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Friday, 6 June 2014

Why people eat with their hands in Kerala

Why people eat with their hands in KeralaYou may have often wondered why people eat with their hands in Kerala. Eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit. That is the Vedic wisdom behind Kerala's famous Banana Leaf Experience whose pleasure can only be appreciated fully, it is said, if one eats with hands and not fork and spoon.

Traditionally, Indians -- not just in Kerala -- have always eaten with their hands but the experience and its virtues have been elevated to a gastronomic art by the chefs at Vivanta by Taj Bekal, a picturesque 26-acre resort in the northern Kasaragod district of Kerala, flanked by the famous backwaters and the Lakshadweep Sea.

And to lend logic to the eating-by-hand experience for fussy foreigners, especially Westerners who would think twice before scooping up curry with their fingers, the maitre d'hotel lays before each guest at Latitude - the multi-cuisine restaurant with an accent on regional Kerala cuisine and a scenic view of serene waters and swaying palm fronds - captured pithily in printed paper the "Vedic wisdom behind eating with your hands".

"Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. The thumb is agni (fire) -- you might have seen children sucking their thumb, this is nature's way of aiding the digestion at an age when they are unable to chew; the forefinger is vayu (air), the middle finger is akash (ether -- the tiny intercellular spaces in the human body), the ring finger is prithvi (earth) and the little finger is jal (water)," the paper explains.

The 'banana leaf experience' has been redefined by the hotel from the traditional 'sadya', or banquet, in Malayalam, says Ashok Pillai, the executive sous chief. Sadya is traditionally a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf on special occasions, during weddings and other celebrations. All the dishes are served on the leaf and eaten with hands sans cutlery, the palm and fingers being cupped to form a ladle. 

A sadya can have about 24-28 dishes served as a single course and is usually served for lunch as it is quite heavy on the stomach. Preparations begin at dawn and the dishes are made before 10 in the morning on the day of the celebration. "At Vivanta by Taj at Bekal we have given a twist to the experience by adding delectable preparation of fish or meats as per request," Samir Khanna, the affable general manager, told IANS during a recent trip.

The centerpiece of sadya is navara, a medicinal rice type, that is one of the native genetic resources of Kerala and famed for its use in Ayurveda. Navara is used as a nutritional rice and health food and is said to be therapeutic for conditions such as arthritis, paralysis, ulcers, urinary tract infections, neuralgic and neurological disorders.

For a novitiate to Kerala cuisine, the food does not stop coming, and the helpings are as much as you can ingest. Most people stop at the second helping and react in surprise when waiters with buckets of curry offer to ladle more on the leaf-plate.

Foreigners, after their initial cultural reservations about eating with their hands, awkwardly slurp and lap up the food, any messiness be damned. As a concession to non-vegetarians, karimeen or pearl spot, the local fish, is served fried or in curry form.

Since the "experience" requires some preparation, those guests who want to partake of it need to intimate the chef in advance and tables are laid out separately in the restaurant for those who are eating on the banana leaf.

A typical sadya menu - 

Banana Chips
Jagerry Chips
Kerala Pappadom
Parippu Curry (Simmered lentils enhanced with ghee)
Pachadi (Preserved cucumber in Yoghurt)
Inchi Puli (An emulsion of tamarind, jaggery and ginger)
Kichadi (Coconut enriched gravy with pineapple)
Erissery (Mashed Pumpkins and red beans in coconut)
Kaalan (Raw banana cooked in mildly spiced coarse coconut)
Olan (White pumpkin simmered with beans in coconut milk)
Avial (Ethnic vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut and yoghurt)
Thoran (Any local vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut)
Kootu Curry (Assortment of vegetables and spices)
Sambhar (Stew of lentil and vegetables)
Pulissery (Tempered yoghurt with turmeric with curry leaf infusion)
Pachamoru (Spiced butter milk)
Banana Payasam (Dessert with jaggery, coconut milk flavored with cardamom)


Scientists Link Autism To These Toxic Chemicals During Fetal Development

The cause of autism is still unknown, but we are definitely closer to figuring it out. A new study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, from researchers at the University of Chicago revealed that autism and intellectual disability (ID) rates are linked with exposure to harmful environmental factors during congenital development.
fetusEssentially what happens is during pregnancy… there are certain sensitive periods where the fetus is very vulnerable to a range of small molecules – from things like plasticisers, prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and other things. Some of these small molecules essentially alter normal development. Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country, this gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong. The strongest predictors for autism were associated with the environment; congenital malformations on the reproductive system in males.” (1) - Andrey Rzhetsky, professor of genetic medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago
The team analyzed data that covered more than one third of the U.S. population. Data from individual states and more than 2,100 counties were used. Fetuses, particularly males, are sensitive to multiple toxins such as environmental lead, medications and a wide variety of other synthetic molecules, like pesticides, mercury and more. Exposure to these toxins during critical stages of development is thought to explain a large portion of congenital reproductive malformations.
“It’s really a very significant study, and should trigger the medical community, the scientific community and the government, looking at this especially interesting avenue for the prevention of autism. We know that one of the ways to show that there is a problem with pollution is to show through the presence of these reproductive defects and we know that there is a relationship between the presence of these defects and the presence of autism related disorders” Dr. Harbut, Providence-St John Environmental Medicine Expert
This isn’t the first time that scientists have linked autism to the environment. In 2009, Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche of the UC Dais Department of Public Health Sciences analyzed 17 years of state data that tracks developmental disabilities.
“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California.” (2) – Irva Hertz – Picciotto, epidemiology professor at University of California, David
Our environment is full of neurodevelopmental toxins, which means they alter how the brain grows. Mercury, polychlorinated diphenyl, lead, brominated flame retardants and pesticides are a few of many examples. Don’t forget about insecticides and herbicides.
Another recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared brain autopsies of autistic children who had died from unrelated causes to those of normal ones. The autistic brains demonstrated abnormal patches of disorganized neurons that disrupted the usual distinct layers in the brain’s cortex. The study suggests that abnormalities occurred in utero during key developmental stages between 19 to 30 weeks gestation. It’s not just the toxin, it’s the timing of the exposure as well.(3)
In the United States alone, autism rates have risen from 1:10,000 in 1981 to 1:68 in 2014. Again, multiple studies point to the prevalence of toxins in our environment as the culprit, and there are toxins in many things. No doubt about it, we might not be looking at one cause for autism, but multiple factors associated with how we choose to live our lives on a daily basis.
So, let’s take a look at some of these toxins that could be linked to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
One factor I’d like to touch upon first is the fact that autism rates in Europe have remained pretty steady over the last decade. This coincides with the fact that in more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or complete bans on the production and sale of GMOs and the pesticides that go with them. In the United States, government agencies have approved massive amounts of pesticides, completely ignoring the fact that they are linked to numerous health ailments. Not long ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently raised the allowable concentrations of Monsanto’s glyphosate, also known as “Roundup” on food crops, edible oils and animal feed (you can read more about that here). Although we don’t know for sure, it’s important to at least consider the large increase in Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) and the massive amount of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) that are dumped on them every year. These pesticides have been linked to numerous health ailments.
A group of scientists put together a comprehensive review of existing data that shows how European regulators have known that Monsanto’s glyphosate causes a number of birth malformations since at least 2002. Regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety, and in Germany the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the European Commission that there was no evidence to suggest that glyphosate causes birth defects.
This study was published by Earth Open Sources, which is an organization that uses open source collaboration to advance sustainable food production. The report was headed by Dr M. Antoniou, Head Gene Expression and Therapy Group, from the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at King’s College London School of Medicine, UK. Dr. Antoniou was joined by 6 other doctors who have a similar biography. The report provides a comprehensive review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature documenting the serious health hazards posed by glyphosate and Roundup herbicide formulations. You can read the entire document here.
“Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable. In this report, we examine the industry studies and regulatory documents that led to the approval of glyphosate. We show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s and 1990s that glyphosate causes malformation – but that this information was not made public. We demonstrate how EU regulators reasoned their way from clear evidence of glyphosate’s teratogenicity in industry’s own studies to a conclusion that minimized these findings in the EU Commission’s final review report”
Here is another study that shows Glyphosate can cause abnormalities. It was published in 2010 by the American Chemical Society, the research was conducted at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“The direct effect of glyphosate on early mechanisms of morphogenesis in vertebrate embryos opens concerns about the clinical findings from human offspring in populations exposed to glyphosate in agricultural fields.”
Another study outlines how glyphosate toxicity leads to suppression of critical enzymes, and as a result links the Western diet to heart disease, Alzheimer, Parkinson, autism and more. (4)
Glyphosate has also been linked to cancer, and various other health ailments. There are numerous studies documenting this and you can find our more information here.
It’s no secret that the brain of an embryo, fetus, or infant is at risk for significant and permanent damage from exposure to chemicals, like pesticides. Not long ago, a study published in the Journal Reproductive Toxicology successfully identified the presence of pesticides – associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, fetal and non-pregnant women’s blood. They also found the presence of Monsanto’s Bt toxin, and warn about toxin exposure during critical stages of development. (5)
The study concluded, apart from pesticides, that Monsanto’s Bt toxins are clearly detectable and appear to cross the placenta to the fetus. Some studies have linked Monsanto’s Bt toxin to cancer, damaging kidney cells, and more, especially when they are combined with Round-up
Multiple studies outline the need for further research when it comes to GMOs before we can say they are 100 % safe for consumption.
“Given the potential toxicity of these environmental pollutants and the fragility of the fetus, more studies are needed, particularly those using the placental transfer approach. Thus, our present results will provide baseline data for future studies exploring a new area of research relating to nutrition, toxicology and reproduction in women. Today, obstetric-gynecological disorders that are associated with environmental chemicals are not known.  Thus, knowing the actual concentration of genetically modified foods in humans constitutes a cornerstone in the advancement of research in this area.” (5)
There is more research confirming that mothers who are exposed to commonly used, “safe” pesticides give birth to children with lower intelligence, structural brain abnormalities, behavioral disorders, compromised motor skills, higher rates of brain cancer and small head size. (6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14)(15)
In Late 2013, the European Food Safety Authority determined that pesticides, like neonicotinamides (linked to killing millions of bees, read more about that here) may negatively affect the development of neurons and brain structures in unborn babies.(16)
These are largely produced by Bayer pharmaceuticals.
“Given the ubiquitous exposure to many environmental toxicants, there needs to be renewed efforts to prevent harm. Such prevention should not await detailed evidence on individual hazards. Toxic exposure to chemical pollutants during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in childhood and across the entire span of human life.”(17)  – Worlds foremost pediatricians, toxicologists, environmental scientists and epidemiologists at a conference held in 2007
Scientists at the conference (quote above) emphasized that common exposure to chemicals during critical stages of development of the fetus or newborns increases their chances of contracting diabetes, cancer, thyroid damage and more.
“Chemical pollution represents a serious threat to children, and to Man’s survival.” (18)  – The Standing Committee of European Doctors.
Did you know that Americans alone are exposed to approximately 100,000 industrial chemicals? When it comes to babies, all pregnant woman are literally stuffed with hazardous chemicals. One study illustrated the tracking of just 163 chemicals, in which 99 percent of pregnant women tested positive for at least 43 different chemicals. (19)
There has even been significant concentrations of glyphosate found in the urine of people across Europe. You can read more about that here.   A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey, titled “Pesticides in Mississippi Air and Rain: A Comparison Between 1995 and 2007,” reveals that Roundup herbicide (aka glyphosate) and its toxic degradation byproduct AMPA were found in over 75% of the air and rain samples tested from Mississippi in 2007. You can read more about that here.
The above makes it clear, toxins, especially when fetuses and newborns are exposed to them have the potential to be extremely harmful.  So what else are they exposed to at a young age apart from environmental toxins? They are exposed to toxins commonly found in vaccinations.
Let’s be clear, more and more researchers are now considering the fact that toxins at critical stages of development can play a role in autism (as stated and illustrated many times in this article). The vaccine/autism debate has been a controversial one, but for pro-vaccine advocates, saying there is absolutely zero cause for concern is ridiculous. Just because something hasn’t been found, does not mean there is zero cause for concern. So lets look at both sides.
A study published in March of 2013 determined that “Increasing exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides (antigens) in Vaccines is Not Associated with Risk of Autism.” 
On the other hand, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Translational Neurodegeneration provided epidemiological evidence supporting an association between increasing organic-Hg exposure from thimerosal-containing childhood and the risk of ASD diagnosis.  
A paper published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health titled Thimerosal Exposure and the Role of Sulfation Chemistry and Thiol Availability in Autism  concluded:
“With the rate of children diagnosed with an ASD in the US now exceeding 1 in 50 children and the rate of children with neurodevelopment/behavioral disorders in the US now exceeding 1 in 6 children, and the preceding evidence showing that there is vulnerability to ™ that would not be known without extensive testing, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that ™ should be removed from all vaccines”
The list goes on and on, bottom line, vaccines are full of toxins, and they are administered at critical stages of development, which includes pregnant woman. This study (study linking autism to toxin exposure) further pushes the importance of looking at the multiple vaccines babies are bombarded with at birth, and the toxins found within them.  
It also doesn’t help that vaccine manufactures and health authorities have known about and covered up (hidden from parents) dangers associated with vaccinations in order to protect herd immunity. Documents obtained by Lucija Tomljenovic,  PhD, from the Neural Dynamics Research Group in the Department of Opthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia reveal that vaccine manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and health authorities have known about multiple dangers associated with vaccines but chose to withhold them from the public. (20)
At the end of the day, you always have a choice and you shouldn’t make that decision based on fear. Ridding your personal environment from harmful pesticides and toxins does contribute to a healthier environment. From personal experience, living in a virtually chemical free environment for a few years now, the difference felt when stepping into another is overwhelming. It’s amazing how desensitized we’ve become, and how we fail to notice these things on a daily basis.
6.Rauh V, Arunajadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, et al. 2011. Seven-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196-1201. 
7. Bouchard M, Chevrier J, Harley K, Kogut K, Vedar M, Calderon N, Trujillo C, Johnson C, Bradman A, Barr D, Eskenazi B. Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1003185
8. Engel S, et al. Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1003183
9. Horton M, et al. Impact of Prenatal Exposure to Piperonyl Butoxide and Permethrin on 36-Month Neurodevelopment. Pediatrics 2011; 127:3 e699-e706; doi:10.1542/peds.2010-0133
10.  Horton M, Kahn L, Perera F, Barr D, Rauh V. Does the home environment and the sex of the child modify the adverse effects of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos on child working memory? Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/
11. Rauh V, et al. Brain anomalies in children exposed prenatally to a common organophosphate pesticide. PNAS 2012 109 (20) 7871-7876; published ahead of print April 30, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1203396109
12.Oulhote Y, Bouchard M, Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate and Pyrethroid Pesticides and Behavioral Problems in Canadian Children Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1306667
13.. Ostrea EM, et al. 2011. Fetal exposure to propoxur and abnormal child neurodevelopment at two years of age. Neurotoxicology.
14. Greenop K, Peters S, Bailey H, et al. Exposure to pesticides and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Cancer Causes & Control. April 2013
15. Kimura-Kuroda J, Komuta Y, Kuroda Y, Hayashi M, Kawano H (2012) Nicotine-Like Effects of the Neonicotinoid Insecticides Acetamiprid and Imidacloprid on Cerebellar Neurons from Neonatal Rats. PLoS ONE 7(2): e32432. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.003243
(19) Tracey J. Woodruff, Ami R. Zota, Jackie M. Schwartz. Environmental Chemicals in Pregnant Women in the US: NHANES 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002727

New Insights into Premature Ejaculation Could Lead to Better Diagnosis and Treatment

Two papers published simultaneously in the journal Sexual Medicine and the Journal of Sexual Medicine provide important leads to improve diagnosis and treatment of a much researched condition called premature ejaculation.

Premature ejaculation (PE) or rapid ejaculation is the most common sexual dysfunction in men. It is also known as rapid ejaculation, premature climax, or early ejaculation. 

Premature ejaculation can cause significant distress to a man and his partner and it is not a condition that has recently been identified, yet, there is ambiguity in the clinical definition of premature ejaculation. This has made it difficult for researchers to try out new and effective drugs and for doctors to effectively identify and treat PE patients. 

Although there is no universally accepted definition of PE as yet, for better diagnosis and treatment, researchers have divided PE into four categories, namely: 

 Lifelong PE, 
 Acquired PE, 
 Natural variable PE, 
 Premature-like ejaculatory dysfunction. 

This categorization, experts feel, will determine the first choice of treatment. 

Premature ejaculation treatment
If premature ejaculation happens once in a while, you may not require any treatment. Treatment options include: 

 Masturbating one or two hours prior to sexual intercourse to delay ejaculation. 

 Avoiding intercourse for a period of time to remove performance pressure and anxiety. 

 Using behavioral techniques such as squeeze technique in which the penis is stimulated to the point of ejaculation; then, squeezing the point in the penis where the glans meets the shaft and holding it until the urge to ejaculate passes. This should be followed by releasing the squeeze and continuing with the foreplay. The process can be repeated as necessary. 

 Psychological therapy such as consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist to identify emotional disturbance underlying PE or for strategies to reduce performance anxiety. 

 Medications - Although the FDA does not specifically approve of any medications for PE, the following drugs can help treat premature ejaculation. 

 Antidepressants - SSRI such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil; and tricyclic anti-depressants such as Anafranil. 

 Phosphodiesterase inhibitors, such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). These are used alone or in combination with the SSRIs. 

 Topical anesthetic creams containing lidocaine or prilocaine. The cream is wiped off before the intercourse. 

An SSRI, dapoxetine, was developed specifically to treat this condition. It may be effective when taken one to three hours before sexual intercourse. Researchers found that it may be effective at the very first dose itself in some men, whereas daily dose may be required in others. Its adverse effects are similar to those of other SSRIs. Dapoxetine (Sustinex) has been approved in a number of countries including India. 

Unfortunately, this is the only drug that has been developed successfully till date. 

In 2009, the International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM) convened a select panel of experts to develop an evidence-based set of guidelines, including assessments and treatment, for patients suffering from lifelong premature ejaculation (PE). The panel recognized the continually evolving nature of clinical research and recommended a subsequent guideline review and revision every fourth year. In view of that, the ISSM organized a second multidisciplinary panel of experts in April 2013, which met for two days in Bangalore, India.  

'The lack of an evidence-based definition for acquired premature ejaculation promotes errors of classification, resulting in poorly defined study populations and less reliable and harder-to-interpret data that are difficult to generalize to patients," said Ege Can Serefoglu, MD, FECSM, of the Bagcilar Training & Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey. Dr. Serefoglu is one of the experts in the second panel. 

The second committee proposed a unified definition of lifelong and acquired premature ejaculation that is characterized by: 

 Ejaculation that always or nearly always occurs prior to or within about 1 minute of vaginal penetration from the first sexual experience (lifelong) or a clinically significant and bothersome reduction in latency time, often to about 3 minutes or less (acquired); 

 The inability to delay ejaculation on all or nearly all vaginal penetrations; and 

 Negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration, and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy. 

'The unified definition of lifelong and acquired premature ejaculation will reduce errors of diagnosis and classification by providing the clinician with a discriminating diagnostic tool,' said Dr. Serefoglu. 'It should form the basis for both the office diagnosis of premature ejaculation and the design of observational and interventional clinical trials,' he added. 

The committee also conducted and published a study, led by Stanley Althof, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in West Palm Beach, Florida, to provide clearly worded, practical, evidenced-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of premature ejaculation for family practice clinicians and sexual medicine experts. 





High Blood Pressure in Middle Age Linked to Weaker Memory in Old Age

A new study published in the online edition of Neurology suggests that high blood pressure in middle age has a big influence on whether the blood pressure affects memory and thinking in old age.

"Our findings bring new insight into the relationship between a history of high blood pressure, blood pressure in old age, the effects of blood pressure on brain structure, and memory and thinking," said study author Lenore J. Launer, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. 

For the study, 4,057 older participants free of dementia had their blood pressure measured in middle-age, (average age of 50). In late life (an average age of 76) their blood pressure was remeasured and participants underwent MRIs that looked at structure and damage to the small vessels in the brain. They also took tests that measured their memory and thinking ability. 

The study found that the association of blood pressure in old age to brain measures depended on a history of blood pressure in middle age. Higher systolic (the top number on the measure of blood pressure) and diastolic (the bottom number on the measure of blood pressure) blood pressure were associated with increased risk of brain lesions and tiny brain bleeds. This was most noticeable in people without a history of high blood pressure in middle age. For example, people with no history of high blood pressure in middle age who had high diastolic blood pressure in old age were 50 percent more likely to have severe brain lesions than people with low diastolic blood pressure in old age. 

However, in people with a history of high blood pressure in middle age, lower diastolic blood pressure in older age was associated with smaller total brain and gray matter volumes. This finding was reflected in memory and thinking performance measures as well. In people with high blood pressure in middle age, lower diastolic blood pressure was associated with 10 percent lower memory scores. 

"Older people without a history of high blood pressure but who currently have high blood pressure are at an increased risk for brain lesions, suggesting that lowering of blood pressure in these participants might be beneficial. On the other hand, older people with a history of high blood pressure but who currently have lower blood pressure might have more extensive organ damage and are at risk of brain shrinkage and memory and thinking problems," said Launer. 

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the Icelandic Heart Association, the Icelandic Parliament and Alzheimer Netherlands. 

To learn more about cognition, please visit 

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer''s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson''s disease and epilepsy. 

The American Academy of Neurology

Even Among Younger Adults, Lifestyle Factors are Linked to Memory Complaints

A new UCLA study says that depression and high blood pressure are linked to memory issues even in younger adults.
UCLA researchers and the Gallup organization polled more than 18,000 people about their memory and a variety of lifestyle and health factors previously shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer''s disease and dementia. They found that many of these risk factors increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all adult age groups. 

The findings, published in the June 4 edition of the journal PLOS ONE, may help scientists better identify how early lifestyle and health choices impact memory later in life. Examining these potential relationships, researchers say, could also help to pinpoint interventions aimed at lowering the risk of memory issues. 

The 18,552 individuals polled ranged in age from 18 to 99. The known risk factors the researchers focused on included depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking. They were surprised by the prevalence of memory issues among younger adults, said the study''s senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA''s Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center. 

"In this study, for the first time, we determined these risk factors may also be indicative of early memory complaints, which are often precursors to more significant memory decline later in life," said Small, who is also a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. 

Depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in younger adults (ages 18-39), middle-aged adults (40-59) and older adults (60-99), the researchers found. Depression was the strongest single risk factor for memory complaints in all age groups. 

Having just one risk factor significantly increased the frequency of memory complaints, regardless of age, according to researchers. Memory complaints rose when the number of risk factors increased. 

Overall, 20 percent of those polled had memory complaints, including 14 percent of younger adults, 22 percent of middle-aged adults and 26 percent of older adults. 

The researchers noted that, in general, memory issues in younger people may be different from those that plague older individuals. For younger adults, stress may play more of a role, and the ubiquity of technology - including the Internet and wireless devices, which can often result in constant multi-tasking - may impact their attention span, making it harder to focus and remember. 

Small notes that previous studies have shown that education is a key element of "cognitive reserve," the ability to compensate for progressive brain pathology. These results suggest that pursuing educational activities at any stage of life may be helpful. 

"We hope that our findings will raise awareness among researchers, health care providers and the general public about the importance of lowering these risk factors at any age, such as getting screened and treated for depression and high blood pressure, exercising more and furthering one''s education," said Dr. Stephen Chen, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute and the first author of the study. 

"We''re planning to use these results as a basis for future studies to better understand how reducing these risk factors may possibly lower the frequency of memory complaints," said author Fernando Torres-Gil, a professor at UCLA''s Luskin School of Public Affairs and associate director of UCLA''s Longevity Center. 

The Gallup poll used in the study took place between December 2011 and January 2012 and was part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which includes health- and lifestyle-related polling questions. Pollsters conducted land-line and cell phone interviews that captured a representative 90 percent of the U.S. population, the researchers said. 

The study was supported by the Gallup organization, Healthways, the Parlow-Solomon Professorship on Aging, the Ahmanson Foundation, the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Fund for Alzheimer''s Disease Research, the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and the UCLA Longevity Center. Torres-Gil is a consultant with Healthways. 

Additional study authors included Prabha Siddarth, Linda M. Ercoli and Dr. David Merrill of the UCLA Longevity Center and the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA''s Semel Institute
Source:UCLA/Plos one


Kerala govt to create digital database of Ayurveda medicine units in state

With no exact data available on the number of Ayurveda medicine manufacturers in the state, the Kerala Ayurveda department has decided to create a database of all licences issued and names of working manufacturing units in a digital format.

In the current scenario, there is no way to find out whether all the licensees are operating or what products are manufactured by each company and if any malpractice or misuse of licence is being committed. Also, the growing number of cases of people possessing licences and never renewing them has to be identified. The digital format will be released within three months, said Dr N Vimala Anil, drugs controller for Ayurveda department in Kerala.

“The data creation will not only help the department to deal with the issues related to licence releases, but will also help regulate process of licence renewal, new product endorsement and find out the number of classical and proprietary medicines being manufactured by each company. It will also help to keep a tap on companies which are engaged in the production and sale of drugs without licences or renewals. The database will be useful for the inspecting officers to carry out their duties without any kind of hurdles”, said the DC.

According to Dr Vimala, the department will build a digital file of the entire licences issued so far and arrange it area wise, with the name of company, the date it was issued on, and the products each unit manufactures. This will help the various offices of the Ayurveda department to regulate the operations of the manufacturers and make sure renewals take place. Once the database of licences is ready, it will help the department revoke licences which have not been renewed without any reasonable explanations.

Acknowledging the need to upgrade and strengthen the technical systems in the office, the state health secretary has directed the drugs controller to hold consultations with the manufacturers’ associations, and as a result a meeting of office-bearers of Ayurveda Medicine Manufacturers Organisation of India (AMMOI) and the department officials was held at the drugs control office last week. Following it, the general secretary of AMMOI, Dr D Ramanathan held a detailed exercise of collecting database of manufacturing companies across the state. Updating the details is going on.

According to information received from the DC office, the listed licensees in the state are 1200, but working units are only 687. Out of this, 646 units have GMP licences. The number of loan licensees is 98. However, exact information about operation of the units, shifting of offices, change of addresses, non-renewals, details of products etc has to be collected after detailed inspections at the units.

Referring to the human resources, the DC said the number of drug inspectors has now been increased to 7 which is sufficient to collect materials for the database. With this, issue of licences, renewals, product endorsements etc will become easier and transparent.

After the meeting, AMMOI general secretary Dr Ramanathan submitted a memorandum to the health secretary demanding establishment of a separate drugs control directorate for Ayurveda. Briefing Pharmabiz about the conclusions arrived at the meeting, he said the facilities presently available at the three government Ayurveda colleges in the state are not sufficient for conducting clinical studies for Ayurvedic medicines. This problem may be taken into consideration by the R&D wing of ISM department, he said.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Health ministry meets key policy makers to chart out action plan for first 100 days

The Ministry of Health headed by Dr Harshvardhan recently had a high level consultation with the top policy makers in Delhi to chart out government's action plan for the first 100 days with respect to healthcare reforms. It is understood that the government is keen to initiate and start delivering on promises in the election manifesto which had strong reference to healthcare needs.

It is understood that experts have been mulling over initiating the work on the new health policy on a high priority basis, in the absence of a strong healthcare policy catering to the patient needs. Rural health programme, mission mode project for malnutrition, plan for a programme for senior citizens and reviewing the existing geriatric care programme were also high on agenda.

Rajendra Pratap Gupta, president and director of the Disease Management Association of India stressed that as an expert in the area, the association is keenly looking forward to ensure that the government will take serious steps towards reviewing telemedicine and mHealth plans of the ministry of health and family welfare and will take pro active measures to initiate the work for setting up of National eHealth Authority (NeHA).

Gupta a leading public policy expert responsible for creating BJP’s election manifesto under the chairmanship of Dr Murli Manohar Joshi stressed, “Since we played an active role in highlighting the healthcare issues time and again to the government over the years and have also included all these factors in the BJPs manifesto, it becomes our priority to ensure that all the promises are duly delivered to the public. We have been in touch with the new government on a frequent basis and have been deliberating on streamlining the whole process in a systematic manner so that healthcare becomes easily accessible to the common man.”

He further added that in his representation to the health ministry as policy expert he has highlighted the need to start a plan for women welfare on a mission mode, review the national prevention programme and reform it with a focus on children and chronic diseases including school health. Gupta added that suggestions have also been given to promote Ayush, plan the hospital modernisation programme and focus on education and training  to develop talented human resources in the country.


Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to High Risk of Stroke

A new study conducted by researchers at Yashoda Hospitals and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) suggests that the risk of a stroke is high among people who are suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
 Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to High Risk of Stroke
The researchers observed around 250 patients over a period of two years and found that almost half of them suffered from vitamin D deficiency while other risk factors and risky behaviors related to stroke was also prevalent among the patients. 

"Vitamin D is being increasingly associated with a host of ailments including cardiovascular diseases. Our study proves that in addition to other ailments, Vitamin D is also associated with strokes", lead researcher and senior neurologist Dr Jaydip Ray Choudhari said. 

Source:Yashoda Hospitals and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS)


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