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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Eating the placenta: trendy but no proven health benefits and unknown risks

No scientific evidence that it protects against depression, pain or other benefits

Celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian blogged and raved about the benefits of their personal placenta 'vitamins' and spiked women's interest in the practice of consuming their placentas after childbirth.
But a new Northwestern Medicine review of 10 current published research studies on placentophagy did not turn up any human or animal data to support the common claims that eating the placenta -- either raw, cooked or encapsulated -- offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding or replenishes iron in the body.
More concerning, there are no studies examining the risk of ingesting the placenta, called placentophagy, which acts as a filter to absorb and protect the developing fetus from toxins and pollutants, scientists said.
The study will be published June 4 in Archives of Women's Mental Health.
'There are a lot of subjective reports from women who perceived benefits, but there hasn't been any systematic research investigating the benefits or the risk of placenta ingestion,' said corresponding study author Dr. Crystal Clark. 'The studies on mice aren't translatable into human benefits.'
Clark is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist specializing in reproduction-related mood disorders at Northwestern's Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders.
Placentophagy is an unknown risk for the women who eat it and for their infants, if they are breastfeeding.
'Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants,' said lead author Cynthia Coyle, a Feinberg faculty member and a psychologist.
'There are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, and the dosing is inconsistent,' Coyle said. 'Women really don't know what they are ingesting.'
Research is needed to provide the answers, Coyle said. She also hopes the study sparks conversations between women and their physicians about their post-birth plans, so doctors can inform their patients about the science or lack thereof and support patients in their decision-making process.
Clark became interested in placentophagy after some of her pregnant patients asked if eating their placentas would interfere with their antidepressant medications. She was unfamiliar with the practice and began to ask her other patients about it.
'I was surprised that it was more widespread than I anticipated,' Clark said.
Although almost all non-human placental mammals ingest their placenta after giving birth, the first documented accounts of postpartum women practicing placentophagy were in North America in the 1970s, the study reports. In recent years, advocates and the media have popularized health benefits of the practice, and more women are considering it as an option for postpartum recovery.
'The popularity has spiked in the last few years,' Clark said. 'Our sense is that people aren't making this decision based on science or talking with physicians. Some women are making this based on media reports, blogs and websites.'
The authors of this paper are currently gathering data on the perceptions, beliefs and placental practices of health care providers internationally and nationally, as well as patients locally, and whether providers are recommending placentophagy to patients.

50 years of diabetes research and treatment

From how people test their glucose levels to how long they can expect to live, almost everything has changed over the past 50 years for Americans with diabetes. A special symposium held at the American Diabetes Association's 75th Scientific Sessions features a look back at what physicians and researchers have learned and how the lives of patients have changed during the past five decades.
"There are things that have happened over the past 50 years that clearly make life a lot better for people," said Fred Whitehouse, MD, Division Head Emeritus at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, who has been treating people with diabetes for just as long.
For example, when Whitehouse first started seeing patients the only option for the treatment of type 1 diabetes was to inject animal insulin, which came from cows or pigs and sometimes caused adverse reactions in people. Today, human insulin produced by microorganisms is used, an important difference because not only are there fewer adverse reactions, there's no fear of running out of it, he said. What's more, there are now long- and rapid-acting insulins and a variety of delivery systems, including insulin pumps, which improve accuracy and comfort while tightening blood glucose control and reducing hypoglycemia.
The way glucose levels are tested has also changed dramatically, said Whitehouse. Whereas once the only way to assess diabetes control was by testing for the presence of sugar in a person's urine, today there are numerous, far more accurate ways to test blood glucose levels, including the non-invasive A1C, which measures average blood glucose levels over a three-month period. "This gives us a nice marker for showing whether a person is on the right road or not," Whitehouse said.
Yet there is still a long way to go, he noted. "There's been a lot of change, most of it for the better, but what people want is a cure and we don't have that yet."
Daniel Porte, Jr., MD, has been conducting diabetes research for more than 50 years and has witnessed a sea change in how much is known about the mechanisms involved in diabetes. He remembers when the endocrine and nervous systems were considered completely unrelated, when glucose was considered the only regulator of insulin and when there was only one method for administering insulin. While researchers have learned much about diabetes over the past 50 years - including how it develops, how to prevent or delay it and how it affects the rest of the body, all of which were virtually unknown in the 1960s - perhaps the most important lesson, he said, is that the fruits of investigation don't ripen overnight.
"In order to understand disease, you have to do basic research," said Porte, a professor at the University of California, San Diego and Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington. "But you've got to be patient, because it takes a long time to go from basic research to clinical impact."
"For example," he said, "the drugs we use now to treat diabetes were first studied 30 to 40 years ago. And there are many more than the one or two that were being used back in the 1970s."
During the time Porte has been involved in diabetes research, the field has grown from taking simple measurements of hormones to increasingly complex investigations that look at the inter-relationship between hormones and the nervous system, an area still being plumbed for new discoveries. "This year, amazingly enough to me," he said, "it was discovered that insulin sent to the central nervous system not only feeds back to the brain, it also affects glucose production. It regulates the islet cells, so there is a complete integration of the endocrine system and the nervous system. It took 40 years to discover this."
Not only do these discoveries help us develop better treatments for diabetes, said Porte, they can also help in the treatment of other diseases, such as Alzheimer's. "We now believe that perhaps impaired insulin action in the central nervous system leads to the behavioral changes we see in Alzheimer's patients," he said.
Michael Brownlee, MD, who has experienced life as a person with diabetes, physician and researcher, said the one thread that ties all three roles together is the issue of diabetes-related complications.
"The reason diabetes is a serious health problem is because of the complications," said Brownlee, Anita and Jack Saltz Chair in Diabetes Research and Associate Director for Biomedical Sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Diabetes Research Center. "If there were no complications, diabetes would be like hypothyroidism and other easily managed diseases. You'd take a tablet to replace the hormone and everything would be fine. It wouldn't be a public health problem costing billions of dollars in care each year and requiring billions of dollars of research."
Brownlee, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age eight, has suffered from the two potentially fatal acute complications of this disease--ketoacidosis and severe hypoglycemia--but not from any of the chronic complications that cause blindness, kidney failure and heart attacks. He remembers applying to medical school at a time when only half of people with type 1 diabetes were expected to live into their 40's or early 50's. Some schools were reluctant to admit him because he "wouldn't be able to practice medicine for a full lifetime," he said. "They said they'd rather give the spot to someone with a normal lifespan. Fortunately, advances in diabetes research and treatment have made those old statistics obsolete."
Brownlee's research on the mechanisms that cause diabetic complications has created a paradigm shift in the field. He noted that until 1993, diabetes complications--such as eye and kidney disease--were considered consequences of diabetes, rather than of high blood glucose levels. "Prior to the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) study that was published that year, the general dogma was that diabetes caused both metabolic changes and complications, which had nothing to do with each other. They were just two parallel manifestations of the disease," he said.
"Now it's known that prolonged high glucose levels increase the risk for eye and kidney complications associated with diabetes, and maintaining tighter control of blood glucose levels reduces that risk," he said. "We also learned from EDIC, the follow-up study to the DCCT, that the adverse effects of early high blood glucose levels persist for many years after A1Cs are improved, a phenomenon called 'metabolic memory'." A major focus of his current research is identifying the mechanisms responsible for metabolic memory.
Kathryn Ham, who turns 86 this week, has seen tremendous changes in the treatment of diabetes over the 78 years she has been living with type 1 diabetes. But she also believes firmly in the importance of keeping some things the same - such as when she gives herself insulin each day and when she tests her blood glucose levels. That kind of discipline, she said, prevents her from making mistakes or forgetting to take her insulin.
"Every person with diabetes needs to create a system for remembering and/or dealing with his or her own treatment," she said. "My system, though antiquated, works for me. I still inject insulin four times per day. I have a cup into which I put the used testing needle and used insulin needle. If I am interrupted, for example by a telephone call, while administering treatment, I can look in the cup to see if I have already taken my insulin, because I am forgetful. Of course nowadays, use of an insulin pump renders this unnecessary for many people, but there are always things you need to remember so dream up your own system."
Over the years, Ham said, she has seen the needles grow smaller, the addition of the A1C blood glucose test, new forms of insulin, new treatments for diabetes-related eye disease and the introduction of digital blood glucose meters, "which have all made a tremendous difference in diabetes care."
"Despite the enormous growth in our understanding of diabetes and its complications, we are still only able to manage the disease," said Robert Ratner, MD, Chief Scientific & Medical Officer for the American Diabetes Association. "The next 50 years must elucidate the mechanisms by which both type 1 and type 2 diabetes occur, along with those critical steps at which we might intervene to prevent disease. Treatments must provide optimal glucose and metabolic control, without the risk of hypoglycemia, and complications of diabetes should become historical memories."

Cinnamon essential oil can naturally prevent dangerous foodborne illnesses

Cinnamon essential oil can naturally prevent dangerous foodborne illnessesEssential oil of cinnamon is a potent antibacterial agent that may be useful as a natural method for preventing the spread of foodborne illness, according to a study conducted by researchers from Washington State University that is scheduled for publication in the journal Food Control in December 2014. The study was conducted on the oil of the cinnamon variety known as cassia or Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). This is different from the Ceylon variety (Cinnamomum verum) more commonly used in cooking. Researchers tested the essential oil against the top six strains of a variety of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or non-O157 STEC

Bacteria wiped out within 24 hours

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has a “zero tolerance” policy for these six strains in raw ground beef or trimmings. This means that, if any of the six strains are detected in these products, the food is considered tainted.
Non-O157 STEC is responsible for approximately 110,000 cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year.
The researchers found that just 10 drops of cinnamon essential oil in a liter of water were able to kill all six strains of non-O157 STEC within 24 hours.
“The oil can be incorporated into films and coatings for packaging both meat and fresh produce,” researcher Lina Sheng said. “It can also be added into the washing step of meat, fruits or vegetables to eliminate microorganisms.”
Growing concern over the health effects of chemical preservatives and other foodadditives have led to a growing market for natural alternatives. The Washington State researchers are now planning to investigate whether dandelions can be used to inhibit the bacteria that lead to bacterial mastitis, a mammary infection, in dairy cows.
“Our focus is on exploring plant-derived natural food bioactive compounds as antimicrobials to control foodborne pathogens, in order to ensure safety of fresh produce,” co-author Meijun Zhu said.

The future of food preservation

In recent years, many other researchers have also been exploring natural food preservatives and antimicrobials. For example, a study conducted by scientists from the National University of Technology in Argentina and published in the journalFood Chemistry in 2007 found that propolis extract could also function as a natural antibacterial preservative.
Sources for this article include:

One Fruit that Kills Diabetes and Stops Breast Cancer Cells from Growing and Spreading

One Fruit that Kills Diabetes and Stops Breast Cancer Cells from Growing and Spreading   Bitter melon has a very long history of medicinal use in the East. It has been used traditionally for high blood pressure, skin infections, painful menstruation, kidney stones, colic, malaria, glaucoma,high cholesterol, diarrhea, stomach cramps, hemorrhoids, and  fever.  Bitter melon contains alkaloids, glycoside, peptides, acids, cucurbitins, charantin, cucurbitacins, momordine, momorcharins, and proteins. It is thought that the primary constituents responsible for the hypoglycemic properties are charantin, cucurbutanoids, momordicin, and oleanolic acids. Recent scientific findings have been pointing to the hypoglycaemic and anticancer effects of bitter melon
Bitter Melon and Diabetes
The researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica have discovered the efficacy of treating Type 2 diabetes with bitter melon.

Bitter melon contains certain chemical compounds that activate AMPK which encourages the movement of glucose transporters to the surface of cells. “More transporters on cells’ surfaces increase the uptake of glucose from circulation in the blood into tissues of the body, such as muscle, thus lowering blood sugar levels.”
In the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers concluded that, “Bitter melon had a modest hypoglycemic effect and significantly reduced fructosamine levels from the baseline among patients with type-2 diabetes who received 2,000 mg/day. However, the hypoglycemic effect of bitter melon was less than metformin at 1,000 mg/day.”
Bitter Melon and Breast Cancer
A new study by Saint Louis University scientists found that bitter melon extract triggers a chain of events on a cellular level that stops breast cancer cells from multiplying and also kills them. According to lead researcher, “bitter melon extract modulates several signal transduction pathways, which induces breast cancer cell death. This extract can be utilized as a dietary supplement for the prevention of breast cancer.”
Bitter melon can be eaten as a fruit, made into a drink, or added to your smoothies.  Bitter melon extract is also available as a herbal supplement.

Tylenol (Paracetamol) can Kill You; New Warning Admits Popular Painkiller Causes Liver Damage, Death

Tylenol can Kill You; New Warning Admits Popular Painkiller Causes Liver Damage, Death The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already warns that acetaminophen is toxic to the liver, and is linked to liver failure and other serious problems.  Healthy adults who took the maximum dose of Tylenol for two weeks were found to have liver damage, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
But many people are completely unaware that Tylenol can be toxic to your liver, even at recommended doses. Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver failure, liver transplant and death. Acetaminophen is currently the leading cause of sudden liver failure in the U.S., as its toxic metabolites have been shown to kill liver cells. The drug is so toxic that as many as 80,000 people are rushed to the emergency room annually due to acetaminophen poisoning, and another 500-or-so end up dead from liver failure.
In fact, a new study, led by Dr. Kenneth Simpson of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, found that you’re more likely to die from a “staggered overdose” (taking just a little bit too much for several days or weeks) of Tylenol than from a single large overdose.These are disturbing figures that might come as a surprise to most people, especially considering that millions of Americans pop Tylenol and acetaminophen-containing drugs on a regular basis. But with more than 85 personal injury lawsuits and counting filed against the company in federal court, McNeil is feeling the heat from a drug that has long been claimed as one of the safest painkiller drugs on the market, which it clearly is not.

“The warning will make it explicitly clear that the over-the-counter drug contains acetaminophen, a pain-relieving ingredient that’s the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure,” writes Matthew Perrone for the AP. “The new cap is designed to grab the attention of people who don’t read warnings that already appear in the fine print on the product’s label, according to company executives.”
The new label, which will bear the phrases “CONTAINS ACETAMINOPHEN” and “ALWAYS READ THE LABEL,” is set to first appear on all bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol, which contains more than 50 percent more acetaminophen per dose than regular strength Tylenol. And in the coming months, all bottles of Tylenol, including regular strength Tylenol, will bear the new label.
Now an FDA advisory panel is finally recommending that cough and cold drugs that contain the pain reliever acetaminophen be banned altogether because of these serious risks of liver damage. The panel also recommended taking the popular prescription painkillers Vicodin and Percocet (which both contain acetaminophen) off the market because of similar risks of liver damage.
Sources for this article include:

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Some of the best home remedies for psoriasis

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder in which immune mediated skin inflammation occurs. The disease can be seen in the form of a few scattered, red, scaly patches on the skin. The disease may progressively lead to a considerable psychological disability and also have a significant effect on the patient’s life. Psoriasis is known to be further associated with cardiovascular disease, depression and psoriatic arthritis.

Cause of Psoriasis

The cause of psoriasis is not very well known but several risk factors increase the susceptibility of the individuals to acquire psoriasis. These include family history and environmental factors such as smoking, stress, obesity and alcohol consumption. 

Current research has found that in individuals with psoriasis, the T cells of immune system are triggered and become overactive. They start acting against body’s own cells triggering the formation of inflammatory chemicals which causes the rapid growth of skin cells. This rapid growth and build-up of skin cells is the reason behind the appearance of psoriatic plaques.

Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Conventional treatments of psoriasis are often associated with adverse reactions as well as limited efficacy. Hence, the patients always look out for herbal remedies for psoriasis.

Aloe Vera

Research evidence suggests that Aloe Vera gel is helpful in alleviating the redness and scaling of skin, which may be caused due to psoriasis. A home remedy for psoriasis involves application of the Aloe Vera gel on the affected skin for about 3 times a day. When buying a marketed product for psoriasis treatment, always look for creams containing 0.5% of aloe.

Aloe extract is obtained from the leaves of the Aloe Vera plant and is an essential ingredient of creams and ointments, which are used to reduce redness, scaly patches on skin, itchiness and inflammation. Research studies have revealed that Aloe Vera has chemicals like anthraquinone and acemannan, which have antibacterial activity and can be used in clearing off dry patches or scaly patches of psoriasis. Another component salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, which is efficacious in the desquamation of psoriatic plaques.

It has been reported that the use of Aloe in cutaneous treatment is well-tolerated by patients.

Aloe Vera for Psoriasis

Apple Cider vinegar

This is a wonderful remedy for the treatment of scalp psoriasis. It has been widely used in ancient medicine as an effective disinfectant. When used for psoriasis treatment, it can relieve itchiness of the dry scalp. A bottle of apple cider vinegar is easily available from grocery shops and can be applied to scalp several times in a week.

It has been suggested that it should be used in a ratio of 1:1 dilution with water to prevent burning sensation on the dry scalp. It finds use in home remedies for psoriasis where it is suggested that apple cider vinegar should be applied on scalp and rinsed off with water once it has dried up.


Chilli peppers are also claimed to be one of the most effective and helpful herbal remedies for psoriasis. The active chemical ingredient present in chilli pepper is capsaicin. It works by inhibiting the nerve endings, which may cause pain in patients who have psoriasis. Capsaicin is the active ingredient of chilli peppers that forms an integral ingredient of numerous creams and ointment available as over the counter product. It is used in psoriasis treatment to reduce the pain, inflammation, redness and scaling associated with psoriasis.

Chilli Peppers for Psoriasis

Tea Tree oil

Tea tree oil belongs to an Australian tree and possesses antiseptic properties and can be directly applied to the dry scalp for the treatment. People use tea tree oil shampoo to alleviate the symptoms of scalp psoriasis. Tea tree oil can be used for topical application in psoriasis treatment for alleviation of dry patches or scaly patches.


Turmeric is armed with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is claimed to be one of the best herbal remedies for psoriasis. Turmeric has an active chemical ingredient called curcumin, which has been studied to be instrumental in changing the gene expression. Research studies have claimed that turmeric can alter Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) cytokine expression. Turmeric is effective in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and in reducing the symptoms of psoriasis.

Turmeric should be liberally added to the food you prepare such as curries. Turmeric is also available as over the counter product in the form of concentrated pills or supplements. As per FDA, 1.5 to 3.0 gm of turmeric can be taken safely as daily doses.

Oregon grape

Oregon grape or Mahonia aquifolium is an herbal remedy for psoriasis, which possesses strong antimicrobial property. It plays an important role in eliciting immune response. Research studies have proven that when cream containing 10% Mahonia is applied on skin, it can prove to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate form of psoriasis. It has been suggested that when used as home remedies for psoriasis, Mahonia should only be used for topical application. The bark extract is useful as home remedy for psoriasis.

Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3-fatty acids and are helpful in psoriasis treatment. It reduces inflammation of the skin. The recommended dose of fish oil supplement is 3 grams or less.

Self-Help and Lifestyle Changes

These measures are significant in improving the condition and appearance of skin such as dry scalp, dry patches, itchiness and scaly patches. It is important to take regular baths because it helps in removing scales and soothes inflammation of the affected skin. The use of colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts or Dead Sea salts is recommended as herbal remedy for psoriasis; these are added along with bath oil to the water and soak. Use mild soaps with added fats and oils and use lukewarm water to take bath.

It is extremely essential to use liberal mounts of moisturizer. Apply moisturizer when the skin is still wet. It is preferable to use ointment-based moisturizers. For very dry skin with dry patches, body oils should be preferably used, as they are more effective in preventing the evaporation of water from the body. Apply moisturizer several times during cold or dry weather. It has been reported that use of alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of psoriasis treatments and hence should be completely avoided. There are various triggers, which can aggravate the condition of psoriasis. These are infections or injuries to your skin, stress, smoking and intense or over exposure to sunlight. These triggering factors should be avoided in routine life.

Controlled Exposure to Sunlight

It has been suggested that exposure to small amounts of sunlight is beneficial for psoriasis affected skin. It can bring about a significant improvement in the lesions. Hence, overexposure to sun should be avoided and sunscreen always used when going out in the sun to prevent the condition from worsening.

Home Phototherapy

Home light units are available which can be used in home phototherapy in psoriasis treatment. The unit can be chosen depending on the skin type of the individual. Home phototherapy makes use of ultraviolet B phototherapy in alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis. The targeted UV B phototherapy provides localized psoriasis treatment and does not damage or harm the skin unaffected by psoriasis.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Make Yoga a Mass Movement

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Make Yoga a Mass Movement
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for making yoga a mass movement to connect people and strengthen the bonds of humanity. Modi will share a post on various aspects of yoga daily till June 21.

In a post on Facebook, Modi said the global community had come together in support of celebrating the first International Day of Yoga on June 21. 

"Now that strong support has also turned into immense enthusiasm, I am seeing (that) several people and organisations across the world are working towards making the first International Day of Yoga a memorable event," he said. 

Source: IANS

Scientists produce strongest evidence yet of schizophrenia's causes

An international team of scientists led by Cardiff University researchers has provided the strongest evidence yet of what causes schizophrenia - a condition that affects around 1% of the global population.
Published today (17:00BST, 03/06/2015) in the journal Neuron, their work presents strong evidence that disruption of a delicate chemical balance in the brain is heavily implicated in the disorder.
In the largest ever study of its kind, the team found that disease-linked mutations disrupt specific sets of genes contributing to excitatory and inhibitory signalling, the balance of which plays a crucial role in healthy brain development and function.
The breakthrough builds on two landmark studies led by members of the Cardiff University team, published last year in the journal Nature.
"We're finally starting to understand what goes wrong in schizophrenia," says lead author Dr Andrew Pocklington from Cardiff University's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics.
"Our study marks a significant step towards understanding the biology underpinning schizophrenia, which is an incredibly complex condition and has up until very recently kept scientists largely mystified as to its origins.
"We now have what we hope is a pretty sizeable piece of the jigsaw puzzle that will help us develop a coherent model of the disease, while helping us to rule out some of the alternatives.
"A reliable model of disease is urgently needed to direct future efforts in developing new treatments, which haven't really improved a great deal since the 1970s."
Professor Hugh Perry, who chairs the Medical Research Council Neuroscience and Mental Health Board said: "This work builds on our understanding of the genetic causes of schizophrenia - unravelling how a combination of genetic faults can disrupt the chemical balance of the brain.
"Scientists in the UK, as part of an international consortium, are uncovering the genetic causes of a range of mental health issues, such as schizophrenia.
"In the future, this work could lead to new ways of predicting an individual's risk of developing schizophrenia and form the basis of new targeted treatments that are based on an individual's genetic makeup."
A healthy brain is able to function properly thanks to a precise balance between chemical signals that excite and inhibit nerve cell activity. Researchers studying psychiatric disorders have previously suspected that disruption of this balance contributes to schizophrenia.
The first evidence that schizophrenia mutations interfere with excitatory signalling was uncovered in 2011 by the same team, based at Cardiff University's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics.
This paper not only confirms their previous findings, but also provides the first strong genetic evidence that disruption of inhibitory signalling contributes to the disorder.
To reach their conclusions scientists compared the genetic data of 11,355 patients with schizophrenia against a control group of 16,416 people without the condition.
They looked for types of mutation known as copy number variants (CNVs), mutations in which large stretches of DNA are either deleted or duplicated.
Comparing the CNVs found in people with schizophrenia to those found in unaffected people, the team was able to show that the mutations in individuals with the disorder tended to disrupt genes involved in specific aspects of brain function.
The disease-causing effects of CNVs are also suspected to be involved in other neurodevelopmental disorders such as intellectual disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.
Around 635,000 people in the UK will at some stage in their lives be affected by schizophrenia.
The estimated cost of schizophrenia and psychosis to society is around £11.8 billion a year.
The symptoms of schizophrenia can be extremely disruptive, and have a large impact on a person's ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as going to work, maintaining relationships and caring for themselves or others.

Hyperbaric hope for fibromyalgia sufferers

 Women who suffer from fibromyalgia benefit from a treatment regimen in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, according to researchers at Rice University and institutes in Israel.
IMAGEA clinical trial involving women diagnosed with fibromyalgia showed the painful condition improved in every one of the 48 who completed two months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Brain scans of the women before and after treatment gave credence to the theory that abnormal conditions in pain-related areas of the brain may be responsible for the syndrome.
Results of the study appear in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that can be accompanied by - and perhaps related to - other physical and mental conditions that include fatigue, cognitive impairment, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbance.
More than 90 percent of those diagnosed with the syndrome are women, said Eshel Ben-Jacob, a lead author of the proof-of-concept study who developed the analytical method used to show the association between patients' improvement and changes in their brains. He is an adjunct professor of biosciences at Rice University, a senior investigator at Rice's Center for Theoretical Biological Physics and a professor of physics and member of the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.
"Symptoms in about 70 percent of the women who took part have to do with the interpretation of pain in their brains," Ben-Jacob said. "They're the ones who showed the most improvement with hyperbaric oxygen treatment. We found significant changes in their brain activity."
Scientists have not pinned down the syndrome's cause, although another recent PLOS One study identified a possible RNA-based biomarker for its diagnosis. A variety of treatments from drugs to lifestyle changes have been tried to relieve patients' suffering, with limited success, Ben-Jacob said.
"Most people have never heard of fibromyalgia," he said. "And many who have, including some medical doctors, don't admit that this is a real disorder. I learned from my M.D. friends that this is not the only case in which disorders that target mainly women raise skepticism in the medical community as to whether they're real or not. However, these days there are increasing efforts to understand the effect of gender on body disorders."
Researchers at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and Tel Aviv University were studying post-traumatic brain injury patients when they realized hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) could help patients with fibromyalgia.
"Patients who had fibromyalgia in addition to their post-concussion symptoms had complete resolution of the symptoms," said Dr. Shai Efrati, who noted his own mother suffers from the syndrome. Efrati is lead author of the study, head of the research and development unit at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and a member of the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers that expose patients to pure oxygen at higher-than-atmospheric pressures are commonly used to treat patients with embolisms, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness (known to divers as "the bends"), among many other conditions.
One effect of exposure is to push more oxygen into a patient's bloodstream, which delivers it to the brain. Efrati's earlier trials found HBOT induces neuroplasticity that leads to repair of chronically impaired brain functions and improved quality of life for post-stroke and mild traumatic brain injury patients, even years after the initial injury.
Ben-Jacob said two patients spearheaded the push for the study. One was an Oxford graduate student who developed fibromyalgia after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a train crash. "By chance, the secretary of the department where she worked is the mother of the nurse in charge of the HBOT. She said you have to go and try to do it," he recalled.
The other, he said, is a professor of sociology who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorders due to child abuse. The professor had suffered from fibromyalgia for many years. Her symptoms got worse through the initial treatments - a common experience for other patients in the study who she said had suppressed memories due to child abuse - before they got better. But by the end of treatment both women showed remarkable improvement, Ben-Jacob said.
Efrati said some patients will likely require follow-up sessions. "The abnormalities in brain regions responsible for the chronic pain sensation in fibromyalgia patients can be triggered by different events," he said. "Accordingly, the long-term response may be different.
"We have learned, for example, that when fibromyalgia is triggered by traumatic brain injury, we can expect complete resolution without any need for further treatment. However, when the trigger is attributed to other causes, such as fever-related diseases, patients will probably need periodic maintenance therapy."
The clinical trial involved 60 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia at least two years earlier. A dozen left the trial for various reasons, but half of the 48 patients who completed it received 40 HBOT treatments five days a week over two months. Half of the 48 patients who completed the trial received 40 HBOT treatments five days a week over two months. The 90-minute treatments exposed patients to pure oxygen at two times the atmospheric pressure.
The other half were part of what Ben-Jacob called a crossover-control group. They were evaluated before the trial and after a control period that saw no improvement in their conditions. After the two-month control, they were given the same HBOT treatment as the first group and experienced the same relief, according to the researchers.
The researchers noted the successful treatment enabled patients to drastically reduce or even eliminate their use of pain medications. "The intake of the drugs eased the pain but did not reverse the condition, while HBOT did reverse the condition," the researchers wrote.
Efrati said the findings warrant further study. "The results are of significant importance since, unlike the current treatments offered for fibromyalgia patients, HBOT is not aiming for just symptomatic improvement," he said. "HBOT is aiming for the actual cause -- the brain pathology responsible for the syndrome. It means that brain repair, including even neuronal regeneration, is possible even for chronic, long-lasting pain syndromes, and we can and should aim for that in any future treatment development."

Monday, 1 June 2015

Catechins in Decaffeinated Green Tea Reduces Major Risk of Prostate Cancer in Men

Men at high risk of prostate cancer can reduce their chances of having the disease by drinking green tea.
 The researchers, led by Nagi Kumar, an Indian-origin scientist from Moffitt Cancer Center, US, assessed the safety and effectiveness of the active components in green tea to prevent prostate cancer development in men who have pre-malignant lesions. 

The researchers administered decaffeinated green tea capsules called Polyphenon E twice a day that contained a mixture of green tea substance called 'catechins'. The effects of Polyphenon E in 49 men were compared to placebo tablets in 48 men over a one-year treatment period. 

Laboratory studies have shown that catechins inhibit cancer cell growth, motility and invasion, and stimulate cancer cell death. 

The researchers found that people who had taken the green tea capsule had a significant decrease in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. 

PSA is a biomarker that in combination with other risk factors is used to screen patients for prostate cancer, and high levels signify a higher risk of prostate cancer. 

Green tea catechins also prevent and reduce tumor growth in animal models, the study noted. 

Twenty percent of green tea is consumed in Asian countries where prostate cancer death rates are among the lowest in the world, the researchers said. 
Source:Moffitt Cancer Center,


Kidney Function Tests are a Better Indicator of Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Kidney Function Tests are a Better Indicator of Cardiovascular Disease RiskCurrently, the heart health is determined with the help of traditional tests of cholesterol levels and blood pressure. However, a new research has revealed that simple parameters of the kidney's functions and damage may be better at predicting the risk of heart failure and death from heart attack and stroke than these traditional tests. The study said, "The data may help physicians make better decisions on whether patients need lifestyle modifications such as better diets and more exercise or treatments such as statins, medication widely used for preventing cardiovascular diseases."

Study lead author Kunihiro Matsushita, assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "Cholesterol levels and blood pressure tests are good indicators of cardiovascular risk, but they are not perfect. This study tells us we could do even better with information that often times we are already collecting. If healthcare providers have data on kidney damage and kidney function, which they often do, they should be using those data to better understand a patient's risk of cardiovascular disease." 

The most common assessment of kidney function checks the blood for creatinine level, a waste product of the muscles, and reflects how well the kidneys are filtering it out, called an estimated glomerular filtration rate, or GFR. Another key test measures albuminuria, or how much of the protein albumin leaks out of the kidney and passes into the urine. 

The researchers analyzed data from 24 studies that included more than 637,000 study participants with no history of cardiovascular disease and the results of tests of GFR and albuminuria. They found that both GFR levels and albuminuria independently improved prediction of cardiovascular diseases in general, particularly heart failure and death from heart attack and stroke. Albuminuria was found to be the stronger predictor. It also outperformed cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure, and whether someone is a smoker, as a risk factor for heart failure and death from heart attack or stroke. 

Source:The study has been published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.


Cooked Eggs-Vegetable Salad Combination Increases Absorption of Essential Nutrients

Cooked Eggs-Vegetable Salad Combination Increases Absorption of Essential NutrientsAverage vegetable intake among Americans is below the recommended levels and researchers have now found a method to increase the intake.
Wayne Campbell, researcher at Purdue University said that consuming cooked eggs with vegetables increases vegetable intake as well as improves the overall nutrient intake. 

Absorption of carotenoids, the organic pigment found in vegetables and eggs were found to increase 3-9 fold in those who ate the highest egg amount with the salad of tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, and Chinese wolfberry. 

The carotenoids found in the salad include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, the latter two being found in egg yolk as well.

Campbell noted that because of the combination, not only are lutein and zeaxanthin available through whole eggs, but the value of the vegetables is enhanced. 

Campbell noted that his group would like to expand their research to explore the effects on other fat-soluble nutrients including vitamin E and vitamin D. 

Cannabis Use Curbs Intestinal Infections in Hunter Gatherers of the Congo Basin

Exploring cannabis use among the Aka foragers, a "pygmy" people of the Congo basin, US researchers have found that the more the hunter-gatherers smoke cannabis, the less they are infected by intestinal worms.

While the Aka deliberately consume a tea of a local plant, motunga, to fight parasitic infections, they do not think of cannabis or tobacco as medicine," said Ed Hagen, anthropologist from Washington State University. 

The findings suggest that they may unconsciously be, in effect, smoking medical marijuana. 

"In the same way, we have a taste for salt, we might have a taste for psychoactive plant toxins, because these things kill parasites," Hagen added. 

Hagen surveyed almost all of the nearly 400 adult Aka along the Lobaye River in the Central African Republic and found roughly 70 percent of the men and six percent of the women used cannabis. 

Stool samples collected from the men to gauge their worm burden found some 95 percent of them were infected with helminths. But those who consumed cannabis had a significantly lower rate of infection. 

Researchers are unsure when the Aka might have first smoked cannabis or when it arrived on the continent. 

It may have come with traders from the Indian subcontinent around the first century AD, but Hagen and his colleagues said it might not have been smoked until European colonization in the 17th century. 

The study appeared in the American Journal of Human Biology

Source: IANS


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