January 16, 2011, 10:19 PM CT
Is 'breast only' for first 6 months best?
Current guidance advising mothers in the UK to exclusively breast feed for the first six months of their baby's life is being questioned by child health experts on bmj.com today.
The authors, led by Dr Mary Fewtrell, a consultant paediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, have evaluated the evidence behind the current guidance and say the time is right to reappraise this recommendation.
The scientists stress that while they fully back exclusive breast feeding early in life, they are concerned that exclusively doing so for six months and not introducing other foods may not always be in the child's best interests.
In 2001 the World Health Organisation (WHO) made its global recommendation that infants should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months. A number of western countries did not follow this recommendation but in 2003 the UK health minister announced that the UK would comply.
Fewtrell and his colleagues support six months exclusive breast feeding in less developed countries where access to clean water and safe weaning foods is limited and there is a high risk of infant death and illness. However they have reservations about whether the WHO's guidance about when to introduce other foods is right for the UK.........
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January 16, 2011, 10:08 PM CT
Suicide risk greater for people living at higher elevations
High Altitude Medicine & Biology, the official journal of the International Society for Mountain Medicine (www.ismmed.org), is an authoritative, peer-reviewed journal published quarterly online. It is the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated exclusively to the latest advances in high altitude life sciences. The journal presents findings on the effects of chronic hypoxia on lung and heart disease, pulmonary and cerebral edema, hypertension, dehydration, infertility, appetite and weight loss, and other diseases. Complete tables of content and free sample issue may be viewed online.
Credit: © Mary Ann Liebert Inc., publishers
Twenty years of mortality data from counties across the United States led to the striking discovery that living at higher altitudes appears to be a risk factor for suicide, as per a provocative study published online ahead of print in High Altitude Medicine & Biology
, a peer-evaluated journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free online. (www.liebertpub.com/ham).
Barry Brenner, MD, PhD, and David Cheng, MD, University Hospitals Case Medical Center (Cleveland, OH), and coauthors Sunday Clark, MPH, ScD, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (PA), and Carlos Camargo Jr., MD, DrPH, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston), examined cause-of-death data from all 2,584 U.S. counties between 1979 and 1998 and observed that, as a group, people living at higher elevations had a statistically significant higher rate of suicide. They report an apparent link between altitude of residence and suicide rate in the article "Positive Association between Altitude and Suicide in 2,584 U.S. Counties."
The positive connection between elevation and suicide risk was present even when the authors controlled for known suicide risk factors, such as older age, male sex, white race, and low income. Interestingly, the authors determined that the increased suicide rates at higher altitudes are not part of a broader association between mortality from all causes and living at higher elevations. In fact, they report a significantly lower overall mortality rate at higher altitudes.........
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January 16, 2011, 9:59 PM CT
Small details attached to big memories
Neuroresearchers at MIT's Picower Institute of Learning and Memory have uncovered why relatively minor details of an episode are sometimes inexplicably associated with long-term memories. The work is slated to appear in the Jan. 13 issue of Neuron
"Our finding explains, at least partially, why seemingly irrelevant information like the color of the shirt of an important person is remembered as vividly as more significant information such as the person's impressive remark when you recall an episode of meeting this person," said co-author Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics.
The data also showed that irrelevant information that follows the relevant event rather than precedes it is more likely to be integrated into long-term memory.Shaping a memory
One theory holds that memory traces or fragments are distributed throughout the brain as biophysical or biochemical changes called engrams. The exact mechanism underlying engrams is not well understood.
MIT neuroresearchers Arvind Govindarajan, assistant director of the RIKEN/MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics; Picower Institute postdoctoral associate Inbal Israely; and technical associate Shu-Ying Huang; and Tonegawa looked at single neurons to explore how memories are created and stored in the brain.........
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January 16, 2011, 9:46 PM CT
Reduction in salt consumption recommended
The American Heart Association today issued a call to action for the public, health professionals, the food industry and the government to intensify efforts to reduce the amount of sodium (salt) Americans consume daily.
In an advisory, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the association sets out the science behind the American Heart Association's recommendation for the general population, which is to consume no more than 1500 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day because of the harmful effects of sodium - elevated blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease. Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is a major public health problem - approximately 90 percent of all Americans will develop high blood pressure over their lifetime.
Sodium consumption is currently more than two times higher than the recommended upper limit of 1,500 mg daily, with 77 percent of that consumption coming from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. "Even a modest decline in intake - say 400 mg per day -would produce benefits that are substantial and warrant implementation," say the advisory authors. The 2005 United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended a sodium intake limit of 2,300 mg per day, which a number of health experts say is too much for most Americans. Earlier this year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended to the secretaries of the United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that the goal should be modified to 1,500 mg per day for the general population. The advisory committee consists of leading researchers who evaluated the most recent scientific studies and created a set of recommendations that are being evaluated by the secretaries.........
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January 16, 2011, 9:28 PM CT
Development of anti-HIV neutralizing antibodies
New findings are bringing researchers closer to an effective HIV vaccine. Scientists from Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (Seattle BioMed), Vanderbilt University and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard report findings showing new evidence about broadly-reactive neutralizing antibodies, which block HIV infection. Details are published January 13 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens
As per author Leo Stamatatos, Ph.D., director of the Viral Vaccines Program at Seattle BioMed and a major stumbling block in the development of an effective vaccine against HIV is the inability to elicit, by immunization, broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). These antibodies bind to the surface of HIV and prevent it from attaching itself to a cell and infecting it. However, a fraction of people infected with HIV develop broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) capable of preventing cell-infection by diverse HIV isolates, which are the type of antibodies scientists wish to elicit by vaccination.
"We've observed that the people who develop broadly-reactive neutralizing antibodies � which are about 30% of those infected � tend to have a healthier immune system that differs from others who don't develop those antibodies," Stamatatos explained, saying that these antibodies target only a few regions of HIV which is good from the standpoint of vaccine development. "It gives us less to target," he said.........
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January 16, 2011, 9:23 PM CT
Chemicals in pregnant women
The bodies of virtually all U.S. pregnant women carry multiple chemicals, including some banned since the 1970s and others used in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products, as per a newly released study from UCSF.
The study marks the first time that the number of chemicals to which pregnant women are exposed has been counted.
Analyzing data for 163 chemicals, scientists detected polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phenols, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate in 99 to 100 percent of pregnant women. Among the chemicals found in the study group were PBDEs, compounds used as flame retardants now banned in a number of states including California, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane ( DDT), an organochlorine pesticide banned in the United States in 1972.
Bisphenol A (BPA), which makes plastic hard and clear, and is found in epoxy resins that are used to line the inside of metal food and beverage cans, was identified in 96 percent of the women surveyed. Prenatal exposure to BPA has been associated with adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer during the later part of life, as per the researchers.........
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January 16, 2011, 9:22 PM CT
Menu labeling didn't change behavior
An effort in King County, Washington, to add nutrition facts labeling to fast food menus had no effect on consumer behavior in its first year.
As part of a comprehensive effort to stem the rise in obesity, the county, which includes Seattle and environs, imposed a required menu labeling regulation on all restaurant chains with 15 or more locations beginning in January, 2009. Restaurants had to disclose calorie information at the point of purchase.
Scientists from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School and the public health department of Seattle & King County found, in the 13 months after the legislation went into effect, food-purchasing behavior at the Taco Time locations in King County was identical to that in Taco Time locations where menu boards remained unchanged.
The total number of sales and average calories per transaction were unaffected by the menu labeling.
"Given the results of previous studies, we had expected the results to be small, but we were surprised that we could not detect even the slightest hint of changes in purchasing behavior as a result of the legislation," said main author Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., associate professor of health services at Duke-NUS. "The results suggest that required menu labeling, unless combined with other interventions, appears to be unlikely to significantly influence the obesity epidemic".........
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January 16, 2011, 9:12 PM CT
Berries may reduce high blood pressure
Credit: Susy Morris, Flickr
Hypertension - or high blood pressure - is a main cardiovascular diseases worldwide. It leads to stroke and heart disease and costs more than $300 billion each year. Around a quarter of the adult population is affected globally - including 10 million people in the UK and one in three US adults.
Published next month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the new findings show that bioactive compounds in blueberries called anthocyanins offer protection against hypertension. Compared with those who do not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving a week reduce their risk of developing the condition by 10 per cent.
Anthocyanins belong to the bioactive family of compounds called flavonoids and are found in high amounts in blackcurrants, raspberries, aubergines, blood orange juice and blueberries. Other flavonoids are found in a number of fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs. The flavonoids present in tea, fruit juice, red wine and dark chocolate are already known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is the first large study to investigate the effect of different flavonoids on hypertension.
The team of UEA and Harvard researchers studied 134,000 women and 47,000 men from the Harvard established cohorts, the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study over a period of 14 years. None of the participants had high blood pressure at the start of the study. Subjects were asked to complete health questionnaires every two years and their dietary intake was assessed every four years. Occurence rate of newly diagnosed high blood pressure during the 14-year period was then correlation to consumption of various different flavonoids.........
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January 16, 2011, 8:57 PM CT
Smoking causes genetic damage within minutes
In research described as "a stark warning" to those tempted to start smoking, researchers are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes � not years � after inhalation into the lungs.
Their report, the first human study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage associated with cancer, appears in Chemical Research in Toxicology
, one of 38 peer-evaluated scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.
Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and his colleagues point out in the report that lung cancer claims a global toll of 3,000 lives each day, largely as a result of cigarette smoking. Smoking also is associated with at least 18 other types of cancer. Evidence indicates that harmful substances in tobacco smoke termed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are one of the culprits in causing lung cancer. Until now, however, researchers had not detailed the specific way in which the PAHs in cigarette smoke cause DNA damage in humans.
The researchers added a labeled PAH, phenanthrene, to cigarettes and tracked its fate in 12 volunteers who smoked the cigarettes. They observed that phenanthrene quickly forms a toxic substance in the blood known to trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer. The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers: Just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking. Scientists said the effect is so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream.........
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January 16, 2011, 8:53 PM CT
University of Rochester Medical Center orthopaedic researchers are a step closer to developing a vaccine to prevent life-threatening methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections following bone and joint surgery.
Other MRSA vaccine research has failed to produce a viable option for patients because of the inability to identify an agent that can break through the deadly bacteria's unique armor. Most other research has targeted the surface of the bacteria, but the URMC team discovered an antibody that reaches beyond the microbe's surface and can stop the MRSA bacteria from growing, at least in mice and in cell cultures.
The Orthopaedic Research Society invited URMC scientists to present their findings on Jan. 16, 2011, at the ORS annual meeting in Long Beach, Calif. The team is led by Edward M. Schwarz, Ph.D., professor of Orthopaedics and associate director of the URMC Center for Musculoskeletal Research. John Varrone, a second-year graduate student in Schwarz's lab, will discuss the data at ORS and the ongoing search for attractive molecular candidates for use in a vaccine.
Staph infection is the leading cause of osteomyelitis, a serious bacterial infection of the bone. Up to half of these infections are due to MRSA, a particular strain of staph known as a "superbug" because of its antibiotic resistance. MRSA causes nearly 500,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths a year in the United States. Eventhough improvements in surgical techniques and use of prophylactic antibiotics prevents some MRSA infections, osteomyelitis is expected to remain a serious problem in the future as people live longer and request more joint replacements and reconstructive surgery.........
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