Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women Who Eat Chocolate May Deliver Healthier Babies

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Expectant mothers might want to start eating chocolates in moderation to improve the development of their babies.

This seems to be the recommendation of a team of Canadian researchers who looked into the truth behind the effect of eating chocolate on pregnancy-related issues. The team, led by Emmanuel Bujold of the Université Laval Québec City, said that earlier studies revealed the increased risk of preeclampsia when pregnant women eat chocolate. Meanwhile, some other studies suggest the benefits of chocolate in ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

To investigate the topic, the researchers asked the participation of 129 women who were carrying a single child between the 11th and 14th week of gestation. The women were tested using the uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index, which identifies the blood flow in the uterus, placenta, and fetus during pregnancy. The respondents were divided into two groups: the first group was asked to eat 30 grams of chocolate with low flavanol levels, and the other was asked to eat high-flavanol chocolates. The indices were checked after 12 weeks, and monitoring was conducted up to the birth of their children.

Results showed that the uterine artery Doppler pulsatility of the mothers significantly improved from before the tests started. The findings were consistent, regardless of the amount of flavanol in the chocolates. “This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” said Bujold via a news item.

However, the researchers mentioned that their study did not include a group of pregnant women who did not eat chocolate. “We cannot speculate on the overall effect of chocolate on the risk of preeclampsia from our study results because we did not have a group of women who were not taking chocolate. However, previous epidemiological studies along with our results suggest that consumption of dark chocolate during pregnancy could help in the improvement of placental function and the reduction of preeclampsia.” Bujold added.

The study was recently presented in the Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine held in Atlanta.

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Health & Wellness

Brain Cancer Risk Lower In People With Asthma and Allergies

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If you’re frustrated and disturbed by allergies and asthmatic attacks, you may feel a bit better once you learn about this recent discovery.

A new study revealed that people who have asthma and allergies may have a lower likelihood of developing brain cancers, particularly glioma. Study lead author Melissa Bondy, who works at the Cancer Center of Baylor College of Medicine, said that their study confirms previous research that looked into a similar finding. “We sought to verify this relationship in the largest study to date so that we could provide a scientific consensus statement on the topic. We feel it’s now time for the next steps to be taken in this research area,” Bondy said in a news release.

The study involved more than 4,500 patients diagnosed with glioma and close to 4,200 individuals without any sign of brain cancer. From a review of medical records, the research team discovered that people who were diagnosed with eczema or asthma have a 30 percent lower risk of glioma. However, the researchers said that this relationship was not necessarily cause and effect.

Glioma is a medical threat characterized by the growth of a malignant tumor in the nervous system, specifically the glial tissue. Although there are other forms of brain tumors, glioma comprises roughly 80 percent of malignant tumors in the brain.

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Medical Marijuana

Group of Doctors Supports New Marijuana Act in California

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Marijuana use in the state of California has long been legal for medical purposes. However, the implementation of the law has been met with much criticism, especially because many people have resorted to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

This is the reason why the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act was created: “to establish a comprehensive system to legalize, control and regulate the cultivation, processing, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of nonmedical marijuana, including marijuana products, for use by adults 21 years and older, and to tax the commercial growth and retail sale of marijuana.” (text from ReformCA.org)

In line with the proposed bill, the California Medical Association (CMA) said that they are in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The group, with no less than 41,000 doctor members in the state, believes that the act will not merely allow recreational use of cannabis, but also allow the government to control and regulate its distribution. “The California Medical Association believes the Adult Use of Marijuana Act is a comprehensive and thoughtfully constructed measure that will allow state officials to better protect public health by clarifying the role of physicians, controlling and regulating marijuana use by responsible adults and keeping it out of the hands of children,” said CMA president Steven Larson in a news release.

The proposed act also includes a sizable budget provided on an annual basis for drug prevention, treatment, and education programs for the youth.

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Health & Wellness

Pregnant Women With Diabetes and Obesity Pose Higher Risk of Autism in Children

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Diabetes and obesity are just two of the major health concerns that the world is facing. While these conditions are harmful by themselves, being diagnosed with both health issues makes things worse. In fact, a recent study revealed that pregnant women who are diagnosed with both diabetes and obesity have a higher likelihood of delivering a child with autism.

The research team, led by Dr. Xiaobin Wang, said their finding is not surprising anymore. “Many studies have shown that maternal obesity and diabetes have an adverse impact on developing fetuses and their long-term metabolic health… Now we have further evidence that maternal obesity and diabetes also impact the long-term neural development of their children,” Wang said in a news release. Wang works at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as Center on Early Life Origins of Disease director.

The research looked into more than 2,700 recorded births at Boston Medical Center from 1998 to 2014. The expectant mothers were engaged in interviews and tested for diabetes and obesity, and their children were monitored for about six years on the average.

Results revealed that women who were diagnosed to be obese and have diabetes were up to four times more likely to rear kids with autism. The impact was also discovered in terms of the child’s intellectual capacity, although most of the cases with intellectual disability were also found with autism.

The researchers are confident that their study should be a reminder to all expectant mothers to take care of their own health, if only to secure the health of their own children. “We hope that our research findings can translate into positive public health messages that will increase the awareness of the importance of healthy weight among future parents, pregnant women and health care providers,” Wang added.

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Substance Abuse

Marijuana Use Linked To Memory Problems at Middle Age

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Starting marijuana use at a young age and continuing to do so may affect the way you remember things as you reach middle age. This was revealed by a group of researchers, after investigating about 3,400 people between age 18 and 30 who participated in a U.S. research in 1985-1986. Roughly 85 percent of the participants admitted to have smoked marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 12 percent of the test population said that they use pot on a continuous basis up to middle age.

The study involved following the participants for 25 years until 2011 and asking about their marijuana use. After the study period, the respondents were tested for brain functioning, particularly in the fields of verbal and working memory, hand-eye coordination, attention span, planning, and problem solving.

Results showed that those who smoked pot going to middle age had more difficulty in verbal memory and brain processing, according to a news report. The degree of verbal memory malfunction was also found to worsen with a more prolonged pot use. On the average, every five years of pot use leads middle-aged individuals to forget one of 15 words in a list revealed to them.

The research team, led by Dr. Reto Auer of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, said that they were surprised by the results of the study. However, they emphasized that the study did not delve into a cause-and-effect relationship between marijuana use and memory.

The study was published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Study: E-Cigarettes Are Harmful To Lungs and Immune System

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Despite the claim of e-cigarette manufacturers that their products are safer and healthier alternatives to traditional tobacco cigarettes, a recent study confirmed the harmful effects of electronic cigarettes as a support to the findings of earlier research.

Based on lab mice experiments of researchers from the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), it was discovered that exposure to e-cigarettes may affect immunity against common bacterial infections. According to a news release, this was revealed through tests on mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor over a four-week span, at a frequency of 5 days a week, one hour per day. Roughly a quarter of the lab mice population infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were found dead, and the study proponents traced this to e-cigarette exposure.

In addition, signs of blood and airway abnormalities usually found in people who smoke cigarettes were found in the animal test subjects. This included a ten percent higher likelihood of developing inflammatory markers when using e-cigarettes.

“This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign; at high doses, it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening. We already knew that inhaling heated chemicals, including the e-liquid ingredients nicotine and propylene glycol, couldn’t possibly be good for you. This work confirms that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor daily leads to changes in the inflammatory milieu inside the airways,” said study co-author Dr. Laura E. Crotty Alexander.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine.

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Pregnancy & Fertility

Doing Exercise While Pregnant Lowers Risk of Hypertension and Big Babies

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Pregnancy may be a delicate situation for some women, but a recent study revealed that pregnant women who engage in exercise may reduce the risk of complications associated with childbearing.

According to a new study jointly conducted by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Western University, doing exercise while pregnant lowers the risk of high blood pressure in women. In addition, the physical activity also reduces the likelihood of having oversized infants, the condition of which is clinically called fetal macrosomia. “Those oversized babies are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, like obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and/or hypertension. We really want to try and prevent those big babies because they are at risk for health issues,” said study co-author Michelle Mottola in a news release.

To get the results that they needed, the proponents of the study tapped the participation of a random group of pregnant women who were asked to follow a specific exercise program during their respective pregnancies. Results showed that pregnant women who don’t engage in exercise have a threefold likelihood of developing high blood pressure, roughly 2.5 times more susceptible to give birth to oversized babies.

Mottola said that even the simplest and easiest of exercise routines can already do wonders to the health of the mother and the child. “Many people think that you have to go to the gym and sweat – and yes, that’s true for some people – but walking will also give you great aerobic benefit. It’s very important to be physically active during pregnancy. We suggest 10,000 steps a day. If you can walk 10,000 steps a day, that’s incredible,” Mottola added.

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Health & Wellness

Weight Management and Correct Food Choices Lower Cholesterol in Women, Says Study

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If the sheer number of studies in the past isn’t convincing enough for you to follow a weight loss regimen, here’s another study that revealed the effects of proper diet and weight management on cholesterol level.

A study spearheaded by a research team led by Cheryl Rock of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine was conducted to answer the question on whether removal of fat in a person’s diet can guarantee reduction of cholesterol. “Many diets have said it is okay to eat healthy fats and emphasize olive and canola oils,” said Rock in a news article.

However, there is confusion over how the human body functions in the presence of fat in a diet. That’s why the study investigated the impact of dietary fat in the health of women diagnosed as obese or overweight. A group of females who fell into the category underwent a weight loss program from one year, and randomly given either of three types of diet plans:

  • low in fat, high in carbohydrates
  • high in fat, low in carbohydrates
  • high in fat from walnuts, low in carbohydrates

Results of the study showed no significant difference in the weight losses of the women in the three groups. However, the group of women who received the walnut-rich diet were found with the best lipid profile of all three groups, showing a decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL) level and an increase in good cholesterol (HDL).

All in all, the amount of weight lost after six months into the program was 8 percent on the average. “This weight loss may not put these women at their ideal weight, but it made a significant reduction in their risk of cardiovascular and other diseases… This level of weight loss is achievable and can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life,” Rock added.

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Health & Wellness

Global Childhood Obesity Epidemic: A Cause For Alarm, Says WHO

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Obesity continues to be a health issue not only in the U.S. but also the entire world. This was recently emphasized by the World Health Organization, as one of its sectors released a report on the growing problem.

According to the report by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity via a news release, obesity wasn’t regarded as a major health problem in the past, with many people dismissing it as merely a result of wrong choices in living. However, its recent investigation through more than 100 nations showed that it’s more than a family’s responsibility to combat obesity.

“To date, progress in tackling childhood obesity has been slow and inconsistent,” the report stated, after realizing that world governments have not implemented enough strategies to help individuals get out of the unhealthy condition.

Peter Gluckman, who co-chairs the WHO commission, said that the issue must be addressed not only by individuals and families, but also by governments and health experts. “Dieting and exercise alone is not the solution… We have responsibilities on behalf of the world’s children to stop them from being overly obese,” Gluckman said.

Countries in Africa have posted the worst figures in the world, with the number of children below age 5 diagnosed as overweight or obese running by 10.3 million in 2014. This is almost double the number in 1990, which was at 5.4 million.

[Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr]

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Health & Wellness

Pre-Pregnancy Obesity Increases Infant Death Risk

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Obesity is known to have health risks on any person, but a new study suggests that this risk may be carried to infants.

According to a group of researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health, women who are obese before they became pregnant raise the risk of their infants from dying shortly after birth. This was based on data of more than 6 million infants born in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013.

Results of the study showed that the risk of newborn death was double in infants born of women who were obese prior to pregnancy than those who had regular body mass indices. The study also discovered that weight management during pregnancy may not have a significant effect on the death risk in the child.

The study proponents, however, clarified that the link between female obesity and infant death is not a direct causality. “There is a need for more open, honest discussions about avoiding the possible risks of maternal obesity on infant health,” study lead author Eugene Declercq said in a news item.

The study sheds light into the importance of female health and how medical professionals must include obesity risks as part of the care. “The findings suggest that primary care clinicians, ob-gyns and midwives need to have conversations about weight as part of well-woman care, and when women are contemplating getting pregnant,” Declercq added.

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