Monday, July 23, 2012

He Thought He Was A Man, But He Was Also A Woman

A prominent Denver photographer who thought he was a man, found out after an ultrasound screen to examine a kidney stone that he was also female. He has lived his whole life as a man, sometimes receiving comments about some female traits, only to find out that he was, in fact, born intersex.

Steve Crecelius told Fox News that he remembers secretly putting on his mother's clothes and applying makeup when he was younger. He went on to explain that he had frequently identified with being female, and from a very young age - but he has lived his life as a male until a few years ago.

Steve told Fox News:

"When I was 17, I was working my first part-time job at a TV station as a floor cameraman and the person in charge said to me, 'You know, you walk like a queer.' And I thought I was hiding who I was, and I wasn't.

I had a kidney stone and we're in the emergency room. The nurse is reading the ultrasound and says, 'Huh, this says you're a female'."

What is intersex (intersexuality)?

According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, Intersexuality means:

"The condition of having both male and female characteristics; being intermediate between the sexes."

Intersex refers to a group of conditions, often termed DSDs (disorders of sexual development) - there is a discrepancy between the appearance of the external sexual organs and the internal ones. The older terms hermaphroditism or pseudohermaphroditism are rarely used by healthcare professionals, and have given way to intersex or intersexuality.

The revelation validated everything Steve felt inside

When his intersexuality was discovered, Steve said that it validated everything he had always felt inside. Initially, the diagnosis was a bit of a shock. However, Steve also described it as "a relief". He eventually decided to permanently live as a woman.

For Steve, it was not just a simple question of deciding which gender he could best identify with and then making a choice. He was married to a woman and they had six children.

He told Fox News "How do you tell your kids that well, it's no longer dad, it's dadette?"

Apparently, on being told the news, his children said they did not care, and would love him for whoever he was.

The revelation occurred nearly five years ago. Wife Debbie and Steve still live together - they share the same bedroom and bed.
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Irritable Bowel Linked To Gut Bacteria, Definitively

A new study of Greek patients shows that overgrowth of bacteria in the gut is definitively linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is the first to use the "gold standard" method of examining gut bacterial cultures to connect bacteria to the cause of a disease that affects some 30 million Americans. The researchers say their findings confirm antibiotics are a successful treatment for IBS.

Previous studies have suggested a link between gut bacteria and IBS, but they have been based on testing methane (a byproduct of bacterial fermentation) in the breath.

The findings, published in the May issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences, corroborate those of previous clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai that showed antibiotics are effective against IBS.

Study author Mark Pimentel is director of the Cedars-Sinai GI Motility Program. He commented in a statement to the press released on Friday that:

"While we found compelling evidence in the past that bacterial overgrowth is a contributing cause of IBS, making this link through bacterial cultures is the gold standard of diagnosis."

"This clear evidence of the role bacteria play in the disease underscores our clinical trial findings, which show that antibiotics are a successful treatment for IBS," he added.

For the study, Pimentel and colleagues from Sismanogleion General Hospital in Athens, Greece, and from the University of Athens, examined samples of small bowel cultures from over 320 Greek patients to confirm the presence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The patients were all scheduled to receive upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract endoscopy.

They found that more than a third of the patients with IBS had SIBO, compared with only 10% of those without IBS.

Of patients with diarrhea-predominant form of IBS, 60% had SIBO, compared to just over 27% without the diarrhea form.

The researchers used the Rome II criteria to define IBS. The Rome criteria is a system, based on clinical symptoms, of classifying disorders of the digestive system in which symptoms can't be explained through presence of tissue abnormality. As well as IBS, other disorders that are defined using Rome criteria include dyspepsia, functional constipation, and functional heartburn.

Pimentel and colleagues conclude:

"Using culture of the small bowel, SIBO by aerobe bacteria is independently linked with IBS. These results reinforce results of clinical trials evidencing a therapeutic role of non-absorbable antibiotics for the management of IBS symptoms."

IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the US. Symptoms include painful bloating, constipation, diarrhea or an alternating pattern of both.

Many people with IBS avoid social interactions because they are embarassed by their symptoms.

Ten years ago Pimentel went against the thinking of the time when he proposed bacteria played a key role in IBS. Since then he has led clinical trials that have shown rifaximin, a targeted antibiotic absorbed only in the gut, is an effective treatment for IBS.

Pimentel said in the past, treatments have focused on alleviating symptoms. But "patients who take rifaximin experience relief of their symptoms even after they stop taking the medication".

"This new study confirms what our findings with the antibiotic and our previous studies always led us to believe: bacteria are key contributors to the cause of IBS," he affirmed.
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What Are The Top 10 Healthy Foods?

Imagine a selection of foods that were delicious, nutritious and good for you - i.e. they reduced your risk of developing diseases. According to several different surveys and sources in North America and Western Europe, the following ten foods are generally considered to be the most healthy.

1) Apples

Apples are an excellent source of antioxidants, which combat free radicals, damaging substances generated in the body that cause undesirable changes and are involved in the aging process and some diseases.

Some animal studies have found that an antioxidant found in apples (polyphenols) might extend lifespans. Tests on fruit flies found that polyphenols also help them to preserve their ability to walk, climb and move about.

Another study found that adult females who regularly ate apples had a 13% to 22% lower risk of developing heart disease.

Fuji apple
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is not just an old expression that rhymes

"An Apple A Day Keeps The Grim Reaper Away"

2) Almonds

Almonds are rich in nutrients, including iron, calcium, vitamin E, fiber, riboflavin, and magnesium. A scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews last year found that almonds as a food may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The authors wrote:

"The message that almonds, in and of themselves, are a heart-healthy snack should be emphasized to consumers. Moreover, when almonds are incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet, the benefits are even greater."

The fatty acid profile of almonds, which is made up of 91-94% unsaturated fatty acids, may partly explain why it helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Almonds also have the highest fiber content of any tree nut.

Sa almonds
Almonds have more fiber than any other tree nut

"Research Review Suggests Almonds Contain Nutrients That Provide Cardioprotective Effects"

3) Broccoli

Broccoli is rich in fiber, folate, potassium, calcium and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are compounds which reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Broccoli also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant, as well as vitamin C.

Broccoli and cross section edit
Boiling broccoli for too long can destroy much of its vital nutrients

If the enzyme myrosinase is not destroyed during cooking, broccoli can also reduce the risk of developing cancer. The best way to cook broccoli and to preserve the myrosinase is to steam the vegetable lightly - if it is overcooked, and the vegetable's beneficial effects can be seriously undermined, researchers from the University of Illinois wrote in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition and Cancer.

The researchers said that adding broccoli to a meal can often double its anticancer properties.

Another ingredient, sulforphane, which exists in broccoli, is also said to have anti-cancer as well as anti-inflammatory qualities. However, overcooking can destroy most of the benefits.

Broccoli powder does not contain myrosinase.

"Lightly Steamed Broccoli Has Powerful Anticancer Enzyme Myrosinase"

4) Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber.

According to a study carried out at Harvard Medical School, elderly people who eat plenty of blueberries (and strawberries) are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline, compared to other people of their age who do not.

Blueberries were found in another study carried out by scientists at Texas Woman's University, to help in curbing obesity. Plant polyphenols, which are abundant in blueberries, have been shown to reduce the development of fat cells (adipogenesis), while inducing the breakdown of lipids and fat (lipolysis).

Blueberries may help in controlling body weight

Regular blueberry consumption can reduce the risk of suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) by 10%, because of the berry's bioactive compounds, anthocyanins, scientists from East Anglia University, England, and Harvard University, USA reported in the American Journal of Nutrition.

Blueberry consumption has also been associated with a lower risk of artery hardening, and/or intestinal diseases. The fruit has also been linked to stronger bones in animal studies.

5) Oily fish

Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. These types of fish have oil in their tissues and around the gut. Their lean fillets contain up to 30% oil, specifically, omega-3 fatty acids. These oils are known to provide benefits for the heart, as well as the nervous system. Oily fish are also known to provide benefits for patients with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.

Oily fish also contain vitamins A and D.

Scientists at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center found that prostate cancer progression was significantly slowed when patients went on a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements.

Sardin from sardegna 1
Oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids

6) Leafy green vegetables

Studies have shown that a high intake of dark-leafy vegetables, such as spinach or cabbage may significantly lower a person's risk of developing diabetes type 2. Researchers from Leicester University, England, said that the impact of dark green vegetables on human health should be investigated further, after they gathered data from six studies.

Spinach, for example, is very rich in antioxidants, especially when uncooked, steamed or very lightly boiled. It is a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, as well as selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, copper, folic acid, potassium, calcium, manganese, betaine, and iron.

Boiling spinach can significantly reduce its levels of good nutrients.

7) Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene, complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as carotene (the pink, yellow ones).

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA, compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. The sweet potato ranked number one, when vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein and complex carbohydrates were considered.

Ipomoea batatas 006
Sweet potato roots are rich in fiber and several important nutrients

8) Wheat germ

Wheat germ is the part of wheat that germinates to grow into a plant - the embryo of the seed. Germ, along with bran, is commonly a by-product of the milling; when cereals are refined, the germ and bran are often milled out.

Wheat germ is high in several vital nutrients, such as vitamin E, folic acid (folate), thiamin, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as fatty alcohols and essential fatty acids.

Wheat germ is also a good source of fiber.

9) Avocados

Many people avoid avocados because of its high fat content; they believe that avoiding all fats leads to better health and easier-to-control body weight - this is a myth. Approximately 75% of the calories in an avocado come from fat; mostly monosaturated fat.

Weight-for-weight, avocadoes have 35% more potassium than bananas.

Avocados are also very rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin K and vitamin E.

Avocados also have a very high fiber content of 25% soluble and 75% insoluble fiber.

Studies have shown that regular avocado consumption lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Avocado extracts are currently being studied in the laboratory to see whether they might be useful for treating diabetes or hypertension.

Researchers from Ohio State University found that nutrients taken from avocados were able to stop oral cancer cells, and even destroy some of the pre-cancerous cells.

("Avocados May Help Prevent Oral Cancer")

10) Oatmeal

Oatmeal is meal made from rolled or ground oats, or porridge made from ground or rolled oats. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the term "porridge" or "porridge oats" are common terms for the breakfast cereal that is usually cooked.

Interest in oatmeal has increased considerably over the last twenty years because of its health benefits.

Studies have shown that if you eat a bowl of oatmeal everyday your blood cholesterol levels, especially if they are too high, will drop, because of the cereal's soluble fiber content. When findings were published in the 1980s, an "oat bran craze" spread across the USA and Western Europe. The oats craze dropped off in the 1990s.

In 1997, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) agreed that foods with high levels of rolled oats or oat bran could include data on their labels about their cardiovascular heart benefits if accompanied with a low-fat diet. This was followed by another surge in oatmeal popularity.

Oats is rich in complex carbohydrates, as well as water-soluble fiber, which slow digestion down and stabilize levels of blood-glucose.

Oatmeal porridge is very rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium.

Coarse or steel-cut oats contain more fiber than instant varieties.
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Genital Herpes Vaccine Partially Successful

Results of a clinical trial show that an investigational vaccine for genital herpes protected some women against infection from one of the two strains of virus that cause the disease. Although the results show only partial success, the researchers who conducted the trial believe they represent progress towards a genital herpes vaccine. They write about their findings in the 5 January online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

There is currently no cure or approved vaccine for genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease caused by the viruses herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), with most infections thought to be caused by the latter (although a surprising finding of this study suggests that could be changing).

Genital herpes is one of the most common communicable diseases and affects about 1 in 4 women in the United States.

HSV-2 generally causes lesions and blisters in the genital area, and while HSV-1 generally causes sores in the mouth and lips, it has increasingly been found to cause genital disease.

Once inside the body, the virus stays for good. It can cause severe neurological disease, and even death in babies born to women infected with the virus, which is also a risk factor for sexual transmission of HIV.

In the NEJM study, the researchers report that an investigational vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) provided partial protection agaist HSV-1 in a clinical trial involving more than 8,000 women at 50 sites in the US and Canada. The trial was funded by GSK and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

There were 58% fewer cases of HSV-1 in women who received the vaccine compared to women who received the control. It did not protect women against HSV-2.

In a note to the press, lead author Robert Belshe, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University in Missouri, said:

"There is some very good news in our findings. We were partially successful against half of the equation -- protecting women from genital disease caused by HSV-1."

"It's a big step along the path to creating an effective vaccine that protects against genital disease caused by herpes infection. It points us in the direction to work toward making a vaccine that works on both herpes simplex viruses," he added.

Belshe and some of the other authors report having commercial relationships with GSK and other drug companies, such as receiving consultancy and lecture fees.

For the trial, they enrolled 8,323 women who were free of HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. Their ages ranged from 18 to 32 at the start of the trial, and they were randomly assigned to receive either three doses of the vaccine or a control vaccine (one that prevents hepatitis A).

The researchers followed the participants for 20 months, monitoring for occurrence of gential herpes infection. During the trial, all participants also gave blood samples from which tests showed whether they were carrying HSV-1 or HSV-2 without showing symptoms.

The results showed that two of the three doses of the investigational vaccine offered protection against genital herpes from HSV-1. None offered protection against genital disease caused by HSV-2.

The authors summarize the results in their abstract:

"Overall, the vaccine was not efficacious; vaccine efficacy was 20% (95% confidence interval [CI], -29 to 50) against genital herpes disease. However, efficacy against HSV-1 genital disease was 58% (95% CI, 12 to 80). Vaccine efficacy against HSV-1 infection (with or without disease) was 35% (95% CI, 13 to 52), but efficacy against HSV-2 infection was not observed (-8%; 95% CI, -59 to 26)."

Belshe, who also is a professor of infectious diseases and immunology at St Louis, said they were surprised by the findings:

"We didn't expect the herpes vaccine to protect against one type of herpes simplex virus and not another. We also found it surprising that HSV-1 was a more common cause of genital disease than was HSV-2."

It has been suggested that HSV-1, once thought to cause mainly oral disease, is increasingly becoming a cause of genital disease because couples are engaging in oral sex.

Belshe explained that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 spread through direct contact, for instance from mouth to mouth, genitals to genitals, and mouth to genitals, even when infected persons have no symptoms.

The researchers are continuing to investigate why the vaccine only protected women against HSV-1 and not HSV-2. They are conducting tests on serum donated by the study participants.

Belshe suggests one reason could be that HSV-1 is more vulnerable to antibodies than HSV-2.
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Weaning From Gluten May Be Pointless For Many

People who do not have celiac disease and believe they have "non-celiac gluten sensitivity" may be weaning themselves off gluten unnecessarily, researchers from the University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy, reported in Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors added that the majority of people who avoid gluten have "nonceliac gluten sensitivity" - those with celiac disease are a minority among gluten avoiders.

Individuals with celiac disease have a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged; undermining their ability to absorb nutrients from food properly. This occurs because of a reaction to gluten, which is found in many cereals, such as rye, barley, wheat, and perhaps oats.

Celiac disease diagnosis occurs after specific bowel and blood tests are carried out.

A number of people who do not have celiac disease can still react to gluten if they eat it and experience gastrointestinal discomfort and fatigue. Experts refer to this condition as "non-celiac gluten sensitivity".

The number of people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity is considerably higher than those with celiac disease.

Gluten sensitivity can trigger the following symptoms if gluten is ingested:
    Intestinal symptoms

  • bloating
  • flatulence
  • abdominal discomfort
  • diarrhea
  • Other symptoms

  • headache
  • ataxia (wobbliness, incoordination, unsteadiness)
  • oral ulceration (recurrent)
  • lethargy
  • attention-deficit disorder
The authors say that some people who think they are food sensitive and do not have celiac disease may be abstaining from gluten unnecessarily. They suggest that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be a perceived sensitivity, and one caused by the nocebo effect of gluten ingestion or wheat. Nocebo effect is a negative placebo effect, as may occur when somebody takes a medication and experiences unpleasant side-effects which are unrelated to the pharmacological action of the drug. The nocebo effect is linked to the individual's prior expectations of a side effect.

The researchers give examples of patients who strictly abstained from gluten, and believed their gluten-free diets helped reduce their symptoms. However, very few of them had ever undergone a proper diagnosis procedure.

They believe doctors should think about performing open or single-blind gluten challenge tests on those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity - at least until a valid biomarker for non-celiac gluten sensitivity is found.
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Two Thirds Of New Mothers Have Trouble Breast Feeding

A survey published in the journal Pediatrics shows that two third of mothers nursing new-borns are unable to manage breast feeding, for as long as they intended.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics take the view that around six months of breast feeding is a target bench mark, meaning only breast milk and medications or micronutrient supplements, but no other liquids or solids. Surveys have shown that few mothers achieve this goal in the US, but it was not specifically known whether this was by accident or design.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey of pregnant women about their intentions for exclusive breast-feeding and published their results under the title:"Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices and Meeting Exclusive Breastfeeding Intention."

They discovered that although 85% of mothers planned to breast feed for at least three months, less than a third managed to meet their own goal. Those who already had a baby and were married seem to have better chances. Breast feeding within an hour of birth was also seen as an important factor in developing the mother-baby breast feeding regime. On the flip side, those who were obese, were smokers or set themselves longer goals for breast feeding, stood less chance of achieving their target.

In addition, the report shows that when hospitals give out infant formula and or pacifiers, the mothers chances are reduced, presumably because she more easily turns towards the alternatives. The study suggests that increasing "Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices", particularly by supporting mothers to breast feed exclusively while in hospital, will assist more mothers in meeting their goals.

Previous research has shown that babies fed on infant formula from a younger age tend to have more health issues in later life. The research was contested by some, who suggested that babies fed on infant formula immediately or in the first few months after birth, were likely to have many other issues, including unprivileged mothers, working mothers, or those with unhealthy lifestyles. Thus, babies that were not breast fed for as long, if at all, were simply markers for other social issues in their upbringing that might affect their health.

There has been a drive in the UK in recent years to educate and push more mothers to breast feed for longer, however, an article from University of Aberdeen and the University of Stirling, published in the BMJ, was highlighted in March of this year by the Gurdian Newspaper and cause quite an uproar. The Scottish scientists suggested that the six month target from the WHO was overly idealistic, and putting mothers under necessary pressure. Hospital staff were often unavailable to help new mothers and many other practical factors came into play in the months following birth, that they say left the success of hitting the six month goal was largely down to luck.

They state that :

"More achievable incremental goals are recommended. Unanimously, families would prefer the balance to shift away from antenatal theory towards more help immediately after birth and at three to four months, when solids are being considered."

It goes without saying that breastmilk provides babies with essential nutrients and figures are clear that breastfed babies suffer less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting, which can only be good for both mother and baby. The breast fed babies also have fewer chest and ear infections, are less constipated and are less likely to become obese.

The editor-in-chief of BMJ Open, Dr Trish Groves, clarified the article stating: "Any research or other article that seems to be 'anti-breastfeeding' is, rightly, highly controversial. This study is not, however, against breastfeeding: far from it."

The reasons that mothers end up quitting breast feeding seem to come down to a number of factors including:
  • Having a difficult start. Mothers are usually tired after giving birth and poor circumstances during the first few days give mothers an understandable reason for giving up. Sore nipples, late nights, and a difficult baby, make it easier to reach for the bottle.
  • Baby isn't getting fed enough. It's impossible to tell how much a baby is eating when it's being fed directly from the breast, and this can lead to the worry. Breast fed babies tend to stay at the breast longer, simply because it's relaxing to them, and the human milk is more digestible, so they generally eat more and more often and might appear hungrier. It's easy for a new mother to get nervous and want to start supplementing with a bottle. This of course begins to slow down the breast production and makes continuing breast feeding more difficult.
  • Feeling awkward to nurse in public. In our politically correct society, and considering that breasts are considered very sexual, many women just don't feel comfortable exposing themselves in public, and it's hard sit in a rest room or private place for half an hour or more while the baby feeds.
  • Needing to go back to work. While some mothers do manage to express milk or nurse their baby while working, the pressures of a modern job don't leave much room for regular feeds. Once the routine is broken, the breasts produce less milk and babies get used to bottle feeding, which quickly leads into using formula when supplies are short.

At the end of the day, it's important to keep perspective and taking care of a new born can be stressful and tiring at the best of times. Of course setting targets is an admirable goal, and new mother's should be afforded the best opportunities and be educated in the benefits of not looking for the first excuse to use the bottle and formula. None the less a balance needs to be maintained, between offering useful and healthy advice, and simply forcing a demanding socialist regime onto mothers and their newborns.
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Processed Meat Consumption Linked To Higher Risk Of Pancreatic Cancer

According to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, individuals who consume too much processed or red meat may have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Researchers discovered that compared to individuals who ate no meat, for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed each day - equivalent to two rashers (streaks) of bacon or a sausage - the risk of pancreatic cancer increased by 19%.

The team found that red or processed meat increased the risk for men, although evidence was inconclusive for women. Men who consumed 120 grams of red/processed meat per day had a 29% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who ate no meat. This may be because women in the study consumed less red meat than men.

Even though a 19% increase seems high, it is an increase on top of a comparatively small chance of developing the disease. The lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the UK for women is 1 in 79 and 1 in 77 for men, compared to smoking which increases the risk by 74%. In 2008 in the UK, approximately 8,000 individuals were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - 3% of all cancer cases - and approximately 7,780 individuals died from the disease.

The team examined results from 11 studies involving more than 6,000 individuals with pancreatic cancer.

Associate Professor Susanna Larsson, study author based at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, explained:

"Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. So as well as diagnosing it early, it's important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease.

If diet does affect pancreatic cancer then this could influence public health campaigns to help reduce the number of cases of this disease developing in the first place."

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, explained:

"The jury is still out as to whether meat is a definite risk factor for pancreatic cancer and more large studies are needed to confirm this. But this new analysis suggests processed meat may be playing a role.

We do know that, among lifestyle factors, smoking significantly ramps up the risk of pancreatic cancer. Stopping smoking is the best way to reduce your chances of developing many types of cancer and other diseases as well."
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A Very Sugary Diet Makes You Stupid

As we near the final year exams for schools and universities, students should be wary of powering up on buckets of soda and pocketfuls of candy bars. A UCLA study on rats suggests that fructose slows down the brain and memory functions. Too much sweetness can also prevent learning. The findings are published in Journal of Physiology and also show omega-3 fatty acids helping to negate the effect.

Earlier studies have shown that fructose is involved in causing diabetes, obesity and a fatty liver, but this is the first research to uncover how sugar can influence the brain. In the Americas, high fructose corn syrup is widely used, whereas in Europe and Asia sucrose is more prevalent; this study focused on fructose.

Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science said

"Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think ... Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage."

It is estimated that the average American consumes around 47 pounds of sugar and another 35 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. In the late 1800s, this figure was about 2 pounds per year. The soaring rates of diabetes, obesity and even cancer have been linked to a sugary diet. A part of the problem is the prevalence of sugar and high fructose corn syrup that is laced into everything from apple sauce, yoghurt and fruit juices to bread, ketchup - even hamburgers and processed meat often have sugar added. Avoiding sugar is not as simple as not drinking sodas and eating candy bars.

Gomez-Pinilla, who is also a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center, goes onto explain:

"We're less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants ... We're more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative."

To carry out the study, Gomez-Pinilla and his study co-author Rahul Agrawal, a UCLA visiting postdoctoral fellow from India, looked at two groups of rats. Both group was given drinking water laced with fructose solution, but the second group was also fed flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These contain omega-3 fatty which are thought to protect against damage to the synapses, which are essentially the electrical connections between the brain cells.

As a control, the animals were fed on standard rat feed for five days before the fructose diet started. They were also trained on a maze twice per day and tested to see how well they performed. They also placed visual markers in the maze to help the rats remember their way around.

Gomez-Pinilla recounts his experience of testing the rats after six weeks on the sugary diet:

"The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids ... The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier."

The rats that went without the fatty acids, also started to show insulin resistance. Gomez-Pinilla postulates that this is most likely the cause of the loss in memory, because insulin is involved in regulating how brain cells are able to use and store sugar for the energy required for processing thoughts and emotions. A diet high in sugar causes more insulin release and perhaps makes the cells become tolerant to the hormone, as they do with other hormones and drugs that are artificially introduced.

Gomez-Pinilla practices what he preaches, and says he maintains a diet low in sugar and high in fatty acids. He recommends taking one gram of DHA per day and eating foods like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds that are rich in DHA. He concludes that:

"Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose's harmful effects ... It's like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases."

The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Gomez-Pinilla's lab will next examine the role of diet in recovery from brain trauma.
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Exercise Increasingly Recommended By Doctors, CDC

Doctors in the US are increasingly advising adults to exercise or be more physically active, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published online on Thursday.

The report shows that in 2010, about one in three adults (32.4%) who had seen a doctor or health professional in the past year had been advised to take up or continue exercise or physical activity. This is more than 40% increase since 2000, when the figure was less than one in four (22.6%) adults.

The report is published by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and was compiled by researchers Patricia Barnes, who is with the Office of Research and Methodology, and Charlotte Schoenborn, who is with the Division of Health Interview Statistics at the NCHS.

To compile their report, Barnes and Schoenborn used data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2000, 2005, and 2010. The household-based survey is collected by interviewers from the US Census Bureau and includes the question:

"During the past 12 months, did a doctor or other health professional recommend that you begin or continue to do any type of exercise or physical activity?"

One of the most surprising key findings was that among adults aged 85 and older, there was a nearly two-fold increase from 15.3% in 2000 to 28.9% in 2010, of those who had seen a doctor in the last 12 months receiving a recommendation for exercise or physical activity.

However, the age group with the largest number of adults receiving such advice in 2010 were the 45 to 74-year-olds (nearly 42%).

The age group least likely to receive such a recommendation from their doctor or health professional were the 18 to 24-year-olds (16.1%), although all groups had increased from 2000 to 2010.

The trend was also upwards among all race and ethnic groups, with Hispanic adults showing the largest percentage increase over the decade, from 20.8% of adults receiving a recommendation to exercise in 2000 to 35.8% in 2010.

The report shows that receiving advice to exercise also varied depending on whether patients had certain chronic health conditions.

Adults with diabetes were more likely to receive a recommendation to exercise or be more physically active than those with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

In 2010, 56.3% of adults with diabetes who had seen their doctor or health practitioner in the last 12 months were advised to exercise, compared with 35.8% of those with cancer.

Trends also varied depending on whether patients were overweight or obese.

The percentage of adults who had been advised to exercise increased in each category (underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese) between 2000 and 2010, although the increase was largest for adults who were obese.

In 2010, adults who were obese were about twice as likely as healthy weight adults to receive advice from their doctor or health professional to begin or continue to exercise (46.9% compared with 22.6%).

In their summary, the authors write:

"Trends over the past 10 years suggest that the medical community is increasing its efforts to recommend participation in exercise and other physical activity that research has shown to be associated with substantial health benefits. Still, the prevalence of receiving this advice remains well below one-half of US adults and varies substantially across population subgroups."

Research shows that regular exercise and physical activity can lower the risk of chronic health conditions, and reduce dependence on medication. It can also help people maintain an independent life and improves quality of life in the elderly.

There is also evidence that people take notice when their doctor advises them to exercise: such advice is more likely to make them go away and do it.
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Novartis Recalls OTC Products Excedrin And NoDoz

Complaints of chipped and broken pills as well as inconsistent packaging have promoted Novartis Consumer Health Inc. (NCH) to recall certain lots of its products.

Whilst there have been no reports of adverse effects to patients so far, Novartis has also warned of possible mixing of product. They have asked consumers to dispose of the product or return unused bottles. They have also temporarily suspended operations in their Lincoln, Nebraska production facility.

All lots of select bottle packaging configurations from retailers of Excedrin® and NoDoz® products with expiry dates of December 20, 2014 or earlier, as well as Bufferin® and Gas-X Prevention® products with expiry dates of December 20, 2013 or earlier, in the United States are to be considered suspect, and Novatris says :

"[It] is taking this action as a precautionary measure, because the products may contain stray tablets, capsules, or caplets from other Novartis products, or contain broken or chipped tablets."

However, consumers should be aware that mixing of the product may result in patients taking the incorrect medication, and doses cannot be assured where pills are chipped or broken. The recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Novartis Consumer Health has provided its assurance that it will continue to work closely with the Agency as well as its customers throughout this process.

Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis said :

"We are committed to a single quality standard for the entire Novartis Group and we are making the necessary investments and committing the right resources to ensure these are implemented across our entire network ... The high quality of our products and operations has been critical to building the Novartis reputation over the past 15 years. We are committed to ensuring the highest standard for patients who rely on our products and medicines."

Novartis says it plans to gradually resume operations at its Lincoln, NE site following implementation of planned improvements and in consultation with the FDA. This facility produces a variety of products mainly for the US market, but constitutes less than 2% of Novartis Group sales. The company says at this stage, it is not possible to determine when the plant will resume full operations and the full financial impact of these events. The cost of the recall is estimated at some 120 Million USD, and Novartis says it will take a one time write down in its fourth quarter 2011, whilst taking action to improve production quality.

Consumers and customers in the US who have questions can call the Consumer Relationship Center at 1-888-477-2403 (available Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time).

For more detailed information regarding the product, potential drug reactions, impacted configurations, related NDC numbers and expiry dates, consumers can visit the Novartis website starting January 9, 2012 at

A form is available online to apply for a refund for any faulty product.
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Autism Overdiagnosed? Possibly, Because Many Children Seem To "Outgrow" It

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) come with several neurodevelopmental signs and symptoms which overlap other conditions - it is possible that some early ASD diagnoses are wrong, especially among children who no longer meet the criteria for ASD as they get older, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote in the journal Pediatrics. The authors add that it is not easy for doctors to diagnose between several possibilities early in life.

Andrew W. Zimmerman, MD. and team set out to determine what the relationship might be between co-occurring conditions and changes in ASD diagnoses. They gathered information from the National Survey of Children's Health 2007, and found that those who still had a diagnosis of ASD tended to have either severe or moderate learning disability or developmental delays, compared to those whose initial ASD diagnosis was changed when they got older. The authors were comparing children who had had a diagnosis of ASD at age 3 to 5 years with the same children when they were older who still had an ASD diagnosis, and those who did not.

Those aged 6-11 years with a current ASD diagnosis - these patients were more likely at an earlier age to have had a speech difficulty, or/and severe or moderate anxiety, compared to their counterparts whose diagnoses subsequently changed.

Those aged 12-17 years with a current ASD diagnosis - these patients were found to be more likely to have severe or moderate speech problems or (mild) epilepsy (seizures) compared to those who no longer have an ASD diagnosis.

Hearing problems - those with past hearing problems are more likely to still have an ASD diagnosis later on, compared to those who did not have hearing problems, the authors added.

Multiple co-occurring conditions - those with multiple co-occurring conditions when they were small are more likely today to still have an ASD diagnosis, compared to the other children. Multiple in this text means at least two.

In an Abstract in the same journal, the authors concluded:

"These findings suggest that the presence of co-occurring psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions are associated with a change in ASD diagnosis. Questions remain as to whether changes in diagnosis of an ASD are due to true etiologic differences or shifts in diagnostic determination."
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Physically Active Kids Appear To Do Better In Class

A systematic review of published data reported in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine finds there may be a positive link between physical activity and academic performance of children in school: the ones who are more physically active seem to do better in class. However, the authors are cautious about the certainty of this finding because too few of the studies they reviewed were of sufficiently high quality. They call for further research using more robust measures of physical activity.

Lead author Dr Amika Singh, of Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit (VU) University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues carried out their review because of concerns that pressure to do well in academic tests could mean children are being denied time for exercise in favour of extra tuition time.

For their review they searched a number of reputable academic databases for studies that looked at the relationship between physical activity and academic performance and found 10 observational (that follow participants over a period of time), and four interventional studies that met their inclusion criteria.

For example, to be included in the review, the studies had to measure exposure to at least 1 measure of physical activity or fitness and assess the outcome of at least 1 academic performance or cognition measure, during childhood or adolescence.

12 of the studies included in the review were carried out in the US, one was in Canada, and one in South Africa.

The studies varied widely in size, from around 50 to around 12,000 participants, with ages ranging from 6 to 18 years and follow-up from as little as 8 weeks to over 5 years.

Singh and colleagues also rated the quality of the methods used on the studies: they found they ranged from 22% to 75%, with only two of them considered "high" quality.

They also noted that quality of methods was not very high when it came to reliability and validity of the measurement instruments.

For instance, none of the studies they reviewed used an objective measure of physical activity.

So, given these limitations:

"Based on the results of the best-evidence synthesis, we found evidence of a significant longitudinal positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," they write.

They conclude that children who take part in physical activity appear to achieve better academic performance, but (and it is a big "but"):

"Because we found only 2 high-quality studies, future high-quality studies are needed to confirm our findings."

They recommend that such further research should "thoroughly examine" what happens to academic performance with each unit of increase in physical activity (what they refer to as a "dose-response relationship"). And it should also examine the explanations for the relationship, they note.
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Self-HPV Testing Could Be An Effective Cervical Cancer Screening Method

self-HPV (human papillomavirus) testing, in low-resource settings, may be a more effective way to screen for cervical cancer than liquid-based cytology (LBC) and visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA).

Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers found in women. Each year, around 530,000 women are diagnosed with the disease, resulting in an estimated 275,000 deaths.

Cervical cytology screening campaigns, which require considerable laboratory infrastructure and medical resources, have helped lower the number of cervical cancer cases in developed countries. However, in developing countries cervical cancer is increasing, with one-seventh of the world's cases in China.

As there is currently no nationwide screening program for cervical cancer in China, researchers have suggested that self-HPV testing may serve as an additional or alternative method of primary cervical cancer screening method.

Data from individual participants from 5 population-based cervical cancer-screening studies in China from 1997 to 2007 was collected by Professor You-Lin Qiao, M.D., Ph.D., of the Cancer institute/Hospital at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences/Peking Union Medical college and colleagues, in order to find out the effectiveness of self-HPV testing. Participants' in the five studies received HPV testing of physician-collected Pap specimens, LBC, and VIA, HPV testing of self-collected Pap specimens (self-HPV testing).

The pooled data was then examined in order to identify biopsy-confirmed cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or more severe (CIN2+) or CIN3+.

The researchers found:
  • 507 of the 13,140 rural Chinese women screened for the disease were diagnosed with CIN2+
  • 273 were diagnosed with CIN3+
  • and 37 were diagnosed with cervical cancer
Results from the study showed that self-HPV testing was less specific and more sensitive than VIA and LBC. Although, compared to physician-collected Pap specimens, self-HPV testing was similarly specific, but less sensitive.

According to the researchers, self-HPV testing may help China expand it's current screening outreach.

The researchers explain:

"Although it is not specific enough to be a stand-alone test, self-HPV testing provides sensitive results without pelvic exams, medical professionals, or health-care facilities and thus has the potential to serve as a primary cervical cancer screening method for women, regardless of their geographic location or access to health care.

Self-sampling procedures were instructed by medical professionals, and it is unclear whether unsupervised self-examinations would give out similar outcomes.

The incorporation of Self-HPV testing in the Chinese government's planning of a national cervical cancer screening program would complement the current program by increasing its coverage of unscreened populations."

In an associated report, Patrick Petignat, M.D., of the University Hospitals of Geneva, explains that although self-HPV testing for primary cervical cancer screening may help increase the number of women being screened, introducing self-HPV testing should be met with caution.

According to Petignat, determining women's personal willingness to undergo self-screening, as well as the cost effectiveness of self-HPV testing is vital. In addition, he believes patients need to be fully educated about self-HPV testing.

Petignat says:

"Efforts are still needed to increase awareness about HPV and cervical cancer and more information is needed about the reliability of the method. Health-care professionals should provide sufficient support to participants to properly interpret their test results, thus avoiding any delay to follow-up and treatment."
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Malignant Melanoma Recurrence - How To Avoid It After Targeted Treatment

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have demonstrated how to prevent new cancers that can occur when malignant melanoma patients are treated with drugs known as BRAF inhibitors.

In the past, doctors have observed that between 15 and 30% of patients who were treated with BRAF inhibitors, including the FDA-approved drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf), developed another type of skin cancer known as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, which required surgical removal.

Professor Richard Marais from the ICR, and his worldwide collaborators, assessed squamous cell carcinoma tissue, which had been obtained from 21 malignant melanoma patients who were treated with vemurafenib in a clinical trial. They tested the DNA of the new tumors for the presence of known cancer-causing mutations including KRAS, HRAS, NRAS, TP53 and CDKN2A and discovered that 60% of the samples contained either KRAS or HRAS mutations.

They observed that further testing showed that the BRAF inhibitors do not directly trigger squamous cell carcinomas, but speed up the development of existing cancerous changes to the skin that were not yet showing symptoms. Significantly, they observed in mice that another type of drug, a MEK inhibitor, was able to inhibit the development of these second tumors even when BRAF drugs were present.

Professor Marais, who is co-senior author of the study, explains: "Around half of all patients with malignant melanoma have a mutation in their BRAF gene, and can be treated with BRAF-inhibiting drugs. However, between 15 and 30 per cent of the treated patients develop other skin tumors. By determining the mechanism by which these develop, we have been able to devise a strategy to prevent the second tumors without blocking the beneficial effects of the BRAF drugs. This may allow many more patients to benefit from these important drugs."

Dr Antoni Ribas, a professor of hematology and oncology, who is also a researcher with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, commented: "This is one of the very few times that we understand molecularly why a side effect to cancer treatment is happening. The side effect in this case is caused by how the drug works in a different cellular setting. In one case it inhibits cancer growth, and in another it makes the malignant cells grow."

Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager, Dr Julie Sharp, concludes: "This research reveals a possible new approach to avoid the second cancers that affect some malignant melanoma patients taking BRAF inhibitors. The next stage will be to explore these results in more patients in clinical trials to see if this drug combination could treat the original cancer while preventing new cancers from forming."
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Amantadine: Flu / Parkinson's Drug In Treatment For Traumatic Brain Injury

New England Journal of Medicine published an article today showing a significant breakthrough in treating patients with a vegetative and minimally conscious state. The drug, known as Amantadine was previously used to treat flu, but when given to severely injured patients, recovery results were markedly improved.

Neuropsychologist Joseph Giacino of Boston's Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, co-leader of the study said :

"This drug moved the needle in terms of speeding patient recovery, and that's not been shown before ... It really does provide hope for a population that is viewed in many places as hopeless."

Doctors have been using Amantadine for some years to treat brain injuries, but there has never been a comprehensive study to analyze the results. The new findings are an important step in the right direction, but many questions remain, including whether the drug will help patients that have less severe injuries, and also whether Amantadine will speed the recovery in the long term.

Doctors have been forced to use a variety of medicines normally approved for other ailments in the hopes that they would help brain injury patients. With nearly two million patients suffering traumatic debilitating injuries, the need for a comprehensive treatment is evident and while three quarters are mild concussions that heal over time, more than 50,000 die each year from brain injuries and another 275,000 are hospitalized.

Study co-leader, John Whyte, M.D., Ph.D, Director of Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute

"Now that we know that amantadine can accelerate neurologic recovery, we need to explore the dose and treatment schedule that provides the greatest and most durable treatment impact ... Importantly, this study adds to the growing evidence that patients with disorders of consciousness have rehabilitation potential that we are just beginning to tap."

The problem to date is that doctors have been treating patients based on hunches and common sense, rather than actual physical data. Amantadine is one such weapon of choice, a flu drug that was approved in the mid-1960s, appeared to improve those with Parkinson's disease, who were treated with it whilst in nursing homes. The drug seems to have an effect on the brain's dopamine system, and the Parkinson's patients showed improved movement and alertness. What started as an intuitive finding, is now approved for Parkinson's.

Whyte continued that:

"(It's now commonly used for brain injuries, and the researchers felt it was important to find out) whether we're treating patients with a useful drug, a harmful drug or a useless drug,"

The recent study was carried out in Germany and looked at 184 disabled patients with an average age of 36. A third of them were in what is termed a vegetative state, where they are mainly unconscious with only short periods showing signs of awareness.

Amandatine was randomly assigned to patients, the rest were given a dummy drug for four weeks. Both groups seemed to show some signs of improvement, but those on amantadine had better, faster results. When researchers stopped the drug, recovery in patients who had received it slowed, and two weeks after stopping treatment, both groups appeared about the same again.

One possible use for the drug is in treating US troops with brain injuries. Since 2000, nearly a quarter of a million US soldiers have suffered traumatic brain injuries, including more than 6,000 serious cases, mostly from bomb blasts or shrapnel. Another area that clearly needs more research is in treating other kinds of trauma, such as that from a stroke.

Giacino said the drug still has value even if it only hastens recovery :

"What condition would we not jump for joy if we could have it
over with faster?"
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Memantine Is Ineffective At Treating Alzheimer's Disease In Patients With Down's Syndrome

Though commonly used to treat patients with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease (AD), the anti-dementia drug Memantine - trade name Namenda - has been labeled as ineffective for treating AD patients with Down's Syndrome over the age of 40. The finding comes from a publication by The Lancet written by Professor Clive Ballard, Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King's College London, UK, and colleagues.

Pathological features similar to those found among Alzheimer's disease patients are evident in all Down's syndrome patients above the age of 40. As a key clinical challenge, dementia has become increasingly common in Down's patients - as they are living longer than before - with dementia being diagnosed in over 40% of such patients over 60.

Two previous studies of memantine in a Down's syndrome model in mice showed encouraging results. They both found that the medication enhanced neuropathology and cognitive function. To further our understanding on the effect the drug has on human's with Down's, a new study enrolled Down's syndrome patients over the age of 40, some with and some without AD, across four learning disability centers in the UK and Norway.

The 52 week-long study involved two groups of patients, a group of 88 taking memantine and another group of 85 taking the placebo. Selection of the participants across the two groups was balanced in accordance to memory, sex, age group, executive function scales [DAMES] score, dementia and Down's syndrome attention. Assessment was based on evaluating the change in cognition and function. They did so by measuring DAMES scores and using a standard assessment tool called the adaptive behaviour scale (ABS).

Cognition and function dropped for both groups with little disparity between the two rates. Serious adverse events were recorded in 11% of the patients - 10 out of 88 - on memantine and 7% of the controls - 6 out of 85. Of these events, five people died in the memantine group and four from the control group.

Prof Ballard noted that the "robust" finding has serious implications for research strategy and clinical practice in the future, he adds:

"Specifically, therapies that are beneficial for people with Alzheimer's disease are not necessarily effective for the treatment of cognitive impairment or dementia in the context of Down's syndrome."

Co-author and Research Manager at Alzheimer's Society (UK), Dr Anne Corbett, adds:

"So little is known about the best way to treat dementia in people with Down's Syndrome. Further investment is urgently needed to develop treatments that are effective in this important group of people."

Professor Gill Livingston and Dr Andre Strydom, Unit of Mental Health Sciences, University College London, UK say that the..:

"..amelioration of associated pathology [of Alzheimer's Disease in Down Syndrome] will probably not result from one drug, but will need a complex combination of treatments. Researchers need a far greater understanding of the neurobiology of Down's syndrome to design such treatments."

They conclude

"Despite these issues, there is optimism that the cognitive problems and neurodegeneration of Down's syndrome, which were previously regarded as intractable, can be improved with pharmacological treatments."
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Frying Food in Olive or Sunflower Oil Better For Heart

According to a study published on, heart disease or premature death is not associated with consuming food fried in sunflower or olive oil.

The study was conducted in Spain, a country in the Mediterranean where sunflower or olive oil is used for frying. The researchers stress that their results would probably not be the same in countries which primarily use solid and re-used oils for frying.

One of the move prevalent cooking methods in the Western Hemisphere is frying. Food absorbs the fat of the oils when fried, increasing the amount of calories in the food.

Although consuming high quantities of fried food can increase some heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol, investigators have not fully researched the association between heart disease and fried food.

Therefore the researchers, led by Professor Pilar Guallar-Castillón from Autonomous University of Madrid, surveyed 40,757 adults aged between 26 to 69 years old over an 11-year period about their cooking methods. At the start of the study, none of the participants had heart disease.

The researchers defined fried food as food for which frying was the only cooking method used. Participants were asked questions about their diet and cooking methods, in addition to questions, such as whether food was fried, crumbed, battered or sautéed.

The participants' diet was divided into four ranges of fried food consumption, the first range related to the lowest amount of fried food consumed and the fourth range related to the highest amount.

1,134 deaths were observed during the follow-up period as well as 606 events associated to heart disease.

The researchers conclude:

"In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death."

In an associated report, Professor Michael Leitzmann from the University of Regensburg in Germany, explains that the study investigates the myth that "frying food is generally bad for the heart," although he stresses that this "does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences." Leitzmann adds that specific aspects of frying food are relevant, such as the type of oil used.
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Obesity In Children - Virtually Unchanged In U.S.

Two investigations being published by JAMA reveal that the prevalence of obesity in the United States has not changed considerably. Approximately 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children and adolescents are obese according to data from 2009-2010. The data also revealed that the prevalence of obesity in certain demographics has increased.

In order to determine obesity rates in the U.S., Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D., Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D., M.R.P., and colleagues with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md., examined data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Rates of obesity among adults were compared with data from 1999-2008. Obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. The Survey includes the heights and weights of 22,847 adult individuals from a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population in 1999-2008, and 5,926 adult individuals in 2009-2010.

After adjusting for age, the average BMI was 28.7 for men and women in 2009-2010. Overall, the age-adjusted obesity prevalence was 35.7%. The prevalence of obesity among men was 35.5%, while the prevalence of obesity within race/ethnicity groups ranges from 38.8% among non-Hispanic black men to 36.2% among non-Hispanic white men. The researchers found that between 1999-2000 to 2009-2010 there was a considerable increase in obesity for men.

The prevalence of obesity among women was 35.8%, while the prevalence within race/ethnicity groups ranged from 58.5% among non-Hispanic black women to 32.2% among non-Hispanic white women. Overall, the team found no significant increase in the prevalence of obesity among women over the period from 1999 through 2010, although they discovered that for non-Hispanic black women and Mexican American women increases were statistically considerable. For both genders, 2009 to 2010 did not differ considerably from the past 6 years (2003-2008).

Overall, the age-adjusted prevalence of overweight and obesity combined (BMI 25+) was 68.8%, 63.7% among women, and 73.9% among men.The researchers explain:

"Obesity prevalence shows little change over the past 12 years, although the data are consistent with the possibility of slight increases."

Obesity Prevalence among Children and Adolescents

In order to determine the prevalence of obesity among children and teens in the U.S. (birth to 19 years of age), the researchers examined NHANES data from 2009-2010, which included a representative sample (n=4,111 [1,376 non-Hispanic white, 792 non-Hispanic black, and 1,660 Hispanic]) with measured heights and weights. Among the measures examined were the prevalence of high weight-for-recumbent length (95th percentile or greater on the growth charts) among children from birth to 2 years old, as well as obesity (BMI 95th percentile or greater of the BMI-for-age growth charts) among those aged 2 to 19 years old. In addition, there were examinations of obesity trends by gender and race/ethnicity, as well as BMI within gender-specific age groups every two years from 1999 to 2010.

The team discovered that 16.9% of the children and adolescents examined aged 2 to 19 years were obese in 2009-2010, and 31.8% were overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity among females was considerably lower (15.0%) than among males (18.6%). Between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010, the researchers found no difference in obesity prevalence among both genders, although it increased significantly between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 in male children and teens but not females.

The researchers explain:

"Significant differences in obesity prevalence by race/ethnicity were found. In 2009-2010, 21.2 percent of Hispanic children and adolescent and 24.3 percent on non-Hispanic black children and adolescent were obese compared with 14.0 percent of non-Hispanic white children and adolescents."

In 2009-2010, the team found that the prevalence of high weight-for-recumbent length among children from birth to 2 years was 9.7%, and did not change between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010. When the researchers examined these two time periods together they discovered that Mexican Americans are considerably more likely to have high weight-for-recumbent length than non-Hispanic whites.

Furthermore, they discovered that among males aged 12 to 19 there was a considerable increase in BMI, but not among females or any other age group. The researchers explain: "Many efforts both at the national level and at state and local levels focus on reducing childhood obesity. Yet results from NHANES indicate that the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States remains unchanged at approximately 17 percent; although increases in obesity prevalence may be occurring among males."
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FDA Bans Certain Uses Of Antibiotics In Food-Producing Animals

In a bid to protect an important class of antibiotics for treating humans and reduce the development of drug resistance, the US Food and Drug Administration has banned certain uses of cephalosporins in food-producing animals. The federal agency announced on Wednesday that the prohibition order comes into effect on 5 April.

The ban is intended to stop the use of "extra label" or unapproved use, of cephalosporins in what the FDA describes as the "so-called major species of food-producing animals" such as cattle, pigs (swine), chickens and turkeys.

Use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, whether for treatment, disease prevention or growth promotion, allows resistant bacteria and resistance genes to develop and spread from those animals to humans through the food-chain.

Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods, told the press:

"We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals."

Cephalosporins are a class of antimicrobial drug commonly used to treat bacterial infections in various parts of the body such as throat, ears, lungs, sinuses and skin. They are increasingly seen as an effective alternative to penicillin for many patients.

Doctors prescribe them for the treatment of pneumonia and soft tissue infection, plus various other conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease, diabetic foot infections, and urinary tract infections.

If cephalosporins are not effective in treating these conditions, then doctors have to resort to other drugs that are less effective and have worse side effects.

The FDA says the new ban takes into account the "substantial public comment" they have received on a similar order the agency issued in 2008 but then revoked prior to implementation. This new ban is less of a blanket ban, in that it appears to carefully specify certain exceptions that the agency says will not risk public health.

The reason for the ban is to "preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans", with the intention that such a move will "reduce the risk of cephalosporin resistance in certain bacterial pathogens".

Specifically, the order bans the use of cephalosporins in ways that have not been approved, such as:
  • Unapproved dosage levels, frequencies, durations and ways of giving the drug,

  • Using cephalosporin drugs in food producing animals that have not been approved for use in those animals (for instance, some cephalosporins are approved only for treating humans or companion animals), and

  • To prevent disease in these food-producing animals,
Unlike the ban that was introduced and then revoked in 2008, the new ban does allow some exceptions to the extralabel use of cephalosporins in food-producing animals. These exceptions, which the FDA says "protect public health while considering animal health needs", are:
  • The ban does not limit the use of an older drug, cephapirin, which the agency says is not thought to contribute significantly to the development of antibiotic resistance.

  • Veterinarians will be allowed to administer or prescribe cephalosporins for "limited extra-label use" in the major food- producing animals, as long as they adhere to the "dose, frequency, duration, and route of administration" specified on the label.

  • They will also be allowed to administer or prescribe cephalosporins for "extralabel uses" in minor species of food-producing animals such as ducks or rabbits.
There is an opportunity for the public to comment on the new order of prohibition. The window for this opportunity opens on 6 January and closes on 6 March, 2012.

To find out how to make a comment, go to and enter "FDA-2008-N-0326" in the keyword box.

The federal agency says it will review the comments before the order of prohibition comes into force on 5 April.

For further information, go to the FDA's own question and answer page.
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Abortion Rates Stop Falling Globally

A study from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Guttmacher Institute reveals that worldwide, the long-term substantial decline in abortion rates has stalled. According to the study entitled "Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008" by Glida Sedgh et al., the overall number of terminations per 1,000 women, between the age of 15 to 44 years, has decreased from 35 per 1,000 to 29 per 1,000, between 1995 and 2003, and 28 per 1,000 in 2008. The study was published online by The Lancet.

According to the United Nations, the stall in abortion rates coincides with a decline in contraceptive uptake, which has been observed particularly in developing nations.

Furthermore, the study discovered that almost half of all terminations carried out across the world are unsafe, with the majority of unsafe terminations occurring in the developing world.

In 2003 and 2008, the termination rate in the developing world was 29 per 1,000, after dropping from 34 per 1,000 between 1995 and 2003. In the developed world, rates fell slightly from 20 per 1,000 in 1995, excluding Eastern Europe where rates were considerably lower - 17 per 1,000.

Gilda Sedgh, senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute and lead author of the investigation, explained:

"The declining abortion trend we had seen globally has stalled, and we are also seeing a growing proportion of abortions occurring in developing countries, where the procedure is often clandestine and unsafe. This is cause for concern.

This plateau coincides with a slowdown in contraceptive uptake. Without greater investment in quality family planning services, we can expect this trend to persist."

An estimated 13% of all maternal deaths worldwide in 2008, nearly all of which occurred in developing nations, are due to complications from unsafe abortions. Worldwide in 2008, 220 women died per 100,000 procedures as a result of unsafe termination, 350 times the rate associated with legal induced abortions in the U.S. (0.6 per 100,000).

In addition, around 8.5 million women in developing nations each year suffer serious complications from abortion that require medical attention, out of which 3 million do not receive the care they need.

Iqbal H. Shah, of the WHO and a coauthor of the investigation, said:

"Deaths and disability related to unsafe abortion are entirely preventable, and some progress has been made in developing regions. Africa is the exception, accounting for 17% of the developing world's population of women of childbearing age but half of all unsafe abortion-related deaths.

Within developing countries, risks are greatest for the poorest women. They have the least access to family planning services, and are the most likely to suffer the negative consequences of an unsafe procedure. Poor women also have the least access to postabortion care, when they need treatment for complications."

Study results also showed additional evidence that restrictive abortion laws are not linked to lower rates or termination. For example, In Western Europe abortion is typically allowed on broad grounds, with a abortion rate of 12 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, while the 2008 abortion rate in Africa was 29 per 1,000, and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America, regions where abortion is highly restricted in nearly all nations.

The lowest rate of abortion in Africa (15 per 1,000 women) is in the Southern Africa subregion, where almost 90% of women live under South Africa's liberal abortion law. The researchers found rates were also low in Western Europe (12 per 1,000) and Northern Europe (17 per 1,000), where women have easy access to both abortion and contraception for free or at a considerably low price.

In Eastern Europe, abortion rates are almost 4 times more than in Western Europe, due to low levels of modern contraceptive use and low prevalence of effective birth control methods, such as the IUD and the pill. Although Eastern Europe saw a significant decline in abortion rates between 1995 and 2003, from 90 to 44 per 1,000 women, rates remained virtually unchanged between 2003 and 2008.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, explained: "These latest figures are deeply disturbing. The progress made in the 1990s is now in reverse. Promoting and implementing policies to reduce the number of abortions is now an urgent priority for all countries and for global health agencies, such as WHO. Condemning, stigmatizing, and criminalizing abortion are cruel and failed strategies. It's time for a public health approach that emphasizes reducing harm - and that means more liberal abortion laws."
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Fewer Children Admitted To Hospital For Drowning Incidents

Drowning is one of the leading causes of child mortality nearly 1,100 deaths per year of children aged 1 to 19 years in the United States. For that reason, it has been a target of local and state governments for some time. Public information campaigns and drives for fencing around private swimming pools, use of proper life vests as well as other provisions, such as "safe" swim areas in beaches and parks that are patrolled and monitored by life guards, have been part of their efforts. Florida, Hawaii and Alaska have the highest rates of drowning incidents, and 2009 figures cite Florida with a shocking fatality rate of 8 deaths per 100,000 in the age 1 to 4 category.

It is good news then that figures published in Pediatrics, The Official Journal of the American Academy of Perdiatrics, show a large decline in hospital admissions for drowning incidents over the last sixteen years. Around half the number of children were hospitalized in 2008 compared to 1993. The figures show nearly 3,700 admissions of children 19 and under in 1993 versus fewer than 1800 in 2008. By comparison to Florida's numbers, this means a drop from 4.2 per 100,000 children, down to 2.4 per 100,000 in more recent years.

The south and western states appear to be the ones deserving credit, with their figures declining rapidly, although still having more incidents than the Northeast and Midwest states. Comparisons are not entirely fair though, since those living in sunnier, warmer climates like southern California and Florida are likely to be in and around the water year round, whilst cold winters and chillier summers, especially in the northeast, mean children find other activities in certain states.

Stephen Bowman, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, who led the study said :

"I think there have been some very good try to educate parents on the importance of helping to prevent drowning at all points in childhood development."

Along with education and public awareness, technology and safety standards have improved since 1993 and parents are more likely to find full life vests for their children in their local supermarket, than they might have been ten, twenty years ago. It's also becoming less common to find children that never learned to swim and parents that are ignorant of drowning risks, which could in part be attributed to the Internet and the information age that we now live in.

Researchers estimated that the number of kids who died after being hospitalized dropped from approximately 359 in 1993 to 207 in 2008. This doesn't include those who drowned and were pronounced dead before arriving at hospital.

Bowman also notes that data is lacking on whether any of the victims suffered brain damage as a result of their drowning incident and if there were any long term ramifications for the survivors, telling Reuters Health :

"It's hard to answer the tougher question of, 'Is there long-term cognitive brain damage as a result of (almost) drowning for some of these children?'"

Dr. Gary Smith, head of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, did not think that the decline could be attributed to any specific public health campaign, but rather that parent education efforts are starting to show results. He warned against complacency :

"While this study shows that we're making really good progress, especially in the western and southern regions of our country, we have some sobering data still that drowning remains one of the leading causes of death among children ... We have still a lot of work to do."

Bowman concurred :

"Leaving children unattended even for a moment around a swimming pool, especially toddlers ... it's just a recipe for a disaster. It's something we can't reinforce enough ... Parents need to make sure they're not leaving kids alone, whether it's in the bathtub, or in open water around rivers or lakes, or in a backyard swimming pool."

It seems so senseless, preventable and tragic that a young child or teenager loses their life through what is always in hindsight a preventable drowning. We can hope that parents and governments continue to make progress in tackling this issue.

In an Abstract in the journal, the authors concluded:

"Pediatric hospitalization rates for drowning have decreased over the past 16 years. Our study provides national estimates of pediatric drowning hospitalization that can be used as benchmarks to target and assess prevention strategies."
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Researcher Who Studied Benefits Of Red Wine Falsified Data Says University

An extensive misconduct investigation that took three years to complete and produced a 60,000-page report, concludes that a researcher who has come to prominence in recent years for his investigations into the beneficial properties of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, "is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data".

In a statement published on the university's news website on Wednesday, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Health Center said the investigation has led them to inform 11 scientific journals that had published studies conducted by Dr Dipak K. Das, a professor in the unversity's Department of Surgery and director of its Cardiovascular Research Center.

The internal investigation, which covered seven years of work in Das's lab, was triggered by an anonyomous allegation of "research irregularities" in 2008.

Das has been in UConn's employ since 1984, and was awarded tenure in 1993.

UConn Health Center said it worked closely with the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) throughout its internal investigation. ORI have received the report, and they will now conduct an independent investigation.

Inquiries involving former members of the lab are still under way, and no findings have been released as yet.

All externally funded research in Das's lab is now frozen, and the Health Center has declined nearly $900,000 in federal grants awarded to Das.

Philip Austin, UConn's interim vice president for health affairs, said:

"We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country."

He expressed gratitude to the individual who "chose to do the right thing" and alert the university authorities about the irregularities.

UConn has initiated dismissal proceedings, in accordance with the unversity's bylaws.

Austin said while the university authorities are "deeply disappointed by the flagrant disregard" for the university's code of conduct, they are "pleased the oversight systems in place were effective and worked as intended".

He said the abuses in Das's lab are not representative of the overall quality of UConn Health Center's biomedical research, which "continues to pursue advances in treatments and cures with the utmost integrity".

The 11 journals that UConn has informed are: American Journal of Physiology - Heart & Circulatory; Antioxidants & Redox Signaling; Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry; Free Radical Biology; Free Radical Research; Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry; Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine; Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry; Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; Molecular & Cellular Cardiology; Molecular & Cellular Chemistry.

There is a suggestion that the impact of this news on resveratrol research will be minimal.

According to a report from the Associated Press (AP), Dr Nir Barzilai, whose team conducts resveratrol research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says Das is not a major player in the field.

Barzilai told AP lots of labs around the world are conducting extensive research into resveratrol, with encouraging results, and the new allegation will not make a material difference.
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Bariatric Surgery Results In Fewer Deaths And Cardiovascular Events

A study published in the January 4 issue of JAMA reveals that bariatric surgery is linked to a reduction in cardiovascular deaths and events, such as heart attack and stroke amongst obese individuals.

According to the majority of epidemiological studies, obesity is linked to increased cardiovascular events and mortality. Background information in the article states that:
"Weight loss might protect against cardiovascular events, but
solid evidence is lacking."

Between September 1987 and January 2001, Dr. Lars Sjostrom of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and his team assessed the hypothesis of bariatric surgery being linked to a reduced incidence of cardiovascular events. They examined the relationship between weight change and cardiovascular events in an ongoing (Swedish Obese Subjects [SOS]) nonrandomized, prospective, controlled study and recruited 2,010 obese participants who underwent bariatric surgery from 25 public surgical departments and 480 primary health care centers in Sweden and matched them to 2,037 obese individuals (control group) who received standard care.

The study endpoint was December 31, 2009, with a midpoint follow up of 14.7 years. All eligible participants were aged between 37 to 60 years with a body mass index of at least 34 in men and at least 38 in women. In the bariatric surgery group, 13.2% underwent a gastric bypass, 18.7% of patients underwent banding, or 68.1% vertical banded gastroplasty, whilst the control group received the common administered care under the Swedish primary health care system.

The researchers performed physical and biochemical examinations and database crosschecks at preplanned intervals. In the bariatric group they observed an average change in body weight of -23% after 2 years, -17% after 10 years, -16% after 15 years and -18% after 20 years, compared with weight changes in the control group of 0% after 2 years, 1% after 10 years and -1% after 15 and 20 years.

During follow-up, the researchers noted 49 cardiovascular deaths amongst patients in the control group compared with 28 cardiovascular deaths amongst those in the surgery group. Overall, patients in the control group suffered 234 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events compared with 199 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events amongst those in the surgery group. After the researchers adjusted for a number of variables, they discovered that bariatric surgery was linked to a lower number of fatal cardiovascular deaths and a lower incidence of total cardiovascular events.

Bariatric surgery was linked to a reduced number (22) of fatal heart attack deaths compared with 37 deaths in the control group. The evaluation suggests that bariatric surgery was associated to both, reduced fatal heart attack incidence and total heart attack incidence in addition to being linked to a reduced number of fatal stroke events and total stroke events.

The findings demonstrated no important relationship between weight change and cardiovascular events in the surgery or control group. The researchers indicate that the lack of relationship between weight loss and reduction of cardiovascular events could be linked to inadequate statistical power in detecting this relationship.

The researchers state:

"Alternatively, following relatively modest weight loss induced by bariatric surgery, there is no further risk reduction attributable to greater, subsequent weight loss. Our negative findings also emphasize the need to explore weight loss independent of effects of bariatric surgery."

They summarize:

"In conclusion, this is the first prospective, controlled intervention to our knowledge reporting that bariatric surgery is associated with reduced incidence of cardiovascular deaths and cardiovascular events. These results - together with our previously reported associations between bariatric surgery and favorable outcomes regarding long-term changes of body weight, cardiovascular risk factors, quality of life, diabetes, cancer, and mortality - demonstrate that there are many benefits to bariatric surgery and that some of these benefits are independent of the degree of the surgically induced weight loss."

Editorial: Inadequacy of BMI as an Indicator for Bariatric Surgery

In a linked editorial, Edward H. Livingston, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and Contributing Editor of JAMA, writes that:

"Although weight loss in general is desirable for obese patients, the overweight condition by itself is not informative. Physicians need to know an individual patient's risk factor profile before initiating therapy. Weight gain can result from overeating protein that may be associated with lean body mass that is not related to adverse health. If body fat is primarily truncal, being obese may be associated with little excess health risk or little subsequent risk of reduced lifespan.

Bariatric surgery does result in weight loss, but the overall benefit of improved longevity resulting from these operations remains to be definitively proven. Because the expected health benefits do not necessarily exceed the risks of weight loss operations, obese patients without other weight-related complications generally should not undergo bariatric surgery."

He concludes stating:

"In addition, given the advances in the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying obesity, increasing evidence on the relationship between obesity and outcomes, and progress and refinements in surgical interventions for obesity, perhaps it is time for the National Institutes of Health to convene another expert panel to rigorously assess the available evidence and provide updated recommendations for bariatric procedures for the treatment of obesity."
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