Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness

Dogs May Help Children with Anxiety, Study Finds

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Owning a dog may lower children’s anxiety levels, a study by Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. has found.

The researchers looked at almost 650 children aged 18 months and older who were screened for anxiety. Of those children, 58% had a dog at home. Just 12% of children with dogs tested positive for anxiety, compared with 21% of children without dogs.

Ways in which owning a dog may reduce children’s anxiety could be because they act as a conversation trigger, which helps to break the ice when meeting new people. However, the researchers point out the study — which was published recently in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease — did not prove a cause-and-effect link between dogs and lower anxiety levels in children.

“Interacting with a friendly dog also reduces cortisol levels, most likely through oxytocin release, which lessens physiologic responses to stress,” the researchers wrote. “These hormonal effects may underlie the observed emotional and behavioral benefits of animal-assisted therapy and pet dogs.”

[Photo courtesy of Randall Pugh on Flickr]


Health & Wellness

Sudden Death Due To Cardiac Arrest Linked To Obesity in Young Adults

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Obesity has long been considered a trigger for many other diseases, and a recent study pushes the issue further by linking it to cardiovascular health risks.

According to a team of researchers from Boston’s Harvard Medical School, people in early adulthood are more susceptible to sudden death due to cardiac arrest when they are overweight or obese. The study proponents looked into more than 72,000 females who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1980 to 2012. Starting at 18 years of age, the study participants had their height and weight checked every two years to determine their body mass index (BMI), and their health monitored.

Results revealed that overweight women (i.e. those with a BMI between 25 and 30) were up to 1.5 times more likely to suddenly die from cardiac complications within a two-year span than those whose BMI are within the normal ranges of 21 to 23. The risk was double in those who were diagnosed as obese. To top it all, women who are overweight or obese during early adulthood may not be able to automatically reverse the risk by weight loss in the subsequent years.

“We found that it is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout adulthood as a way to minimize the risk of sudden cardiac death,” said study lead author Stephanie Chiuve in a news release.

The study, published in the journal JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, was focused on white females. “Further research is needed to determine whether overweight and obesity are risk factors in multiethnic populations,” the research team noted.


Health & Wellness

Moderate Coffee Drinking In Pregnant Women Not Harmful To Child Intelligence

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Caffeine remains to be a controversial compound, with many medical experts debating on its health benefits and adverse effects. While some doctors advise pregnant women against caffeine intake, a new study suggests that drinking coffee in moderation does not affect the intelligence of the mother’s child.

This was revealed by a team of researchers from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, who followed close to 2,200 pregnant women who participated in the Collaborative Perinatal Project from 1959 to 1974. According to the scientists, intake of caffeine during this time was higher than in today’s generation of expectant mothers.

The research team assessed the level of paraxanthine (the main metabolite in caffeine) at two specific points of the women’s pregnancies, and cross-checked the data with the IQ and overall behavior of their children at 4 and 7 years old.

Results showed that caffeine intake had no significant impact on the children’s IQ. “We did not find evidence of an adverse association of maternal pregnancy caffeine consumption with child cognition or behavior at 4 or 7 years of age,” said study lead author Dr. Mark Klebanoff in a news release.

The researchers believe that their study could make pregnant females less fearful of their current coffee drinking habits. “Taken as a whole, we consider our results to be reassuring for pregnant women who consume moderate amounts of caffeine or the equivalent to one or two cups of coffee per day,” said study coauthor Dr. Sarah Keim.


Health & Wellness

New Compound May Address Slow Wound Healing in Diabetic Patients

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Many people diagnosed with diabetes experience chronic wounds that heal too slowly, resulting to at least 70,000 cases of limb amputations in the U.S on an annual basis. A recent study might pave the way for improvements in wound healing for diabetics.

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry looked into matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) — a group of compounds that have the ability to degrade extracellular matrix proteins — to address the issue of diabetic wound healing. The team focused on MMP-8 and MMP-9, altering their natural composition to yield better results in terms of healing chronic wounds.

A previous study by the team of researchers led by Mayland Chang initially used the ND-322 inhibitor to address the adverse effects of MMP-9, but they discovered a better inhibiting compound in the form of ND-336. “ND-336 is a six-fold more potent inhibitor than ND-322 and has 50-fold selectivity towards inhibition of MMP-9 than MMP-8,” Chang said in a news report.

In addition, the scientists found a more potent wound healer in combining MMP-8 and an MMp-9 inhibitor. “The compound ND-336 has potential as a therapeutic to accelerate or facilitate wound healing in diabetic patients… Likewise, the enzyme MMP-8 could be used to accelerate/facilitate diabetic wound repair. The combination of a small molecule (ND-336) and the enzyme MMP-8 has the potential to accelerate further diabetic wound repair,” the study lead author added.

Details of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Health & Wellness

Study: Type 2 Diabetes Risk Reduced By Taking Viagra

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In a surprising twist for the controversial drug, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra was recently discovered to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

This was revealed through a study sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine its potential effect on people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. According to early results, the drug could help overweight people and those predisposed to diabetes in terms of insulin sensitivity.

For the study, 42 people diagnosed with prediabetes and high body mass index were given 25 milligrams of Viagra thrice a day for three months. Half of the group were given Viagra, while the rest were given inactive placebo. Results showed that the Viagra group had higher insulin sensitivity.

An added bonus was also discovered in terms of kidney and cardiovascular disease, as the group who took Viagra were found with a lower risk of these diseases. “Because existing drug therapies to prevent type 2 diabetes can have negative effects on the heart or be of limited use in patients with kidney disease, strategies to prevent diabetes without adversely affecting the risk of kidney and heart disease could have a large impact on public health,” said study lead author Dr. Nancy Brown in a news article.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, was pursued by a team of researchers from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.


Health & Wellness

Customized Diets: The Answer To Diabetes and Obesity?

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Many studies in the past have attributed one of the causes of obesity and diabetes to poor nutrition and eating habits. A recent study confirms this finding, stating further that people need to follow personalized meals that are customized to their nutritional requirements.

The study, led by Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, looked into the health data of 800 individuals who were assessed for their blood sugar levels in a number of days. The assessment was based on the standard glycemic index (GI), a figure used to rank foods according to their respective effects on the blood sugar indices of people. The study participants ate a set breakfast meal, and recorded their daily food intake in a mobile app.

Although the correlation between blood sugar level was expected, one surprising discovery through the study was that each person had a unique response to the meal, even though everyone was given the same meal each time. According to Segal via a news release, it might generate a more profound improvement in terms of diabetes and obesity if people were given specific meal plans to satisfy their body’s needs.

“Measuring such a large cohort without any prejudice really enlightened us on how inaccurate we all were about one of the most basic concepts of our existence, which is what we eat and how we integrate nutrition into our daily life, In contrast to our current practices, tailoring diets to the individual may allow us to utilize nutrition as means of controlling elevated blood sugar levels and its associated medical conditions,” Elinav added.

Details of the study were published in the journal Cell.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Cure For HIV May Be Found In Alcoholism Treatment Drug

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HIV treatments at present are confined to antiretroviral therapy, but is not considered a real cure because it merely renders the virus dormant in human cells. A breakthrough discovery is now looking at disulfiram, a drug known for treatment of alcoholism, as a potential cure for HIV.

This was revealed in a new research by scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia as published in The Lancet HIV journal. The anti-alcoholism drug helps a person abstain from drinking. In a biological viewpoint, disulfiram blocks the dehydrogenase enzyme, which functions as an alcohol metabolism agent, as stated in a news article.

Through the research, it was discovered that the anti-alcoholism drug can reactivate HIV cells that lay dormant, making the virus open to being destroyed. Although earlier studies have seen similar effects by using cancer treatment drugs, disulfiram did not exhibit any toxic side effects even in high doses of up to 2,000 mg.

Study lead author Sharon Lewin of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said that the alcoholism treatment drug may be the answer that the world is looking for, in terms of an HIV cure. “This trial clearly demonstrates that disulfiram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite possibly be the game changer we need,” Lewin said.

Meanwhile, study co-author Julian Elliott said that the action of disulfiram on HIV cells is just the first step, although it’s a big one. “This is a very important step as we have demonstrated we can wake up the sleeping virus with a safe medicine that is easily taken orally once a day… Now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick-start to the immune system might help. We have an enormous amount still to learn about how to ultimately eradicate this very smart virus,” Elliot said.


Health & Wellness

New Blood Test Shows if Children Have Concussion with over 90% Accuracy

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children playing football - US Army

A new blood test has been developed that can identify when a child has experienced a brain injury with 94% accuracy. The test was developed by Orlando Health, a non-profit health care company who recently published a study, in the journal Academy Emergency Medicine.

“The idea is to get a test that could be used on the field to help the coaches, trainers, and athletic directors make a decision then and there about whether the child should go back to play,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Linda Papa, a researcher at Orlando Health. “If we could find a simple test that takes the guess work out of diagnosing these kids, that would completely change the way we approach concussions and would certainly give parents greater peace of mind.”

The test detects the biomarker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which helps gauge the severity of the injury. The higher the levels of GFAP that are present in the blood, the more severe the brain injury is, explained Papa. The proteins found in the glial cells that make up GFAP surround neurons in the brain, so when there’s an injury to those particular brain cells, GFAP is released into the blood stream.

Researchers examined CT scans of 257 children, 197 of whom had suffered trauma to the head. Of those children, they administered blood tests and CT scans to 152 children and compared results. The researchers were able to identify with 94% accuracy which children had experienced a brain injury as indicated by the CT scans, plus they were able to tell the severity of the brain injury using the blood test.

“This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury,” Papa said. “We have so many diagnostic blood tests for different parts of the body, like the heart, liver, and kidneys, but there’s never been a reliable blood test to identify trauma in the brain. We think this test could change that.”

Papa and her research team plan to conduct more studies using the blood test, and hope to have it ready for store shelves within the next five years.

[Photo courtesy of U.S. Army on Flickr]


Health & Wellness

Walking and Riding Public Transportation Improves Cardiovascular Health

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Aerobic exercises have long been known to make the heart healthy, but two recent studies suggest that even the simplest moments of walking and riding public transportation can boost cardiovascular health.

The two studies — one from Canada and the other from Japan — emphasize the benefits of walking to overall health. “Walking is easy, it’s cheap and it’s safe. It doesn’t take fancy equipment, and it can be done from our front doors,” said The Katz Institute for Women’s Health vice-president for women’s health Dr. Stacey Rosen in a news release.

Dr. Russell Luepker of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis said that people can enjoy this kind of benefit much more if they live in places that encourage walking or going through public commute. “Even something as simple as walking to the store or taking public transportation to the office can provide long-term benefits, if you do it often enough,” Luepker said.

The Canadian research looked into health information of more than a thousand people living in Ontario, and checked their conditions after moving to another neighborhood. The study results showed that people who moved in highly walkable areas had close to 50 percent lower risk of high blood pressure within 10 years after relocation.

As for the Japanese study, about 6,000 adults were monitored in terms of health and divided into two groups: those who drove a vehicle to work, and those who rode public transportation. Results were clear: people who rode a train or bus to work had 27 percent less risk of high blood pressure, and 34 percent less likelihood of develop diabetes.


Health & Wellness

Eating Home-Cooked Meals Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

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If you want to avoid having Type 2 Diabetes, you may start by eating more home-cooked meals, as recommended by a recent study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“There is growing trend of eating meals prepared out-of-home in many countries. Here in the United States, energy intake from out-of-home meals has increased from less than 10 percent in the mid-60s to over 30 percent in 2005-2008, and average time spent on cooking has decreased by one third,” according to research fellow and study author Geng Zong via a news item. Together with this changing trend, he said that diet-related health concerns such as obesity and diabetes have increased as well.

The study involved almost 58,000 females who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, as well as more than 41,000 males who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. According to the results, people who ate more home-cooked meals had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. There was a 13 percent less risk for people who ate up to 14 home-cooked meals in lunch and dinner, compared with individuals who ate less than six in a week.

Part of the reason behind this link is the lower likelihood of people to take sweetened drinks together with their home-cooked food. “We tried to analyze differences in the diet of these people and found, among other differences, that there was a slightly lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages when people had more homemade meals, which is another bridge linking homemade meals and diabetes in this study,” Zong added.