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Friday, 30 March 2012

Migraines likelier in men with impotence

Men who have been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction are 63 percent more likely to also have had a diagnosis of migraine headaches than men without the sexual disorder, according to a new study from Taiwan. Dr. Tobias Köhler of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, who specializes in male sexual function and fertility, told Reuters Health this is the first he's heard of any such relationship between migraines and impotence. "It's an interesting first recognition of the correlation, but by no means does it mean they're causally linked," said Köhler, who was not involved in the new research. It's not clear what might explain the link between erectile dysfunction (ED) and headache, although migraines have been linked to sexual dysfunction in women, the study authors note in the journal Cephalalgia. But "no study to date has ever attempted to explore the association between migraine and ED," write Dr. Chao-Yuan Huang at National Taiwan University's College of Medicine and his colleagues. It has been estimated that about 20 million men in the United States suffer from impotence. The research team collected information on 23,000 men from a national database of insurance claims in Taiwan. About 5,700 of the men had been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, which is an inability to get or keep an erection. Huang's group then compared ED patients to 17,000 similar men who had not sought treatment for impotence. Among the men with ED, 245, or 4.25 percent, had previously been diagnosed with migraine headaches. In the group without ED, 457 men, or 2.64 percent, had been diagnosed with migraines. After the researchers took into account differences between the groups, including heart disease and diabetes, they found that ED patients were 1.63 times as likely to have had a previous migraine diagnosis as men in the other group. Age seemed to make a difference. Men in their 30s with erectile dysfunction were about twice as likely as men without it to have a diagnosis of migraines. The researchers could only speculate as to why migraines are more common among men with erectile dysfunction. "As it has been demonstrated that chronic pain can cause sexual dysfunction," the authors write, "one possible explanation for the association seen in this study may be the chronic pain associated with migraine headaches." Köhler, who also represents the American Urological Association regarding sexual medicine, agreed that pain is a possible explanation. "We definitely know that pain in general is bad for erections," he said. The authors also offer up the brain chemical dopamine as a potential player, because it is thought to be involved in both migraine headaches and sexual function. In addition, there's the possibility that the findings could be due to some other factor. For instance, men who see a doctor for migraines might be more likely to seek care for erection problems too, Huang's group notes. Or it could be that the men diagnosed with migraines are taking medications that interfere with their sexual function, Köhler speculated. Dr. Ege Serefoglu at Tulane University School of Medicine said that because this is the first stab at looking at the relationship between migraine and erectile dysfunction, the findings should be interpreted cautiously. He added that the study was well conducted, but the results "need to be confirmed by other countries, other researchers, before we can really include migraine as a risk factor of erectile dysfunction or vice versa." Source:Reuters Health

'Super-Earths' in M-Dwarf Survey: Life on Other Planets?

"The Creator must have an inordinate fondness for beetles," the early 20th century biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said. "He made so many of them." If Haldane had been an astronomer, he might have said the same about the nondescript red stars known as M-dwarfs. As the name implies, they're small -- no more than half the size of our sun, at most. They're so dim that not a single one, not even the closest, is visible to the naked eye. And they vastly outnumber any other type of star in the Milky Way: our galaxy has maybe 10 billion or 20 billion sunlike G stars but is home to 150 billion M-dwarfs -- maybe more -- adding up to some 80% of the galaxy's stellar population. That's what makes a new report by a group of European astronomers so exciting. Working at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists have completed a survey of 102 M-dwarf stars and identified a total of nine "super-Earths" -- planets up to 10 times as large as Earth -- circling them. Two of the nine lie in their stars' habitable zones, the Goldilocks region where temperatures are not too hot or too cold but just right for liquid water and thus, conceivably, for the existence of life. In the case of an M-dwarf, the star's cooler, dimmer fires mean the Goldilocks zone is closer than it is around our hotter, brighter sun, but the water principle remains the same. And if you do the math for the entire galaxy, the recent survey means that tens of billions of Goldilocks planets are peppered throughout the Milky Way, with a hundred or so just in our solar system's immediate neighborhood. For planet hunters, that's an especially tantalizing prospect. Ground- and space-based telescopes have discovered many hundreds of worlds orbiting stars other than the sun -- several thousand if you include likely but unconfirmed planets found by the orbiting Kepler probe. But most of them are so far away that the prospects of actually being able to determine whether they have life are exceedingly slim, even with a new generation of giant telescopes, because the planets themselves are so dim. With so many M-dwarfs right around the cosmic corner, however, and with so many relatively small planets orbiting in their habitable zones, the job will be orders of magnitude easier. That's the good news. But there are a few caveats as well. For one thing, it's not guaranteed that a super-Earth will necessarily be all that much like the real Earth. In our solar system, there's a significant size gap between Earth and Neptune, the next biggest planet, which is four times as big and 17 times as massive as our home world. Earth is rocky, while Neptune is made mostly of water, ammonia and methane. Nobody knows where the cutoff might be between smaller, rocky worlds and larger, Neptune-like planets, but it might well be smack in the middle of the super-Earth range. A super-Earth known as GJ 1214b, discovered in another M-dwarf survey, is 2.7 times the size of our planet and is almost certainly a mini-Neptune. It's not in its star's habitable zone, but it wouldn't be a nice place to live even if it were. Another super-Earth, Kepler 10b, is 1.4 times Earth's size, and it's unquestionably rocky -- although it's far too close to its star and far too hot to be habitable. Moreover, even if a fair fraction of the nine nearby super-Earths the Europeans have discovered turn out to be rocky, there's another problem: M-dwarfs tend to be volatile beasts, with far more sunspot and flare activity than the sun has, along with greater fluctuations in brightness. It might be tough for life to arise and survive in such a hostile environment, especially since the Goldilocks planets would be closer to all the flaring than Earth is to the sun. All the same, given M-dwarfs' ridiculously high, almost beetlesque, numbers, you could cut out all the M-dwarf planets that were too big and those that were outside the stars' habitable zones and those where changes in radiation and brightness were outside acceptable ranges, and you'd still end up with a huge number of potentially life-friendly planets. And that makes them perhaps the most promising targets in the search for alien organisms that the planet-hunting community is ever likely to find. Source:Time

Insurers stepping up cover for ayurveda treatment

Riding on increasing standardisation of, and demand for, ayurvedic treatment, insurance companies are fast bringing out new offerings in this segment. While some have been offering cover under their group policies, some others have started offering the facility to individual health insurance seekers. INCREASING DEMAND “Traditionally, health insurance policies have covered only allopathy treatments and disregarded alternative forms of medicine such as ayurveda and homeopathy. However, insurers are now seeing an increasing demand for such a cover,” said Dr Renuka Kanvinde, Senior Manager - Health Insurance, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. The rising stress levels caused by lifestyle-related issues are prompting people to look at alternative forms of medicine, particularly ayurveda, she added. Chronic diseases related to spinal cord, bone disorder, arthritis and cancer are some of the common ailments that are covered under such schemes. According to Mr Sanjay Datta, Head – Underwriting and Claims, ICICI Lombard, the accreditation of bodies providing ayurvedic treatment by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) has helped bring standardisation in the industry. “Insurance companies have started realising that ayurveda is good for outpatient treatment. Close to 60 per cent of the country's spends on healthcare is on outpatient,” Mr Datta told Business Line. ICICI Lombard, which currently offers ayurveda in a few cases under its group policies, now plans to introduce it for its retail customers as add-on benefit. The product is likely to be launched in next 4-5 months. CLAIMS Though the claims are lower, at 5-10 per cent of the total under health insurance, they are likely to go up as the demand for such treatment picks up. The average claim size is Rs 35,000-50,000 a year. Bajaj Allianz, for instance, has received close to 600 claims in the last two years. “The level of awareness of such treatment is higher in the southern States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and hence the claims level as well,” Mr N. Banchur, Chief Manager, National Insurance Company, said. “The development of well defined protocols and their recognition by government recognised authorities will push the demand for such products,” said Mr Neeraj Moorjani, Head – Product and Brand Management, Chola MS. Source:The Hindu

Meditation Improves Emotional Behavior: Study

Teachers who practice meditation are more calm and compassionate than those who do not, says study. According to the study, conducted by UCSF Scientists, schoolteachers who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed - and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings. A core feature of many religions, meditation is practiced by tens of millions around the world as part of their spiritual beliefs as well as to alleviate psychological problems, improve self-awareness and to clear the mind. Previous research has linked meditation to positive changes in blood pressure, metabolism and pain, but less is known about the specific emotional changes that result from the practice. The new study was designed to create new techniques to reduce destructive emotions while improving social and emotional behaviour. "The findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behaviour," Margaret Kemeny, lead author of the study, said. "The study is particularly important because opportunities for reflection and contemplation seem to be fading in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture," she said. Altogether, 82 female schoolteachers between the ages of 25 and 60 participated in the project. Teachers were chosen because their work is stressful and because the meditation skills they learned could be immediately useful to their daily lives, possibly trickling down to benefit their students. The study arose from a meeting in 2000 between Buddhist scholars, behavioural scientists and emotion experts at the home of the Dalai Lama. There, the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, PhD, a UCSF emeritus professor and world expert in emotions, pondered the topic of emotions, leading the Dalai Lama to pose a question "In the modern world, would a secular version of Buddhist contemplation reduce harmful emotions?" From that, Ekman and Buddhist scholar Alan Wallace developed a 42-hour, eight-week training program, integrating secular meditation practices with techniques learned from the scientific study of emotion. It incorporated three categories of meditative practice - concentration practices involving sustained, focused attention on a specific mental or sensory experience, mindfulness practices involving the close examination of one's body and feelings and directive practices designed to promote empathy and compassion toward others. In the randomised, controlled trial, the schoolteachers learned to better understand the relationship between emotion and cognition, and to better recognize emotions in others and their own emotional patterns so they could better resolve difficult problems in their relationships. All the teachers were new to meditation and all were involved in an intimate relationship. "We wanted to test whether the intervention affected both personal well-being as well as behaviour that would affect the well-being of their intimate partners," Kemeny said. As a test, the teachers and their partners underwent a "marital interaction" task measuring minute changes in facial expression while they attempted to resolve a problem in their relationship. In this type of encounter, those who express certain negative facial expressions are more likely to divorce, research has shown. Some of the teachers' key facial movements during the marital interaction task changed, particularly hostile looks, which diminished. In addition, depressed mood levels dropped by more than half. In a follow-up assessment five months later, many of the positive changes remained, the authors said. "We know much less about longer-term changes that occur as a result of meditation, particularly once the 'glow' of the experience wears off. "It's important to know what they are because these changes probably play an important role in the longer-term effects of meditation on mental and physical health symptoms and conditions," she added. The study will be published in the journal Emotion. Source-ANI

Dept of Ayush to introduce Ayush-Nursing from July, 2012 in 20 Ayurvedic Colleges across country

Aiming to provide proper quality care to the patients undergoing treatment under ayurvedic system of medicine, the department of Ayush in cooperation with School of Health Sciences, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Delhi will introduce a certificate course in Ayush-Nursing (Ayurveda) for Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANM)/ General Nursing & Midwifery (GNM) from July this year across country. IGNOU is also planning to begin certificate programmes in Unani and Homoeopathy in the coming years. This programme is designed to discuss the current issues and trends in Ayurveda, to develop skills to provide nursing care to patients admitted to hospitals providing care through the ayurvedic systems of medicine, to develop understanding and depth in performing ayurvedic nursing skills and to apply knowledge of Ayurveda in diverse settings- hospital and community. “As per government of India's report on Human Resources for the health sector, there is no ANM trained nurses in Ayurveda. So the GOI along with IGNOU has decided to start this programme to provide certified quality professionals in this field. IGNOU with its large network has the capability of catering to the needs of a large number of aspirants,” said M Rajesh, regional director of IGNOU, Mumbai. Prof. Bimla Kapoor, director of School of Health Sciences, IGNOU, Delhi said that this course will be conducted by IGNOU in 20 Ayurvedic Colleges throughout the country as identified by Department of Ayush as Programme Study Centres. “In our country we have around 20 centres which includes: Government Ayurveda College, Thiruvananthapuram, Govt Ayurveda College Mysore, RA Podar Medical College (AYU), Mumbai, Ayurvedic & Unani Tibbia College, New Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi Ayurvedic College, Paprola, J B Roy Govt Ayurvedic College, West Bengal, SDM Ayurvedic College, Udupi, Govt. Ayurveda College, Nagpur, etc.. which have intake capacity to admit 30 students having ANM/GNM qualification and already in service,” she added. Prof. Kapoor added that GoI has mentioned that the required centres should have 30 candidates in service for ANM/GNM in Ayurveda Hospitals across the country for training at the Ayurveda colleges. Although this course is designed for all ANM/GNMs even then preference for the first year may be given to ANM/GNM employed in Ayurveda Hospitals in the states. In case of non-availability of ANM/GNM in the Ayurveda Hospitals then the interested ANM/GNM candidate in the allopathic hospitals can be nominated to go for training in this course. The minimum duration of the programme is for 6 months and the maximum duration is for two years, and also the students will be given hands on training by the existing Ayurveda faculty in identified centres. Source:Pharmabiz

Study supports using virtual environment to teach mind/body techniques

Participants express satisfaction with learning stress-reducing techniques via Second Life online environment A small study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers found that online virtual communities may be an effective way to train patients in meditation and other mind/body techniques. The ability to learn and practice approaches that elicit the relaxation response – a state of deep rest that has been shown to alleviate stress-related symptoms – in a virtual environment could help surmount several barriers that can restrict participation. "Our finding that a medical intervention – in this case teaching a mind/body approach that includes the relaxation response – can be delivered via a virtual environment is important because these environments are are richer and more rewarding than simply using interactive web sites," says Daniel Hoch, MD, PhD, of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH (, corresponding author of the report appearing in the open-access journal PLoS One. Hoch explains that, while practices that elicit the relaxation response have been shown to benefit individuals with a wide variety of health problems, the traditional way of teaching these practices – face-to-face meetings over several weeks – can present significant difficulties for patients, particularly those with limited mobility. In addition, individuals who are uncomfortable with group programs may prefer the anonymity of a virtual educational setting. While Internet-based programs have been used for mental health screening and support programs, Hoch and his colleagues were not aware of any prior efforts to systematically study a virtual mind-body intervention. To test whether delivering such a program through a virtual environment was feasible, the research team chose Second Life, a three-dimensional "virtual world" in which users interact by means of online avatars that can communicate basic body language and emotional states. Several patient support groups, including groups for individuals with neurologic disorders, have established Second Life communities to share information and experiences. To adapt traditional face-to-face teaching methods to a virtual environment, Hoch brought experienced Benson-Henry clinicians together with experts in applications of Second Life to design the program. Because learning to use Second Life can be challenging, the study only enrolled healthy individuals who had experience in the virtual environment. Participants enrolled in groups of up to 10 individuals and participated in twice-weekly virtual meetings led by an experienced Benson-Henry clinician. The clinician taught different methods of eliciting the relaxation response, guided participants through their practice, answered questions and discussed the participants' experiences. Group members were asked to elicit the relaxation response for at least 20 minutes each day – either in front of the computer with their avatar in the Second Life virtual teaching area or in another quiet setting – and received audio and video files and other supporting information. Before and after the eight weeks of online sessions, participants completed standard questionnaires assessing stress and other psychological symptoms. The full study was completed by 24 individuals in three groups, all receiving the same training program. Although the small size of the study made it difficult to arrive at statistically significant results, overall participants showed reductions in depression- and anxiety-related symptoms. They also reported being very satisfied with the virtual environment, and several commented that they could not have taken part without the online option. Although most admitted that a face-to-face teaching environment would be even better, they also noted that the time required to travel to in-person meetings would have presented difficulties. "Several participants have let us know, several months later, that they continue to use techniques they learned in these sessions to reduce stress in their everyday lives," Hoch says. "The Second Life technology is changing rapidly and its creators have scaled back their interest in educational and clinical activities, so we're now hoping to explore the ability to have secure patient interactions in web-browser-based environments. One of the applications that I feel holds a great deal of promise is using this approach to help patients with post-traumatic stress, so I'm hopeful we'll have the opportunity to try that in the near future." "Social networks and online communities represent an important element of support, information and motivation for many patients," adds Joseph Kvedar, MD, director of the Center for Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, and a co-author of the PLoS One report. "Connected health strategies are creating new opportunities to deliver quality care, for patients and providers to communicate effectively and help motivate and educate patients to stay on track with their treatment plan." Source:Eurekalert

Thursday, 29 March 2012

'Superinfected' Patients Give Clues to Fighting HIV

A stronger immune response occurs in women who have been infected with two different strains of HIV by two different sexual partners than in women infected with one strain of HIV, a new study finds. This type of dual infection is called HIV "superinfection." The finding that a mixture of different HIV strains may be one way to trigger a more powerful immune system antibody response may prove useful in efforts to develop an HIV vaccine in the fight against AIDS, according to the researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The researchers tracked the immune activity of 12 superinfected women in Kenya for five years. Compared to singly infected women, the superinfected women had about 70 percent more neutralizing antibodies (agents the immune system uses to fight invaders) and their antibodies' ability to neutralize HIV was almost 50 percent stronger. The study appears online March 29 in the journal PLoS Pathogens. "We found that women who had been infected twice not only had more potent antibody responses, but some of these women had 'elite' antibody activity, meaning that they had a broad and potent ability to neutralize a wide variety of strains of HIV over a sustained period of time," senior author Julie Overbaugh said in a research center news release. Only about 1 percent of HIV-infected people are "elite neutralizers," the authors noted. "Individuals who become superinfected with a second virus from a different partner represent a unique opportunity for studying the antibody response and may provide insights into the process of developing broad neutralizing antibodies that could inform HIV-vaccine design," Overbaugh said. It is estimated that more than 1.1 million Americans have HIV and someone becomes newly infected about every 10 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many experts consider an HIV vaccine to be the best way to offer long-term protection against HIV but efforts to develop such a vaccine have achieved only limited success. Source:HealthDay

Real Vitamins, Nutrients to Spice Up Meals

A new method can now allow you to spice up meals with real nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to derive direct health benefits. Srinivas Janaswamy's method involves creating crystalline-like fibres to embed nutritional supplements (nutraceuticals) and protect them from degradation. The encapsulated fibres could then be chopped into small particles. Diners could reach for the resveratrol or curcumin the same way as they might for salt or pepper, he said. "Once the nutraceutical is enveloped, it is thermally protected. Anything of interest can be used, even drug molecules, vitamins or hormones," said Janaswamy, assistant professor of food science at Purdue University, the journal Food & Function reports. Nutraceuticals such as beta-carotene, lycopene, resveratrol and vitamins are thought to play significant roles in treating or preventing disease. Resveratrol, for example, is found in red grape products, which prevents cancer and promotes cardio health. Janaswamy said many of the supplements added to foods today are not structurally stable. Heat, light, oxygen and other external factors could degrade them, according to a Purdue statement. "There are many methods for adding nutraceuticals to foods, but the one thing they all have in common is instability due to non-rigid structures," said Janaswamy. Janaswamy used iota-carrageenan, a carbohydrate, to encapsulate curcumin, the principle compound found in Indian spice turmeric, which is effective against inflammation, cancer and obesity. Source-IANS

Research Says Good Cholesterol can Help Fight Heart Disease

The role of high density lipoprotein (HDL) in protecting against heart disease has been confirmed by a University of Amsterdam cardiologist. John Kastelein made his finding while examining a patient who was brought into emergency at an Amsterdam hospital after he had collapsed with a heart attack. The 36-year-old man was tall and lean, non-smoking and physically fit. "All his coronary arteries were terribly obstructed and he got operated on right away," Sydney Morning Herald quoted Professor Kastelein, now chairman of the genetics of cardiovascular disease at the University of Amsterdam, as saying. The damage was so severe that seven of his arteries had to be bypassed. "In young people, surgeons often use the mammary artery that runs parallel to the breastbone on both sides, to patch into the heart,'' he said. "That artery never has atherosclerosis [blockages] so the surgeon was totally amazed to find both mammary artery walls had become diseased," he explained. Investigations revealed the patient, Piet Snoek, had a gene mutation that blocked all production of HDL. His case "completely convinced" Professor Kastelein that the protective effects of HDL were as significant a part of the heart disease story as the well-known damage wrought by low density lipoprotein "bad" cholesterol. He set out to demonstrate a heresy: that raising cholesterol could help the heart, provided the cholesterol in question was HDL. "Every manipulation that raises HDL in a mouse or a rabbit is beneficial," said Professor Kastelein, who will deliver a plenary address in Sydney on Monday at the International Symposium on Atherosclerosis. Fifteen years later, Snoek is still alive. Professor Kastelein and colleagues have used drugs to completely eliminate LDL from his body, compensating for the absence of HDL. "Heart disease is the result of the balance of these two," he said. Several drug companies have begun synthesising HDL - which attaches to cells that mop up LDL, steering them into the circulation - following a heart attack. "We have shown we can mobilise cholesterol from the arterial wall. We can move amounts of cholesterol that in my mind are very clinically significant," Professor Kastelein said. The next step is to use heart scans to evaluate whether this reverses artery damage. Philip Barter, of the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, said raising HDL had ''the potential to be as important on top of [cholesterol-lowering] statins as statins were on nothing". Source-ANI

Scientists create compounds that dramatically alter biological clock and lead to weight loss

The new molecules could lead to unique treatments for obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep disorders JUPITER, FL -- Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have synthesized a pair of small molecules that dramatically alter the core biological clock in animal models, highlighting the compounds' potential effectiveness in treating a remarkable range of disorders—including obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and serious sleep disorders. The study was published on March 29, 2012, in an advance, online edition of the journal Nature. The study showed that when administered in animal models the synthetic small molecules altered circadian rhythm and the pattern of core clock gene expression in the brain's hypothalamus, the site of the master cellular clock that synchronizes daily rhythms in mammals; circadian rhythms are the physiological processes that respond to a 24-hour cycle of light and dark and are present in most living things. When given to diet-induced obese mice, these same small molecules decreased obesity by reducing fat mass and markedly improving cholesterol levels and hyperglycemia—chronically high blood sugar levels that frequently lead to diabetes. "The idea behind this research is that our circadian rhythms are coupled with metabolic processes and that you can modulate them pharmacologically," said Thomas Burris, a professor at Scripps Florida who led the study. "As it turns out, the effect of that modulation is surprisingly positive—everything has been beneficial so far." Burris stressed that these compounds were first generation—the first to hit their targets in vivo with room for improvement as potential treatments. "In terms of therapeutics, this is really the first step," he said. In the new study, the team identified and tested a pair of potent synthetic compounds that activate proteins called REV-ERBα and REV-ERBβ, which play an integral role in regulating the expression of core clock proteins that drive biological rhythms in activity and metabolism. In the study, the scientists observed clear metabolic effects when the synthetic compounds were administered twice a day for 12 days. Animals displayed weight loss due to decreased fat mass with no changes in the amount of food they ate. The animals followed the human model of obesity closely, eating a standard Western diet of high fat, high sugar foods, yet still lost weight when given the compounds. In one of the study's more striking findings, both synthetic compounds were shown to reduce cholesterol production. Cholesterol in the blood of treated animal models decreased 47 percent; triglycerides in the blood decreased 12 percent. The circadian pattern of expression of a number of metabolic genes in the liver, skeletal muscle, and in fat tissue was also altered, resulting in increased energy expenditure, something of a surprise. In the study, the scientists observed a five percent increase in oxygen consumption, suggesting increased energy expenditure during the day and at night. However, these increases were not due to increased activity—the animals displayed an overall 15 percent decrease in movement during those same time periods. In addition to its impact on metabolism, the two compounds also affected the animals' activity during periods of light and darkness, suggesting that this class of compound may be useful for the treatment of sleep disorders, including the common problem of jet lag. Source:Eurekalert

World's first bedside genetic test gets green light by prestigious medical publication

Developed in Canada and conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, in partnership with Spartan Bioscience, the world's first bedside genetic test has received acknowledgment by The Lancet, the world's leading general medical journal. The article Point-of-care genetic testing for personalisation of antiplatelet treatment (RAPID GENE): a prospective, randomised, proof-of-concept trial, reports on the use of a simple cheek swab test, the Spartan RX CYP2C19, performed by nurses at the patient's bedside. This revolutionary technology allows doctors to rapidly identify patients with a genetic variant known as CYP2C19*2. Cardiac stent patients with this variant are at risk of reacting poorly to standard anti-platelet therapy with Plavix® (clopidogrel). The study demonstrated that tailored drug treatment therapy made possible by the genetic testing successfully protected all of the patients with the at-risk genetic variant from subsequent adverse events, while 30 per cent of patients treated with standard therapy did not receive adequate protection. "For the first time in medicine, nurses were able to perform DNA testing at the patient's bedside. This is a significant step towards the vision of personalized medicine," said Dr. Derek So, Interventional Cardiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI), and principal investigator of the RAPID GENE study. Source:Eurekalert

Make sure blood pressure readings are accurate

During the last few years, a number of studies have highlighted the failure of physicians to measure blood pressure correctly, which could mean patients are taking unnecessary medicines.
About a third of older people have "white coat" hypertension, which means their blood pressure goes up simply because they are stressed about visiting a doctor. This type of high blood pressure doesn't necessarily indicate an underlying medical problem.
The National Clinical Guideline Center in London found that monitoring the blood pressure of older people in their homes instead of in doctors' offices is a better option, saving a patient nearly $600 over his or her lifetime and providing a better quality of life. Patients should have their blood pressures treated only after having at least two elevated blood pressure readings at home. Physicians should alter blood pressure medications based on home measurements, not on blood pressures obtained in their offices.
Another recent study from the United Kingdom found that blood pressure should be measured in both arms. A difference of 10 to 20 mm Hg in the systolic blood pressure (the higher one) predicted an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. Thus, the first time you see your doctor and then at least every five years, have your blood pressure measured in both arms.
Blood pressure also should be measured standing as well as sitting or lying down. This is because a drop in blood pressure is very common in people who are older, have diabetes or take antihypertensive medications. This drop can occur immediately or after three to five minutes after standing, and is associated with falls and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, some older adults have hardening of the arteries, which falsely elevates blood pressures. Your physician needs to take this into account before aggressively treating your blood pressure.
Finally, studies show that the systolic blood pressure for most older people should be kept below 160 mm Hg. There is no evidence to support a benefit to a lower reading.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Half of all cancers are preventable: study

Half of all cancers could be prevented if people just adopted healthier behaviors, US scientists argued on Wednesday.
Smoking is blamed for a third of all US cancer cases and being overweight leads to another 20 percent of the deadly burden that costs the United States some $226 billion per year in health care expenses and lost productivity.
For instance, up to three quarters of US lung cancer cases could be avoided if people did not smoke, said the article in the US journal Science Translational Medicine.
Science has shown that plenty of other cancers can also be prevented, either with vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus and hepatitis, which can cause cervical and liver cancers, or by protecting against sun exposure, which can cause skin cancer.
Society as a whole must recognize the need for these changes and take seriously an attempt to instill healthier habits, said the researchers.
"It's time we made an investment in implementing what we know," said lead author Graham Colditz, an epidemiologist at the Siteman Cancer Center at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
Exercising, eating right and refraining from smoking are key ways to prevent up to half of the 577,000 deaths from cancer in the United States expected this year, a toll that is second only to heart disease, according to the study.
But a series of obstacles to change are well enshrined in the United States, which will see an estimated 1,638,910 new cancer cases diagnosed this year.
Those hurdles include skepticism that cancer can be prevented and the habit of intervening too late in life to stop or prevent cancer that has already taken root.
Also, much of the research on cancer focuses on treatment instead of prevention, and tends to take a short-term view rather than a long-term approach.
"Humans are impatient, and that human trait itself is an obstacle to cancer prevention," said the study.
Further complicating those factors are the income gaps between the upper and lower social classes that mean poor people tend to be more exposed to cancer risk factors than the wealthy.
"Pollution and crime, poor public transportation, lack of parks for play and exercise, and absence of nearby supermarkets for fresh food hinder the adoption and sustained practice of a lifestyle that minimizes the risk of cancer and other diseases," said the study.
"As in other countries, social stratification in the United States exacerbates lifestyle differences such as access to health care, especially prevention and early detection services.
"Mammograms, colon screening, diet and nutrition support, smoking cessation resources and sun protection mechanisms are simply less available to the poor."
That means any bid to overcome deep social imbalances must be supported by policy changes, said co-author Sarah Gehlert, professor of racial and ethnic diversity at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the School of Medicine.
"After working in public health for 25 years, I've learned that if we want to change health, we need to change policy," she said.
"Stricter tobacco policy is a good example. But we can't make policy change on our own. We can tell the story, but it requires a critical mass of people to talk more forcefully about the need for change."
A separate annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other major US cancer groups found that death rates from cancer in the United States continued to decline between 1.3 and 1.7 percent from 1998 to 2008.
New cancer diagnoses also decreased less than one percent per year from 1996 to 2006 and leveled off from 2006 to 2008.
However, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer also highlighted the problem of obesity-related cancers, such as colorectal cancer, as well as cancer of the kidney, esophagus, pancreas, breast and endometrial lining.
"If you watch your diet, exercise, and manage your weight, you can not only prevent your risk of getting many lethal forms of cancer, you will also increase your chances of doing well if you should get almost any form of cancer," counseled Edward Benz, president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Chilli Peppers: Heart Healthy Food

Chilli peppers have the potential to fight against cardiovascular diseases, reveals study.
The study focused on capsaicin and its fiery-hot relatives, a piquant family of substances termed "capsaicinoids." The stuff that gives cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chili peppers their heat, capsaicin already has an established role in medicine in rub-on-the-skin creams to treat arthritis and certain forms of pain. Past research suggested that spicing food with chilies can lower blood pressure in people with that condition, reduce blood cholesterol and ease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.
"Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chilies work in improving heart health," said Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D., who presented the study. "We now have a clearer and more detailed portrait of their innermost effects on genes and other mechanisms that influence cholesterol and the health of blood vessels. It is among the first research to provide that information."
The team found, for instance, that capsaicin and a close chemical relative boost heart health in two ways. They lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion in the feces. They also block action of a gene that makes arteries contract, restricting the flow of blood to the heart and other organs. The blocking action allows more blood to flow through blood vessels.
"We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health," said Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess. A good diet is a matter of balance. And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant."
Chen and his colleagues turned to hamsters for the study, animals that serve as stand-ins for humans in research that cannot be done in people. They gave the hamsters high-cholesterol diets, divided them into groups, and supplemented each group's food with either no capsaicinoids (the control group) or various amounts of capsaicinoids. The scientists then analyzed the effects.
In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called "bad" cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called "good" cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Capsaicinoids also blocked the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.

Study Says Barefoot Running may be Less Efficient

Running barefoot has no physiological benefit in efficiency, shows study.
In fact, runners used 4 percent more energy per step when running barefoot, the Discovery News reported.
"Running barefoot offers no metabolic advantage over running in lightweight, cushioned shoes," the researchers concluded in the study.
Earlier studies have suggested that running barefoot is easier as there is no added weight.
But that thinking does not take into consideration every variable, including the cushioning that shoes provide.
If people are not wearing shoes, the researchers believe, their legs absorb more of the impact of running, causing them to work harder.
"What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly," Jason R. Franz, who led the study, told The New York Times.
The "barefoot" runners in reality wore thin socks to maintain hygiene and safety, and the shod runners wore Nike Mayfly lightweight shoes.
"There is some evidence that shoe design characteristics other than mass may influence metabolic cost," the authors wrote.
"Thus, we selected this running shoe in particular because it has some cushioning but no other features such as medial posting/arch support or various other motion control elements," they added.
The study has been published in Medicine 'n' Science in Sports 'n' Exercise.

Natural Cure to Acne

Thyme (medicinal herb) could be more effective at treating skin acne than prescription creams, shows research. Further clinical testing could lead to an effective, gentler treatment for the skin condition.
Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University tested the effect of thyme, marigold and myrrh tinctures on Propionibacterium acnes – the bacterium that causes acne by infecting skin pores and forming spots, which range from white heads through to puss-filled cysts. The group found that while all the preparations were able to kill the bacterium after five minutes exposure, thyme was the most effective of the three. What's more, they discovered that thyme tincture had a greater antibacterial effect than standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide – the active ingredient in most anti-acne creams or washes.
Dr Margarita Gomez-Escalada who is leading the research project explained how tinctures are made from plants and herbs. "The plant material is steeped in alcohol for days or even weeks to prepare a tincture. This process draws out the active compounds from the plant. While thyme, marigold and myrrh are common herbal alternatives to standard antibacterial skin washes, this is the first study to demonstrate the effect they have on the bacterium that causes the infection leading to acne," she said. The researchers used a standard in vitro model that is used to test the effect of different substances applied to the skin. The effects of the tinctures were measured against an alcohol control – proving their antibacterial action was not simply due to the sterilizing effect of the alcohol they are prepared in.
These initial findings pave the way for more research into the use of tinctures as a treatment for acne. "We now need to carry out further tests in conditions that mimic more closely the skin environment and work out at the molecular level how these tinctures are working. If thyme tincture is proven to be as clinically effective as our findings suggest, it may be a natural alternative to current treatments," explained Dr Gomez-Escalada.
A herbal treatment for acne would be very welcome news - particularly for acne sufferers who experience skin sensitivity. "The problem with treatments containing benzoyl peroxide is the side-effects they are associated with," said Dr Gomez-Escalada. "A burning sensation and skin irritation are not uncommon. Herbal preparations are less harsh on the skin due to their anti-inflammatory properties while our results suggest they can be just as, if not more, effective than chemical treatments."

Study unravels health impact, interplay of diet soft drinks and overall diet

Are diet sodas good or bad for you? The jury is still out, but a new study sheds light on the impact that zero-calorie beverages may have on health, especially in the context of a person’s overall dietary habits.
For the average person, the scientific evidence can seem confusing. A number of studies have implicated diet beverage consumption as a cause of cardiovascular disease. However, others have suggested such drinks may be a viable tactic for people who are trying to lose or control their weight.
Either way, most previous research has tended to focus either on people’s drinking patterns and preferences, or their overall dietary habits – in other words, most studies have failed to tease apart how those two aspects interact to affect people’s health.
To address this problem, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined not only people’s beverage consumption patterns but also the diets of those who consume diet and sugar-sweetened beverages. The findings appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Kiyah Duffey, Ph.D., study author and research assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said that similar to previous studies, the new analysis found that people who consumed diet beverages tended to be less healthy than people who did not consume them.
“However, there was an important interplay between overall diet and what people drink,” Duffey said. “It is important that people consider the entirety of their diet before they consider switching to or adding diet beverages, because without doing so they may not realize the health benefits they were hoping to see.”
Researchers studied data collected over 20 years from more than 4,000 young adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.
In terms of eating habits, participants fell into two groups: people who ate what researchers dubbed a “prudent” diet (one with more fruit, fish, whole grains, nuts and milk) and individuals who consumed a “western” diet (which had higher amounts of fast food, meat and poultry, pizza and snacks).
People who were healthiest tended to be those who ate a prudent diet and did not consume diet beverages. They had a lower risk of high waist circumference, high triglyceride levels and metabolic syndrome (22 percent, 28 percent and 36 percent lower, respectively, than people who ate a western diet and did not drink diet beverages). But the second healthiest group was individuals with a prudent diet who also consumed diet beverages.
In contrast, individuals who consumed the western diet had increased risk of heart disease, regardless of whether or not they drank diet beverages.
The UNC researchers found that many dietary factors contributed to a person’s overall health. Without taking diet beverage consumption into account, people who ate the prudent diet had significantly better cholesterol and triglyceride profiles and significantly lower risks of hypertension and metabolic syndrome than those who ate the western diet.
Duffey added: “Our study confirms the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association and many weight-loss programs, which suggest people drink these beverages as a way to cut calories and lose or control weight, but only in the context of the whole diet.”
The new study is titled “Dietary patterns matter: diet beverages and cardiometabolic risks in the longitudinal Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study.”
Other authors were Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., W. R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at UNC and a member of the Carolina Population Center; Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; and David R. Jacobs Jr., Ph.D., Mayo Professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Taking oral glucocorticoids for 3 months or longer? Beware of osteoporosis!

Measures to help reduce the risk of bone loss and fracture must be taken for individuals on longer-term oral glucocorticoid therapy
Millions of people around the world are prescribed glucocorticoids for a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, including, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases. Although they are effective and widely used, one of the potentially serious side effects of these medications is glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a serious condition in which bones become thinner and more fragile, making them more likely to break (fracture). Glucocorticoids can cause rapid bone loss in the first three to six months of treatment, leading to an increased risk of fracture. The greatest risk is seen for vertebral fractures.
In their newly issued joint guidance paper for health professionals worldwide*, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and the European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS) have warned that specific precautions to help reduce the risk of bone loss and fracture must be taken for individuals on longer-term oral glucocorticoid therapy.
Professor Cyrus Cooper, chair of the IOF Committee of Scientific Advisors, commented, "Patients who are taking prednisolone, cortisone or other glucocorticoids for three months or longer, should be advised to take appropriate measures to help reduce the accompanying bone loss. While osteoporosis itself is painless, fractures resulting from osteoporosis can cause significant pain and lead to immobility, long-term disability and even higher risk of death."
Generally, the higher the dose and the longer the glucocorticoid treatment continues, the higher the risk of fracture. People who take glucocorticoids orally or intravenously are at greater risk than those who inhale glucocorticoids for asthma, or apply lotions to the skin. However, using a high-dose steroid inhaler in the long term may also increase the risk of fracture. Injections of glucocorticoids into joints are not thought to affect the skeleton.
In terms of age, men and women over 70, and postmenopausal women and men over 50 who have had a previous fracture or take high doses of glucocorticoid, are at greater risk than younger men and women. Nevertheless, even younger people on glucocorticoids are advised to take precautions to help reduce bone loss. Dr. Tobie de Villiers, president of the International Menopause Society (IMS), commented, "Bone loss is a concern for all women around the age of menopause, and especially for the almost 5% of postmenopausal women worldwide who take oral glucocorticoid therapy. The IMS encourages women to be aware of this potentially dangerous side-effect of therapy and to discuss what precautions can be taken with their doctors."
In their guidance paper*, the IOF and ECTS outline strategies and best practices for the management of bone health in patients on glucocorticoids.
As bone loss occurs rapidly in the first three to six months of treatment, patients should be taking preventive action from the start: they must ensure adequate amounts of calcium and protein in their diet, get enough vitamin D through safe exposure to sunlight and do regular weight-bearing exercise to keep bones and muscles active. It is also important that they stop smoking, and reduce alcohol intake. Supplement tablets, especially of vitamin D, may be prescribed as it is often difficult to ensure adequate levels through diet and sunlight.
Based on a clinical check-up and the results of bone mineral density (BMD) testing and a FRAX assessment, the doctor may decide to minimize the dose of glucocorticoids or use alternative medications. Some high risk patients may also be prescribed special bone protective therapy to reduce fracture risk. Patients on long-term glucocorticoid therapy should be monitored at appropriate intervals. This may include BMD testing, annual height measurements to check for possible height loss due to vertebral fractures, and, in patients receiving bone protective therapy, assessment to ensure compliance with therapy.
Professor Bente L. Langdahl, president of the European Calcified Tissue Society, stated, "It is important to note that no one should ever stop or reduce glucocorticoid treatment unless directed to by their doctor. At the same time, we advise that all patients and doctors be acutely aware of the need to monitor and take preventive action against bone loss as soon as glucocorticoid therapy begins."

When we test, do we stress?

A new study shows that when we test older adults in a medical or research setting, it produces a stress response that reduces their memory
Your mother had a doctor's appointment for a memory test. The results are conclusive: she presents with the first signs of Alzheimer type dementia. Now, to get to her appointment, your mother, who is no longer used to driving in town, took her car, looked for a parking space for 15 minutes, got lost in a labyrinth of one-way streets, had never used those new electronic parking meters before and is convinced that the "machine" stole her credit card number. Out of breath, she walked 20 minutes looking for the doctor's office and finally arrived late for her appointment, even though at this advanced hour of the afternoon she usually has a nap. Could all of these elements have influenced the results of her memory test?
A recent study carried out by Sonia Lupien's team at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) of the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital, in affiliation with Université de Montréal, demonstrates that the doctor's conclusions may well be somewhat hasty. The studies performed by this research group show that when faced with a stressful situation, memory, and especially among older adults, can be affected in a very rapid manner.
"We know that when a situation is new, unpredictable, uncontrollable or threatening to the ego, it leads to the production of stress hormones," explains Shireen Sindi, lead author of the study and PhD candidate at the CSHS. These same hormones also have the capacity to reach the brain and to generate acute memory disorders, especially in older adults, "We have shown that when older adults are assessed under stressful conditions, they produce stress hormones that reduce their memory," continues Ms Sindi.
Within the scope of this research project, the memory of older adults was tested in conditions similar to those in which their cognitive examinations in hospital or university settings usually take place: they had to go to an unfamiliar place that was not easily accessible and at times during the day that did not suit them. The results of Ms Sindi's study show that such conditions induce a stress response and reduce the performance of older adults on memory tests. Hence, it is possible that the conclusions of examinations carried out in a stressful context may resemble those reached in the presence of an underlying disorder, such as Alzheimer's. In fact, the results obtained are only due to the stress generated by medical settings. An interesting fact is that when these same examinations take place in conditions with which older adults are familiar, their memory performance is no different from that of young adults.
On the basis of these results, the CSHS team questioned over 150 older people, asking them to describe the situations they find stressful when they have to go to various medical environments. On March 29, during the scientific day "When we test, do we stress?", the CSHS researchers will reveal the results of this survey on stress induced in older people by medical settings and the testing environments. Moreover, renowned American and Canadian researchers will present their most recent findings on environmental factors that can affect mnesic performance in older adults. This day will also present an opportunity for clinicians and doctors working closely with older people to share their ideas on the conditions that can induce stress in the clientele and on the way these conditions can be controlled.

Too Much Sitting Can Kill You, Study Suggests

For better health, try standing up more, a new study suggests. Those who spend 11 or more hours a day sitting are 40 percent more likely to die over the next three years regardless of how physically active they are otherwise, researchers say.
Analyzing self-reported data from more than 222,000 people aged 45 and older, Australian researchers found that mortality risks spike after 11 hours of total daily sitting but are still 15 percent higher for those sitting between 8 and 11 hours compared to those sitting fewer than 4 hours per day.
"The evidence on the detrimental health effects of prolonged sitting has been building over the last few years," said study author Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney. "The study stands out because of its large number of participants and the fact that it was one of the first that was able to look at total sitting time. Most of the evidence to date had been on the health risks of prolonged television viewing."
The study is published in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Average adults spend 90 percent of their leisure time sitting down, van der Ploeg said, and fewer than half meet World Health Organization recommendations for 150 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
The data was collected as part of Australia's 45 and Up Study, a large, ongoing study of healthy aging. Strikingly, the elevated risks for dying from all causes remained even after taking into account participants' physical activity, weight and health status.
Sixty-two percent of participants said they were overweight or obese (a similar proportion to Americans), while nearly 87 percent said they were in good to excellent health, and one-quarter said they spent at least 8 hours each day sitting.
Inactive participants who sat the most had double the risk of dying within three years compared to active people who sat least, van der Ploeg said, and among physically inactive adults, those who sat the most had nearly one-third higher odds of dying than those who sat least.
Because many people must sit for long hours at their jobs, they should make sure a greater portion of their leisure time is spent standing, walking or engaging in other movement, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
"Yes, you have to work, but when you go home it's so important you don't go back to sitting in front of the computer or television," Steinbaum said. "After the 8-hour mark, the risks go up exponentially. It's really about what you're doing in your leisure time and making the decision to move."
Several workplaces in Australia are testing sit-stand work stations, van der Ploeg said -- a generally well-received initiative that may be a future option for other offices. "Try ways to break up your sitting and add in more standing or walking where possible," she suggested.
While the study uncovered an association between total sitting hours and death risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was limited by the relatively short follow-up period of less than three years, experts said, which may have obscured undiagnosed health problems among participants that could have led to earlier death. Dr. David Friedman, chief of heart failure services at North Shore Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y., said those who sit longer "tend to be sicker, have obesity issues and cardiovascular problems. Perhaps they're less ambulatory in the first place."
Van der Ploeg acknowledged these limitations and said more studies will need to replicate the findings and focus more on sitting's influence on developing conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
"Studies that measure sitting time with activity monitors instead of questionnaires will also help build the evidence base," she said. "All these studies will further inform us of the exact relationship between sitting and health conditions, which ultimately will result in public health recommendations like we already have for physical activity."
Source:Health Day

Antioxidant Levels Higher in Popcorn Than Fruits and Vegetables

Scientists have revealed that popcorn contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called "polyphenols" than fruits and vegetables.
Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.
In another surprising finding, the researchers discovered that the hulls of the popcorn-the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth-actually has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.
"Those hulls deserve more respect. They are nutritional gold nuggets," said Vinson, who is with the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
Vinson concluded, "Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It's the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called "whole grain," this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way."
However, Vinson cautioned that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image.
Cook it in a potful of oil, slather on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters, pour on the salt; eat it as "kettle corn" cooked in oil and sugar - and popcorn can become a nutritional nightmare loaded with fat and calories.
"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course. Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself," said Vinson.
Likewise, Vinson pointed out that popcorn cannot replace fresh fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, but are missing from popcorn.
Vinson explained that the same concentration principle applies to dried fruit versus regular fruit, giving dried fruit a polyphenol edge.
Previous studies found low concentrations of free polyphenols in popcorn, but Vinson's team did the first study to calculate total polyphenols in popcorn. The amounts of these antioxidants were much higher than previously believed, he said.
The levels of polyphenols rivaled those in nuts and were up to 15 times greater than whole-grain tortilla chips.
The new study found that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving.
In addition, one serving of popcorn would provide 13 percent of an average intake of polyphenols a day per person in the U.S. Fruits provide 255 mg per day of polyphenols and vegetables provide 218 mg per day to the average U.S. diet.
The scientists presented their findings at the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, being held this week.

Study: Exercise can lead to female orgasm, sexual pleasure

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Findings from a first-of-its-kind study by Indiana University researchers confirm anecdotal evidence that exercise -- absent sex or fantasies -- can lead to female orgasm.

While the findings are new, reports of this phenomenon, sometimes called "coregasm" because of its association with exercises for core abdominal muscles, have circulated in the media for years, said Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In addition to being a researcher, Herbenick is a widely read advice columnist and book author.
"The most common exercises associated with exercise-induced orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing poles or ropes, biking/spinning and weight lifting," Herbenick said. "These data are interesting because they suggest that orgasm is not necessarily a sexual event, and they may also teach us more about the bodily processes underlying women's experiences of orgasm."
The findings are published in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the area of sex therapy and sexual health. Co-author is J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., professor at the IU School of Medicine and Center for Sexual Health Promotion affiliate.
The results are based on surveys administered online to 124 women who reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms (EIO) and 246 women who experienced exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP). The women ranged in age from 18 to 63. Most were in a relationship or married, and about 69 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.
Here are some key findings:
About 40 percent of women who had experienced EIO and EISP had done so on more than 10 occasions.
Most of the women in the EIO group reported feeling some degree of self-consciousness when exercising in public places, with about 20 percent reporting they could not control their experience.
Most women reporting EIO said they were not fantasizing sexually or thinking about anyone they were attracted to during their experiences.
Diverse types of physical exercise were associated with EIO and EISP. Of the EIO group, 51.4 percent reported experiencing an orgasm in connection with abdominal exercises within the previous 90 days. Others reported experiencing orgasm in connection to such exercises as weight lifting (26.5 percent), yoga (20 percent), bicycling (15.8), running (13.2 percent) and walking/hiking (9.6 percent).
In open-ended responses, ab exercises were particularly associated with the "captain's chair," which consists of a rack with padded arm rests and back support that allows the legs to hang free. The goal is to repeatedly lift the knees toward the chest or toward a 90-degree angle with the body.
Herbenick said that the mechanisms behind exercise-induced orgasm and exercise-induced sexual pleasure remain unclear and, in future research, they hope to learn more about triggers for both. She also said that study findings may help women who experience EIO/EISP feel more normal about their experiences or put them into context.
Herbenick cautioned that it is not yet known whether such exercises can improve women's sexual experiences.
"It may be that exercise -- which is already known to have significant benefits to health and well-being -- has the potential to enhance women's sexual lives as well."
The study did not determine how common it is for women to experience exercise-induced orgasm or exercise-induced sexual pleasure. But the authors note that it took only five weeks to recruit the 370 women who experienced the phenomenon, suggesting it is not rare.
"Magazines and blogs have long highlighted cases of what they sometimes call 'coregasms,'" Herbenick said. "But aside from early reports by Kinsey and colleagues, this is an area of women's sexual health research that has been largely ignored over the past six decades."

Researchers unravel genetic mechanism of fatty liver disease in obese children

Obese youths with particular genetic variants may be more prone to fatty liver disease, a leading cause of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in industrialized countries, according to new findings by Yale School of Medicine researchers.
The study, which focused on three ethnic groups, is published in the March issue of the journal Hepatology.
Led by Nicola Santoro, M.D., associate research scientist in the Department of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, the authors measured the hepatic, or liver, fat content of children using magnetic resonance imaging. The study included 181 Caucasian, 139 African-American and 135 Hispanic children who were, on average, age 13.
"We observed that a common genetic variant known as Patatin-like phospholipase domain containing protein-3 (PNPLA3) working with a regulatory protein called glucokinase (GCKR), was associated with increased triglycerides, very low-density lipoproteins levels, and fatty liver," said Santoro.
Santoro explained that his observations could help unravel the genetic mechanisms that contribute to liver fat metabolism. "This may drive the decisions about future drug targets to treat hypertriglyceridemia and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease," he said.
Childhood obesity is a global health concern. Experts say nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is now the leading cause of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in industrialized countries.
"Our findings confirm that obese youths with genetic variants in the GCKR and PNPLA3 genes may be more susceptible to fatty liver disease," said Santoro, who is cautious about automatically extending this observation to the overall population.
"Our data refer to a population of obese children and adolescents," he said. "I think that further studies in a larger sample size involving lean subjects and adults may help to further define in more details these associations."

A Sickly System: The Ethics of Modern Medicine Distribution

Medicine is a resource, and, like many resources, its fair distribution according to need has not quite been figured out by our ostensibly sophisticated society. Systems of supply and demand send goods around the world from their sources to wherever they can earn the most profit—medicine is no different. The result of this arrangement is that those with the least purchasing power are left out of access to resources. When the resource in question is medicine, and the outcome of its uneven distribution is widespread death and suffering caused by curable diseases, the ethics of our current system are called into serious doubt.
The World Health Organization (WHO) publishes a list of the bare necessities of a health care system, the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. According to the WHO, “essential medicines are medicines that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population. They are selected with regard to disease prevalence, safety, efficacy, and comparative cost-effectiveness.” According to the WHO, the last time this survey was conducted in 1997, over two billion people lacked access to essential medicines. Sufferers of diseases known to be treatable, such as malaria, sleeping sickness, and HIV, are denied the drugs that would vastly improve their quality of life. Meanwhile, cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation and liposuction are widespread in the affluent world; even the emotional ups and downs of peaceful and prosperous life are the target of substantial medical spending.
The reasons for the current situation are purely economical—pharmaceutical companies do not profit from catering to the poorest people and they do not recoup their investment in R&D for medicines that would benefit the poorest; doctors generally treat those who can reward them monetarily for it. Worldwide health care is implicitly run by economics and selfishness.
Take, for example, opiate painkillers. Morphine, the active chemical in opium, and its derivatives are the most effective painkillers known to medicine. Morphine and Codeine are on the WHO’s Essential Medicines list. The world is currently in the midst of a massive opiate shortage, estimated by the International Council on Security and Development to be equivalent to 10,000 tons of opium per year. 10,000 tons is 20,000,000 lbs, or 9,100,000,000 grams of raw opium, or 1,200,000,000 grams of morphine (typical morphine content is 10-16%). A typical dose is 15 milligrams. The world is short about 80 billion dosage units of morphine in a typical year.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the most widely prescribed drug is Vicodin, an opiate painkiller prescribed 128.2 million times in 2009, according to Forbes. Why does the U.S. have such wide access to this drug? Do Americans suffer more pain than people in other countries? I doubt it—we live comfortable and painless lives compared to the vast majority of the world’s people. In fact, Americans seem to be using a great deal of their opiate painkillers recreationally—an estimated 20% of us have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is unconscionable both that we have this preferred status in regard to medicine access and that we add insult to injury by using such necessary medicines to obtain a cheap high. Health care is broken—not only in this country, but worldwide.
However, this is not to say that the outlook is entirely bleak. There is reason to believe that the situation is improving and no reasons but cynical generalizations about human nature that we will not eventually figure out a fair and ethical worldwide health care system. The 20th century was a time of great triumphs in medicine. Diseases like smallpox and polio were beaten back, and advances in sanitation have led to reduced rates of infectious disease and mortality. The infant mortality rate declined from 152 to 47 per 1,000 births from 1950 to 2008, according to a UN report. The percentage of people with access to essential medicines increased from 50% to 65% over the 20 years from 1977 to 1997. These are promising statistics, and the work done by organizations like the WHO and Doctors Without Borders continues to improve the state of global medicine. I have a lot of hope for the future, but I also know that we have a very long way to go.

By Devin van Dyke
Source:The Bi-CollegeNews

AMAI assails Kerala govt over gross neglect of Ayurveda in state budget 2012-13

The Ayurveda Medical Association of India (AMAI) has assailed the Kerala government over its gross neglect of Ayurveda in the state budget 2012 – 13, presented by the state finance minister in the assembly recently.
In a representation submitted to the finance minister K M Mani, Dr Rejith Anand, the secretary of AMAI said the minister has not provided any worthwhile schemes or reforms in the budget with a view to enhance the areas of health, diseases and treatment. Criticizing the budget, the association secretary said the state finance minister has thwarted the over all development of the country’s traditional system with his budget.
He said that certain schemes are there for infrastructure development in view of global marketing, which will help only for commercial transactions. As far as the poor people are concerned, who are the beneficiaries of the system, the budget gives only disappointment, Dr Rejith complained.
Castigating the government for not putting up special schemes for launching more number of Ayurveda dispensaries, AMAI has requested the government to review their demands in order to boost the Ayurveda system of Kerala. The traditional physicians reminded the minister that in Kerala 211 village punchayaths have no Ayurveda dispensaries. Despite a host of memorandums to the government, no fruitful step was taken by the former or the present government.
However, the Association has hailed the government’s decision regarding allocation of Rs.5 crore for setting up a Global Ayurveda Village in Thiruvananthapuram. It welcomed the decision to sanction Rs.1 crore for the establishment of an Ayurveda University in the state. It had earlier put up a demand to the government to create a separate department for Ayush in the state, but it was also rejected by the government, the association said.
In the budget the finance minister has reduced the tax rate of certain ayurvedic products by including them into the category of cosmetics and included a scheme to grow herbal plants on the river sides, those reforms were welcomed by the Ayurveda medical association.

DBT, ICMR to carve a roadmap for stem cell research soon

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) would soon come out with a roadmap for stem cell research and therapy, revealed Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, former president of India during the inauguration of an international conference on stem cell and regenerative medicine at Indian School of Business here in Hyderabad.
Dr Kalam said the DBT and ICMR had been working together in promoting stem cell research in the country. “A roadmap is being evolved for stem cell research through three areas namely adult stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells and embryonic stem cells,” he said.
With the growing burden of incurable diseases increasing every passing day, the need for stem cell research has gained significance in the recent days. Though there has been intense research going on in this area a concrete roadmap has not been developed so far.
Expressing his happiness over the development of stem cell research roadmap, Dr Kalam said, “The experts group involved in the project promised me that they will submit the roadmap in a month’s time for development, production and clinical application of stem cells.”
Advocating a mission mode operation on stem cell research the former president said one should not make many small sub-critical efforts, but aim at a few focused diseases with full investment of financial and human resources.
Research and Development (R&D) in human stem cells are expected to revolutionize present day medical treatment options for hard-to-treat diseases such as type-I diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Stephen Minger, global head (R&D), GE Healthcare, UK, was honoured with the Federation of Asian Biotech Association award for his contribution to stem cell research.
Senior scientist Dr Seyed E Hasnain, Prof Ajit Rangnekar, dean of ISB, major industries minister Dr J Geeta Reddy and others spoke on the occasion.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Smokers could be more prone to schizophrenia

Schizophrenia has long been known to be hereditary. However, as a melting pot of disorders with different genetic causes is concealed behind manifestations of schizophrenia, research has still not been able to identify the main gene responsible to this day.
In order to study the genetic background of schizophrenia, the frequency of particular risk genes between healthy and ill people has mostly been compared until now. Pharmacopyschologist Professor Boris Quednow from University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zurich, and Professor Georg Winterer's workgroup at the University of Cologne have now adopted a novel approach. Using electroencephalography (EEG), the scientists studied the processing of simple acoustic stimuli (a sequence of similar clicks). When processing a particular stimulus, healthy people suppress the processing of other stimuli that are irrelevant to the task at hand. Patients with schizophrenia exhibit deficits in this kind of stimulus filtering and thus their brains are probably inundated with too much information. As psychiatrically healthy people also filter stimuli with varying degrees of efficiency, individual stimulus processing can be associated with particular genes.
Smokers process stimuli less effectively
In a large-scale study involving over 1,800 healthy participants from the general population, Boris Quednow and Georg Winterer examined how far acoustic stimulus filtering is connected with a known risk gene for schizophrenia: the so-called "transcription factor 4" gene (TCF4). TCF4 is a protein that plays a key role in early brain development. As patients with schizophrenia often smoke, the scientists also studied the smoking habits of the test subjects.
The data collected shows that psychiatrically healthy carriers of the TCF4 gene also filter stimuli less effectively – like people who suffer from schizophrenia. It turned out that primarily smokers who carry the risk gene display a less effective filtering of acoustic impressions. This effect was all the more pronounced the more the people smoked. Non-smoking carriers of the risk gene, however, did not process stimuli much worse. "Smoking alters the impact of the TCF4 gene on acoustic stimulus filtering," says Boris Quednow, explaining this kind of gene-environment interaction. "Therefore, smoking might also increase the impact of particular genes on the risk of schizophrenia." The results could also be significant for predicting schizophrenic disorders and for new treatment approaches, says Quednow and concludes: "Smoking should also be considered as an important cofactor for the risk of schizophrenia in future studies." A combination of genetic (e.g. TCF4), electrophysiological (stimulus filtering) and demographic (smoking) factors could help diagnose the disorder more rapidly or also define new, genetically more uniform patient subgroups.

Study suggests new way to treat chronic pain

Gene that encodes crucial pain receptor may be key to individualizing therapy for major health problem
Nearly one in five people suffers from the insidious and often devastating problem of chronic pain.
That the problem persists, and is growing, is striking given the many breakthroughs in understanding the basic biology of pain over the past two decades. A major challenge for treating chronic pain is to understand why certain people develop pain while others, with apparently similar disorders or injuries, do not. An equally important challenge is to develop individualized therapies that will be effective in specific patient populations.
Research published online in Nature Medicine points to solutions to both challenges. A research team led by Prof. Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal and Prof. Michael Salter of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, has identified a major gene affecting chronic pain sensitivity. The findings also suggest a new approach to individualizing treatment of chronic pain.
The gene that the researchers identified encodes the pain receptor known as P2X7. Specifically, the scientists discovered that a single amino-acid change in P2X7 controls sensitivity to the two main causes of chronic pain: inflammation and nerve damage.
The amino-acid change is known to affect only one function of P2X7 receptors – the forming of pores that permit large molecules to pass through – while leaving intact the other function, of allowing much tinier ions to flow through. Using a peptide that targets pore formation only, the researchers found that pain behaviours were dramatically reduced.
The scientists then examined genetic differences among human patients suffering from two distinct types of persistent pain: chronic post-mastectomy pain and osteoarthritis. In both cases, they found that individuals with genetically inherited low pore formation in P2X7 receptors experienced lower pain levels.
"Our findings indicate that it may be possible to develop drugs that block pores in this crucial receptor, while leaving its other function intact – thereby killing pain while minimizing side effects," said Prof. Mogil, E.P. Taylor Professor of Pain Research in McGill's Department of Psychology.
Prof. Salter, Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine at SickKids, said these discoveries "point toward a new strategy for individualizing the treatment of chronic pain." Scientists from the U.S. and Israel also contributed to the study.

Foods to Beat High Blood Pressure

Raisins and soy help prevent high blood pressure, show studies.
Munching on a handful of raisins three times a day helped people with slightly elevated blood pressure lower their numbers after several weeks, said one of the studies presented at the American College of Cardiology conference.
The randomized clinical trial -- believed to be the first formal measurement of raisins' benefits on blood pressure -- involved 46 people with a condition known as pre-hypertension.
That means their blood pressure ranged from 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) to 139 millimeters of mercury over 89 mm Hg, or just higher than normal.
Compared to people who snacked on cookies or crackers, the raisin-eating group saw significant drops in blood pressure, in some cases lowering the top number, or systolic pressure, by 10.2, or seven percent over the 12-week study.
Researchers are not sure exactly why the raisins work so well, but they think it may have to do with the high level of potassium in the shriveled, dried grapes.
"Raisins are packed with potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure," said lead investigator Harold Bays, medical director of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center.
"They are also a good source of antioxidant dietary fiber that may favorably alter the biochemistry of blood vessels, causing them to be less stiff, which in turn, may reduce blood pressure."
A handful of about 60 raisins contains a gram of fiber and 212 milligrams of potassium. Raisins are often recommended as part of a high-fiber, low-fat diet to reduce blood pressure.
A second study on soy showed that daily intake of foods like tofu, peanuts and green tea helped lower blood pressure in more than 5,100 white and African American people aged 18-30.
The study began in 1985 and was based on self-reported data about the food the participants ate.
Those who consumed about 2.5 or more milligrams of isoflavones, a key component in soy, per day had significantly lower systolic blood pressure -- an average of 5.5 mmHg lower -- than those who ate less than 0.33 mg per day.
That daily level should not be hard for most people to reach -- a glass of soy milk contains about 22 mg of isoflavones, or nearly 10 times the amount needed to see an effect, according to the research.
"Our results strongly suggest a blood pressure benefit for moderate amounts of dietary isoflavone intake in young black and white adults," said Safiya Richardson, a graduating medical student at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and the study's lead investigator.
"Our study is the first to show a benefit in African Americans, who have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, with an earlier onset and more severe end-organ damage."
Eating soy could be a way for people with slightly elevated blood pressure to avoid progressing to high blood pressure, and potentially ward off the need to take medications, she added.
"Any dietary or lifestyle modification people can easily make that doesn't require a daily medication is exciting, especially considering recent figures estimating that only about one third of American hypertensives have their blood pressure under control."
Soy and the isoflavones it contains work by boosting enzymes that create nitric oxide, which in turns helps to widen blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
"Based on our results and those of previous studies, we would encourage the average adult to consider including moderate amounts of soy products in a healthy, well-balanced diet to reduce the chances of developing high blood pressure," Richardson said.

Antibiotic Resistance Could Bring ‘End of Modern Medicine’

As bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics, common infections could become deadly, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.
Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen, Chan said antibiotic resistance could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”
“We are losing our first-line antimicrobials,” she said Wednesday in her keynote address at the conference on combating antimicrobial resistance. “Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.”
Chan said hospitals have become “hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures.”
Indeed, diseases that were once curable, such as tuberculosis, are becoming harder and more expensive to treat.
Chan said treatment of multidrug resistant tuberculosis was “extremely complicated, typically requiring two years of medication with toxic and expensive medicines, some of which are in constant short supply. Even with the best of care, only slightly more than 50 percent of these patients will be cured.”
Antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella, E. coli, and gonorrhea have also been discovered.
“Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era. In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry,” said Chan. “A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”
The dearth of effective antibiotics could also make surgical procedures and certain cancer treatments risky or even impossible, Chan said.
“Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake,” she said.
The development of new antibiotics now could help stave off catastrophe later. But few drug makers are willing to invest in drugs designed for short term use.
“It’s simply not profitable for them,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “If you create a new drug to reduce cholesterol, people will be taking that drug every day for the rest of their lives. But you only take antibiotics for a week or maybe 10 days.”
Schaffner likened the dilemma to Ford releasing a car that could only be driven if every other vehicle wasn’t working.
“While we try to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to create new antibiotics, we have to be very prudent in their use,” he said.
But there are ways to limit the potential for bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance: Use antibiotics appropriately and only when needed; follow treatment correctly; and restrict the use of antibiotics in food production to therapeutic purposes.
“At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential antimicrobials, essential cures for many millions of people, to become the next global crisis,” said Chan.
Source:abc news

Marma points in Ayurveda

Marmas are vital centres or subtle energy fields on the body. They are storehouses of life breath pranic energy. A thrust or unusual throbbing on these parts can cause serious problems and eventually death. Marmas are not structural organs like liver, heart or lungs, but are sensitive areas located at the junctions of the muscles, bones, and nerves. The knowledge of marma is available in Ayurveda as well as in Kerala's martial art form, Kalaripayattu. An injury to the marma because of external causes like falls and accidents can harm the body, but can be treated with medicines, therapies, and manipulation techniques and with counter thrust on other body parts.
Protect marma points
Modern science hasn't realised the concept of marma yet, hence the diagnosis of a marma injury is never done by clinical investigations. Most marma damages are difficult to diagnose, but a marma expert can identify injuries through signs and symptoms on the body. For example if the Urvi marma on the thigh is hurt, the patient may get continuous belching. A special kind of pressure on the thigh can stop this belching. No medicines are required. This shows the connection between different body parts and energy transmission. In a fatal head injury, symptoms of vomiting and giddiness can be successfully treated with special oil therapy on the head. Legs are paralysed in a marma injury at the base of the spine.
Marma therapy in disease
The Marma technique can heal many diseases. There are 107 marma points on the body and these are similar to meridians in acupuncture and acupressure. The pressure applied on marma points is good in healing hypertension, neurological problems, stomach aches, gastritis and so on. To cite an example, pressure on a particular point under the feet helps to control migraine. Marma therapy is a combination of medicines, fracture management and manipulation. Marma points must be protected and the body itself has a natural mechanism to protect them. Marma points are there in animals and birds too, but in them, they are even more sensitive than in humans. A lot of practical expertise and skill is necessary for using this knowledge effectively.

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