Health Technology Research Synopsis

46th Health Research Report 23 DEC 2008

Compiled By Ralph Turchiano

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Editors Top Five:

1. Long-term use of diabetes drugs by women significantly increases risk of fractures

2. 10% of U.S. High School Seniors Use Vicodin

3. Lack of vitamin D causes weight gain and stunts growth in girls

New study shows that a cough medicine ingredient could effectively treat prostate cancer

5. A low dose of caffeine when pregnant may damage the heart of offspring for a lifetime

In this issue:

1. Asthma: Commonly used medication shows no clear benefits in children

2. Long-term use of diabetes drugs by women significantly increases risk of fractures

Lack of vitamin D causes weight gain and stunts growth in girls

4. Use weights, not aerobics, to ease back pain

5. High pesticide levels found in fruit-based drinks in some countries outside U. S.

6. A low dose of caffeine when pregnant may damage the heart of offspring for a lifetime

7. 10% of U.S. High School Seniors Use Vicodin

8. Vitamin D deficiency in infants and nursing mothers carries long-term disease risks

9. New anti-cancer components of extra-virgin olive oil revealed

10. Lean muscle mass helps even obese patients battle cancer

11. Einstein researchers find convincing evidence that probiotics are effective

New study shows that a cough medicine ingredient could effectively treat prostate cancer

13. New data regarding safety of artemisinin combination therapy for pregnant women with malaria

14. Cousin marriage laws outdated

15. New evidence that people make aspirin’s active principle — salicylic acid

16. Vitamin D deficiency associated with greater rates of cesarean sections

17. UCSB scientists show how certain vegetables combat cancer

Public release date: 9-Dec-2008

Asthma: Commonly used medication shows no clear benefits in children

There are no clear benefits to using long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs) for treatment of asthma in children, a new study concludes. In an overview of recent Cochrane reviews, Child Health Field researchers report that there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest the drugs, which are recommended to relieve the symptoms of asthma, offer any additional benefit to conventional preventative medications.

LABAs such as salmeterol and formoterol can reduce the symptoms of asthma for periods of up to 12 hours and are often given to relax the airways overnight or after exercise. Currently, LABAs are recommended as add-on therapies to inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), which are taken on a daily basis to help control symptoms over a longer term. Since LABAs have previously been shown to increase the risk of life-threatening adverse effects in adults when used as the only drug (monotherapy), they are not recommended as the main treatment agent in asthma in any age groups.

Now researchers say that although giving LABAs to children can improve lung function, their use does not generally provide any further benefit over regular ICS therapy. “We found no evidence to suggest that LABA should be used alone or in combination with ICS in the majority of young asthma sufferers. ICS should remain the therapy of choice,” says Amy Plint, who led the study at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

The overview included four previous reviews of trials in children above the age of four. Together, the trials showed that ICS in combination with LABAs significantly improved lung function compared to ICS combined with placebos. LABAs did not, however, reduce severity of asthma symptoms as measured by hospital admissions or the need for steroid medication.

The researchers say more long-term trials are needed to establish the effectiveness of LABAs in children. However, they think that the drugs may improve lung function in the most severe cases. “We should not rule out combination therapy as a treatment option in children with poorly controlled asthma despite compliance with moderate dose ICS agents,” says Plint.

 

 

 

 

 

Public release date: 10-Dec-2008

Long-term use of diabetes drugs by women significantly increases risk of fractures

A group of drugs commonly used to treat diabetes can double the risk of bone fractures in women, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Wake Forest University.

Published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the findings show that use of thiazolidinediones for more than one year by women with type 2 diabetes significantly reduces bone density, resulting in the risk of fractures being doubled.

The researchers found no increased risk of fractures among men, however.

Thiazolidinediones are a group of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. Included in this group are the drugs rosiglitazone and pioglitazone. Latest figures show there are around 4 million users of these drugs in the US, while in the UK there were around 2 million prescriptions for rosiglitazone and pioglitazone last year.

“Women with type 2 diabetes are already at an increased risk of fractures – with a near doubling in the risk of hip fractures – so any additional risk from thiazolidinedione therapy could have a considerable impact on public health,” said lead author Dr Yoon Loke, of the University of East Anglia.

“The underlying causes of this gender-specific effect of thiazolidinediones require further investigation. In the meantime, regulatory authorities and clinicians should reconsider recommending these drugs to women with type 2 diabetes.

“This is a problem that arises with long-term use, and patients should not stop or change their treatment suddenly without consulting their doctors. Women who have taken these drugs for more than a year should speak to their doctors about other treatment options.”

Recent research into thiazolidinediones has focussed on the drugs’ adverse cardiovascular effects. This new meta-analysis involved a systematic review of 10 clinical trials involving a total of 13,715 participants. The trials lasted from one to four years and all were double-blinded.

There is no clear evidence that other drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as metformin and sulfonylurea, cause an increased risk of fractures.

 

 

 

 

Public release date: 10-Dec-2008

Lack of vitamin D causes weight gain and stunts growth in girls

Montreal, December 10th, 2008 –Insufficient vitamin D can stunt growth and foster weight gain during puberty, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Even in sun-drenched California, where scientists from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the University of Southern California conducted their study, vitamin D deficiency was found to cause higher body mass and shorter stature in girls at the peak of their growing spurt.

While lack of vitamin D is common in adults and has been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and obesity, until this study, little was known about the consequences of insufficient vitamin D in young people. The research team measured vitamin D in girls aged 16 to 22 using a simple blood test (25-hydroxy vitamin D). They also assessed body fat and height to determine how vitamin D deficiency could affect young women’s health.

“The high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in young people living in a sun-rich area was surprising,” says study lead author, Richard Kremer, co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the MUHC. “We found young women with vitamin D insufficiency were significantly heavier, with a higher body mass index and increased abdominal fat, than young women with normal levels.”

Vitamin D fosters growth, healthier weight

The researchers examined 90 Caucasian and Hispanic girls and discovered that young women with normal vitamin D levels were on average taller than peers deficient in vitamin D. Yet in contrast to what’s been previously reported in older women, their investigation found no association between lack of vitamin D and bone strength.

“Although vitamin D is now frequently measured in older adults, due to a higher level of awareness in this population, it is rarely measured in young people – especially healthy adolescents,” says Dr. Kremer.

“Clinicians need to identify vitamin D levels in younger adults who are at risk by using a simple and useful blood test,” says the co-author, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles of the University of Southern California.

“Because lack of vitamin D can cause fat accumulation and increased risk for chronic disorders later in life, further investigation is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements could have potential benefits in the healthy development of young people,” added Dr. Gilsanz.

Montreal, December 10th, 2008 –Insufficient vitamin D can stunt growth and foster weight gain during puberty, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Even in sun-drenched California, where scientists from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the University of Southern California conducted their study, vitamin D deficiency was found to cause higher body mass and shorter stature in girls at the peak of their growing spurt.

While lack of vitamin D is common in adults and has been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and obesity, until this study, little was known about the consequences of insufficient vitamin D in young people. The research team measured vitamin D in girls aged 16 to 22 using a simple blood test (25-hydroxy vitamin D). They also assessed body fat and height to determine how vitamin D deficiency could affect young women’s health.

“The high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in young people living in a sun-rich area was surprising,” says study lead author, Richard Kremer, co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the MUHC. “We found young women with vitamin D insufficiency were significantly heavier, with a higher body mass index and increased abdominal fat, than young women with normal levels.”

Vitamin D fosters growth, healthier weight

The researchers examined 90 Caucasian and Hispanic girls and discovered that young women with normal vitamin D levels were on average taller than peers deficient in vitamin D. Yet in contrast to what’s been previously reported in older women, their investigation found no association between lack of vitamin D and bone strength.

“Although vitamin D is now frequently measured in older adults, due to a higher level of awareness in this population, it is rarely measured in young people – especially healthy adolescents,” says Dr. Kremer.

“Clinicians need to identify vitamin D levels in younger adults who are at risk by using a simple and useful blood test,” says the co-author, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles of the University of Southern California.

“Because lack of vitamin D can cause fat accumulation and increased risk for chronic disorders later in life, further investigation is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements could have potential benefits in the healthy development of young people,” added Dr. Gilsanz.

 

 

 

 

 

Public release date: 11-Dec-2008

 

Use weights, not aerobics, to ease back pain

 

People who use weight training to ease their lower back pain are better off than those who choose other forms of exercise such as jogging, according to a University of Alberta study.

The study, done in conjunction with the University of Regina, showed a 60 per cent improvement in pain and function levels for people with chronic backache who took part in a 16-week exercise program of resistance training using dumbbells, barbells and other load-bearing exercise equipment.

In contrast, people who chose aerobic training such as jogging, walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical machine to ease their back pain only experienced a 12 per cent improvement, said Robert Kell, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus.

The resistance-training group showed improvements in pain and function of about 60 per cent, while those who took aerobic training experienced only a 12 per cent improvement.

 

“Any activity that makes you feel better is something you should pursue, but the research indicates that we get better pain management results from resistance training.” The extra benefits stem from using the whole-body approach required in resistance training, Kell believes. “We tried to strengthen the entire body and by doing that, we decreased the fatigue people felt throughout the day. They were better able to perform their activities of daily living.” Aerobics training generally works just the lower body, he added.

Approximately 80 per cent of North Americans suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes, and for 85 per cent of them the pain is chronic.

Both types of training did provide other fitness benefits, such as lower body fat, the study showed.

The findings are to be published in early 2009 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public release date: 11-Dec-2008

High pesticide levels found in fruit-based drinks in some countries outside U. S.

 

Analytical Chemistry

In the first worldwide study of pesticides in fruit-based soft drinks, researchers in Spain are reporting relatively high levels of pesticides in drinks in some countries, especially the United Kingdom and Spain. Drinks sampled from the United States, however, had relatively low levels, the researchers note. Their study is scheduled for the December 15 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.

In the report, Antonio Molina-Díaz, Amadeo Fernández-Alba and colleagues note that strict regulations limit pesticide levels in fresh fruits, vegetables, and drinking water. However, regulators have paid less attention to the presence of pesticides in soft drinks made from fruits. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the possible impact of pesticide-containing fruit juices on the health of children, who tend to consume large amounts of such soft drinks, they add.

The scientists used a sophisticated lab test to measure levels of a wide range of common pesticides in more than 100 fruit-based soft drink samples from 15 different countries. They tested for pesticides such as carbendazim, thiabendazole, and imazalil, and malathion, which are applied to crops after harvest and can remain on fruits and vegetables during processing. They found relatively large concentrations of pesticides, in the micrograms per liter range, in most of the samples analyzed. Samples from Spain and the U. K. had the highest levels of pesticides, while samples from the U. S. and Russia were among the lowest. “Steps should be taken toward the removal of pesticides in these beverages by changing the way they are manufactured,” the researchers conclude. — MTS

 

Ralph’s note – Micrograms per Liter is a massive level of a substance designed to kill.

Public release date: 16-Dec-2008

A low dose of caffeine when pregnant may damage the heart of offspring for a lifetime

New article in the FASEB Journal shows that caffeine during pregnancy affects heart development and function

A new study published online in The FASEB Journal shows that the equivalent of one dose of caffeine (just two cups of coffee) ingested during pregnancy may be enough to affect fetal heart development and then reduce heart function over the entire lifespan of the child. In addition, the researchers also found that this relatively minimal amount of exposure may lead to higher body fat among males, when compared to those who were not exposed to caffeine. Although the study was in mice, the biological cause and effect described in the research paper is plausible in humans.

According to Scott Rivkees, Yale’s Associate Chair of Pediatric Research and a senior researcher on the study, “Our studies raise potential concerns about caffeine exposure during very early pregnancy, but further studies are necessary to evaluate caffeine’s safety during pregnancy.”

To reach their conclusion researchers studied four groups of pregnant mice under two sets of conditions for 48 hours. The first two groups were studied in “room air,” with one group having been injected with caffeine and another injected with saline solution. The second two groups were studied under conditions where ambient oxygen levels were halved, with one group receiving caffeine and the other receiving saline solution. They found that under both circumstances, mice given caffeine produced embryos with a thinner layer of tissue separating some of the heart’s chambers than the group that was not given caffeine.

The researchers then examined the mice born from these groups to determine what long-term effects, if any, caffeine had on the offspring. They found that all of the adult males exposed to caffeine as fetuses had an increase in body fat of about 20 percent, and decreased cardiac function of 35 percent when compared to mice not exposed to caffeine.

“Caffeine is everywhere: in what we drink, in what we eat, in pills that we use to relieve pain, and even in candy,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “This report shows that despite popular notions of safety, there’s one place it probably shouldn’t be: in the diet of an expectant mother.”

Public release date: 17-Dec-2008

10% of U.S. High School Seniors Use Vicodin

(HealthDay News) — While marijuana and alcohol use has declined among teens, the abuse of painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin has increased, a new report shows.

But, the decline in the use of drugs such as marijuana has stalled after a steady drop in recent years, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse says in its report, Monitoring the Future: National Results on Adolescent Drug Use, which was released Thursday.

“We have seen improvements across many of the substances since the late ’90s, but in the last couple of years, particularly this year, we’ve noticed that those declines have flattened out,” said Dr. Wilson M. Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“We are concerned that we need to double down our efforts, because even though there have been improvements, these are still at rates that are high by international standards, and it’s really very concerning in terms of the risk to the health of our community in the long run,” Compton said.

Compton said that much of the drug use among adolescents is with teens from middle-class white families. “There is a preconception that this is a problem of minority youth, and that is not true,” he said.

According to the report, the use of prescription painkillers among high school students remains high, with some 10% of seniors saying they used Vicodin and 4.7% reporting they used Oxycontin in the past year.

Of the top 10 drugs used by high school seniors, seven are prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines such as cough syrup, the report noted. In fact, 15.4% of 12th graders said they used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons last year. “This seems remarkable to me, and very worrisome,” Compton said.

Over half the users of these drugs get them from family and friends, Compton noted.

In the past year, drug use among 10th graders of substances other than marijuana declined significantly, from 18.2% to 15.9%, but among 12th graders the decline in the use of marijuana has slowed.

The use of Ecstasy increased in 2007 among 10th and 12th graders. At the same time, the perceived risk of the drug declined.

Amphetamine use declined among 10th graders. Crystal methamphetamine use among seniors continued to drop in the past year, from 1.6% to 1.1%. Also, the use of crack cocaine dropped, from 1.9% to 1.6% among seniors from 2007 to 2008.

While marijuana use consistently declined since the mid-1990s, it appears to have leveled off. In the past year, 10.9% of eighth graders, 23.9% of 10th graders, and 32.4% of 12th graders reported using marijuana, the researchers found.

The survey, which has been conducted for the past 33 years, did find that cigarette smoking among teens is at the lowest rate ever. Also, alcohol use continues to drop slowly, with a significant decline among 10th graders in the past year, from 56.3% in 2007 to 52.5% in 2008. The decline was seen for lifetime use of alcohol and binge drinking, according to the survey.

Yet, 25% of seniors said they had five or more drinks in a row in the two weeks before the survey. And while smoking rates have also dropped, more than one in 10 seniors still smoke and 5.4% smoke more than half a pack a day.

The survey also measured attitudes about drugs among teens. Of particular note was the drop in the number of high school seniors who see LSD as harmful and the number of eighth graders who see inhalants as harmful.

This year’s survey data was collected from 46,348 students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades in 386 public and private schools. The survey was done by researchers from the University of Michigan.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, thinks the report provides data that can be used by drug prevention programs.

“This report provides a rich array of data characterizing the trends in drug use,” Katz said. “In many cases, such as tobacco, the trends are favorable. In some, such as heroin, they are stable, and the use of a drug known as Ecstasy actually increased over the period of study.”

Overall, nearly half of high school students will have tried an illegal drug before graduation, Katz said. “Progress has been made, but there is clearly work left to do.”

Prevention and education campaigns can do a better job if they target the specific drugs that are popular at a given time, Katz said. “By doing this, and keeping the list of culprits perennially current, we might more effectively avoid the movement from one drug to another,” he said.

Ralph’s note – We have taught kids that is okay to chemically alter ourselves for a desired result. Blurring the lines between Nutritional Support and Pharmaceutical Manipulation. Creating a generation of drug dependent adults unable to handle reality with out the use of mind altering substance’s. Like many of our Political leaders.

 Public release date: 16-Dec-2008

 

Vitamin D deficiency in infants and nursing mothers carries long-term disease risks

New Rochelle, NY, December 16, 2008—Once believed to be important only for bone health, vitamin D is now seen as having a critical function in maintaining the immune system throughout life. The newly recognized disease risks associated with vitamin D deficiency are clearly documented in a report in the December issue (Volume 3, Number 4) of Breastfeeding Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (www.liebertpub.com), and the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (www.bfmed.org). The paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/bfm

Vitamin D deficiency is common across populations and particularly among people with darker skin. Nutritional rickets among nursing infants whose mothers have insufficient levels of vitamin D is an increasingly common, yet preventable disorder.

Carol Wagner, MD, Sarah Taylor, MD, and Bruce Hollis, PhD, from the Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston), emphasize the need for clinical studies to determine the dose of vitamin D needed to achieve adequate vitamin D levels in breastfeeding mothers and their infants without toxicity.

In a paper entitled, “Does Vitamin D Make the World Go ‘Round’?” the authors point out that vitamin D is now viewed not simply as a vitamin with a role in promoting bone health, but as a complex hormone that helps to regulate immune system function. Long-term vitamin D deficiency has been linked to immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, and cancer.

“Vitamin D is a hormone not a vitamin and it is not just for kids anymore,” writes Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in an accompanying editorial. “Perhaps the most startling information is that adults are commonly deficit in modern society. Vitamin D is now recognized as a pivotal hormone in the human immune system, a role far beyond the prevention of rickets, as pointed out in the article by Wagner et al in this month’s issue of Breastfeeding Medicine.”

Public release date: 17-Dec-2008

New anti-cancer components of extra-virgin olive oil revealed

 

Good quality extra-virgin olive oil contains health-relevant chemicals, ‘phytochemicals’, that can trigger cancer cell death. New research published in the open access journal BMC Cancer sheds more light on the suspected association between olive oil-rich Mediterranean diets and reductions in breast cancer risk.

Javier Menendez from the Catalan Institute of Oncology and Antonio Segura-Carretero from the University of Granada in Spain led a team of researchers who set out to investigate which parts of olive oil were most active against cancer. Menendez said, “Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells”.

Extra-virgin olive oil is the oil that results from pressing olives without the use of heat or chemical treatments. It contains phytochemicals that are otherwise lost in the refining process. Menendez and colleagues separated the oil into fractions and tested these against breast cancer cells in lab experiments. All the fractions containing the major extra-virgin phytochemical polyphenols (lignans and secoiridoids) were found to effectively inhibit HER2.

Although these findings provide new insights on the mechanisms by which good quality oil, i.e. polyphenol-rich extra-virgin olive oil, might contribute to a lowering of breast cancer risk in a HER2-dependent manner, extreme caution must be applied when applying the lab results to the human situation. As the authors point out, “The active phytochemicals (i.e. lignans and secoiridoids) exhibited tumoricidal effects against cultured breast cancer cells at concentrations that are unlikely to be achieved in real life by consuming olive oil”.

Nevertheless, and according to the authors, “These findings, together with the fact that that humans have safely been ingesting significant amounts of lignans and secoiridoids as long as they have been consuming olives and extra-virgin oil, strongly suggest that these polyphenols might provide an excellent and safe platform for the design of new anti breast-cancer drugs”.

Public release date: 17-Dec-2008

Lean muscle mass helps even obese patients battle cancer

Lean muscle-mass may give even obese people an advantage in battling cancer, a University of Alberta study shows.

The study, published in Lancet Oncology, provides evidence that varying body compositions of cancer patients likely plays a role in survival rates, activity levels during the illness and potentially, even the reaction to chemotherapy treatment.

Computed tomography images of 250 obese cancer patients were viewed in the study, and findings indicate that people with a condition called sarcopenic obesity—a depletion of lean muscle mass, paired with being severely overweight—lived an average of 10 months less than their counterparts who were obese, but who had more muscle mass.

They also tended to more often be bedridden and have worse physical function than people who did not have sarcopenic obesity.

“In many cases, people with sarcopenic obesity have as little or sometimes less muscle mass than thin people who look as of they were made of skin and bones,” noted Vickie Baracos, a professor of oncology and adjunct professor of human nutrition at the University of Alberta, and lead author on the study.

The findings underscore the importance of including body composition when assessing patient prognosis, Baracos said. Factors like lean muscle-mass could even play a part in how these patients react to chemotherapy, and drug dosing could potentially be improved, she added. “It remains to be proven whether tailored doses of chemotherapy would improve treatment, but that’s possible based on what we’ve seen in this study.”

“With obesity reaching new levels, new concepts relating to body weight must be explored,” Baracos said. “People’s body compositions were less variable in the past and the condition of sarcopenic obesity is a recently recognized phenomenon.”

Public release date: 17-Dec-2008

Einstein researchers find convincing evidence that probiotics are effective

December 17, 2008 – (BRONX, NY) – Up to one in five people on antibiotics stop taking their full course of antibiotic therapy due to diarrhea. Physicians could help patients avoid this problem by prescribing probiotics, according to a study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University published in American Family Physician.

Antibiotics target “bad” bacteria but may also kill the “good” bacteria in the large intestine, leading to diarrhea. Diarrhea can also result from bacterial and viral infections. Probiotics-cultures of “good” microorganisms similar to those normally found in the gut – have been promoted as restoring the microbial balance disrupted by antibiotics and infections. Probiotic bacterial strains are added to certain yogurts and brands of miso and other fermented foods, and are also available as powders and pills sold in health food stores.

The Einstein scientists reviewed the medical literature and found seven, high-quality studies in which probiotics were administered to people. The researchers concluded that the studies support the use of probiotics for avoiding diarrhea resulting from antibiotic use or from gastrointestinal viral or bacterial infections. In addition, the probiotics used in these studies were found to rarely cause adverse effects, even in children.

“With the level of evidence that probiotics work and the large safety margins for them, we see no good reason not to prescribe probiotics when prescribing antibiotics,” says Dr. Benjamin Kligler, a co-author of the study and associate professor of clinical family and social medicine at Einstein. “The only drawback is that probiotics are not covered by health insurance.” On average, a one-month supply of probiotics costs between $8 and $22.

Dr. Kligler notes that the effects of probiotics doses are short-lived, so they should be taken throughout a course of antibiotic therapy. Probiotics will not diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics, he adds.

Because probiotics are considered dietary supplements, they are not regulated as stringently as conventional foods and drugs. Products vary widely in bacterial dose and in quality. The Einstein paper specifies several commercial probiotic preparations of sufficient strength to offer health benefits. In general, probiotic doses of more than 5 billion colony-forming units per day for children and more than 10 billion colony-forming units per day for adults were associated with the best outcomes.

Dr. Kligler believes that physicians should be aware of specific brands so they can recommend only those known to be of quality. He suggests visiting www.consumerlab.com and www.usprobiotics.org to find complete listings of beneficial probiotic preparations.

“In our residency program, we’ve worked hard to train our physicians to consider probiotics as an option,” says Dr. Kligler. “Now they are pretty good at regularly prescribing probiotics when they put a patient on antibiotics. But the average doctor is not doing this, and patients often know more about probiotics than their physicians do.”

First trimester smoking linked to oral clefts

Smoking during the first trimester of pregnancy is clearly linked with an increased risk of cleft lip in newborns. Genes that play a role in detoxification of cigarette smoke do not appear to be involved. This is shown in a new study published in the journal Epidemiology.

Oral clefts are one of the most common birth defects. Closure of the lip occurs about 5 weeks into pregnancy, followed by closure of the palate at week 9. If this does not happen, a cleft lip and/or cleft palate are the result, requiring surgery. The researchers wanted to see if smoking or exposure to passive smoking play a role in these defects and whether genes influence the oral cleft risk through the way toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke are processed.

The study is based on an extensive Norwegian case-control study on oral clefts with collaborating researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, University of Bergen, Rikshospital, Haukeland University Hospital and the National Institutes of Health in USA. Between 1996 and 2001, 676 babies born with oral clefts were referred for cleft surgery, and of these, 573 took part in the study. 763 babies born during the same period in Norway were randomly selected as controls.

DNA and questionnaires

Blood samples were taken from the children referred for surgery and their PKU test samples, routinely taken at birth, were also retrieved. Their mothers and fathers donated cheek swabs and blood samples. From the control group, cheek swabs were obtained from the mother, father (after November 1998) and child, plus the PKU test sample taken at birth. DNA was extracted from the samples.

Four weeks after birth, the mothers in both groups completed a questionnaire about medical conditions and environmental exposure. They were specifically asked about their smoking habits and exposure to passive smoking before pregnancy and during the first trimester. 42 % of case mothers and 32 % of control mothers said that they smoked in the first trimester.

There was little evidence of an effect of smoking on the risk of cleft palate alone. However, for cleft lip (with or without cleft palate), there was an increased risk, almost two-fold when the mother smoked over 10 cigarettes per day and a 1.6 fold risk from passive smoking (defined as being within 2 metres of a smoker for 2 hours a day). The researchers estimate that 19 % of cases of cleft lip in Norway may be due to maternal smoking in the first trimester.

 

Public release date: 19-Dec-2008

New study shows that a cough medicine ingredient could effectively treat prostate cancer

 

Baltimore, MD — A study published today in the December issue of the European medical journal Anticancer Research demonstrates that an ingredient used in a common cough suppressant may be useful in treating advanced prostate cancer. Researchers found that noscapine, which has been used in cough medication for nearly 50 years, reduced tumor growth in mice by 60% and limited the spread of tumors by 65% without causing harmful side effects.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 186,320 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and 28,660 will die from it. One man in 6 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime. Although slow-growing in most men, the cancer is considered advanced when it spreads beyond the prostate. There is no known cure.

The laboratory study was a joint effort by Dr. Israel Barken of the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation, Moshe Rogosnitzky of MedInsight Research Institute, and Dr. Jack Geller of The University of California San Diego. Noscapine has previously been studied as a treatment for breast, ovarian, colon, lung and brain cancer and for various lymphomas, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and melanoma. This study, however, is the first to demonstrate its effectiveness in treating prostate cancer.

Noscapine is a naturally-occurring substance, a non-addictive derivative of opium. As a natural substance, noscapine cannot be patented, which has limited the potential for clinical trials. Rogosnitzky notes that drug companies are generally unwilling to underwrite expensive clinical trials without being able to recoup their investment. A synthetic derivative of noscapine has been patented but has not yet reached the clinical testing phase.

Since noscapine is approved for use in many countries as a cough suppressant, however, it is available to doctors to prescribe for other uses as well. This common practice is known as “off-label” prescription. Noscapine is increasingly being used off-label to treat a variety of cancers. Dr. Barken used noscapine to treat a handful of prostate cancer patients before retiring from clinical practice. Encouraged by the success of these treatments, his foundation funded the laboratory study being reported in the December 2008 edition of Anticancer Research.

As founder and medical director of the Prostate Cancer Research and Educational Foundation in San Diego, Dr. Barken is encouraging academic institutions to follow up this successful laboratory research with a human clinical trial. He has pioneered a web-based patient tracking system that will greatly reduce the cost of the trial while cutting the time necessary to complete the study. Using the web-based tracking system will also allow doctors outside the U.S. to enroll patients in the research.

Rogosnitzky, director of research at MedInsight Research Institute, points out the significant advantages that noscapine could present as a treatment for prostate cancer. “Noscapine is effective without the unpleasant side effects associated with other common prostate cancer treatments. Because noscapine has been used as a cough-suppressant for nearly half a century, it already has an extensive safety record. This pre-clinical study shows that the dose used to effectively treat prostate cancer in the animal model was also safe.”

Hormone therapy and chemotherapy, along with radiation and surgery, are currently used to slow the progression of advanced prostate cancer. Side effects resulting from these treatments include impotence, incontinence, fatigue, anemia, brittle bones, hair loss, reduced appetite, nausea and diarrhea. No toxic side effects were observed in the laboratory study of noscapine.

Public release date: 22-Dec-2008

New data regarding safety of artemisinin combination therapy for pregnant women with malaria

A trial conducted in northwest Thailand has found that it is safe to use artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) to treat pregnant women with malaria, but that efficacy is inferior to single-drug artesunate treatment. The study, published in next week’s PLoS Medicine, suggests that the ACT evaluated in the trial, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), may have lower efficacy because drug concentrations were seen to be reduced during pregnancy. The authors suggest that longer, or more frequent, regimens of the drug combination should be evaluated for treatment of pregnant women.

ACT – the combination of two antimalarial drugs to reduce the chance of malaria becoming resistant to either – is now the primary form of treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, which kills nearly one million people per year. ACT may soon be the only effective treatment for malaria, given that the disease has become resistant to many of the older antimalarial drugs, and it has shown to be safe and effective in non-pregnant women. For pragmatic reasons the World Health Organisation (WHO) also recommends that ACT is also used to treat malaria in mid-late pregnancy, despite the fact that little is known about how well it works in pregnant women. This trial was conducted on the Thai-Burmese border, an area where malaria transmission is low but highly drug-resistant, meaning that pregnant women who contract the disease are at risk of developing severe malaria that can be fatal to both the mother and her unborn child.

Rose McGready, of the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit in Thailand, and colleagues sought to compare the safety and efficacy of the most widely used ACT, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), with artesunate, a single artemisinin-derived drug. The 253 women enrolled in the trial had uncomplicated malaria – the stage before the patient needs treatment with intravenous drugs – and were in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Using a measure called the PCR adjusted cure rate to assess how each type of treatment cured new infections, they found that artesunate outperformed AL (89.7% compared to 81.2%), although neither course of treatment achieved the 95% cure rate recommended by the WHO. Few side effects were found with either type of treatment, and the health and development of infants at birth and at one-year of age were similar irrespective of the type of treatment their mothers received.

This is the first trial that examined the use of ACT to treat pregnant women and the finding that it is safe and well-tolerated in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy is significant and welcome. Despite the fact that ACT did not perform as well as in studies of non-pregnant women with uncomplicated malaria, the researchers are careful to warn that this does not mean it cannot be used to treat pregnant women effectively in other endemic regions. Low drug blood levels were observed in the women seven days after treatment, which may explain the reduced efficacy of ACT in this area of Thailand with highly drug-resistant parasites. The researchers conclude by suggesting a higher-dose ACT regimen should now be evaluated for the treatment of pregnant women with uncomplicated malaria

Public release date: 22-Dec-2008

Cousin marriage laws outdated

Laws banning marriage between first cousins are based on outdated assumptions about a high degree of genetic risk for offspring and should be repealed, according to a population genetics expert.

In an opinion article published in the US open-access journal PLoS Biology, University of Otago Department of Zoology Professor Hamish Spencer and Professor Diane Paul, a Research Associate at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, argue that laws against cousin marriage are ill-advised.

“Neither the scientific nor social assumptions behind such legislation stand up to close scrutiny,” says Professor Spencer. For example, a 2002 expert review of studies regarding birth defects in offspring of cousins found that the risk was much smaller than generally assumed, he says.

The US National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) report estimated the average risk as 1.7 – 2 per cent higher than the background population risk of congenital defects and 4.4 per cent higher than general risk for dying in childhood.

“Women over the age of 40 have a similar risk of having children with birth defects and no one is suggesting they should be prevented from reproducing. People with Huntington’s Disease or other autosomal dominant disorders have a 50 per cent risk of transmitting the underlying genes to offspring and they are not barred either,” Professor Spencer says.

In the USA, there are 31 state laws that either bar cousin marriage outright, or permit it only where the couple obtains genetic counseling or is beyond reproductive age or if one partner is sterile.

“Such legislation reflects outmoded prejudices about immigrants and the rural poor and relies on oversimplified views of heredity. There is no scientific grounding for it,” Spencer adds.

Ralph’s note- Well that adds a whole new twist to family reunions.

 

Public release date: 22-Dec-2008

New evidence that people make aspirin’s active principle — salicylic acid

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2008 — Scientists in the United Kingdom are

reporting new evidence that humans can make their own salicylic acid (SA) — the material formed when aspirin breaks down in the body. SA, which is responsible for aspirin’s renowned effects in relieving pain and inflammation, may be the first in a new class of bioregulators, according to a study scheduled for the Dec. 24 issue of ACS’ biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the report, Gwendoline Baxter, Ph.D. and colleagues discuss how their past research revealed that SA exists in the blood of people who have not recently taken aspirin. Vegetarians had much higher levels, almost matching those in patients taking low doses of aspirin. Based on those findings, the researchers previously concluded that this endogenous SA came from the diet, since SA is a natural substance found in fruits and vegetables.

Now the group reports on studies of changes in SA levels in volunteers who took benzoic acid, a substance also found naturally in fruits and vegetables that the body could potentially use to make SA. Their goal was to determine whether the SA found in humans (and other animals) results solely from consumption of fruits and vegetables, or whether humans produce their own SA as a natural agent to fight inflammation and disease. The results reported in the study suggest that people do manufacture SA.

“It is, we suspect, increasingly likely that SA is a biopharmaceutical with a central, broadly defensive role in animals as well as plants,” they state. “This simple organic chemical is, we propose, likely to become increasingly recognized as an animal bioregulator, perhaps in a class of its own.”

Public release date: 23-Dec-2008

 

Vitamin D deficiency associated with greater rates of cesarean sections

Boston) — Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) found that pregnant women who are vitamin D deficient are also at an increased risk for delivering a baby by caesarean section as compared to pregnant women who are not vitamin D deficient. These findings currently appear on-line in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

At the turn of the 20th century, women commonly died in childbirth due to “rachitic pelvis” rickets of the pelvis. While rickets virtually disappeared with the discovery of vitamin D, recent reports suggest that vitamin D deficiency is widespread in industrialized nations.

Over a two-year period, the researchers analyzed the relationship between maternal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and the prevalence of primary caesarean section. In total, 253 women were enrolled in this study, of whom 43 (17 percent) had a caesarean section. The researchers found that 28 percent of women with serum 25(OH)D less than 37.5 nmol/L had a caesarean section, compared to only 14 percent of women with 25(OH)D greater than 37.5 nmol/L.

“In our analysis, pregnant women who were vitamin D deficient at the time of delivery had almost four times the odds of caesarean birth than women who were not deficient,” said senior author Michael Holick, MD, PhD, director of the General Clinical Research Center and professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at BUSM and Anne Merewood assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM and lead author of the study.

According to Holick, one explanation for the findings is that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with proximal muscle weakness as well as suboptimal muscle performance and strength.

 

 

 

 

 

Public release date: 23-Dec-2008

UCSB scientists show how certain vegetables combat cancer

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Women should go for the broccoli when the relish tray comes around during holiday celebrations this season.

While it has been known for some time that eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, can help prevent breast cancer, the mechanism by which the active substances in these vegetables inhibit cell proliferation was unknown — until now.

Scientists in the UC Santa Barbara laboratories of Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, have shown how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level. Their research is published in this month’s journal Carcinogenesis.

“Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower,” said first author Olga Azarenko, who is a graduate student at UCSB. “These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.

“Our paper focuses on the anti-cancer activity of one of these compounds, called sulforaphane, or SFN,” Azarenko added. “It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.”

Azarenko made the surprising discovery that SFN inhibits the proliferation of human tumor cells by a mechanism similar to the way that the anticancer drugs taxol and vincristine inhibit cell division during mitosis. Mitosis is the process in which the duplicated DNA in the form of chromosomes is accurately distributed to the two daughter cells when a cell divides.

Hundreds of tiny tube-like structures, called microtubules, make up the machinery that cells use to separate the chromosomes. SFN, like the more powerful anticancer agents, interferes with microtubule functioning during mitosis in a similar manner to the more powerful anticancer drugs. However SFN is much weaker than these other plant-based drugs, and thus much less toxic.

“SFN may be an effective cancer preventive agent because it inhibits the proliferation and kills precancerous cells,” said Wilson. It is also possible that it could be used as an addition to taxol and other similar drugs to increase effective killing of tumor cells without increased toxicity

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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.