Friday, March 11, 2011

Coffee tied to lower stroke risk in women

As the authors admit, previous results have been conflicting. So all this proves is that if you do enough studies you will eventually get a positive result by chance alone

WOMEN who enjoy a daily dose of coffee may like this perk: It might lower their risk of stroke. Women in a Swedish study who drank at least a cup of coffee every day had a 22 to 25 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared to those who drank less coffee or none at all.

"Coffee drinkers should rejoice," said Dr Sharonne N Hayes, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "Coffee is often made out to be potentially bad for your heart. There really hasn't been any study that convincingly said coffee is bad." "If you are drinking coffee now, you may be doing some good and you are likely not doing harm," she added.

But Hayes and other doctors say the study shouldn't send non-coffee drinkers running to their local coffee shop. The study doesn't prove that coffee lowers stroke risk, only that coffee drinkers tend to have a lower stroke risk.

"These sorts of epidemiological studies are compelling but they don't prove cause," said Dr David S Seres, director of medical nutrition at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

The findings were published online today in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Scientists have been studying coffee for years, trying to determine its risks and benefits. The Swedish researchers led by Susanna Larsson at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said previous studies on coffee consumption and strokes have had conflicting findings.

"There hasn't been a consistent message come out," of coffee studies, said Dr Cathy Sila, a stroke neurologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Centre in Cleveland.

For the observational study, researchers followed 34,670 Swedish women, ages 49 to 83, for about 10 years. The women were asked how much coffee they drank at the start of the study. The researchers checked hospital records to find out how many of the women later had strokes.

There were 1680 strokes, including those who drank less than a cup or none.

Researchers adjusted for differences between the groups that affect stroke risk, such as smoking, weight, high blood pressure and diabetes, and still saw a lower stroke risk among coffee drinkers. Dr Larsson said the benefit was seen whether the women drank a cup or several daily. "You don't need to drink so much. One or two cups a day is enough," she said.

Dr Larsson, who in another study found a link between coffee drinking in Finnish men who smoked and decreased stroke risk, said more research needs to be done to figure out why coffee may be cutting stroke risk. It could be reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, she said, or it could be the antioxidants in coffee.


Revolutionary new X-ray treatment that could save the sight of thousands

An X-ray treatment that could save the sight of thousands is being trialled on the NHS. The 15-minute procedure has been shown to halt wet age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common forms of blindness in the elderly.

Around 250,000 suffer from this debilitating condition which, if not treated, can cause loss of sight in just three months. Currently sufferers have to undergo monthly injections in their eye for the rest of their lives to prevent them from going blind, and they are often unable to read, drive or live independently.

But early trials of the new procedure have shown that it could halt the progression of the condition immediately, saving the NHS £300million a year. The trials on 60 people in Mexico showed that half did not need any more treatment while the remainder needed infrequent injections – only a few each year.

Wet AMD is caused when blood vessels grow over an area in the middle of the retina called the macular, which is at the back of the eye. It is currently treated with several drugs, including Lucentis and Avastin, which temporarily stop the vessels from growing.

But the powerful new procedure, called iRay, can destroy the blood vessels completely. Patients sit at the front of a machine and place their chin on a rest while X-rays are beamed into the back of their eye. The procedure lasts between 15 and 20 minutes and is estimated to cost around £4,000 a time. A year’s worth of the monthly injections costs £12,000.

The procedure, developed by U.S. firm Oraya Therapeutics, is being tested at London’s Kings College Hospital and doctors are hoping to recruit 50 more patients to take part in the trials. If successful, it could be rolled out in hospitals nationwide and researchers believe it could save the NHS up to £300million a year.

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon Tim Jackson, who is leading the trial, said: ‘This is an exciting new technology that targets one of the most common causes of blindness in the UK. ‘If the initial results are borne out in these important larger studies then a majority of patients will have something to look forward to – an easily administered, one-off treatment that maintains or improves vision, and fewer injections into their eye.’

There are around 20,000 new cases of wet AMD in Britain every year, mostly Occurring in the over-60s. The condition is more common among women, and is thought to be linked to smoking and heavy drinking.


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