance.

At three and six months, there was no clear distinction between the two groups of babies with regard to cold symptoms. But in babies that did get sick, those whose moms had taken DHA had a shorter duration of some symptoms, such as fever and runny nose at the last visit.

In a couple of cases, babies of DHA moms had suffered symptoms for longer than comparison babies. For example, at the three-month visit, babies with colds had been stuffed up for an extra day in the DHA group, on average, according to their moms' reports.

Ramakrishnan said that it generally seems safe to take DHA during pregnancy, at least in the doses her team examined. (At much higher doses, similar fatty acids have been linked to bleeding risks.) The 400-milligram daily dose is pretty typical of what would be in a prenatal vitamin or what moms could get in a couple of fish meals each week, she added.

Because of concerns about mercury exposure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant women limit their fish intake to two meals per week, choosing fish and shellfish that are low in mercury, such as salmon and shrimp.

DHA supplements can be bought for about $25 to $50 for a six-month supply. Some studies have also linked omega-3 fatty acids to lower cholesterol and a smaller risk of heart disease.

So should all pregnant moms be taking DHA to give their infants an infection-fighting boost?

"I think it may be variable -- not everybody may benefit," Ramakrishnan said. When it comes to infants' health, "It's not going to be that magic bullet."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/olJZgh

 Pediatrics, online August 1, 2011.

Colon Cleansing Has No Health Benefit, May Harm: Report

HealthDay News

Monday, August 1, 2011

MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the popularity of colon cleansing, there's no evidence that the procedure -- which can be done at home or in day spas -- offers any health benefits, a new study finds.

However, colon cleansing can cause serious side effects ranging from vomiting to kidney failure and death, the authors of the report say.

Colon cleansing -- also called colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy -- often involves the use of chemicals followed by flushing the colon with water through a tube inserted in the rectum, explained the Georgetown University researchers.

They analyzed 20 studies about colon cleansing that were published over the last decade and found little evidence that the procedure offers any benefits. Instead, a number of the studies noted side effects such as cramping, bloating, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure.

The findings appear in the August issue of The Journal of Family Practice.

"There can be serious consequences for those who engage in colon cleansing whether they have the procedure done at a spa or perform it at home," lead author Dr. Ranit Mishori, a family medicine physician at Georgetown University School of Medicine, said in a university medical center news release. "Colon cleansing products in the form of laxatives, teas, powders and capsules ... tout benefits that don't exist."

It's also important for consumers to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no authority to monitor these products, she added.

Mishori also noted that many colon cleansing services are offered by people who call themselves "colon hygienists," but have no significant medical training. She pointed out that the National Board for Colon HydroTherapy (NBCHT) and many other groups that promote colon cleansing require hygienists to have little more than a high school diploma.

But Dick Hoenninger, a spokesman for the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy (I-ACT), which oversees the NBCHT, took issue with the findings.

"Colon hydrotherapy when performed by a trained therapist using FDA registered equipment and disposable speculums or rectal nozzles is safe," he said. According to Hoenninger, the study also "mixes up laxatives, both pharmaceutical and herbal; and colon hydrotherapy. Most of the studies referenced are for the use of laxatives, not colon hydrotherapy."

He also noted that, "I-ACT therapists are trained in the proper use of the [colon cleansing] equipment and are told to not make any statements or advertisements that cannot be verified in peer reviewed literature."

More information

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has more about colon cleansing.

Nicotine Can Protect the Brain from Parkinson's Disease, Research Suggests

ScienceDaily

Monday, August 1, 2011

ScienceDaily (Aug. 1, 2011) — If you've ever wondered if nicotine offered society any benefit, a new study published in The FASEB Journal offers a surprising answer. Nicotine can protect the brain against Parkinson's disease, the research suggests, and the discovery of how nicotine does this may lead to entirely new types of treatments for the disease.

"This study raises the hope for a possible neuroprotective treatment of patients at an early step of the disease or even before at a stage where the disease has not been diagnosed according to motor criteria," said Patrick P. Michel, co-author of the study from the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, in Paris, France.

To make this discovery, scientists used mice genetically engineered without a specific nicotine receptor (the alpha-7 subtype) and mice with a functional receptor. Using tissue from mouse embryos, researchers prepared brain cultures using conditions that favor the slowly progressing loss of dopamine neurons, a hallmark of the disease. The scientists found that nicotine had the potential to rescue dopamine neurons in cultures from normal mice, but not in cultures from mice without the nicotine receptor. These findings suggest that it may be feasible to develop novel therapies for Parkinson's disease that target nicotine receptors, particularly the alpha-7 nicotine receptor.

"If you're a smoker, don't get too excited," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Even if smoking protects you from Parkinson's, you might not live long enough to develop the disease because smoking greatly increases the risk for deadly cancers and cardiovascular diseases. But now, we should be able find non-toxic ways to hit the same target."

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 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

D. Toulorge, S. Guerreiro, A. Hild, U. Maskos, E. C. Hirsch, P. P. Michel. Neuroprotection of midbrain dopamine neurons by nicotine is gated by cytoplasmic Ca2. The FASEB Journal, 2011; 25 (8): 2563 DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-182824

Even a Little Exercise Helps the Heart, Study Finds

By By Jenifer Goodwin

HealthDay Reporter

HealthDay News

Monday, August 1, 2011

 MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk after dinner. Play tag with your kids at the park.

New research shows that even small amounts of exercise -- about 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of moderate activity a week -- can reduce the risk of heart disease by about 14 percent.

Those who did more -- about 300 minutes a week, or five hours -- reduced their risk of heart disease, including heart attacks, angina and bypass surgeries, by 20 percent compared to people who did no exercise, the study found.

"Some physical activity is better than none, and more is better," said lead study author Jacob Sattelmair, who was a doctoral candidate at Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, when he conducted the research.

The benefits of even more exercise continue to add up. People who reported exercising for 750 minutes a week, or 12.5 hours -- had a 25 percent reduced risk of heart disease. But that's many more hours of working out for only a small additional risk reduction, Sattelmair noted.

"The biggest bang for your buck is at the lower ends of physical activity," said Sattelmair, now director of research and strategy at Dossia, an organization in Cambridge, Mass., whose goal is to improve employee health and health care, while reducing health care costs. "If you went from none to 2.5 hours a week, the relative benefit is more than if you went from, say, 5 to 7.5 hours a week."

In the study, published online Aug. 1 in Circulation, Sattelmair and colleagues analyzed the results of 33 studies that assessed the health benefits of exercise.

For reasons researchers aren't sure of, women saw even more protective benefits from exercise than men, although this could have been a quirk of the statistics, they said.

While 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week is the minimum goal based on current U.S. guidelines, they found even people who did less than that (75 minutes weekly) had a decreased risk of heart disease compared to total coach potatoes.

"If you are doing nothing, do something. And if you are doing something, say, walking 10 or 15 minutes, two to three times a week, do more," said Barry Franklin, director of the preventive cardiology program at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and an American Heart Association spokesman.

Moderate physical activity includes walking briskly, gardening, playing doubles tennis or dancing. Vigorous activity includes jogging, swimming laps, hiking uphill or jumping rope, although researchers did not analyze whether or not exercising vigorously was any better than moderate exercise for improving heart health.

Prior research has pointed to myriad benefits of physical activity, Franklin said. Getting up and moving strengthens the heart and the lungs.

Physically fit people also tend to have lower blood pressure and resting heart rate, which puts less demand on the heart. Exercise can increase insulin sensitivity, which is important in the prevention of diabetes, and can modestly boost HDL ("good") cholesterol.

Other studies suggest that exercise reduces inflammatory markers that may play a role in triggering heart attacks; may reduce the likelihood of clots that lead to heart attacks and stroke; and decreases the risk of life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heart beat).

Yet physical activity, of course, isn't the sole key to preventing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a normal body weight, avoiding high levels of stress, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range all play a role, he added.

Just as important as an exercise program is getting physical activity while going about your day, Franklin said. Recent research has suggested that it's not only structured exercise classes or sessions, but the incidental exercise you get when you walk around the mall, go up and down the stairs, clean the house, or mow the lawn that matters for health.

"In addition to your structured exercise program, where you drive to the gym and walk on the treadmill, disguised exercise can also have a profound impact on your cardiovascular risk," Franklin said. "The take-home message is: Move more. Sit less."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has tips for starting an exercise program.