Health Research Report
89th Issue 14 SEP 2010
Compiled By Ralph Turchiano
Editors Top Five:
1. Ghostwritten articles overstate benefits of hormone replacement therapy and downplay harms
2. Journal editors question sale of diet pill Meridia
3. BMJ report into top-selling diabetes drug raises concerns about the drug regulatory system
4. Liver defect likely cause of DHA deficiency in Alzheimer’s patients, UCI study finds
5. Cranberry juice shows promise blocking Staph infections
In this issue:
1. Journal editors question sale of diet pill Meridia
2. Botox maker to pay $600M to resolve investigation
3. Increasing selenium intake may decrease bladder cancer risk
4. Physical activity can reduce the genetic predisposition to obesity by 40 percent
5. Study finds commercial organic farms have better fruit and soil, lower environmental impact
6. Problem of fake medicines in developing countries could be solved
7. Cranberry juice shows promise blocking Staph infections
8. Why fish oils work swimmingly against diabetes
9. Ancient brewers tapped antibiotic secrets
10. Hormel Institute study reveals capsaicin can act as co carcinogen
11. A Low-carb Diet Based on Animal Protein May Increase Death Risk
12. Compounds in nonstick cookware may be associated with elevated cholesterol in children and teens
13. Inflammation is Associated with Lower Intelligence and Premature Death
14. BMJ report into top-selling diabetes drug raises concerns about the drug regulatory system
15. Ghostwritten articles overstate benefits of hormone replacement therapy and downplay harms
16. Dosing schedule of pneumococcal vaccine linked with increased risk of getting multiresistant strain
17. Energy drinks may give young sports teams an edge, study says
18. Low levels of formaldehyde in clothing unlikely to pose health risk
19. Liver defect likely cause of DHA deficiency in Alzheimer’s patients, UCI study finds
20. Use of medication for insomnia or anxiety increases mortality risk by 36 percent
21. Inflicting greater harm judged to be less harmful
Public release date: 31-Aug-2010
Journal editors question sale of diet pill Meridia
NEW YORK – Editors of a top medical journal call Meridia “another flawed diet pill” and question whether it should stay on the market as a study shows it raises the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with heart problems.
The strongly worded editorial comes two weeks before government advisers review the prescription drug, which has already been pulled in Europe. In January, U.S. drug regulators strengthened existing warnings that the appetite suppressant should not be used by those with a history of heart trouble.
In Thursday’s issue, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine noted that the latest study showed weight loss with Meridia was minimal, it didn’t improve cardiovascular health, and those with heart disease fared worse.
“It is difficult to discern a credible rationale for keeping this medication on the market,” they wrote.
The editorial — with a headline calling the drug “another flawed diet pill” — was published along with the findings of the study conducted in Europe, Latin America and Australia.
The research involved about 10,700 overweight or obese people 55 or older who had heart disease, diabetes or both and were treated for about 3 1/2 years.
Overall, 11.4 percent of those on the diet pill had a heart attack, stroke or died of a heart-related cause, compared to 10 percent of those taking a dummy pill. The difference was mostly in heart attack and stroke; there was no difference in deaths between the groups.
A person taking Meridia had a 1-in-70 chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke, or a 1-in-52 chance if they had pre-existing heart problems, the editors wrote.
There was no increased risk in the group with diabetes but no heart problems, the researchers found.
Meridia also led to only modest weight loss: about 10 pounds over 12 months for someone weighing an average of 211 pounds.
The research, requested by European drug regulators, was funded by Meridia maker Abbott Laboratories, and company employees were among the researchers. After getting preliminary results, the European Medicines Agency recommended in January that the diet pill no longer be sold in Europe and Abbot suspended sales. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sought the stronger label warnings.
Abbott spokesman Scott Davies said the appropriate candidate for Meridia is someone who’s obese with no history of heart disease who can’t lose weight with diet and exercise. He noted that most of the study’s participants wouldn’t be eligible to take it under its current label.
“We believe this is an important option for patients and physicians to treat a serious condition for which there are few treatments currently available,” he said.
Meridia was approved in the U.S. in 1997 — the same year the popular fen-phen drug combo was linked to heart valve problems and pulled from the market. Meridia use in the U.S. has been steadily declining in recent years, according to prescription data firm IMS Health. About 283,000 prescriptions for it were filled last year, just over half the number of prescriptions in 2005.
Davies said Abbot doesn’t actively promote Meridia in the U.S. and he termed sales modest. The company expects global sales this year to be less than $100 million, including less than $30 milllion in the U.S., he said.
The drug, also known as sibutramine, is sold under a variety of names around the world.
An FDA advisory panel will review the study at a Sept. 15 meeting, while the next day it will consider approval of a new weight-loss drug, lorcaserin. Drugmakers have struggled to come up with a pill that doesn’t have risky side effects. The panel voted against another experimental diet drug in July because of its side effects.
Ralph’s Note – They made their money off of a dangerous pill, since 1997. So how in the world did this this useless pill get approved ?
Public release date: 31-Aug-2010
Botox maker to pay $600M to resolve investigation
Botox maker to pay $600M to resolve investigation
By MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone, Ap Health Writer
Thu Sep 2, 4:01 am ET
WASHINGTON – Allergan Inc., the maker of wrinkle-smoothing Botox, has agreed to pay $600 million to settle a yearslong federal investigation into its marketing of the top-selling, botulin-based drug.
The Justice Department and the company said Wednesday in a statement it will plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of “misbranding,” in which the company’s marketing led physicians to use Botox for unapproved uses. Those included the treatment of headache, pain, spasticity and cerebral palsy in children.
Companies are prohibited from promoting drugs for unapproved, or “off-label,” uses.
Allergan said it will pay $375 million in connection with the plea, which includes the forfeiture of $25 million in assets. Additionally, the company will pay $225 million in civil fines — $210 million to the federal governments and the rest to several states — related to the investigation, although the company denies liability for the civil claims.
Allergan, based in Irvine, Calif., also struck an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General that requires the company to submit compliance reports, and to post on its website any payments to doctors, such as honoraria, travel or lodging.
Allergan “paid kickbacks to induce physicals to inject Botox for off-label uses and Allergan also taught doctors how to bill for off-label uses, including coaching doctors how to miscode Botox claims leading to millions of dollars of false claims being to submitted to federal and state programs,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West said.
Allergan officials will make their first appearance in federal court on Thursday. The settlement is not official until approved by a federal judge.
“The FDA had approved therapeutic uses of Botox for only four rare conditions, yet Allergan made it a top corporate priority to maximize sales of far more lucrative off-label uses that were not approved by the FDA,” said Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “Allergan further demanded tremendous growth in these off-label sales year after year, even when there was little clinical evidence that these uses were effective.”
The investigation was sparked by a whistleblower complaint, officials said, and five whistleblowers will split $37.8 million of the government’s share of the settlement.
Allergan’s product sales topped $4.4 billion in 2009, with Botox accounting for more than $1.3 billion of that total.
The Justice Department’s investigation covered Allergan’s marketing of Botox from 2001 through at least 2008.
Wells Fargo analyst Larry Biegelsen said the settlement is a positive for the company’s stock because it removes uncertainty.
“We view the settlement as a positive for Allergan as it provides cost certainty … and eliminates additional related litigation cost,” Biegelsen wrote in a note to investors.
In recent years, federal investigators have reached multibillion dollar settlements with Pfizer, Eli Lilly and other drug companies over their marketing practices.
Botox is most famous for its ability to smooth frown lines on aging foreheads, but the drug — introduced in 1989 — is also approved to treat neck spasms, eye muscle disorders and excessive underarm sweating.
Last year the drug won approval to treat spasms in the elbows, wrists and fingers. The drug is also widely used off-label to treat cerebral palsy in children as well as in adults, and Allergan says it is in discussions with U.S. health regulators to approve the use of Botox for children with the neuromuscular disorder.
In guidelines published earlier this year, the American Academy of Neurology endorsed Botox as an “effective and generally safe treatment” for children with cerebral palsy. While the use is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the guidelines stated that there are more studies supporting Botox than other movement-disorder drugs.
Botox works by blocking the connections between nerves and muscle, temporarily paralyzing muscles that cause wrinkles as well as certain types of spasms. The drug is a purified form of botulinum, one of the most toxic substances in the world.
As part of the settlement, Allergan agreed to drop a lawsuit against the FDA in which the company pressed for greater leeway to discuss off-label uses with doctors.
The company argued it had a First Amendment right to educate doctors about how to safely use Botox, even for uses that are not currently approved. FDA’s rules are designed to stop companies from promoting drugs for uses that haven’t been federally confirmed as safe and effective.
Some legal experts speculated that Allergan’s lawsuit against FDA was primarily aimed at gaining leverage in its negotiations with the Justice Department, which was a separate matter.
Shares of Allergan rose $1.86, or 3 percent, to $63.28.
Ralph’s Note – Unless they start issuing criminal charges, these companies will always count the fines as nothing more than the cost of doing business.
Public release date: 31-Aug-2010
Increasing selenium intake may decrease bladder cancer risk
•39 percent reduced risk seen in a meta-analysis.
•Selenium effects may vary according to individual’s characteristics.
PHILADELPHIA — A common mineral may provide protection against bladder cancer.
According to results of a study published in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, selenium intake is associated with decreased risk of bladder cancer.
“The lower the levels of selenium, the higher the risk of developing bladder cancer,” said lead researcher Núria Malats, M.D., Ph.D., leader of the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Group, Human Cancer Genetics Program, Spanish National Cancer Research Center.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that is incorporated into about 25 proteins, called selenoproteins. Most of these selenoproteins are enzymes with antioxidant properties that prevent cellular damage caused by the by-products of oxygen metabolism, according to Malats.
The main dietary sources of this micronutrient are plant foods grown in selenium-rich soils, animals who graze on these soils and selenium-enriched products.
Using data from seven previously published studies, Malats and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate selenium levels measured in serum and toenails and the risk of developing bladder cancer. The data included individuals mostly from the United States, but also from Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands.
The researchers noted a significant protective effect of selenium, mainly among women, which they believe may result from gender-specific differences in the mineral’s accumulation and excretion in women.
“Although our results suggest a beneficial effect of high selenium intake for bladder cancer risk, more studies are needed to confirm these findings before an enforcement of high selenium intake is recommended,” Malats said.
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Editorial Board Member Elizabeth A. Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., said, “these findings provide a valuable lead for what to do next to understand if there is a role for selenium supplementation in bladder cancer prevention.”
The next research step is to address the dose-response relationship. Addressing this relationship is of public health importance for setting recommended daily intakes for selenium and for targeting subsets of the population for selenium supplementation, added Platz, who is a professor in the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Public release date: 31-Aug-2010
Physical activity can reduce the genetic predisposition to obesity by 40 percent
Although the whole population can benefit from a physically active lifestyle, in part through reduced obesity risk, a new study shows that individuals with a genetic predisposition to obesity can benefit even more. The research, carried out by Dr. Ruth Loos from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and colleagues, published in this week’s PLoS Medicine suggests that the genetic predisposition to obesity can be reduced by an average of 40% through increased physical activity.
The authors used a cohort study of 20,430 people living in Norwich, UK and examined 12 different genetic variants which are known to increase the risk of obesity. The researchers tested how many of these variants each study participants had inherited from either parent. They then assessed the overall genetic susceptibility to obesity by summing the number of variants inherited into a ‘genetic predisposition score’. Most individuals inherited between 10 and 13 variants, but some had inherited more than 17 variants, while others fewer than 6. In addition the researchers assessed occupational and leisure-time physical activities in each individual by using a validated self-administered questionnaire. The researchers then used modeling techniques to examine whether a higher ‘genetic predisposition score’ was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI)/obesity risk and, most importantly, they also tested whether a physically active lifestyle could attenuate the genetic influence on BMI and obesity risk.
The researchers found that each additional genetic variant in the score was associated with an increase in BMI equivalent to 445g in body weight for a person 1.70 m tall and that the size of this effect was greater in inactive people than in active people. In individuals who had a physically active lifestyle, this increase was only 379 g/variant, or 36% lower than in physically inactive individuals in whom the increase was 592 g/variant. Furthermore, in the total sample each additional obesity-susceptibility variant increased the odds of obesity by 1.1-fold. However, the increased odds per variant for obesity risk were 40% lower in physically active individuals (1.095 odds/variant) compared to physically inactive individuals (1.16 odds/variant).
These findings challenge deterministic views of the genetic predisposition to obesity that are often held by the public, as they suggest that even people at greater genetic risk of obesity can benefit from adopting a healthy lifestyle.
The authors say: “Our findings further emphasize the importance of physical activity in the prevention of obesity.”
Obesity, diabetes epidemics continue to grow in California, UCLA study finds
By Gwen Driscoll August 31, 2010 Category: Health Sciences, Research
A majority of adults in California are obese or overweight, and more than 2 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to a new study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Both conditions — which are related to each other as well as to heart disease — increased significantly in just six years, with the prevalence of diabetes alone jumping nearly 26 percent between 2001 and 2007.
The “epidemic” of obesity and diabetes leaves no racial, ethnic, economic or geographic segment of the state unscathed, according to the researchers. Although American Indians, African Americans and Latinos are particularly affected by both obesity and diabetes, these conditions increased among all racial and ethnic groups between 2001 and 2007.
Similarly, while both conditions disproportionately affect the poorest Californians, there were upward trends in prevalence among all income groups during the same time period. California’s youth are also affected: More than a quarter of California adolescents — some 970,000 children — are obese or overweight.
“When so many people of different ages, income and educational levels, and cultural backgrounds are struggling with obesity and diabetes, it suggests that ‘going on a diet’ is not enough,” said research co-author Dr. Allison Diamant, a faculty associate with the center and an associate adjunct professor of general internal medicine and health services research. “We need to take a hard look at the environmental and structural factors that contribute to these conditions.”
The study specifically recommends that policymakers and others seek ways to increase access to recreational facilities and parks, as well as promote policies that encourage farmers markets and improve access to food outlets that stock fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy fare.
The consequences of failure are severe. California is falling far short of the targets for obesity and diabetes set by Healthy People 2010, a national health-promotion and disease-prevention plan. For example, obesity among California adolescents is more than twice as high as the national target of 5.0 percent, while the rate of diabetes among California adults is more than three times the federal goal of 2.5 percent of the population.
“It is a travesty that beer and Flaming Hot Cheetos are more readily available than an apple in low-income communities across the state,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, which supported the study. “Local governments must support community efforts to bring in healthy food to these communities and expand opportunities for children and families to engage in physical activity by cleaning up parks and improving community safety.”
In California, the total annual cost of diabetes is estimated to be $24 billion, with $17 billion spent on direct medical care and $7 billion on indirect costs associated with the disease. The cost of obesity to families, employers, the health care industry and the government is equally steep: $21 billion. If obesity and diabetes continue to affect more and more of the population, the associated costs will continue to grow.
Although there are a number of factors associated with diabetes and obesity, ranging from genetics to individual behaviors, the composition and structure of neighborhoods and social environments have been increasingly implicated as impediments to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Both physical activity and healthy eating are important for preventing and reducing obesity and diabetes.
California has enacted reforms to encourage healthy eating, including requiring chain restaurants to display calorie information and prohibiting the sale of soda and other sweetened beverages on K–12 school campuses.
However, the study authors conclude that more needs to be done to promote environments that promote regular exercise and healthy eating.
Other study findings:
Obesity prevalence was highest in Imperial (39.6 percent), Merced (34.3 percent) and Tulare (31.1 percent) counties, while diabetes prevalence was highest in Tulare (12.1 percent) and Fresno (10.9 percent). Regionally, the San Joaquin Valley had the highest prevalence of both obesity (30.0 percent) and diabetes (9.4 percent). Los Angeles County, due to the size of its population, had by far the most obese residents (1.7 million) and the most residents diagnosed with diabetes (642,000).
Low-income adults at risk
Adults living below the poverty line had a significantly higher prevalence of obesity (27.7 percent) than higher-income adults (19.6 percent). Similarly, diabetes was more prevalent among the poorest adults — those living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Education a factor
The prevalence of obesity was nearly twice as high among adults with no more than an eighth-grade education (30.3 percent) as among those who graduated from college (14.9 percent). Diabetes prevalence was three times as high among adults with no high school education (14.8 percent) as among those who graduated from college (5.1 percent).
The study is based on data from the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health survey.
Read the new study, “Obesity and Diabetes: Two Growing Epidemics in California.”
Public release date: 1-Sep-2010
Study finds commercial organic farms have better fruit and soil, lower environmental impact
Research team compared fields and fruits in heart of nation’s strawberry patch
PULLMAN, Wash.—Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms and their fruit found the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse.
“Our findings have global implications and advance what we know about the sustainability benefits of organic farming systems,” said John Reganold, Washington State University Regents professor of soil science and lead author of a paper published today in the peer-reviewed online journal, PLoS ONE. “We also show you can have high quality, healthy produce without resorting to an arsenal of pesticides.”
The study is among the most comprehensive of its kind, analyzing 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, and the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties on more than two dozen commercial fields—13 conventional and 13 organic.
“There is no paper in the literature that comprehensively and quantitatively compares so many indices of both food and soil quality at multiple sampling times on so many commercial farms,” said Reganold. Previous Reganold studies of “sustainability indicators” on farms in the Pacific Northwest, California, British Columbia, Australia, and New Zealand have appeared in the journals Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
All the farms in the current study were in California, home to 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries and the center of an ongoing debate about the use of soil fumigants. Conventional farms in the study used the ozone-depleting methyl bromide, which is slated to be replaced by the highly toxic methyl iodide over the protests of health advocates and more than 50 Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences. In July, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked the EPA to reconsider its approval of methyl iodide.
Reganold’s study team included Preston Andrews, a WSU associate professor of horticulture, and seven other experts, mostly from WSU, to form a multidisciplinary team spanning agroecology, soil science, microbial ecology, genetics, pomology, food science, sensory science, and statistics. On almost every major indicator, they found the organic fields and fruit were equal to or better than their conventional counterparts.
Among their findings:
•The organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.
•The organic strawberries had longer shelf life.
•The organic strawberries had more dry matter, or, “more strawberry in the strawberry.”
•Anonymous testers, working at times under red light so the fruit color would not bias them, found one variety of organic strawberries was sweeter, had better flavor, and once a white light was turned on, appearance. The testers judged the other two varieties to be similar.
The researchers also found the organic soils excelled in a variety of key chemical and biological properties, including carbon sequestration, nitrogen, microbial biomass, enzyme activities, and micronutrients.
DNA analysis found the organically managed soils had dramatically more total and unique genes and greater genetic diversity, important measures of the soil’s resilience to stress and ability to carry out essential processes.
Ralph’s Note – Methyl Iodide – It is a possible carcinogen based on ACGIH or NTP classification, but not according to the Environmental Protection Agency.Methyl Iodide (Iodomethane)
Breathing methyl iodide fumes can cause lung, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage. It causes nausea, dizziness, coughing and vomiting. Prolonged contact with skin causes burns. Massive inhalation causes pulmonary edema.
Public release date: 1-Sep-2010
Problem of fake medicines in developing countries could be solved
Half of the malaria medication sold In Africa could be ineffective or even harmful. Researchers from Lund and the UK have now developed a technique that could resolve the situation
Counterfeiting of drugs is a huge industry with an annual turnover of more than SEK 500 billion. In Africa the situation is extremely serious. Half of the malaria medication sold there could be ineffective or even harmful. Researchers from Lund and the UK have now developed a technique that could resolve the situation.
In two years the researchers hope to have a prototype ready. It will resemble a small briefcase, in which a pharmacist, customs officer or pharmaceuticals agent can place a packet of tablets, without having to open the packet. After a minute or so the device indicates whether or not the medicine is fake.
“There are a number of advantages to this technique. It is not only reliable but also simple and cheap, which is a prerequisite if it is to be successfully put into use in developing countries”, comments Andreas Jakobsson, Professor in Mathematical Statistics at Lund University and one of the researchers on the project.
The technique has its origins in the research that Andreas Jakobsson’s Swedish and British colleagues usually conduct: detection of bombs and explosives. The researchers have been called on by HM Revenue and Customs in the UK to detect explosives at Heathrow Airport.
The research is based on a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance. By exposing a substance to radio waves, the spin of the atom nuclei changes briefly. When the radio pulse is over and the resonance returns to normal, a weak signal, unique to each substance, is emitted. In this way, the researchers can usually work out what chemical substances are hiding in the material.
Researchers have long known that it should also be possible to use this technique to trace counterfeit drugs, but it has not been sufficiently well developed for this purpose. However, a recent breakthrough in the Swedish-British research group’s work has changed that. Now they can also find out if a certain drug actually contains the active ingredient that the packaging claims.
“The signals that are emitted from a chemical substance are incredibly weak! But we have succeeded in developing mathematical algorithms which allow us to capture them. We have also managed to filter out interference from metals, for example, which are often found both in explosives and in the protective packaging around tablets”, explains Andreas Jakobsson.
Professor Jakobsson and his Swedish colleague Erik Gudmundson are responsible for the mathematical calculations, while their colleagues at King’s College London are responsible for the chemical experiments and the development of the equipment.
The researchers were recently awarded funding from the Wellcome Trust to develop a prototype. The Swedish research group is also funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Carl Trygger Foundation.
Counterfeit drugs are usually manufactured in factories in China and India and sold by the mafia and other criminal organisations. At best the drug only contains harmless binders.
However, sometimes the manufacturers add rat poison or other cheap but harmful substances that can easily be formed into tablets. Some contain a weak dose of the active ingredient, which can be particularly harmful in the case of penicillin, for example, when it is important to ensure that all the bacteria are killed.
Some counterfeit products work, but entail a loss of revenue for pharmaceutical companies. Even if the problem is greatest in developing countries (in India, it is estimated that 15 per cent of all drugs are fake), counterfeit drugs are also found in Europe. Most of the drugs that can be purchased on the Internet are counterfeit.
Public release date: 1-Sep-2010
Cranberry juice shows promise blocking Staph infections
New research expands the scope of previous pioneering work by Worcester Polytechnic Institute researchers on the mechanisms of bacterial infection
WORCESTER, Mass. – Expanding their scope of study on the mechanisms of bacterial infection, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have reported the surprise finding from a small clinical study that cranberry juice cocktail blocked a strain of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) from beginning the process of infection.
The data was reported in a poster presentation at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Boston on August 23, 2010, by Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering at WPI. “Most of our work with cranberry juice has been with E. coli and urinary tract infections, but we included Staphylococcus aureus in this study because it is a very serious health threat,” Camesano said. “This is early data, but the results are surprising.”
The virulent form of E. coli that Camesano studies is the primary cause of most urinary tract infections. Strains of S. aureus can cause a range of “staph infections” from minor skin rashes to serious bloodstream infections. One particular strain, known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a growing public health problem in hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions because it doesn’t respond to most antibiotics.
To cause an infection, bacteria must first adhere to a host, then gather together in colonies to form a biofilm. In the current study, Camesano recruited healthy female students at WPI to drink either cranberry juice cocktail or a placebo fluid that looked and tasted like cranberry juice. The subjects provides urine samples at prescribed intervals after drinking the juice or placebo, and those samples were incubated in petri dishes with several strains of E. coli and a single strain of S. aureus. Camesano’s team stained the bacteria with a special dye, then used a spectrophotometer to measure the density of the bacterial colonies in the dishes over time. Their analysis showed that the urine samples from subjects who had recently consumed cranberry juice cocktail significantly reduced the ability of E. coli and S. aureus to form biofilms on the surface of the dishes.
“What was surprising is that Staphylococcus aureus showed the most significant results in this study,” Camesano said. “We saw essentially no biofilm in the staph samples, which is very surprising because Staph aureus is usually very good at forming biofilms. That’s what makes it such a health problem.”
With E. coli, Camesano’s focal point is the small hair-like projections known as fimbriae, which act like hooks and help the bacteria latch onto cells that line the urinary tract. Camesano has shown that exposure to cranberry juice causes the fimbriae on E. coli to curl up, blunting their ability to attach to cells. S. aureous, however, doesn’t have fimbirae, so there must be other reasons why the cranberry juice affected its biofilm formation in the study. “These results do create more questions than answers,” Camesano said. “We believe this is an important new area to explore, and we are now thinking about how best to proceed.”
Since bacterial adhesion is required for infection, Camesano hopes that better understanding of the specific mechanisms and forces involved in biofilm formation will help inform future studies aimed at identifying potential drug targets for new antibiotics. The data may also be useful in studies aimed at engineering the surfaces of invasive medical devices like catheters to make them more resistant to bacterial adhesion.
Public release date: 2-Sep-2010
Why fish oils work swimmingly against diabetes
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the molecular mechanism that makes omega-3 fatty acids so effective in reducing chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.
The discovery could lead to development of a simple dietary remedy for many of the more than 23 million Americans suffering from diabetes and other conditions.
Writing in the advance online edition of the September 3 issue of the journal Cell, Jerrold Olefsky, MD, and colleagues identified a key receptor on macrophages abundantly found in obese body fat. Obesity and diabetes are closely correlated. The scientists say omega-3 fatty acids activate this macrophage receptor, resulting in broad anti-inflammatory effects and improved systemic insulin sensitivity.
Macrophages are specialized white blood cells that engulf and digest cellular debris and pathogens. Part of this immune system response involves the macrophages secreting cytokines and other proteins that cause inflammation, a method for destroying cells and objects perceived to be harmful. Obese fat tissue contains lots of these macrophages producing lots of cytokines. The result can be chronic inflammation and rising insulin resistance in neighboring cells over-exposed to cytokines. Insulin resistance is the physical condition in which the natural hormone insulin becomes less effective at regulating blood sugar levels in the body, leading to myriad and often severe health problems, most notably type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Olefsky and colleagues looked at cellular receptors known to respond to fatty acids. They eventually narrowed their focus to a G-protein receptor called GPR120, one of a family of signaling molecules involved in numerous cellular functions. The GPR120 receptor is found only on pro-inflammatory macrophages in mature fat cells. When the receptor is turned off, the macrophage produces inflammatory effects. But exposed to omega-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the GPR120 receptor is activated and generates a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
“It’s just an incredibly potent effect,” said Olefsky, a professor of medicine and associate dean of scientific affairs for the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The omega-3 fatty acids switch on the receptor, killing the inflammatory response.”
The scientists conducted their research using cell cultures and mice, some of the latter genetically modified to lack the GPR120 receptor. All of the mice were fed a high-fat diet with or without omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. The supplementation treatment inhibited inflammation and enhanced insulin sensitivity in ordinary obese mice, but had no effect in GPR120 knockout mice. A chemical agonist of omega-3 fatty acids produced similar results.
“This is nature at work,” said Olefsky. “The receptor evolved to respond to a natural product – omega-3 fatty acids – so that the inflammatory process can be controlled. Our work shows how fish oils safely do this, and suggests a possible way to treating the serious problems of inflammation in obesity and in conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease through simple dietary supplementation.”
However, Olefsky said more research is required. For example, it remains unclear how much fish oil constitutes a safe, effective dose. High consumption of fish oil has been linked to increased risk of bleeding and stroke in some people.
Should fish oils prove impractical as a therapeutic agent, Olefsky said the identification of the GPR120 receptor means researchers can work toward developing an alternative drug that mimics the actions of DHA and EPA and provides the same anti-inflammatory effects.
Public release date: 2-Sep-2010
Ancient brewers tapped antibiotic secrets
A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.
The research, led by Emory anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
“We tend to associate drugs that cure diseases with modern medicine,” Armelagos says. “But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents. I have no doubt that they knew what they were doing.”
Armelagos is a bioarcheologist and an expert on prehistoric and ancient diets. In 1980, he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550, populations that left no written record. The ancient Nubian kingdom was located in present-day Sudan, south of ancient Egypt.
Green fluorescence in Nubian skeletons indicated tetracycline-labeled bone, the first clue that the ancients were producing the antibiotic.
Armelagos and his fellow researchers later tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline. A key question was whether only occasional batches of the ancient beer contained tetracycline, which would indicate accidental contamination with the bacteria.
Nelson, a leading expert in tetracycline and other antibiotics, became interested in the project after hearing Armelagos speak at a conference. “I told him to send me some mummy bones, because I had the tools and the expertise to extract the tetracycline,” Nelson says. “It’s a nasty and dangerous process. I had to dissolve the bones in hydrogen fluoride, the most dangerous acid on the planet.”
The results stunned Nelson. “The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” he says. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”
Even the tibia and skull belonging to a 4-year-old were full of tetracycline, suggesting that they were giving high doses to the child to try and cure him of illness, Nelson says.
The first of the modern day tetracyclines was discovered in 1948. It was given the name auereomycin, after the Latin word “aerous,” which means containing gold. “Streptomyces produce a golden colony of bacteria, and if it was floating on a batch of beer, it must have look pretty impressive to ancient people who revered gold,” Nelson theorizes.
The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other ailments, Armelagos says, adding that the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times, and handed down through generations.
The chemical confirmation of tetracycline in ancient bones is not the end of the story for Armelagos. He remains enthused after more than three decades on the project. “This opens up a whole new area of research,” he says. “Now we’re going to compare the amount of tetracycline in the bones, and bone formation over time, to determine the dosage that the ancient Nubians were getting.”
Public release date: 2-Sep-2010
Hormel Institute study reveals capsaicin can act as co carcinogen
Research links chemical in widely consumed foods to skin cancer
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (09/02/2010) —The September cover story of the nation’s leading cancer journal, “Cancer Research,” features a new study from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, that links capsaicin, a component of chili peppers, to skin cancer. While the molecular mechanisms of the cancer-promoting effects of capsaicin are not clear and remain controversial, The Hormel Institute has shown a definite connection to formation of skin cancer through various laboratory studies.
Ann Bode, professor in the institute’s Cellular and Molecular Biology Research Section, led the research team on this study along with colleagues Mun Kyung Hwang and Zigang Dong.
Capsaicin, widely consumed worldwide in foods that contain chili peppers, is also used in topical creams for pain relief and its role in cancer development is controversial. Capsaicin has been shown to induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. However, research findings have also shown that it can also act as a carcinogen, especially at the tumor promotion stage.
Bode says the possibility that capsaicin induces inflammation and may affect cancer development is a critical result of the study. “Most notably, the results raise concerns that a natural compound found in hot peppers used in over-the-counter topical pain remedies might increase skin cancer risk,” Bode says.
The study’s key findings include:
-The co-carcinogenic effect of capsaicin appears to be mediated through the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and not the transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1), a known pain receptor.
-Topical application of capsaicin on the dorsal skin of wildtype or TRPV1 knockout mice induced tumors in both types but more and larger skin tumors in the knockout mice.
-A known inflammatory enzyme, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was highly elevated following treatment with capsaicin.
Other researchers working with Bode on this study included Sanguine Byun, Nu Ry Song, Hyong Joo Lee and Ki Won Lee.
Funding for this research was provided by The Hormel Foundation, National Cancer Institute and the Korean Research Foundation.
The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota (and its Mayo Clinic research partner), is a world-renowned cancer research center located in Austin, Minn. Specializing in research leading to cancer prevention and control, it currently has 11 cancer research departments and 130 faculty and staff.
Public Release: 6-Sep-2010
A Low-carb Diet Based on Animal Protein May Increase Death Risk
Evidence shows that a low-carbohydrate diet produces weight loss and improves some cardiovascular risk factors. However, health effects of a low-carbohydrate diet may depend on the type of protein and fat consumed. Researchers followed 85,168 women and 44,548 men on a low-carbohydrate diet for 26 and 20 years respectively. The patients ate either an animal-based (emphasizing animal sources of fat and protein) low-carbohydrate diet, or a vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet. The researchers found that diets that emphasized animal sources of fat and protein were associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men and women. A vegetable-based low-carbohydrate diet was associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality rates.The researchers conclude that while major macronutrient content may be similar in both diets, the source of the macronutrients can result in large differences in dietary components that may affect mortality such as specific fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2010
Compounds in nonstick cookware may be associated with elevated cholesterol in children and teens
Children and teens with higher blood levels of chemicals used in the production of non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics appear more likely to have elevated total and LDL cholesterol levels, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Humans are exposed to the man-made compounds known as perfluoroalkyl acids—including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)—through drinking water, dust, food packaging, breast milk, cord blood, microwave popcorn, air and occupational exposure, according to background information in the article. Recent national survey results reported detection of PFOA and PFOS in almost all samples of human serum. Perfluoroalkyl acids are used during the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which give non-stick heat resistance to cookware and breathable, waterproof properties to fabrics and upholstery. PFOA and PFOS may also result from the breakdown of compounds used as coating for commercial food packaging, factory treatments for fabrics and carpets and manufacturer pretreatment for stain-resistant clothing.
Animal studies have identified the liver as the primary organ affected by perfluoroalkyl acid exposure, with potential effects in human including alterations in cholesterol levels. Stephanie J. Frisbee, M.Sc., M.A., of West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, and colleagues assessed serum lipid levels in 12,476 children and adolescents (average age 11.1) included in the C8 Health Project, which resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding PFOA contamination of the drinking water supply in the mid–Ohio River Valley.
After enrolling in 2005 or 2006, the children and teens submitted blood samples; their average PFOA concentration was 69.2 nanograms per milliliter and average PFOS concentration was 22.7 nanograms per milliliter. Among 12- to 19-year old participants, PFOA concentrations were higher than those detected in a nationally representative survey (29.3 nanograms per milliliter vs. 3.9 nanograms per milliliter), but PFOS concentrations were similar (19.1 nanograms per milliliter vs. 19.3 nanograms per milliliter).
After adjusting for related variables, higher PFOA levels were associated with increased total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and PFOS was associated with increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol. There was no association between either compound and triglyceride levels.
On average, the one-fifth of children and teens with the highest PFOA levels had total cholesterol levels 4.6 milligrams per deciliter higher and LDL cholesterol levels 3.8 milligrams per deciliter higher than the one-fifth with the lowest PFOA levels. In addition, there was an average difference of 8.5 milligrams per deciliter in total cholesterol levels and 5.8 milligrams per deciliter in LDL cholesterol levels between the one-fifth of participants with the highest and lowest PFOS levels.
“The non-linear nature of the observed associations, particularly for PFOA, suggests a possible saturation point in an underlying physiologic mechanism,” the authors write. “PFOA and PFOS specifically, and possibly perfluoroalkyl acids as a general class, appear to be associated with serum lipids, and the association seems to exist at levels of PFOA and PFOS exposure that are in the range characterized by nationally representative studies.”
Although the design of the study limits cause-and-effect interpretations, the results suggest the association between PFOA and PFOS and elevated cholesterol levels warrant further study, the authors note. “Should the association prove to be etiologic, the cumulative effects of such an elevation in cholesterol on long-term cardiovascular health are unclear given the early age at which these associations were observed.”
Public release date: 6-Sep-2010
Inflammation is Associated with Lower Intelligence and Premature Death
Stockholm, 6 September, 2010 – Inflammation is associated with lower intelligence and premature death, according to Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “Those with low-grade inflammation performed more poorly on standardised intelligence tests, even after excluding those with signs of current illness. Inflammation also predicted an increased risk of premature death,” said lead researcher Dr Hakan Karlsson.
The research, recently published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity (August,24:868–873), used large population-based registers containing data collected over several decades. Inflammation and intelligence were measured at 18-20 years of age in nearly 50,000 young men, and deaths over the following 35 years were recorded.
“Although we knew that inflammation associated with infection or cardiovascular disease could impair brain function, this is the first time that similar associations have been shown in healthy young people,” said Dr Karlsson. “This suggests that even low levels of inflammation can have detrimental consequences for health and brain function,” he added.
“Since low-grade inflammation appears to be hazardous, it is also important to determine its causes,” affirmed Dr Karlsson. “One interesting possibility is the role of environmental factors during childhood,” he added. In the current study, childhood socio-economic status predicted the level of inflammation seen in young adulthood. For example, children of farmers had higher levels of inflammation than those whose fathers were non-manual workers. “It’s possible that these boys were exposed to more toxins, allergens or infectious agents in childhood, leading to greater inflammation and its negative effects later in life,” he remarked.
“This is an important finding because it is the largest study to date to show that low-grade inflammation in young adulthood is associated with intelligence and mortality,” said Dr Michelle Luciano, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. “An interesting question now is whether the effects of a less healthy childhood environment on inflammation persist into middle age and beyond,” she commented.
The research was funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA, the Swedish Research Council, and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.
Public release date: 6-Sep-2010
BMJ report into top-selling diabetes drug raises concerns about the drug regulatory system
Rosiglitazone: What went wrong
A BMJ investigation into the top-selling diabetes drug rosiglitazone (Avandia) raises concerns about its safety and the whole system by which drugs are evaluated, regulated, and promoted around the world.
BMJ Editor in Chief, Dr Fiona Godlee, believes that the drug should not have been licensed and should now be withdrawn. She also calls for more robust regulatory processes and better access to the raw data used to license drugs to allow scrutiny by the scientific community.
The investigation reveals that in July the Commission on Human Medicines advised the MHRA to withdraw the drug as the “risks of rosiglitazone outweigh its benefits and that it no longer has a place on the UK market”.
In light of these concerns, doctors are also advising that no new patients should be started on rosiglitazone, and patients already taking it should be reviewed and alternative treatments considered. Those at higher risk of heart disease should be advised to stop taking the drug.
Rosiglitazone, manufactured by Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999 and by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2000 to help lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Since its approval, several studies have suggested that rosiglitazone may lead to a small overall increase in the risk of heart attacks, but in July an FDA scientific advisory panel recommended that it was safe enough to stay on the market.
In her report, Dr Deborah Cohen investigations editor of the BMJ, obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act that note a paucity of evidence during the European approval process and outline concerns from some panel members about the long term risks and benefits of rosiglitazone. Other experts have since remarked on the poor evidence base and lack of long term data on cardiovascular safety.
The report also raises concerns about the quality of the data used by GSK to show that rosiglitazone did not lead to increased heart problems compared to other diabetes drugs, the lack of publicly available trial results for independent scientific scrutiny, a lack of transparency in the European system, and the ability of the European regulator to assess individual patient data.
Pressures on regulatory agencies by diabetologists to approve rosiglitazone, and failures by the agencies to act swiftly on emerging safety information are also highlighted in the report.
Two experts comment on today’s report.
Professor Nick Freemantle at the University of Birmingham, calls for an overhaul in the standards of regulatory trials to minimise the risk of a similar situation occurring in other clinical areas in the future. “In order to learn from our mistakes, we must improve the quality of safety data from clinical trials on all new health care interventions, not just antidiabetic drugs,” he says.
Professor John S.Yudkin of University College London believes doctors must focus on what matters to patients. “Ten years after the release of rosiglitazone, we still cannot accurately quantify the harm to which we were exposing our patients,” he says. He admits that some of the blame lies with clinicians for not insisting on better proof of long-term benefit, and adds: “We need to be absolutely certain that our long term treatments for type 2 diabetes are not causing the very harm they are meant to prevent. And if the regulatory bodies do not insist on clear evidence of greater benefit than harm, they are failing in their basic purpose.”
Public release date: 7-Sep-2010
Ghostwritten articles overstate benefits of hormone replacement therapy and downplay harms
The first academic analysis of the 1500 documents unsealed in recent litigation against the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth (now part of Pfizer) reveals unprecedented insights into how pharmaceutical companies use ghostwriters to insert marketing messages into articles published in medical journals. Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, associate professor in the Department of Physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, analyzed dozens of ghostwritten reviews and commentaries published in medical journals and journal supplements that were used to promote unproven benefits and downplay harms of Prempro—a brand of menopausal hormone therapy (HT)—and to cast competing therapies in a negative light. These articles were widely circulated to drug reps and doctors to disseminate the company’s marketing messages. The analysis appears in this week’s PLoS Medicine.
Wyeth used a medical education & communication company, DesignWrite, to produce ghostwritten articles in order to mitigate the perceived risks of breast cancer associated with HT, to defend the unsupported cardiovascular ”benefits” of HT, and to promote off-label, unproven uses of HT such as the prevention of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, vision problems, and wrinkles, writes Fugh-Berman.
The analysis revealed that DesignWrite was paid US$25,000 to ghostwrite articles reporting clinical trials, including four manuscripts on the HOPE trials of low-dose Prempro. DesignWrite was also assigned to write 20 review articles about the drug, for which they were paid US$20,000 each.
The analysis concludes that “Given the growing evidence that ghostwriting has been used to promote HT and other highly promoted drugs, the medical profession must take steps to ensure that prescribers renounce participation in ghostwriting, and to ensure that unscrupulous relationships between industry and academia are avoided rather than courted.”
In July 2009, PLoS Medicine, represented by the public interest law firm Public Justice, and The New York Times acted as intervenors in litigation against menopausal hormone manufacturers by 14,000 plaintiffs whose claims related to the development of breast cancer while taking the hormone therapy Prempro (conjugated equine estrogens). This resulted in a US federal court decision to release approximately 1500 documents to the public. The Wyeth Ghostwriting Archive is available at http://www.plosmedicine.org/static/ghostwriting.action or through the UCSF Drug Information Document Archive at http://dida.library.ucsf.edu/documents.jsp
Public release date: 7-Sep-2010
Dosing schedule of pneumococcal vaccine linked with increased risk of getting multiresistant strain
Infants who received heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccination (PCV-7) at 2, 4, and 11 months were more likely than unvaccinated controls to have nasopharyngeal (in the nasal passages and upper part of the throat behind the nose) acquisition of pneumococcal serotype 19A, a leading cause of respiratory pneumococcal disease, according to a study in the September 8 issue of JAMA.
“A rapid increase in the presence of pneumococcal serotype 19A strains that are often multiresistant to antibiotics has been observed over the last decade. In the United States, serotype 19A is now the leading causative pneumococcal serotype of invasive and respiratory pneumococcal disease and the most frequently observed serotype in nasopharyngeal carriage. In the United States and other countries, the increase in serotype 19A disease was associated in time with the widespread implementation of PCV-7 in routine infant immunization programs,” according to background information in the article. “Because spontaneous fluctuations in time and antibiotic selective pressure may have induced this serotype 19A increase, controlled studies are needed to assess the role of PCV-7.”
Elske J. M. van Gils, M.D., of University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and colleagues examined the association between PCV-7 vaccination and nasopharyngeal acquisition of serotype 19A pneumococci in 1,003 healthy newborns, with follow-up to the age of 24 months in the Netherlands, which has low antibiotic resistance rates. The study was conducted before widespread PCV-7 implementation in infants, between July 2005 and February 2008. Nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained at the age of 6 weeks and at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Infants were randomly assigned to receive 2 doses of PCV-7 at 2 and 4 months; 2 + 1 doses of PCV-7 at 2, 4, and 11 months; or no dosage (unvaccinated control group).
Nine hundred forty-eight children completed the study. Fifty-four nasopharyngeal serotype 19A carriage isolates from 318 in the 2-dose group, 66 isolates from 327 in the 2 + 1-dose group, and 33 isolates from 303 in the unvaccinated group were collected from 6 weeks through 24 months. “At 24 months and after having completed the vaccine series, the cumulative proportion of participants with acquisition of a new serotype 19A clone in the 2 +1-dose group was 16.2 percent (53 of 327) vs. 9.2 percent (28 of 303) in the unvaccinated control group. The cumulative proportion in the 2-dose group was also higher than in the unvaccinated group but did not reach statistical significance (13.2 percent; 42 of 318 children),” the authors write.
The proportion of children with new 19A acquisition who had used antibiotics in the last 6 months (18.7 percent) did not differ among groups.
“In addition to the contributing role of antibiotic selective pressure as previously described by others, we now have demonstrated, to our knowledge for the first time, the facilitating role of PCV-7 in nasopharyngeal acquisition of serotype 19A. In view of the proven disease potential of serotype 19A for otitis media and invasive pneumococcal disease and the observed association with antibiotic resistance, vaccines of broader coverage including protection against serotype 19A may further aid to pneumococcal disease prevention. However, we need to be aware that other serotypes with similar characteristics and disease potential may be the next in line to proliferate and therefore pneumococcal surveillance remains important after introduction of expanded pneumococcal conjugate vaccines,” the researchers conclude.
Ralph’s note – So they want to vaccinate even more…Why vaccinate at all?
Public release date: 8-Sep-2010
Energy drinks may give young sports teams an edge, study says
Consuming energy drinks during team sports could help young people perform better, a study suggests
Sports scientists found that 12-14 year olds can play for longer in team games when they drink an isotonic sports drink before and during games.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh measured the performance of 15 adolescents during exercise designed to simulate the physical demands of team games such as football, rugby and hockey.
They showed for the first time that sports drinks helped the young people continue high intensity, stop-start activity for up to 24 per cent longer – compared with players who drank a non-carbohydrate placebo solution.
The study was conducted because there is increasing evidence of young people consuming commercially available energy drinks during team games and researchers wanted to assess their impact. The findings are published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
The findings showed that drinking a 6 per cent carbohydrate-electrolyte solution improved endurance capacity but did not make young people run faster during intermittent exercise in team sports.
The solution – containing carbohydrate, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium – enhances hydration, helps prevent dehydration and provides a supply of energy to the body, thereby contributing to improved endurance capacity.
The researchers say the findings help to identify the importance of regular hydration and energy intake with a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution during games to replace fluids and provide energy in adolescent games players.
Dr John Sproule, Head of the Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education who led the research, said: “The importance of hydration to improve performance during exercise for adults is well known.
“This research helps us further understand how adolescents respond to hydration and energy supply during exercise.
“The consumption of a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution was found to significantly enhance endurance capacity during simulated games play, and this could contribute to improved performance in adolescents.”
This is the first study to explore the effect of a 6 per cent carbohydrate-electrolyte solution, similar to the make-up of an isotonic sports drink, on the performance of young people in team games.
Public release date: 8-Sep-2010
Low levels of formaldehyde in clothing unlikely to pose health risk
The formaldehyde added to fabrics to keep clothing looking fresh and wrinkle-free is unlikely to pose a health risk to consumers, according to an article in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
C&EN Senior Correspondent David J. Hanson notes that manufacturers have added formaldehyde to fabrics for almost a hundred years to make fabrics easier to care for, particularly to reduce wrinkling in cotton and prevent stains. But concern has emerged over formaldehyde’s potential for causing allergic reactions such as skin rashes in some people. Formaldehyde also is a potential human carcinogen.
The article describes a new analysis of formaldehyde levels in clothing and the potential health risks. The analysis found that formaldehyde levels in clothing have fallen significantly over the past 25 years. In 1984, for instance, 67 percent of fabrics tested in government studies had levels greater than 100 parts per million, a level the textile industry considers high. But since 2003, less than two percent of items tested showed such high levels and most clothing items had nondetectable levels, the article says, noting that the health risk from formaldehyde is likely very small
Public release date: 8-Sep-2010
Liver defect likely cause of DHA deficiency in Alzheimer’s patients, UCI study finds
Low levels of the omega-3 fatty acid may contribute to the neurodegenerative disease
Irvine, Calif. — UC Irvine researchers have discovered that markedly depleted amounts of an omega-3 fatty acid in brain tissue samples from Alzheimer’s patients may be due to the liver’s inability to produce the complex fat, also contained in fish-oil supplements.
Low levels of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, have been associated with the chronic neurodegenerative disease affecting millions of Americans, but no cause had been identified.
In postmortem liver tissue from Alzheimer’s patients, the UCI team found a defect in the organ’s ability to make DHA from shorter molecules present in leafy plants and other foods. Previous studies have shown that most brain DHA is manufactured in the liver.
Non-Alzheimer’s livers did not have this defect, said Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at UCI, who led the research with Giuseppe Astarita, project scientist in pharmacology.
“We all know Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, but our findings – which were totally unexpected – show that a problem with liver fat metabolism can make people more vulnerable,” Piomelli said. “They also suggest a reason why clinical trials in which Alzheimer’s patients are given omega-3 fatty acids to improve cognitive skills have had mixed results.”
The study appears Sept. 8 in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.
DHA occurs naturally in cold-water fatty fish and seaweed. It is essential for the proper functioning of adult human brains and for the development of our nervous system and vision during the first six months of life. Omega-3 fatty acids are also part of a healthy diet that helps lower risk of heart disease.
“Additionally, we found that the greater the amount of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive problems experienced in life by the patients, the lower were their liver DHA levels,” Astarita said. “So we do see a connection.”
Piomelli added that the results point to new diagnostic and dietary approaches to Alzheimer’s: Specific blood lipid profile tests might identify at-risk persons, and dietary supplements with a chemically enhanced form of DHA may benefit early-stage patients.
“Our research isn’t advocating that liver metabolism is a key to Alzheimer’s,” he noted. “The factors causing the disease are many and complex, but we feel this is another piece in the Alzheimer’s puzzle.”
Public release date: 9-Sep-2010
Use of medication for insomnia or anxiety increases mortality risk by 36 percent
Quebec City, September 9, 2010—Taking medications to treat insomnia and anxiety increases mortality risk by 36%, according to a study conducted by Geneviève Belleville, a professor at Université Laval’s School of Psychology. The details of this study are published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Dr. Belleville arrived at these results through analysis of 12 years of data on over 14,000 Canadians in Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey. The data includes information on the social demographics, lifestyle, and health of Canadians age 18 to 102, surveyed every two years between 1994 and 2007.
During this period, respondents who reported having used medication to treat insomnia or anxiety at least once in the month preceding the survey had a mortality rate of 15.7%. Respondents who reported not having used such medications had a rate of 10.5%. After controlling for personal factors that might affect mortality risk, notably alcohol and tobacco consumption, physical health, physical activity level, and the presence or absence of depressive symptoms among participants, Dr. Belleville established that the consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety-relieving medications was associated with a 36% increase in the risk of death.
A number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the link between use of these medications and increased mortality. Sleeping pills and anxiolytics affect reaction time, alertness, and coordination and are thus conducive to falls and other accidents. They may also have an inhibiting effect on the respiratory system, which could aggravate certain breathing problems during sleep. These medications are also central nervous system inhibitors that may affect judgment and thus increase the risk of suicide.
“These medications aren’t candy, and taking them is far from harmless,” commented Dr. Belleville. “Given that cognitive behavioral therapies have shown good results in treating insomnia and anxiety, doctors should systematically discuss such therapies with their patients as an option. Combining a pharmacological approach in the short term with psychological treatment is a promising strategy for reducing anxiety and promoting sleep.”
Public release date: 9-Sep-2010
Inflicting greater harm judged to be less harmful
New study from the Kellogg School of Management highlights scope-severity paradox
Joseph Stalin once claimed that a single death was a tragedy, but a million deaths was a statistic. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University validates this sentiment, confirming large-scale tragedies don’t connect with people emotionally in the same way smaller tragedies do.
The new study, entitled “The Scope-Severity Paradox: Why doing more harm is judged to be less harmful,” has been published in the current issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE) and was conducted by Loran Nordgren of the Kellogg School of Management and Mary-Hunter Morris of Harvard Law School. The researchers found that a “scope-severity paradox” exists in which judgment of harm tends to be based on emotional reactions, and thus people have a stronger emotional response to singular identifiable victims rather than to an entire crowd of sufferers.
“We see this time and again on the news, where a missing person is featured as a leading story for months because there is emotional interest wrapped up in that single individual,” said Nordgren, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. “But, if you think of current stories such as the Chilean miners or the people affected by the BP oil spill, we find that it’s harder to relate to those victims unless you get to know their personal stories. The bottom line is that it’s difficult for people to connect when there are many faceless victims.”
To test their theory, the researchers conducted a series of three experiments. In the first study, Nordgren and Morris asked participants to read a story about a financial advisor who defrauded his clients. Half the time, the story described how only two or three people were harmed and the other half of the time, dozens of people were harmed. After reading the story, participants were asked to evaluate the severity of the crime and to recommend a punishment for the perpetrator, as well as to describe one of the participants in the case. As predicted, participants in the small-scope condition judged the fraud case more harshly and recommended a longer jail sentence for the perpetrator.
Also, participants could describe an additional three traits in the small-scope condition over the large-scope condition. The researchers noted that this “victim identifiability effect” allows people to form more vivid mental representations of a smaller number of victims.
The second experiment tested whether the researchers could correct this bias by manipulating the identifiability of the victims. The participants read a story about a food processing company that sold tainted food that made people sick. One group was given a basic description of the victims whereas a second group received a photo of one of the victims along with her name and occupation. As in the first experiment, stronger identifiability with the victim led participants to perceive the crime more severely and to recommend greater punishment for the company.
To take this experiment one step further, the second experiment also explored whether participants would act more ethically if they identified more strongly with the victims in the food tainting story. They were asked to imagine that they worked for the company, and if they would blow the whistle on their employer. Consistent with previous results, the participants were less inclined to blow the whistle when more victims were involved, suggesting that making the victim more vivid can partially overcome the scope-severity paradox.
Finally, a third experiment examined the scope-severity paradox in real jury verdicts. The researchers looked at the outcomes of 133 U.S. court cases between 2000 and 2009 in which someone had been negligently exposed to either asbestos, lead paint or toxic mold. They found that total damages decreased as the number of people affected increased.
“In all three studies, we found that increasing the number of people victimized by a crime actually decreases the perceived severity of that crime and leads people to recommend less punishment for crimes that victimize more people,” said Nordgren.
According to Nordgren, the paradox is problematic especially in situations involving mass crimes like genocide in which harm is extreme and widely dispersed among a large population of people. But, he noted that vivid, personalized accounts of individual victims, such as the diary of Anne Frank, can help people grasp the severity of mass crimes.
“To combat this paradox, individuating victims partially helps the problem,” he said. “When there is specific information about one or two victims out of a larger group, there is more sympathy than when there isn’t specific information about anyone.”
These reports are done with the appreciation of all the Doctors, Scientist, and other
Medical Researchers who sacrificed their time and effort. In order to give people the
ability to empower themselves. Without the base aspirations for fame, or fortune.
Just honorable people, doing honorable things.
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