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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Zinc Supplements are Good for Diabetes Mellitus

Studies have revealed that zinc is an essential element in diabetes mellitus. Zinc is normally bound to insulin and improves the glycaemic control in diabetes type I and diabetes typeII. It is involved in sugar metabolism and act as natural catalyst for insulin secretion. In this way, zinc helps in harnessing diabetes.
Jayawardena et al published a study evaluating the effects of zinc in diabetics in the journal of ‘Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome’.
The experts stated that zinc resulted in a significant decrease in the systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Zinc supplements are effective in controlling glucose levels in the blood and promoting favorable lipid parameters.
The body requirement of zinc increases with the advancement in age. By boosting the intake of vitamins and zinc, you can improve your insulin level and keep a check on the blood glucose. The common dietary sources of zinc are fish, chicken, egg yolks, cheese, whole grains, etc
The researchers suggested that if you happen to suffer from diabetes, consult your physician and take zinc supplements. Your nutritionist might recommend you a zinc-rich diet.
However, zinc supplements are in no way a replacement to ant –diabetic drugs. They should be taken in conjunction to these drugs.
Reference:  Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis; Jayawardena et al; Diabetology and Metabolic Syndrome 2012 


Study Says Confusion can be Good for Learning

Confusion when learning can be beneficial if it is properly induced, reveals study.
This finding is contrary to common presumption that confidence and certainty are preferred over uncertainty and bewilderment when it comes to learning complex information.
D'Mello, whose research areas include artificial intelligence, human-computer interface and the learning sciences, collaborated with Art Graesser of the University of Memphis, the journal Learning and Instruction reports.
They found that by strategically inducing confusion on difficult conceptual topics, people actually learned more effectively and were able to apply their knowledge to new problems, according to a Notre Dame statement.
Subjects learned scientific reasoning concepts through interactions with computer animated agents playing the roles of a tutor and a peer learner.
The animated agents and the subject held interactive conversations where they discussed the merits of sample research studies that were flawed in one critical aspect.
For example, one hypothetical case study touted the merits of a diet pill, but was flawed. Confusion was induced by manipulating the information the subjects received so that the animated agents' sometimes disagreed with each other and expressed contradictory or incorrect information.
The agents then asked subjects to decide which opinion had more scientific merit, thereby putting the subject in the hot-spot of having to make a decision with incomplete and sometimes contradictory information.
In addition to the confusion and uncertainty triggered by the contradictions, subjects who were confused scored higher on a difficult post-test and could more successfully identify flaws in new case studies.
"We have been investigating links between emotions and learning for almost a decade, and find that confusion can be beneficial to learning if appropriately regulated because it can cause learners to process the material more deeply in order to resolve their confusion," D'Mello says.



Low steroid levels linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Low levels of a naturally occurring steroid are associated with an increased risk of heart and blood-vessel disease in elderly men, a new study finds. The results will be presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.
The steroid in question is dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, which is secreted by the adrenal gland and circulates in blood mainly in a sulfated form, DHEA-S. In other tissues, DHEA-S is converted into the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
Previous, smaller studies found an association between low DHEA-S levels and heart and blood-vessel, or cardiovascular, disease, although their results were inconclusive. At this time, while we know that DHEA production decreases with age, the exact health effects of its decline are unclear.
In this large-scale study, investigators study found that elderly men with the lowest DHEA-S blood levels were significantly more likely than those with higher concentrations to develop cardiovascular-disease events within five years. The increased risk persisted even after controlling for other influences, indicating that low DHEA-S levels are independently associated with a greater risk of disease.
"Our findings may be the result of DHEA-S being protective, or that lower DHEA-S level is a marker for poor general health," said study lead author Åsa Tivesten, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. "More research is needed to understand underlying mechanisms and to evaluate the potential benefits of hormone replacement."
Investigators used an advanced laboratory technique to isolate, identify, and measure DHEA-S levels in the blood. During the five-year follow-up, they used nationwide medical registries to document 485 cases of cardiovascular disease among the study participants.
Patients included 2,416 men between the ages of 69 and 81 years. All were participants in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Sweden study, which is a long-term project designed to examine risk factors for a number of diseases.
According to Tivesten, it is important to note that this study's findings only indicate that low DHEA-S levels may be related to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. "We cannot say that DHEA-S is protective because we have only studied an association," she said.
"A potential practical implication is that established cardiovascular risk factors perhaps should be assessed and treated more aggressively in men with lower DHEA-S levels. However, this must be evaluated in future studies; today, DHEA-S level is not part of cardiovascular-risk assessment."
Source:The Endocrine Society

Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging, study finds

A new study finds that a drop in testosterone levels over time is more likely to result from a man's behavioral and health changes than by aging. The study results will be presented Monday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.
"Declining testosterone levels are not an inevitable part of the aging process, as many people think," said study co-author Gary Wittert, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia. "Testosterone changes are largely explained by smoking behavior and changes in health status, particularly obesity and depression."
Many older men have low levels of the sex hormone testosterone, but the cause is not known. Few population-based studies have tracked changes in testosterone levels among the same men over time, as their study did, Wittert said.
In this study, supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the authors analyzed testosterone measurements in more than 1,500 men who had measurements taken at two clinic visits five years apart. All blood testosterone samples underwent testing at the same time for each time point, according to Wittert.
After the researchers excluded from the analysis any men who had abnormal lab values or who were taking medications or had medical conditions known to affect hormones, they included 1,382 men in the data analysis. Men ranged in age from 35 to 80 years, with an average age of 54.
On average, testosterone levels did not decline significantly over five years; rather, they decreased less than 1 percent each year, the authors reported. However, when the investigators analyzed the data by subgroups, they found that certain factors were linked to lower testosterone levels at five years than at the beginning of the study.
"Men who had declines in testosterone were more likely to be those who became obese, had stopped smoking or were depressed at either clinic visit," Wittert said. "While stopping smoking may be a cause of a slight decrease in testosterone, the benefit of quitting smoking is huge."
Past research has linked depression and low testosterone. This hormone is important for many bodily functions, including maintaining a healthy body composition, fertility and sex drive. "It is critical that doctors understand that declining testosterone levels are not a natural part of aging and that they are most likely due to health-related behaviors or health status itself," he said.
Unmarried men in the study had greater testosterone reductions than did married men. Wittert attributed this finding to past research showing that married men tend to be healthier and happier than unmarried men. "Also, regular sexual activity tends to increase testosterone," he explained.
Source:The Endocrine Society

Long-term testosterone treatment for men results in reduced weight and waist size

In testosterone-deficient men, major weight loss was an added benefit of testosterone replacement therapy for most of the patients who participated in a new study. The results will be presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.
"The substantial weight loss found in our study—an average of 36 pounds—was a surprise," said the study's lead author, Farid Saad, PhD, of Berlin-headquartered Bayer Pharma.
Although prior studies using testosterone therapy in testosterone-deficient men consistently show changes in body composition, such as increased lean mass and decreased fat mass, Saad said the net effect on weight seemed unchanged in those studies. However, Saad said their study, which took place in Germany, had a longer follow-up by at least two years and used long-acting injections of testosterone.
The investigators restored testosterone to normal levels in 255 testosterone-deficient ("hypogonadal") men, whose average age was nearly 61 (range, 38 to 83 years). Treatment lasted for up to five years, with injections given at day 1, after 6 weeks and then every 12 weeks after that. Patients did not follow a controlled diet or standard exercise program but received advice to improve their lifestyle habits.
On average, the men weighed 236 pounds before beginning testosterone treatment and 200 pounds after treatment (106.2 versus 90 kilograms), the authors reported. Weight loss was reportedly continuous, with an average reduction in body weight ranging from about 4 percent after one year of treatment to more than 13 percent after five years.
In addition, men lost an average of nearly 3.5 inches (8.8 centimeters) around their waist.
"These results are encouraging because studies show that weight loss drugs and lifestyle interventions have been largely unsuccessful, especially long term," Saad said.
Testosterone deficiency becomes more common with age. Saad said many middle-aged men with testosterone deficiency are obese, explaining that there is "a vicious circle" in obesity and low testosterone.
"Obesity is associated with reduced testosterone, and low testosterone induces weight gain," Saad wrote in the study abstract.
Testosterone replacement is the standard treatment for most men with symptomatic testosterone deficiency, according to The Endocrine Society guidelines.
In the study by Saad and colleagues, treatment used a slow-release, injectable form of the male hormone (testosterone undecanoate) that is not yet available in the United States. It is marketed in Europe, Latin America, Australia and parts of Asia and Africa.
Source:The Endocrine Society

Friday, 22 June 2012

Diabetes Drug may Kill Cancer Stem Cells: Study

Antidiabetic drug metformin may effectively kill cancer stem cells, say scientists.
In addition, when metformin was combined with a standard chemotherapy used for pancreatic cancer, the combination treatment was able to efficiently eradicate both cancer stem cells and more differentiated cancer cells, which form the bulk of the tumor, according to data presented by Christopher Heeschen, M.D., Ph.D., at the American Association for Cancer Research''s Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference, held in Lake Tahoe, Nev., from June 18-21, 2012. Heeschen is professor for experimental medicine at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, Spain.
Most clinical trials of pancreatic cancer conducted during the last 15 years have failed to show marked improvement in median survival, suggesting that the selected approaches were not sufficient for several reasons, according to Heeschen. In recent years, researchers have identified cancer stem cells which, as opposed to the cancer cells that make up the bulk of the tumor, are a small subset of cells that are resistant to conventional therapy.
"Therefore, efficiently targeting these cells will be crucial for achieving higher cure rates in patients with pancreatic cancer," he said. "Our newly emerging data now indicate that metformin, a widely used and well-tolerated drug for the treatment of diabetes, is capable of efficiently eliminating these cells."
Specifically, the researchers found that metformin-pretreated cancer stem cells were particularly sensitive to alterations to their metabolism through the activation of AMPK. In fact, metformin treatment resulted in the death of cancer stem cells. In contrast, treatment of more differentiated cancer cells with metformin only arrested the cells'' growth.
"As the cancer stem cells represent the root of pancreatic cancer, their extinction by reprogramming their metabolism with metformin in combination with the stalling of the proliferation of more differentiated cells should result in tumor regression and long-term, progression-free survival," Heeschen said.
The researchers generated data to support this idea when they treated immunocompromised mice implanted with a diverse set of patient-derived tumors with a combination of metformin and gemcitabine, the standard chemotherapeutic treatment for pancreatic cancer. They found that the treatment resulted in reduced tumor burden and the prevention of relapse as compared with treatment with either drug alone.
"Intriguingly, in all tumors treated with metformin to date, relapse of disease was efficiently prevented and there were no noticeable adverse effects," Heeschen said.
He believes that testing metformin in pancreatic cancer is ready for clinical trials. The pancreatic research team is currently awaiting results of a study that tested metformin as a maintenance treatment in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Although the rationale for this study was based on retrospective data, Heeschen said given these new results he hopes that this treatment strategy would be highly efficacious.
"Pending the results of this study, an important aspect for the future will be to investigate if all patients respond to metformin or whether some patients, due to distinct genetic alterations, may not respond to this metabolic reprogramming," he said.


Tracking stem cells in the body

Researchers at the University have developed new methods to track stem cells and further understanding of what happens to them after they have been in the body for a significant period of time.
Stem cells are used to treat conditions such as leukaemia and have the potential to treat many more diseases and disorders where patient survival is reliant on organ and tissue donation. Currently, however, it is difficult for medics to establish whether stem cells have survived following transplantation in the body and if they reach their target site or migrate elsewhere.In order to track stem cells in the body scientists use superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) to ‘label’ the cells before they are administered into the patient.  These particles can be picked up by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and help medics establish if the stem cells reach their intended target.  Conditions within the body’s cells, however, can lead to the degradation of SPIONs and reduce the ability of MRI scans to pick up on their signal in the long-term.Scientists at Liverpool are developing methods to visualise SPIONs in the cells before they enter the body to learn where the particles are going within the stem cell and help predict how they might perform once they are inside the body over a long period of time.  They are using a photothermal technique, a unique optical imaging system, to improve SPION labelling so that particles survive for longer and have minimal impact on the function of the transplanted cells.
Effective monitoring:Dr Lara Bogart, from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology, said: “Stem cells have the potential to replace and repair damaged tissue to preclude the need for a patient to wait for an organ or tissue transplant.  Research is ongoing into how it could be used to treat a wide variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and type one diabetes.“In order to fully explore this potential, however, more technological developments are needed to understand how stem cells behave in the body after transplantation.  If we can’t monitor stem cells effectively, it can have serious implications for patient health. Studies have already shown that if cells migrate to the circulatory system, beyond their target organ or tissue site, then it can cause inflammation in the body.“Labelling stem cells is hugely valuable to tracking their movements in the body, but we need to know more about how the particles used interact with stem cells.  Using new imaging systems we can work out their precise location in the cell and how they behave over time.  We hope to use this information to improve understanding of the MRI signal that tracks SPIONs once stem cells have been transplanted.”
Source:University of Liverpool

Research: Many programs to help diabetics manage their health do work

A new study has found that programs aimed at helping people prevent or manage diabetes are most successful if they are directed at the patient or the health care system. Programs aimed at physicians were only successful for patients with poorer diabetes control.
Such interventions also work best for diabetics in poorer health than those who are managing their illness well, the study found.
The study--a comprehensive review of 142 clinical trials involving more than 123,000 patients– by Dr. Andrea Tricco, a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital, appears in The Lancet.
Dr. Tricco said that despite evidence showing improved clinical outcomes for diabetics who received various preventive and therapeutic interventions, many patients do not receive them.
"The gap between ideal and actual care is not surprising in view of the complex nature of diabetes management, often needing coordinated services of primary care physicians, allied health practitioners and subspecialists," she said. "Moreover, it is a challenge to change patient behavior and encourage healthy lifestyles."
She said that with the increasing prevalence of diabetes and the burgeoning cost of managing patients with this disease, improving the efficiency of diabetes care is an important goal.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, more than nine million Canadians have diabetes or prediabetes. By 2020, it's estimated that diabetes will cost the Canadian healthcare system $16.9 billion a year.
"Although clinicians, managers and policy makers expend significant time and resources attempting to optimize care for patients with diabetes, the optimum approach to improving diabetes care and outcomes remains uncertain," Dr. Tricco said.
Her review of clinical trials found:
  • For patients with high levels of HbA1c – the average blood sugar level over three months – strategies that target the health care system are quite effective, especially team changes and case management. High levels of HbA1c indicate patients are in poorer health than those with low levels. Team changes programs are those that add another health care worker to a patient's team, such as an endocrinologist or nutritionist. Case management programs require someone other than the primary physician, such as a nurse, to coordinate care in a clinic. The review found these strategies had a positive impact on cardiovascular risk factors such as LDL cholesterol and blood pressure after 12 months
  • Strategies that target patients are effective regardless of their HbA1c levels
  • Strategies aimed at physicians are not as effective, especially not for people who are already controlling their diabetes well
Dr. Tricco said the findings of the study could help physicians decide which patients would benefit from which programs. Those who are not controlling their diabetes well, for example, might benefit from some of the more costly programs, such as team changes and case management. Yet that might not be a good use of resources for patients who are managing their illness well.
Overall, the use of quality improvement strategies—clinical reminders, clinical education. patient behavior, patient education-- resulted in a 0.37 per cent reduction of HbA1c after an average follow-up of one year. The meta-analysis did not find a statistically significant improvement in the use of statins (drugs that reduce cholesterol), hypertension reduction or smoking cessation. The interventions did play an important role in increasing the use of aspirin and antihypertensive medication over a median follow-up of 13 months. They also were associated with an increase in retinopathy (inflammation of the eye), screening, screening for renal disease and foot screening over a median follow-up of 12 months.
Dr. Tricco said wide implementation of such strategies could have important benefits, as research has shown that a 1 per cent reduction in mean HbA1c results in 21 per cent fewer deaths, 14 per cent fewer myocardial infarctions and a 37 per cent decrease in microvascular complications.
"Further research is needed to identify which interventions and combinations of QI strategies will optimally improve important outcomes in patients with diabetes at an acceptable cost to aid health-system planning."

Parents' work-life stress hinders healthy eating

In a tight economy, with fewer jobs, many people end up working harder and sacrificing more to stay employed. A new study finds that one of those sacrifices is sometimes their own and their family's nutrition.
While prior studies have implicated working mothers in providing less healthy family food environments, this is one of the first studies of family nutrition to look at fathers — in particular a population of urban fathers, who face higher rates of unemployment and under-employment. According to lead author Katherine Bauer, an assistant professor of public health and researcher at Temple's Center for Obesity Research and Education, the study is also one of the first to look at work/family conflict for both parents and to focus on families of adolescents.
Of the 3,709 parents of adolescents surveyed by the researchers — many of whom were from a racial or ethnic minority group and lower income — only 64 percent of fathers and 46 percent of mothers were employed full-time.
Mothers employed full-time "reported fewer family meals, more frequent fast food for family meals, less frequent encouragement of their adolescents' healthful eating, lower fruit and vegetable intake and less time spent on food preparation, compared to part-time and not-employed mothers," said Bauer. Meanwhile, the only difference among fathers by employment status was that full-time employed fathers reported significantly fewer hours of food preparation than part-time or not working fathers. However, regardless of employment status, mothers were spending more hours on food preparation than fathers.
When looking at the role of work-life stress, for both moms and dads greater stress levels appeared to interfere with healthful eating opportunities. For example, parents experiencing high levels of work-life stress reported having one and a half fewer family meals per week and eating half a serving less of fruits and vegetables per day, as compared to parents with low levels of work-life stress.
Bauer noted that over time these differences can add up to have a big impact on parents' and children's health. She's careful to note, however, that the burden of this problem not fall solely on mothers, and instead be approached holistically by the whole family, the community and society.
"Our work underlined the need to take into account the competing pressures that so many families — especially those that are lower income — are experiencing," said Bauer. "There's a great need to help parents find realistic and sustainable ways to feed their families more healthfully while taking into consideration all of the stresses on parents these days."
She suggests that spouses, partners and teenagers chip in to help with grocery shopping and preparing and serving healthy family meals.
"We need to teach kids how to cook," said Bauer. "We know if kids have cooking skills and good eating habits, not only will they be healthier, but as adults they'll put those skills to use to feed their own children more healthfully."
"Parental employment and work-family stress: Associations with family food environments" was recently published online in Social Science and Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

'Trust' hormone oxytocin found at heart of rare genetic disorder

-The hormone oxytocin - often referred to as the "trust" hormone or "love hormone" for its role in stimulating emotional responses - plays an important role in Williams syndrome (WS), according to a study published June 12, 2012, in PLoS One.
The study, a collaboration between scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of Utah, found that people with WS flushed with the hormones oxytocin and arginine vasopressin (AVP) when exposed to emotional triggers.
The findings may help in understanding human emotional and behavioral systems and lead to new treatments for devastating illnesses such as WS, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and possibly even autism.
"Williams syndrome results from a very clear genetic deletion, allowing us to explore the genetic and neuronal basis of social behavior," says Ursula Bellugi, the director of Salk's Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience and a co-author on the paper. "This study provides us with crucial information about genes and brain regions involved in the control of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that may play important roles in other disorders."
WS arises from a faulty recombination event during the development of sperm or egg cells. As a result, virtually everyone with WS has exactly the same set of genes missing (25 to 28 genes are missing from one of two copies of chromosome 7). There also are rare cases of individuals who retain one or more genes that most people with the disorder have lost.
To children with WS, people are much more comprehensible than inanimate objects. Despite myriad health problems they are extremely gregarious, irresistibly drawn to strangers, and insist on making eye contact. They have an affinity for music. But they also experience heightened anxiety, have an average IQ of 60, experience severe spatial-visual problems, and suffer from cardiovascular and other health issues. Despite their desire to befriend people, they have difficulty creating and maintaining social relationships, something that is not at all understood but can afflict many people without WS.
In the new study, led by Dr. Julie R. Korenberg, a University of Utah professor and Salk adjunct professor, the scientists conducted a trial with 21 participants, 13 who have WS and a control group of eight people without the disorder. The participants were evaluated at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Because music is a known strong emotional stimulus, the researchers asked participants to listen to music.
Before the music was played, the participants' blood was drawn to determine a baseline level for oxytocin, and those with WS had three times as much of the hormone as those without the syndrome. Blood also was drawn at regular intervals while the music played and was analyzed afterward to check for real-time, rapid changes in the levels of oxytocin and AVP. Other studies have examined how oxytocin affects emotion when artificially introduced into people, such as through nasal sprays, but this is one of the first significant studies to measure naturally occurring changes in oxytocin levels in rapid, real time as people undergo an emotional response.
There was little outward response to the music, but when the blood samples were analyzed, the researchers were happily surprised. The analyses showed that the oxytocin levels, and to a lesser degree AVP, had not only increased but begun to bounce among WS participants while among those without WS, both the oxytocin and AVP levels remained largely unchanged as they listened to music.
Korenberg believes the blood analyses strongly indicate that oxytocin and AVP are not regulated correctly in people with WS, and that the behavioral characteristics unique to people with WS are related to this problem.
"This shows that oxytocin quite likely is very involved in emotional response," Korenberg says.
To ensure accuracy of results, those taking the test also were asked to place their hands in 60-degree Fahrenheit water to test for negative stress, and the same results were produced as when they listened to music. Those with WS experienced an increase in oxytocin and AVP, while those without the syndrome did not.
In addition to listening to music, study participants already had taken three social behavior tests that evaluate willingness to approach and speak to strangers, emotional states, and various areas of adaptive and problem behavior. Those test results suggest that increased levels of oxytocin are linked to both increased desire to seek social interaction and decreased ability to process social cues, a double-edged message that may be very useful at times, for example, during courtship, but damaging at others, as in WS.
"The association between abnormal levels of oxytocin and AVP and altered social behaviors found in people with Williams Syndrome points to surprising, entirely unsuspected deleted genes involved in regulation of these hormones and human sociability," Korenberg said. "It also suggests that the simple characterization of oxytocin as 'the love hormone' may be an overreach. The data paint a far more complicated picture."
In particular, the study results indicate that the missing genes affect the release of oxytocin and AVP through the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. About the size of a pearl, the hypothalamus is located just above the brain stem and produces hormones that control body temperature, hunger, mood, sex drive, sleep, hunger and thirst, and the release of hormones from many glands, including the pituitary. The pituitary gland, about the size of a pea, controls many other glands responsible for hormone secretion.
Overall, the researchers say, their findings paint a very hopeful picture, and the study holds promise for speeding progress in treating WS, and perhaps Autism and anxiety through regulation of these key players in human brain and emotion, oxytocin and vasopressin.

Pasta made from green banana flour a tasty alternative for gluten-free diets

People with celiac disease struggle with limited food choices, as their condition makes them unable to tolerate gluten, found in wheat and other grains. Researchers from the University of Brazil have developed a gluten-free pasta product from green banana flour, which tasters found more acceptable than regular whole wheat pasta. The product has less fat and is cheaper to produce than standard pastas. Their research is published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"There was no significant difference between the modified pasta and standard samples in terms of appearance, aroma, flavor, and overall quality," reports lead investigator Renata Puppin Zandonadi, PhD, Department of Nutrition, University of Brazil. "Green bananas are considered a sub-product of low commercial value with little industrial use. For banana growers and pasta product makers, there is the possibility of diversifying and expanding their market."
Researchers compared a standard whole-wheat pasta preparation made from whole wheat flour and whole eggs with one made from green banana flour, egg whites, water, and gums. The alterations reduced the fat content and increased the protein value of the modified pasta, important because gluten removal typically reduces some proteins responsible for some sensory characteristics of pasta products. The egg whites and gum result in pasta that is less sticky than typical gluten-free pastas, and promote firmness, elasticity, moisture, and uniformity.
The modified pasta decreased fat content by over 98%. This reduction is particularly important to patients with celiac disease, because many gluten-free products compensate for the removal of gluten with high levels of lipid content.
Fifty testers who did not have celiac disease and 25 celiac disease patients compared the pastas. In both groups, the modified pasta was better accepted than the standard in aroma, flavor, texture, and overall quality, indicating that the product can possibly be commercialized to a wider market than just those with celiac disease.
The modified pasta had a high quantity of resistant starch, which may help control glycemic indexes, cholesterol, intestinal regularity, and fermentation by intestinal bacteria. "Considering that untreated celiac disease promotes cancer in intestinal cells and a highly inflammatory mucosal status, developing gluten-free products with bioactive compounds such as the ones present in green banana flour is important for celiac disease patients," concludes Dr. Zandonadi. "Patients will benefit from ingesting a product with a better nutritional profile made from an ingredient that is produced and consumed throughout the world."
In an accompanying podcast presentation, Raquel Braz Assunção Botelho, PhD, discusses the potential benefits of green banana flour-based pasta for people with celiac disease.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Study Links Traffic Noise and Heart Attack Risk

Ah, traffic. Whether you're sitting in it, walking near it or breathing in fumes from it, traffic seems to be bad for our health in a lot of ways. Today, researchers in Denmark are reporting on another link between gridlock and health -- traffic noise may raise the risk of a heart attack.The researchers found that people who lived with higher levels of traffic noise around their homes had a higher risk. For every 10-decibel increase of noise, the risk of a first heart attack went up by 12 percent.Although previous studies have found some association between traffic noise and heart health, Dr.Mette Sorensen, the study's lead author, said she was surprised that this study showed such a specific relationship between noise levels and increased heart attack risk."Previously, there seemed to be no effect up to around 60 decibels," she said. "But I see increases at around 40 decibels up to the highest level, around 82 decibels. It doesn't seem to be a level where there are no effects."The scientists studied more than 50,000 50- to 64-year-olds in two of Denmark's largest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus, keeping track of many aspects of their health, including everywhere they lived for a 10-year period. Based on the locations of their homes and an analysis of traffic patterns, Sorensen and her team calculated how much noise each person had been exposed to. Of the people in the study, 1,600 had their first heart attack during the decade of the research.The study was published today in the journal PLoS One.Cardiologists say the link between traffic noise levels and heart health is interesting. But the findings don't spell out the exact reasons for that link.But they have several guesses for what may be going on. One is a well-known culprit in increased heart attack risk: stress, which likely affects many people who live in bustling, noisy cities."The noise itself probably does increase stress and the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline. Your blood pressure is probably going up as well," said Dr. Robert Bonow, a professor of medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.Past studies of traffic and heart health have also suggested stress as a mediator between gridlock and increased health risks.Dr. Chip Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, said scientists have found associations between heart health and psychological stress of all kinds.Earthquakes, traumatic events like Hurricane Katrina, "even sporting events have the common theme of increased psychological stress, which one could theorize is also in play during heavy traffic, with or without traffic noise," Lavie said.Sorensen and her colleagues speculated that all the noise might prevent people from getting adequate sleep, another known risk factor for heart attacks.Where there are high volumes of noisy traffic, air pollution is likely to follow, and cardiologists said that might also have contributed to the higher heart attack risk for the people in the study because particles in polluted air are damaging to the heart and blood vessels. The link between heart health and air pollution is also well-studied: Most recently, researchers noticed that risk factors for heart disease decreased in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, when traffic and air pollution were kept to lower-than-normal levels.Sorensen and her team also studied how much air pollution the study participants experienced, but Sorensen said those results will be published in a separate study later on.The people who had heart attacks in the study were at greater risk from other factors as well: They smoked more, were less physically active and had poorer diets. Although the researchers tried to rule out those factors in their statistical analysis, it's often difficult for researchers to rule out absolutely every variable that might affect an association between two factors, even when using the best statistical methods. Dr. David Frid, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said it's hard to discount how other cardiovascular risk factors may have affected the study participants who had heart attacks."Cardiovascular disease is a complex process and there are multiple factors that could lead to a heart attack," Frid said. "As we identify these various factors, we have to then be cognizant of what we can do to ultimately reduce our risk of developing heart disease."It may not always be possible for people to escape the noisy environment they live in, so those who hear lots of horns honking and brakes squealing night and day may need to step up their efforts to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet to compensate for that risk."Ultimately, if you're living in a place with a lot of noise, it could potentially put you at higher risk, but we don't know whether reducing that noise reduces your risk," Frid said.
Source:abc News

Can We Prevent Cellular Aging and Aging-related Degenerative Diseases

Age-related degeneration is due to accumulated cellular damage, which also includes DNA damage, but it is still unclear about how these types of damage drive aging. Dr. Paul Robbins and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh sought to address this question using a mouse model of DNA repair deficiency. The Robbins team found that DNA damage drives aging, in part, by activating NF-κB, a transcription factor that responds to cellular damage and stress. They report that inhibition of NF-κB reduces oxidative stress, oxidative DNA damage, oxidative protein damage, and cellular senescence induced by oxidative damage. Their data suggest that NF-κB inhibitors can mitigate cellular damage and could provide clinical benefit for degenerative changes caused by aging.


Research Points to New Treatments for Severe Aggression, Sudden Violence

Researchers have succeeded in blocking pathological rage in mice, suggesting potential new treatments for severe aggression, a widespread trait characterized by sudden violence, explosive outbursts and hostile overreactions to stress.
In a study appearing today in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Southern California and Italy identify a critical neurological factor in aggression: a brain receptor that malfunctions in overly hostile mice. When the researchers shut down the brain receptor, which also exists in humans, the excess aggression completely disappeared.
The findings are a significant breakthrough in developing drug targets for pathological aggression, a component in many common psychological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
"From a clinical and social point of view, reactive aggression is absolutely a major problem," said Marco Bortolato, lead author of the study and research assistant professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy. "We want to find the tools that might reduce impulsive violence."
A large body of independent research, including past work by Bortolato and senior author Jean Shih, USC University Professor and Boyd & Elsie Welin Professor in Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences at USC, has identified a specific genetic predisposition to pathological aggression: low levels of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAO A). Both male humans and mice with congenital deficiency of the enzyme respond violently in response to stress.
"The same type of mutation that we study in mice is associated with criminal, very violent behavior in humans. But we really didn't understand why that it is," Bortolato said.
Bortolato and Shih worked backwards to replicate elements of human pathological aggression in mice, including not just low enzyme levels but also the interaction of genetics with early stressful events such as trauma and neglect during childhood.
"Low levels of MAO A are one basis of the predisposition to aggression in humans. The other is an encounter with maltreatment, and the combination of the two factors appears to be deadly: it results consistently in violence in adults," Bortolato said.
The researchers show that in excessively aggressive rodents that lack MAO A, high levels of electrical stimulus are required to activate a specific brain receptor in the pre-frontal cortex. Even when this brain receptor does work, it stays active only for a short period of time.
"The fact that blocking this receptor moderates aggression is why this discovery has so much potential. It may have important applications in therapy," Bortolato said. "Whatever the ways environment can persistently affect behavior — and even personality over the long term — behavior is ultimately supported by biological mechanisms."
Importantly, the aggression receptor, known as NMDA, is also thought to play a key role in helping us make sense of multiple, coinciding streams of sensory information, according to Bortolato.
The researchers are now studying the potential side effects of drugs that reduce the activity of this receptor.
"Aggressive behaviors have a profound socio-economic impact, yet current strategies to reduce these staggering behaviors are extremely unsatisfactory," Bortolato said. "Our challenge now is to understand what pharmacological tools and what therapeutic regimens should be administered to stabilize the deficits of this receptor. If we can manage that, this could truly be an important finding."


Cancers with disorganized 'traffic systems' more difficult to treat: U of A research

Math equation could help doctors determine which cancers are 'disorganized,' then pinpoint the best treatment

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta reviewed test results from thousands of patients with various types of cancer and discovered that "disorganized" cancers were more difficult to treat and consistently resulted in lower survival rates.
Principal investigator Jack Tuszynski says physicians could use a mathematical equation, or algorithm, to determine how disorganized their patients' cancer is. Once physicians determine that, then they could pinpoint which cancer treatment would be the most effective. Some cancer drugs are effective at treating simple cancers, while others are designed to attack complex cancers.
The current emphasis in cancer treatment is to inhibit "traffic systems" in cancer, says the researcher.
"Using a math equation, doctors could predict if a given therapy will be successful, which would spare the patient from suffering," says Tuszynski, who holds the Alberta Cancer Foundation-funded Allard Research Chair in Oncology with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. "Instead of spending millions of dollars on clinical trials to find better cancer drugs, algorithms could be used to better pinpoint treatment instead."
The research conducted by Tuszynski, a summer student, and research colleagues in Boston, was recently published in the peer-reviewed journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The group looked at 14 types of cancer, including those with high survivability, like prostate cancer, and those with high death rates, such as pancreatic cancer. Each type of cancer has its own unique "metro map," says Tuszynski.
"These traffic signalling systems inside cancer cells look like transportation hubs or metro maps, so you can measure how many stations and how many lines you have," says Tuszynski, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Oncology, as well as the Department of Physics in the Faculty of Science.
"The surprising part is, the more disorganized the traffic signalling system, the more robust and stubborn the cancer is against chemotherapy. If cancer cells have a complex metro map with lots of branches at various locations, then the cancer is very hard to paralyze.
"This research discovery has given us a glimpse into an important issue in cancer treatment. The finding is very telling."
The Alberta Cancer Foundation, which funded the research, is excited about the discovery.
"Dr. Tuszynski's work in computational biophysics promises to create more personalized treatment for cancer patients by targeting the cancerous cells while reducing side effects to healthy cells," says Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. "This latest research discovery will help push the pace of discovery and we are excited to hear more about the progress being made in this area."
Tuszynski is continuing his research in this area and expects to soon publish more related findings.
Source:University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry 

New evidence in fructose debate: Could it be healthy for us?

A new study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital suggests that fructose may not be as bad for us as previously thought and that it may even provide some benefit.
"Over the last decade, there have been connections made between fructose intake and rates of obesity," said Dr. John Sievenpiper, a senior author of the study. "However, this research suggests that the problem is likely one of overconsumption, not fructose."
The study reviewed 18 trials with 209 participants who had Type 1 and 2 diabetes and found fructose significantly improved their blood sugar control. The improvement was equivalent to what can be achieved with an oral antidiabetic drug.
Even more promising, Dr. Sievenpiper said, is that the researchers saw benefit even without adverse effects on body weight, blood pressure, uric acid (gout) or cholesterol.
Fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, vegetables and honey, is a simple sugar that together with glucose forms sucrose, the basis of table sugar. It is also found in high-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener in commercially prepared foods.
In all the trials they reviewed, participants were fed diets where fructose was incorporated or sprinkled on to test foods such as cereals or coffee. The diets with fructose had the same amount of calories as the ones without.
"Attention needs to go back where it belongs, which is on the concept of moderation," said Adrian Cozma, the lead author of the paper and a research assistant with Dr. Sievenpiper.
"We're seeing that there may be benefit if fructose wasn't being consumed in such large amounts," Cozma said. "All negative attention on fructose-related harm draws further away from the issue of eating too many calories."
The paper was released today in the July issue of Diabetes Care.
Although the results are encouraging, the authors warn that it's important to be cautious because longer and larger studies are still needed.

Study suggests poor mothers favor daughters

Poor mothers will invest more resources in daughters, who stand a greater chance of increasing their status through marriage than do sons, suggests a study in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.Masako Fujita, Michigan State University anthropologist, and her fellow researchers tested the breast milk of mothers in northern Kenya and found that poor mothers produced fattier milk for their daughters than for their sons.On the contrary, mothers who were better off financially favored sons over daughters.The results, also featured in the journal Nature, support a 1973 hypothesis that predicts poor mothers will favor their daughters.The Nature article, titled “Rich milk for poor girls,” notes that Fujita and her team assessed the fat content from 83 mothers living in villages in which men can have multiple wives. In these villages, taking multiple wives requires wealth to support a larger family, leaving poor males less competitive for marriage. The researchers found that mothers with less land and fewer livestock provided richer milk to their daughters than to their sons.On average, a mother in northern Kenya raises six children.The study is one of the first to explore parents’ unequal biological investment in their children, such as the nutritional content of breast milk.Fujita is an assistant professor of anthropology at MSU. The research team also includes Eric Roth of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada; and Yun-Jia Lo, Carolyn Hurst, Jennifer Vollner and Ashley Kendell from MSU.
By:Masako Fujita, assistant professor of anthropology

Eating disorder behaviors and weight concerns are common in women over 50

Eating disorders are commonly seen as an issue faced by teenagers and young women, but a new study reveals that age is no barrier to disordered eating. In women aged 50 and over, 3.5% report binge eating, nearly 8% report purging, and more than 70% are trying to lose weight. The study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders revealed that 62% of women claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted on their life.
The researchers, led by Dr Cynthia Bulik, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program, reached 1,849 women from across the USA participating in the Gender and Body Image Study (GABI) with a survey titled, 'Body Image in Women 50 and Over – Tell Us What You Think and Feel.'
"We know very little about how women aged 50 and above feel about their bodies," said Bulik. "An unfortunate assumption is that they 'grow out of' body dissatisfaction and eating disorders, but no one has really bothered to ask. Since most research focuses on younger women, our goal was to capture the concerns of women in this age range to inform future research and service planning."
The average age of the participants was 59, while 92% were white. More than a quarter, 27%, were obese, 29% were overweight, 42% were normal weight and 2% were underweight.
Results revealed that eating disorder symptoms were common. About 8% of women reported purging in the last five years and 3.5% reported binge eating in the last month. These behaviors were most prevalent in women in their early 50s, but also occurred in women over 75.
When it came to weight issues, 36% of the women reported spending at least half their time in the last five years dieting, 41% checked their body daily and 40% weighed themselves a couple of times a week or more.
62% of women claimed that their weight or shape negatively impacted their life, 79% said that it affected their self-perception and 64% said that they thought about it daily.
The women reported resorting to a variety of unhealthy methods to change their body, including diet pills (7.5%), excessive exercise (7%), diuretics (2.5%), laxatives (2%) and vomiting (1%).
Two-thirds, 66%, were unhappy with their overall appearance and this was highest when it came to their stomach, 84%, and shape, 73%.
"The bottom line is that eating disorders and weight and shape concerns don't discriminate on the basis of age," concluded Bulik. "Healthcare providers should remain alert for eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns that may adversely influence women's physical and psychological wellbeing as they mature.

Blood test for pregnant women could predict risk of having dangerously small babies

Researchers from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) have found a protein in the blood of pregnant women that can predict if they are likely to have a fetus that doesn’t grow properly, and thus has a high risk of stillbirth and long-term health complications. The research, led by Dr. Andrée Gruslin, could lead to a widely available blood test and could help develop ways for improving the outcomes of women and their children who face this risk — estimated to be as many as one of every 20 pregnancies. 
Dr. Gruslin’s study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, focuses on a protein called Insulin Growth Factor Binding Protein 4 (IGFBP-4). While this protein has been linked to pregnancy before, this study is the first to demonstrate its important role in human pregnancy complications. A key part of the study involved examining IGFBP-4 levels in first trimester blood samples from women who participated in a large study of pregnancies and newborns called the Ottawa and Kingston (OaK) birth cohort. 
Dr. Gruslin found that women with high levels of IGFBP-4 were 22 times more likely to give birth to tiny babies (defined as the smallest five per cent by weight for their gestational age), than women with normal levels of IGFBP-4. This part of the study involved a total of 72 women — half with tiny babies and half with normal weight babies. 
“Usually, we don’t find out until later in a pregnancy that a fetus isn’t growing properly, but this test can tell us in the first trimester if there’s likely to be a problem,” said Dr. Gruslin, a Scientist at OHRI, High Risk Obstetrician at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at uOttawa. “By identifying these high-risk pregnancies early on, we will be able to monitor these women more closely and hopefully help them deliver a healthier baby.”
The IGFBP-4 blood test is still experimental, but Dr. Gruslin hopes to develop a refined version that could be made available to all pregnant women within the next couple of years. She also hopes that her studies on IGFBP-4 could lead to new approaches that would improve fetal growth in high-risk pregnancies. This condition, called Fetal Growth Restriction or Intrauterine Growth Restriction, is thought to affect three to five per cent of all pregnancies, and cause close to half of all stillbirths. Babies born with this condition also have a higher risk of developing serious health complications in infancy and childhood, as well as chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in adulthood. 
Fetal Growth Restriction is thought to occur when the placenta, which provides nourishment and oxygen for the fetus, doesn’t grow properly. Research by Dr. Gruslin and others suggests that IGFBP-4 blocks the activity of a key placental growth hormone called IGF-II, which results in poor growth of the placenta and fetus. Dr. Gruslin and her team are already testing a number of strategies for targeting IGFBP-4 to improve placental and fetal growth. 
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Key Basic Research Program of China, and was conducted by researchers at OHRI, uOttawa, the Chinese Academy of Science and Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University in China. The paper is titled “Significance of IGFBP-4 in the development of fetal growth restriction” by Qing Qiu, Mike Bell, Hongmei Wang, Xiaoyin Ly, Xiaojuan Yan, Marc Rodger, Mark Walker, Shi-Wu Wen, Shannon Bainbridge and Andrée Gruslin.
Source:Director, Communications and Public Relations, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

‘Only naturopathy can provide medicine-less treatment’

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S Gandhiselvan said that only naturopathy and yogic science can provide medicine-less treatment. One can be a complete healthy man with these system of medication. 
Speaking at the inauguration of the new building of Sri Dharmasthala 
Manjunatheshwara College of Naturopathy and Yogic Science, at Ujire on Tuesday, he said “many suffer from diseases with modern lifestyle and foodstyle. Naturopathy can cure many of the diseases related to lifestyle and stress.” 
Speaking after releasing a souvenir, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment D Napoleon said the youth are the assets of a country. One need to strive for the progress of the country through social justice. One should strive for building a healthy society.” 
There is a need to publicise naturopathy and yogic system of medicine. The two alternative systems of medicines are cultural hertigae of the country. 
Dharmadhikari D Veerendra Heggade said in the name of advancement in science and technology, we are going against the nature. “Hence, we are facing natural calamities like flood, drought, earthquake, global warming, untimely rain and so on. There is a need to go back to nature for a bright future.” 
Prof S Prabhakarm D Harshendra Kumar, College Principal Dr Prashanth Shetty, SDM Educational Institutions Secretary Dr B Yashovarma and others were present.
Source:Deccan Herald 

Heavy tea drinkers at greater risk of prostate cancer: Study

The University of Glasgow study found that men who are heavy tea drinkers are having more chances of developing prostate cancer. The research was published in the journal ‘Nutrition and Cancer’.
The study, which was led by Dr Kashif Shafique of the Institute of Health & Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow tracked the health of more than 6,000 male volunteers over a period of 37 years and discovered that those who drank more than seven cups of tea per day had a 50 per cent higher risk of developing prostate cancer compared with non-tea drinkers or those drinking less than four cups per day.
The Midspan Collaborative study began in Scotland in 1970 and gathered data from more than 6,000 male volunteers, all between 21 and 75 years of age. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their usual consumption of tea, coffee, alcohol, smoking habits and general health, and attended a screening examination.
Just under a quarter of the 6,016 men included in the study were heavy tea drinkers. Of these, 6.4 per cent developed prostate cancer during a follow-up of up to 37 years. Researchers found that men who drank more than seven cups of tea per day had a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer compared to those who drank no tea or less than four cups per day.
Dr Shafique said, “Most previous research has shown either no relationship with prostate cancer for black tea or some preventive effect of green tea. We don’t know whether tea itself is a risk factor or if tea drinkers are generally healthier and live to an older age when prostate cancer is more common anyway.”
“We found that heavy tea drinkers were more likely not to be overweight, be non alcohol-drinkers and have healthy cholesterol levels. However, we did adjust for these differences in our analysis and still found that men who drank the most tea were at greater risk of prostate cancer.”
 Prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongst men in Scotland and between 2000 and 2010 incidence increased by 7.4 per cent.
The University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. Its broad-based, research intensive institution with a global reach.

Production of Ayurveda drug ‘Nimbatiktakam' for psoriasis to resume

Alex's unrelenting one-man battle seems to have finally paid off. Thanks to the efforts of this down-to-earth farmer from Kumily in Idukki, the powers that be at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have woken up to the sad plight of psoriasis patients across the State who had been suffering owing to the non-production of an Ayurveda drug that helps keep the skin condition under check.‘Nimbatiktakam' is an Ayurveda drug for psoriasis that had been researched and developed some 20 years ago by the Ayurveda Research Institute for Mother and Child Health Care (ARIMCHC), formerly the Panchakarma Research Institute, at Poojappura here. The drug had been the lifeline of psoriasis patients as it had been found to give excellent results in keeping psoriasis, a difficult-to-treat autoimmune skin condition, under check. Owing to some technical issues, the ARIMCHC had not been producing ‘Nimbatiktakam' capsules since the past eight months, sending psoriasis patients into a panic. The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, under the Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has now taken steps to ensure that the National Research Institute of Panchakarma (NRIP) at Cheruthuruthy is equipped to start the production of ‘Nimbatiktakam' in the next three months.It has also directed the Siddha Regional Research Institute in the capital city to manufacture and supply this very vital drug to the ARIMCHC to meet the immediate requirement of psoriasis patients till the NRIP is equipped to take over the production of the drug.The chemistry wing of the ARIMCHC had been preparing ‘Nimbatiktakam' for its patients for years. But after the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha was bifurcated into separate Ayurveda and Siddha councils, the technical officers from the ARIMCHC opted to join the Siddha Regional Research Institute under the Central Council for Research in Siddha. This effectively stopped the production of ‘Nimbatiktakam' at the ARIMCHC. For Alex, a psoriasis patient, this was a personal battle that he took up to the Ministry, relentlessly pursuing the issue and representing before various councils that many suffering from the condition had found solace in ‘Nimbatiktakam.'
Source:The Hindu

Thousands of Yoga Fans Welcome Summer at Times Square :Watch the Video

  The Times Square in New York resembled an immense outdoor yoga class as several thousand New Yorkers calmly invaded the place Wednesday, to salute the arrival of summer. 
Some 1,500 yoga mats were distributed free for the occasion, and pedestrian spaces in New York's most frenetic crossroads were completely covered.
All day, thousands of yogis, beginners and veterans alike, dutifully sweated in the heat, following directions broadcast over loudspeakers.
The first of the free short courses began at 7:30 am, and the last was scheduled for 8:30 pm, to the delight of tourists.


Food security and climate change

Undernourished women and children under 5 could increase by 20 percent

On a planet with sufficient food for all, today almost half a billion women and children under 5 in the developing world are undernourished –a consequence of persistently limited nutritious food intake.
This number could increase by 20 percent, reaching one in five within a decade, compared to one in seven today, due to the impacts of climate change on global food production, according to a detailed analysis by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN), 1,000 Days, World Vision International and partners.
"Food security is under threat by climate change. The linkages between its impacts on global food production, price volatility, population growth and nutrition need to be addressed in order to tackle undernourishment of these more vulnerable groups," says Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Board of PMNCH and Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.
According to the analysis, it is this equation of climate change and its impacts on food production plus increased population growth that would result in a deficit of global food production versus demand, which could increase by 100 million the number of undernourished women and children by 2020.
Food security will be one of the main issues to be discussed at both the Group of 20 (G20) and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) meetings in mid-June.
"World leaders are committing to action and investment to improve nutrition for mothers and children during the critical 1,000 days from pregnancy to age two, when nutrition can have a lifelong impact on a child's future in terms of both health and development," says Carole Presern, Ph.D., Director of PMNCH and a midwife.
This new attention to nutrition is happening at country, regional and global levels. Some 27 countries accounting for 50 million undernourished women and children have committed to a new Scaling Up Nutrition effort, through which stakeholders are working to develop multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms and comprehensive national nutrition plans and aligning resources behind these plans.
Additionally, G8 leaders and African leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieving food security through the launch of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which will join African governments, private sector institutions and G8 leadership in efforts to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, with a focus on smallholder farmers, especially women.
Ministers of Health at the 2012 World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on maternal, infant and young child nutrition that endorsed the WHO Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition. It calls on member states to develop nutrition policies and to pass legislation to control the marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Chronic hunger will increase
Today, 495 million women and children under 5 in the developing world are undernourished. That is 150 million or one in four in Africa; 315 million or one in seven in Asia; and 30 million or one in 11 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
About 465 million additional women and children under 5 will be living in developing countries by 2020, bringing the total population of this group to 3.6 billion, vastly increasing food demand.
Thus, in 10 years, the compounded impact of climate change and population growth could increase the number of undernourished women and children by 20 percent.
The greatest impact in the tropical region
According to the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is expected to affect all aspects of food security.
In particular, the tropical region, already most vulnerable to food insecurity, will be the most adversely affected. It is this climate region where 73 percent, or 360 million, undernourished women and children live.
India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Philippines, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Madagascar and Yemen are the countries in the tropical region with the highest percentages of undernourished women and children under 5 (see map on page 8).
However, the impacts of climate change on food production vary across and within regions.
For example, India, with 61 million undernourished children, would be at increased risk of additional undernourishment since its food production is estimated to decrease by 30 percent, according to the IPCC.
On the other hand, food production in the Philippines, also in the tropical region, would increase by 20 percent, concludes the IPCC. This will contribute to a reduction of undernourished women and children currently estimated at 16 and 38 percent respectively.
Impact on women and children
In developing countries, about 208 million women of reproductive age (15-44 years old) are undernourished, a major problem during pregnancy.
"Undernutrition is a determinant of poor health and it is women and children who suffer the most," says Dr. Frenk. "Maternal undernutrition can continue in children, extending the cycle for at least three generations.
"Undernutrition is associated with intrauterine growth restriction, leading to low birth weight of newborns and stunting (low height-for-age) –an indicator of chronic restriction of a child's potential for growth."
"These children do not have the opportunity to reach their full potential because of poor nutrition in the earliest months of life," according to Stefan Germann, Director for Partnerships, Innovation & Accountability at World Vision International. "Without proper nutrition, newborns and young children can face irreversible damage to their cognitive development, which impacts educational performance, reducing opportunities over a lifetime for both the children and for the economy they contribute to."
"The long-term damage imposed by nutritional deprivation in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age two can be prevented. And the good news is that solutions to undernutrition are high impact and exceptionally cost-effective," says Lucy Martinez Sullivan, Executive Director of 1,000 Days.
Malnutrition in the form of overnutrition is also a growing problem in low- and middle- income countries where women and children have increasing access to inexpensive, calorie-rich but nutrient poor foods. Overweight and obesity during pregnancy increase the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension and large babies. The risk of preterm birth is also heightened, now the second-leading cause of death of children under the age of five.
Increase in food prices and volatility
The impacts of climate change will also affect food prices and volatility. A recent analysis by The World Bank's Food Price Watch estimates that food prices increased by 8 percent in the first quarter of 2012, partly due to extreme cold in Europe which impacted wheat prices, and excessively hot and dry conditions in South America which contributed to price increases for sugar, maize, and soybeans.
Higher food prices lead poor households to buy cheaper and less nutritious food items. For poor families, coping with rising food prices means eating less, cutting the number of meals per day and reducing the quality and variety of foods they consume.
"The impact of high food prices is more severe for the poor who rely on purchased food," says Dr. Presern. "Families in developing countries tend to spend between 50-80 percent of their income on food, compared to less than 10 percent in some developed countries."
Interventions to address food and nutrition security
Mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into health and nutrition policies and interventions will help address food and nutrition security for millions.
Some of these interventions include:
Controlling food prices and volatility
Addressing food price volatility can improve food security. A key area for policy action at the country level is improving agricultural production and productivity of nutritious food, especially for smallholders.
These measures also need to create an enabling environment to encourage public and private investment in agriculture. Investments, in turn, will reduce price volatility and lower production costs, which will reduce food prices.
For example, Mexico implemented "contract agriculture" under which the buyer and the farmer agree a price. This market instrument brings certainty to future transactions, as the farmer has a prospective sale of his crop and the buyer has access to a safe supply source at a competitive and predetermined price.
It is also critical to develop nutrition surveillance at the household and community levels to identify crises before they occur, and develop stronger resilience for communities at risk of food and nutrition insecurity.
Promoting education
Education has a powerful impact on preventing under nutrition. Combined efforts by all actors at the country level should focus on mainstreaming nutrition in education. Nutrition education efforts should promote knowledge of good nutrition, with a focus on the 1,000 day window from pregnancy to age 2, while encouraging the use of nutritious, climate-resilient food staples, in particular in those countries expected to be hit hardest by climate change. Better nutritional practices would, in turn, mean more effective use of available food.
For example, the Oportunidades program in Mexico, which combined nutritional education, cash transfers and the provision of fortified weaning food supplements, had an effect of over 1 cm in the height of infants who participated in the program during the first 2 years of life.
The Oportunidades program started over a decade ago. Some of its benefits on nutrition and health included a decrease of 11 and 2 percent in maternal deaths and infant mortality, respectively.
The media also plays an important role in education. An assessment of a national mass-media campaign in Honduras reported that it increased exclusive breastfeeding from 48 to 70 percent at 1 month, from 24 to 31 percent at 4 months, and from 7 to 12 percent at 6 months of age.
Mobilizing political leadership to reduce greenhouse gases
Reducing global greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions is a prerequisite to addressing climate change.
The ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is to stabilize GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to ensure that food production is not threatened.
The latest decisions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC postponed the implementation of emission reductions to 2020, although the IPCC scientific assessment concluded that higher and more immediate emission reductions were needed.
High-level political leadership is needed to mainstream health and nutrition concerns into the UNFCCC discussions.
Promoting nutrition-sensitive and climate-resilient agricultural practices
Successful national nutrition plans should integrate climate change adaptation measures, like breeding crops that are more nutritious and heat-resistant, to address undernutrition.
For example, Mozambique had a very high prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. A new variety of orange sweet potato was introduced and vitamin A intakes increased substantially, leading to a 63 percent increase in vitamin A intakes for children aged 6-35 months, 169 percent for children aged 3-5.5 years and 42 percent among women.
The importance of sweet potato is two-fold. Sweet potato is effective in providing vitamin A (an essential micronutrient) and is a good source of carbohydrates, which account for 55-75 percent of a nutritious diet. It is also a heat-resistant crop requiring less water than other crops and thus adapting to changes in climate.
New multi-sectoral strategies
Multi-sector approaches should be developed at the country level, aimed at developing country nutrition strategies that also integrate adaptation measures to climate change. These strategies should focus on incorporating alternative sources of food while providing the same amount of nutrients.
For example, China successfully implemented multi-sector action to address undernourishment. By combining anti-poverty policies, granting decision-making power to farm households, public investments in agriculture and market and price liberalization, the number of undernourished people fell from 194 million (16 percent of the population) in 1990-92 to 150 million (12 percent of the population) in 2001-03.
"We urge global leaders to prioritize and invest in programs and policies that help improve nutrition, particularly for mothers and children in the 1,000 day window, support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, and commit to global and country-level targets to reduce malnutrition," says Lucy Sullivan. "Improving nutrition should not just be seen as a development priority for the G-20, but as an economic growth strategy for countries looking to compete globally," say Dr. Presern.
Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide 

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