Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Year's Eve Hangover Cure

With New Year's Eve party time fast approaching, people all over the world are set to enjoy themselves on what is one of the only global holiday events, observed in pretty much every nation. Fireworks will erupt around the planet, from Auckland to Los Angeles as the clocks click over into 2012.

Unfortunately, many of us enjoy ourselves a little too much and start the New Year feeling less than our best. There's nothing worse than that washed out feeling of the morning after one drink too many - New Year's Eve is certainly the night of the year that we are most likely to let our favorite tipple get the better of us.

Here are some ideas to keep that nasty hangover head at bay :
  • Don't get too carried away with the moment. Keep an eye on how much you are drinking, pace yourself, so that you can enjoy the drinks but not let them get the best of you. Four to five drinks over a three hour period is a rule of thumb, basically make one drink last around half an hour.
  • Alcohol is a diuretic, so it tends to make you more thirsty, which leads to more drinking than you might otherwise have planned. Drink water, sodas, fruit juice or sports drinks in between alcoholic ones, so you still have a drink in your hand for the toasts, but aren't swilling liquor like it's your last day on earth.
  • Have a decent meal before the partying starts. It's so easy to arrive at someone's party and start tucking into the booze, skipping dinner in favor of some party snacks, which don't give your body the chance to slow the alcohol intake enough.
  • Take a vitamin B supplement, also common in many sports and soft drinks these days. Vitamin B helps the body to repair itself, and can lessen a hangover.
  • If you take an anti inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or Aleve, you should first check with your doctor. Some painkillers, especially paracetamol (acetaminophen) can harm the liver, which is already under attack from all the alcohol. Other painkillers, such as aspirin, may irritate the stomach.
  • When you get home, try to get as much sleep as possible and a big glass of water before going to sleep can work wonders.
  • We're all aware of the problems of drinking and driving, and certainly the police are going to be vigilant on this party evening, so take a taxi or hitch a ride home. The 1st of the year is a holiday everywhere, so there's plenty of time to collect the car the next day if you drank more than you planned. It's just not worth the risk of drink driving which will be public enemy number one on New Year's Eve. Starting the New Year in the tank with criminal charges and a driving ban pending, is not the best way to usher in the New Year, although countless hundreds are bound to end up in this predicament.
  • The next morning take another vitamin B. Some of those effervescent forms such as Berocca can be a good morning after remedy.
  • Drink plenty of water the following day and never mind the "hair of the dog". Drinking on a hangover doesn't really help cure it at all.
  • Most smokers agree that smoking on a hangover seems to make it kick in more aggressively. So if you are hung over, perhaps it will be a good time to begin that New Year's resolution and leave the tobacco weed behind you, in 2011.
  • Coffee can make you more alert and function better, but it's no kind of cure or prevention for a hangover.
  • Exercise helps the blood circulate and kicks the liver and kidneys into a faster detox mode, although if the hangover is particularly bad, this solution is probably going to be more pain than gain.
At the end of the night, the best way to avoid a hangover is simply to enjoy a good meal and drink with moderation, so that you can have a relaxing New Year's Day and appreciate the start to the year with friends and family, rather than lying in bed, promising never to drink again.
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Love Study: Brain Reacts To Heartbreak Same As Physical Pain

Love hurts, and that is not just a saying for the broken hearted. Heartbreak is a very strange distress. It is exquisitely painful, and yet we cannot find an injury on our body. New research finds that when you reminisce about the one that got away, the brain actually triggers sensations that you also feel in times of "real" physical pain, making heartbreak truly, physically painful to add to the emotional distress it sometimes causes.

Heartbreak is like one big emotional pain but it also seems to spark off hundreds of other emotions. We hate the feeling of heartbreak, and yet we find ourselves compelled to go over and over memories, ideas or fantasies which make the feeling worse.

Edward E. Smith, director of cognitive neuroscience at Columbia University explains:

"This tells us how serious rejection can be sometimes. When people are saying 'I really feel in pain about this breakup,' you don't want to trivialize it and dismiss it by saying 'It's all in your mind.' Our ultimate goal is to see what kind of therapeutic approach might be useful in relieving the pain of rejection. From everyday experience, rejection seems to be one of the most painful things we experience. It seems the feelings of rejection can be sustained even longer than being angry."

Forty people analyzed from New York City and all of whom felt "intensely rejected," took part in the study. While participants were told to look at photos, including photos of their friends (they were directed to think positive thoughts about them), and photos of their exes (they were directed to think about their breakup), their brains were scanned for changes in activity. The participants also underwent brain scans as they felt pain on their forearms similar to the feeling of holding a hot cup of coffee in comparison. Several of the same areas of the brain became active when the participants felt either physical pain or emotional pain.

The research shows that rejection appears to be in a class by itself in terms of its similarity to physical pain. Future research could examine how emotional pain due to rejection affects how people feel physical pain.

Here are some tips that may help you get over the pain:
  • Breathe. All you can do is survive this first and difficult day. Take one day at a time. Give yourself permission to mourn. Call in sick at work, sleep all day, eat too much ice cream, sob.
  • Congratulate yourself for being human: It is only when you open yourself to love that your heart can break. Develop and repeat a helpful mantra to get you through the initial shock and pain, such as "This too shall pass" or "I will survive."
  • Reach out to a close friend or family member. It helps to share your thoughts with others. Watch a movie to distract yourself. Choose a comedy that has cheered you up in the past. Or watch a movie that's guaranteed to make you sob--it may surprise you how good that feels.
  • Surround yourself with friends. This may mean reaching out to people you fell out of touch with during the relationship. Make lists to help you regain your confidence and identity: a list of your friends, of things you like, of what you want to accomplish in the next decade. Spoil yourself: Get a new hairstyle, have a spa day or go shopping. Resist the urge to call your ex.
  • Assess the experience. Have you learned anything about yourself? Does the experience make you more empathetic to others who've suffered a hardship? Begin an activity that will fill your time, distract your mind and rebuild your confidence. Train for a marathon, take up yoga or learn a new language. Resist the urge to call your ex. Volunteer your time at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen or tutoring center. It will take your mind off your own woes and keep your suffering in perspective.
  • Force yourself to go on dates. You'll be surprised to discover that your heart can still flutter over someone. It's part of the healing process.
  • Consult a psychiatrist if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, such as lack of appetite, insomnia or too much sleeping, low self-esteem, and an inability to concentrate or carry out routine tasks. Ask a friend or physician to recommend one who is experienced in treating depression.
  • Remember that healing is a process that takes time. Expect waves of sadness, anger, guilt or fear even after you think you are over it. Give your heart time to heal.
  • Compartmentalize the experience in your memory: "My heart was broken once. It really hurt and I'm glad it's over."
As one popular quote goes, "Love is like falling down... in the end you're left hurt, scarred, and with a memory of it forever."
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Nucynta ER Approved For Moderate To Severe Chronic Pain Control

An oral painkiller called Nucynta ER (tapentadol extended-release tablets), has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced. The medication is designed to be taken twice daily for the control of moderate to severe chronic pain in adults when a continuous, 24-hour opioid analgesic is needed for an extended period. The immediate-release version of Nucynta was FDA approved in 2008 for the treatment of acute pain in adults aged at least 18 years.

Nucynta ER is available in 50 mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg and 250 mg strengths.

Data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the American Pain Foundation indicate that over 42 million Americans aged 20 and over suffer from chronic pain, although nobody knows what the exact prevalence is. Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability, and approximately one-third of all Americans will experience severe chronic pain at some stage in their lives.

However, a study published by the American Pain Society suggests that despite treatments already available, patients are still in serious need of further therapies to help manage their pain properly and appropriately.

Chronic pain means long-term pain, while acute pain is short term.

Paul Chang, M.D., Vice President, Medical Affairs, Internal Medicine, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. explained:

"In clinical trials, Nucynta ER demonstrated proven efficacy for treating moderate to severe chronic pain. We are pleased with the FDA's decision to approve Nucynta ER as it represents an important new option to help people with chronic pain."

Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. and Grünenthal GmbH conducted a double-blind, randomized, active-and/or placebo-controlled phase 3 investigation. They also evaluated the safety profile of the drug with over 1,100 participants with moderate to severe chronic (long-term) pain over a 12-month period. Nucynta ER was found to be safe and effective - the trial researchers also reported a favorable tolerability profile as well as discontinuation rates.

Sunil J. Panchal, M.D., President, National Institute of Pain, said:

"Chronic pain is difficult to manage, and even with the treatments available today, it can be a challenge to balance pain relief with a patient's ability to tolerate the medicine. People with chronic pain will continue to need additional options, so an approval like this is welcome news for this community and the people who suffer from this often debilitating condition."

To support the appropriate and effective management of chronic pain, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. believes it is also essential to support educational programs about the safe and responsible use of pain medicines and the prevention of inappropriate use.

There is a risk of abuse with Nycynta, a long standing opioid medication. Users run the risk of becoming physically and psychologically dependent on the medication. Opioid medications, when crushed, have the potential for abuse. Drug companies say they have been trying to make more abuse-resistant opioids.

Nycynta contains tapentadol, a Schedule II drug - a category of medications considered to have a high potential for addiction or abuse, but at the same time have legitimate clinical use. Other medications in this category include methadone, morphine, cocaine, oxycodone, alphaprodine and pentobarbital.

Nucynta is contraindicated for individuals with paralytic ileus, acute or severe bronchial asthma, hypercapnia in unmonitored settings or when there is no resuscitative equipment, and significant respiratory depression. Patients using monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and those who have used them within 14 days should not take Nucynta because of the possible additive effects on norepinephrine levels, which raise the risk of cardiovascular events.

Both Nucynta ER and Nucynta are available by prescription only.

Nucynta ER is not a use-as-needed medication, it is not intended for the treatment of postoperative or acute pain, it should be swallowed whole and not broken, split, chewed, dissolved or crushed - doing so raises the risk of life-threatening rapid release of tapentadol. Do not consume alcoholic drinks when taking Nucynta ER.
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Chronic Pain Gene - HCN2 - Identified, Hopes For New Targeted Pain Drugs

A gene called HCN2 produces a protein which regulates chronic pain, researchers from Cambridge University, England, and the University of Cadiz, Spain reported in the journal Science. They added that medications which inhibit the gene's protein production could be extremely effective in combating chronic pain.

Chronic pain, also known as persistent pain, is long-term pain that lasts over 12 weeks, or pain that continues after healing is completed and pain should have stopped, as may be the case after surgery or trauma.

Chronic pain is estimated to affect about 1 in every 7 people in the UK. In the USA, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) says that up to 56 million adults suffer from chronic pain, that's 28% of all adults in the country - 4 million have neuropathic pain, 20 million have jaw and lower facial pain, 25 million have migraine pain, 48 million have arthritis pain, and 16 million have lower-back pain.

There are two main types of chronic pain:
  • Inflammatory pain - this occurs when a persistent injury causes the nerve endings to become much more sensitive, consequently raising the sensation of pain.
  • Neuropathic pain - nerve damage causes continuous pain. Current drugs are not very good at treating this common condition. Patients with diabetes, shingles, those undergoing or who underwent chemotherapy, lower back pain, and some other conditions have a significantly higher risk of being affected by this kind of pain.
Lead author, Prof. Peter McNaughton, head of the Dept. of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, said:

"Individuals suffering from neuropathic pain often have little or no respite because of the lack of effective medications. Our research lays the groundwork for the development of new drugs to treat chronic pain by blocking HCN2."

Experts have known about the HCN2 gene, which is present in pain-sensitive nerve endings, for a long time. However, nobody fully understood what its role was in regulating pain.

Scientists had mistakenly assumed that HCN2 might have been regulating electrical frequency activity in pain-sensitive nerve endings, because HCN4, a related gene, is closely involved in controlling electrical frequency activity in the heart.

In this study, the scientists removed the HCN2 gene from the pain-sensitive nerves. They then used electrical stimuli on these nerves in cell cultures to find out how their properties might change after the HCN2 gene had been removed.

The in-vitro studies in cell cultures provided promising results. So, the researchers moved onto studying genetically modified mice which had had the HCN2 gene deleted. They were able to determine that the elimination of the HCN2 gene got rid of neuropathic pain by measuring how quickly the mice moved away from various types of painful stimuli.

They were surprised to find that the deletion of the HCN2 gene did not affect their response to acute pain. Examples of acute pain are, biting your tongue, or touching something extremely hot. Acute pain comes on rapidly, is usually severe, but goes away fairly quickly.

Professor McNaughton said:

"Many genes play a critical role in pain sensation, but in most cases interfering with them simply abolishes all pain, or even all sensation. What is exciting about the work on the HCN2 gene is that removing it - or blocking it pharmacologically- eliminates neuropathic pain without affecting normal acute pain. This finding could be very valuable clinically because normal pain sensation is essential for avoiding accidental damage."
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Why Did I Come In Here? How Walking Through Doorways Makes Us Forget

Ever done this: entered a room purposefully, then stood there feeling like an idiot while you try and remember what you came for? Well, now scientists think they have an explanation: going through doorways causes the mind to "file away" the current activity.

As Gabriel Radvansky, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, explains in a news article published on the University's website this last week:

"Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an 'event boundary' in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away."

"Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized," he added.

Radvansky and colleagues have been exploring this phenomenon for a while: the findings of their latest study were published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

They write:

"Previous research using virtual environments has revealed a location-updating effect in which there is a decline in memory when people move from one location to another."

However, Radvansky and colleagues wanted to explore whether the "degree of immersion" in the environment had an effect on this.

For their latest study they carried out three experiments in real and virtual environments, the latter being where the subjects experience the "environment" on a display screen by means of a computer simulation. The participants, all college students, were given memory tasks to do while they just crossed a room and also while going out through a doorway.

The first experiment was done in a virtual environment using small display screens, to reduce the degree of immersion.

In this experiment, the students moved from one virtual room to another, picking up an object on a table and exchanging it for an object on another table. They then carried out the same task, "walking" the same distance, but without going through a doorway.

The researchers found the students forgot more after they went through a doorway than when they just walked the same distance across a room, suggesting the doorway or "event boundary" impeded their ability to retrieve thoughts or decisions they had made in a different room.

The second experiment was in the "real" world, not on a computer screen. The participants had to pick objects from a table and hide them in boxes and move either across a room, or go through a doorway into another room. As in experiment 1, they walked the same distance in both cases: whether across the room or through the doorway.

The results of the second experiment in the real world were the same as for the first experiment in the virtual world: walking through doorways appeared to impair memory.

In the third and final experiment, the researchers tested whether, if the participants were in the same environment as where they "created" the memory, even if they passed through several doorways, this would not impair memory: there is a theory that if you can put subjects in the same environmental context as when they did their learning, they retrieve the memories underpinning that learning better.

But this did not happen: the participants were asked to make a "decision" (select an object) in one room, then they walked through several doorways, eventually ending up back in the same room where they started. The results showed no improvements in memory, which the researchers said suggests the act of passing through doorways serves as a way for the mind to file away memories:

"In Experiment 3, the original encoding context was reinstated by having a person return to the original room in which objects were first encoded. However, inconsistent with an encoding specificity account, memory did not improve by reinstating this context," they write.

Perhaps one way to overcome the problem of forgetting what we went into the room for is to write little notes to ourselves, like Leonard Shelby, the man with anterograde amnesia, who was played by Guy Pearce in the award-nominated thriller Memento.
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What Is Serotonin? What Does Serotonin Do?

Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine is a hormone in the pineal gland, the digestive tract, the central nervous system, and blood platelets. A hormone is a substance our body produces that regulates and controls the activity of certain cells or organs.

The molecular formula of serotonin is C10H12N2O.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter - this is a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses across the space between nerve cells or neurons. We call these spaces synapses.

Serotonin plays an important part in the regulation of learning, mood, sleep and vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels). Experts say serotonin also might have a role in anxiety, migraine, vomiting and appetite.

Alterations in serotonin levels in the brain may affect mood. Some antidepressant medications affect the action of serotonin, i.e. they are used to treat depression.

About 80% of our body's total serotonin is in the gut, in the enterochromaffin cells - where it regulates intestinal movements. The rest is synthesized in the serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system.

For some types of cells, serotonin is a growth factor - it may have a role in wound healing.

According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, Serotonin is:

"A vasoconstrictor, liberated by blood platelets, that inhibits gastric secretion and stimulates smooth muscle; present in relatively high concentrations in some areas of the central nervous system (hypothalamus, basal ganglia), and occurring in many peripheral tissues and cells and in carcinoid tumors."

A study carried out at Oxford University found that serotonin influences the way we rate intimacy and romance. They lowered serotonin activity in healthy volunteers and showed them photographs of couples. They were asked to rate them. The volunteers with lower serotonin activity rated the couples as less intimate than the volunteers with normal serotonin activity.
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Carcinogens - Eight Substances Added To The List

Eight substances have been added to the list of carcinogens by the HSS (US Department of Health and Human Services) today. The Report of Carcinogens has added formaldehyde, aristolochic acids, o-nitrotoluene, captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), riddelliine, certain inhalable glass wool fibers, and styrene to the list of carcinogens.

There are now 240 carcinogens in the list.

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of both the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) and the NTP (National Toxicology Program), said:

"Reducing exposure to cancer-causing agents is something we all want, and the Report on Carcinogens provides important information on substances that pose a cancer risk. The NTP is pleased to be able to compile this report." John Bucher, Ph.D., associate director of the NTP added, "This report underscores the critical connection between our nation's health and what's in our environment."

The NTP prepares the Report on Carcinogens for the HHS Secretary. It is a congressionally mandated document. It identifies substances, agents, mixtures or exposures in two categories:
  • Those that are known to be human carcinogens
  • Those reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens
A substance which is included in the list in the Report on Carcinogens does not in itself mean it causes cancer. There are many factors which cause cancer, including how long the human is exposed and a person's susceptibility to a particular substance.

As soon as a substance is put forward by the private or public sector and is chosen for consideration, it is extensively evaluated with several opportunities for scientific and public contributions. On each substance, the HHS says there were at least six opportunities for public input.

For each candidate substance under review, the NTP used established criteria to evaluate the scientific evidence. Several federal agencies were involved in the evaluations, including the CDC, NIH, FDA, EPA, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Ruth Lunn, Dr.P.H., director of the NTP Office of the Report on Carcinogens, said:

"The strength of this report lies in the rigorous scientific review process. We could not have completed this report without the significant input we received from the public, industry, academia, and other government agencies."

Aristolochic acids - people with kidney disease who consumed botanical products which contained aristolochic acids were found to have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer and cancer in the upper urinary tract. Some plant species naturally have amounts of aristolochic acids in them. Even though the FDA in 2001 recommended that people stop using any botanical products with aristolochic acids in them, they are still for sale online and abroad. Several herbal products contain aristolochic acids, such as those for the treatment of inflammation, gout and arthritis.

Formaldehyde - it was initially listed in the 2nd Report on Carcinogens as a substance that was reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, after it was found to cause nasal cancer in laboratory rats. There is now compelling evidence from human studies to demonstrate that people with higher exposure to formaldehyde have a greater risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer, sinonasal cancer, and myeloid leukemia.

Formaldehyde's chemical formula is CH2O. It is a colorless, flammable, pungent chemical that is extensively used to make resins for composite wood products, synthetic fibers, textile finishes, and paper product coatings. It is also used as a preservative in mortuaries, medical laboratories, some hair straightening products, and other consumer goods.

Captafol - a fungicide used to protect fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and grasses. It is also used as a seed treatment. The USA banned it in 1999, but previous exposures may continue to affect health today. Laboratory experiments showed that dietary exposure caused tumors to develop at several different tissue sites in mice and rats.

Cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder and hard metal form) - used to make dies, cutting and grinding tools, and wear-resistant products for several industries. Cobalt-tungsten hard metals are often referred to as cemented or sintered carbides in the USA.

Some inhalable glass wool fibers - some fibers were included in the list following results from experimental animal studies. The HHS stresses that only some glass wool and man-made fibers were included in the list of carcinogens, not all of them. In this latest report, the glass wool fibers that have been redefined include only those that had been previously mentioned and can enter the respiratory tract, are highly durable, and are stay in the lungs for a long time (biopersistent).

There are two main categories of glass wool fibers, as far as consumers are concerned:
  • Low-cost, general purpose fibers - mainly glass wool used for home and building insulation. This type is less durable and less biopersistent.
  • Special purpose fibers (premium)
o-Nitrotoluene - laboratory studies on rats and mice showed tumor formation at many different tissue sites. This substance is used as an intermediate when preparing azo dyes and some other dyes, including magenta and several sulfur dyes for paper, leather, silk, wool and cotton. o-Nitrotoluene is used in agricultural chemicals, pesticides, petrochemicals, rubber chemicals, explosives and pharmaceuticals. American workers are susceptible to o-Nitrotoluene exposure by breathing it in or through the skin during production and use. This substance has also been found in water and near munitions facilities, as well as near military training facilities.

Riddelliine - animal laboratory studies linked this botanical to a higher risk of developing liver cancer and leukemia in rats, and lung cancer in mice. Riddelliine must not be confused with the ADHD medication Ritalin. Riddelliine is found in some plants of the genus Senecio, which is a member of the daisy family, and grows in sandy areas in the western USA. Examples of plants include groundsel and ragwort. At least 13 Senecio species have been detected in herbal medications. Human exposure can occur by consuming teas, honey, herbal medications, or foods from animals that have been fed on the plants.

Styrene - a synthetic chemical used globally in the manufacturing of plastics, insulation, fiberglass, pipes, food containers, carpet backing and car parts. Human exposure can occur by inhaling styrene from tobacco smoke, building materials and other products. Limited evidence points to a higher risk of lymphohematopoietic cancer and genetic damage in lymphocytes among workers exposed to styrene.

"12th Report on Carcinogens"
National Toxology Program, Department of Health and Human Services

Written by Christian Nordqvist

View drug information on Ritalin LA.
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Alcohol Fuels Unsafe Sex

A new study shows the more a person drinks, the stronger their intention becomes to have unsafe sex. The spread of the HIV virus is mainly caused by unsafe sex and it is a major risk factor for the global burden of disease.

However the push and public perception against HIV has waned somewhat since its discovery in the 1980s and its incidence in developed countries, such as the US and UK has not been much reduced in the past decade. Obviously public health efforts need to be stepped up again.

There were uncertainties about the cause-and-effect relationship of heavy drinking and HIV infection. Researchers weren't sure if alcohol consumption caused HIV via unsafe sex, or whether certain personality traits in individuals, such as sensation-seeking or a disposition to risky behavior in general, would lead to both alcohol use and unsafe sex.

The study, published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Addiction, presents the results of 12 experiments that analyzed this cause-and-effect relationship in a more systematic way.

Researchers collated their results and discovered that alcohol consumption affects decision-making, and that this impact rises with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Everyone knows that more alcohol tends to reduce sensible decision-making and cause people to lose their inhibitions, so their findings make perfect sense.

The study participants were randomly assigned to two groups in which they either consumed alcohol or did not. Then their intention to engage in unsafe sex was measured.

An increase in blood alcohol level of 0.1 mg/mL resulted in an increase of 5.0% (95% CI: 2.8% - 7.1%) in the indicated likelihood of engaging in unprotected sex. This result remained stable in sensitivity analyses aimed to correct for a potential publication bias.

Dr. J. Rehm, the Principal Investigator of the study stated that :

"Drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV ... This result also helps explain why people at risk often show this behavior despite better knowledge: alcohol is influencing their decision processes."

It's probably not widely considered by the general public that drinking can inhibit sensible sexual habits and put a person more at risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Thus, public awareness campaigns and prevention programs should shift their focus slightly as a result of the study.

If drinking and especially heavy drinking is reduced, it would not only avoid compromising the immune system but will also lower the chance of engaging in unsafe sex, thereby reducing the number of new HIV infections.

Younger people who tend to go binge drinking could also be made more aware of the possibility of unsafe sexual behaviors when drunk and it might help to curb behaviors even when they are drunk, much as anti drink driving campaigns persuaded people to take taxis or have an allocated driver.

Whilst it will be hard to stop people drinking and getting drunk, education can help inhibit drunk people, by placing the thought in the back of their mind to understand they are inebriated and take action accordingly, especially when it comes to sexual behavior.
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Eggs May Increase Risk Of Lethal Prostate Cancer In Healthy Men

Eating eggs may increase men's risk of developing the more lethal form of prostate cancer, concluded US researchers in a study published recently in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

First author Erin L. Richman from the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and colleagues, write that we already know red and processed meat may increase risk of advanced prostate cancer, and although post-diagnostic data on diet and prostate cancer is "sparse", there have been suggestions that eating poultry with skin and eggs may hasten the progress of the disease.

So they decided to do a study using dietary data from 27,607 men who had been followed from 1994 to 2008 and who had no cancer at the start of the period.

This group included men who developed prostate cancer that spread to other organs and also who died from the disease, enabling the researchers to examine total, unprocessed and processed red meat, poultry and egg intake in relation to risk of lethal prostate cancer.

Using a "case only" approach, they also analyzed survival rates in relation to the post-diagnosis consumption of these same foods in 3,127 of men who were initially diagnosed with non-metastatic (ie localized, not yet spread to other organs) prostate cancer during the follow up.

The researchers report that for the risk analysis, they noted there were 199 observed events over 306,715 person years (when you multiply the number of people observed by the number of years each was followed for and compare this to the number of events you are interested in observing, you get a sense of how populated the "map" of available data points for analysis is).

They found that men who ate 2.5 eggs or more a week had a significant 81% higher risk of developing lethal prostate cancer compared to men who ate fewer than 0.5 eggs a week on average.

For the case-only survival analysis, they observed 123 events during 19,354 person-years. From these data points they found a suggestion, but this was not statistically significant, that eating poultry and processed red meat after a diagnosis of localized prostate cancer was linked to progression to lethal disease.

The researchers conclude that "consumption of eggs may increase risk of developing a lethal form of prostate cancer among healthy men".
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Baby Who Developed Outside The Womb Is Born

Nicolette Soto, 27, whose fetus developed outside her uterus surrounded by a thin wall of membrane and muscle, gave birth in Arizona after 32 weeks of pregnancy to a 2 pound 14 ounce baby at the Maternal Fetal Medicine Center at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. Doctors wonder whether this has ever happened before.

The baby developed just next to the mother's uterus, but outside it. The placenta had not attached properly and eventually attached to the outside of the uterine wall. Doctors said that removing it was much easier than they had expected. In case of complications, a team of experts in urology, trauma and radiology, as well as a vascular surgeon were on standby - fortunately, their services were not required.

Ms. Soto was warned by doctors that having a baby develop outside the uterus was life-threatening for both her and her baby. However, according to boyfriend, Victor Perfecto, she made it clear that she wanted to see the pregnancy through to the end.

Azelan Cruz cruz was born last Monday.

The embryo had attached itself to where the fallopian tube meets the uterus, the medical team explained - a cornual pregnancy. In most cases the tube ruptures and the pregnancy ends around the 12-14th week.

One of the medical team involved in the delivery, Dr. Rodney Edwards, said he searched in medical literature to determine whether a live baby had ever been delivered from such a pregnancy and found no previous cases.

Dr. Rodney Edwards said:

"This is just a case that proves, in medicine,
nothing happens 'always' or 'never.'"

It was not until the 18th week that Nicolette Soto knew she was pregnant. Had she known earlier, her doctors said they would have advised her to terminate. The risk of rupture and fatal blood loss would have been considerable. However, by the end of the 18th week the danger was already there.

They warned Soto they might have to surgically remove her uterus, as well as part of her bowel. If there was attachment to a vital organ, something that could occur for the placenta to get its blood supply, things could become seriously complicated, they warned.

Soto was clear; she wanted to have the baby. She was admitted to hospital in March and closely monitored until the birth.

The medical team said the delivery was much more straightforward than they had expected. No special medical intervention was needed and the loss of blood was minimal. A larger-than-normal abdominal scar was the only abnormal aspect of her surgery.

Soto is expected to be out of hospital within the next four days. Her baby will remained hospitalized for approximately four more weeks.
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Woman Shows Her Transplanted Hand For The First Time

Emily Fennel, who lost a hand in a car accident five years ago, received a donated hand after a 14.5 hour operation involving a team of 20 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, last month. She showed off her new hand yesterday, accompanied by the medical staff.

In 2006, Fennel was involved in a rollover car accident, her hand went through the open sun roof and was crushed - it had to be amputated.

Fennel says that getting used to her new hand is a gradual process, but she does feel like its hers, and as each day passes it feels more and more hers. She had been using a prosthetic hand during the last five years, but wanted a proper hand so that she could take care of her daughter better.

During the marathon operation on March 5th, surgeons grafted a hand from a deceased donor and connected tendons, nerves, blood vessels and bones. The deceased donor's family, from San Diego, consented.

The surgical procedure was done in the following order:
  • Bone fixation
  • Tendon repair
  • Artery repair
  • Nerve repair
  • Vein repair
A hand transplant operation lasts much longer than a typical heart one, which takes from 6 to 8 hours.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center started its hand transplant program in 2010 - Fennel is their first completed hand transplant - it is the 13th in the country. This is part of a UCLA clinical trial aimed at confirming that already-established surgical techniques in hand transplantation are successful. The medical center is also studying how transplanted hands regain function, as well as assessing a less toxic anti-rejection drug protocol.

Dr. Kodi Azari, chief surgeon, said the operation was a success and now the patient has the long task of learning how to use her new hand. As she has not used a hand for five years, the muscles in that area have become weak and will need to be strengthened.

During yesterday's press conference Fennel was seen clapping her hands when it came to thank the medical team.

After her car accident Fennel became proficient in using just her left hand, and managed to type 45 words per minute with just one hand, she also tied her shoe laces and drove. She described the prosthesis she used as not very useful and rather bulky.

Although she has no feelings yet in her new hand, she is able to move some fingers. Experts say that it may take a year for the nerves to regenerate.

Fennel has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation over the last four weeks, so that her dexterity and hand strength can improve. Experts say she should be able to return home to Yuba City, near Sacramento, California, next month and resume her rehab there.

Her daughter described mommy's new hand as "Cool".

She should eventually gain about 60% of the function her other hand has, doctors said. However, it will never be as strong as the one that got crushed in the car accident. As long as this means she will be able to type faster, catch a ball and widen her current range of functions, that's fine, Fennel said.

Fennel will have to take immunosuppressant drugs to prevent her body from rejecting the new hand, for the rest of her life. Experts are currently trying to seek out the least toxic way of achieving this. The body's natural immune system will try to reject and destroy the hand, as it would when identifying a pathogen (organism that causes disease). Immunosuppressant medications can weaken the immune system, making the patient much more susceptible to serious complications from minor infections.

The transplant team say they will map Fennel's brain at key points during her recovery, observing which parts of her brain light up when she is asked to move parts of her new hand.
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Facebook Stunner: Child's Kawasaki Disease Mystery Solved By UsersFacebook Stunner: Child's Kawasaki Disease Mystery Solved By Users

One desperate mom named Deborah Copaken Kogan through a series of photos, being unable to diagnose her son's eyes swollen shut, his chin and cheeks ballooned beyond recognition and his fever ever rising her son's rare condition used Facebook to reach out and eventually figured out what his condition was and how to treat it. Kawasaki disease (KD) is rare, but the social network might have saved the child's life.

So, Kogan's virtual friends looked at her posted photos, and simply commented on them. She rushed her son to the hospital.

An unofficial Facebook blog stated:

"There is no virtual in feelings of that magnitude. Perhaps just as in the real world, with your real life, and quote-unquote real friends, your Facebook friend network is what you make it. Accordingly, old adages apply: Choose your friends wisely. Put in as much as you expect to get out."

So what is Kawasaki disease?

The disorder, first described in 1967 by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki in Japan, often begins with a high and persistent fever that is not very responsive to normal treatment with paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen. The fever may persist steadily for up to two weeks and is normally accompanied by irritability.

Kawasaki published the first English language report of 50 patients with Kawasaki disease in 1974. Since that time, KD has become the leading cause of acquired heart disease among children in North America and Japan. Although an infectious agent is suspected, the cause remains unknown. However, significant progress has been made toward understanding the natural history of the disease and therapeutic interventions have been developed that halt the immune-mediated destruction of the arterial wall.

Inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, along with erythema (redness), edema (swelling) with fissures (cracks in the lip surface), desquamation (peeling) and exsudation of the lips become exceedingly evident. Rashes occur early in the disease, and the cutaneous rash observed in patients with KD is non-specific, polymorphic, non-itchy and normally observed up to the fifth day of fever.

Some of these symptoms may come and go during the course of the illness. It is a syndrome affecting multiple organ systems, and in the acute stage of KD, systemic inflammatory changes are evident in many organs.

If left untreated, some symptoms will eventually relent, but coronary artery aneurysms will not improve, resulting in a significant risk of death or disability due to myocardial infarction (heart attack). If treated in a timely fashion, this risk can be mostly avoided and the course of illness cut short.

Children with Kawasaki disease should be hospitalized and cared for by a physician who has experience with this disease. When in an academic medical center, care is often shared between pediatric cardiology and pediatric infectious disease specialists (although no specific infectious agent has been identified as yet). It is imperative that treatment be started as soon as the diagnosis is made to prevent damage to the coronary arteries.
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Crossing Arms Reduces Pain Intensity By Confusing The Brain

If you have a pain, for example in your hand, and you cross your arms over the midline, it reduces the intensity of that sensation of pain by confusing the brain, scientists from University College London reported in the journal Pain. The researchers think that conflicting information between the brain's two maps - one for the person's body and the other for external space - results in a reduction of pain sensation.

When you do things, your brain is used to your left hand being on the left side of your body and your right hand on your right. When we cross our arms, the hands are on the other side - there is a mismatch - resulting in weaker processing of noxious information, and a lower sensation of pain.

Dr Giandomenico Iannetti, lead author, suggested:

"Perhaps when we get hurt, we should not only
"rub it better" but also cross our arms."

In this small study involving eight participants, a laser generated a four millisecond pin prick on their hands which gave them a sensation of "pure pain" - pain with no touch.

The participants experienced this stimulus with their arms at their sides, and then their arms crossed. They were asked to rate their perception of pain intensity. An EEG (electroencephalography) was also used to measure their electrical brain responses.

Both the participants' self reporting and the EEG readings showed that their sensation of pain was considerably weaker with crossed arms.

Iannetti wrote:

"In everyday life you mostly use your left hand to touch things on the left side of the world, and your right hand for the right side of the world - for example when picking up a glass of water on your right side you generally use your right hand.

This means that the areas of the brain that contain the map of the right body and the map of right external space are usually activated together, leading to highly effective processing of sensory stimuli. When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being perceived as weaker.

These findings could help create new ways for treating pain, the researchers believe.
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World AIDS Day, December 1, "The End Is In Sight"

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, says that this coming AIDS day, December 1st, will be unique in that health care professionals, health authorities and scientists may be able to say with confidence that the end of AIDS really is in sight. Collective international actions have resulted in solid achievements in the fight against AIDS. Despite the global economic crisis which started three years ago, and scarce resources in comparison to what would be realistically needed in the AIDS campaign, millions of of lives have still been saved - results for HIV treatment, prevention and accessibility to medical care have been impressive, Sidibé explained.

Sidibé has thanked world leaders for their pledges; promises he describes as "bold, tangible and realistic." It is crucial that these pledges are delivered in every single nation, every community, and to every individual who needs help.

At last, Sidibé added, world leaders have joined virtually unanimously to strive for a world where no mother dies of AIDS and no child is born with HIV.

In a letter, Sidibé wrote:

"The gulf between treatment and prevention has ended.
Treatment is prevention."

AIDS has come out of isolation and is now part of integrated and holistic health services, Sidibé explained - the gulf between health and AIDS is now much smaller. We are now well on the way for "people-centered health delivery systems"; systems that value, restore and respect human dignity.

With smart investments, making the most of scientific breakthroughs, and respecting human rights, the fight against AIDS is a clear and feasible one, Sidibé said.

Sidibé explained:

"It is why world leaders must fully fund the AIDS response. The global investment target of US$ 22-24 billion is a shared responsibility of all countries, donors and others. Only together can we secure the future and provide greater and long-term dividends.

. . . . on this World AIDS Day, I call upon leaders, communities, parents, people living with HIV and young people to look forward and work towards a world with Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths."

New HIV infections and AIDS deaths drop

According to UNAIDS, the numbers of new HIV infections and deaths caused by AIDS have dropped to their lowest levels since 1997 (the peak). Since 2005, the total number of people dying annually from AIDS related illnesses has fallen 21%.

Sidibé said:

"Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response. We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere."

WHO (World Health Organization) informs that 6.6 million of the 14.2 million (estimated) individuals from developing countries who are eligible for treatment in 2010 had access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy - 1.35 million more people than in 2009.

By the end of 2010:
  • Between 31.6 and 35.2 million individuals were living with HIV globally
  • Between 2.4 and 2.9 million new HIV infections were reported in that year
  • There were between 1.6 and 1.9 million died of an AIDS-related illness by the end of that year
People living with HIV AIDS world map
Number of people living with HIV by country (estimate). Source: UNAIDS

What is AIDS? What is HIV?


The acronym AIDS stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome.
  • Acquired - simply means it is not a hereditary disease, it develops after birth. In this case, from contact with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
  • Immunodeficiency - this means the disease weakens the patient's immune system.
  • Syndrome - a collection of signs and symptoms that characterize or indicate a disease or condition.
AIDS needs to be diagnosed by a doctor, using specific laboratory or clinical standards.

Symptoms of AIDS


HIV stands for (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) - the virus that causes AIDS. HIV can be passed from human-to-human via:
  • Infected blood
  • Infected semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Coming into contact with an infected person's broken skin or mucous membrane
  • From an infected pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastmilk.
Some people with HIV infection will eventually develop AIDS.

Put simply: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
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16-Pound Baby Born In Texas

Last Friday Janet Johnson gave birth to her fourth child, a 16-pound (7.257kg) baby boy - that is twice the weight of an average healthy newborn. The baby was two-foot long, has a 17-inch chest and a full head of hair. As Ms. Johnson had developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, doctors had warned her the baby might be large - perhaps 12 to 13 lbs, they had said. Nobody expected a 16-pound baby.

The baby was delivered by Cesarean section a little after 9am on Friday, 8th July, 2011, at the Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview, eastern Texas. He weighed in at 16 pounds 1 ounce, two feet long, and a head measurement of 15 inches. A three-to-six month old baby would typically have these measurements, not a newborn.

In developed nations, the average weight of a full-term newborn at birth is about 7.5lbs (3.2kg) - this may range from 5.5lbs (2.7kg) to 10lbs (4.6kg). The average body length is between 14 to 20 inches (35.6-50.8cm).

A nurse who helped during the delivery, said:

"It's a beautiful baby, but for health reasons
we'd rather not see a baby this large."

JaMichael Brown (baby's name) is said to be doing fine. He is in an ICU (intensive care unit) - doctors wanted to regulate his blood sugar - he is also being provided with breathing and eating assitance. His father's name is Michael Brown. Doctors and nurses say he should be home within the next few days.

Local media in Texas believe JaMichael has set a new Texan record.

Michael Brown said:

"We may finally have a star football player in the family, or maybe a basketball player. I was just amazed when he came out, how big he was. I'm just proud of him, (we are a) proud family."

The parents said they will have to replace some of the clothing, diapers and other things they had bought in preparation to the new addition to the family. Even the hospital diapers were too small for him.

Janet Johnson is not going to have any more children:

"That's it, no more now. I'm happy. We'll be here for a few more days, and then I'm looking forward to bringing JaMichael home and just loving on him."

JaMichael is not the largest newborn ever. A woman in Indonesia gave birth to a 19.2lbs baby last year. Anna Bates, Canada gave birth to a 23.12lbs baby in 1897, it died eleven hours later. In Italy, a baby boy weighed in at 22lbs 8oz at birth and survived.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus that develops during pregnancy - the woman did not have diabetes before. It usually goes away after giving birth. Women over 25 years of age, those from certain ethnic groups (Hispanic, African American, Native American, Pacific Islanders, Indigenous Australians and South and East Asians), have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, as do those who are overweight. A woman who has a close relative who developed the condition has a higher risk of developing it herself during pregnancy. Risk is also higher if gestational diabetes occurred during a previous pregnancy.

If detected early, gestational diabetes can be effectively treated, and most women will have a healthy baby. If left untreated, the baby will be much larger and the mother has a higher risk of complications during labor and delivery.

Babies of mothers who had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of being overweight as children or adults, their risk of eventually developing diabetes one day is also higher. Respiratory distress syndrome risk is also greater.
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Magic Mushrooms Can Bring About Lasting Personality Changes

Taking magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can have a lasting change on the individual's personality, making them more open about their feelings and the way they perceive things, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The authors explained that those who had mystic experiences while on psilocybin were more likely to subsequently exhibit certain personality changes, making them more forthcoming about their feelings, becoming more focused on being creative, curious, and appreciative about artistic things.

Psilocybin is a psychedelic drug - a substance whose main action is to alter perception and cognition. Its molecular formula is C12H17N2O4P. Its mind-altering effects are similar to those of mescaline and LSD. It effects may include, an altered sense of time, spiritual experiences, perceptual distortions, and thinking processes. Psilocybin can also cause nausea and panic attacks. This psychedelic drug can be found in over 200 types of mushrooms, the most powerful coming from the genus Psilocybe, including P. cubensis, P. semilanceata, and P. cyanescens.

Psilocybe Cubensis
Psilocybe Cubensis - a powerful source of psilocybin

Magic mushrooms are usually eaten. However, they can also be made into a tea beverage, or smoked.

In this latest study, headed by Roland Griffiths, personality changes that occurred in those who took magic mushrooms were still there twelve months later. The authors believe that the psilocybin may well have a long-term effect.

Professor Griffiths said:

"The remarkable piece is that psilocybin can facilitate experiences that change how people perceive themselves and their environment. That's unprecedented."

Magic mushrooms used to be used by Timothy Leary, a former Harvard professor of psychology. Leary founded the Harvard Psilocybin Project.

Openness is one of five main personality traits that span all cultures worldwide, the other four are extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Degrees of openness are fairly constant throughout an individual's lifetime. The researchers found that the other four personality factors were largely unchanged after people consumed magic mushrooms.

The authors say their study is the first finding of a short-term intervention with long-lasting personality changes.

The study involved 51 individuals who underwent two to five eight-hour psilocybin sessions, with a three-week interval between each session. During a session they lay down on a couch, wore an eye mask and listened to music through headphones while concentrating on an inner experience. Their personalities were screened at the beginning of the studies, and then during a two-month and 12-month follow-up.

Thirty of the volunteers had a mystical experience, according to the researchers' criteria gathered from a set of psychological scales. Their openness scores increased, indicating more focus on aesthetics, inner feeling, values, imagination and ideas. The rest of the participants, those with no mystical experiences, underwent no apparent personality change.

The authors concluded:

"The findings suggest a specific role for psilocybin and mystical-type experiences in adult personality change."

Psychoactive mushrooms used by humans for thousands of years

Archeologists have gathered evidence of the presence of psychoactive mushrooms used in religious rituals for thousands of years.

Ancient paintings in Villar del Humo, Spain, show evidence of Psilocybe hispanica usage in religious ceremonies about 4,000 BC.

Murals in southeast Algeria, in the Sahara desert, dated 7000 to 9000 BC suggest psilocybin mushroom use.

In the Aztec language Nahatl, psychoactive mushrooms were called "teonanacatl" (God flesh). Mayan archives have data pointing to common usage of psilocybin mushrooms in ceremonies and rituals.
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Mixing Red Bull And Alcohol To Stay Awake At Parties Can Be A Dangerous Combination

Believe it or not, your body knows when and how much alcohol you are drinking and sends out cues when you should stop for the evening and get some rest. Many people try to combat this by drinking popular energy drinks with their favorite happy beverage, however a new study shows that when mixing liquor with other substances, such these "rocket fuels," your brain actually shuts off these natural cues that protect you from making mistakes in judgement.

Cecile Marczinski, a psychologist at Northern Kentucky University, found that combining energy drinks such as Red Bull with vodka or other liquors effectively removes any built in checks your body has for overindulging.

"Even with just alcohol alone, young, underage drinkers are bad at deciding how safe a driver they are, but I think this would make that situation far worse."

Drinking can give you a feeling of extreme "happiness," but when you overindulge, your body knows it, and it starts to shut down; you start feeling tired, sleepy and more sedated than stimulated. That spells bedtime. Marczinski also found that people downing the combination of alcohol and energy drinks lost this natural control. Marczinski had volunteers show up at her lab and drink either plain alcoholic drinks; mixed beverages containing alcohol and energy drinks; energy drinks alone; or a non-alcoholic beverage.

Participants in the study showed that consuming the combination energy alcohol drinks reported twice as much stimulation as those drinking alcohol alone. They tended to report less sedation and fewer symptoms like tiredness or sleepiness.

Marczinski continues:

"The disconnect between what you feel and how you act is what is the problem here. Stimulation may not be a good thing when you're drinking because you may drink longer, decide to stay at a party where you're drinking longer, and drink far more than you originally intended."

You might also think that the caffeine in these drinks is what is to blame for the reduction in judgment, but turns out it's the mix of other awakening ingredients in the beverages that may be contributing to the enhanced alcohol high.

"I always thought that it was a marketing thing when they mention the other things they put in like taurine, glucose and ginseng, but I think they do facilitate that stimulation; it's not just the caffeine."

All of the popular energy drinks out there have different variations of caffeine, and most of these drinks are not considered healthy for the human body. Most of these energy drinks should be watched carefully because of the ingredients and how powerful they can be. Just because they are powerful, does not always mean good.

Most energy drinks stimulate and trigger reactions towards us that can help boost our blood pressure and heart rate, which again isn't always the best thing for us. These can often prevent sleep if taken at the wrong time, dehydrate your body, and that just is not what we intended to do with our energy drinks we purchase.

Often times, the main reason why people turn to energy drinks for their solution, are for school, work outs or on the job tiredness. You should not use energy drinks while exercising as the combination of all the stimulants and other ingredients in energy drinks can result in a loss of fluid from sweating and cause dehydration.
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Magnetic Stimulation Of Brain For Stroke Recovery

In a fresh hope for those who have suffered a stroke, a new research has shown that magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain, can help speed the recovery.

Anyone who has had a friend or relative suffer a stroke knows what a shocking and debilitating affliction it can be. There are different types of stroke, but all essentially have the result of causing damage to the brain cells and blood circulation to the brain.

The study, published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, explains the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a treatment that involves placing large electromagnetic coils against the scalp. It creates electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells.

Study author Giacomo Koch, MD, PhD, of the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome, Italy said :

"The treatment is based on the theory that hemispatial neglect results when a stroke disrupts the balance between the two hemispheres of the brain.

A stroke on one side of the brain causes the other side to become overactive, and the circuits become overloaded."

The research so far has only involved 20 people, with a specific kind of stroke, known as hemispatial neglect. This is where the right side of the brain has been damaged and the person has little awareness on their left side. They may not even recognize the left side of a plate of food, or be able to see on their left side. (The brain works on opposite sides, so that generally speaking, the right side is responsible for the left side functions.)

10 patients were treated for two weeks, while the other 10 received a placebo treatment. Tests on those who did not receive the real treatment showed little improvement, while those who underwent the real magnetic stimulation had a 16% improvement at the end of the two weeks and a 22% improvement two weeks later. Dr. Koch also showed that over-activity in the damaged nerves of the brain had normalized in patients that had the real magnetic treatment.

Heidi M. Schambra, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center, who wrote an editorial on the study said :

"This study represents an important step forward in the effort to find ways to help people rehabilitate from hemispatial neglect after stroke ... Beyond its direct effect on people's visual-spatial abilities, hemispatial neglect also interferes with people's efforts to recover their cognitive abilities and movement."

It's not the first use of the power of magnetics as a therapy. It has shown success as an antidepressant, and there has been quite a fashion, especially amongst sportsmen, of wearing a small bracelet with a magnet, that is claimed to improve co-ordination and balance.

Other ideas include magnets in the bed to improve sleep, and even magnets in drinking water to enhance its qualities. Perhaps there is something to this "snakeoil" after all.
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Dream Sleep Eases Painful Memories

Researchers at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have discovered that during REM or the dream phase sleep, our body's stress chemistry shuts down while the brain processes emotional experiences and eases the pain in difficult memories. They suggest their findings, reported online in the journal Current Biology on Wednesday, offer a compelling explanation for why people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have recurring nightmares and a hard time recovering from distressing experiences.

Senior author Matthew Walker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, says in a media statement:

"The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day's emotional experiences."

Their findings may also offer clues about why we dream at all, and about the emotional function of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which comprises around 20% of the time a healthy person spends asleep.

Previous studies have shown that people with PTSD, depression and other mood disorders have disrupted sleep patterns.

People with PTSD experience flashbacks: for instance if the traumatic event that caused their condition was a bomb explosion, then the sudden noise of a car backfiring can trigger a flashback where they experience the same visceral reactions, feelings and body sensations, as they did in the original event.

Walker suggests the reason flashbacks persist is "because the emotion has not been properly stripped away from the memory during sleep".

Lead author Els van der Helm, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley, explains:

"During REM sleep, memories are being reactivated, put in perspective and connected and integrated, but in a state where stress neurochemicals are beneficially suppressed."

For their study, the researchers put 35 young healthy adults into two groups. The first group viewed a set of 150 emotionally arousing images twice: first in the morning, and then 12 hours later in the evening. The second group also viewed the same images twice, but the first time was in the evening and the second time was 12 hours later in the morning, after a full night's sleep.

The researchers used an MRI scanner to measure participants' brain activity while they viewed the images, and in the group that had the overnight sleep, they also used electroencephalograms to record the electrical brain activity during sleep.

The results showed a significant reduction in emotional reaction to the images between the first and second viewing in the group that slept overnight between viewings. The MRI scans of this group also showed a dramatic reduction in reactivity of the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions. This reduction allowed the "rational" prefrontal cortex part of the brain to regain control of the participants' emotional reactions, said the researchers.

When they examined the electroencephalogram recordings of the group that had slept between viewings, they found during REM dream sleep, certain patterns of electrical activity diminished.

Walker says we already know that REM sleep is accompanied by a sharp fall in levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with stress. So he and his colleagues suggest that the fall in stress chemicals in the brain is what soothes the emotional reactions that arise in the processing of memories of the previous day's experiences.

"By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neuro-chemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength. We feel better about them, we feel we can cope,"
says Walker.

He and his colleagues write in their conclusion:

"... we demonstrate that REM sleep physiology is associated with an overnight dissipation of amygdala activity in response to previous emotional experiences, altering functional connectivity and reducing next-day subjective emotionality."

Walker became interested in exploring this when a doctor who works at a US Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle told him about a blood pressure drug with a curious side effect: it seemed to prevent recurring nightmares in PTSD patients.

On further investigation, Walker discovered that the generic blood pressure suppresses norepinephrine in the brain, thus making the brain more "stress-free" during REM sleep, with the effect of reducing nightmares and increasing quality of sleep.

Walker says this meant there must be a link between PTSD and REM sleep.

"This study can help explain the mysteries of why these medications help some PTSD patients and their symptoms as well as their sleep," he says, adding that "it may also unlock new treatment avenues regarding sleep and mental illness".
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Cancer Vaccine Significantly Reduces Tumor Size

An experimental cancer vaccine has been found to reduce tumor size by an average of 80%, researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the University of Georgia reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their animal experiment, mouse models that mimic most human pancreatic and breast cancer cases had dramatic reductions in tumor size - even among those that had not responded to standard treatments.

Tumors that share the same distinct carbohydrate signature may be especially treatable with this new vaccine, say the authors. This includes various cancers such as colorectal, ovarian, breast, pancreatic and some others.

Co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons, wrote:

"This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response. It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent."

Sugars on the surface proteins of cancerous cells are different from those in healthy cells, the authors explain. For several years, researchers have sought ways of getting the immune system to identify the differences and target the cancer cells only, leaving the healthy ones alone. However, this is not easy, because cancer cells start off in the patient's own body, and his/her immune system does not see them as foreign or pathogenic, and does not attack them.

Study co-author, Sandra Gendler, developed some unique mice for this experiment. Tumors in mice overexpress MUC1, a type of protein, on the surface of their cells. The surface of MUC1 found in tumors has a unique, shorter set of carbohydrates (this is not the case with carbohydrates on the surface of healthy cells).

Gendler said:

"This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1. We are especially excited about the fact that MUC1 was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the three most important tumor proteins for vaccine development."

MUC1 was found to exist in over 70% of all lethal cancer, Gendler explained. In ovarian, pancreatic and breast cancers, as well as multiple myeloma, in 90% of cases MUC1 is expressed with the shorter carbohydrate.

When a cell becomes cancerous, its structure alters and MUC1 is overproduced - this promotes tumor formation. Hence, the potential for a vaccine that targets MUC1, either as a preventative (prophylactic) measure for high risk patients, or to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. The vaccine could also be extremely helpful in cancer cases where surgery is not possible, such as pancreatic cancer, to be used together with chemotherapy.

Some cancer patients do not respond to hormonal therapy, such as aromatase inhibitors, Tamoxifen, or Herceptin. In 90% of these patients, MUC1 is overexpressed. Tripe-negative tumors are very aggressive and hard to treat.

Boons wrote:

"In the U.S. alone, there are 35,000 patients diagnosed every year whose tumors are triple-negative. So we might have a therapy for a large group of patients for which there is currently no drug therapy aside from chemotherapy."

Boons' vaccine is much simpler than other therapeutic ones, such as Provenge (for prostate cancer), because it is fully synthetic and can be manufactured in a laboratory with assembly-line precision.

The vaccine has three components:
  • An adjuvant (an immune system booster)
  • A component that encourages the production of T-helper cells (part of the immune system)
  • A peptide linked to carbohydrate that makes the immune system target those cells that bear the MUC1 proteins
Gendler, Boons and team are carrying out tests to see how effective the vaccine is against human cancer cells in culture. They are also planning to see how toxic (safe) it is. If all goes according to plan, Phase I trials to determine safety could be underway before the end of 2013.

Boons said:

"We are beginning to have therapies that can teach our immune system to fight what is uniquely found in cancer cells. When combined with early diagnosis, the hope is that one day cancer will become a manageable disease."
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Knee Pain Common In Older Women

It appears that knee pain of some kind is a common complaint in middle-aged and mature women, with varying possible causes leading to varying types of pain. A new study on knee-pain patterns assessed periodically over 12 years in a representative UK population finds that nearly two-thirds (63%) of women aged 50 and over experience knee pain at least once, persistently, or intermittently over such a period.

The authors found these patterns were more likely in women with higher BMI, with a previous knee injury, or whose scans showed they had osteoarthritis (OA). They write about their findings in the 19 December online issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Senior author Dr Nigel Arden, a Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford in the UK, told the media that this was the first study involving community-based participants that investigates patterns of knee pain using "multiple assessment points" over a period of 12 years:

"Understanding the prevalence and predictors of knee pain is the first step in developing comprehensive pain assessment plans that could lead to more targeted treatment options for those burdened by OA."

For their analysis, Arden and colleagues used data gathered in the Chingford Study, a prospective population-based study of OA and osteoporosis established in 1989. This started with more than 1,000 women aged from 44 to 57 (median 52) years.

The cohort is described as representative of women in the UK in general in terms of height, weight, and smoking status. At four times over the 12 years of the study, the participants completed questionnaires about their knee pain.

From their responses the researchers classed the 489 participants who were still in the study at the end into one of four groups, depending on their pain characteristics: asymptomatic, persistent, incident, and intermittent.

The results showed that:
  • 44% of women reported experiencing "any days of pain".

  • 23% reported experiencing "pain on most days of the previous month".

  • Of those experiencing "any pain", 9% had persistent pain, 24% had incident pain, and 29% had intermittent pain.

  • Of those experiencing "pain on most days", these figures were 2%, 16% and 18% respectively.

  • A higher BMI predicted persistent and incident patterns of pain, while radiographic OA predicted persistent pain.

  • Those who reported a previous knee injury were more likely to have persistent or intermittent patterns of pain.
The researchers conclude the results show a "significant variability" in patterns of knee pain over time in this representative population, with few participants "consistently reporting knee pain at each time point".

They also suggest that a strength of the study is that it describes a natural history of knee pain over a long period of time, taking data from several points along that timescale.

Finding that separate factors appear to predict pain patterns differently (eg BMI predicted persistent and incident patterns while OA predicted only persistent pain patterns) may be why studies that measure pain at one time point seem to show inconsistent relationships between pain predictors and pain patterns, they add.

Arden said:

"Validation of our findings through reproduction in other patient groups is needed to advance knowledge of knee pain predictors that will ultimately enhance prevention and treatment strategies for those with OA."

OA is a leading cause of disability throughout the world. In the US, the American College of Rheumatology estimates that over 27 million Americans over the age of 25 are living with the disease, with pain being the most problematic symptom.

The damage to the economy that can be linked to OA is substantial. In the UK, reports suggest it accounts for £3.2 billion a year loss in productivity. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the cost of job-related OA at between $3.4 and $13.2 billion a year.

Previous studies indicate that OA of the knee in particular is linked to reduced physical function and is a substantial burden to society. According to figures from the CDC, nearly half a million total knee replacements were carried out in the the US in 2004, with around $14 billion spent on the hospital costs of such an operation.
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How Not To Put On Weight During Thanksgiving - 15 Useful Suggestions

Nutritionists estimate that the average Thanksgiving meal ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 calories. If our daily needs should not exceed between 1,600 to 2,400 calories, it is not surprising that people complain about weight gain during the holidays. However, it is not the meal's core that makes you put on the pounds, but rather the nice trimmings and goodies that come with it.

It happens every year to too many of us. We spend the summer and early autumn getting fit, losing weight, until we feel well and look good. Only to be faced with darker evenings, colder weather which tends to keep us indoors more, two giant holidays which culminate in New Year's Eve.

We wake up on January 1st feeling guilty and unwell, and full of pious resolutions. The cycle repeats itself year after year.

Apart from the health risks in having a fluctuating bodyweight - some studies have indicated that a constant bodyweight is better for good long-term health, this never-ending battle is stressful, and may have an impact on our mental well-being.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth(By Jennie A. Brownscombe - 1914)

The following tips may help slow down, and even prevent the seemingly inevitable weight gain that occurs during the coming months, starting with Thanksgiving:
  • Breakfast - the worst thing to do is to skip breakfast and arrive at your feast later on in the day starving. When humans are super hungry, they tend to eat considerably more than those who are not.
  • Chewing - digestion starts when we chew. The longer you spend chewing the fewer calories you will be consuming per minute. You will feel full more rapidly, compared to gulping everything down quickly.
  • Turkey skin - avoid it. Turkey skin has considerably more calories than the breast. Turkey skin is very high in fat.

    Turkey skin has a lot of fat and calories

  • Hidden fats - supposedly healthy low fat foods, such as some vegetables, carrots, soups, or mashed potatoes may have been prepared with lots of butter and are laden with fat. If you are cooking, try putting a little less than you did last year. If you were not involved in their preparation, try to find out (discreetly) how they were prepared. If they are high it fat, go easy on them.
  • Side dishes - be careful. They may seem like delicious afterthoughts that you can slip in with no significance; unfortunately, many are high in calories and are easy to eat fast. The more lean turkey and vegetables you can eat the better.
  • Mashed potatoes with cauliflower - if you add cauliflower before you mash so that it makes up 25% of the whole mash, most people won't notice it. Cauliflower has fewer calories than potato.
  • Physical activity - try going for a walk during the morning of Thanksgiving before your meal. If you limit your meal to 2,500 calories, the walk might represent 10% of that. Compare that to consuming from 3,000 to 5,000 calories in one sitting and not walking at all.
  • Eggs - egg white is practically pure protein while the yolk is virtually pure fat. Bear that in mind when you are preparing foods
  • If you love it, eat it - if you really crave something, have it, but not too much. Portion control is the key, rather than virtuous abstention (which rarely works for long).
  • How many dinners? - in the USA the majority of people will sit down for more than one big meal during Thanksgiving. Be careful. Two huge meals will push your calorie intake for the day off the charts. Some people find that eating some foods at one sitting, and then the other foods during the next meal works better than trying to hold back on everything.
  • Fluid intake - to prevent dehydration, remember that alcoholic drinks, sugary sodas or coffee are no good - drink plenty of water. Sugary drinks are laden with 'empty calories', while water is calorie-free.
  • Seconds - if you are trying to watch your calories, don't have a second helping. You should not be hungry if you have chewed carefully, consumed plenty of water, and selected a good quantity of low calorie foods. If you are an invited guest, your hosts may pressure you into having some more. Be polite, but firm; simply say "That was really delicious. But, no thank you."
  • Finger foods - avoid them unless you are 100% sure they are healthy, low calorie foods. Finger foods tend to be fattening during the holidays; they can be eaten rapidly, increasing the rate at which you are consuming calories. Foods that require a knife and fork take longer to eat.
  • Be realistic - this is a festive occasion; a time for celebration. It is a feast. It may be more practical and effective if you try to focus on maintaining your body weight, rather than trying to lose weight on this occasion. If you eat carefully, do some exercise, and watch the size of your portions, there is a much better chance of success.
  • If you want to do what you like - some people can get away with it, but it requires a certain amount of discipline. I have known people who will do two hours that morning on a treadmill, elliptical machine (cross-trainer), or even run a semi-marathon. When the meal arrives, they eat to their heart's content and do not put on any weight. If you plan to do this, make sure you are fit enough. If you are not sure, check with your doctor.
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Teen Smoking And Drinking Drops, Marijuana Consumption Rises, USA

Cigarette and alcohol consumption among 8th, 10th and 12th graders (14, 16 and 18 year olds) are lower than they have ever been since certain records began in 1975, but marijuana and non-medical prescription medication usage has increased, says a new report - "Monitoring the Future" (MTF) - issued by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Consumption of some tobacco products did not fall, such as hookahs, smokeless tobacco and small cigars, the authors added.

In a news conference today, a NIDA spokesperson explained that more children appear to be abusing marijuana than cigarettes. Although alcohol consumption has dropped, it is still the favorite drug for children of these three ages.

Monitoring The Future is a survey which is done in classrooms and paid for by NIDA; it was carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, said:

"That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years. That said, the teen smoking rate is declining much more slowly than in years past, and we are seeing teens consume other tobacco products at high levels.

This highlights the urgency of maintaining strong prevention efforts against teen smoking and of targeting other tobacco products."

The findings for 2011 revealed that 18.7% of 12th-graders said they had smoked a cigarette during the previous four weeks, compared to 36.5% in 1997 and 21.6% in 2006. Among 8th graders, 6.1% say they are smokers, versus 21% fifteen years ago and 8.7% in 2006.

Assistant Secretary for Health, Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, said:

"While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline. The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties."

Alcohol consumption

Below are some of the results from the 2011 survey for self-reported alcohol consumption:
  • 12th graders - 63.5% said they had consumed alcohol during the previous 12-month period, versus 74.8% in 1997
  • 8th graders - 26.9% said they had consumed alcohol during the previous 12-month period, versus 46.8% in 1994
  • Binge drinking - defined as consuming at least five drinks in one sitting at any time during the previous two weeks:

    - 8th graders - 6.4% said they had, compared to 8.7% in 2006
    -10th graders - 14.7% said they had, compared to 19.9% in 2006
    -12th graders - 21.6% said they had, compared to 25.4% in 2006

Marijuana usage increased

6.6% of 12th-graders say they use marijuana daily, while 36.4% say they have had it at some time during the previous twelve months - five years ago the figures stood at 5% and 31.5% respectively.

While teenage marijuana abuse grows, so does their downward perception of risk associated with the drug:
  • 25.9% of high school seniors viewed occasional marijuana as a great risk, compared to 22.7% today.
  • 48.9% of 8th-graders viewed occasional marijuana smoking as a great risk compared to 43.4% today.
  • Among 12-graders, 11.4% said they had used K2 (also known as spice, or synthetic marijuana) during the previous twelve months. This is the first time questions regarding K2 have been included in the survey. The authors expressed "surprise" at this figure.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, said:

"K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm. We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat but in the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice."

Prescription drugs - non-medical use

Below are some more data regarding non-medical use of prescription and OTC medications
  • In 2011, 8.1% of 12th-graders reported abusing Vicodin, an opioid painkiller, compared to 9.7% in 2009 (8.1% in 2010).
  • In 2011, 5.9% of 10th-graders reported abusing Vicodin, compared to 7.7% in 2010.
  • 12th-graders - Adderal 6.5%, Ritalin 2.6%. Both medications used for ADHD treatment.
  • 8th graders - OTC cough medicines. Usage dropped to 2.7% in 2011, compared to 4.2% in 2006. For 12th-graders the figures were 5.3% and 6.9% respectively.
Dr. Volkow said:

"To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website. Teens can go to our PEERx page to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA's teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or email."
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