6th Mar 2014, 05:10 PM #861
Re: Health Bulletin
Second success raises hope for a way to rid babies of HIV
When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with HIV had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had ever been infected in the first place.
But on Wednesday the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference here, leaving little doubt that the treatment had worked. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa.
And a clinical trial in which 50 babies who are born infected will be put on drugs within 48 hours is set to begin within three months, the researcher added.
If that trial works — and it will take several years of following the babies to determine whether it has — the protocol for treating all the roughly 300,000 babies born infected each year will no doubt change.
The second baby, a girl born in Long Beach, California, is now 9 months old and free of the virus that causes AIDS.
Pediatricians at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach had heard of the first baby, born to a mother in Mississippi with advanced AIDS who had not taken any drugs to protect the fetus. The California doctors tried to replicate that first treatment.
They immediately gave the baby three antiretroviral drugs — AZT, 3TC and nevirapine — at the higher doses normally used for treatment rather than for prevention, and never previously recommended for newborns.
It would be wrong to describe the Long Beach baby as "cured" or as "in remission" because she is still on antiretroviral drugs, said Dr Deborah Persaud, a virus specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center who has been involved in both cases. She describes the baby as "sero-reverted to HIV-negative."
The baby was treated nine hours after being born — as soon as her first HIV test came up positive — and now even ultrasensitive tests can find no virus in her blood or any tissues.
"Last year, when we described the Mississippi baby, the report was received with some skepticism," Persaud said.
But since viral DNA and RNA were found in the Long Beach baby's blood and spinal fluid, "this baby was definitely infected," she added, "and now we are unable to detect replication-competent virus."
The Mississippi baby, now 3 years old and known as the "Mississippi child," is healthy and still virus-free, Persaud added.
That baby, whose name and sex have not been disclosed, was born to a mother who got no prenatal care and was unaware that she was infected. When it was suspected that the baby was infected, it was transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and started on aggressive antiretroviral treatment about 30 hours after birth by a pediatrician who felt that the regular prophylactic regimen would not save a baby at such high risk.
Then, 18 months later, the mother stopped seeing doctors and stopped giving her baby the drugs for five months. When she then took the baby back in, alarmed doctors assumed that it would be teeming with virus. Instead, to their astonishment, they found none. And samples taken by Persaud and tested with ultrasensitive assays at her Hopkins laboratory have found none.
Very few babies are born infected in the United States each year because mothers usually get drugs to lower their virus levels and protect their babies.
Although the Long Beach mother had been prescribed drugs to protect her child, Persaud said, she had not taken them.
An HIV blood test given at four hours of life showed that the infant was infected, presumably in the womb rather than during the birth itself.
Doctors immediately started the child on the three-drug antiretroviral cocktail.
Persaud's lab is now unable to find any virus in the girl's blood or tissues, even with ultrasensitive assays. They are normally able to detect dormant virus hiding in tissues in any patient whose infection is controlled by drugs.
Antiretroviral drugs prevent the virus from replicating itself. But a small amount normally persists in "reservoirs" throughout the body, which can be activated with drugs and made to yield virus for testing.
7th Mar 2014, 12:22 PM #862
Re: Health Bulletin
Malaria on the move as temperatures warm: Study
Malaria is on the march to higher elevations as temperatures warm due to climate change, a trend that could increase the number of people sickened by the disease, researchers said on Thursday.
The study in the US journal Science was based on records from highland regions of Ethiopia and Colombia, raising concern about a potential spike in cases of the the mosquito-borne disease, which killed some 627,000 people in 2012.
British and US researchers examined malaria case records from the Antioquia region of western Colombia from 1990 to 2005 and from the Debre Zeit area of central Ethiopia from 1993 to 2005.
The median, or midpoint, of malaria cases shifted to higher elevations in years that were warmer, and dropped to lower elevations in cooler years.
"This is indisputable evidence of a climate effect," said University of Michigan theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual.
"The main implication is that with warmer temperatures, we expect to see a higher number of people exposed to the risk of malaria in tropical highland areas like these."
Experts are concerned because once malaria moves into new high-altitude areas, local people may be at risk for severe complications and death.
"Because these populations lack protective immunity, they will be particularly vulnerable to severe morbidity and mortality," said co-author Menno Bouma, honorary senior clinical lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Previous research has suggested that a one-degree Celsius temperature increase could cause three million extra malaria cases annually in Ethiopia among youths under 15.
Malaria is a top killer of children, particularly in Africa where it takes the life of one child every minute, according to the World Health Organization, which counted some 207 million malaria infections in 2012.
Malaria can be prevented with nets, insecticides and medicines. "Our findings here underscore the size of the problem and emphasize the need for sustained intervention efforts in these regions, especially in Africa," Pascual said.
7th Mar 2014, 12:26 PM #863
Re: Health Bulletin
Frequent Facebook use may fuel eating disorders
Frequent Facebook users might be sharing more than just party pictures, vacation videos and selfies - they also share a greater risk of eating disorders, according to a new study.
Researchers led by Florida State University Psychology Professor Pamela K Keel studied 960 college women and found that more time on Facebook was associated with higher levels of disordered eating.
Women who placed greater importance on receiving comments and "likes" on their status updates and were more likely to untag photos of themselves and compare their own photos to friends' posted photos reported the highest levels of disordered eating.
"Facebook provides a fun way to stay connected with friends, but it also presents women with a new medium through which they are confronted by a thin ideal that impacts their risk for eating disorders," Keel said.
While other studies have linked social media and eating disorders, the study is the first to show that spending just 20 minutes on Facebook actually contributes to the risk of eating disorders by reinforcing women's concerns about weight and shape and increasing anxiety.
The finding is significant because more than 95 per cent of the women who participated in the study use Facebook, and those with Facebook accounts described checking the site multiple times a day, typically spending 20 minutes during each visit.
That amounts to more than an hour on the site each day, according to Keel.
Researchers have long recognised the powerful impact of peer/social influences and traditional media on the risk for eating disorders. Facebook combines those factors.
"Now it's not the case that the only place you're seeing thin and idealised images of women in bathing suits is on magazine covers," Keel said.
"Now your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you're being exposed to constantly. It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders," Keel said.
The research is important because it may lead to interventions to reduce risk factors for eating disorders, which are among the most serious forms of mental illness.
"Eating disorders are associated with the highest rates of mortality of any psychiatric illness," Keel said.
Ironically, Facebook may be one of the best ways to employ intervention strategies, such as encouraging women to put a stop to so-called "fat talk," researchers said.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
7th Mar 2014, 12:30 PM #864
Re: Health Bulletin
Calcium, vitamin D tablets improve cholesterol in postmenopausal women
Supplements of calcium and vitamin D taken after menopause can improve women's cholesterol profiles, says a new study from the Women's Health Initiative published online in Menopause, which is a journal of the North American Menopause Society.
The study led by NAMS member Peter F Schnatz looked 600 women - one group that took a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D3 and another taking or a placebo. The researchers then studied the relationship between taking supplements and levels of vitamin D and cholesterol in the women.
The women who took the supplement were more than twice as likely to have vitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL as were the women who took the placebo. Supplement users also had low-density lipoprotein (LDL—the "bad" cholesterol) levels that were between 4 and 5 points lower. The investigators discovered, in addition, that among supplement users, those with higher blood levels of vitamin D had higher levels of HDL or the "good" cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides.
"The results of this study should inspire even more women to be conscientious about their calcium and vitamin D intake—a simple and safe way to improve health. One action can lead to multiple benefits!" says Margery Gass of NAMS.
7th Mar 2014, 12:42 PM #865
8th Mar 2014, 01:12 PM #866
Re: Health Bulletin
Eating oily fish may help children sleep better
Eating oily fish or omega-3 supplements could improve children's quality of sleep, a new Oxford study has found.
The study suggests that higher levels of omega-3 DHA, the group of long-chain fatty acids found in algae and seafood, is associated with better sleep.
Researchers from the University of Oxford explored whether 16 weeks of daily 600mg supplements of algal sources would improve the sleep of 362 children. At the outset of the study, the parents filled in a child sleep questionnaire, which revealed that four in 10 of the children in the study suffered from regular sleep disturbances.
Of the children rated as having poor sleep, the researchers fitted wrist sensors to 43 of them to monitor their movements in bed over five nights.
The study showed that the children on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour (58 minutes) more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the children taking the corn or soybean placebo.
The study looked at sleep in 362 healthy seven to nine-year-old UK school children in relation to the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) found in fingerstick blood samples.
Previous research has suggested links between poor sleep and low blood omega-3 LC-PUFA in infants and in children and adults with behaviour or learning difficulties.
However, this is the first study to investigate possible links between sleep and fatty acid status in healthy children. At the start of the study, parents and carers were asked to rate their child's sleep habits over a typical week.
Their responses indicated that 40 per cent of the children had clinical-level sleep problems such as resistance to bedtime, anxiety about sleep and constant waking in the course of the night.
The study finds that higher blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 DHA (the main omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain) are significantly associated with better sleep, including less bedtime resistance, parasomnias and total sleep disturbance.
It adds that higher ratios of DHA in relation to the long-chain omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid) are also associated with fewer sleep problems.
"To find clinical level sleep problems in four in 10 of this general population sample is a cause for concern. Various substances made within the body from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have long been known to play key roles in the regulation of sleep," lead author Professor Paul Montgomery of Oxford University said.
8th Mar 2014, 01:13 PM #867
Re: Health Bulletin
Vitamin D boosts breast cancer patient survival
:Breast cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to survive the disease as women with low levels of this nutrient, scientists have found.
In previous studies, Cedric F Garland, professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California - San Diego, showed that low vitamin D levels were linked to a high risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
The findings, he said, prompted him to question the relationship between 25-hydroxyvitamin D - a metabolite produced by the body from the ingestion of vitamin D - and breast cancer survival rates.
Garland and colleagues performed a statistical analysis of five studies of 25-hydroxyvitamin D obtained at the time of patient diagnosis and their follow-up for an average of nine years. Combined, the studies included 4,443 breast cancer patients.
"Vitamin D metabolites increase communication between cells by switching on a protein that blocks aggressive cell division. As long as vitamin D receptors are present tumour growth is prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply. Vitamin D receptors are not lost until a tumour is very advanced. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high," Garland said.
Women in the high serum group had an average level of 30 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml) of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in their blood. The low group averaged 17 ng/ml. The average level in patients with breast cancer in the US is 17 ng/ml.
"The study has implications for including vitamin D as an adjuvant to conventional breast cancer therapy," said co-author Heather Hofflich, UC San Diego associate professor in the Department of Medicine.
Garland recommended randomised controlled clinical trials to confirm the findings but suggested physicians consider adding vitamin D into a breast cancer patient's standard care now and then closely monitor the patient
8th Mar 2014, 01:17 PM #868
Re: Health Bulletin
78% working women in India suffer from health disorder: Survey
Three out of four working women in India suffer from lifestyle, chronic or acute ailments due to the pressure from trying to balance their personal and professional lives, according to an Assocham survey.
The survey findings, released ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, reveals that 42 per cent of working women suffer from lifestyle diseases like backache, obesity, depression, diabetes, hyper-tension and heart ailments.
Besides, 22 per cent of women surveyed suffered from chronic diseases while 14 per cent had acute ailments.
"Working women have to double up as valued employees at their work place and home-makers after office hours. This takes a toll on their health," Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.
The survey was conducted on 2,800 working women aged between 32-58 years from 120 companies across 11 sectors of the economy in 10 cities – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune.
9th Mar 2014, 05:29 PM #869
Re: Health Bulletin
Sweet wonder Stevia : The plant that's a super sugar alternative and free from calories
It can be hard to keep up with all the bad news on sugar - or the smoking of our time as it's rapidly becoming known. It has become this generation's ticking time-bomb, leaving a trail of diabetes and obesity in its wake. Last week, the World Health Organisation added its voice to the fray, warning that sugar should make up just 5 per cent of our daily calorie intake, half what it had previously advised.
But help for the sweet-toothed - which, given that manufacturers spike even the most wholesome-sounding cereals with sugar, means practically everyone - is at hand
From their cupboard of substitutes, food science analysts report that salvation lies in a naturally sourced substance called stevia, which has no calories, no carbohydrates, and does not raise blood sugar levels. It comes from a plant that has been used as a sweetener for centuries in Paraguay and Brazil, and has been sold in Japan for about 40 years, yet the West has been slow to wake up to its virtues. Stevia-based products have only been approved as food additives since 2008 in the US, and since 2011 in the EU.
A recent report by Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research predicted that the value of such products, which are mainly manufactured by the food giant Cargill, would soar to $275m by 2017 from $110m in 2013.
One drawback is that despite being between 250 and 300 times sweeter than sugar, some people find it has a slightly bitter, liquorice-like aftertaste. But companies are getting round this by blending it with - sugar. Tropicana recently launched a juice made with 50 per cent stevia and 50 per cent sugar, halving the number of calories per serving. And Coca-Cola is poised to launch its stevia-sweetened alternative to Coke across the world. It already sells a version of Sprite that includes stevia.
Anyone can grow Stevia at home
Laura Jones, a food science analyst at Mintel, said: "Stevia is the one to watch. It's still early in the innovation process, but it will become more appealing as new variants are released. Consumers want to cut sugar in their diets but not compromise on taste, plus they want to move away from anything artificial, so the appeal of plant-derived products is much stronger."
People are increasingly avoiding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame K. But dieticians warn this is a mistake. "There are some misconceptions that they're dangerous but there is no evidence that any are harmful," said Cara Sloss, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association.
Some consumers may dislike their taste, but they don't pack anything like the calorific punch of sugar, which has 400 kilocalories in every 100 grams. The use of intense sweeteners in food and drink product launches has grown from 3.5 per cent in 2009 to 5.5 per cent in 2012, the same report found. The global market for all sweeteners as additives in food manufacture was worth more than $2bn in 2012.
Other natural alternatives include the fuzzy, green, melon-like monk fruit, once cultivated by Buddhist monks in China. It is already used in the US, where analysts believe it could help to revive the flagging diet soda sector.
The "main message", though, says Ms Sloss, is that we need to cut down. "It's about re-educating your tastebuds, because we know sugar is addictive."
Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, and does not raise blood sugar levels Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, and does not raise blood sugar levels Grow your own 'sugar'
Stevia may sound like it's made in a laboratory, but it is in fact a plant that anyone can grow at home. Yet strict EU rules mean that it can't be grown for domestic human consumption in the UK - even though gardeners in the US can do so - and can only be cultivated as an ornamental herb. But there are other options for people who want to grow their own "sugar". Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata), can be used as a sugar substitute - the seeds and dried leaves can be added to fruit pies and crumbles, while the flowers, and even the roots, are also good for salads or cooking. Gardener Sarah Raven says the plant adds a "gentle aniseed flavour" to dishes.
9th Mar 2014, 05:42 PM #870
Re: Health Bulletin
Debate about who is smarter, man or woman, laid to rest
The big debate about who is smarter, man or woman, has now been laid to rest. There is nothing like a boy's or a girl's brain, and no scientific evidence to prove that they are wired differently, according to an expert.
"'Men are from Mars and women are from Venus' theory has no scientific grounding. Our brains are changed by the roles society forces us to play," said neuroscience expert Gina Rippon, a professor at the Ashton University in Birmingham, Britain.
Stereotypes such as women's supposed inability to read maps or the thought that men are bad at multitasking have no links to science, Rippon added.
She said men and women are only dissimilar because the world we live in encourages gender role-playing.
"You cannot pick up a brain and say 'that's a girl's brain, or that's a boy's brain' in the same way you can with the skeleton. They look the same," she was quoted as saying in a Daily Mail report.
The fact that boys and girls are given different toys based on their sex is what creates gender differences within the brain, Rippon said.
By playing with a Barbie doll rather than a superhero, a girl's brain is programmed to become more feminine.
More emphasis should be placed on the fact that the brain is, in fact, a muscle and can, therefore, be exercised according to what it is required to do, Rippon concluded.