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Saturday, 26 November 2011

AMMOI urges Ayush dept to set up proposed NMPB in Thrissur, Kerala

The Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) has urged the union health ministry to set up the proposed National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) office in Thrissur, Kerala.
In a representation to the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homoeopathy (Ayush), the association stressed that Thrissur qualifies all the requisites that is needed for establishing the proposed NMPB office since it is considered as the ayurvedic hub of the country.
The Planning Commission has proposed to invest Rs.3 crore for setting up of a national level office for the NMPB in the 12th five year plan. At present the Board is located in the Department Ayush and was set up in November 2000 by the Government of India.
According to Dr Ramanathan Devaraj Iyer, president of AMMOI, “The industry is excited about the Government's decision to set up a separate office for NMPB, as it will help in boosting the industry by providing good quality raw materials for manufacturing ayurvedic drugs. However, we hope that the government will consider to set up this office in Trishur, since it is the ayurvedic hub of the country.”
According to industry sources, Kerala has over 850 ayurvedic drug-manufacturing units out of which around 150 units, including some of the major ayurvedic drug manufacturers in the state, are located in and around Thrissur. Dr Iyer pointed out that it is imperative that Thrissur should be considered for the centre not only because it is emerging as the largest hub but also, because Kerala is the first state to have an ayurvedic cluster in the country at KINFRA Small Industries park, Koratty.
“We understand the industry better and have a system in place that will ensure development of the industry in a more regulated way. In fact Kerala is one of the few states in the country to have largest number of units complied with good manufacturing practice (GMP) regulations,” informed Dr Iyer.
Some of the major companies based in Kerala are Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal;Vaidyaratnam Oushadasala, Ollur; Oushadhi, Thrissur; S D Pharmacy, Alleppey; Kandamkulathy Vaidyashala, Thrissur; Kerala Ayurveda Pharmacy, Aluva; KP Namboodiris; Sitaram Ayurvedic Pharmacy Ltd; SNA Oushadhasala, etc
Speaking about the benefits of having a dedicated centre for medicinal plants, Iyer informed that it is a huge pro-active step taken by the government since it will lead to upliftment of the sector.
“Availability of good quality raw-material is increasingly becoming a huge issue for the ayurvedic manufacturers today. Earlier we used to get these raw materials through collection, however due to de-forestation it has become an impossible task leading to scarcity of standard raw-materials. Government has taken a wise decision to establish this board as it will develop a trend of cultivating good quality raw materials that will help in producing high standard products,” he said, and added that it will also help the industry to establish better credibility for its products in the national as well as international market, and will open up more export opportunities.

MMOI & Kerala govt to organise Ayurveda Keralam 2012 from Feb 9 to 14, 201

Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) in collaboration with Kerala government is organising the second edition of Ayurveda Keralam 2012 in Thiruvananthapuram from February 9 to 14 next year. The aim behind organising this six-day global event is to sensitise about the recent developments in the industry, highlighting latest trends and other factors that are driving the sector.
The Department of Ayush under the Arogya scheme will be providing Rs.35 lakh for conducting this fair.
According to Dr Ramanathan Devaraj Iyer, president of AMMOI, “This funding is part of Government initiative that was undertaken during the 11th five year plan, wherein, the government allotted Rs.35 lakh to support such arogya melas across the country. Apart from that, the Government will also provide reimbursement of up to Rs.1 lakh to all the GMP certified manufactures who will be participating in it.”
The event is also supported and collaborated by Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action (CISSA), Ayurvedic Medical Association of India (AMAI) and almost 14 other medical associations from the state
Dr Iyer, informed, “Our main aim behind organising this event is to create awareness among the industry members and public about the efficacy of the Ayush products, their cost-effectiveness and availability of drugs for the prevention and treatment of various disease. But most importantly, this event acts as a platform for interaction between the stakeholders to discuss on the latest research and development activities that is being done in this sector.”
He informed that unlike the previous fairs this year there will be many additional features that is sure to grab the attention from all the participants. One of the important highlights of this event is that they have a stall which is completely dedicated to concept of Ayurveda based food along with a special segment wherein job seekers can get information on work opportunities outside the country. It also has an exhibition organised by the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) on the importance of cultivating high standard medicinal plants for high quality drugs.
Dr Iyer informed that this year there will be 300 plus stalls exhibiting at the event, which is expected to be attended by over four to five lakh people from across the world
“After the huge success of the first edition of this global Ayurveda event which was organised in 2009, we are hopeful that we will be able to attract more manufacturers and exhibitors to participate this time. Events like this is very important for the sustenance and development of the industry as its helps in recognition and boosting its market share not only within the country but also internationally,” Dr Iyer said.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Health ministry reaffirms resolve to launch rural medical course despite oppositions

Despite opposition from many sections, the Union Health Ministry has reiterated its resolve to go ahead with the proposal to introduce rural MBBS course to tide over the shortage of doctors in the rural areas.
“Though the proposal for the Bachelor of Rural Health Care (BRHC) course has been prepared in consultation with Medical Council of India (MCI), a few associations like Indian Medical Association (IMA) have not welcomed the proposal. Nonetheless, in order to address the serious concern of availability of human resources in health sector in rural areas, the government is committed to introduce the course, with inbuilt safeguards,” a senior official of the Ministry said.
The course aims to generate a cadre of healthcare providers who by the virtue of the way they are chosen, trained, deployed and supported would be motivated to live in and provide comprehensive healthcare in rural areas at sub-centre level, he said.
The proposal has been put on hold for some time now after many professional bodies raised objections. The MCI has already prepared the syllabus for the course and submitted to the Health Ministry. The MCI, on direction from the Ministry, had also held consultations with the stakeholders.
The proposed course will be of 3-years duration with 6-months of internship and is proposed to be taught in the district hospitals and is especially designed for those who have completed their schooling and passed their qualifying examination from notified rural areas of the district.
The State of Assam and Chhattisgarh have introduced the short term rural medical course in the recent past through their State Legislations. While in Assam the course is continuing, in Chhattisgarh the same has been discontinued on account of litigation.
On its part, the Health Ministry has also offered financial support to the State Governments to start minimum of 50 medical schools for launching the BRHC course during the current financial year. The final volume of financial assistance, especially in the high focuses States, will be worked out later.

Brain Drain of Doctors Costs Africa Billions of Dollars

Developed nations are costing African nations billions of dollars in a 'brain drain' as trained doctors migrate to work for higher salaries, according to a study published in a BMJ.
According to the study, South Africa and Zimbabwe have the greatest economic losses in doctors due to emigration, while Australia, Canada, the UK and the US benefit the most from the recruitment of physicians educated in other countries.
The authors, led by Edward Mills, Chair of Global Health at the University of Ottawa, are now calling for destination countries to invest in training and health systems in the source countries.
The migration of health workers from poor countries contributes to weak health systems in low-income countries and is considered a primary threat to achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals, says the study.
In 2010, the World Health Assembly adopted the first "Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel" that recognises problems associated with doctor migration and calls on wealthy countries to provide financial assistance to source countries affected by health worker losses.
The Code of Practice is particularly important for sub-Saharan Africa as there is a critical shortage of doctors in the region and it has a high prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Mills and colleagues estimated the monetary cost of educating a doctor through primary, secondary and medical school in nine sub-Saharan countries with significant HIV-prevalence. These included Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The research team added the figures together to estimate how much the origin countries paid to train doctors and how much the destination countries saved in employing them.
The authors used publicly available data to access the information including published reports on primary and secondary school spending from UNESCO.
The results show that governments spend between $21,000 (Uganda) to $59,000 (South Africa) to train doctors. The countries included in the study paid around $2 billion US dollars (USD) to train their doctors only to see them migrate to richer countries, say the authors. They add that the benefit to the UK was around $2.7 billion USD and for the United States around $846 million USD.
In an accompanying editorial, Professor James Buchan from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, says the study raises important issues about freedom of movement. He questions whether doctors and other health workers should have cost constraints placed on their mobility when other professionals such as engineers escape such restrictions.
Buchan says that while the WHO Code may help name and shame aggressive recruiters, the post recession labour market and changing health systems will also have an impact on doctors leaving developing countries. He says several destination countries are adjusting their projected need for new staff and "the UK, for one, has drastically reduced its level of active international recruitment for most types of health professionals."

Keep low-potency homeopathic remedies on hand

Homeopathic medicines are very gentle and safe medicines, especially when dosed in low potencies. While classical (traditional) homeopathy uses a constitutional remedy based on all the characteristics a person is exhibiting during an illness, many remedies are known to be indicated for specific ailments and can be given as acute type treatments for common ailments and minor injuries at home.
Although not featured in this discussion, there are also many combination type remedies available at apothecaries, health food stores and pharmacies. These can also be fast acting and beneficial. In general, combination remedies have to be dosed more frequently, and may be less effective overall than finding the single remedy most indicated by your symptoms.
The most basic home homeopathic kit that I would recommend would contain the following 13 remedies in the 30th potency:

* Aconite: Remedy for nipping colds in the bud. Useful in early stages of colds, fevers and inflammations. Suits healthy people whose complaints come on suddenly. Characteristic symptoms include extreme fear and restlessness.

* Apis: Remedy for bites and stings. Tissue is red, swollen with burning and stinging pain.

* Arnica: Remedy for accidents, shocks and physical exhaustion. Given early it will reduce swelling and bruising. Many dentists and oral surgeons recommend this before and after oral surgery for faster healing. I call it the homeopathic Advil, and think all mothers should carry a vial in their purse for bike spills, head bangs, and weekend warrior-ing.

* Belladonna: remedy for high fevers. Patient is burning, hot and red. The eyes are glassy and the pupils dilated. The onset of complaints is sudden. Patient is angry, thirsty and feels better lying down.

* Bryonia: remedy for dry, painful coughs. Symptoms are worse with the slightest movement, and the pains feel like a "stitch." The person with this cough tends to be irritable and does not like to be fussed over.

* Cantharis: Remedy for the intense pain of burns. Also good for cystitis (bladder infection) when there is burning before, during and after urination.

* Chamomilla: Remedy for teething children. Most likely the most popular remedy for those who do not ordinarily use homeopathy.This remedy is best characterized by over-sensitivity. Pains seem intolerable, as if the degree of discomfort is disproportionate to the illness or ailment. Often times the teething child who responds well to this remedy has one red cheek.

* Gelsemium: Remedy for flu, especially if there is shivering up and down the spine. The whole body, especially the head and eyelids feel very heavy.

* Ignatia: Remedy for recent bereavement, emotional shock. It is a useful remedy for the treatment of symptoms that follow acute loss, grief or disappointed love. The person who needs this remedy may not be able to accept what is happening and react with much disbelief.

* Ledum: remedy for puncture wounds and black eyes. It is used to treat deep wounds (like those caused by stepping on a nail) and bites from insects and animals. Affected area tends to be swollen, blue and cold but may feel hot to the sufferer.

* Metallicum album
(also known as arsenicum album): remedy for food poisoning. Metallicum should be taken along with any traveler leaving the country. Pains and discharges are burning but the person feels chilly. Great physical fatigue with mental restlessness are also characteristic of an ailment that will respond to this remedy.

* Pulsatilla:
a good remedy for childhood ear infections. This remedy works best when the patient has very changeable symptoms. Emotionally these patients tend to be tearful, moody and clingy. The mood of this patient improves greatly when in fresh air outside.

* Rhus Tox:
Is the number one remedy for sprains and strains. The pain is usually around the achy, sore, bruised joint. The pain is worse when the area is first moved but eases up as movement continues.

Dosing frequency depends on the situation but in general it is taken 1 pellet at a time, as often as needed up to as frequently as every 20 minutes in acute situations.
By:Blossom Bitting ND

Children Prefer Junk Food Than Fruits and Vegetables

A survey conducted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) revealed that 94% children do not eat their recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables; with 28% indulging in sweets, chocolate or crisps thrice a day or more. 50% children admitted that they drink fizzy or energy drinks during the day.
The BHF confirmed that today's youth are not on a healthy diet. They have concluded that the average child's daily diet now consists of sweets, fizzy drinks and energy drinks, crisps and a bar of chocolate.
The results have shown that the average child is now consuming up to 30-teaspoons of sugar, more than 1/3 of their daily calorie intake and more fat than is contained in a cheeseburger.
Therefore, childhood obesity seems to be growing every year.

Diet High or Low in Sodium Injurious to Heart

People with heart disease may increase their risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and dying from cardiovascular causes if they consume a diet high or low in sodium, according to researchers at the McMaster University. Average intake of salt was linked to lesser hospitalization for heart failure or fewer deaths due to heart diseases.
Scientists studied the urine samples for sodium output in about 30,000 patients with heart disease. The participants who excreted the most sodium (more than 8gm) were approximately 50-70% more likely than the group with average excretion (between 4-6gm) to experience heart attack or stroke or die from heart disease. While, the people who excreted the least sodium (less than 2gm) were 37% more likely than the average group to die of heart-related causes and 29% more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure.
The findings have been published in the 'Journal of the American Medical Association'.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Resistance to Antibiotics Is Ancient

Scientists were surprised at how fast bacteria developed resistance to antibiotic drugs when they were developed less than a century ago. Now scientists at McMaster University have found that resistance has been around for at least 30,000 years.
An interesting journal article has been published:
Vanessa M. D’Costa, Christine E. King, Lindsay Kalan, Mariya Morar, Wilson W. L. Sung, Carsten Schwarz, Duane Froese, Grant Zazula, Fabrice Calmels, Regis Debruyne, G. Brian Golding, Hendrik N. Poinar, Gerard D. Wright. Antibiotic resistance is ancient. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10388
Based on research from McMaster University
Research findings published August 31 in the science journal Nature show antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon that predates the modern clinical antibiotic use. Principal investigators for the study are Gerry Wright, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and Hendrik Poinar, McMaster evolutionary geneticist.
"Antibiotic resistance is seen as a current problem and the fact that antibiotics are becoming less effective because of resistance spreading in hospitals is a known fact," said Wright. "The big question is where does all of this resistance come from?"
After years of studying bacterial DNA extracted from soil frozen in 30,000-year-old permafrost from the Yukon Territories, the researchers were able to develop methods to isolate DNA within McMaster's Ancient DNA Centre. Using state-of-the-art molecular biological techniques, methods were developed to tease out small stretches of ancient DNA.
Researchers discovered antibiotic resistant genes existed beside genes that encoded DNA for ancient life, such as mammoths, horse and bison as well as plants only found in that locality during the last interglacial period in the Pleistocene era, at least 30,000 years ago. They focused on a specific area of antibiotic resistance to the drug vancomycin, a significant clinical problem that emerged in 1980s and continues to be associated with outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections worldwide.
"We identified that these genes were present in the permafrost at depths consistent with the age of the other DNAs, such as the mammoth. Brian Golding of McMaster's Department of Biology showed that these were not contemporary, but formed part of the same family tree. We then recreated the gene product in the lab, purified its protein and showed that it had the same activity and structure then as it does now."
This is only the second time an ancient protein has been 'revived' in a laboratory setting.
Wright said the breakthrough will have important impact on the understanding of antibiotic resistance:
"Antibiotics are part of the natural ecology of the planet so when we think that we have developed some drug that won't be susceptible to resistance or some new thing to use in medicine, we are completely kidding ourselves. These things are part of our natural world and therefore we need to be incredibly careful in how we use them. Microorganisms have figured out a way of how to get around them well before we even figured out how to use them."
Poinar says this discovery has opened doors for ancient antibiotic resistance research. "We can go back a million years in the permafrost, which is our next goal."
Source: Science Daily

Researchers find cholesterol levels elevated in toddlers taking anti-HIV drugs

Toddlers receiving anti-HIV drugs have higher cholesterol levels, on average, than do their peers who do not have HIV, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other institutions.
The researchers found that cholesterol levels tended to be highest among children who received a certain type of drugs — those known as protease inhibitors. The average cholesterol reading for this group was 169 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), compared with 152 mg/dL for children on other antiretroviral drugs and 147 mg/dL for children the same age who did not have HIV. In contrast, HIV-positive children who were not on medication had relatively low cholesterol levels, 122 mg/dL, on average.
In addition, 10.8 percent of HIV-positive toddlers — twice the proportion of toddlers without HIV — had cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL. This level is considered borderline high risk for developing heart disease.
The study appears in the journal AIDS.
The findings correspond with previous studies showing that adults and older children taking protease inhibitors also develop high cholesterol levels. However, the current study is the first to look at children between 12 to 23 months of age, according to the lead author, Rohan Hazra, MD, of the Paediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that undertook the study.
“It's likely that these children will be taking antiretroviral drugs for a lifetime,” Dr Hazra said. “Our findings suggest that it would be a good idea for young children taking protease inhibitors to have their cholesterol monitored periodically to determine whether they face any increased risk of heart disease as they grow older.”
The study was conducted in five Latin American and Caribbean countries as part of the NICHD International Site Development Initiative (NISDI), which supports research about paediatric HIV through a network of institutions.
Other authors of the study were Rachel A Cohen, MPH, and René Gonin, PhD, of Westat, Inc., in Rockville, Maryland; Jacqueline Pontes Monteiro, Ph.D., of the University of Sao Paulo, Christina B Hofer, MD, PhD, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Marinella Della Negra, MD, PhD, of the Emilio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases, all in Brazil; Noris Pavia Ruz, MD, MSc, of the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital of Mexico; and other members of the NISDI Paediatric Study Group.
To conduct the study, the researchers reviewed the medical records of 764 children, all of whom had been exposed to HIV in the womb. Of these, 83 were infected with the virus. The children also received periodic physical examinations, at which their HIV status was periodically evaluated as were their cholesterol levels and levels of triglycerides, another fatty substance in the blood. High levels of triglycerides also are associated with heart disease. Fifty-nine percent of the HIV-positive toddlers were receiving drug therapy during the time they were in the study. In 2010, the World Health Organization issued new guidelines recommending treatment for all infected children less than 2 years old.
“Because of the new guidelines, we can expect the number of HIV-infected toddlers receiving treatment for HIV to grow rapidly,” Dr Hazra said. “Future research will determine if there are any long-term cardiovascular effects from the treatment and whether interventions for reducing high cholesterol levels are necessary for this age group.”
The researchers compared measurements of cholesterol and triglycerides among four groups: HIV-negative children, HIV-positive children not receiving drug therapy, HIV-positive children receiving antiretroviral therapy with protease inhibitors, HIV-positive children receiving other types of antiretroviral therapy.
With adults and older children, cholesterol and triglyceride measurements typically are taken after a 9-12-hour fast. The toddlers in this study did not fast. However, Dr. Hazra explained, cholesterol and triglyceride readings from the group that did not have HIV provided an effective basis from which to compare cholesterol readings from the other groups.
Cholesterol levels among HIV-positive children who were not on medication tended to be below the 50th percentile level of their uninfected peers. However, cholesterol levels among children receiving medication tended to be above the 50th percentile level of their uninfected peers. Among the children on protease inhibitor therapy, the number of children with cholesterol levels above the 95th percentile was notable.
In addition, children taking protease inhibitors had the highest average triglyceride level (211.0 mg/dL). Children taking other kinds of anti-HIV drugs had an average triglyceride level of 106.8 mg/dL, and those not taking any anti-HIV drugs, an average triglyceride level of 139.4 mg/dL.
The process of having patients fast before providing blood samples also allows for more accurate readings of two major types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins, high levels of which are associated with heart disease; and high-density lipoproteins, also sometimes referred to as "good" cholesterol high levels of which are considered protective against heart disease. Because the children in the study did not fast, it was not possible to know their ratio of low-density to high-density lipoproteins, Dr Hazra explained. He added that studies of older children and adults have found that treatment with anti-HIV drugs tends to result in high levels of low-density lipoproteins, and normal or low levels of high-density lipoproteins.
The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.
NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

ICMR to begin research on the 'effect of mental health disorder and substance use on maternal and child health'

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will soon begin research on the 'Effect of mental health disorder and substance use on maternal and child health'.

The broad areas of the study include socio behavioural and mental health consequences of drug use/abuse among women of reproductive age group (15-49); socio behavioural and mental health consequences of alcohol use/abuse among women of reproductive age group (15-49); effect of post natal depression (PND) among young mothers; HIV/AIDS and common mental disorder (CMD) among women; effect of substance/alcohol use/abuse on foetal growth; and gynaecological morbidity and psychological disorder.
Senior scientists at the ICMR said that the majority of post natal depressions (PNDs) are self-limiting though, if untreated, this process of resolution may take up to 6 to 12 months. There is a "compelling body of evidence implicating PND in a range of adverse child cognitive and emotional outcomes". The detection of PND is of great public health interest not only because of its profound impact on maternal and child health but also due to the abundant evidence that simple inexpensive interventions such as non-directive counselling are of significant benefit in terms of remission of PND.
Likewise, the effect of caring for terminally ill persons on the mental health of care givers is now recognized as an important cause of common mental disorder (CMD). There are reports that women, who are often care givers for persons with HIV/AIDS, suffer considerable mental and physical health problems as a result of care-giving and that depression, in particular, is common.
About the gynaecological morbidity and psychological disorder, officials said that the gynaecological symptoms, for example vaginal discharge, are among the most commonly cited health problems in women in developing countries. Although much earlier research assumed this symptom to be indicative of reproductive tract infections, recent studies (particularly from South Asia) show considerable discordance between symptoms and actual disease. Depression typically presents in the form of medically unexplained physical symptoms. Rates of depression are high in women attending gynaecological clinics and qualitative studies demonstrate a strong relationship between vaginal discharge, weakness, psychosomatic symptoms and psychosocial stress.
Part of the etiology of ‘medically unexplained’ vaginal discharge may be that it is a somatic idiom for depression and psychosocial distress.

Music Predicts Sexual Attraction

Scholars Rentfrow and Gosling discovered that people who like blues, jazz, classical, and folk are liberal and more open to experiences.
The blog also points to a study, which found that a woman's devotion to country music diminishes her attractiveness to a potential male mate and a man's interest in country music make him less attractive to women.
But devotion to classical music and heavy metal rock has a different effect depending on if you're a man or a woman.
"A date's devotion to country music was found to diminish attraction in respondents of both genders. In contrast, devotion to classical music and to heavy metal rock proved to be gender specific," the Daily Mail quoted the study as saying.
"Fascination with heavy metal rock greatly enhanced the appeal of men, but it proved detrimental to that of women. Adoration of classical music produced the reverse consequences.
"It tended to facilitate the appeal of women, but to diminish that of men.
It also found that men were more strongly attracted to women with whom they shared musical tastes," the study added.
The study has been published in the Communication Research journal.

Vitamin D–fortified Yoghurt Improves Cholesterol Levels

In diabetics, vitamin D-fortified yoghurt improves cholesterol levels and heart disease biomarkers, reveals research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine
Not having enough vitamin D affects the inner lining of blood vessels (endothelial cells) eventually leading to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Endothelial dysfunction can be measured by the increased levels of a set of biomarkers, such as serum endothelin-1, E-Selectin and MMP-9. In a double-blind trial, researchers from Tehran investigated the effect of vitamin D on the glycemic status, cholesterol levels and endothelial biomarkers of diabetics. Patients were given either a plain yoghurt drink (Doogh) or the same drink fortified with vitamin D twice a day for 12 weeks.
Researchers from the National Research Institute and Faculty of Nutrition and Food Technology had previously shown that a vitamin D-fortified yoghurt drink could improve the glycemic status of people with type 2 diabetes. In collaboration with Tehran University of Medical Sciences their new trial showed that vitamin D improved the fasting glucose, insulin, QUICK1 (a measure of insulin resistance), and found some improvement in long term HbA1c.
Dr Neyestani explained, "The patients who had taken the vitamin D yoghurt also had improved cholesterol levels with lower total cholesterol and LDL levels and an increase in HDL. All the improvements in cholesterol seemed to be due to the reduction in insulin resistance. The biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction, serum endothelin-1, E-Selectin and MMP-9, levels were also lower for the patients taking vitamin D."
Prof Djazayery continued, "Most of our patients were deficient in vitamin D at the start of the trial but the fortified yoghurt drink elevated most of their levels to normal. However, even amongst those who took the vitamin D supplement, some people (about 5%) remained deficient at the end of the 12 weeks. These people did not show the same improvements. Nevertheless for most diabetics with vitamin D deficiency this is an easy way to improve their outcome."

Dendritic Cells Protect Against Acute Pancreatitis: Study

Dendritic cells safeguard the pancreas against acute pancreatitis - dangerous swelling and inflammation of the pancreas gland, shows study published in the November issue of journal Gastroenterology.
"Our study findings demonstrate that an abundance of dendritic cells are needed in the pancreas for normal, healthy pancreatic function, especially when there are high levels of inflammation caused by acute pancreatitis," said senior author George Miller, MD, assistant professor, Departments of Surgery and Cell Biology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "The study shows that dendritic cells can alleviate cellular stress caused by severe inflammation."
In the new study, researchers found high levels of dendritic cells in the pancreas can protect the organ from acute pancreatitis damage while low levels of dendritic cells in the pancreas are associated with exacerbated pancreas injury including pancreatic necrosis, complete pancreas cell and tissue death.
The pancreas is a vital hormone and enzyme-producing gland assisting in the human body's digestion and absorption of food. However, the gland can become inflamed leading to acute pancreatitis, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, severe cases can lead to pancreatic necrosis. Its two percent overall mortality rate jumps to 10 to 30 percent in patients with pancreatic necrosis. The disorder results in 200,000 hospital admissions and two billion dollars annually in medical expenses in the United States.
Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, developing over time. It's caused by gallstones, alcohol abuse, or medications. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and current treatments include hospitalization, medication, restricted diet or surgery. Pancreatitis can be reduced or prevented with removal of the gall bladder, limiting alcohol intake or prescription medication.
Dendritic cells in the body have emerged as important cellular mediators of inflammation. Previous studies by NYU Langone researchers and others have shown the ability of dendritic cells in the body to suppress inflammation in a number of organ-specific inflammatory conditions including liver injury. Upon exposure to inflammation, dendritic cells suppress inflammation by activating an immune response. However, the cellular regulation of acute pancreatitis was not completely understood until now.
In the new study, researchers induced mice models with acute pancreatitis. As a result, the level of dendritic cells in the pancreas increased by two-fold. This observation identified the innate immune system response of dendritic cells to the excessive swelling and inflammation of the pancreas gland. In addition, researchers tested the effects of dendritic cell depletion in acute pancreatitis mice models. Their experiments showed mice with depleted dendritic cell levels developed pancreatic necrosis and died within four days. Dendritic cell depletion was also associated with a higher infiltration of white blood cells and inflammation markers. The negative effects of dendritic cell depletion experiments show the critical protective role these cells play in pancreatic organ survival.
"We now have a greater understanding of dendritic cells, the key cellular mediators of inflammation, during dangerous acute pancreatitis. These cells play a central role in acute pancreatitis and are required for the pancreas' viability," said Dr. Miller, a member of the NYU Cancer Institute. "Our novel findings show depletion of dendritic cells result in the massive increase in severe pancreas inflammation, injury and organ destruction. We are now one step closer to more effective treatments for this harmful human condition."
The study suggests dendritic cells in the pancreas as new therapeutic targets for reducing any cellular stress on the pancreas from pancreatitis. Further research is needed to elucidate dendritic cell function and develop an immune-directed therapy against acute pancreatitis.

Weight Loss Saves Obese Kids from Future Risk of Heart Disease

Overweight or obese children who lose weight by adulthood significantly decrease their risk of heart diseases, suggests new study. Becoming a nonobese adult could reverse the adverse effects of childhood overweight or obesity.
The prevalences of overweight and obesity in children have risen alarmingly during the past three decades. Obesity in childhood is a predictor of the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. Curbing the “obesity epidemic” may prevent a shorter lifespan for today’s children.
A high body mass index (BMI) in childhood is known to be associated with a high risk of obesity in adulthood. Although childhood overweight and obesity frequently persist into adulthood, some children with a high BMI become nonobese as adults. It was not previously known if the link between childhood obesity and heart disease risk persists when overweight or obese children lose weight and become nonobese as adults.
Data from four large studies of risk factors of heart disease were analysed. These studies that tracked risk factors over two decades found that weight loss produced a dramatic reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and carotid-artery atherosclerosis in young adulthood. 6328 subjects were included in the study. The heart disease risk profile of obese or overweight children who became nonobese by young adulthood was similar to those of subjects who had been of normal weight throughout their lives. The data also showed that persons who had normal BMI in childhood but who became obese as adults had adverse risk-factor profile.
If the hypothesis is true, it definitely is a cue for physicians to rewrite the age old statement that ‘once childhood obesity is established, cardiovascular risk is also determined’. Treatment of childhood obesity may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease.
It is high time to target interventions for obesity prevention and treatment to children at high risk for becoming obese. Obesity, once established, is hard to treat.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, has a major limitation that the subjects were predominantly white. Authors caution against generalising the results to other races or ethnic groups.
Reference: Childhood Adiposity, Adult Adiposity, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors; Markus Juonala, M.D., Ph.D., Costan G. Magnussen, Ph.D., Gerald S. Berenson, M.D., Alison Venn, Ph.D., Trudy L. Burns, M.P.H., Ph.D., Matthew A. Sabin, M.D., Ph.D., Sathanur R. Srinivasan, Ph.D., Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., Patricia H. Davis, M.D., Wei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., Cong Sun, M.D., Ph.D., Michael Cheung, M.D., Ph.D., Jorma S.A. Viikari, M.D., Ph.D., Terence Dwyer, M.D., M.P.H., and Olli T. Raitakari, M.D., Ph.D.; N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1876-1885November 17, 2011.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Meditation Can 'Turn Off' Regions of the Brain

A new study finds that people skilled at meditation seem able to turn off areas of the brain associated with daydreaming and psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.
Learning more about how meditation works could help advance research into a number of diseases, according to lead author Dr. Judson Brewer, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University.
He and his colleagues used functional MRI to assess brain activity in experienced and novice meditators as they performed three different meditation techniques.
Regardless of the type of meditation, skilled meditators had decreased activity in the brain's default mode network, which has been linked to attention lapses and disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the buildup of beta amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers also found that when the default mode network (which consists of the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortex) was active, brain regions associated with self-monitoring and cognitive control were also activated in experienced meditators, but not novices.
This suggests that skilled meditators constantly monitor and suppress the emergence of "me" thoughts and mind wandering. If they become too strong, these two states of mind are associated with diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.
The experienced meditators were able to co-activate the two brain regions both during meditation and while resting, which suggests they have developed a "new" default mode that's more present-centered and less self-centered, the researchers said.
"Meditation's ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years," Brewer said in a Yale news release. "Conversely, the hallmark of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one's own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically."
The study appears Nov. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Costly U.S. health system delivers uneven care: OECD

The U.S. healthcare system is more effective at delivering high costs than quality care, according to a new study that found first-rate treatment for cancer but insufficient primary care for other ailments.
The study, released on Wednesday by the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, said Americans pay more than $7,900 per person for healthcare each year -- far more than any other OECD country -- but still die earlier than their peers in the industrialized world.
The cost of healthcare in the United States is 62 percent higher than that in Switzerland, which has a similar per capita income and also relies substantially on private health insurance.
Meanwhile, Americans receive comparatively little actual care, despite sky-high prices driven by expensive tests and procedures. They also spend more tax money on healthcare than most other countries, the study showed.
An "underdeveloped" U.S. primary care system is plagued by shortages of family doctors and high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for people with asthma, lung disease, diabetes, hypertension and other common illnesses.
U.S. survival rates are the world's highest among breast cancer patients and the second highest, after Japan, for people with colorectal cancer - due in part to effective early screening, the study showed. The study also said Americans experience generally good acute hospital care.
"It's a very, very mixed pattern," said Mark Pearson, head of the OECD health division. "You get a very high quality of care for your money in some areas. Very poor quality, compared to other countries, in other areas."
The quality and cost of the $2.6 trillion U.S. healthcare system are at the forefront of a rancorous national political debate over how to regulate and pay for treatment, particularly for the poor and elderly.
The 2010 U.S. healthcare reform law, which seeks to control costs over time by altering incentives for doctors and other providers, faces a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court, and Republican presidential candidates on the campaign trail have called for its repeal.
Federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid, the government programs for the elderly and the poor, is also a leading target of efforts to narrow the yawning U.S. fiscal deficit.
The OECD said U.S. public spending on healthcare reached 8 percent of the economy versus a 7 percent OECD average in 2009, the latest year for which comparison figures are available.
A forum of developed nations set up to foster global development, the OECD said U.S. life expectancy of 78.2 years ranked 28th - just behind Chile's and well below the average of 79.5 years among member nations.
The growth in U.S. life expectancy over the past half century is also below average, gaining only 8.3 years since 1960 compared with an 11.2-year OECD average.
The United States was ranked fourth from the bottom for premature mortality, which focuses on deaths among younger people. The measure, which reflects dangers posed by violence, accidents and environmental hazards, puts America behind all others save Hungary, Mexico and Russia.
Pearson said researchers believe national mortality rates increasingly reflect the quality of healthcare, though more than half of the equation is still believed to lie with other indicators including lifestyle and diet.
Americans have fewer doctors and hospital beds, make fewer doctor visits, go to the hospital less often and stay for shorter lengths of time than about three-quarters of the other OECD countries.
But the United States is at the front of the pack when it comes to costly medical procedures including knee replacements, MRI and CT scans and tonsillectomies.
And it is consistently at the top of the cost chart for a number of procedures including caesarean sections, which are almost twice as expensive in the United States as in Germany.
Pharmaceuticals also cost about 60 percent more than in a range of European countries.
Pearson said one reason prices are higher in the United States is that the healthcare system lacks what other countries have: an effective government mechanism that acts to keep prices down.
"That's simply not there in the U.S. system. So it's a structural defect," he said.

C-Section by Choice

Recent guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said that women should be allowed to have their baby by caesarean section, if the wanted to, and in the absence of any medical reasons for the operation.
Recent guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said that women should be allowed to have their baby by caesarean section, if the wanted to, and in the absence of any medical reasons for the operation.

Obesity Risk Directly Related to Poor Eating Habits: Study

Many Canadians are overweight or obese due to too much fast food, poor meal choices and bad eating habits. However, individuals who eat well are 20 per cent less likely to be obese, according to a study by Concordia University economists published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health."The risk of being obese or overweight is directly related to bad eating habits such as skipping meals, eating away from home, high consumption of fast and processed foods, as well as low consumption of fruit and vegetables," says first author Sunday Azagba, a PhD candidate in the Concordia Department of Economics. "In Canada, food purchased from restaurants accounts for more than 30 per cent of the average weekly food expenditure per household."
As part of their study, the researchers examined data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey to evaluate how eating habits could impact obesity trends among adults aged 18 to 65. The World Health Organization, which uses the body mass index (BMI) to measure weight-for-height, estimates that a BMI greater than or equal to 25 makes for an overweight person and a BMI greater than or equal to 30 equals obesity.
"More than 25 per cent of Canadians aged 31 to 50 exceed the safe limit of total calories derived from fats," adds co-author Mesbah Sharaf, a PhD candidate in the Concordia Department of Economics, noting advances in food engineering by producers may have contributed to the difficulty of resisting food craving and increase obesity rates.
Measures to encourage healthier eatingHigher taxes on fatty foods might encourage healthier eating, the economists suggest, yet higher prices won't sway everyone to choose a better diet. "Some people are unresponsive to taxes and such added costs to fast food would reduce their spending power without altering their eating behavior," says Azagba, noting an alternative would be for governments to subsidize less calorie-dense foods such as fruit and vegetables. "This might induce more people to substitute healthy foods for unhealthy ones."
Other measures to encourage healthier eating could entail subsidizing healthy meal plans at schools and universities, restricting junk food in educational institutions and improving physical education programs in schools. "Education programs that raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity and the health implications of food choices, as well as compulsory warning labels about the health risks on food packaging, similar to those on cigarette packages, may also help to mitigate obesity rates," says Sharaf.
It's imperative that obesity rates across Canada decline, says Azagba: "Health-care costs for caring for obese individuals are estimated to be 42 per cent greater than for people with normal weight. Research has found excessive body weight to be a risk factor for many chronic disease, such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver diseases, as well as prostate, breast and colon cancer."
Excessive body weight is an epidemic with repercussions beyond Canada. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 billion adults are overweight and that obesity accounts for more than 2.6 million deaths each year. The European Union estimates the combined direct and indirect costs of obesity to be €33 billion a year, whereas in the United States the total cost of obesity is estimated to be $139 billion annually.

Cancer Survival Rates Up

There has been remarkable improvement in the cancer survival rate with cancer victims now living 6-times longer than they did 40-years ago, according to Macmillan Cancer Support charity. Medical advances, new drugs and greater awareness of symptoms have led to an increase in the survival rate. Patients can now expect to live an average 5.8-years after diagnosis, compared with just 1-year in 1971.
The median survival time was more than 5-years for 11 out of 20 cancers (kidney, cervical, colon, larynx, melanoma, rectal, testicular, uterus, breast, Hodgkin's, kidney and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) that were studied. But for 9 other cancers (adult leukemia, brain, lung, myeloma, oesophageal, ovarian, pancreatic, stomach) the median survival time was 3-years or less.
Patients diagnosed with six cancers, including breast, colon and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, have a median survival of more than 10-years. But survival rates for lung, brain and pancreatic cancer are counted in months rather than years.
The research highlights life-expectancy after cancer diagnosis and the importance of treatment's long term impact.

Have You Heard of Sleep Texting?

We have heard of sleep walking, but what is this about sleep texting ?
The stress of daily life and excessive dependence on mobile phones has led to a condition called ‘sleep texting’ where people send unintelligible messages to their friends and family in their sleep without their knowledge.
Sleep specialist Dr. David Cunnington, of the Melbourne Sleep Disorder Center said, "We have had patients who have reported sending text messages to their friends and family while asleep.It is one of those things that happens, but it is very rare, and certainly not a common trend."
We have heard of sleep walking, but what is this about sleep texting ?
The stress of daily life and excessive dependence on mobile phones has led to a condition called ‘sleep texting’ where people send unintelligible messages to their friends and family in their sleep without their knowledge.
Sleep specialist Dr. David Cunnington, of the Melbourne Sleep Disorder Center said, "We have had patients who have reported sending text messages to their friends and family while asleep.It is one of those things that happens, but it is very rare, and certainly not a common trend."
Sleep texting could be the result of overwork and stress. With the technology of smartphones that help receive e-mails instantly, people find themselves constantly on them. Even during the sleep state, the mind is unable to let go of these devices and sometimes people end up mimicking the same activities of the day during sleep.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Living in Cities Makes You Obese, Infertile, Depressed

Living in a city can make you obese, infertile, depressed and may give you potentially life-threatening diseases like cancer, say researchers from University of Granada, Spain.
This trend can be attributed to chemical pollutants called Xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are industrial chemicals that affect human bodies in similar ways to the female hormone- estrogen. They cause excess fetal growth and have been linked to problems like obesity, hyperactivity, early puberty, infertility and cancers of the lung, breast and prostate.
Researchers discovered that babies born in cities are bigger and heavier than those born in the countryside. It is normally considered to be a good sign, but when they compared the placentas, they found that the city mums had higher levels of xenoestrogens in their blood and in that of their unborn babies. The toxic xenoestrogens have a significant effect on the development of unborn children.
Maria Marcos, who led the study, says that city air can seriously hinder normal childhood development.
Laboratory tests undertaken at the Ohio State University showed that urban pollutants may cause metabolic changes in toddlers resulting in raised blood sugar levels and increased resistance to insulin.
Thus the study implies that daily exposure to urban pollution can affect people even before they are born, leaving them prone to a lifetime of ill health.

Brahm kamal faces extinction: Researcher

The existence of Brahm kamal (saussurea obvallata), the state flower of Uttarakhand, is in crisis due to the worldwide ecological degradation and the excess exploitation of this high-Himalayan variety after the creation of the state, claimed Dr Naveen Joshi, an Ayurvedic doctor and researcher on this flower.
According to Dr Joshi, due to religious uses in the Himalayan region and accessibility of the villagers to the areas where it grows, the exploitation of this flower has increased in the recent years leading it to its possible extinction. The height of 11000 feet at which this flower starts appearing is now accessible and as a result, the specific variety of ‘Kasturi Kamal’ cannot be found,” said Dr Joshi.
He said due to its aphrodisiac and aromatic values in Tibetan medical system, the oil of Brahm Kamal is being extracted in a large quantity in Tibet.
“The handbook of traditional drugs cites 174 formulations of this rare flower in Tibet,” said Dr Joshi.
”Not only in Tibet, but in the Chinese medical system a number of perfumes are prepared out of the oil extracted from this flower, which are used for aphrodisiac purposes in that country. Due to this increased use, the Chinese are purchasing this flower from the Tibetan nomads,” said Dr Joshi.
He said in the Indian Ayurvedic system, the Himalayan flower is known as ‘Kooth’ in Ayurveda, which has described its 64 varieties in the Himalayan region. ”In Ayurveda, the uses of Brahm Kamal are meant for antiseptic medicine, medicine to be used for paralysis,
asthma, cholera and many other skin diseases,” said Dr Joshi, who has been researching on the medicinal uses of this flower for a long time.
“But the flower found in the Himalayan glaciers from Yangon in Myanmar to western China on both side of the Himalaya in 62 varieties, including all 36 varieties in the Indian Himalayas, is in a bad shape as the Tibetans are extracting its oil for medicinal uses and the Indian villagers are using it for religious purposes,” said Dr Joshi.
The special variety of this flower, named Kasturi Kamal, known in Ayurvedic as the king of Himalayan flowers, is found at heights of more than 16000 feet, especially in the areas of the Chiplakedar and Hiramani glaciers of Uttarakhand, are in danger of being extinct as the villagers are recklessly extracting these flowers in large quantities to offer it to the goddesses of Nanda and Sunanda in September every year.
”Until this tendency of indiscriminate plucking of this flower is not checked, the state flower of Uttarakhand will be in danger,”’ cautioned Dr Naveen Joshi.

HIV numbers hit new high as AIDS drugs save lives

More people than ever are living with the AIDS virus but this is largely due to better access to drugs that keep HIV patients alive and well for many years, the United Nations AIDS program (UNAIDS) said on Monday.
In its annual report on the pandemic, UNAIDS said the number of people dying of the disease fell to 1.8 million in 2010, down from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s.
UNAIDS director Michel Sidibe said the past 12 months had been a "game-changing year" in the global AIDS fight.
About 2.5 million deaths have been averted in poor and middle-income countries since 1995 due to AIDS drugs being introduced and access to them improving, according to UNAIDS.
Much of that success has come in the past two years as the numbers of people getting treatment has increased rapidly.
"We've never had a year when there has been so much science, so much leadership and such results in one year," Sidibe said in a telephone interview from UNAIDS in Geneva.
"Even in this time of public finance crises and uncertainty about funding, we're seeing results. We are seeing more countries than ever before (achieving) significant reductions in new infections and stabilizing their epidemics."
Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, more than 60 million people have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. HIV can be controlled for many years with cocktails of drugs, but there is as yet no cure.
The UNAIDS report said 34 million people around the world had HIV in 2010, up from 33.3 million in 2009.
Among the most dramatic changes was the leap in the number of people getting treatment with AIDS drugs when they need it.
Of the 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries, around 6.6 million, or 47 percent, are now receiving it, UNAIDS said, and 11 poor- and mid-income countries now have universal access to HIV treatment, with coverage of 80 percent or more.
This compares with 36 percent of the 15 million people needing treatment in 2009 who got AIDS drugs.
"In just one year we have added 1.4 million people to treatment," said Adrian Lovett of the anti-poverty campaign group ONE. He said the figures showed "huge progress" but also underlined "the major push needed now in order to turn the corner in this epidemic."
Major producers of HIV drugs include Gilead, Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Improved access to drugs from these and other manufacturers means not only that fewer people are dying of AIDS each year, UNAIDS said, but also that the risk of new HIV infections is reduced.
A series of scientific studies have shown that getting timely treatment to those with HIV can substantially cut the number of people who become newly infected with the virus.
Sidibe said this was starting to show in new case numbers.
There were 2.7 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2010, 15 percent fewer than in 2001, and 21 percent below the number of new infections at the peak of the epidemic in 1997.
"The big point for us is the number of new infections --that's where you win against the epidemic," Sidibe said.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the growing number of averted AIDS deaths was important progress. However, it added that the number of people on treatment needed to increase dramatically to reap the benefits of science.
"Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around," said MSF's Tido von Schoen-Angerer.
"Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the AIDS epidemic. But this means nothing if there is no money to make it happen."
Despite progress on HIV treatment and prevention, sub-Saharan Africa is still by far the worst hit area, accounting for 68 percent of all those living with HIV in 2010 despite its population accounting for only 12 percent of the global total.
Around 70 percent of new HIV infections in 2010, and almost half of all AIDS-related deaths, were in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sidibe said that with many international donor countries struggling with slow economic growth and high debt, the global AIDS fight had to become even more focused on high impact interventions to deliver progress in the places worst hit.
"We need to maintain our investment, but ... in a smarter way. "Then we'll see a serious decline in the epidemic," he said.

NBRA Bill may be introduced in Parliament in the winter session

The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (NBRA Bill), which could not be introduced during the last session as the corruption related issues took precedence over other issues, is likely to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament which begins today as it has found a place among the tentative list for transaction of business for the winter session.

Even though several important Bills related to pharma and health sectors are waiting in the wings to be introduced in Parliament for its final nod, only one major Bill, NBRA Bill, has found a place among the tentative list for transaction of business for the winter session. A total of 24 new bills have been listed in the tentative list for transaction for this session.

Apart from the NBRA Bill, another relatively unimportant Bill that has been included in the tentative list for introduction is the Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill, 2011 which is being introduced to provide for the establishment of an institution of national importance to be known as the Regional Centre for Bio-Technology for training and education as a category II institution under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to undertake research in the field of bio-technology and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Meanwhile, one Bill which was earlier introduced in Parliament and referred to standing committees may get the final nod during this winter session. It is the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore Bill, 2010 , which was introduced on December 7, 2010 (the Report of the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare was laid on the Table of Lok Sabha on March 4, 2011). This Bill has been listed for consideration and passing.
The NBRA Bill is being introduced to establish Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India to regulate research, import, transport, use of organism and product produced from modern biotechnology. It seeks to set up the NBRA as an independent, autonomous, statutory agency to safeguard the health and safety of the people and to regulate the safe development and deployment of biotechnology products and processes in the country. Once in place, the Authority will have overriding powers on matters related to the development and deployment of biotechnology products and processes in the country.
The chances of other bills related to pharma and health sectors making into the Parliament during this session are bleak as there are several other important Bills related to other ministries, especially the controversial Lokpal Bill, waiting to be introduced during the session.
Other important Bills waiting for introduction in Parliament include ART Bill, HIV/AIDS Bill, Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Subjects Bill, Central Drug Authority (CDA) Bill, etc.

Research Finds How the Brain Senses Nutrient Balance

Previous research has emphasized that eating a balanced diet is essential for maintaining a healthy body weight as well as appropriate arousal and energy balance. However the details about how the nutrients we consume are detected and processed in the brain remain elusive.
Now, a research study discovers intriguing new information about how dietary nutrients influence brain cells that are key regulators of energy balance in the body. The study, published by Cell Press in the November 17 issue of the journal Neuron, suggests a cellular mechanism that may allow brain cells to translate different diets into different patterns of activity.
"The nutritional composition of meals, such as the protein:carbohydrate (sugar) ratio has long been recognized to affect levels of arousal and attention," explains senior study author, Dr. Denis Burdakov, from the University of Cambridge. "However, while certain specialized neurons are known to sense individual nutrients, such as the sugar glucose, it remains unclear how typical dietary combinations of nutrients affect energy balance-regulating brain circuits."
Dr. Burdakov and colleagues studied how physiological mixtures of nutrients influenced "orexin/hypocretin" neurons, which are known to be critical regulators of wakefulness and energy balance in the body. Previous research had demonstrated that orexin/hypocretin neurons are inhibited by glucose. Surprisingly, the current study revealed that physiologically relevant mixtures of amino acids, the nutrients derived from proteins (such as egg white), stimulated and activated the orexin/hypocretin neurons. The researchers went on to show that when orexin/hypocretin neurons were simultaneously exposed to amino acids and sugars, the amino acids served to suppress the inhibitory influence of glucose.
Taken together, these results support a new and more complex nutrient-specific model for dietary regulation of orexin/hypocretin neurons. "We found that activity in the orexin/hypocretin system is regulated by macronutrient balance rather than simply by the caloric content of the diet, suggesting that the brain contains not only energy-sensing cells, but also cells that can measure dietary balance," concludes Dr Burdakov. "Our data support the idea that the orexin/hypocretin neurons are under a 'push-pull' control by sugars and proteins. Interestingly, although behavioral effects are beyond the scope of our study, this cellular model is consistent with reports that when compared with sugar-rich meals, protein-rich meals are more effective at promoting wakefulness and arousal."

Human Brain Reacts to Nudity Within 0.2 Sec

Research has shown that the human brain reacts to a naked body within 0.2 seconds. According to researchers at the University of Tampere and the Aalto University, Finland this brain reaction serves the reproductive instinct in humans. It helps people to locate potential sexual partners. It is significant in the context of mating and reproduction.
When test participants were presented with images of men and women who were fully clothed, partially clothed or naked it was seen that the brain processed pictures of naked bodies faster than clothed ones. Male test participants were found to respond more strongly to images of naked women than that of naked men. However, women were not influenced by gender in the same way.
The findings have been published in the science journal PloS ONE.

Active Sex Life is the Key to Enjoying Retired Life?

A new study has said that seniors who have an active sex life are more likely to enjoy retired life than whose sex lives are passive.
This study was conducted by the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in the United States and found that happiness after retiring from an active professional life was influenced heavily by the kind of sex life enjoyed by the seniors.
The study was a survey of 238 married people aged over 65. The results indicated that 60% of those who had sex more than once a month were “very happy” as compared to around 40% of those who had just one sexual encounter in a year.
"Highlighting the relationship between sex and happiness will help us in developing and organising specific sexual health interventions for this growing segment of our population,” lead researcher Adrianne Jackson was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.
The study also found that frequency of sexual activity influenced both general as well as marital life.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Spiritual beliefs won't halt cancer's onslaught, but science might

Years ago I worked at a company that was trialling an experimental drug for terminal lung cancer. The drug was vastly expensive and not particularly effective - less than 50 per cent of patients responded, and even among responders it extended life only by a few months. Even so, patients who had exhausted all their options - or rather, their families - were pounding at our doors to get hold of it.
In the internet age nothing stays secret for long and soon families whose relatives were dying of cancers other than those of the lung also started calling us, desperate for this drug. There was no legal way we could give them the medication but some family members persisted and would ring to harangue us on a daily basis.
One particular man struck a nerve. His wife was dying of breast cancer and had only weeks to live - a tragedy for their young family. But during one of his calls the husband revealed an even greater tragedy. This deeply religious woman's cancer had been diagnosed early, when it was treatable and potentially curable, but she had refused surgery and chemotherapy and instead decided to rely on the ''power of prayer'' to cure herself.
Prayer alone did not cure her. By the time her family decided to embrace modern medicine, it was too late.
My colleagues and I were sympathetic, but couldn't help feeling that this woman's decision was misguided, almost arrogant. Christianity has been around for 2000 years and devout Christians have been dying of cancer and other diseases for just as long. So why did this woman think her prayers would be answered, when those of others clearly hadn't been? We can't ask her to explain because she died.
What brought this to mind was the revelation in Walter Isaacson's recent biography Steve Jobs that the late co-founder of Apple delayed having surgery for his slow-growing and potentially curable pancreatic cancer for nine months, electing to rely on spiritual healing and alternative therapies to rid him of the disease. He's reported to have later regretted this decision, seeming to acknowledge that it may have cost him years, if not his life.
Jobs may have consulted a different deity to the Christian woman, but his ''treatment'' methods seem equally misguided.
It struck me as curious that a man who was a major driver of technological progress in the world, when faced with his own health challenges, rejected the advances of modern medicine in favour of herbal remedies and Eastern mysticism, which from where I sit haven't been wholly successful at ridding the world of cancer. He was obviously a man of prodigious intellect and immense self-belief. Did that self-belief ultimately prove destructive, as he succumbed to the magical thinking that he could purge his body of cancer simply through the power of the mind?
As someone who has worked at the coalface, I know only too well the deficiencies of modern healthcare. But the facts speak for themselves. At the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy was 55 years for males and 59 years for females. By 2004-06 it was 79 years and 84 years for males and females, respectively.
When we look specifically at cancer, over the period 1982-2004 five-year survival rates have risen from 41 to 58 per cent in males and from 53 to 64 per cent in females. Overall, the death rate from cancer has fallen 16 per cent.
No one is arguing that cancer treatment offers all the answers, least of all the professionals who work in the area. Patients have to endure the surgeon's scalpel, the impositions and potential complications of radiotherapy, the intractable nausea and fatigue of chemotherapy.
But the results are there for all to see: the chance of cure for some lucky individuals, the possibility of extra years or months for others.
Some cancers in particular have shown big improvements in survival: non-Hodgkin lymphoma and kidney cancer, breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Others remain stubbornly resistant to treatment, notably pancreatic cancer, Jobs's particular illness, which has a miserly 5 per cent five-year survival rate. However, that is partially because it's usually diagnosed late, when nothing much can be done. Job's cancer was picked up early, on a routine scan. So after being handed the health equivalent of winning the lottery, what does he do? He consults a spiritual guru. I don't get it.
There is no doubt that our mind, or thoughts, are powerful. Cognitive behaviour therapy, for instance, is a very effective treatment for anxiety and depression.
But to think we can cure ourselves of cancer simply through spirituality or positive thinking is dangerous and delusional. Is this the ultimate extension of the pop psychology perpetuated by Oprah and that idiotic book, The Secret - that anything is within our grasp if we just want it enough? Well, it's not, especially when it comes to our health.
That's not to say spirituality doesn't help people cope with cancer. The American Cancer Society again: ''An analysis of 43 studies on people with advanced cancer noted that those who reported spiritual well-being were able to cope more effectively with terminal illnesses and find meaning in their experience.''
Surely that's the key - to use spirituality and positive thinking not to ''order'' good health like it's on a takeaway menu but to give us the strength of character to cope with our illness, our treatment and when the time comes, they might even help us face our maker reconciled to our fate.
By:Benison O'Reilly
Source:The Sydeny Morning Herald

China’s Thirst for New Diabetes Drugs Threatens Bayer’s Lead

There isn’t a word for diabetes in traditional Chinese medicine, but Chengzhi Xia knows it when he sees it. And he says he’s seeing much more of it these days.
Xia and other healers in affluent central Shanghai describe the disease by one of its symptoms, a raging thirst. Patients often seek relief from the side effects of modern drugs -- products sometimes outdated in the West.
“Western companies should have more innovative products to give Chinese patients more choices,” Xia said in an interview in his cubicle at Lei Yun Shang Pharmacy, where apothecaries sift sharp-smelling medicinal herbs alongside modern pills.
He may soon get his wish. As diabetes rates soar in China, drugmakers including Merck & Co., Sanofi and Eli Lilly & Co. are trying to unseat Bayer AG and Novo Nordisk A/S as the biggest providers of diabetes medicines. At stake is a market that may triple to $2.1 billion in annual sales by 2019 from $700 million in 2009, says Yifi Liu, an analyst for Datamonitor in Shanghai.

“You should continue to expect double-digit growth in China’s diabetes market for many years to come,” Kare Schultz, chief operating officer of Novo Nordisk, said in a telephone interview. The Copenhagen-based drugmaker is the country’s top seller of insulin, which diabetes patients lack to convert blood sugar into energy.
Beyond insulin, the pill to beat is a 17-year-old Bayer drug called Glucobay, little used in the West but dominant in China. Glucobay sales there surged 22 percent to 1.8 billion renminbi ($283.4 million) last year, according to Bayer. The medicine, now a generic, only garnered a fraction of that, or $9.7 million in revenue, in the U.S. in the first nine months of this year, according to data research firm IMS Health.
Eating Carbs
“We’re still winning market share” with Glucobay in China, Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers said at a Nov. 15 dinner with journalists in Shanghai.
The medicine, a so-called starch blocker intended to cut blood sugar after meals, is unpopular in the U.S. because it’s not potent enough to justify its side effects, according to Tom Donner, head of the diabetes center at Johns Hopkins University. Up to half of Glucobay patients experience loose bowel movements and many complain of gas, he said in a telephone interview.
Yet it’s a logical option for a population with a diet high in carbohydrates like that of China, said Datamonitor’s Liu. Combined with Bayer’s marketing savvy, that may help explain why the drug is so famous locally it has reached the status of “pharmaceutical myth,” according to Liu.
Proud Doctor
Bayer, of Leverkusen, Germany, worked with physicians and health authorities to help draft guidelines for diabetes treatment. The company held round-table talks on diabetes with influential doctors. It also set up Bayer Diabetes Community Center houses, where people can get free drugs and prevention literature and participate in patient activities, all under the auspices of the Bayer brand name, Liu said.
Bayer also kept prices low, making Glucobay an affordable option for a disease with few insurance-reimbursed therapies.
“The loyalty to the brand is very strong,” said Liu.
Even Xia, the traditional Shanghai doctor, proudly displays his Bayer glucose meter, an instrument to measure blood-sugar levels that he calls a preventive tool “for the future.”
The same pace of social change and urban prosperity that has fuelled China’s economy in the past decade has fanned the spread of Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, as people ate fattier foods and led more sedentary lifestyles.

Long March

Type 2 diabetes linked to obesity affected almost 1 in 10 Chinese adults in 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine said in a study published last year. That would be a higher rate than in the U.S., where the National Institutes of Health estimates 8.3 percent of the population had diabetes in 2010. Another 148 million Chinese are on their way toward developing the disease.
The new generation of drugs that may relieve sufferers and supplant Glucobay has already begun its march into China.
Merck’s Januvia went on sale last year, and Novo’s Victoza became available in October. Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Byetta won approval in 2009. All three work in different ways to prompt the pancreas to make insulin, the hormone that diabetics need to break down the sugar that builds up in their blood stream.
Bayer’s dominance, while under threat, probably won’t evaporate overnight. Next-generation drugs take about five to six years to penetrate the market, delayed by requirements for clinical testing inside China, according to Novo’s Schultz. Once the medicine goes on sale, demand tends to pick up only after it’s added to insurance reimbursement lists.
Dislodging Glucobay
“The sales are insignificant until we get on the reimbursement,” Schultz said. Until then, only the fewer than 10 percent of the population willing to pay out-of-pocket will be able to buy Victoza, he said.
Sanofi introduced its Lantus insulin in 2004. The French drugmaker said local sales had doubled in the third quarter of 2011 after the medicine was included in reimbursement lists in Shanghai last December and Beijing in July.
The first new therapies are likely to be added to insurance payers’ lists by 2013, according to Datamonitor’s Liu.
By 2016, newer classes of drugs will be the fastest-growing diabetes medicines in China, estimates Vineet Kashyap, an analyst for IMARC Group in New Delhi. Medicines such as Januvia, Victoza and Byetta are likely to hold 17 percent of the market by then, approaching the one-quarter share estimated for drugs in Glucobay’s class of starch blockers, Kashyap said.
Eventually, new drugs may come from within China. At the diabetes institute of Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated 6th People’s Hospital, dozens of journal publications hang on the wall next to the office of director Weiping Jia, who led the Shanghai portion of the diabetes study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
‘Dramatic Change’
Ten years ago, Jia’s diabetes center saw about 70 patients a day. Now seven times as many travel from across the country for treatment or screening, she says. The center’s research has helped define two genetic variations that may play a stronger role in diabetes in Chinese populations than in Caucasians, according to Congrong Wang, one of the institute’s doctors.
“In the future, it’s possible that if we find a certain genetic background we can use a more individual therapy,” Wang said.
Mingzhao Xing, a professor of medicine, endocrinology and metabolism at Johns Hopkins, blames “a dramatic change in people’s lives” affecting diets, culture and medical care for the recent flare-up of one of the oldest disease known to man.
“In Chinese medicine 2,000 years ago, people knew urine could be sweet and people would be thirsty -- they knew the signs of diabetes,” Xing said. “But it wasn’t common.”
--With assistance from Daryl Loo in Beijing, Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo, Drew Armstrong in Washington and Albertina Torsoli in Paris. Editors: Marthe Fourcade, Phil Serafino.
To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Kresge in Shanghai at
Editor: Phil Serafino is responsible for this story
Source:Bloomberg Business week

Indian Education Drive Receives Backing from Shakira

Leading singer Shakira has said she hopes that her trip to India will highlight the need for improved education in the country. The singer is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
The 34-year-old singer, who flew to the nation earlier this month, visited a group of adolescent females in a residential education program in Udaipur, Rajasthan, where the literacy level is around five percent for women, to tell them the need for education.
"My interaction with these adolescent girls was energising and inspiring," Contactmusic quoted her as saying.
"It only reminded me, once again, that girls are a precious resource of intellectual and physical ability - a resource that can help to further society. They need the chance to be educated and empowered.
"For too many girls, the basic human right to education is denied. Yet, educating adolescent girls and ensuring their participation in decision-making that affects them plays a significant role in enhancing their sense of self-worth," she added.

Whole Grains can Reduce the Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer

A high fiber diet, especially rich in cereals and whole grain, can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer - thus concluded a research study published in the British Medical Journal.
Colorectal cancer, cancer that affects the large intestine, is among the most common cancers to affect people worldwide. The environment plays a role in determining the risk for colorectal cancer. This is evident from the fact that if people from areas with lesser incidence of colorectal cancer move into areas where it is more common and adopt their diet and lifestyle, the incidence of colorectal cancer in this migrant population becomes similar to that of the new place.
Diet, especially red and processed meat, and alcohol, have been shown to be associated with colorectal cancer. On the other hand, dietary fiber lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. Dietary fiber could protect against colorectal cancer by increasing bulk of stools and diluting any cancer causing substances in the digestive tract. It also enhances clearance, thus reducing the contact time of any cancer causing substances with the digestive tract. Dietary fiber gets converted into short chain fatty acids, which protect against colorectal cancer. However, which fibers are likely to provide benefit is not clearly known.

Whole grains are not only a good source of dietary fiber, but also contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytate, phenolic acids, lignans and phytoestrogens which may contribute to their anticancer effect. They also contain large amounts of folate and magnesium, which have known anticancer effects. Their ability to reduce weight and improve insulin resistance may also play a role in reducing cancer risk.
A group of reviewers analyzed 21 previously published studies with more than 14,500 cases to establish the role of dietary fiber and whole grains in preventing the development of cancer. They found that there was a 10% reduction in risk of developing colorectal cancer for each 10 g/day intake of total dietary fiber and cereal fiber and about a 20% reduction for each three servings (90 g/day) of whole grain daily. Further reductions in risk were observed with higher intake.
The study thus found that dietary fiber, cereal fiber and whole grains do reduce the risk for developing colorectal cancer.
However, fibers from other sources like fruits, vegetables and legumes do not appear to show the same beneficial effect.
Thus, a diet consisting of high fiber and whole grains does appear to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Besides, these foods also provide other health benefits. They contribute in preventing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and improve chances of survival. Thus, food rich in fiber and whole grains should definitely be a part of your daily diet.
1. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies; BMJ 2011; 343 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d6617 (Published 10 November 2011).

Roundworms Could Reveal Anti-ageing Secret

Novel research from San Francisco hints at roundworms as holding the coveted secret to anti-ageing.Biochemist Cynthia Kenyon and her team at the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging, have managed to prolong the life of roundworms six-fold by manipulating a gene they share with humans.
The tiny roundworm has an exceptionally short lifespan, elderly at 10 days and dead within two weeks.ut Kenyon's team have slowed the species' ageing process and bred roundworms to the age of 84 days - which in human terms would make them 480 years old.
"You have something you never thought was possible. These worms should be dead, a long time ago. But they're not dead. They're moving. They're young," the Daily Mail quoted Kenyon as telling ABC News.
They did it by manipulating one particular gene in its DNA, known as daf-2.
The same gene is present in humans and people who live to 100 tend to exhibit mutations to the gene, said Kenyon at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference in Edinburgh.
Mutations to the daf-2 gene would help to explain why different animals have such significantly differing lifespans.
As a result of the research, Kenyon claimed that youth-boosting drugs could be available within 15 years.

Why Do We Forget What We Just Wanted to Do?

A study by Us psychologists has thrown light on why do we forget simple tasks like not being able to recall why we entered a room, despite having a clear mission in mind only seconds before? Researchers at the University of Notre Dame claim that passing through a doorway from one room to another can, by itself, cause these memory lapses.
In several memory experiments on college students in both real and virtual environments it was found that subjects forgot more after walking through a doorway compared to moving the same distance across a single room. This suggests that doorway or 'event boundary' impedes one's ability to retrieve thoughts or decisions made in a different room.
Study author Professor Gabriel Radvansky said, "Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized."
The study is published in the 'Quaterly Journal of Experimental Psychology'.

Many Dieters Miss Goals Due to Cheap Food and Big Portions

A new research has said that if you are missing your goal of losing weight, you can actually blame it on the environment around you. The new Cornell University study found powerful environmental cues are subconsciously bending willpower every day."We're slaves to our environment," said David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology at Cornell, who co-authored the article with graduate student Carly Pacanowski.
Levitsky and Pacanowski analysed hundreds of articles on eating behaviour and found forces that individuals have no control over are heavily influencing the obesity epidemic in the United States.
These forces include cheap food prices and ease of access to unhealthy food.
Social factors such as seeing others eat are also strong stimulants, Levitsky said, and have taken on more strength in the past 50 to 60 years, as restaurant dining becomes more frequent.
The study found portion size emerged as one of the most powerful links to overeating.
"And it's not just the amount you put on your plate, but also the package size from which the food comes determines how much you will eat," Levitsky said.
The article will be published in an upcoming print edition of the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Meditation Makes Love-Making More Pleasurable For Women

A new study has revealed that meditation helps women to train their thoughts while love-making which makes them to experience more pleasure between the sheets.
Researchers from the Brown University in Rhode Island monitored the behaviour of 44 students, 30 of whom were female, and half of whom had taken a 12-week meditation course.
According to, the participants were shown a slideshow of "erotic" images and were then asked to describe their reaction as either "calm", "excited" or "aroused".
They found that the women who had been meditating were quicker at registering sexual arousal.
The study also revealed that women who meditate demonstrate increased self-compassion, less anxiety and improved attention span.
"It's interesting, the women who took longer to register feelings of sexual arousal at baseline were also the ones who were the harshest self-judgers," the Daily Mail quoted Gina Silverstein, the lead author as saying.
"'Rather than feeling it, they get caught up in their heads. So it's definitely a correlated effect," she said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Flexitarian Lifestyle Fast Catching Up Among Americans

A new dieting lifestyle is fast catching up among the Americans. US reports downward trend in the number of consumers who are reducing their consumption of animal-based products. Professionals from the Institute of Food Technologists have also found that the number of consumers who follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets in the U.S. is relatively small, Newswise reported.
These "occasional" vegetarians, who are also called flexitarians, can be categorized into two groups, semi-vegetarians and meat reducers.
While semi-vegetarians follow a vegetarian diet part of the time, but still eat some meat and dairy products, meat reducers are not trying to follow a vegetarian diet, but are just trying to reduce the amount of meat they eat.
As a result of the increasingly popular flexitarian lifestyle, large food manufacturers like Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, and others have acquired smaller vegetarian food producers or launched their own lines of vegetarian food products.
In the past, processed vegetarian burgers were bland and tough, and usually only die-hard vegetarians were the targeted consumers, but there are an increasing number of people who are interested in eating healthier or want to reduce their meat intake without sacrificing taste.
Whereas today, updates in processing technologies, food flavours and sauces are making it possible for vegetarian food manufacturers to create foods with more meat-like textures, better flavour and convenience that are more appealing to flexitarian consumers.
Up until recently, soy and wheat protein were the main proteins used in vegetarian meal options, but today with so many people having soy and wheat protein allergies, vegetable protein, from sources such as peas, are being used.
The study has been recently published in Food Technology magazine.


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