Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Try a fry-up for a healthy baby

LOL! More medical wisdom going into reverse?

Fried eggs and bacon may not sound like the ideal breakfast for those struggling with morning sickness.

But pregnant women who tuck into a traditional fry-up with these ingredients could be protecting their babies from birth defects, according to a study.

Scientists have shown that choline, a nutrient found in egg yolks, bacon, offal such as kidneys and green leaves, is essential for the healthy development of unborn babies’ brains.
Brain food: Scientists have shownthat a nutrient found in egg yolks and bacon is essential for the healthy development of unborn babies' brains.

Brain food: Scientists have shown that a nutrient found in egg yolks and bacon is essential for the healthy development of unborn babies' brains.

If a mother’s diet doesn’t contain enough choline, a baby’s brain develops too few blood vessels, putting the child at risk of learning and memory difficulties, researchers fear. Choline is an essential nutrient that helps cells grow and work properly.

Related to nutrients in the Vitamin B family it is found in eggs, bacon, liver, kidneys, milk, wheat germ, spinach and cauliflower. Past studies have shown that it protects against liver disease and may help to lower cholesterol.

Nutrition experts say most people get plenty of choline from food. However, a number of studies have suggested that some people are at risk of choline deficiency, and that one in four women is deficient.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, studied the effects of choline on pregnant mice.

They fed three groups of pregnant mice a choline-deficient diet, a standard diet and a diet supplemented with the nutrient, then examined the brains of their pups.

Mice whose mothers had too little choline in their diet had fewer blood vessels in their brains than mice on a regular diet, the researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The growth of new blood vessels – angiogenesis – is crucial for growing brains. If a developing foetus has too few blood vessels, the brain will not develop properly.

Dr Steven Zeisel, who led the study, said the discovery could have ‘great importance for humans’. He added: ‘Only 14 per cent of pregnant women in the United States consume adequate amounts of choline in their diets, and less than 5 per cent of the 18 to 30-year-old young women who are not pregnant consume the recommended intake.’

Pregnant women who have the lowest levels of choline are four times as likely to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who eat the most, Dr Zeisel said.

In addition, around half of young women have a genetic make-up that means they need more choline while pregnant to protect their babies.

‘Humans eat marginal amounts of choline and a large portion of the population has increased dietary requirement for choline, making the effects of choline on foetal brain angiogenesis of potential public health importance,’ he added.


New hope for arthritis sufferers as pioneering stem cell treatment is to be tested on patients for the first time

Millions of patients suffering the agony of arthritis could soon benefit from pioneering stem cell treatment, scientists claim. They say the therapy could be used to help repair worn-out joints, which cause crippling pain and stiffness.

Scientists have come up with a technique of using stem cells to treat osteoarthritis - a disease which gradually wears down the cartilage in between bones.

More than eight million Britons suffer from this type of arthritis which results in the joints becoming inflamed, painful and stiff. In severe cases, the cartilage becomes so thin that the ends of the bone rub against each other causing them to be deformed.

But researchers say that stem cells taken from the patient's bone marrow could be transferred to the infected joint to encourage growth of the cartilage. The cells would initially be removed by keyhole surgery and then put into a laboratory for three months allowing them to grow. They would then be implanted into the joint and scientists believe that over the course of a few months the cells would form new cartilage - drastically reducing the inflammation and pain experienced by the patient.

The scientists, from the University of Keele, plan to carry out the first human trial of the treatment later this year at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire.

Around 70 people with osteoarthritis in their knees will take part. Doctors will monitor them over the course of the year looking at their cartilage and their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

The researchers hope that the treatment will be available for patients within the next five to ten years but they stress there is still a long way to go. Professor Sally Roberts, one of the leaders of the trial, said it was important not to see stem cells as a 'miracle cure'. She added: 'They certainly have huge potential. We just need to learn how to harness it properly.

'Stem cells are portrayed as '' wonder cells'' that can do anything but they can't give you the joints of a 15-year-old. At the moment they are not the ''magic bullet'' and they don't solve the underlying problem of osteoarthritis which still needs to be addressed.'

Professor James Richardson, a co-leader of the study, said: 'The benefit to the patient may be not to prevent the need for a joint replacement, but to prevent the need for a revision joint replacement.'

Stem cells are immature cells which can be removed from the body and turned into different types of tissue in the laboratory. They can then be used to replace dead or worn-out cells.

Osteoarthritis tends to affect people over the age of 40 and is far more common among women. There is currently no cure and patients generally take painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs to control their symptoms. Each year around 60,000 hip replacements and another 60,000 knee replacements are carried out on the NHS, the majority due to osteoarthritis. The cost of surgery alone is £400million but far more is spent on treatments, GP consultations and physiotherapy.


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