Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Depression increases stroke risk in women
Maybe the ones concerned were in poor health anyway and that made them depressed?
Middle-aged women who suffer from depression are almost twice as likely to suffer a stroke, according to a new study.
The 12-year Australian study involved more than 10,000 women, aged between 47 and 52.
Researchers said it was unclear why such a strong link between depression and stroke had been found, but that it was possible that inflammatory and immunological responses to depression could have an impact on blood vessels.
The study found that depressed women had a 2.4 times increased risk of stroke, compared to those who weren’t depressed, which reduced to 1.9 times the risk when other factors increasing stroke risk were excluded.
Study author Doctor Caroline Jackson, an epidemiologist in the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia, said: “When treating women, doctors need to recognise the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term.
“Current guidelines for stroke prevention tend to overlook the potential role of depression.”
The research is the first large-scale study in which scientists examined the association between depression and stroke in younger middle-aged women.
The researchers said that although the increased stroke risk associated with depression was large, the absolute risk of stroke is still fairly low for women of that age.
About 1.5 per cent of all women in the study suffered a stroke.
Dr Jackson said similar results could be expected among European and American women.
She added: “We may need more targeted approaches to prevent and treat depression among younger women, because it could have a much stronger impact on stroke for them now rather than later in life.”
The findings were published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Dr Clare Walton, from charity the Stroke Association said: “Past research has suggested that depression may increase your risk of stroke and this study adds further evidence to this. People with depression may be less motivated to maintain good health or take medications correctly which could put them at greater risk. However, it’s very difficult to determine whether one directly causes the other.”
Study: Marijuana causes “complete remission” of Crohn’s Disease
Marijuana – scientific name “cannabis” – performed like a champ in the first-ever placebo-controlled trial of the drug to treat Crohn’s Disease, also known as inflammatory bowel disease.
The disease of the digestive tract afflicts 400,000 – 600,000 people in North America alone causing abdominal pain, diarrhea (which can be bloody), severe vomiting, weight loss, as well as secondary skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration.
Smoking pot caused a “complete remission” of Crohn’s disease compared to placebo in half the patients who lit up for eight weeks, according to clinical trial data to be published the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Researchers at Israel’s Meir Medical Center took 21 people with intractable, severe Crohn’s disease and gave 11 of them two joints a day for eight weeks. “The standardized cannabis cigarettes” contained 23 percent THC and 0.5 percent CBD (cannabidiol). (Such marijuana is available on dispensary shelves in San Francisco, Oakland, and other cities that have regulated access to the drug.) The other ten subjects smoked placebo cigarettes containing no active cannabinoids.
Investigators reported that smoking weed caused a “complete remission” of Crohn’s Disease in five of the 11 subjects. Another five of the eleven test subjects saw their Crohn’s Disease symptoms cut in half. Furthermore, “subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.”
The study is the first placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the consumption of cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s, notes NORML. All of the patients had intractable forms of the disease and did not respond to conventional treatments. Still, the United States government claims that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and has no medical use. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag is waging a war on safe access to medical cannabis in the Bay Area.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Fish oil 'can restore the brain after junk food': Diets rich in omega-3s play key role in reversing damage caused by high fats (?)
This is just the latest obeisance in the fish oil religion. They have no new data, just a literature survey. As computer people say, Garbage in, garbage out
Fish oil can counter the negative effect junk food has on the brain, say scientists.
More than a decade of research has shown that high-fat diets can impact the brain by disrupting 'neurogenesis', a process that generates new nerve cells.
Now University of Liverpool researchers have discovered that diets rich in omega-3s, such as fish oil, can prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that controls feeding, learning and memory.
The team from the University's Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease originally set out to look at research from across to world to see whether the data suggested that omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss.
However, although data from the 185 research papers indicated fish oils do not have a direct impact on this process, it found that they play a significant role in reversing the damage high fats can cause the brain.
Researcher Dr Lucy Pickavance explained: 'Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume.
'Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.
'These changes can be seen in the brain's structure, including its ability to generate new nerve cells, potentially linking obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
'Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can reverse or even prevent these effects. We wanted to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes.'
The research papers showed that on high-fat diets hormones that are usually secreted from body tissues into the circulation after eating - which protect neurons and stimulate their growth - are prevented from passing into the brain by increased circulation of inflammatory molecules and a type of fat called triglycerides.
Molecules that stimulate nerve growth are also reduced.
But it appears - in studies with animal models - that omega-3s restore normal function by interfering with the production of these inflammatory molecules, suppressing triglycerides, and returning these nerve growth factors to normal.
Dr Pickavance added: 'Fish oils don't appear to have a direct impact on weight loss, but they may take the brakes off the detrimental effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by high-fat diets.
'They seem to mimic the effects of calorie restrictive diets and including more oily fish or fish oil supplements in our diets could certainly be a positive step forward for those wanting to improve their general health.'
Medical use of Cannabis and MS
Like many of those facing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Barry Rudd was willing to try anything to be well again.
The property developer from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, had been an avid three-times-a-week gym-goer when, in 2004, he was given the devastating news.
Just 53 at the time, he had started feeling tired, and his foot began dragging when he walked. After being referred to a neurologist in June 2005, the diagnosis was finally given: primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
One of the more uncommon forms of the disease, affecting only 15 per cent of sufferers, it causes a steady decline as symptoms worsen.
The condition, in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system, slowly robs sufferers of their balance, movement and speech, causing stiffness, numbness, insomnia, pain and exhaustion.
There was little doctors could do to help Barry and he was drawn by desperation into the murky world of alternative medicine – paying more than £20,000 for bogus treatments in Holland and Poland that had no effect on his condition.
Finally, in late 2010 he saw an article online about a new drug called Sativex. The oral spray is derived from the cannabis plant – but without any of the associated dangers or side effects – and works by dampening down the over-activity in the nervous system that damages the muscles, inhibiting movement.
‘I mentioned it to my neurologist, who said, “You can’t get it in this area. If you want it you have to buy it privately.” So he gave me a private prescription. I went to my local chemist who charged me £550.’
The supply lasted just six weeks, but the effects were almost immediate. ‘Within a few days I could feel the benefit and after a couple of weeks my symptoms were almost completely gone. I’d say I was 80 per cent better,’ says Barry.
But, unable to get an NHS prescription, after three months Barry could no longer afford the treatment. His symptoms flooded back. To add to his misery, he found that a few miles away at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, MS patients with symptoms similar to his are being prescribed the drug.
According to Dr Willy Notcutt, consultant in pain management at James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Sativex can not only alleviate existing problems but could hold back the progression of MS.
‘Sativex is licensed only for the relief of spasticity [tightness in the muscles that affect movement] and found effective in half of cases,’ he says. ‘Many patients have discovered what Barry did: it also relieves other symptoms, such as chronic insomnia.’
A major review of trials last December concluded there was insufficient evidence to warrant Sativex’s routine use with MS, yet Dr Notcutt is convinced of its effectiveness.
‘We found that patients have substantially improved sleep,’ he says. ‘Studies on animals have shown some reduction in disease progression. We know it has an effect on protecting the nervous system.’
The problems have arisen because of the way certain clinical commissioning groups (CCGs – the bodies that have replaced primary care trusts) do their sums. A single bottle costing £125 will contain 90 sprays.
The drug has not yet been assessed by the NHS guidance body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – which means funding decisions are not uniform across CCGs.
The result is that it is not being prescribed widely. Earlier this year, British charity the MS Society found that just two in 100 patients were using a symptom-reducing treatment such as Sativex.
Laura Weir, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the MS Society, says: ‘We know that Sativex is not being prescribed in some areas and in other areas it is. We think this is down to CCGs making their own decisions at a local level.’
In 2011 the Midlands Therapeutic Review and Advisory Committee – an independent advisory group that provides guidance on pharmaceutical treatments in the West Midlands – recommended against prescribing Sativex, stating there was ‘inadequate evidence for efficacy and/or safety’.
Weir insists: ‘Their decision, which has triggered similar ones elsewhere, is based on inaccurate analysis of the data, and on the cost impact of the treatment rather than cost effectiveness. We wrote to them to highlight this but the committee has not reviewed the policy.
‘Prescription rates for Sativex in the UK are low. It is a licensed treatment for MS and has undergone extensive clinical testing that found it to be safe and effective. We strongly believe eligible people should be given the opportunity to try treatments that could benefit them.’
Barry turned to a nurse for advice. ‘She told me other patients buy cannabis and mix it into cakes.’
He refuses to consider this option. ‘If there’s a drug that’s legal – Sativex – and that works for me, why can’t I get it on the NHS? The future for me looks grim.’
Dr Notcutt is equally angry. He says: ‘When you find patients, as I have, whose lives are transformed by this drug you’re left wondering: are we prepared as a society to leave people in often agonising pain? Or do we provide them with a medicine that might help them?’
Posted by jonjayray at 12:24 AM
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Men who take prescription painkillers are 50% more likely to develop erectile dysfunction
Men who regularly take prescription painkillers have an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction, according to a new study.
Researchers found that regularly taking opioids, including codeine, increased a man’s risk of the condition.
The study, published in the journal Spine, revealed that 19 per cent of men who took high-dose opioids for at least four months developed ED. In comparison, seven per cent of men who do not take opioids suffer from ED.
Therefore, people taking opioids are more than 50 per cent more likely to develop ED than those who are not taking the medication.
The most commonly used prescription opioids are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine.
The study of 11,000 men with back pain also showed that men over the age of 60 are much more likely to develop ED than younger men are.
‘Men who take opioid pain medications for an extended period of time have the highest risk of ED,’ said lead author Richard Deyo, investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research and Professor of Evidence-based Family Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.
He added: ‘This doesn't mean that these medications cause ED, but the association is something patients and clinicians should be aware of when deciding if opioids should be used to treat back pain.
‘There is no question that for some patients opioid use is appropriate, but there is also increasing evidence that long-term use can lead to addiction, fatal overdoses, sleep apnea, falls in the elderly, reduced hormone production, and now erectile dysfunction.’
Researchers found that age was the factor most significantly associated with receiving ED prescriptions. Men aged between 60 and 69 were 14 times more likely to receive prescriptions for ED medication than men aged 18 to 29.
Depression and use of sedative hypnotics like benzodiazepines also increased the likelihood that a man would develop ED.
Coffee is more than just a hangover pick-me-up as it also fights the effects of alcohol
This relies on self-report so is rather shaky
It is the perfect pick-me-up for the morning after the night before. Now new research shows that a mug of coffee can do more for a bleary-eyed reveller than simply lift a hangover.
Finnish scientists have found that a steady stream of the black stuff can offset some of the harmful effects of alcohol too.
Five or more cups of coffee a day can slash levels of an enzyme known to be a precursor to liver damage, heart disease and diabetes by up to 50 per cent, especially in men.
Last night, experts welcomed the findings. Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: ‘Many people do tend to reach for a coffee after a night out drinking and here is evidence of its beneficial effects.
‘Of course, you should try to avoid the situation of having too much alcohol in the first place but the five-cups-a-day message is worth bearing in mind.
‘The next step is for a large-scale study to be undertaken in the UK too so the healing effects of coffee can be proven even closer to home.’
Regular alcohol consumption is known to increase levels in the body of GGT, an enzyme which is a risk factor in a range of illnesses.
Academics at Tampere University and Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare studied nearly 19,000 people over a decade. They quizzed them on their health, medical history and intake of alcohol and coffee and measured their levels of GGT.
Their report, published in the journal Alcohol And Alcoholism, concludes: ‘Consumption of over 280g of ethanol per week [13.5 pints of beer or 3.7 bottles of wine] was found to lead to an approximate threefold increase in GGT activities when compared with the corresponding group of abstainers.
‘Regular consumption of five or more cups of coffee per day in this subpopulation was in turn associated with an approximate 50 per cent reduction in GGT activities.
‘Taken together, our findings suggest that high intake of coffee leads to lower GGT levels in heavy alcohol consumers, particularly, among men.’
Professor Roger Williams of the Foundation for Liver Research in London said: ‘Past research has shown that certain of the organic chemicals in coffee have been found to have a favourable effect on the processes of liver injury and I imagine that is what is being shown in the heavy drinkers here.’
And, last night, the coffee industry claimed the beverage is now losing its reputation for giving drinkers nothing more than a caffeine rush.
Dr Euan Paul of the British Coffee Association added: ‘It is one of the most heavily researched products in the world today.
‘Other scientific studies have shown that four to five cups per day may be associated with other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
‘All of this contributes to the growing body of evidence that coffee, when drunk in moderation, is safe and part of a healthy diet.’
Posted by jonjayray at 12:31 AM
Friday, May 17, 2013
Being a boy is NOT a mental illness
It's normal for a boy to be always running and to try to climb every tree he sees
Drinking just one can of fizzy drink a day increases the risk of painful kidney stones by a QUARTER
The usual epidemiological rubbish. Poor people drink more Coke and also have worse health. The Coke does nothing. It's just a poverty marker
Drinking a can of fizzy drink a day could increase the risk of kidney stones by almost a quarter, new research shows. The study found that drinking sugar-sweetened drinks makes the painful stones more likely to develop.
Other drinks - such as coffee, tea and orange juice - reduced the risk, the research by Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, U.S., found.
Dr Gary Curhan said in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: ‘Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed.
‘We found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a higher incidence of kidney stones.’
About three in 20 British men and one in 20 women develop a kidney stone at some stage in their life, and they are often advised to drink more fluids to prevent them reforming.
But Dr Curhan said the new study shows some drinks may be more beneficial than others.
His team studied data from 194,095 patients over an eight year period.
They found that those who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened cola servings per day had a 23 per cent higher chance of developing kidney stones compared with those participants consuming less than one serving per week.
This was true for consuming sugar-sweetened non-cola drinks as well, such as punch.
They also found that some beverages, such as coffee, tea and orange juice, were associated with a lower risk of stone formation.
Co-author, Dr Pietro Manuel Ferraro, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, said: ‘Our prospective study confirms that some beverages are associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation, whereas others are associated with a higher risk.
‘Although higher total fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation, this information about individual beverages may be useful for general practitioners seeking to implement strategies to reduce stone formation in their patients.’
Posted by jonjayray at 12:25 AM
Thursday, May 16, 2013
How we start being 'fattist' at four: Study finds children would not think of overweight person as a potential friend
This very early emergence of a dislike for fat is consistent with it being genetically inherited. Fat cavemen could not run fast so were poor hunters and were scorned for that. The "war on obesity" can be seen then as following an inherited emotional reflex, not any rational judgment. Only thus can we explain that the war continues even though we now know that people of middling weight live the longest. An alleged health crusade is nothing of the sort
They struggle to read or even tie their shoelaces. But four-year-old children have already learnt to dislike fat people.
A study of 126 boys and girls who had just started school showed they were loath to think of an overweight story book character as a potential friend.
However, they had no qualms about ‘befriending’ the same character when he was of normal weight or disabled.
The Leeds University researchers said it seems that even very young children have picked up on the prejudice against fat people that pervades society.
Professor Andrew Hill read boys and girls who aged between four and six one of three versions of a specially-commissioned children’s book.
The story described a group of children and what happened when Toby, their ‘really naughty’ cat, got stuck in a tree.
In each case, the storyline was the same. However, the pictures varied, with Alfie, the main character, depicted as being of normal weight, overweight or disabled.
The schoolchildren, who were in reception class and year one, were then asked to rate Alfie’s attributes.
Fat Alfie was less likely to win a race, do well at school, be happy with his looks and get invited to parties than normal-weight Alfie.
The Alfie who was in a wheelchair was also marked down but not to the same extent.
Most tellingly, hardly any of the children said they’d want fat Alfie as a friend.
Only one of the 43 children read the fat Alfie version of the book chose him as a potential pal.
A female version of the story produced a similar result, with just two of 30 children saying they’d want to play with fat Alfina.
The results of the study, the first to show that children of such a young age stigmatise those who are fat, were presented at European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.
Professor Hill said: ‘This research confirms young children’s awareness of the huge societal interest in body size.
‘It shows that by school entry age, UK children have taken on board the negativity associated with fatness and report its penalties in terms of appearance, school activities and socially.
‘This negativity was shared by another visibly different characterisation, a child in a wheelchair, but to a far smaller extent.
‘But there was some evidence that older children expressed more negative views.’
He said that with parents of obese children saying their youngsters are already socially isolated at the age of five, such views could underpin weight-related bullying and victimisation.
The professor said that he believes the youngsters are picking up on a prejudice towards obesity that is all around them, from the opinions of their parents to TV shows which ‘ridicule’ the fat.
He added: ‘I think we have an underlying social commentary about weight and morals and that the morality of people is based on their shape.
‘I think that is very powerful and kids are sensitive to it.’
Professor John Wilding, of the UK Association for the study of Obesity, said: ‘I think it matters because we know that the social stigma associated with weight problems is quite significant.
‘It is reflected in reduced employment opportunities and all sorts of other aspects of life.
‘If these stereotypes are starting in childhood, it is going to be very hard to reverse them.
‘I guess we need to think about how to change that in society.’
No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet
Nasty of me to say it but I'll say it anyway: "I told you so"
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.
Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — groups that make up more than half of the American population.
Some influential organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said that everyone, not just those at risk, should aim for that very low sodium level. The heart association reaffirmed that position in an interview with its spokesman on Monday, even in light of the new report.
But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.
“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He explained that the possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.
The committee was not asked to specify an optimal amount of sodium and did not make any recommendations about how much people should consume. Dr. Strom said people should not eat too much salt, but he also said that the data on the health effects of sodium were too inconsistent for the committee to say what the upper limit of sodium consumption should be.
Until about 2006, almost all studies on salt and health outcomes relied on the well-known fact that blood pressure can drop slightly when people eat less salt. From that, and from other studies linking blood pressure to risks of heart attacks and strokes, researchers created models showing how many lives could be saved if people ate less salt.
The United States dietary guidelines, based on the 2005 Institute of Medicine report, recommend that the general population aim for sodium levels of 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day because those levels will not raise blood pressure. The average sodium consumption in the United States, and around the world, is about 3,400 milligrams a day, according to the Institute of Medicine — an amount that has not changed in decades.
But more recently, researchers began looking at the actual consequences of various levels of salt consumption, as found in rates of heart attacks, strokes and death, not just blood pressure readings. Some of what they found was troubling.
One 2008 study the committee examined, for example, randomly assigned 232 Italian patients with aggressively treated moderate to severe congestive heart failure to consume either 2,760 or 1,840 milligrams of sodium a day, but otherwise to consume the same diet. Those consuming the lower level of sodium had more than three times the number of hospital readmissions — 30 as compared with 9 in the higher-salt group — and more than twice as many deaths — 15 as compared with 6 in the higher-salt group.
Another study, published in 2011, followed 28,800 subjects with high blood pressure ages 55 and older for 4.7 years and analyzed their sodium consumption by urinalysis. The researchers reported that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and death from heart disease increased significantly for those consuming more than 7,000 milligrams of sodium a day and for those consuming fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day.
There are physiological consequences of consuming little sodium, said Dr. Michael H. Alderman, a dietary sodium expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who was not a member of the committee. As sodium levels plunge, triglyceride levels increase, insulin resistance increases, and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases. Each of these factors can increase the risk of heart disease.
“Those are all bad things,” Dr. Alderman said. “A health effect can’t be predicted by looking at one physiological consequence. There has to be a net effect.”
Medical and public health experts responded to the new assessment of the evidence with elation or concern, depending on where they stand in the salt debates.
“What they have done is earth-shattering,” Dr. Alderman said. “They have changed the paradigm of this issue. Until now it was all about blood pressure. Now they say it is more complicated.” The report, he predicted, “will have a big impact.”
But Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that has taken a strong position against excessive salt consumption, worried that the public would get the wrong message. “It would be a shame if this report convinced people that salt doesn’t matter,” Ms. Liebman said.
The American Heart Association agrees with her. Dr. Elliott Antman, a spokesman for the association and a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital n Boston, said the association remained concerned about the large amount of sodium in processed foods, which makes it almost impossible for most Americans to cut back. People should aim for 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, he said.
“The American Heart Association is not changing its position,” Dr. Antman said. The association rejects the Institute of Medicine’s conclusions because the studies on which they were based had methodological flaws, he said. The heart association’s advice to consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, he added, is based on epidemiological data and studies that assessed the effects of sodium consumption on blood pressure.
The Institute of Medicine committee said it was well aware of flaws in many of the studies of sodium, especially ones that the previous Institute of Medicine committee relied on for its 2005 recommendations. Much of that earlier research, committee members said, looked for correlations between what people ate and their health. But people with different diets can differ in many ways that are hard to account for — for example, the amount of exercise they get. And relying on people’s recall of how much salt they consumed can be unreliable.
Even the ways previous studies defined high and low sodium consumption varied widely.
“In one study, it was high if it hit 2,700 milligrams a day. In another study, it was high if it hit 10,000 milligrams a day,” said Cheryl A. M. Anderson, a committee member who is an associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
The committee said it found more recent studies, published since 2005, that were more careful and rigorous. Much of the new research found adverse effects on the lower end of the sodium scale and none showed a benefit from consuming very little salt.
Although the advice to restrict sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day has been enshrined in dietary guidelines, it never came from research on health outcomes, Dr. Strom said. Instead, it is the lowest sodium consumption can go if a person eats enough food to get sufficient calories and nutrients to live on. As for the 2,300-milligram level, that was the highest sodium levels could go before blood pressure began inching up.
In its 2005 report, the Institute of Medicine’s committee said that sodium consumption between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams a day would not raise blood pressure.
That range, Dr. Strom said, “was taken by other groups and set in stone.” Those other groups included the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, which formulated dietary guidelines in 2005.
But those dietary guidelines will soon be revised, with new recommendations to be issued in 2015.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
When breast ISN'T best: Feeding babies both formula and breast milk immediately after birth can help mothers breastfeed for longer
Feeding underweight newborns formula milk alongside breast milk can help mothers to breastfeed for significantly longer, a controversial new study has found.
NHS guidance states that women should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of a child’s life.
However, the new study has found that a combination of formula milk and breast milk can help both the mother and baby persevere with breastfeeding.
The research found that 79 per cent of babies who were fed formula alongside breast milk in the first few days of life were still breastfeeding three months later.
In contrast, only 42 per cent of babies who did not receive the milk formula were still being breastfed at three-months-old.
The study suggests that if women feel able to give their babies some formula milk alongside breast milk they are more likely to persevere with breastfeeding.
It is thought that many women give up breastfeeding completely in favour of formula milk because they are worried they are not producing enough milk.
Researchers at the University of California analysed 40 underweight babies aged between two-days-old and four-days-old.
The babies were randomly assigned either early limited formula (ELF), which consisted of one-third of a pound of infant formula, followed by breastfeeding, or breast milk alone.
The formula was stopped when the mothers began producing mature milk, after a few days.
After a week, all the babies in both groups were still breastfeeding, but only one in ten of the ELF babies had been given formula in the last 24 hours, compared with half of the control group.
Three months later, the ELF babies were almost twice as likely to still receive breast milk.
Dr Valerie Flaherman, at the University of California, San Francisco, said: ‘Formula use has the potential to be a slippery slope to breastfeeding discontinuation, but ELF is a different way to envision using it.
‘Rather than giving full bottles of formula that make it hard for the baby to return to the breast, ELF is a small amount of supplementation with a clear end point that alleviates some of the stress new mothers feel about producing enough milk.’
She said new mothers whose babies lose weight can be put off breastfeeding because they believe their child is not receiving enough food and is hungry, or simply fussy.
She said: ‘This study suggests that giving those babies a little early formula may ease those concerns and enable them to feel confident continuing to breastfeed.
‘Based on our findings, clinicians may wish to consider recommending the temporary use of small amounts of formula to new mums whose babies are experiencing significant early weight loss.’
The NHS, which pushes a ‘breast is best’ agenda, carries no advice on its website for combining formula milk with breastfeeding.
Instead, it suggests ways for women to tackle breastfeeding problems so they can continue with it, saying: ‘The solution is as simple as changing your baby’s position or feeding them more often.’
The website states: ‘Exclusive breastfeeding (giving your baby breast milk only) is recommended for around the first six months of your baby’s life.
‘After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside other food will help them continue to grow and develop. ‘Every day you breastfeed makes a difference to you and your baby.’
Breastfeeding is associated with a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of infections and allergies, and provides the right balance of nutrients to make babies stronger.
Yesterday, critics were cautious about the results of the survey.
Dr James Taylor, of the University of Washington Medical Center’s Newborn Nursery, said: ‘The results of this study are provocative and challenge conventional wisdom.
‘It is crucial that we have more randomised controlled trials on interventions to increase breastfeeding rather than relying on heavily confounded observational studies or biased expert opinion.’
The shockwaves that can cure erectile dysfunction
Now that there is a report in an acdemic journal, widespread adoption of the procedure could soon be underway
Shockwaves could be a novel way to treat impotence. Scientists say a new device that releases thousands of energy waves may help by increasing blood flow.
The painless treatment, which uses the same technology as that used to zap kidney stones, helps create new blood vessels. Early studies suggest a good success rate.
A healthy blood supply is crucial for creating and maintaining an erection. If the blood vessels narrow — usually because they become furred up with fatty deposits — it can significantly reduce blood flow in the penile tissue, as the blood vessels there are very small.
Lifestyle changes and medications such as Viagra can help (though there is thought to be an 80 per cent chance of a drug working, they are not effective for everyone).
The new non-drug treatment uses a technology called extracorporeal shockwave therapy. With kidney stones, the energy waves cause the stones to shatter and they can then be passed naturally out of the body.
The erectile dysfunction device — which resembles a mobile phone — uses 10 per cent of the power of kidney stone machines.
The device was developed after studies suggested that shockwaves stimulate blood flow in damaged heart tissue.
In patients with angina, the treatment was found to promote the growth of new blood vessels.
How the treatment works is unclear, but one theory is that the energy waves cause tiny amounts of damage, which triggers the body’s repair systems to release compounds called growth factors.
These stimulate the development of new blood vessels.
The treatment sessions last about 20 minutes, with around 5,000 shockwaves delivered each time (this is comparable to other treatments, such as those for kidney stones, but in this case the shockwaves are weaker), causing a slight tingling sensation.
Most men are given four sessions of treatment. In one study at Rambam Hospital, Israel, published in the journal European Urology, the device was used on 20 men, aged 33 to 68, who had suffered impotence for an average of three years.
There was a significant increase in the duration of erection and penile rigidity, and half of the men no longer required drug therapy six months after the treatment.
In a second study by the same hospital, the treatment was compared to placebo in 84 men.
Those having the treatment saw a significant improvement in their ability to achieve and maintain an erection — three times greater than compared to those who had the sham therapy.
The treatment will not, however, help those who suffer from nerve damage, for instance as a result of prostate cancer.
Commenting on the technology, Professor Raj Persad, urological surgeon at Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: ‘Any means of improving penile blood flow to enhance or restore erectile function is good if it can be non-invasive, as this is a delicate area.
‘Initial results are encouraging and suggest that this approach is safe and effective. We need to wait for long-term data. The health of blood vessels depends on many factors — diabetes, blood pressure and smoking are the chief influences.’
The device, which is available only for use in clinics and is supplied by British company Vertec, is expected to be used in the first UK clinic in the next six months.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:26 AM
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
School lunchbox bans driving Australian parents nuts
PARENTS are in revolt over school lunchbox restrictions with four out of five complaining schools are overly concerned about food bought to school and one in three objecting to the banning of nuts.
Even the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association says school-wide bans on nuts in lunchboxes aren't effective and the president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart says they are "wrong" and can't be enforced.
However Marita Ishac, the mother of seven-year-old Stephanie who suffers from a severe allergy to pistachio nuts, says nuts should be banned.
"The reaction comes on so quickly it's scary," she said. "They should be more sensitive. If they want their kids to have nuts serve them at home," she said.
The widespread angst about school food bans was uncovered in a Galaxy survey conducted on behalf of health fund Medibank Private's 24/7 advice line for Food Allergy Week.
It found 79 per cent of the 1000 people surveyed believed schools were overly concerned about the food bought in by pupils and 30 per cent disagreed with banning nuts from packed lunches.
At the same time nearly 40 per cent of respondents admitted they wouldn't know the signs of someone suffering a serious reaction to food and 47 per cent said they wouldn't know what to do if it happened.
"Lunchbox restrictions are an acutely hot topic but this must not be allowed to dilute the seriousness of food allergies," Georgia Karabatsos, Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line Medical Director says.
The president of the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Association Marita Said said there was a "lot of hysteria" about food bans and her organisation did not promote them.
"I think schools have thought this is the answer, they are petrified because we have had children die at school or on school camps," she said.
Such bans often saw children with allergies stigmatised and bullied and they allowed a handful of parents to focus on the ban rather than the restrictions of the child who had the allergy, she said.
Instead of a school-wide ban schools should look at implementing voluntary restrictions in the allergic child's class and only if they were too young to be fully aware of their diet restrictions, she said.
One in 10 children now developed a food allergy in their first year of life and schools should try to educate all students about allergy problems, how to read the signs and what to do if an emergency happened, she said.
The president of the Primary Principals Association Norm Hart said schools were taking more interest in what was in student's lunchboxes because they wanted parents to work in partnership with teachers to educate children about how to eat a healthy diet.
However, he said school wide bans on nuts were "wrong" because they gave a false sense of security to the families of children with an allergy and other parents.
"You can't enforce it, and if you say a place is free of whatever and its not you have a problem," he said.
Marita Ishac says she discovered Stephanie's allergy to pistachios when she reacted badly after eating a Lebanese sweet at the age of two. "I hadn't given her nuts before and she had an itchy throat, then started blotching and her ears started to swell," she said.
Mrs Ishac now carries an epipen at all times and has given one to the school in case her daughteR has an attack while at school.
Marita Said says the anaphylactic reactions that are most dangerous are those where there are breathing difficulties or any swelling of the tongue or throat and onlookers should immediately administer an epipen or call an ambulance if they encountered a person suffering these symptoms.
Australia: Many alternative medicines fail test
Three-quarters of the complementary medicines reviewed by the national drug regulator have failed government checks, exposing consumers to false health claims that lack scientific evidence.
Consumer law and health experts say the figures show the tip of the iceberg, with thousands of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements going unchecked for safety or efficacy.
Chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum Carol Bennett said the figure was astounding. "That's way too high, it's outrageous that we continue to allow that level of non-compliance.
"It's extraordinarily concerning that people are putting their hands in their pockets to spend $2 billion a year on these products," she said.
A law lecturer at the University of Canberra, Bruce Arnold, said products that did not comply with federal regulations should be "named and shamed" through government media campaigns.
"I suspect what is happening is they are picking up on a range of claims being made about the products that simply aren't true," he said. "You might infer that particular businesses are actively marketing in a way they know does not comply with requirements."
Figures provided by the Therapeutic Goods Administration show only 25 per cent of the 79 low-risk complementary medicines assessed between September and December met federal rules.
Low-risk products cannot make claims about treating specific diseases, but can claim to improve health if the companies hold research proving this is the case.
More than 10,000 complementary and alternative medicines are listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. Low-risk medications can be "listed" through a self-assessment system in which companies attest to their containing only pre-approved, low-risk ingredients and there is evidence supporting the claims they make for health enhancement.
A spokeswoman for the register said that, of the products that failed the review, five had their listing cancelled and their names published on the register's website.
"While the TGA ensures that complementary medicines are manufactured safely and do not contain prohibited substances, it does not test these low-risk medicines and cannot guarantee they work." The registry was working to reform the system, she said.
An adjunct Associate Professor in the school of public health at La Trobe University, Ken Harvey, said the register should publish more details of companies that breached standards.
He said that since November 2010 at least 47 complaints had been referred to the register by its complaints resolution panel because of non-compliance, but only eight companies had been named on the website.
"Some of these TGA outcomes merely record continued non-compliance," he said. "The end result is a market flooded with shonky products, making it very difficult for consumers and health professionals to pick the small amount of evidence-based wheat from the voluminous, hype-driven chaff."
A government brief prepared by the Department of Health and released in late 2010 found that, based on 2009-10 data, as many as 90 per cent of complementary medicines failed to comply.
That review, of 31 products, found 20 had labels that could mislead consumers, 22 had manufacturing or quality problems, and 14 lacked evidence to substantiate claims made about the medicines.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:06 AM
Monday, May 13, 2013
Why living near a busy road could be dangerous for your child's health: Traffic pollution linked to diabetes risk in children
Not quite same old, same old. It is encouraging that the authors below were aware of the potential confounding from social class. They controlled only for family socioeconomic status, however, leaving out such important variables as income and IQ -- with the first of those having potentially large explanatory power. The correlations between social class variables are only modest. To take just one instance, in England you can be both poor and upper class -- depending on your accent.
Exposure to traffic fumes can set children on the road to diabetes, a study has shown.
Living near a busy road and increased levels of pollution from cars and lorries significantly raised the risk of insulin resistance in ten-year-olds, scientists found.
The condition, which reduces the body’s ability to control blood sugar with the hormone insulin, is a recognised precursor of Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers in Germany looked at the effect of two kinds of traffic pollution on 397 children.
Blood tests were taken and measurements made of pollution emissions in areas where the children lived.
For every defined step-rise in levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sooty particulate matter (PM) from diesel exhausts, the risk of insulin resistance increased by 17 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.
The risk also rose by 7 per cent every 500 yards closer to a major road a child lived.
Study leader Dr Joachim Heinrich, from the German Research Centre for Environmental Health in Neuherberg, said: ‘To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study that investigated the relationship of long-term traffic-related air pollution and insulin resistance in children.
‘Insulin resistance levels tended to increase with increasing air pollution exposure, and this observation remained robust after adjustment for several factors, including socio-economic status, BMI (body mass index, a measurement relating height and weight), and passive smoking.’
The findings appear in the latest edition of the journal Diabetologia.
Previous research has linked air pollution, especially sooty particulates, with heart disease and premature death.
However, studies looking at associations between long-term exposure to traffic pollution and Type 2 diabetes in adults have been inconclusive.
'Oxidative stress caused by exposure to air pollutants may.. play a role in the development of insulin resistance,' Dr Heinrich said.
'In addition, some studies have reported that short-term and long-term increases in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide exposure lead to elevated inflammatory biomarkers, another potential mechanism for insulin resistance.'
The researchers are continuing to study the children, whose progress will be monitored for 15 years.
They want to see how the children fare as they grow older and become adults. Individuals who stay in the area where they grew up and those who move will also be compared.
'Moving from a polluted neighbourhood to a clean area and vice versa would allow us to explore the persistence of the effect related to exposure and to evaluate the impact of exposure to increased air pollution concentration later in life,' Dr Heinrich added.
'Whether the air pollution-related increased risk for insulin resistance in school-age has any clinical significance is an open question so far.
'However, the results of this study support the notion that the development of diabetes in adults might have its origin in early life including environmental exposures.'
Environmental health expert Professor Frank Kelly, from King's College London, pointed out that children were especially vulnerable to air pollution.
'They have a larger lung-to-body volume ratio, their airway epithelium is more permeable to air pollutants, and the lung defence mechanisms against particulate matter pollution and gaseous pollution are not fully evolved,' he said.
'Breathing the same pollutant concentrations, children may have a two to four-fold higher dose reaching the lung compared with adults.'
He added that traffic pollution studies had largely focused on particulate matter and overlooked the effects of nitrogen dioxide.
'It is of interest that this new study demonstrates that both PM and NO2 are linked to increased risk of insulin resistance in children,' said Prof Kelly.
'This finding is especially relevant for cities in the UK such as London which regularly exceeds current EU (European Union) limit values for NO2.
'Only last week the Supreme Court ruled that the UK Government was not doing enough to minimising NO2 pollution and protecting the health of its citizens.'
The possible link with oxidative stress highlighted the importance of childhood diet, he added.
'This is a timely reminder for Government that as well as improving air quality in our cites they need to ensure children have access to quality school meals which include fresh fruit and vegetables to ensure our children have good supply of antioxidants which will help protect them from the worst effects of traffic pollution,' said Prof Kelly.
Suffering on statins? Stop taking them now: Cholesterol-busting medicines may be causing more harm that good
When one of my patients – let’s call him John – recently returned to me with disabling chest pains a year after heart surgery, we both feared the worst.
But after numerous investigations found nothing untoward, we recognised the real problem: his statins. So I told him to try going without them for two weeks.
These drugs, taken by eight million Britons, are routinely prescribed to anyone who suffers a heart attack as they lower the likelihood of a second attack. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, which reduces the risk of a clot forming in the heart arteries.
Statins are also regularly prescribed by GPs to many more patients to lower the levels of cholesterol in their blood, in the hope that it will prevent a heart attack from happening in the first place. They are the most commonly prescribed drug in Britain, with more than 55 million statin prescriptions dispensed last year.
John returned and he was elated. For the first time in months his chest pains had gone. But he now had a new concern: his GP had since told him: ‘You must never stop your statin!’
He was confused. But I was steadfast: he shouldn’t be on the drugs. In fact, I often stop patients taking statins when I believe they are causing distressing side effects, which happens in about one in five of those I see. It may seem cavalier. But in such cases – and there are many thousands – statins do more harm than good. And it is possible to control cholesterol through diet alone, as actress Michelle Pfeiffer says she has done.
Statins do what they claim to: they lower cholesterol. But increasingly the medical profession is discovering that the health benefits of lower cholesterol have been exaggerated.
Two recent studies have cast serious doubt on early clinical trials into statins in the 1980s. These trials overplayed how good for us they could be, which contributed to a culture of over-prescribing the drug. The studies also suggested significant side effects of statins may have been underplayed.
Last month one of the world’s most respected sources of medical information, the British Medical Journal, presented serious doubts. According to its report, GPs have put an extra three million people on statins in the UK over the past ten years – and have received extra funding for meeting these targets.
Yet we have seen no obvious benefit in either a reduction in diagnoses of heart disease. There has, though, been a 40 per cent reduction in the number of heart attack deaths. But while statin prescriptions may have played a role, there have been no studies that prove this link.
Studies have shown a connection between reduction in deaths and the now-routine practice of undergoing emergency angioplasty as soon as someone suffers a heart attack – unblocking the artery with a stent or balloon through keyhole surgery.
Another known cause for reduction in heart disease mortality is that far fewer people are smoking today than 30 years ago. The number of smokers has dropped from approximately 40 per cent of the population in the 1980s to 20 per cent now.
There was a dramatic 17 per cent reduction in heart-attack hospital admissions in 2007, a year after the ban on smoking in indoor public places was introduced. It has also been consistently shown in studies over the past few decades that aspirin taken at first indication of a heart attack reduces deaths – as does a daily low dose after an attack.
What of the early hopes that statins would cut cardiac disease by 30 per cent? A 1995 study suggested they would, but the number of sufferers has increased from about eight per cent of the adult population in 1995 to 12 per cent today.
Last month the Annals Of Internal Medicine reported that 20 per cent of those on statins suffered a significant side effect – muscle pains, stomach complaints and memory disturbance – far higher than the one per cent that was first suggested by drug companies.
STOP FOR TWO WEEKS
So what next for millions reading this who are on statins? If you have no trouble with them, there is no reason to stop. But if you, like John, are suffering discomfort, you should consider stopping them for a trial period of two weeks.
Start by seeing your GP to tell them what you are experiencing, and ask: ‘Could this be a side effect of the statins?’
They should be able to tell from your history whether this is the case. Stopping a statin short term won’t harm you and you will know within ten days or so whether it was causing the problem as that is how long it usually takes for side effects to wear off.
If a GP refuses, sometimes your cardiologist can speak to them, as I have done. John’s doctor eventually agreed. Even if they refuse, and offer a lower dose, this might reduce or halt the side effects, so it’s worth trying.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Could eating WALNUTS be the key to good heart health?
This must be a record for the length of a study: Six hours! A very shaky basis for long-term generalizations. Side effects were also not examined. The cure can sometimes be worse than the disease with "antioxidants"
Eating a handful of walnuts could provide near-instant protection from heart disease.
Scientists found ‘significant’ improvement in cholesterol levels and blood vessel flexibility, which helps blood flow smoothly, just four hours after people consumed either the shelled nuts or walnut oil.
The research suggests regular consumption would protect against cardiovascular disease in the long term.
‘Just a handful could help significantly reduce the risk of heart disease,’ said Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Penn State University in Pennsylvania.
‘Eating shelled walnuts or some walnut oil four times a week will certainly provide very significant benefits.’
The study was the first to identify which parts of the walnut provide the health boost, she explained.
The team gave 15 participants with high blood cholesterol levels four treatments – two handfuls of shelled walnuts (85g), six grams of walnut skin, 34g of the nutmeat with the fat removed, or three tablespoons of oil (51g).
They looked at their responses after 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours and six hours.
The researchers found that a one-time consumption of walnut oil – also found in the shelled nuts – improved blood vessel health after four hours.
‘Our study showed that the oil found in walnuts can maintain blood vessel function after a meal,’ said lead author Claire Berryman, a graduate student in nutritional sciences at Penn State. ‘The walnut oil was particularly good at preserving the function of endothelial cells.’
Endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels throughout the body, play an important part in blood vessel flexibility.
According to the researchers, walnuts contain omega-3 fats, plant sterols known to lower cholesterol, and vitamin E, all of which may help explain their protective effect.
Miss Berryman added: ‘Implications of this finding could mean improved dietary strategies to fight heart disease.’
Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter of all fatalities in Britain, or more than 159,000 deaths a year. The cost of premature deaths, lost productivity, and medical treatment is around £19billion.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Nuts can be a nutritious choice as they provide us with protein and minerals. However, nuts are also high in fat. Portion control is important to make sure you’re benefiting from the nutrients without adding extra calories.
‘Walnuts do contain omega-3 fats ..... However, the best source of omega-3 fat is oily fish and we don’t yet know for certain if walnuts bring the same benefits.’
Eating peppers twice a week could reduce the risk of Parkinson's Disease
The Original Article is "Nicotine from edible Solanaceae and risk of Parkinson disease". By virtue of the large sample size, the results were statistically significant but most of the differences found were in absolute terms quite small. There is however little doubt that there is something going on with nicotine that is helpful with Parkinson's. The details remain to be unravelled, however
Eating peppers twice a week could help reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by up to a third.
Scientists found individuals who ate foods containing an edible form of nicotine, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines, gained a degree of protection against the condition.
The research adds to evidence linking a reduced risk of the disease with smoking and the use of nicotine patches.
But experts urged caution, saying other constituents in the produce may have played a role in the findings, while the disease itself may also influence whether people smoke or eat certain foods.
'Our study is the first to investigate dietary nicotine and risk of developing Parkinson's disease,' said Dr Susan Searles Nielsen from the University of Washington in Seattle.
'Similar to the many studies that indicate tobacco use might reduce risk of Parkinson's, our findings also suggest a protective effect from nicotine, or perhaps a similar but less toxic chemical in peppers and tobacco.'
For the new study, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, 490 patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, were questioned about their dietary habits and tobacco use.
A further 644 individuals not suffering from any neurological conditions also participated in the study.
Vegetable consumption in general was not found to affect Parkinson's risk.
But the likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson's reduced the more people ate vegetables from the Solanaceae family, which contain tiny amounts of nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes.
The trend was strongest for peppers, mainly in people with little or no previous exposure to tobacco, with participants who ate them at least twice a week found to be 30 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson's.
Although the evidence suggests nicotine to be the active ingredient, the team did not rule out another chemical shared by tobacco and its cousins being responsible for the effect. One possibility was anatabine, which had anti-inflammatory properties.
Previous experiments in animals, showed stimulation of nicotine-sensitive receptor molecules in the brain prevents the kind of nerve damage seen in Parkinson's.
Human population studies have also found those who smoke are less likely to develop the disease.
Even passive smoking, which involves much less exposure to nicotine, seems to be protective.
Dietician Catherine Collins, from St George's Hospital NHS Trust in London, said the study provided further evidence of the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.
But she said the findings had 'insufficient robustness' to justify promoting peppers as a protection against Parkinson's.
Nicotine content can vary in vegetables due to growing conditions, storage, and harvesting and cooking methods.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:17 AM
Friday, May 10, 2013
Nutritious apples, poisonous claims
Eat fewer apples, strawberries and grapes, and more corn, onions and pineapples, and you'll protect yourself and your children from "toxic" pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group's 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This advice, however, is nothing more than dangerous hogwash.
Every year, the group issues its "study" and "shopping guide" using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual review of pesticide residues found on food. It always includes a "dirty dozen" list of fruits and veggies that contain the highest pesticide residues in the department's sample.
This year's list includes: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens, and summer squash.
The Environmental Working Group has lots of healthy alternatives on its "clean 15 list," and its report claims "[t]he health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure." Still, the group suggests that people eat fewer of some items stating, "You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce."
Eating fewer of these items will not lower health risks, as the Environmental Working Group's rhetoric suggests. Residues are too low — on even the organization's "worst" examples — to make any public health difference to children or adults. Accordingly, placing any of these healthy foods on a "dirty dozen list" isn't simply highly misleading, it's dirty politics designed to scare everyone from ma to grandma.
Contrary to the Environmental Working Group's scary depiction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) press statement on Agriculture Department data reads: "The newest data from the [Pesticide Data Program] confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans. EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people's health and the environment."
The Department of Agriculture's "Message to Consumers" related to its residue report explains further: "This report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and that overall pesticide residues found on baby food are lower than the levels found on other commodities."
The Agriculture Department notes further in its questions and answers that residues at levels above the Environmental Protection Agency tolerance standards occurred in just 0.27 percent of the samples. That means 99.73 percent of the samples met the agency's very stringent standards. This is consistent with past Department of Agriculture reports, which barely find any residues, year in and year out.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide may discourage consumption of listed healthy fruits and vegetables, which could undermine public health. Eating a large amount and a wide range of fruits and veggies is one of our best defenses against cancer and other health problems. The quarter of the U.S. population consuming the least amount of fruits and vegetables has a cancer rate twice as high as the quarter of the population consuming the most, according to one study. Accordingly, the World Health Organization recommended in its 2000 World Cancer Report increased intake of fruits and vegetables to reduce the cancer-incidence rate by 30 percent across the board.
As a partial solution, the Environmental Working Group suggests buying organic food, yet organic food is often more expensive and not a reasonable option for consumers on fixed budgets. There isn't any compelling body of evidence demonstrating that organic food is any safer, as recently reported in a Stanford University study and another study in the journal Pediatrics.
If we all ate organic food, the environment would suffer because organic farming is less productive. If we abandoned high-yield farming with pesticides, farmers would need to plant about 10 million additional square miles to produce the same amount of food, notes researcher Dennis Avery in "True State of the Planet." That is more land than all of North America (about 9.4 million square miles), leaving no space for wildlife conservation.
A consumer's best option is to ignore the Environmental Working Group and follow the Agriculture Department's advice of eating more fruits and vegetables. The department explains: "Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet. This is affirmed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and My Plate, the federal nutrition graphic that shows that people should fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables."
Student with just weeks to live is saved by new Hodgkin's lymphoma drug after worldwide search failed to find bone marrow donor match
This looks like very good news
A young man’s life has been saved by a new drug after he was struck down by the blood cancer Hodgkin's lymphoma for the second time.
Student Martin Solomon, 20, desperately needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant and was told he had just weeks to live unless a donor was found.
His heartbroken family searched the world for a match without success because of his mixed Irish and Afro-Caribbean heritage.
Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand even asked his Twitter followers to join the bone marrow donor register to see if they could save his life.
Time was running out for the Manchester University student and a donor had not been found so he was approved for a new treatment which has only recently become available in the UK.
He has amazed doctors at Manchester’s Christie Hospital by beating the disease in just a few months thanks to the Brentuximab Vedotin.
It meant Mr Solomon’s own white blood cells - which were harvested then put back in his body - were able to beat the cancer.
Martin is now in remission, and doctors have told him that he could be well enough to return to university in September.
His family, from Sale Moor, Manchester, started the Match4Martin campaign last year, when it was believed a bone marrow transplant was his only chance of survival.
His parents have vowed to continue the campaign to find a donor just in case Martin’s cancer ever returns.
His mother, Paula, said: ‘Compared to how things were at the end of last year, we have gone from the depths of despair to complete euphoria that Martin is still with us. We just thank God for cancer research and drug trials.’
Mr Solomon said: ‘I can’t wait to get back to normal - I’m just so relieved.
‘We’ll continue searching for a bone marrow donor for me but I am hoping to go to Croatia for a holiday with all my friends this summer and I’d like to go back to university as well.’
His father, Martin Senior, added: ‘We’ll be taking each day as it comes but plan to throw him a massive barbecue party for his 21st in July.’
Stephen Cannon, honorary consultant at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and specialist in orthopaedic oncology, said it is too early to call the new medication a 'wonder drug', but that results are promising.
He said: 'It's early days - the drug has only been about for a year and a half - and I don't have any personal experience of it.
'But results have been positive. More research needs to be done to check that there aren't any serious side-effects, but so far it looks promising.'
Posted by jonjayray at 12:39 AM
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Government health insurance does not make you healthier
The surprising results of the study below suggest immediately some methodological flaw -- a confounding with social class, for instance. But the study is in fact high quality. The random assignment into the two groups from a large general population body wipes out such doubts pretty thoroughly. The results are therefore highly generalizable, unlike most medical research
The Oregon Experiment — Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes
Katherine Baicker et al.
Despite the imminent expansion of Medicaid coverage for low-income adults, the effects of expanding coverage are unclear. The 2008 Medicaid expansion in Oregon based on lottery drawings from a waiting list provided an opportunity to evaluate these effects.
Approximately 2 years after the lottery, we obtained data from 6387 adults who were randomly selected to be able to apply for Medicaid coverage and 5842 adults who were not selected. Measures included blood-pressure, cholesterol, and glycated hemoglobin levels; screening for depression; medication inventories; and self-reported diagnoses, health status, health care utilization, and out-of-pocket spending for such services. We used the random assignment in the lottery to calculate the effect of Medicaid coverage.
We found no significant effect of Medicaid coverage on the prevalence or diagnosis of hypertension or high cholesterol levels or on the use of medication for these conditions. Medicaid coverage significantly increased the probability of a diagnosis of diabetes and the use of diabetes medication, but we observed no significant effect on average glycated hemoglobin levels or on the percentage of participants with levels of 6.5% or higher. Medicaid coverage decreased the probability of a positive screening for depression (−9.15 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, −16.70 to −1.60; P=0.02), increased the use of many preventive services, and nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenditures.
This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years, but it did increase use of health care services, raise rates of diabetes detection and management, lower rates of depression, and reduce financial strain.
N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1713-1722.
Megan McArdle has a LONG commentary on the study here
How back pain can be beaten with antibiotics: Breakthrough could cure 40% of sufferers
This sounds comparable to the discovery of Helicobacter Pylori
Hundreds of thousands of people living with crippling back pain could be cured - by a simple and inexpensive course of antibiotics.
In a breakthrough described as being worthy of a Nobel prize, scientists have shown that many cases of severe, long-term back ache are caused by bacteria – and the bugs can be zapped by a three-month course of pills costing just £114.
Patients who were in so much pain that they had to give up work have thanked the researchers for giving them their life back.
Hanne Albert, the Danish scientist who made the discovery, said almost half of those with chronic lower back pain could benefit. This works out at more than half a million Britons, including many who are in the prime of life.
Dr Albert said: ‘These are mums and dads in the middle of an active working life. ‘These are pillars of society, they care for their parents and for their children. ‘They will be able to play with their children, instead of just sitting and watching them play.’
An estimated four in five Britons suffer back problems and some point in their life and the condition is behind more GP visits each year than any condition, other than the common cold.
The NHS spends more than £1billion a year on treating it, including around £500million on surgery, while sick days and long-term disability cost the economy at least £3.5billion annually in lost productivity.
Many hard-to-treat cases are caused by slipped discs – where wear and tear, a car crash, heavy lifting or other problem causes a piece of the spongy tissue that cushions the bones of the spine to spill out, causing pain in the back and legs.
Most people quickly recover but, in some, the pain persists and even major surgery is not completely effective.
Dr Albert, working with colleagues from Birmingham, believes that often this persistent pain is caused not by damaged disc by rogue bacteria that have infiltrated it.
The researcher began by examining tissue taken from discs of people whose back pain was so bad they had had spinal surgery.
Around half tested positive for bacteria, with a bug that normally causes acne predominant.
The researchers then allocated 162 men and women who were in ‘relentless’ back pain to a 100-day course of the antibiotic Bioclavid or a placebo.
In contrast to the placebo, the antibiotic greatly cut pain and disability.
For instance, a year on, those who had taken the drug said they’d experienced 64 hours of pain in the previous month. Those on placebo had racked up 200 hours of pain.
And those who had taken drug took just 19 sick days – compared with 45 by those on placebo, the European Spine Journal reports.
Dr Albert, of the University of Southern Denmark, described the improvement as ‘amazing’ and said the patients were effectively cured. She added: ‘I can’t tell you how many people have given me hugs and told me I have given them their life back.’
It is thought that in these people, the slipped disc gradually had healed itself. However, they remained in pain due to the Propionibacterium acnes bug. It normally causes acne but is also found in the mouth and pushed into the circulation by tooth brushing.
In those who have slipped a disc, it worms its way into the damaged disc, where it produces acid which corrodes the spine, causing fresh and often excruciating pain.
Peter Hamlyn, the University College Hospital London surgeon who has successfully given the antibiotic to patients here, said doctors must now rethink their understanding of lower back pain.
He added: ‘More work needs to be done but make no mistake, this is a turning point, a point where we will have to re-write the textbooks. ‘It is the stuff of Nobel prizes.’
Dr Albert is now educating GPs, doctors and physiotherapists on how to spot those whose pain is caused by the bacteria. She said: ‘I don’t want surgery for these people. I don’t want them to eat morphine. I want them to be cured.’
However, the treatment is only for those in severe pain.
And with antibiotics only helping around 40 per cent of those whose with chronic lower back pain, she stresses that people mustn’t self-medicate.
Professor Laura Piddock, a University of Birmingham microbiologist, agreed that accurate diagnosis is essential. Otherwise, patients would be needlessly taking drugs that could increase rates of antibiotic resistance.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Forget milk for strong bones: NUTS could be just as important for child bone health (?)
The fact that calcium was found to have no effect but magnesium did is very odd and suggests some error
Parents have long been advised to feed their children enough milk and other calcium-rich foods for good bone health, but new research has shown that pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, salmon and almonds may be just as important.
The study, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington DC, found that foods rich in magnesium play an important role in building bones.
'Lots of nutrients are key for children to have healthy bones and one of these appears to be magnesium,' said lead author Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
'Calcium is important, but, except for those children and adolescents with very low intakes, may not be more important than magnesium.'
While it is known that magnesium is important for bone health in adults, few studies have looked at whether magnesium intake is related to bone mineral content in young children.
Researchers recruited 63 healthy children aged between four and eight years old who were not taking any multivitamins or minerals to participate in the study. All children kept food diaries throughout the research.
Children were hospitalized overnight twice so their calcium and magnesium levels could be measured.
All foods and drinks served during their hospital stay contained the same amount of calcium and magnesium they consumed in a typical day based on the children's diaries.
The meals and drinks were weighed before and after each meal to determine how much calcium and magnesium the children actually consumed.
In addition to this, parents were given weighing scales to measure their child's food intake for three days at home after the first hospital stay, and for three days at home prior to the second inpatient stay.
This was to ensure that dietary intake of calcium and magnesium could be calculated accurately.
While hospitalised, children's levels of calcium and magnesium were measured using a technique that involved giving them non-radioactive forms of magnesium and calcium, called stable isotopes, intravenously and orally. Their urine was collected for 72 hours.
By measuring the stable isotopes in the urine, the researchers could work out how much calcium and magnesium was absorbed into the body.
Bone mineral content and density were measured using a special technique called total body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Results showed that the amounts of magnesium consumed and absorbed were key predictors of how much bone children had.
Dietary calcium intake, however, was not significantly associated with total bone mineral content or density.
'We believe it is important for children to have a balanced, healthy diet with good sources of minerals, including both calcium and magnesium,' Dr. Abrams concluded.
Idiotic British ministers want to slash size of cookies and cakes to tackle UK's obesity epidemic
What's to stop people having one extra of the smaller ones?
Leaked plans to reduce the size of cakes and biscuits to tackle Britain's growing waistlines have been branded 'ludicrous' by common sense campaigners.
Ministers wants the portion sizes of fatty and sugar-laden foods to be cut in a bid to halt the growing obesity problem.
The changes, which could be implemented as early as July, are part of the Government's 'Responsibility Deal', where food manufacturers are encouraged to take a pledge to reduce unhealthy ingredients, educate consumers on healthy eating and reduce portion sizes, reports the Daily Express.
But UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall has blasted the plans as 'ludicrous'.
He said: 'A jammy dodger is a jammy dodger. We all know smoking, eating too much fatty food and drinking too much is bad for us.
'It should be up to us to decide what we should or shouldn’t cut back on, not the Government. This is underhand, it is the Government interfering. Packet sizes will shrink but prices won’t and consumers will pay more.'
Howard Thomas, leader of the Common Sense Party, said: 'This is another one from the ministry of silly ideas.
'If someone wants to eat a certain amount of something they will do so, and shrinking it will just mean they eat more of it. Making biscuits smaller isn’t going to make any difference. These plans are just daft.'
A Government source told the paper that the details would be agreed soon and manufacturers would have a choice in how they would implement the change - either by reducing the size of the biscuits or the packet.
Dr Susan Jebb, who chairs the Government steering group drawing up the Responsibility Deal pledge, said the aim is to encourage companies to reduce saturated fat in foods and promote lower fat options.
Ministers have suggested that if companies fail to sign up to the Responsibility Deal voluntarily the government could legislate to force them to act.
Department of Health statistics state biscuits make up six per cent of the daily saturated fat intake of children aged between four and 10 while baked sweet treats contribute a further six per cent.
No one from the Department of Health was available for comment at the time of writing.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:05 AM
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Fancy some baobab for breakfast? Demand for African 'superfruit' soars
The latest "miracle" fruit. No proof of health benefits, of course, just theory
Have you ever heard of the baobab fruit? If you haven't you probably will soon. Demand for a new African ‘superfruit’ which boosts energy levels and skin health has soared to record highs in the UK.
New figures show sales of the baobab fruit, which contains three times as much vitamin C as an orange, has increased by 1,600 per cent. Brits have rushed to buy the nutrient-dense superfood, which has incredibly high levels of antioxidants and tastes like a blend of pineapple and melon.
Baobab is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, thiamin and vitamin B6 - all vital nutrients known to benefit general health.
Sourced from the African continent, baobab’s calcium source is a non-dairy one, making it an option for vegetarians too.
the baobab range is available at beauty emporium and pharmacy John Bell & Croyden and a number of organics stores.
Since launching in October last year, sales figures are 60 per cent better than its closest market rival.
Dr Lisa Ryan, of Oxford Brookes University, said: “Baobab is a rich source of potassium which plays a role in lowering blood pressure. 'It also contains calcium which is vital for bone health, has a high soluble fibre content which is important for digestive health. 'It is also rich in polyphenols which have potential health benefits against diseases like atherosclerosis, some types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.'
Dietician Sian Porter said: 'Baobab is an excellent example of a nutrient-dense, low energy food - a real super food.'
The superfruit has attracted interest from celebrities such as designer Vivienne Westwood and fashion reporter Suzy Menkes.
Baobab grows in thirty two countries across Africa and has been brought to the mainstream by new Africa-inspired health and beauty brand Aduna.
For centuries people in Africa have turned to the baobab tree as a source of natural wellbeing, benefiting skin, hair and general health.
As a fruit, baobab is unique in that it dries naturally on the branch before it is harvested, the seeds are removed and then sieved into a powder.
Available as a loose powder, it is ideal for adding to smoothies and juices, or using as an alternative to sugar for sweetening yogurt, muesli or cereal.
Josie Elles, of John Bell & Croyden, said: “Since launching with us late last year Aduna baobab has become our best-selling supplement this year. 'It has come from out of nowhere to become and both the brand and the product are ones to watch
Breakthrough hair loss product works on stem cells
They'll make a fortune if it really does work
For those facing the prospect of going bald or finding their hair is thining with age it has been described as the Holy Grail.
Scientists at cosmetic company L’Oreal claim to have invented the first product which can acually "reawaken" dormant hair cells and allow them to grow back.
It could offer hope to millions affected by male pattern baldness or just the thinning of hair through old age or for medical reasons.
Already demand for the new treatment has seen salons taking thousands of pre-orders even though the recomended three month treatement costs nearly £300.
After 90 days researchers claim that the liquid "Kérastase Densifique", when applied to the roots, can promote the growth of more than 1500 new hairs.
Patricia Pineau, the head of scientific affairs at L’Oréal, added: “We’ve known for 100 years that hair grows and falls out.
“We haven’t known what makes hair regenerate until now. It is all about hair stem cell environment. We have been able to develop a cosmetic product that respects the natural way hair regenerates.”
Scientists said the product, called Densifique, regenerated roots by targeting areas of the scalp prone to hair loss rather than actual fibres.
Experts say there are a variety of factors which can cause hair loss ranging from stress levels and a person’s diet, through to hormones and pregnancy.
Award winning hairdresser Luke Hersheson said: “Many women are really worried about the loss of their hair, the loss of volume, and the fact that they don’t have as luscious locks as they did when they were in their early twenties.
“Stress, diet, hormones and pregnancy are all factors that can affect the health of the hair and scalp.
“This new treatment is set to help alleviate this problem. It has an instant densifying action on the hair fiber, boosting the number of hairs on our head and the quality of these new hairs directly at scalp level. It’s set to be the holy grail for a lot of women – and men.”
The average human has on average between 100,000 and 150,000 individual hairs and the manufactures claim the new product “assists” natural growth rather than “disrupt” it.
Scientists, based in laboratories of L’Oréall in Paris, developed a molecule using a formula called Stemoxydine, which after testing was found to have increased hair density by up to four per cent.
Cass Coulston, Kérastase general manager, last night described it as an astonishing “technological breakthrough”, which led to improved hair density.
She added: “Hair thinning is not just associated with ageing, it can happen as a result of a poor diet, hormones, stress, post pregnancy and over processing hair.”
Kérastase Densifique will be available in salons within the next fortnight.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:10 AM
Monday, May 06, 2013
Want to Live a Long Time? Pay Attention (?)
Two reservations about this study: 1). These were very high IQ people. The results might not generalize to people in general; 2). Conscientiousness seems a strange word for what was studied. The questions used seem to me to be much more concerned with a preference for order. Rather amusingly, Leftist psychologists have spent decades demonizing preference for order. They call it "Intolerance of ambiguity", "rigidity", "dogmatism" etc. I spent a lot of time looking at the Leftist claims about the maladaptive nature of preference for order and found only methodological incompetence. See here
Long before the age of gene therapy and miracle medical treatments, the secrets of long life were being gathered and revealed in a unique study of 1,500 children born about 1910. By studying these people throughout their lives, successive generations of researchers collected nearly 10 million pieces of observable data and have been able to produce solid insights into human longevity.
"Most people who live to an old age do so not because they have beaten cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease; rather, the long-lived have mostly avoided serious ailments altogether," Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin said in their 2011 book, "The Longevity Project."
"The best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness—the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person," according to the two professors (he at the University of California—Riverside, and she at La Sierra University). "Conscientiousness ... also turned out to be the best personality predictor of long life when measured in adulthood."
Since their book was published, Martin recently told U.S. News, the benefits of conscientiousness have been affirmed and even strengthened in other research studies. "This is still a pretty hot topic," she says. "Work that's come out since the book was published has mainly confirmed the importance of conscientiousness."
In particular, she explained, research being done in Hawaii on personality traits over time is producing similar results to Friedman's and Martin's own research, which chronicles efforts begun in 1921 by Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist. He selected 1,500 bright and generally high-performing children and began amassing detailed information about their personal histories, health, activities, beliefs, attitudes, families and other variables.
Over the next eight decades, other academics maintained the Terman Project and assembled exhaustive details on all facets of the original subjects' later lives. It is this unique depth of detail that has permitted Friedman and Martin to reach what they feel are scientifically sound conclusions about what it takes to live a long life. Now, Martin says, more researchers are reaching similar conclusions.
"It was not cheerfulness and it was not having a sociable personality that predicted long life across the many ensuing decades," she and Friedman wrote in their book. "Certain other factors were also relevant, but the prudent, dependable children lived the longest. The strength of this finding was unexpected, but it proved to be a very important and enduring one."
The book presents three reasons why conscientious people live longer:
1. They are more likely to obey the rules, protecting their health and not engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking or driving without a seat belt. If a doctor tells them to take a medicine, they take every prescribed dose.
2. "Conscientious individuals are less prone to a whole host of diseases, not just those caused by dangerous habits," they found. "It appears likely that conscientious and unconscientious people have different levels of certain chemicals in their brains."
3. "The most intriguing reason conscientious people live longer is that having a conscientious personality leads you into healthier situations and relationships," the research concluded. "They find their way to happier marriages, better friendships, and healthier work situations."
Many of the subjects of the Terman Project faced difficult challenges in their adult lives, including bitter combat in World War II, divorces, stressful jobs and career reversals. Conscientious people had the ability to weather these problems. They displayed "self healing" personalities that helped them find their ways back to healthy lifestyle paths. People without such behavioral traits and healthy coping skills didn't fare as well and were often unable to bounce back.
Other strong longevity traits, Friedman and Martin say, include strong connections with other people and groups, either through marriage or outside activities. Also, "those with the most career success were the least likely to die young. In fact, on average the most successful men lived five years longer than the least successful," they say. While happiness was not a cause of longer life, "the sense of being satisfied with one's life and achievement was very relevant to resilience."
Here are 10 questions used to create a personality scale that will help determine how conscientious you are. The scale is based on work done by Terman, the book's authors and other research. The five possible answers to each question are the same:
1 — Very inaccurate
2 — Moderately inaccurate
3 — Neither accurate nor inaccurate
4 — Moderately accurate
5 — Very accurate
1. I am always prepared.
2. I leave my belongings around.
3. I enjoy planning my work in detail.
4. I make a mess of things.
5. I get chores done right away.
6. I often forget to put things back in their proper place.
7. I like order.
8. I shirk my duties.
9. I follow a schedule.
10. I am persistent in the accomplishment of my work and ends.
Scoring for questions 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10: Each answer is worth one to five points, matching the numbers of the answers (one point for very inaccurate, two points for moderately inaccurate, and so forth, up to five points for very accurate). For questions 2, 4, 6, and 8, reverse the scoring order (one point for very accurate, two points for moderately accurate, and so on, up to five points for very inaccurate).
Total scores can range from a low of 10 to a high of 50. "This score is a good measure of conscientiousness," the book says. "Total scores between 10 and 24 indicate very low conscientiousness ... Scores between 37 and 50 suggest exceptionally high conscientiousness."
To test the accuracy of your own answers, ask your spouse or close friend to tell you what answers they think apply for you. They know you very well and might have a more objective view of your personality traits than you do.
Now, the good and bad news about how conscientious you are is that you can change your personality, but you can't invent a new one overnight. The highly conscientious people in the Terman study had little clue that such behavior would be associated with living a very long life. They behaved this way in their everyday lives because it came naturally.
"It doesn't matter how many New Year's resolutions you make," the book said. "In fact, rapid and pervasive changes are usually quickly abandoned by anyone undertaking them. Lasting adjustments happen with smaller, but progressive, steps."
Medical treatment is conspicuously absent from the book's longevity findings. "So-called modern medical cures have played a relatively minor role in increasing adult life span," the authors wrote. "Social relations should be the first place to look for improving health and longevity.
New computer game can 'make your brain three years younger' in ten hours (?)
There have been a lot of these brain training games over the years but none have stood up on independent examination. I'd be surprised if this one were different
Think computer games rot your brain? Think again. Playing one for just ten hours could actually make your mind three years younger, scientists claim – and the effects last for at least a year.
But before you reach for the nearest console, there is a catch. You only get the benefits by playing the specific game the experts have designed, which trains the brain to remember information while filtering out distractions.
On average, their brains were three years younger overall – but in one test of speed and attention they were almost seven years younger.
The professor of health management who ran the tests attributed the ‘remarkable’ results to the range of skills needed in the relatively simple game.
Professor Fred Wolinsky, who has no financial stake in Road Tour, said: ‘We know that this can stop the decline and actually restore cognitive processing speed to some people. So, if we know that, shouldn’t we be helping people? ‘It’s fairly easy and older folks can go get the game and play it.’
The game, which can be accessed online for a fee, involves remembering two things – a vehicle and a road sign.
At the start, the player is shown either a car or a truck and told to remember it. The vehicle is encircled by a series of symbols which includes one road sign and the player also has to memorise the sign’s position.
Later in the game, they have to identify the vehicle again and the position of the road sign. As the game progresses, the amount of time allowed is cut, the car and truck shapes become more similar and the amount of distracting and irrelevant information increases.
While the task may seem simple it has been designed to hone a range of skills, including processing speed, memory, peripheral vision and attention.
Professor Wolinsky said: ‘These functions are critically important in everyday life.’ Peripheral vision, for instance, is crucial to safe driving, but declines with age.
For the professor’s study, almost 700 men and women aged 50-plus were given either Road Tour or a computerised crossword game to play.
Some played under supervision in the lab, others took the games home. Results of a battery of mental exercise tests done at the beginning of the study and a year later showed their worth.
'On average, their brains were three years younger overall – but in one test of speed and attention they were almost seven years younger.'
Not only was Road Tour ‘far more effective’ than the crosswords, playing it at home was just as good as playing it in the lab. And those aged 50 to 64 benefited just as much as those 65 and older, the journal PLoS ONE reports.
A mere ten hours of play left the mind three years’ quicker, while 14 hours improved it by four years.
Road Tour, which is also called Double Decision, is available as part of a brain training package. The minimum subscription is one month, priced at around £8, while access for a year costs £5 per month if paid upfront.
Previous studies have also credited the game with a host of benefits, from improving quality of life to easing depression and cutting medical bills.
But although brain training is popular, views about its value are mixed, with some studies concluding that while we may get better at the complex computer exercises with practice, there is no evidence this helps us in our everyday lives.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Many of us enjoy puzzling over a game. However, there is currently little evidence that brain training has any cognitive benefits.
‘Although there is no cure for dementia, research has consistently shown that eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and not smoking can make an important contribution to reducing your risk of developing dementia.’
Posted by jonjayray at 12:13 AM