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Health Bulletin


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  1. #1351
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    1.7 million deaths due to too much salt in diet: Study

    Almost 1.65 million people across the world die due to heart problems brought on by excess intake of salt, said a research analyzing populations from 187 countries.

    The paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on Thursday, found that the average consumption of salt across the globe was 3.95gm per day, nearly double the 2gm recommended by the World Health Organization.

    A separate Indian study released a few days ago — the INDIAB study of the Indian Council for Medical Research — found that the mean salt intake in urban India was 7.6gm per day, much higher than the global mean.

    "It is well known that salt or sodium is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke," said endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi, one of the lead authors of the INDIAB study. Considering that one in every four Indian adults suffers from high blood pressure, one can gauge the extent of heart problems caused by salt among India.

    The highlight of the NEJM study, conducted by a 100-member team of academicians led by Tufts University, is that it's the first to quantify the effect of excess sodium on cardiovascular diseases. The final conclusion was that in 2010 alone, around 1.65 million across the world suffered fatal heart problems aggravated by their high sodium intake.

    To arrive at the conclusion, the study—funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—analyzed existing data from 205 surveys of sodium intake in 66 countries. The effects of sodium on blood pressure and of blood pressure on cardiovascular diseases were determined separately. The researchers then combined these findings with the current rates of cardiovascular diseases around 187 countries to estimate the number of cardiovascular deaths attributable to sodium consumption above 2gm per day.

    "This important study reiterates that excess salt intake is equivalent to tobacco intake in terms of human disease and death. India ranks high on the list of countries with excess salt intake and resultant cardiovascular disease and deaths," said senior Delhi-based endocrinologist Dr Anoop Misra. He felt that a reduction in salt intake is not possible without legal restrictions and policy changes. "Salt restriction should be at the top of health policy planning to contain hypertension and heart disease," he added.




    The INDIAB study on the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in India published two weeks ago found that Indians have a "salt-preponderance". "We crave salt. We not only reach for packed namkeen stuff and dishes high on salt, we also take hidden salt in pickles, papads, etc," said Joshi.

    The explosion of hypertension in the country is higher than diabetes. "The number of Indians suffering stroke is rising. One of the causes is our high salt intake," said Joshi.

    The NEJM study found that four out of five global deaths attributable to higher than recommended sodium intakes occurred in middle- and low-income countries. The research team also said the 1.65 million deaths meant that nearly one in 10 of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide was due to higher salt ingestion. It concluded that strong policies are needed to reduce dietary sodium across the world.


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  2. #1352
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Using skin whitening products? Some creams may contain toxic mercury

    Some people slather and even inject creams containing mercury onto or under their skin to lighten it, putting themselves and others at risk for serious health problems, scientists say.

    Researchers say they can now identify these creams and intervene much faster than before.
    "In the US, the limit on mercury in products is 1 part per million," said Gordon Vrdoljak, of the California department of public health (CDPH).

    "In some of these creams, we've been finding levels as high as 210,000 parts per million — really substantial amounts of mercury. If people are using the product quite regularly, their hands will exude it, it will get in their food, on their countertops, on the sheets their kids sleep on," said Vrdoljak.

    Identifying the toxic products has been a slow process, however. So, Vrdoljak turned to an instrument that uses a technique called total reflection x-ray fluorescence.

    He found that the machine can screen product samples for mercury content far more efficiently, and just as accurately, as its well-established but time-consuming counterpart. That means the team can identify the sources of mercury poisoning and help those affected much faster than before.

    "Testing one product using the old technique could take days," Vrdoljak said.

    "Using the new instrument, I can run through 20 or 30 samples in a day quite easily. By identifying those products that contain mercury, we can direct people to remove them and clean up their households," he said.



    Although the metal does lighten skin, dark spots and even acne, research has shown that the silvery liquid can cause a number of health problems, including lower cognitive functioning, kidney damage, headaches, fatigue, hand tremors, depression and other symptoms.

    As a result, the US and many other countries have set low limits on or have banned mercury in consumer products.

    But demand is high among certain populations for these skin-lightening products, researchers said.

    The work has led to two product recalls earlier this year, but often, they find the cosmetics are homemade and come in unmarked containers, researchers said.

    The research was presented at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco.


  3. #1353
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New vaccine to prevent chikungunya developed

    In a breakthrough, scientists have developed a new vaccine candidate to provide protection from the mosquito-borne viral illness chikungunya.

    The experimental vaccine elicited neutralising antibodies in all 25 adult volunteers who participated in a recent early-stage clinical trial conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

    The most distinctive symptom of chikungunya infection is severe joint pain accompanied by headache and fever. There are currently no vaccines or specific drug treatments for chikungunya.

    In 2010, Vaccine Research Centre (VRC) scientists and colleagues tested this candidate chikungunya vaccine in non-human primates.

    All of the immunised animals were protected from infection when later exposed to chikungunya virus.

    In the newly reported trial, 23 healthy volunteers received three injections (two other volunteers received two injections) of vaccine at one of three different dosages (10, 20 or 40 microgrammes) over a 20-week span.

    Antibody production was measured at multiple time points following each injection.

    Investigators detected chikungunya neutralising antibodies in all volunteers following the second injection, with a significant boost of neutralising antibodies seen following the third injection.

    Vaccine-induced antibodies persisted in all volunteers, even those who received the lowest dosage, for at least 11 months after the final vaccination, suggesting that the vaccine could provide durable protection against disease.

    "The candidate vaccine prompted a robust immunological response in recipients and was very well tolerated," noted VRC scientist Julie E Ledgerwood, principal investigator of the trial.

    "Notably, the levels of neutralising antibody produced in response to the experimental vaccine were comparable to those seen in two patients who had recovered from a chikungunya virus infection acquired elsewhere.

    "This observation gives us additional confidence that this vaccine would provide as much protection as natural infection," Ledgerwood said.

    Whereas traditional vaccines are typically made from either killed viruses or from weakened live viruses, the experimental vaccine used in the trial is a different type: a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine.

    VLP vaccines contain the outer shell proteins of a virus without any of the material the virus needs to replicate inside cells.

    The finding was published in The Lancet journal.


  4. #1354
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Breast cancer in women under 40 on rise

    Oncologists say incidence of breast cancer in young women is steadily rising. Though according to scientific journals only 5% to 7% of women under the age of 40 suffer from breast cancer, oncologists here say the incidence could be as high as 15% to 20%.

    Dr P Guhan, oncologist at Sri Ramakrishna Medical Hospital, says breast cancer continues to be the most common kind of cancer among women.

    It accounts for around 26.1% of the cancer cases among women in Coimbatore. However, the alarming factor is that at least 15% of them occur in women under 40. "Now we see women coming in their late twenties and thirties with breast cancer," says Dr Guhan. "They usually settle down late and decide to have a child in their thirties. Within a couple of years, they come in with cancer," he adds. Dr Prasanth Ganesan, assistant professor of medical oncology at Cancer Institute, says, "We are seeing an increase in younger cancer patients. We are seeing many 30year-olds with breast cancer now."

    Doctors say the days of recommending a mammogram once a year only after a woman touches the age of 40 are almost gone. "Now we advise even younger women to look for lumps in their breasts and visit a doctor immediately," he says.

    Breast cancer is more difficult to detect in younger women because they have dense breasts. "By the time a young woman detects a lump in her breast, the cancer is often at an advanced stage," says an article on Breast Cancer in Young women, published by the online health website Web MD.

    "Often the mammography fails to pick up lumps in 30year-olds because they have dense breasts. It works most accurately with women above the age of 50 because their breast density goes down and fat density increases," says Dr Vijayakumar, oncologist at KG Hospitals.

    Experts are yet to ascertain why younger women are falling victim to breast cancer, although they have noticed some patterns in their occurrence.

    "Many young women suffering from cancer come from families where there is a history of cancer," says Dr Vijayakumar. "It's a demographic observation, but we haven't been able to figure out a reason for it yet," says Dr V Sridevi, professor of Surgical Oncology, Cancer Institute.

    Doctors suspect that improved diagnosis and the increasing population could have something to do with this.

    "It could also be because of more awareness and better diagnostic facilities. India has a younger population when compared to the West, so it may look like many 30 and 40-yearolds are suffering from cancer," says Dr Ganesan. Cervical cancer which was the most common kind of cancer earlier is now more common in rural areas, while breast cancer is more common in urban areas.


  5. #1355
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Take life with a pinch of salt, no more than 5g/day, stay healthy

    "How much salt can be consumed by people with blood pressure," "What kind of food causes heart attacks?" "What is a safe diet for diabetics?" - These were some of the doubts nagging the minds of the public during a special Independence Day interaction at the Government General Hospital and doctors were happy to clarify them.

    Elaborating on the dangers of excessive salt intake at the "Eating habits and illness" organised by the GH surgical gastroenterology department, nutritionist Meenakshi Bajaj said it was safe for a normal person to take 7g of salt a day but many consumed several grams more. "The entire visible salt (used in cooking) and invisible salt (present in fruits, vegetables and pulses) levels should add up to 7g. But those who consume lots of chilly powder, vadams, pickle, street food and tamarind gravy regularly take in high levels of sodium which can have adverse consequences," she said.

    In a study conducted by GH, a team of doctors analyzed the salt intake of 100 people with esophageal cancer and 100 normal people and found that the study group consumed a lot of food rich in salt. "Preserved food, baked food and foods containing baking soda have high levels of sodium. People above 50 years of age should cut down their salt intake to 5g per day as they are more prone to hypertension and diabetes," warned the doctor.

    Doctors stressed the need for fibre in food and insisted on making fruits part of one's daily diet. "Five servings of rainbow coloured fruits and vegetables will stabilize the blood sugar levels and keep one away from cancer. In order to add more fibre to the diet, people can grind oats and add it to idli flour, sambar and even sautee vegetables with it," said surgical gastroenterologist Dr S M Chandra Mohan.

    On what causes diabetes in youngsters, Dr Bajaj said, "Eating heavy meals at night and skipping breakfast in the morning is the main cause of diabetes and obesity among the younger age group." It is important to respect the biological cycle and keep it in tune with nature and eat and sleep on time, she added. The doctor also warned that high consumption of red meat causes heart problems as it contains high amounts of saturated fat. "Though meat contains a lot of protein, it does not have any fibre. Egg whites, chicken and fish are a healthier alternative," she added.


  6. #1356
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Parkinson's disease leads to depression

    A new study has suggested that depression is a common indication of Parkinson's disease but it remains untreated for many patients.

    The study conducted by the Northwestern Medicine investigators in collaboration with the National Parkinson's Foundation (NPF) showed that depression was the most established non-motor symptom of Parkinson's disease.

    Danny Bega, MD, instructor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, said that they confirmed suspicion that depression was a very common symptom in Parkinson's disease.

    Bega said that physicians must be more vigilant about screening patients for depression as part of a routine assessment of Parkinson's disease, and the effectiveness of different treatments for depression in this population needed to be assessed.

    The study is published in the Journal of Parkinson's disease.


  7. #1357
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Aspirin may slow breast cancer recurrence

    Some postmenopausal overweight breast cancer patients who use common anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen have significantly lower breast cancer recurrence rates, scientists have found.

    Researchers from the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas at Austin began by examining blood serum from breast cancer patients.

    They placed the serum in a culture of fat cells that make estrogen, and then placed the serum on breast cancer cells.

    The serum from overweight and obese patients caused the cancer cells to grow much more aggressively than the serum from patients who were not overweight.

    "It looks like the mechanism is prostaglandins, which have a role in inflammation, and there's more of it in the obese patient serum," said CTRC oncologist Andrew Brenner.

    Based on those findings, the researchers did a retrospective study on patients from the CTRC and the START Center for Cancer Care. They were segregated into those taking COX2 inhibitors (aspirin or ibuprofen) and those who did not.

    "Patients who were on COX2 inhibitors tended to have a lower recurrence rate," Brenner said.

    Anti-inflammatory use reduced the recurrence rate of ER positive breast cancer by 50 per cent and extended patients' disease-free period by more than two years.

    ER positive breast cancers, cancers that grow in response to exposure to the hormone estrogen, are among the most common form of the disease, accounting for approximately 75 per cent of diagnoses.

    The investigators have cautioned that these results are preliminary.

    The findings are published in the journal Cancer Research.


  8. #1358
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New techniques to ease joint replacement

    With a steady increase in the number of Indians undergoing joint replacements, new techniques from around the world to cause minimal invasion and inconvenience have come to their rescue, a medical expert said here Saturday.

    The announcement was made at the "Current concepts in Arthroplasty - 2014", a two-day annual conference with the theme "Cutting Edge Technology in Arthoplasty" at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here.

    According to Rajesh Malhotra, professor in the orthopaedic department at AIIMS, five major new techniques - Persona knee, Attune knee, CR 150 knee, 30 year (verilast) knee and partial knee replacement - will provide relief to thousands of patients who undergo joint replacement surgeries.

    "Unlike earlier joint replacements, the new technologies will help orthopaedic surgeons perform surgeries in a much more accurate way. These technologies will help in better mobility of patients after joint replacements and also give relief from pain to a great extent," said Malhotra.

    According to AIIMS, over one lakh knee replacements and almost an equal number of hip replacement procedures are performed in India.
    He said knowledge and techniques about arthoplasty need to be updated in India.

    "Joint replacement is a very dynamic field and the various modalities of care associated with joint replacement are constantly evolving. Therefore, it is imperative that the knowledge about arthoplasty techniques and principles are continuously updated," Malhotra said.

    On the various new technologies, he said: "The persona knee is an anatomically accurate component designed in a way that facilitates proper rotation with unprecedented surface coverage after joint replacement."
    "The new technology will improve intra-operative efficiency, patients satisfaction and long term survivorship," he added.

    Malhotra said the new techniques will be useful for the younger generation who are becoming prone to joint disorders due to their lifestyle.

    "As we know that more and more younger patients are undergoing joint replacements nowadays, these technologies will help them evade knee related complexities in the longer phase of life," he said.

    "The 30 year (verilast) knee is of great help in such cases. It is long-lasting due to it being the only knee technology that has been laboratory tested for 30 simulated years of wear performance."

    He said that unlike the previous knee implants made from cobalt chrome metal and a high-density plastic, the 30 year (verilast) knee is made of low-friction metal alloy Oxinium, which is 4,900 times more abrasion resistant than cobalt chrome and, therefore, significantly reduces the kind of wear that can cause an implant to wear out before its time.

    According to doctors, there are over 60 million people over the age of 50 with variable involvement of their joints with osteoarthritis.

    Moreover, rheumatoid arthritis and other joint afflictions also result in considerable joint damage and disability.

    Malhotra also stated the benefits of the "CR150" high flex knee system, which has been designed to combine function with wear resistance.
    "The CR 150 brings together function with wear resistance to match patient needs. Regardless of the size, shape or activity level of patients, surgeons can feel confident that with the CR 150 system, they can choose the procedure and implant to meet their patients demands," he said.


  9. #1359
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New vaccine offers protection against tuberculosis, leprosy

    In a breakthrough, US researchers have found that an improved tuberculosis vaccine can offer strong protection against leprosy.

    "This is the first study demonstrating that an improved vaccine against tuberculosis also offers cross-protection against Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy," said Marcus A. Horwitz, a professor of medicine and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics from University of California Los Angeles.

    That means that this vaccine has promise for better protecting against both major diseases at the same time.

    "It also demonstrates that boosting a recombinant BCG vaccine further improves cross-protection against leprosy," Horwitz added.

    In many parts of the world, leprosy and tuberculosis live side-by-side.

    Worldwide, there are approximately 233,000 new cases of leprosy per year, with nearly all of them occurring where tuberculosis is endemic.

    The currently available century-old vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) provides only partial protection against both tuberculosis and leprosy.

    In lab experiments over mice, researchers found that rBCG30, a recombinant variant of BCG that overexpresses a highly abundant 30 kDa protein of the tuberculosis bacterium known as Antigen 85B, is superior to BCG in protecting against tuberculosis in animal models, and also cross protects against leprosy.

    In addition, they found that boosting rBCG30 with the antigen 85B protein - a protein also expressed by the leprosy bacillus - provides considerably stronger protection against leprosy.

    The next step is to test the rBCG30 vaccine for efficacy in humans against TB.

    "If it is effective against TB, then the next step would be to test its effectiveness in humans against leprosy," Horwitz noted in a paper published in the journal Infection and Immunity.


  10. #1360
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Web abuzz with rumours, fictional cures for disease

    Social networking sites are abuzz with rumours and ridiculous suggestions as cures for Ebola virus disease (EVD) despite there being no specific treatment or vaccine available.

    "Ebola has spread in Mumbai too. Use hot water and salt to bathe and do the same when you drink water. This is a traditional vaccine for Ebola. Please pass this information to all," says a post on one website.

    Among the suggested cures are salt water baths and drinking kola nut concoctions. While many of these are harmless, medical experts say misinformation could be dangerous in an emergency. "In a medical crisis, no information is better than wrong information," infectious diseases specialist Dr Subramaniam Swaminathan said. "There is the danger that people may be hoodwinked into trying these cures should they contract the virus."

    "If you take such pranks seriously and consume excess salt, people with high blood pressure could end up with adverse consequences. In case of doubt, approach a qualified physician," said Dr Swaminathan.

    He said no cases of EVD had been recorded in India so far and there was no reason to panic. "India is at Level 3 (low risk) for the Ebola outbreak," Dr Swaminathan said. "These messages are the work of people playing pranks or trying to make a quick buck." he said.

    Some pranksters also spread rumours online asking people not to touch keyboards or currency because they act as "channels of transmission" of the deadly virus. "Ebola is the work of Satan and not a virus," says one Facebook user. Conspiracy theorists believe the outbreak is an act of biowarfare by developed countries.

    Joint director, directorate of public health, Dr S Balasubramaniam, said the department was open to clarifying doubts on Ebola. "Anyone who wants information about the virus can contact us on our 104 toll free helpline," he said.


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