Health & Wellness

New Study Finds No Link Between Transgender and Hormone Imbalance

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Hormone therapy

Transgendered youth are not suffering from hormone imbalances a new study has claimed.

“We’ve now put to rest the residual belief that transgender experience is a result of a hormone imbalance,” study author Dr. Johanna Olson of the Center for Transyouth Health at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) said. “It’s not.”

Olson and colleagues conducted the study to assess the safety and effectiveness of treatments that would help transgender patients bring their bodies closer in alignment to their gender identity. It has long been theorized that transgender youth might just be suffering from some kind of hormone imbalance that caused them gender confusion.

The researchers studied 101 transgender young people, ages 12 to 24. More than 50 percent of the participants were assigned male at birth, and 48 percent were assigned female at birth.

After measuring a number of physiological parameters, the researchers discovered that the participants’ hormone levels were in line with the normal ranges of the same assigned sex nontransgender youth population.

According to the researchers, the average age that participants discovered a gender discrepancy was the age of 8, but they did not tell their families about this until reaching, on average, the age of 17.


Health & Wellness

New Fat Blocker Foreseen As Antiobesity Drug

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obesity obese overweight

Micelle sequestrant polymers. Remember that term because this might hold the key towards addressing the long-standing problem on obesity.

The term describes a specific group of compounds that aim to prevent the absorption of fat particles. These fat-blocking compounds could be the potential answer to uncontrolled weight gain, according to a research team led by Cory Berkland of the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy. The researchers explained in a news release that the polymers bind with intestinal fat globules — called micelles — and prevent them from getting absorbed through the intestinal tract. The bind complex is instead excreted from the body.

Initial trials were conducted on lab mice, which were found to have up to ten times the amount of fat in their fecal matter than the control group. The researchers believe that this class of compounds could pave the way for more long-term methods for treatment of obesity. Antiobesity drugs currently in the market are known to have major side effects such as depression and heart ailments.

The study was published in Biomacromolecules, a journal by the American Chemical Society.



Diabetes Hotline Helps Maintain Blood Sugar in People From Minority Areas

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mobile phone diabetes hotline

A recent study successfully conducted a clinical trial that aims to prove that telephone counseling is a cost-effective method to help people maintain their blood sugar and keep diabetes complications at bay.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sought to discover more effective ways to assist people diagnosed with diabetes in regulating their blood sugar levels. Dr. Elizabeth A. Walker, who facilitated the trials, expressed the need for a more personal approach in treating diabetes aside from insulin shots and informational brochures. “People with diabetes need ongoing counseling about problem-solving and goal-setting for behavior change,” Walker said via a news item.

Close to 1,000 adult diabetics residing in the South Bronx took part in the trial, courtesy of the Health Department’s A1c Registry. One year after receiving self-help brochures and random phone calls from health educators involved in the study, the participants were monitored for any changes in their A1c (an indication of a person’s long-term blood sugar level).

Results showed that for patients with extremely high A1c levels at the beginning of the trial, those who received help via phone experienced an 18-percent decrease in their A1c.

The study proponents believe that this kind of approach can do wonders to the lives of diabetic patients and their families. “An intervention like this can be adopted by health systems and other organizations looking to improve diabetes outcomes through diabetes self-management interventions,” said study lead author Dr. Shadi Chamany.

The trials were conducted by a research team from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in coordination with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Pregnancy & Fertility

Pregnant Women Don’t Need To ‘Eat For Two’, Says Study

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pregnant diet

The common misconception that pregnant mothers need to eat more to supply for the child’s development has been debunked by a recent study.

According to a group of international researchers, the digestive system of the mother adjusts to the presence of the baby, allowing for increased absorption of energy even with the same amount of food intake.

The study, published in the eLife journal, investigated the fruit fly as a model for human anatomy. Study co-author Dr. Jake Jacobson of the Clinical Sciences Centre of the Medical Research Council (MRC) in London explained that the biology inside the body of a fruit fly is similar to humans. “Many of the fly genes that we studied exist in humans. Flies also utilize and store fat like we do, and their metabolism is controlled by similar hormones,” Jacobson said in a news release. Results of the study may also explain the reason why many women find it difficult to get rid of excess weight after pregnancy.

Through the study, a newly discovered hormone — called “juvenile hormone” — commands the digestive system to prepare for the growth of an additional human being in the mother’s body. This particular hormone was found to alter the metabolism of fat in the body. “This research points to a new scientific explanation why eating for two during pregnancy is not necessary, and may even be harmful, as a growing body of evidence indicates that a mother’s diet can impact a child’s propensity to be obese in later life,” said MRC population and systems medicine chief Dr. Joe McNamara.


Drug Testing

Company Receives Grant to Develop Instant Saliva Drug Test to Combat Drugged Driving

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car crash - Nathan Rupert

A company that is developing an instant test that will be used to identify drugged drivers has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant to aid with development of the test.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the grant worth $150,000 to Diagnostic anSERS to help the company progress its development of a paper-based test strip to enable instant roadside screening for driver drug impairment.

Currently, Diagnostic anSERS’s makes ink-jet printed sensors (called P-SERS™) that are able to detect traces of a wide variety of chemicals, including narcotics, pesticides, and explosives. This Phase I SBIR will help the company to develop modified P-SERS™ sensors that will be able to detect traces of drugs in saliva.

This new saliva test will allow a police officer to more accurately determine if a driver is currently under the influence of an illegal drug, as opposed to existing urine and hair tests which only identify prior drug usage.

The need to identify if drivers are under the influence of drugs is particularly pressing, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey found that 13.6% of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal drugs, as compared to only 1.5% being drunk.

At present, no effective roadside drug intoxication test exists. To help combat drugged driving, most states currently employ Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to identify a variety of signs indicative of drug use, such as coordination and pupil size. However, use of DREs is expensive and time consuming.

“We have interviewed numerous law enforcement officials about their needs, and this was, by far, the biggest and most urgent one,” Sean Virgile, co-founder of Diagnostic anSERS said in a news release. “Right now, officers have to either rely on highly trained, highly paid Drug Recognition Experts or let the suspect go. There is no existing cost-effective solution.”

With the grant, Diagnostic anSERS hopes to cut down on the amount of drivers under the influence of drugs, a problem that is expected to grow with the societal shift toward decriminalization of marijuana.

[Photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert on Flickr]


Substance Abuse

People Who Succeed Later In Life Have Higher Risk of Harmful Alcohol Intake

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A recent study published in BMJ Open revealed that people at least 50 years old who are at the pink of health and height of success are more prone to drinking unhealthily.

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ aging process,” said study author Prof. José Iparraguirre of Age UK’s research department.

The study was based on data of close to 10,000 individuals 50 years old and above, who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA) for 2008-2009 and 2010-2011. Survey respondents were asked about their alcohol consumption per week, status in life, diet and physical activity, self-assessment of health, and level of social stature.

Results showed that harmful drinking — defined as downing 50 units of alcohol for men and 35 units for women on a weekly basis — was more likely in women who were rich. It was also found in both men and women who experience “good health, smoking and higher educational attainment,” as reported in a news release.

The study author believes that poor drinking habits are signs of deep-rooted issues in successful individuals. “Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people. Consequently, and based on our results, we recommend the explicit incorporation of alcohol drinking levels and patterns into the successful aging paradigm,” Iparraguirre added.


Health & Wellness

Americans Want Medicare to be Able to Negotiate Better Drug Prices: Poll

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Americans want Medicare to have the ability to negotiate for lower drug prices, according to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll found that 87% of people surveyed want Medicare to have the authority to press drugmakers for greater discounts.

“People don’t understand why these drugs cost so much, and they don’t understand why, in America, you can’t negotiate for a better price,” said Mollyann Brodie, executive director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser Family Foundation.

Currently, it is against the law for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.  Drug manufacturers say their prices reflect the billions of dollars they spend in research and development. This includes treatments that are approved and many more that fail.

Drug prices are a top priority for Americans, as a June poll revealed 73% of participants thought prescription drug prices were unreasonable, with over three-quarters of those people saying they believe it’s because manufacturers set prices too high.

Public dissatisfaction has been on the rise since a controversy last year over Gilead Sciences Inc’s novel hepatitis C cure, Sovaldi, which came with a list price of over $80,000, or $1,000 for a single pill.

Insurers and state health officials warned that treating a majority of U.S. hepatitis C patients could cost several hundred billion dollars and bankrupt local budgets. When a competing medicine from AbbVie Inc was approved late last year, private health insurers pressured both companies to lower prices significantly.

“Sovaldi got people so up in arms about pricing where you even have Republican members of Congress saying it’s ridiculous,” said Ipsita Smolinski, managing director of healthcare consulting firm Capitol Street.

The latest Kaiser poll was conducted between April 23 to May 31 among 1,849 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

For nearly 50 years, Medicare has provided insurance coverage for Americans from age 65 and the disabled. Medicaid, a joint state and federal program, helps people with low incomes. Combined, they provide coverage for over 111 million people.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Doctors Defend Tobacco Companies Sued By Cancer Patients

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It’s a general notion that doctors are after the physical well-being of the general public, but this recent revelation seems to point to the contrary.

Stanford University School of Medicine researcher Robert Jackler discovered through his study that a number of otolaryngologists — a physician specializing in conditions of the ear, nose and throat — are defending tobacco companies from cancer patients who filed lawsuits. The study, published in the Laryngoscope online journal, exposed six doctors who were paid by tobacco manufacturers to testify on their behalf that heavy smoking did not cause the cancers of the plaintiffs.

According to the findings of the study as reported in a news release, the doctors mentioned other factors that could have led to the development of cancers in the victims’ necks and heads: salted fish, mouthwash, and cleaning chemicals. “Evidence shows that this testimony, which was remarkably similar across cases, was part of a defense strategy shaped by tobacco’s law firms… By highlighting an exhaustive list of potential risk factors, such as alcohol, diesel fumes, machinery fluid, salted fish, reflux of stomach acid, mouthwash and even urban living, they created doubt in the minds of the jurors as to the role of smoking in the plaintiff’s cancer,” according to the research.

Cancer cells were found in the plaintiffs’ esophageal area, larynx, and mouth, all of which they claim to have acquired from prolonged heavy smoking. “”I was shocked by the degree to which these physicians were willing to testify, in my opinion in an unscientific way, to deny a dying plaintiff — suffering the aftermath of a lifetime of smoking — of a fair trial,” Jackler said.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Teenager Continues To Survive HIV Even Without Treatment For 12 Years

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HIV case remission 12 years

A rare case of someone diagnosed with HIV has been trending since the news broke out yesterday because of one significant detail: The patient has survived even without medication or therapy for 12 years.

The female patient, now 18 years of age, was born with the virus because her mother had HIV while carrying her in the womb. The first six years of the patient’s life involved antiretroviral therapy, as reported in a news release. Despite having stopped therapy at the request of the family, she has been in remission for the past 12 years.

Medical experts are surprised by these new findings, but say that it’s too early to say that a cure has been found. The French National Agency for Research on AIDS director Professor Jean-François Delfraissy said that this development “should not be equated with a cure.” In fact, the patient is still diagnosed as HIV-positive, based on progress monitoring over the years. “This young woman is still infected by HIV and it is impossible to predict how her state of health will change over time.”

What’s clear at this point, though, is the importance of immediate medical attention upon the discovery of HIV in a person’s body. “Her case, though, constitutes a strong additional argument in favor of initiation of antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible after birth in all children born to [HIV positive] mothers,” added Delfraissy.

The discovery was revealed through a study by the Institut Pasteur in Paris as presented during the 8th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference.


Substance Abuse

Public Hearing at Michigan Capitol Aims To Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

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Michigan State Capitol will host a public hearing on July 21 (Tuesday) to discuss prescription drug abuse and ask for recommendations in addressing this lingering issue.

The hearing serves as an action plan for the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, which was created in June by Gov. Rick Snyder. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, chairperson of the task force, is asking the general public to help the state come up with tangible plans to prevent the issue on prescription drug abuse from escalating. “We are eager to hear the ideas and thoughts of our state’s concerned residents in order to develop a more effective strategy to address this critical issue,” said Calley in a news item.

Michigan is serious in combatting the drug abuse problem. In fact, the state will set aside $1.5 million for measures to prevent abuse of prescription drugs, painkillers and opioids. The budget will be available in October of this year.

Among the members of the task force include Michigan police chief Kriste Kibbey Etue, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Human Services head Nick Lyon.

If you are interested to join the hearing, head to the Michigan State Capitol on Tuesday at 5:00 – 7:00 P.M.

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