Testing It Up » March 2011

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Health & Wellness

Stress and Sleep Contribute to Unsuccessful Weight Loss

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A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that people whose stress levels were high, and who had poor quality sleep, were less likely to achieve a weight loss goal of 10 lbs.

According to a feature on Time.com, the study was led by Dr. Charles Elder of Kaiser Permanente Center for Health and Research in Portland, Oregon, and involved 472 obese adults over the age of 30. Obese was qualified as those who had BMIs between 30 and 50; 83 percent were women, while 25 percent were senior citizens over the age of 65.

stressed womanThe participants were enrolled in a weight loss program that consisted of weekly group counseling sessions, keeping a food diary, exercising for at least three hours per week, reducing daily calorie consumption by 500 calories, and following a low-fat, low-salt diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Researchers noted certain lifestyle measures, which included stress levels, quality of sleep, and depression, at the beginning of the study, and again after six months.

Sixty percent of the participants were able to lose at least 10 lbs – the threshold that allowed them to move on to the second phase of the trial. Based on the results of the first phase, researchers were able to determine that several factors, including exercise, keeping a food diary, and attending behavioral counseling sessions had a strong link to successful weight loss.

In addition to these factors, the study was also able to determine that sleep quality and stress are influential predictors of successful weight loss. Participants who slept little or too much, and reported high stress levels, were less likely to meet the 10-lb weight loss goal.

Early Disease Detection Home Health Hazards

Steer Clear of Canned Food to Reduce BPA Exposure

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The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in such household plastic products as baby bottles and food containers, has been linked to various health conditions. These conditions include breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility, obesity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among others.

According to a feature on the Los Angeles Times, a study released by the Breast Cancer Fund and the breast cancer research group Silent Spring Institute has found that simple changes in one’s diet can significantly reduce a person’s exposure to BPA.

canned foodThe study, “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A,” monitored five Bay Area families over an 8-day period, in January 2010. Urine samples were collected from family members, after each member has had a normal meal. Participating families were all composed of four members: an adult male, an adult female, and two children between the ages of 3 and 11.

Each of the participating families ate meals that were prepared outside of the home. These meals included canned food, canned soda, and frozen dinners. They also microwaved food in plastic containers.

For a 3-day period during the study, the families were then asked to follow a modified diet, which consisted of organic meals and snacks. A caterer prepared and delivered meals that did not use foods that came packaged in cans or plastics, and the meals were stored in glass and stainless steel containers.

Breast cancer fund science advisor, and director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society at Vassar College, Janet Gray, Ph. D., shared: “One of the main sources of BPA is believed to be food packaging, but there weren’t any studies that had actually looked at having people eat a normal diet and then stop eating foods that had been wrapped in BPA-containing products… We wanted to be able to ask the question: Could we have fairly simple changes in people’s lives, both adults and children, that would alter their exposure and body burden of BPA?”

Dr. Gray was a co-author of the study, which was published in the journal environmental health perspectives.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Parents Complain About Accommodations for Girl with Peanut Allergy

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Special accommodations being provided by a Florida elementary school, for a girl who is suffering from severe peanut allergies, has triggered complaints from the parents of the young girl’s classmates, according to various news reports.

peanut allergyThe girl, who is in first grade at Edgewater Public School, is suffering from severe allergy to nuts. In order to accommodate her condition, her classmates have been obliged to rinse their mouths upon arriving at school, and once again after lunch. Restrictions were also being implemented on classroom snacks, and the students are also asked to wash their hands and faces at school, in order to ensure that no nut residue is introduced to the classrooms.

The girl could develop breathing problems due to contact with nuts, but the restrictive measures became the subject of protests among the other parents, who claimed that the measures were a bit overboard. Some parents have staged a protest outside the school, even going as far as calling for the withdrawal of the student from the school. The accommodations, the other parents say, are “taking away from their own children’s learning,” according to a CNN report.

The school initially stood solidly by its decision to accommodate the special needs of the child.

A report on the Los Angeles Times, however, revealed that the school has already eased up the more severe restrictions that they have imposed. Students, for instance, will no longer be required to rinse out their mouths twice daily. They will still, however, need to wash their hands and faces.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Study Shows Nicotine Can Increase Blood Sugar Among Diabetics

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Smokers who have diabetes only serve to exacerbate their condition by keeping up their tobacco habit, according to a feature on Daily News and Analysis.

According to a study presented during the 241st national meeting and exposition of the American Chemical Society, nicotine is the main reason behind the persistently elevated blood sugar levels of diabetes smokers. These elevated blood sugar levels consequently results in an increased risk for serious health complications.

smokingThe study’s findings may also have implications for those diabetics who are trying to stop smoking, and are using nicotine-replacement therapy for extended periods. Xiao-Chuan Liu shared: “This is an important study. It is the first study to establish a strong link between nicotine and diabetes complications. If you’re a smoker and have diabetes, you should be concerned and make every effort to quit smoking.”

It is already considered common knowledge among doctors that smoking leads to an increased risk in complications. Smokers who are suffering from diabetes have higher levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), the blood test used to monitor long-term blood sugar levels among diabetics, when compared against those diabetics who are not smokers. The exact component in cigarettes that is responsible for this elevated levels in HbA1c, however, is not known.

The researchers hypothesized that the substance in question may be nicotine, which prompted an investigation into the effect of nicotine on HbA1c. The study looked at human blood samples, and determined that concentrations of nicotine which were similar to the concentration found in the blood of smokers could lead to increased HbA1c levels.

Early Disease Detection

Drug Treats Diabetes Before It Starts

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A feature on Time.com shared the results of a study that indicated that the drug pioglitazone, being sold as Actos, can be taken by people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, in order to prevent the onset of the disease. Pioglitazone is a drug commonly used for diabetes treatment.

diabetesExperts warn, however, that this should not be taken to mean that anyone whose blood sugar levels are high should start taking the medication.

Diabetes starts from impaired insulin sensitivity. For quite some time, doctors have been searching for medications or lifestyle changes that can delay the onset of full-blown diabetes for as long as possible – or prevent its onset altogether.

A study led by Dr. Ralph DeFronzo, at the Texas  Diabetes Institute and University of Texas Health Science Center, determined that pioglitazone can be a useful tool to help patients control their blood sugar levels, and prevent the onset of full-blown diabetes.

Researchers found that among more than 600 patients who had elevated blood sugar levels and at least one other risk factor for diabetes, only 2% of those who took pioglitazone developed diabetes, as opposed to 7.6% in those who only took placebo. The study, which had a 2-year follow-up period, saw a 72% reduction in risk for those who took pioglitazone.

The study authors were quick to warn, however, that the encouraging results of the study should not be considered as a reason to prescribe the drug to anyone with a high risk of developing diabetes.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Study Links PFCs to Early Menopause

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A study conducted by researchers from the West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine established a link between an environmental chemical, found in such often-used home products as non-stick pans and clothing, and the early onset of menopause in women.

menopauseThe environmental chemical referred to in the study is perfluorocarbons, or PFCs. PFCs are man-made chemicals used in various household products; because it is used extensively, the chemical can also be found in water, air, and soil, and consequently, plants, animals, and humans.

Epidemiologist Sarah Knox, Ph.D., a professor at the WVU Department of Community Medicine, shared the following in a news release on the university’s website: “PFCs are toxins that shouldn’t be in our bodies in the first place, but 98 percent of people tested have measurable levels of PFCs in their blood.” Dr. Knox serves as the lead author for the study.

A feature on ABC News, however, shared that some doctors are asking for more proof. Research professor Dana Boyd Barr, of the Rollins School of Health at Emory University in Georgia, commented: “Studies that we’ve done looking at these chemicals on the U.S. population show that almost everyone has these chemicals in their blood.”

Dr. Knox said further, though: “If the PFCs are causing early menopause, then those women are at an increased risk for heart issues. If they aren’t, there are still toxins accumulating in the body that shouldn’t be there. Either way, it’s bad news.” She suggested several things in order to reduce exposure to PFCs, including having hardwood floors instead of stain-resistant carpeting at home, and microwaving food in glass instead of plastic containers.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

More Medical Marijuana Stores in Los Angeles Ordered Closed

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Sixty illegal medical marijuana dispensaries have been ordered closed by Los Angeles city officials, according to a feature on the Los Angeles Times.

The letters to these stores were sent out two weeks after orders went out to operators and landlords of 141 pot shops to close down. The letters carry warnings that violators could be sued, and that the city could seek financial penalties and “padlock the property.”

medical marijuana dispensaryCity employees checked each of the stores that were notified recently to ensure that these businesses were indeed open, according to Asha Greenberg, the assistant city attorney overseeing the enforcement efforts. She shared further that the office was unclear about these locations, and that it has not yet found out if all the stores are selling marijuana.

The letters that were sent out asked for a response, and so far, the city attorney’s office has received information on two dozen locations, according to Greenberg. Eleven dispensaries are already closed. Six stores were going to be closed by their owners, while six were still open. One store has denied that it was a medical marijuana dispensary.

If the suspected dispensaries that received notification letters do not close, the city attorney’s office will work with the police department in the gathering of evidence for use in court proceedings, so that these stores could be shut down.

The dispensaries that received notifications were those that did not register for a lottery that would choose 100 dispensaries that will be allowed to operate. Los Angeles received 228 such applications.

Los Angeles Drug Screening

Early Disease Detection

Outpouring of Support for Couple Diagnosed with Advanced Cancer

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The New York Daily News shares an outpouring of support for a couple who were diagnosed with advanced cancer within a week of each other.

Nathan and Elisa Bond live in Brooklyn, with their 18-month-old daughter, Sadie. Nathan, 38, is an artist teaching at Parsons, while his wife Elisa, 36, is a real-estate agent. Nathan was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer on Valentine’s Day, and was given a 60% chance of surviving for five years or more.

Nathan and Elisa BondNine days after Nathan received his diagnosis, the results of a test done on a lump in Elisa’s breast came in. It was determined that cancer has spread throughout her body; she was told by doctors that she had a 16% chance of surviving five years; because the cancer is so advanced, it has been deemed incurable.

The Daily News first shared the Bonds’ story on Friday, where Elisa was quoted as saying: “I wanted to grow old with my husband and care for our daughter… now I’m just hoping for a miracle.”

Since Friday, well-wishers have already sent more than $29,000 – as well as hundreds of encouraging e-mails. Nathan wrote the following on a Facebook page: “We are deeply moved and humbled by this amazing outpouring of love and support… THANK YOU!”

Friends and family are supporting the couple, helping them take care of Sadie and bringing them to their doctors’ appointments.

A website has been set up to raise funds to cover the cost of their treatments; so far, the effort has raised almost $60,000.

New York Health Screening

Health & Wellness

Sleep Deprivation Leads to Increased Appetite

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Sleep deprivation can do more than just make you unproductive and slow during the day – it may also lead you to eat more than you should, according to a feature on CNN.

sleep deprivationThe results of a study led by Marie-Pierre St. Onge, Ph.D., a research associate at the New York Obesity Research Center in Columbia University, indicated that people who did not get a good night’s sleep tend to eat more the following day. This fact, according to the study, was especially true in women, who consumed 329 more calories on average when they are sleep-deprived, as opposed to when they are well-rested. Men, on the other hand, consumed 263 calories more.

The findings lend more credence to the association between lack of sleep and being overweight. Most people who are overweight also suffer from sleep problems, the most notable of which is sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that cause people to be awakened frequently. It is not clear, however, whether these people are overweight because of their sleep problems, or whether they have sleep problems because they are overweight.

The study involved 13 male and 13 female volunteers, aged between 30 and 45. All of the participants were healthy sleepers who had normal weight. The study participants spent two six-day stints, under close supervision, in a sleep lab. They were not allowed to leave the lab or take a nap; instead, they slept for the length of time specified by the researchers. They were also subjected to the same diet for the first four days of the study.

New York Health Screening

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Japan Update: Water Radiation 10,000 Times Above Normal

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As we continue to monitor developments in the radiation crisis in Japan, we share a recent announcement made by an official of the Japan nuclear and industrial safety agency on Friday.

waterAccording to a report on CNN, three men working at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant were exposed to water that had 10,000 times more radiation than normal. Hidehiko Nishiyama, the official, said that the contamination may be from the core of the No. 3 reactor. Nishiyama shared further that there may be a possibility of “some sort of leakage,” which may potentially include a crack in the containment vessel of the unit.

There are, as of Friday, 536 people working in the plant, including government authorities and firefighters. Workers are doing everything they can to prevent the further release of radioactive substances.

Tokyo Electric revealed that the three workers exposed to radiation on Thursday had the highest levels of radiation recorded so far. The workers had stepped in the water while laying cables in the basement of the building that housed the No. 3 reactor turbine.  Two of the workers were wearing ankle-height boots, and water seeped into their footwear.

The workers stayed in water 5-inches deep for about 40 to 50 minutes.

Two of the workers were admitted to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences; one was exposed to 180.7 millisieverts, while the other tested at 179.37 millisieverts. The third worker was exposed to 173 millisieverts, and went to the research hospital only out of “an abundance of caution.”