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Health Bulletin


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  1. #841
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Dark chocolate boosts heart health: Study

    In some good news for chocoholics, scientists have found that eating dark chocolate may ward off atherosclerosis by making arteries more elastic and preventing white blood vessels from sticking to their walls.

    New research suggests that consumption of dark chocolate lowers the augmentation index, a key vascular health predictor, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall.

    Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, researchers have found.

    Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.

    Scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect.

    "We provide a more complete picture of the impact of chocolate consumption in vascular health and show that increasing flavanol content has no added beneficial effect on vascular health," said Diederik Esser from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

    "However, this increased flavanol content clearly affected taste and thereby the motivation to eat these chocolates. So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one," said Esser.

    Esser and colleagues analysed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grammes of chocolate per day.

    Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced. Both chocolates had a similar cocoa mass content.

    Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health.

    During the study, participants were advised to refrain from certain energy dense food products to prevent weight gain.

    Scientists also evaluated the sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and the regular chocolate and collected the motivation scores of the participants to eat these chocolates during the intervention.

    The study was published in The FASEB Journal.


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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Advancing paternal age at childbearing can lead to disorders

    Advancing paternal age at childbearing can lead to higher rates of psychiatric and academic problems in offspring than previously estimated.

    An Indiana University study in collaboration with medical researchers from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has found this.

    The working hypothesis for this phenomenon is that unlike women, who are born with all their eggs, men continue to produce new sperm throughout their lives. Each time sperm replicate; there is chance of DNA mutation. As men age, they are also exposed to numerous environmental toxins, which have been shown to cause mutations in the DNA found in sperm. Molecular genetic studies have, in fact, shown that sperm of older men have more genetic mutations than that of younger men.

    Examining an immense data set — everyone born in Sweden from 1973 until 2001 — the researchers documented a compelling association between advancing paternal age at childbearing and numerous psychiatric disorders and educational problems in their children.

    These include autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, suicide attempts and substance abuse problems. Academic problems included failing grades, low educational attainment and low IQ scores.

    "We were shocked by the findings," said Brian D'Onofrio, the lead researcher. "The specific associations with paternal age were much, much larger than in previous studies."


  3. #843
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Eat strawberries to get rid of bad cholesterol

    Strawberries can dramatically reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, reveals new research. A few volunteers were asked to consume half a kilo of strawberries a day for a month to see whether it altered their blood parameters in any way. By the end of the month, their levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides had reduced significantly, according to the analyses conducted by Italian and Spanish scientists.

    "The study supports the protective role of the bioactive compounds in strawberries in tackling recognised markers and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases," said Maurizio Battino, director of the study.

    Strawberries are known for their antioxidant properties. Researchers from the Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM, Italy), together with colleagues from the Universities of Salamanca, Granada and Seville (Spain), conducted an analysis that revealed that these fruits also help to reduce cholesterol.

    The team set up an experiment in which they added 500 grams of strawberries to the daily diets of 23 healthy volunteers over a month. The total amount of cholesterol, the levels of low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) and the quantity of triglycerides fell to 8.78 percent, 13.72 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively.

    Eating strawberries also improved other parameters such as the general plasma lipid profile, antioxidant biomarkers and platelet function. The researchers strongly believe the benefits lie in anthocyanins - the pigment that gives the fruit its red colour.

    The results were published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.


  4. #844
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Tamil Nadu TB Control Network launched

    Representatives of over 100 civil society organizations from across Tamil Nadu congregated in Chennai for the launch of the Tamil Nadu TB Control Network (TTCN).

    The network will function as a state chapter of the Partnership for TB Care and Control in India (PTCC), a national coalition of civil society organizations.

    Speaking on the occasion, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, who formally launched the network, said offering free treatment alone wouldn't suffice to check the infectious disease. "Around 750 people die of TB every day. If we are to achieve our goal of zero TB deaths, it is not enough to offer free treatment. Patients also need social support while they are on treatment and civil society can fulfill this."

    Dr Vijay Edwards, director (Health and HIV/AIDS) at World Vision, pointed out that civil society's primary responsibility lay in addressing the gaps in the TB programme. He urged the network to function as an interface with the Revised National TN Control Programme and work towards universal access to diagnosis and treatment.

    "Today's launch is the outcome of several discussions over the last year on the need for such a network. We want to work towards a TB-free Tamil Nadu and we want to support TB patients in every way possible," said Dr Simon Sabu, vice-president, TTCN.

    Informational and educational materials for this year's World TB Day which falls on March 24 were released by Dr Swaminathan. These will be widely disseminated across the state.


  5. #845
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Stethoscopes major cause of spread of infections

    Although healthcare workers' hands are the main source of bacterial transmission in hospitals, physician's stethoscopes have now been found to actually play a major role in spreading deadly infections. Researchers at the University of Geneva hospitals assessed the level of bacterial contamination on physician's hands and stethoscopes following a single physical examination.

    "Considering that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patient's skin and may harbour several thousands of bacteria (including MRSA) or drug resistant ones collected during a previous physical examination, we consider them as potentially significant vectors of transmission," said lead investigator Didier Pittet. "From infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician's hands and be disinfected after every patient contact.'' Researchers examined 71 patients who were checked by one of three physicians using sterile gloves and a sterile stethoscope.

    After they completed the examination, two parts of the stethoscope (the tube and diaphragm) and four regions of the physician's hands (back, fingertips, and thenar and hypothenar eminences) were measured for the total number of bacteria present. The stethoscope's diaphragm was more contaminated than all regions of the physician's hand except the fingertips. Further, the tube of the stethoscope was more heavily contaminated than the back of the physician's hand. Similar results were observed when contamination was due to methicillin-resistant Saureus (MRSA) after examining MRSA-colonized patients. "This work is the first to compare directly the level of contamination of physician's hands and stethoscopes. Stethoscope contamination is not trivial and is comparable to the contamination of healthcare worker's fingertips," the research said.


  6. #846
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New pill could be secret to longer life

    A new pill that prevents ageing and keeps people healthier for longer may be a step closer, scientists say.

    Activating a protein called sirtuin 1 extends lifespan, delays the onset of age-related metabolic diseases, and improves general health in mice, a new study has found.

    The findings point to a potentially promising strategy for improving health and longevity.

    Sirtuin 1, or SIRT1, is known to play an important role in maintaining metabolic balance in multiple tissues, and studies in various organisms have shown that activating the protein can lead to many health benefits.

    Also, drugs that increase SIRT1 activity have been found to slow the onset of ageing and delay age-associated diseases in several animal models.

    Researchers led by Dr Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Ageing at the National Institutes of Health tested the effects of a small molecule that activates SIRT1, called SIRT1720, on the health and lifespan of mice.

    The animals were fed a standard diet supplemented with 100 mg/kg SRT1720 beginning at 6 months of age for the remainder of their lives.

    Researchers found that SRT1720 significantly extended the average lifespan of mice by 8.8 per cent. Supplementation also reduced body weight and fat percentage, and it improved muscle function and motor coordination throughout the animals' lives.

    In additional studies focused on the effects of SRT1720 on various metabolic variables, researchers found that SRT1720 supplementation led to decreases in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels, which might help protect against heart disease, and improvements in insulin sensitivity, which could help prevent diabetes, researchers said.

    Supplementation also had anti-inflammatory effects in various tissues, an important finding because low-grade chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to ageing and age-related diseases, they said.

    "Here, we show for the first time that a synthetic SIRT1 activator extends lifespan and improves healthspan of mice fed a standard diet," said de Cabo.

    "It illustrates that we can develop molecules that ameliorate the burden of metabolic and chronic diseases associated with ageing," said de Cab.

    The study appears in the journal Cell Reports.


  7. #847
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Bad mood triggers hunger for junk food - New study

    Have you ever wondered why you reach out for junk food when you're in a trashy mood? Researchers have found an answer to this mood swing by combining two theories. One theory is 'affective regulation' - how people react to their moods and emotions - and the other is 'temporal construal' - the perspective of time to explain the food choices we make.

    "Conceptually, when people feel uncomfortable or are in a bad mood, they know something is wrong and focus on whatever is near. We demonstrated that this kind of thinking gets us to focus on the sensory qualities of our foods - not things that are more abstract like how nutritious the food is," said researcher Gardner M. Wansink.

    The study was published in the Journal of Consumer psychology and it demonstrated that when people are in a good mood, things seem okay, so they can take a big picture perspective. This kind of thinking allows people to focus on the more abstract aspects of food, including how healthy it is.

    In the first study, the researchers investigated the effect of a positive mood on evaluations of indulgent and health foods. Next, they studied whether individuals in a negative mood - who had read a sad story - evaluated indulgent foods more positively and whether those who were in a positive mood indicated a desire to remain healthy till their old age.

    "The findings demonstrated that individuals select healthy or indulgent foods depending on whether they are in a good or a bad mood, respectively," added Wansink.

    Individuals in positive moods who make healthier food choices are often thinking more about future health benefits than those in negative moods, who focus more on the immediate taste and sensory experience.


  8. #848
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    New debate on breast milk

    Breast-feeding babies may not actually have the wide-ranging long-term health outcomes we think it does, according to new research published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Dr Cynthia Colen, a sociology professor at Ohio State University in the US, looked for the first time at a sample of families where one or more siblings had been breast-fed while others had been bottle-fed.

    In apparent contrast to perceived wisdom and international health advice, she found that, if anything, those who were breast-fed suffered more from longterm health issues.

    Explaining why previous studies have consistently found that breast-fed babies end up being healthier on average, Dr Colen said these projects suffered from "selection bias".

    Factors like a mother's employment, age and family income skewed the figures, she said, because mothers who breastfeed, statistically, have greater than average education, resources and wellbeing themselves. Dr Colen stressed that her findings do not oppose the view that breastfeeding, in the short term, has clear health benefits for young children.

    But with the issue of breast versus bottle proving "statistically insignificant" in the long term for children with the same family background, she said her results showed it was time to focus on other, more important factors. "I'm not saying breastfeeding is not beneficial, especially for boosting nutrition and immunity in newborns," Colen said.

    "But if we really want to improve maternal and child health in this country, let's also focus on things that can really do that in the long term — like subsidised day care, better maternity leave policies and more employment opportunities for low-income mothers that pay a living wage, for example."

    Dr Colen's research analysed 8,237 children, 7,319 siblings and 1,773 "discordant" sibling pairs, in which at least one child was breast-fed and at least one other child was bottle-fed .


  9. #849
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Parents promote cochlear implant after device ends kids' silence

    When 8-year-old Aryan recites 55 'shlokas' in one go, be it at school or at any other function, the sound of claps always brings tears of joy to his father Homeshwar Gomase's eyes. Aryan was born deaf and naturally could not speak. But, now after a cochlear implant, he can both hear and speak and is the star of any cultural programme in school or elsewhere.

    The implant done as early as 13 months of age has not only changed the life of Aryan but also the entire family. His parents hold their head high in pride when their son is appreciated at school for studies. But they cannot forget the nightmarish days when Aryan wouldn't respond to any sound. Thus, the Gomase family embarked on a mission to promote cochlear implant among parents whose children are born deaf. "Though the transplant was done at the right age, Aryan did require speech therapy. I consider it as my duty to convince parents to get the implant done as early as possible," said Gomase.

    Another father Riyaz Mohammad, whose son Ali also had a cochlear implant, is on a similar mission.

    Mohammad is promoting bilateral cochlear implant (in both ears). "It has brought an unparallel confidence in my son. When Ali grows up, it will give a fillip to his personality and he can compete with any one in any field. A single implant costs about Rs5-6 lakh and not everyone can afford it. But those who can, must get it done," he said.

    These are not isolated cases in cochlear implant changed the lives of many children and parents. On Saturday, there were many similar success stories at a seminar organized by the Somani Speech and Hearing rehabilitation Centre (SSHRC). One of these children, Palak could not come for the programme as she is participating in TV reality show 'Dance India Dance'. Her father Ramesh Berad was equally proud of her daughter's achievement. "Could she have ever reached so far, had it not been for the implant which has not only brought her at par with other children in her Class but has also transformed her into a music lover and performer," he said with a glow on his face.

    Thirteen-year-old Arshiya Chutke, the eldest of the lot, compered the programme as her parents watched happily. Parents of 9 other children, who were honoured by SSHRC, were equally delighted and elated.

    The children put up different performances on the stage. Some recited poems, others told stories and there were those who made everyone laugh on their jokes. Above all, they managed to give the parents, whose children can't hear and are potential candidates for cochlear implant, a ray of hope.

    Bilateral implant more successful: Expert

    Hearing loss or deafness is a silent debilitating disability which affects millions worldwide. Every day almost 25,000 children are born with hearing loss in India. But, Padma Shri Dr Milind Kirtane, an ENT surgeon at P D Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, has made it a mission to restore the ability in as many children as possible.

    So far, Dr Kirtane, who is the first surgeon to perform this procedure in the state, has conducted 1,700 cochlear implants. Of these, about 95 children have been implanted with the device in both ears (bilateral implant). "Though cochlear implants and the surgery together cost about Rs5.5 lakh or more for one ear, putting the implant in both ears works miracles in children if done at the right age," said Dr Kirtane, speaking to TOI on the sidelines of the seminar organized by SSHRC. But money is not a problem always. Of the 1,700 implants, 1200 have been funded by donations.

    There are two methods of bilateral cochlear implant. One is simultaneous and the other is sequential. In simultaneous, the implant can be done within six months of the first one. In sequential, it can be done within a year after the first. "Parents can be the best ambassadors and must promote this in others," he said.

    SSHRC had organized a special programme for 11 children who can speak normally after the implant and speech therapy. It honoured the children with a graduation certificate from SSHRC school. The children were given graduation robes and issued the certificates by Dr Kirtane.

    Neelu Somani, audiologist and speech therapist, said the defect can be picked at the time of birth itself through a diagnostic test called 'auto acoustics emission test'. Another test BERA can pick up the defect later.

    Till now, cochlear implants were not performed in city. But Dr Kirtane has performed nine implants in city at the Neeti Clinics and has also trained Dr Gauri Kapre Vaidya who would continue to perform the implants at the centre. Dr Kapre said that the best time for implant was between 1-2 years of age when the language aspect is developing in the brain. The implant can also be done between 3-5 years but has less response and above this age it has variable response in patients.


  10. #850
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    Re: Health Bulletin

    Botox can treat muscle disorders, too

    For decades, it has served as the magic potion that keeps age a secret. But botulinum toxin, the bacterial extract that cures muscle spasms and has been turned into arguably the world's most popular anti-wrinkle drug 'Botox', has more than just cosmetic value.

    It is now being used to treat movement disorders. City neurologists say it eases muscle movements considerably, helping address a range of conditions, including stroke-induced limb stiffness, lack of control over the urinary bladder and sweating of palms. Even though expensive, this method of treatment has shown excellent results in the short term, they say.

    Botulinum relaxes muscles and helps ease the stiffness that often results from a cerebral stroke. It can also cure dystonia, which restricts movement of neck muscles. "In both these conditions, botulinum removes the spasm and revives normal muscle movement. The effect is instant and quite dramatic, particularly in the case of post-stroke spasticity. It works very well for those who have acute limb stiffness, which is most common among stroke patients. The only hitch is that the effect doesn't last for more than 4 to 5 months, after which you will need a fresh dose of the medicine," said Hrishikesh Kumar, head of the department of neurology at the Institute of Neurosciences Kolkata. The hospital is one among the half a dozen facilities in Kolkata that have been using ona-botolinum toxin, the drug.

    It is also being used to treat eyelid spasm or involuntary movement of the eyelids. The condition is triggered by stiffness of muscles around the eye. Once injected in the area, the drug relaxes the muscles and prevents involuntary batting of the lids. Spasticity induced by cerebral palsy can also be treated, apart from hyper secretion of saliva and facial spasms. "Botulinum is also effective in curing writer's cramp or freezing of shoulder muscles. It also helps revive control over the urinary bladder muscles," added Kumar.

    Sweating of palms is another disorder that can be treated with the drug. It inhibits chemicals that control sweat glands. "It is a very effective way of treatment that is still not used widely. But the results are forcing more and more doctors to fall back on it. Once the costs go down, it will be used more extensively," said neurologist Bhaskar Ghosh.

    But few, including neurologists, are aware of the effectiveness of the treatment, said Kumar. "The treatment has been in use for more than two decades abroad, but it is relatively new in our country and in Kolkata. But it has been very effective," claimed Kumar. One bottle of botulinum costs Rs 17,000, so the expenses depend on the dosage required. It could be less for those who need it for treating eyelid movements, but higher for stroke patients.

    Botulinum or 'Botox' is widely used for hiding facial wrinkles. Once injected in a particular area, the drug restricts movement of muscles, which, in turn, reduces the stretching of the skin, thereby hiding the wrinkles.


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