Monthly Archives: September 2009 - Page 2

Making Paralyzed Rats Walk After Spinal Cord Injury

UCLA researchers have discovered that a combination of drugs, electrical stimulation and regular exercise can enable paralyzed rats to walk and even run while supporting their full weight on a treadmill.

Published in the online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, the findings suggest that the regeneration of severed nerve fibers is not required for paraplegic rats to learn to walk again. The research may hold implications for rehabilitation after human spinal cord injuries.

“The spinal cord contains nerve circuits that can generate rhythmic activity without input from the brain to drive the hind leg muscles in a way that resembles walking, called ’stepping,’ ” said principal investigator Reggie Edgerton, a professor of neurobiology and physiological science at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“Previous studies have tried to tap into this circuitry to help victims of spinal cord injury,” he added. “While other researchers have elicited similar leg movements in people with complete spinal injuries, they have not achieved full weight–bearing and sustained stepping as we have in our study.”

Edgerton’s team tested rats with complete spinal injuries that left no voluntary movement in their hind legs. After setting the paralyzed rats on a moving treadmill belt, the scientists administered drugs that act on the neurotransmitter serotonin and applied low levels of electrical currents to the spinal cord below the point of injury.

The combination of stimulation and sensation derived from the rats’ limbs moving on a treadmill belt triggered the spinal rhythm–generating circuitry and prompted walking motion in the rats’ paralyzed hind legs.

Daily treadmill training over several weeks eventually enabled the rats to regain full weight–bearing walking, including backwards, sideways and at running speed. However, the injury still interrupted the brain’s connection to the spinal cord–based rhythmic walking circuitry, leaving the rats unable to walk of their own accord.

In humans, however, neuroprosthetic devices may bridge spinal cord injuries to some extent, so activating the spinal cord rhythmic circuitry as the UCLA team did may help in rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries.


UCLA Healthcare

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Suicide and Depression Among Elderly on the Rise

Suicide and depression are serious problems among the elderly, and there is some concern that increasing worries about Medicare and Medicaid cuts, Social Security reductions, a poor economy, loss of retirement funds, and medical issues will contribute to a rise in the numbers of both areas.

Although people 65 years and older comprise just over 12 percent of the US population, they account for a disproportionate percentage of suicides. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.2 died by suicide in 2006 (the latest available figures). This is higher than the national average of 10.9 suicides per 100,000 in the general population. The rate is highest among non-Hispanic white men age 85 and older, with 48 suicide deaths per 100,000.

Depression among the elderly increases as other illnesses develop and have an impact on people’s ability to function. Estimates of major depression in older adults living in the general community ranges from about 1 to 5 percent, but this number rises to 13.5 percent among those who need home healthcare and about 11.5 percent in hospitalized elderly patients.

Although prescription medications can be helpful in relieving depressive symptoms and thus also reduce the risk of suicide among the elderly, depression is often not recognized or diagnosed in older adults, which means it remains untreated. For many elderly individuals, depression is a sign of weakness or failure, so they do not talk about it or try to hide how they feel. Even if they are diagnosed with depression, some refuse to take the medication and/or seek therapy, which has proved helpful in the elderly population. The National Institute of Mental Health offers information about depression and suicide for elderly individuals, “Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts.”

In a ten-year retrospective study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of antidepressant use among elderly depressed patients. They found that use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) among elderly depressed adults may reduce the risk of attempting suicide.

Use of some prescription medications may actually increase the risk of suicide in older people. A study published in BMC Geriatrics notes that sedative treatment was associated with an almost 14-fold increase of suicide risk among the elderly, while use of hypnotics was associated with a four-fold increased risk.

In a timely study published in the September 2009 issue of International Psychogeriatrics, the researchers asked “why suicide?” and analyzed 23 suicides among people 65 years and older. Their results lead them to argue that the suicides “should be considered as existential choices.” They noted that “the sum total of the different forms of strain had made life a burden they could no longer bear,” and that for these individuals “age meant that they were in a phase of life that entailed closeness to death, which they could also see as a relief.” Many will of course disagree with this conclusion.

The point, however, is that depression and suicide among the elderly are realities that are a growing concern and need to be recognized and discussed with the affected individuals and healthcare professionals. If you know of an elderly individual who is showing signs of depression and/or who has talked about suicide, he or she should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Psychotherapy, medications, and various support organizations and groups, including area councils on aging, can offer referrals and assistance.

Barak Y. Neuropsychopharmacology 2006 Jan; 31(1): 1878-81
Carlsten A, Warrn M. BMC Geriatrics 2009 Jun 4; 9:20.
Kjolseth I et al. International Psychogeriatrics 2009 Sept. 14: 1-10
National Institute of Mental Health

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The Palm Springs Diet Promises to Help You Lose Weight, But Does It Really Work?

Following the popularity of the Hamptons Diet and the South Beach Diet, a new diet product is emerging on the market called the Palm Springs Diet. This isn’t a book, but rather a product that promises to help people lose weight by taking nutritional supplements. But does the Palm Springs Diet really work? Are the ingredients in the supplement known to promote fat loss? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

The three primary ingredients in the Palm Springs Diet are chitosan, capsaicin, and gingko biloba. First, looking at chitosan, it’s easy to see how this could help some people lose weight, because chitosan is a natural fiber derived from shellfish that absorbs fat and prevents your body from turning dietary fat into body fat. I’ve talked about chitosan for many years and even promoted its use under certain circumstances.

Chitosan is great for absorbing bad fats that you don’t want your body to digest. Those bad fats include fried foods and hydrogenated oils — which are commonly found in cookies, crackers, and margarine products at the grocery store. So chitosan all by itself can aid in weight loss, but it is certainly not a magic bullet solution, because you can still overeat the wrong kinds of foods and gain plenty of pounds, especially if you avoid physical exercise.

The next ingredient on the list is capsaicin. This herb is being used in this formula as an appetite suppressant, but capsaicin is better known for being an intestinal cleanser and for stimulating circulation in the internal organs. As a weight loss supplement, capsaicin is not especially well-proven. In fact, there are far superior ingredients that could be used in a weight-loss supplement. So capsaicin seems to be an interesting ingredient, but certainly not a major promoter of weight loss.

The third ingredient is gingko biloba, an herb that is best known for enhancing mental clarity and blood circulation in the brain. Gingko is a well-documented herb that has been used around the world for thousands of years, and it is frequently used in a variety of nutritional supplements formulas today. But as a weight loss herb, I don’t think gingko has tremendous potential. Again, there are many other medicinal herbs that offer far more power in terms of appetite suppression and weight loss than gingko biloba.

So these are the three ingredients in the Palm Springs Diet product, and dieters are advised to take two pills before each meal, three times a day. It is being marketed as a very easy diet, something that’s easy to follow and doesn’t require a lot of thinking or planning in the same way as the Atkins Diet or other low-carb diets. However, I see a very big problem with this Palm Springs Diet: if it doesn’t require people to alter their food choice and engage in physical exercise, I can guarantee you that it won’t make you lose weight.

If you’re taking chitosan, capsaicin and gingko biloba, but still consuming high-fat foods in massive quantities and combining that with high-carbohydrate foods (which this product does not protect against in any way), there’s no question you’re going to continue to gain weight. For example, this product would make virtually no difference whatsoever on your body’s reaction to the consumption of soft drinks or processed foods made with large amounts of added sugars or refined white flour. Those products will still spike your insulin and blood sugar levels and will still result in your body storing additional body fat, meaning that you gain weight. Chitosan doesn’t interfere at all with the digestion of carbohydrates.

Even worse, the directions for the Palm Springs Diet are to take these chitosan supplements before each and every meal, and that means that chitosan could actually interfere with the absorption of important fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins D and E. So the frequent consumption of chitosan could actually cause nutritional deficiencies in people following this Palm Springs Diet. This is why in the past, even when I’ve recommended chitosan, I’ve only recommended it as an emergency defensive supplement, to be taken only on those rare occasions when you consume undesired fats, such as milkfats found in ice cream, or hydrogenated oils in margarine, or the saturated fats found in red meat.

But you don’t want to be taking chitosan on a regular basis, because it will interfere with the nutrients that need fat to be absorbed in your body. Chitosan will also, of course, interfere with the absorption of any good fats you might have in your diet. If you’re eating foods made with extra-virgin olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, or various omega-3 oils, this chitosan will interfere with their absorption, inhibiting the positive health effects that these oils provide. These oils are especially important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and preventing heart disease. Taking chitosan will block your absorption of these healthy oils, and, in a sense, prevent the prevention of heart disease in your body.

The Palm Springs Diet plan doesn’t say much about eating healthy and engaging in physical exercise. It appears to be primarily a supplement, and this supplement is, as I have explained here, not likely to help many people lose weight in the long-term. Even worse, it may compromise their health by creating nutritional deficiencies and interfering with the absorption of healthy fats. The bottom line is that I don’t recommend the Palm Springs Diet supplement products. As you know, I do recommend quite a few nutritional supplements, and I take many supplements myself, so I am not in any way biased against nutritional supplements like many doctors and some nutritionists are. In fact, I think it is impossible to be a healthy human being without supplementing your diet in one way or another. However, supplementing with chitosan, capsaicin and gingko biloba before each meal is not at all a good way to lose weight or provide your body with optimum nutrition.

Furthermore, the fact that this diet does not focus on food choice and the importance of physical exercise leads me to believe that it is really just a product sales gimmick, and not really a system that will help most people lose weight and keep it off for life. If you really want to lose weight, you have to do three basic things. The first is to avoid the foods that cause obesity. The second is to consume the foods that provide optimum nutrition and promote healthy body weight (like supergreens foods), and the third thing is to engage in regular physical exercise. The Palm Springs Diet, in my opinion, does none of these three.

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New Nonsurgical Test for Endometriosis Highly Accurate

Until now, the only way to accurately diagnose endometriosis has been with a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy. Now scientists have developed a quick, nonsurgical approach that is nearly 100 percent accurate. A report of the new test for endometriosis appears on the current online issue of Human Reproduction.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects approximately 5 to 10 million females in the United States and Canada. The disease most often affects women in their thirties and forties, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but can occur anytime in women who menstruate.

In endometriosis, tissue like that found inside the uterus—the endometrium—grows outside this organ, most commonly on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, exterior of the uterus or intestines, and surface of the pelvic cavity. This tissue acts like the endometrium, which means it responds to menstrual cycle changes. Thus women typically experience pain in the pelvis, lower stomach, and/or back. Painful urination and/or bowel movements during periods, gastrointestinal disorders, painful intercourse, infertility, and fatigue also can occur.

An international team of researchers from Australia and Jordan discovered that by testing a small sample (biopsy) of the endometrium for the presence of nerve fibers, they can diagnose endometriosis with nearly 100 percent accuracy. The sample can be taken easily in an office setting by inserting the collection device through the vagina.

In the current study, the researchers collected endometrial biopsy from 99 women who had pelvic pain, infertility, or both, and who were undergoing laparoscopy for the condition. When the results of the biopsies were compared with those of the laparoscopies, all but one of the 64 women who had endometriosis confirmed by laparoscopy also tested positive for nerve fibers in their biopsy. Among the 35 women for whom laparoscopy did not find endometriosis, 29 did not have nerve fibers. Of the six who had nerve fibers but no diagnosis of endometriosis, three women reported severely painful sex and periods, one had adhesions, and one had a previous history of endometriosis.

In another international study also published in Human Reproduction, a research team found that women who have endometriosis have a nerve fiber density about 14 times greater than that in healthy women. Women who had painful symptoms and endometriosis had significantly greater nerve fiber density than women with infertility but no pain.

Diagnosing endometriosis via laparoscopy involves hospitalization, use of anesthetic, and possible risks associated with the procedure, including having a negative impact on fertility in women who do not have endometriosis. The new nonsurgical technique is faster, much less costly, much more convenient, and more accurate than the surgical approach.

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Diarrhoea vaccine saves lives in developing countries

Vaccinating children in Africa and Mexico against one of the most common causes of diarrhoea – a germ called rotavirus – has been shown to cut cases of diarrhoea and reduce deaths from diarrhoea-related illness in children. Is it now time to add the vaccine to the UK childhood vaccine schedule?

What do we know already?

Even in developed countries like the UK, rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea and sickness. About 18,000 children are admitted to hospital in England and Wales every year, suffering from severe diarrhoea and vomiting caused by rotavirus.

In the 1990s, children in the UK were routinely vaccinated against rotavirus. However, safety fears about the vaccine used at the time led to it being withdrawn from use. Although new vaccines have been developed since, they’ve not been added to the UK’s recommended childhood vaccine schedule. Children in many other developed countries, including the US and Australia, routinely receive the rotavirus vaccine.

However, it’s in less developed countries that rotavirus causes the worst problems. In parts of Africa, South America, and Asia, babies often die from diarrhoea and vomiting caused by rotavirus. The World Health Organization estimates that 230,000 children die of rotavirus infection in sub-Saharan Africa each year. But vaccination in developing countries can be difficult, because it’s hard to store vaccines in the refrigerated conditions they need. There have also been concerns about giving vaccines to babies in areas where many have a damaged immune system because of HIV.

Two new studies published this week look at the effects of the vaccine in two African countries (Malawi and South Africa), and in Mexico.

What does the new study say?

The vaccines worked well. The study in Africa divided almost 5,000 babies into three groups. Babies in one group got a dummy (placebo) vaccine, while the others had different doses of vaccine. The babies who were vaccinated (at either dose) were much less likely to have an attack of diarrhoea and vomiting during their first year of life.

Of the children who had the vaccine, 2 in every 100 had at least one severe episode of diarrhoea and vomiting caused by rotavirus during the year. But that happened to 5 in every 100 children who’d not had the vaccine. The researchers estimate that five episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting were prevented for every 100 children, over the course of a year.

In Mexico, the study compared death rates from diarrhoea and vomiting before the vaccine was introduced with the death rates in the year after the programme began. There were on average 675 fewer deaths in a year, from an average 1,793 in the years before the vaccine, down to 1,118 in the years after the vaccine.

How reliable are the findings?

The study in Africa was done as a randomised controlled trial, which is the best way to see whether or not a treatment works. The babies were checked once a week and their parents questioned about whether the baby had been ill. The results should be very reliable.

The Mexican study can give us only an estimate of the effect of vaccination, as there could be other things that influenced the death rates from diarrhoea, apart from the introduction of the vaccine. It’s very hard to exclude all the other things that could have made a difference.

But, put together, the two studies suggest rotavirus vaccines can make a real difference in less developed countries.

Where does the study come from?

The African study was a collaboration between researchers in South Africa, Malawi, and the University of Liverpool in the UK. The Mexican study included researchers from the National Center for Child and Adolescent Health in Mexico, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. Both studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

What does this mean for me?

Fortunately, it’s rare for rotavirus to cause death among babies and children in the UK. That’s because babies in the UK are likely to be well-nourished and healthy, and good treatment is quickly available when they get ill. But rotavirus can cause very unpleasant vomiting and diarrhoea.

Rotavirus vaccination isn’t usually available on the NHS. The UK Health Protection Agency says the best way to protect against rotavirus infection is good hygiene. Even so, it admits that most children will have been infected by rotavirus by the age of 5.

One of the researchers, Dr Nigel Cunliffe from the University of Liverpool, said he thought rotavirus vaccination would have “a very beneficial impact” on preventing illness caused by rotavirus in children in the UK. He urged the UK vaccines authority, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, to look again at the case for introducing routine rotavirus vaccination for UK children.

What should I do now?

Good hygiene means washing hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food, and after using the toilet.

If your child gets diarrhoea or vomiting, the most important thing is to ensure they don’t lose too much water. They should drink sips of water often, or you could use oral rehydration salts, made up into a drink, to help protect against dehydration. These are available from a pharmacist. If you are worried that your baby or child is getting dehydrated, get help urgently from your GP.


Madhi SA, Cunliffe NA, Steele D, et al. Effect of human rotavirus vaccine on severe diarrhea in African infants. New England Journal of Medicine. 2010; 362: 289-298.

Richardson V, Hernandez-Pichardo J, Quintanar-Solares M, et al. Effect of Rotavirus Vaccination on Death from Childhood Diarrhea in Mexico. New England Journal of Medicine. 2010; 362: 299-305.

To find out more, see our information on diarrhoea in children.

© BMJ Publishing Group Limited (”BMJ Group”) 2010

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Air pollution increases risk of heart disease and stroke, study says

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has discovered a significant correlation between the air pollution around a woman’s home and herrisk of heart disease.

While only women were studied, researchers believe that air pollution has the same effects on men. However, women are at greater risk for heart disease in general, because their arteries are narrower and thus more easily blocked.

Researchers in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study studied more than 65,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 in 36 different U.S. cities for nine years. At the beginning of the study, none of the women had heart disease. At the end of the study, researchers compared the frequency of heart disease among participants in the different cities with information on local air quality. They found a substantial correlation between the density of particulate matter in the air and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

“These soot particles … are typically created by fossil-fuel combustion in vehicles and power plants, ” said lead researcher Joel Kaufman of the University of Washington. “The tiny particles — and the air pollutant gases that travel along with them — cause harmful effects once they are breathed in.”

The average particulate levels varied by city, from four to nearly 20 micrograms per cubic meter of air. A 10 microgram increase in particulate concentration corresponded to a 76 percent greater chance of a woman dying from cardiovascular causes, including heart attacks and strokes.

“This adds to the mounting evidence that air pollution should be taken seriously as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director for the British Heart Foundation.

The study’s authors also urged stricter standards on particulate emissions.

According to Pearson, the British Heart Foundation is funding research on how to minimize the harm from air pollution. “In the meantime,” he said, “when localized air pollution is particularly high, people with … coronary heart disease should avoid staying outside for long periods.”

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Health At High Risk From Climate Change

According to the World Health Organization, climate change has caused over a million deaths globally in the past eight years. Health Ministers attending the Sixty-second Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, resolved to urgently gear up health systems to protect human health from climate change.

“The poor are most vulnerable to climate change. Scarcity of drinking water will swell outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease and reduced food production will negate efforts to bring down malnutrition among poor children. Climate change will have dramatic cost implications for the health sector. Countries in South-East Asia need to take urgent action to prepare for the added disease burden,” said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

The direct consequences of climate change on health are severe. It can cause significant loss of life and widespread illness due to heat strokes and cardiovascular disorders; asthma and allergies; injuries, disability and drowning; water- and vector-borne diseases; and psychosocial stress. Coastal flooding due to sea level rise could trigger mass migrations, resulting in social conflicts, which would especially affect those with limited means to cope.

WHO has been working with Member States in the South-East Asia Region to strengthen health systems and health professional capacity, increase awareness and empower local communities to become resilient to health threats from climate change.

WHO’s Regional Committee for South-East Asia adopted a resolution aimed at strengthening national capacities to empower local communities to become more climate change resilient. The focus will be on increasing awareness and improving knowledge of health professionals (as well as professionals in other sectors) on the health consequences of climate change. For this, national authorities will introduce climate change and health dimensions into educational curricula at all levels, in particular in medical schools.

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Protective Cellular Process Discovered In ALS Disease

When Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) scientists disabled a specific protein in mice that were genetically prone to develop ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), they expected — based on previous work — to hasten the onset of the paralyzing, lethal disorder.

What they found was the reverse. The paradoxical results not only shed light on the complex pathology underlying ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), but they also have given the researchers an idea for a new treatment strategy.

The team was lead by Claudio Hetz, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at HSPH, and Laurie Glimcher, Professor of Immunology at HSPH. They report in the September 17, 2009, online issue of Genes & Development that mice with the “knocked out” protein, a regulatory molecule called XBP1, fared better than their normally equipped counterparts. In females particularly, the motor nerves in the brain and spinal cord were markedly protected from the accumulation of abnormal, toxic proteins that progressively destroy neurons in ALS and in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. As a result, the disease onset was delayed, and the mice lived an average of 10 days longer (although this was true only in females), even though they had been given a mutant gene known to cause some cases of ALS.

By turning off the XBP1 protein, the researchers had set in motion a process within the nerve cells that chewed up and got rid of the abnormal proteins created by the effects of the mutant ALS gene. Called autophagy — “self-eating” — it is a normal survival mechanism that probably evolved to cope with starvation; the cell cannibalizes its own less-important parts to nourish the components essential to life. Cells also use autophagy to digest and recycle their manufactured products, helping maintain a balance between synthesis and breakdown.

But for reasons the HSPH investigators need to further investigate, this protective autophagy in the ALS nerve cells was only unleashed when the XBP1 protein was shut down.

“XBP1 seems to be a repressor of autophagy in neurons, at least in ALS,” said Glimcher. And not only in rodents: The researchers said they observed the same phenomenon in spinal cord samples from patients affected with ALS.

In light of this discovery, she suggests, “One could conceive of selectively silencing XBP1 in neurons in the setting of ALS, perhaps through local delivery to the spinal cord.”

A hallmark of ALS and many other devastating neurological maladies is the failure of quality control within the nerve cells’ “endoplasmic reticulum,” or ER, where proteins are manufactured from building blocks. Newly made proteins can’t function correctly unless they are folded into a complex designated three-dimensional shape. In fact, incorrectly or “unfolded” proteins can be dangerous: They tend to form tough, insoluble fibers and accumulate in clumps that are toxic to the delicate neurons.

In ALS, it’s been found that a mutant causative gene, superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1), can disrupt quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum, flooding the neurons with unfolded proteins. This situation is known as “ER stress.” When they sense this crisis, cells try to adapt through the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) — an emergency drill aimed at increasing protein folding capacity. A key player in organizing this response is the XBP1 protein, a transcription factor that turns on and off other genes and proteins in the cell.

So when Glimcher, Hetz and their colleagues undertook experiments to further understand the role of the UPR in ALS, they first engineered mice with mutant SOD1 genes, setting the stage for ER stress and the production of unfolded proteins. In some of the mice, they also de-activated the XBP1 gene with the expectation of hampering the unfolded protein response, thus demonstrating that a failure of the UPR contributes to the onset of ALS.

When instead of hastening the neuron damage, the loss of XBP1 actually slowed the development of ALS pathology, the researchers realized that XBP1 must have a second function — namely, engaging autophagy within the cells, clearing them of toxic misfolded protein aggregates.

In their paper, the authors write that their research, “has uncovered a heretofore unappreciated crosstalk between autophagy and the Unfolded Protein Response in the nervous system.” Why the turning on of autophagy was dramatically more protective in the female rodents suggests that hormonal effects may be involved; thescientists point out that ALS is more common in males.

“Therapeutic strategies that reduce the level [of unfolded proteins] by increasing autophagy may be beneficial…in protein-folding disorders in the nervous system,” they conclude.

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Obesity Linked To Brain Degeneration

While the talking heads on TV frantically warn about the so-called swine flu pandemic that is supposedly on the verge of causing world-wide suffering and death, there’s another world-wide health problem of enormous proportions that’s here, right now — being overweight. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than 300 million people across the planet are obese, and another billion more are overweight. Being too fat isn’t a cosmetic problem, it’s a condition that kills people prematurely by leading to cardiovascular

disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes. And now there’s evidence that being too fat also causes brain degeneration and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study just published in the current online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, a research team headed by Paul Thompson, senior author and a Universityof California at Los Angeles (UCLA) professor of neurology, and lead author Cyrus A. Raji, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, compared the brains of people who were obese, overweight, and of normal weight. To define the weight categories, the scientists used the Body Mass Index (BMI), to establish that normal weight people had a BMI between 18.5 and 25, overweight people had a BMI between 25 and 30, and obese people’s BMI was more than 30.

The scientists wanted to document whether the brains of those in each of the three groups were equally normal and healthy. Surprisingly, they weren’t. In fact, the scientists discovered that obese people had eight percent less brain tissue than people with normal weight. In addition, people who were only overweight and not downright obese still showed a loss of about four percent of brain tissue.

Thompson, who is a member of UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, said in a statement to the media that this study marks the first time anyone has established a link between being being overweight and having what Thompson called in a statement to the media “severe brain degeneration.” In fact, he noted that “..the brains of obese people looked 16 years older than the brains of those who were lean, and in overweight people looked eight years older.”

“That’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain,” Thompson stated. “But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control.”

The researchers used brain images from the earlier Cardiovascular Health Study Cognition Study. The researchers then transformed those scans into three-dimensional images using a high tech neuroimaging method that produces detailed resolution mapping of differences in brain anatomy.

When they compared both grey matter and white matter of the brain, the scientists found that the people defined as obese had lost brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes (parts of the brain critical for memory and planning), the anterior cingulate gyrus (needed for attention and executive functions), hippocampus (critical for long term memory) and the basal ganglia (needed for movement). Overweight people showed less brain loss, but it was brain loss, all the same — mostly in the basal ganglia and the parietal lobe (known as the sensory lobe).

“It seems that along with increased risk for health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, obesity is bad for your brain: we have linked it to shrinkage of brain areas that are also targeted by Alzheimer’s,” Raji said in a statement to the press. “But that could mean exercising, eating right and keeping weight under controlcan maintain brain health with aging and potentially lower the risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

For more information:…

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Offices With Live Plants Make Employees Happier and Healthier

According to the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), Americans who work in offices spend about 52 hours a week at their desks or in their cubicles. What’s more, the ASHS points out that a host of recent studies on job satisfaction have concluded that those who work in typical office environments, often in windowless spaces with no natural light, have increased stress and reduced job satisfaction levels.

But there could be a relatively simple and inexpensive way to make the American workplace more humane and even healthier. The key? Research published recently in the ASHS journal HortScience concludes the workplace can experience huge benefits with the addition of live plants and/or a view of the outdoors.

Dr. Tina Marie Waliczek Cade, Associate Professor of Horticulture in the Department of Agriculture at Texas State University, and colleagues designed a study to see if offices with windows and views of green spaces as well as offices containing live plants increased productivity and employee happiness on the job. The research team used a satisfaction survey posted on the Internet and administered to office workers in Texas and the Midwest that asked questions about work environments, job satisfaction, the presence or absence of live plants and windows, environmental preferences of the office workers, and demographic information.

The survey results revealed that employees who worked in office environments containing live plants or window views reported a dramatically better overall life quality and feeling of job satisfaction compared to employees who worked in office environments without plants or windows. The complete study is available at the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site:
(…) .

There could be a physical reason why workers feel better in a myriad of ways when they work in “green” offices. NASA has researched the benefits of plants on air quality for some twenty years and found that common houseplants such as bamboo palms work as natural air purifiers. While the original NASA research was aimed at finding ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations, the study has important implications for those on Earth, too.

Plants, of course, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, but NASA research has documented they can do much more for air quality. In fact, they remove harmful elements such as trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air. Energy efficient, tightly sealed office buildings build with synthetic building materials, producing “Sick Building Syndrome”.

If you’re interested in boosting productivity and just feeling better while working in your office, try adding a few of the plants NASA has documented as being especially good at improving indoor air quality:

1. Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron

2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron

3. Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena

4. Hedera helix, English ivy

5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant

6. Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena

7. Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena

8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig

9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos

10. Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’, peace lily

11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron

12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen

13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm

14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant

15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

It’s important to note that NASA scientists found that some of the plants zero in on specific chemicals. For example, English ivy, gerbera daisies, pot mums, peace lily, bamboo palm, and Mother-in-law’s Tongue are best for eliminating benzene while the peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm are effective in treating trichloroethylene. NASA research also revealed the bamboo palm, Mother-in-law’s tongue, dracaena warneckei, peace lily, dracaena marginata, golden pathos, and green spider plant are good at filtering out formaldehyde.

For more information on NASA studies related to plants and air quality, click here: (…)

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Tamiflu May Help Shorten The Duration of H1N1 Flu

H1N1 swine flu vaccine will not be available until next month. In the meantime, swine flu, combined with an early start on seasonal flu, have many wondering how to check swine flu symptoms. If pandemic flu is treated early, antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu might help shorten the duration of either H1N1 or seasonal flu, and can be used preventively.

Only a small number of people have had serious complications or died from swine flu. H1N1 swine flu symptoms include high fever, and at least one of the two following symptoms: diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, headache, runny nose and cough, sore throat, and no appetite. A hallmark symptom of any flu includes muscle aches.

If you think you may have been exposed to swine flu, and especially if you are at high risk for flu complications from lung disease, autoimmune disorder, chronic illness such as heart, liver, or kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or diabetes, call your doctor for recommendations on how to stop from getting swine or seasonal flu. Children under age 5, pregnant women, and anyone over age 65 is also considered at risk for H1N1 and seasonal flu complications.

Incubation period for swine flu is anywhere from two to five days. Your doctor will decide which antiviral medication or combination is right for you if you think you have been exposed to flu. Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs can be used to treat both seasonal and H1N1 flu, but some resistance to Tamiflu has been seen. Most people do not require antiviral medications such as Tamiflu for swine or seasonal flu unless there are underlying health problems.

Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu, Relenza and Flumadine are available with prescription. Swine flu is resistant to Flumadine (rimantadine). As a part of flu preparedness, and the swine flu pandemic, stockpiles of antiviral medications were made available for high risk groups.

Check your swine flu symptoms, based on the criteria issued by the CDC. If you believe you have been exposed to flu, and especially if you are at high risk for complications, speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Tamiflu and other antiviral medications should be started within 48 hours of onset of swine or seasonal flu symptoms for best outcomes.

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Indiana Releases Injury Report

State health officials announced the release of the 2003-2006 data report on unintentional and intentional injuries in Indiana.

Injuries can result in trauma, possible lifelong disabilities, or even death. In Indiana, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among persons 1 to 34 years-of-age and the fifth leading cause of death overall following heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), and chronic lower respiratory disease.

Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death for Hoosiers. Indiana’s death rate for all injuries was 58.1 per 100,000, or a total of 14,646 lives lost. More than half of the unintentional injuries were a result of motor vehicle crashes, poisonings and falls. For children, adolescents, and adults aged 1 to 74, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death. But the fatality rates and hospitalization rates are highest for persons over 75, where falls are the top source for unintentional injuries.

“Injury is a significant cause of death and a major public health problem,” said Joan Duwve, M.D., medical director for Injury Prevention at the State Department of Health. “The estimated economic impact of injury is also significant, accounting for about ten percent of total medical expenditures nationwide.”

Dr. Duwve says that many injuries are preventable. In the pediatric population, close supervision of children is one way to reduce the number of injuries. Senior citizens can take steps such as installing grab bars in their showers, or removing throw rugs from their houses to prevent falls at home.

A major step the state is initiating to address the problem of injuries, is the Training Education Advances and Collaboration and Health on Violent Injury Prevention (TEACH VIP). TEACH VIP, developed by the World Health Organization, is a comprehensive injury prevention and control curriculum. The four-day course begins on Sept. 29, and is designed to meet the national injury core compentencies. The first course will educate health care professionals, whose practice focuses on injury prevention from around the state on basic principles of injury prevention, program planning and evaluation, and dissemination and communication of injury prevention data. The ultimate plan is to have TEACH VIP classes annually.

Other highlights from the report include:

* From 2003-2006, 6.6 percent of all deaths in Indiana were caused by injury

* Males were 2.2 times as likely as females to be fatally injured

* Blacks were 1.3 times as likely as whites to be fatally injured

* In Indiana, the leading cause of unintentional death under age 1 was suffocation including SIDS and rollovers

* Motor vehicle injuries were the leading cause of unintentional fatality between the ages of 1 and 74.

* In the over 75 population, falls were the leading cause of unintentional death

In addition, injury fatalities caused by intentional acts, such as homicide or suicide were among the top four causes of death in Indiana in all age groups from age 5 to 54

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More Aortic Chest Aneurysms Treated With Less-Invasive Stents

An estimated 60,000 Americans are walking around with time bombs in their chests called thoracic aortic aneurysms. At any time, their main chest artery could suddenly burst open, causing massive internal bleeding that is almost always fatal.

It’s possible to repair the defect before the artery bursts, but traditional surgery is highly invasive. The operation typically requires an 18-inch incision, a week or two in the hospital and three to six months to recover. There are several major risks, including stroke and paralysis.

At Loyola University Hospital, an increasing number of patients are being treated with a device called a stent graft, which is inserted without opening the chest. Stent graft patients typically go home in a day or two, and recover fully in about two weeks.

At Loyola’s Thoracic Aortic Disease Clinic, about 70 percent of patients who undergo surgery for aneurysms in the chest artery are receiving stent grafts rather than open chest surgery. “And as the technology evolves, we will be doing more and more stenting,” said Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, associate professor in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The stent graft used in chest arteries is a polyester tube covered by metal webbing. It is delivered with a catheter (thin tube). The surgeon inserts the catheter in a groin artery, and guides it to the thoracic aorta (chest artery). Once the stent graft is deployed from the catheter, the device expands outward to the walls of the artery. Depending on the patient, the stent graft is roughly 1 inch to 2 inches wide and 4 to 8 inches long, said Dr. Michael Tuchek, who has conducted several clinical trials of aortic stent grafts. Tuchek is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at Stritch.

James Feehan of Bolingbrook, Ill. recently received a stent graft to repair a life-threatening aneurysm in his chest aorta. The aorta is the main artery from the heart. An aneurysm occurs when the walls of the aorta thin and balloon outward. As the bulge grows, there’s an increasing risk the aorta could suddenly burst. Feehan had undergone four earlier open-chest surgeries to repair other defects in his aorta. By comparison, the stent graft procedure was “a walk in the park,” he said.

Feehan, 78, probably could not have survived another open chest surgery, said Tuchek, who placed the stent graft. Now, thanks to the stent graft, “he can go home and see his grandkids,” Tuchek said.

The first-generation thoracic aortic stent grafts were approved in 2005. Feehan recently became one of the first patients in the country to receive the latest-generation stent graft, called Talent. The new device will make it possible for significantly more patients to have stent graft repairs rather than open surgery, Tuchek said.

The difference between the older stent grafts and the new one “is kind of like the difference between a Model T and a Ferrari,” Tuchek said.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, researchers compared 195 patients who received the new stent graft with 189 patients who underwent traditional open chest surgery. About 84 percent of the open chest surgery patients experienced major complications, compared with only 41 percent in the stent graft group. After 12 months, 11.6 percent of the open chest surgery patients had died of aneurysm-related causes, compared with 3.1 percent in the stent graft group. Tuchek is a co-author of the study, which was funded by the manufacturer of the stent graft.

Loyola’s thoracic aortic disease clinic follows more than 1,000 patients. About 80 percent of the patients have aortic aneurysms. Other conditions treated at the clinic include aortic dissection (the inner layer of the aorta’s artery wall splits open) and ulcerated plaques (irregular buildup of cholesterol and other deposits in the aortic walls).

Risk factors for aneurysms and other aortic defects include smoking, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, family history, high blood pressure and congenital disorders such as Marfan syndrome. Many people do not realize they have aneurysms until the bulges are detected on CT scans or MRIs.

Because aortic disease is relatively uncommon, many surgeons and cardiologists refer patients to specialty centers such as Loyola. Loyola’s aortic clinic treats patients from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. Patients have come from as far away as Florida and Arizona.

The clinic is a collaborative effort. Schwartz, for example, specializes in open chest surgery, while Tuchek has helped pioneer the use of thoracic aortic stent grafts.

“My vision is that patients with aortic disease receive comprehensive, multi-specialty care for this unique condition,” Schwartz said.

Tuchek is a leading enroller in a second multi-center clinical trial of the new stent graft, which is made by Medtronic, and he is a consultant to the company.

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Exploring Bioethics In New Curriculum Supplement

Should Carl, a high school baseball player, take steroids to improve his performance and win a college scholarship?

Luke is 58 years old, Emily is 36, and Mario is just 6 months old. All have liver failure. Which one should get the liver that has become available for transplantation?

Joy refuses to be vaccinated. Should she be forced to get a vaccine? Does it matter that the reason she doesn’t want to be vaccinated is her fear of needles? Would her refusal be fairer if vaccinations were against her religious beliefs?

Now teachers will have an innovative approach for students to address these and other bioethical questions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the global nonprofit Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), developed “Exploring Bioethics,” a high school curriculum supplement. It serves as a guide for teachers to foster thoughtful classroom discussions on topical bioethical issues.

Students use four core questions that help them form well-justified positions on ethical issues and practices in biomedicine.

* What is the ethical question?
* What are the relevant facts?
* Who or what will be affected by the outcome?
* What are the relevant ethical considerations? (These could include respect for persons, harms and benefits, fairness and responsibility)

“Exploring Bioethics” covers six topics: genetic testing, the use of human subjects in research, steroid use by athletes, organ allocation for transplants, and the modification of animals for human benefit. The lessons promote problem-solving and communication skills, critical thinking, and teamwork. The curriculum supplement presents six three-day lessons in a convenient, all-in-one resource that is well organized for integration into a broader curriculum.

The NIH Office of Science Education and Department of Bioethics produced “Exploring Bioethics” in partnership with the Center for Applied Ethics and the Center for Science Education at EDC and with collaborating scientists, medical ethics experts, and educators across the nation.

The NIH curriculum supplement series — which includes 17 supplements on such topics as genetics, infectious diseases, cell biology, and the process of science — promotes inquiry-based, interdisciplinary learning. The interactive teaching units combine cutting-edge science research discoveries and real scientific data from NIH with state-of-the-art instructional materials. Educators have requested nearly 350,000 NIH curriculum supplements in the ongoing series.

The NIH curriculum supplements, available for free to educators in the United States upon request, are aimed at promoting science education achievement in grades 1 through 12. The lessons are aligned with the National Science Education Standards and with individual state education standards in science, math, health, and English language arts — showing educators how the NIH curriculum supplements will help their students meet specific learning goals.

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Nova Scotia Improves Wait Times For Surgical Patients

A new patient registry will improve surgical wait times by providing more timely and accurate information to district health authorities and doctors.

The Pictou County Health Authority is the first district to go live with the new Patient Access Registry Nova Scotia.

The registry will provide a better understanding of where more surgeries can be performed and where additional resources may be needed. As well, patients will know where they are in the queue, and when they are likely to receive their surgery.

“We are committed to reducing wait times,” said Health Minister Maureen MacDonald. “We’re confident that this registry will help us serve patients faster and make better decisions about where we put our health-care resources.”

Health districts have been collecting wait time statistics differently. The provincial registry will be a central database with standard methods of measuring and interpreting wait-time information. The Surgical Care Network is also working to identify and improve factors that can influence a patient’s wait for surgery.

The development of the provincial registry is being led by the Nova Scotia Surgical Care Network, a committee that includes chiefs of surgery and senior clinical leaders from all district health authorities and the IWK, and Department of Health representatives.

All district health authorities will be using the registry by July 2010.

Staff and surgeons have been working with the Department of Health to set up processes and systems to collect the necessary surgical information.

“We are pleased to support an initiative such as this,” said Dr. David Archibald, head of surgery for the Pictou County Health Authority. “This partnership will help us better understand patients’ wait times at both the local and provincial levels.”

The registry will provide surgeons, district health authorities and the Department of Health with the information needed to improve access to surgical services, and enhance communication to patients waiting for surgery.

The $11-million project is being cost-shared by the province, Health Canada and Canada Health Infoway.

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West Midlands: Rising Temperatures, Fewer Deaths

CLIMATE change in the West Midlands will likely lead to a drop in the region’s death rate, according to a new study.

Paul Fisher, an Environmental Public Health Scientist with the Health Protection Agency, has spent months analysing temperature, population, death rates and climate change projections for the West Midlands.

In a new study, focusing on the direct effects of temperature, he estimates that by the 2020s death rates in the region could drop by 0.3 per cent and in winter by 0.8 per cent in the summer – which combined should mean a fall in the total number of deaths in the West Midlands of about 255 a year.

The same calculations suggest that by 2080 the West Midlands will record 912 fewer deaths directly linked to temperature.

Scientists have long predicted that climate change will lead to a drop in UK death rates as winters get warmer and summers get hotter. The conclusions tie in with the Department of Health and Health Protection Agency’s 2008 climate change report.

The work is the first to specifically investigate the impact of climate change on the West Midlands’ death rates.

The study noted that in the West Midlands;

* Temperatures have been climbing quickly since 1960 and that there has been a continual fall in the number of days with a temperature below 0°C since the 1770s.

* According to the latest UK climate projections (UKCP09), between 1975 and 2004 average temperatures in the West Midlands have gone up, on average, 1.02°C in winter and 1.05° in summer.

* If industrial emissions are kept to a low level then average summer temperatures could be 0.4C higher in the 2020s than they were in 2004. If emissions are high than average summer temperatures would be 3.6C higher than the 2004 level by 2080.

The report suggests that health bodies could use the work to begin development of climate change linked public health surveillance systems as a changing climate could lead to more food poisoning, water-borne diseases, extreme weather events and changes to the quality of drinking water. If such problems were monitored it could be determined if climate change was a priority public health issue for the region.

It also concludes the work could aid understanding of the potential for impact of climate on sickness and death rates and in the development of regional health programmes to ensure climate change does not continue to affect the most vulnerable people in society.

Mr Fisher said: “This project only represents a rough estimate of the future changes in all-cause deaths due to the direct effects of temperature. This work looked at one element of climate change in a comparatively small, clearly defined, region. But as the issue is hugely complex it does not follow that the findings could be applied wider than for the West Midlands.

“It may appear on the surface that in the short term the health effects of climate change in Birmingham could have a beneficial effect – because of the anticipated drop in winter deaths.

“But it is not all good news as this study also found that the most deprived people in the West Midlands will be the most susceptible to climate change impacts, because of the location of many of these people in hotter city centres and the fact they have less opportunity to adapt their behaviours and lifestyles.

“Furthermore, work should be undertaken to study the wider impacts of climate change. The benefits of warmer winters could soon be outweighed by the impacts of stronger and more frequent extreme weather events, rising sea levels and the impacts on the global economy.”

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NYC Unveils Citywide Health Goals

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley today unveiled New York City’s ambitious new health policy – Take Care New York 2012 – outlining the City’s plan to improve the health of New Yorkers by targeting 10 leading causes of preventable sickness and death, including lung cancer, heart disease and HIV. Take Care New York 2012 follows the success of Take Care New York, and is part of the City’s overall strategic health agenda, which was launched in 2004.

Take Care New York identified 10 steps New Yorkers could take to live longer and healthier lives, and set citywide goals for 2008. Through the efforts of more than 400 City and community partners, Take Care New York helped to increase the number of New Yorkers with a regular primary care provider, decrease smoking rates across the city, increase the proportion of adults over age 50 getting checked for colorectal cancer, and decrease intimate-partner homicide. The Mayor and Dr. Farley were joined at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero, as well as Citizens’ Committee for Children Executive Director Jennifer March-Joly.

“The entire nation is focused on the health care debate in Washington right now, and one positive thing to come out of it so far is the attention it’s brought to prevention and the importance of high-quality primary care,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Those are exactly the areas that we have been focusing on in New York City, and the single best measure of our overall success is that between 2001 and 2006 life expectancy for New Yorkers increased by 50 percent more than it did in the U.S. as a whole. We’ve made some impressive progress over the past four years, but there’s a lot more to do, so we’re setting even more ambitious goals for the next four years.”

“Much progress has been made since Take Care New York began in 2004,” said Health Commissioner Farley. “Today we know more about the behaviors and conditions that affect public health and how different interventions can improve outcomes, and decrease illness. While New Yorkers are healthier today than they were in 2004, challenges remain. Injuries, illnesses and deaths from preventable causes persist, and some New York City neighborhoods have higher rates of sickness than others. Working together on the plans set out by Take Care New York 2012, we can make New York City an even better place to live.”

“The Bloomberg administration is a leader when it comes to creative collaboration and prevention as tools to address some of our City’s most intractable challenges like poverty, homelessness and public health disparities,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. “We are thankful to the many partners who are helping us to create a healthier New York City for all.”

Take Care New York 2012 differs from its predecessor because not only does it include what can be done by individuals, but it also provides ways in which community organizations, businesses, health care providers and government agencies can improve the city’s health. The 2012 policy also adds a new focus on children, acknowledging their unique health needs as well as the opportunity to promote life-long healthy behaviors. It emphasizes closing the health gap among New Yorkers of different races, ethnicities and income levels, and it addresses neighborhood conditions such as safe housing and access to nutritious, affordable foods.

The new policy uses a three-pronged approach that includes: 1) developing laws and regulations to improve environmental, economic and social conditions that affect health (2) emphasizing high-quality preventive health care with expanded access and (3) raising New Yorkers’ awareness of the best ways to improve their own health and the wellness of their communities. Here are the new plan’s 10 priorities for the city: (1) Promote quality health care for all; (2) Be tobacco free; (3) Promote physical activity and healthy eating; (4) Be heart healthy; (5) Stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; (6) Recognize and treat depression; (7) Reduce risky alcohol use and drug dependence; (8) Prevent and detect cancer; (9) Raise healthy children; and (10) Make all neighborhoods healthy places. The full action plan is available online at

Commissioners Sadik-Khan and Cestero both emphasized new opportunities for collaboration to improve neighborhood conditions that contribute to disease and sickness. Dr. March-Joly talked about the importance of a community-wide approach to ensuring that the city’s children live free of preventable illnesses such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes – diseases once thought to be restricted to adults.

“New York City is a walking town, and we’re designing our streets to make walking as safe and enjoyable as possible for all New Yorkers,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “You don’t need a gym membership to get the exercise you need. These days, we’re biking here too, with 200 new bike-lane miles to ride on. Here in New York, it’s easy to build fitness into your daily routine, and through Take Care New York 2012, we’re going to make it even easier.”

“Healthy lifestyles start in stable neighborhoods,” said HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero. “Take Care New York 2012 offers a unique and comprehensive plan that will build on our successes in improving the living environments of hardworking New Yorkers, regardless of income, throughout the city. By investing in neighborhoods and creating high quality, affordable homes, we are doing more than providing a place to live – we are helping to create a safe environment where these initiatives have the opportunity to succeed.”

“New York City is becoming a better and healthier place to raise children, thanks in large part to the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg, the City’s Health Department, and the partnering City agencies and organizations gathered here today,” said Citizens’ Committee for Children Executive Director Jennifer March-Joly. “We are very pleased that Take Care New York 2012 includes a strong focus on children and youth – as they are the future of our city.”

To help achieve the new goals, the Health Department is working collaboratively with City agencies on key action steps. For example, to help promote physical activity across the city, the Health Department is working with the New York City Departments of Design and Construction, Transportation and City Planning on improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, creating more green and active recreation spaces, and developing street designs and public buildings that are better adapted to walking, bicycling and everyday stair use.

To help make all neighborhoods healthy places to live, the Health Department is working with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to enforce regulations designed to prevent home hazards such as rodents and other pests, improperly installed window guards, lead paint, and missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Below are some of the specific actions the Health Department is pursuing to achieve the plan’s goals:

To promote quality health care for all, the Health Department is increasing the use of electronic health records to advance the quality of clinical services.

To stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the Health Department is improving access to HIV testing and condoms, and working to promote safer sexual behavior.

To reduce risky alcohol use and dependence, the Health Department is advocating for policies that reduce underage drinking and heavy drinking among youths and adults.

To improve heart health, the Health Department is collaborating with food industry leaders on a voluntary plan to reduce salt in processed foods.

To make New York City tobacco free, the Health Department is working to reduce the availability and social acceptance of tobacco and limit exposure to second-hand smoke. The Department is also expanding access to, and use of, smoking cessation services.

To measure the effectiveness of these action steps, the Health Department will monitor a set of indicators within each of the plan’s 10 priority areas. These include:

Reduce – by 17 percent – the rate at which New Yorkers are hospitalized for preventable causes.
Cut the smoking rate among New York City adults by 29 percent.

Lower the proportion of New York City adults who drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day by 20 percent.

Reduce premature deaths from major cardiovascular disease by 20 percent.

Increase – by 17 percent – the proportion of men who have sex with men (MSM) who report using a condom whenever they have anal sex.

Reduce – by 5 percent – the proportion of psychologically distressed adults who do not receive treatment.

Reduce – by 19 percent – the rate at which New Yorkers are hospitalized for problems attributable to alcohol.
Increase – by 30 percent – the proportion of New Yorkers 50 and older who have had a colonoscopy in the past 10 years.

Reduce the city’s teenage pregnancy rate by 16 percent.

Reduce, by 13 percent, the gap in housing quality between low-income and high-income neighborhoods

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Unexpected Power From Killer T Cells

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have found that killer T cells — the sentinels of the immune system – possess a hidden strength that may be used to improve vaccine design for tough-to-beat bugs, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

The new experiments show that killer T cells can attack bacteria that attach to the outside of cells. Prior to this work, immunologists thought that killer T cells only attacked cells that had been invaded by bacteria and other pathogens, said Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Ralph Isberg, who is at Tufts University.

“Killer T cell responses have long been associated with pathogens that grow within host cells,” says Isberg. “But we were surprised when we found that killer T cells were really important for protection against this extracellular bacterium.”

Isberg and colleagues found that these T cells are vital for clearing mice of infection with Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, a gut-invading bacterium that microbiologists often use to study the immune system. Y. pseudotuberculosis attaches itself to the outside of cells in the gut.

Molly Bergman, a postdoctoral fellow in Isberg’s laboratory, conducted most of the work on the study, which was published in PLoS Pathogens.

Bergman began the research by inoculating mice with a crippled strain of Y. pseudotuberculosis. The impaired pathogens in that inoculation acted as a vaccine, priming the animals’ immune systems to fight off infection when they were later injected with a fully active strain of the bacteria.

When Bergman examined the inoculated mice, she found high levels of anti-Yersinia antibodies – an expected finding. Antibodies and the cells that make them form one arm of the mammalian immune system, acting as a long-term memory that recognizes and tags pathogens that have previously infected the organism. However, Bergman also noticed an increase in the number of activated killer T cells in the inoculated animals. Killer T cells play a key role in the second arm of the immune system, known as cell-mediated immunity, by homing in on infected host cells that display fragments of a pathogen on their surface.

Next, Bergman injected crippled Y. pseudotuberculosis into mice lacking killer T cells. Even though these bacteria were not full-strength, they made the mice sick — spreading to the lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. The bacteria colonized the spleen or liver of all the modified mice, while only a few of the normal mice were infected. Eventually, all of the mice lacking killer T cells died, while all of the normal mice survived.

“It was a head-scratcher,” says Isberg. “You have these killer T cells that normally kill infected host cells, but now it looked like these same cells also protected against an extracellular pathogen. Nothing in the immunology literature could explain this.”

Bergman delved further to examine the role of a critical protein, called perforin, which is made by killer T cells. When a killer T cell encounters an infected host cell, it squirts perforin at the infected cell. Perforin penetrates the cellular membrane and opens a channel for destructive enzymes that eventually kill the cell. Like the killer-T -cell-deficient mice, mice lacking perforin succumbed to Y. pseudotuberculosis infection more frequently than normal mice. More perforin-deficient mice than normal mice died from infection. So perforin itself, not just the killer T cells that made it, was crucial in protecting against infection.

Bergman then conducted a series of tests in cell culture to study how the killer T cells were inhibiting infection. In these experiments, she found that after a killer T cell attacks a cell that is carrying Y. pseudotuberculosis, other immune system cells called macrophages engulf the dead cell and all the bacteria that live on its outer membrane. It’s as if the killer T cell indirectly tags the bacteria for destruction, Isberg explains.

“When this happens, the bacterium is no longer locked on the outside of a host cell, where it can replicate and continue to harm the host,” he says. “Instead, the host cell and all of those bacteria — the whole gemish — is now internalized in a macrophage, which digests all of it. What’s being recognized by the macrophage is not the bug itself but the dead host cell.”

Isberg calls this mechanism the “three cell model” of immune protection against extracellular pathogens. The first cell is the host cell that carries the bacteria. The second cell is the killer T cell, which kills the host cell. The third cell is the macrophage, which engulfs and digests the whole complex.

Because many tough-to-treat bacteria, such as S. aureus, are extracellular, Isberg sees important implications for vaccine development. “Now it looks like you might be able to stimulate the immune response in different ways, so you get a synergistic effect between cellular immunity and humoral immunity [antibodies],” he says. “That might be helpful for developing vaccines for extracellular pathogens in a way people hadn’t considered before.”

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New Condom That Breaks The Mold

Intellx introduces the SafeSexyShapes line of designer-condoms. Remarkably shaped condoms, including the look-alike Dolphin Condom and several more patented shapes … think phallic and/or fun. What condom designers could only dream of making before. The Dolphin has all the graceful curves of a real dolphin, plus the teasing, pleasing bottlenose.

Intellx’s SafeSexyShapes (SSS) is the world’s first condom line shaped like … things! Crazy shapes, yet functional protection, and meeting or surpassing all international condom regulations for condom efficacy. Why? Because new manufacturing techniques can make them.

CVS drugstores are the first major retailer to sell the Dolphin in the USA. Intellx President Brian Osterberg states, “CVS is the leader in offering the USA this milestone of innovation for safer-sex. We plan to expand the SSS line by adding great designs like ‘Home Run’ (Baseball Bat), ‘Bubbly’ (Champagne Flute), ‘The Mike’ (Microphone), ‘Bell Ringer’, etc., on a regular basis.”

State-of-the-art manufacturing techniques allow Intellx condoms to be made in all types of shapes, including a: beer glass, submarine, oak tree, hourglass, and the world’s first flat-top condom (without the usual nipple-end) YourTUBE, available now on-line at .

In 2002, Intellx Inc. introduced the still-#1 rated Inspiral condom with its revolutionary ’spiral tip’. The Dolphin is Intellx’s first ‘art-condom’, promoted with the tag line, “What ’shape’ are you in?”

Since its recent U.S. introduction, the Dolphin is enjoying the condom market waters the company says. Osterberg reports, “It’s doing rather swimmingly you could say, enjoying good sales and being tagged on the CVS shelves as a Hot New Item.”

All designs are exclusively offered by Intellx. Other condom distributors may license or buy select models of the Intellx designs.

Durex, a world-wide leading condom company, recently introduced a radically curved condom, the Pleasure Curve, shaped like a banana. Intellx U.S. Patent #6,983,751 discloses curved condoms. “Like our SafeSexyShapes line, the new artful condom shapes are definitely the new trend,” says Osterberg.

“Intellx has a leg-up on the condom market, and now with the Dolphin – – a fin too! Fun to look at, and even more fun to use, our shaped condoms help uplift the overall image of condoms like never before,” states Osterberg.

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Weight Loss Drug Hydroxycut Reformulated and on Shelves

Just four months after it was recalled from consumers’ shelves, the weight loss supplement Hydroxycut has been reformulated and returned to a store near you. The popular weight loss product was removed from the market because it was linked to serious liver damage and one death.

When Hydroxycut was pulled from the shelves in May 2009, the Food and Drug Administration had not identified which ingredient or ingredients in the weight losssupplement could have been responsible for the liver toxicity issues. In addition to the one death, six individuals were diagnosed with serious liver disease and two needed a liver transplant as a result.

According to ingredient labels from recalled Hydroxycut products, the weight loss product used to contain hydroxycitrate acid (touted as a carbohydrate blocker and which is extracted from tropical fruit), white tea extract, calcium, gymnema sylvestre (a tropical Indian herb), green tea extract, chromium, guarana, potassium, willow bark extract, and soy. The exact list of ingredients varied slightly depending on the product. Many of the weight loss supplements also contained caffeine.

The new Hydroxycut products offer consumers an entirely new list of ingredients, except for caffeine, which is the only substance that was carried over to the new product line. According to the Hydroxycut website, some of the ingredients found in the reformulated line (e.g., Hydroxycut Advanced, Hydroxycut Hardcore X,Hydroxycut Max Advanced) are vitamin C, goji berries, acerola, and blueberries, along with caffeine.

As they did before, the makers of Hydroxycut state that as one of the most popular dietary weight loss products in the United States, their supplements can help people lose up to 4.5 times more weight than diet and exercise alone (but people should also follow a low-calorie diet and regular exercise program to achieve this goal). Many of the country’s top retailers have put the weight loss product back on their shelves, where the manufacturers hope to exceed their 2008 sales of more than nine million units sold.

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More Mosquitoes Infected With West Nile Virus, EEE In Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced additional findings of West Nile Virus (WNV) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in multiplemosquito samples from various parts of the state. In the past week, WNV has been found in mosquito samples from Amesbury, Shrewsbury and Brookline, and EEE has been found in mosquito samples from Raynham and Sudbury.

There have only been 10 human cases of WNV in Massachusetts during the last five years. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. There was one human case of EEE during 2008; however there were 13 cases leading to six deaths from 2004 through 2006. EEE is a serious disease for people of all ages and can cause death. Both WNV and EEE are spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Positive mosquito results from 2009 can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

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Learn All About Sleep and Its Connection with Your Immune System

We live in a “sleep sick nation”, according to Dr. William C. Dement, MD. Dr. Dement is a sleep researcher who also calls this phenomenon a “hidden epidemic”. This hidden epidemic is a contributing factor to the rise in chronic disease and general bad health in the west, especially America. Over the last few decades, the relevance of sleep for a strong immune system has become more evident. It`s no wonder that a “sleep sick nation” manifests such a high medical bill. Fortunately, if understood better, sleep is something that can be dealt with directly and inexpensively for better health.

Quality Sleep Is Missing

According to the 2005 National Sleep Foundation`s Sleep in America Poll, the nightly hours are not so far off on average. Just under 7 hours weeknights and a half hour under 8 weekend nights looks pretty good on paper, compared to the recommended 8 hours nightly. Of course, it`s hard to tell how accurate the individual answers were.

But the same poll determined that 75% of Americans had trouble getting to sleep, problems staying asleep, and experienced daytime grogginess. Most of us are under the impression that close to 8 hours in bed is sufficient. Put in the hours and you`ll be fine is the general consensus. So what is missing from this picture?

Contrary to the 8 hours needed for sleep concept, there are those who claim you can do well on less than 8 hours nightly sleep, if the quality of sleep is good. And there are many who put in the hours but are still sleep deprived because of low quality or interrupted sleep cycles. There are two different natural cycles involving sleep. The outer cycles are apparent to most, but the inner stages are not as obvious. Both of them have an effect on our quality of sleep.

Circadian or Outer Cycles

Most are familiar with the circadian cycle of waking and sleeping. These are mostly externally influenced. Jet lag, night shift work, and arbitrary time changes are among the most obvious. But the slight changes of our body temperature, around 3 degrees F or 2 degrees C, have an immediate influence on our circadian cycles.

These changes do occur throughout the day, especially if we are physically active. In the early morning it is at its lowest. That`s when someone running a fever thinks he or she is well! Then there is a mild dip in the afternoon, that`s usually when many of us feel sluggish and should take a nap, but instead we have to go for that cup of java! At night the body temperature is at its highest, which is a signal for the body to go to sleep.

People who are sedentary and don`t compensate with some sort of regular exercise have the greatest risk of upsetting the body temperature`s circadian cycle. They may not experience the temperature change needed to doze off easily. This is why people who exercise tend to sleep better. All the circadian disruptions need to be dealt with accordingly, because they affect the inner stages of sleep itself.

There are 5 different inner stages of sleep that should recycle through every one to two hours. They do not, as commonly understood, move through 5 stages only once through the night. Two of those stages are vital for the physiological immune system directly, and one is a key to emotional health, which indirectly handles the stress that affects the immune system.

The Inner Sleep Stages Detailed

Brain waves have been a useful index for the scientific study of human activity and emotion since around 1950. While awake, the human brain experiences Beta waves, which are high in frequency but low in amplitude. They are also very irregular and vary according to the type of activities involved.

Stage 1 is the doorway to sleep. That`s when the Beta waves start giving in to Theta waves of slower speed and greater magnitude. There may be a brief period of Alpha waves that are characteristic of relaxation. But ultimately, the Theta waves kick in. This is the shortest stage, and is not repeated again unless one is awakened enough to start all over.

Stage 2 is longer than the short first stage. The Theta waves continue with the addition of Sleep Spindles, which have a higher frequency, and K-Complex waves that are greater in amplitude. These two variations pop in every minute or so, and they are all that distinguishes stage 2 from
stage 1. Both these stages are part of light sleep, when someone is easily awakened.

Stage 3 begins the deep sleep period when the immune system gets refreshed the most. The brain patterns switch to mostly Delta waves, which are by far the slowest and have the largest amplitude. Delta waves are experienced when one is totally unconscious. Stage 3 and 4 are both deep sleep Delta waves. The only difference is the percentage of Delta waves in each stage.

Stage 4 has over 50% Delta waves. In stage 3 it is under 50%. Delta brain waves release anti-aging hormones, heal the mind and repair muscles, while accessing the deepest possible states of relaxation. This is when the heart and breathing slow down and the blood vessels dilate to provide more nourishment to your cells.

Delta waves raise the amount of melatonin from the pituitary gland, which influences your endocrine system positively and even adds an intuitive dimension to one`s psyche. Delta waves also help reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol causes brain cell damage and speeds aging. It is a hormone that is released under stress and tends to overwork (fight or flight) the adrenal glands. And exhausted adrenals lead to serious health issues.

A study at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach, Florida consisted of observing the brain wave sleep patterns of 10 men who had tested positive for HIV but had no early signs of AIDS. The observation was that somehow these 10 men all spent 50% more time in Stage 3 and 4 sleep than most average healthy people. The indication is that the immune system can be strengthened enough in these two deep sleep stages, if long enough, to ward of AIDS in HIV positive people. The trick is figuring out how to manifest this level of sleep for Delta waves more!

Stage 5 is the notorious REM (rapid eye movement) stage. This stage exhibits a kaleidoscopic mix of unsynchronized alpha and beta waves, almost similar to the awakened state. This stage is where most of us do the heaviest dreaming. Many psychiatrists and psychologists posit that this is when the bits of energetic negative charge attached to waking life are resolved or disassembled. In other words, REM serves as a safety valve for releasing negative emotions.

One researcher at Florida State University is even doing a study on REM sleep disorders with suicidal and chronically depressed patients. Wonder how she`ll manage with all those meds they`re on! The attempt is to determine how sleep disorders engender suicidal tendencies, and which chemicals are out of balance that can be restored to resolve those tendencies.

Sleep Deprivation Remedies

The above stages cycle through every one to two hours in such a manner that the early cycle phases have the most stage 3 and 4 times (Delta deep sleep). Then as the sleep goes on, the REM cycles become longer. Stage 1 is not repeated unless one is awakened for a long enough time to require a new effort at getting to sleep. So any disruption of these stages recycling or even not occurring, especially the Delta stages and REM, has an adverse effect that is noticed immediately mentally and emotionally, and repeated enough even physiologically.

Trying to sleep with too much light inhibits the pineal gland`s melatonin production. A busy mind or too much caffeine that keeps you from falling asleep, restlessness that causes you to wake up, trips to the bathroom, anxiety or tension that doesn`t get resolved in REM, feeling tired after a “good night`s sleep” (hours quantity), staying up late with too much stimulation and getting up early, any form of sleep apnea, heavy snoring, and any manifestation of insomnia are all sleep disorders that are more than merely inconvenient. They are mental and physical health hazards.

The tendency to reach for prescription or over the counter drugs and even booze as remedies should be avoided, since these actually interfere with the 5 stages of sleep and how they recycle. There is a supplemental melatonin, which is actually sleep inducing. It is sold in health food stores and on line and in drug stores. It is considered safe for most who have sleep disorders.

However, if there is a chronic, serious health condition, one should consult a health practitioner first. It comes in capsule or tablet form, some are sub lingual. Sub lingual is the fastest acting, and can be plopped under your tongue as you hit the sack. Orally consumed capsules or tablets with water need to be taken around a half hour before going to bed. Melatonin should only be taken just before retiring.

The dosages are small, anywhere from 0.5 mg to 5 mg. Up to 20 mg daily dosage for several months has been used successfully for treating prostate and breast cancer. Most medical practitioners recommend synthetic melatonin because the natural supplements are derived from cow brains. Mad cow anyone? The sub lingual variety, since they are absorbed directly into the blood stream via the small lower mouth and under the tongue capillaries, usually require less dosage. If you wake up a little groggy, cut back a little on the dosage.

Proponents of melatonin praise its antioxidant properties as well as its ability to restore proper sleep cycles. In a California study, lab rats injected with melatonin lived 20% longer than those not injected. It is not addictive, so stopping its use when you don`t need it is easy. Most users have experienced immediate positive results. But it doesn`t work for everyone. Some people complain about vivid dreams, and others feel more wide awake after taking it!

An excellent time tested herb to help with sleep disorders is Valerian Root. It is often offered in extract or tincture form. It is actually sleep inducing, and there are no side effects. It is safe, but not as effective for everyone. Any extremely assailable form of magnesium, such as a powder that fizzes in water, taken before retiring has a soothing and relaxing effect that is almost sleep inducing. And you would be taking in a normally lacking mineral, which is essential to over 300 internal metabolic functions.

There are other herbs that are not sleep inducing, such as chamomile, that can be made into a tea. This type of herb works to relax tension and sooth some anxiety. But St.John`s Wort has the best reputation for resolving anxiety issues.

Then there are methods with yoga, tai-chi, and chi-gong to restore the proper flow of energy in and around the body known as Chi or Prana. These require some effort but have long term benefits for becoming relaxed and centered all the time. Everyone who practices Hatha Yoga, even those who don`t, need to pay careful attention to the corpse pose for ultimate relaxation. This is explained thoroughly here.…

Some mediators are able to go beyond the Alpha state into the Delta brain wave state while conscious. This is not so common, but may be worth the effort to pursue since there are benefits from meditating anyway. There are various “brain entrainment” devices on line that claim to induce Delta wave states. Just plug one in and put the headset on!

Know yourself and your situation well enough to determine which remedy or remedies to pursue. Sleep is a daily habit that will be around for some time. Might as well get the most out of it!


Fending Off AIDS With Deep Sleep…

Meletonin As a Greener Sleep Aid?…

Delta Brain Waves Information…

Melatonin Overview WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Ebook: Powerful Sleep, by Kacper Kotowski

Sleep and the Immune System
by J. Allan Hobson

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Weight Loss Drug Qnexa Performs Well in Trials

The weight loss drug class may soon have another member: Qnexa. The experimental drug displayed impressive results in its latest trials, as it is credited with helping obese individuals lose up to nearly 15 percent of their body weight without causing severe side effects often seen with other weight loss medications.

Drugs to treat obesity and overweight are among the most commonly used in the United States and around the globe. According to the 2008 report entitled “Booming Global Obesity Drug Market” from Reportlinker, while obesity is rising at a tremendous rate, the market for weight loss drugs has not met the challenge. Reasons include the failure of many drugs to get approved, a serious problem with side effects, and a lack of results from the weight loss drugs on the market.

The latest weight loss drug to vie for a potential market position is Qnexa. Results of recent trials have yet to be published and will be presented at medical conferences while they are also filed for marketing approval with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2009.

The makers of Qnexa, Vivus, reports that it has tested the drug in 3,754 obese adults and have not recorded any serious side effects. In one test, patients were given a low dose of the drug, and these subjects lost about 5 percent of their weight, or 18 pounds. Participants who were given a stronger dose had a weight loss of nearly 15 percent, or 37 pounds.

In another study, participants who took a stronger dose lost more than 13 percent of their body weight, or 30 pounds. The studies lasted 56 weeks, and all the participants were also on a low-calorie diet. In contrast with the Qnexa-treated participants, those who took a placebo saw a mere 2 percent weight loss.

Although the new weight loss drug did not cause any serious side effects, which is a problem with many of the weight loss drugs that have been brought to market over the years, some participants did experience dry mouth, altered taste, tingling sensations, constipation, and insomnia.

Qnexa is a combination of two drugs that have already been approved for market: phentermine, which is a commonly prescribed drug for weight loss; and topiramate, which is used to treat migraine and epilepsy. It has been formulated to be taken once daily.

The makers of Qnexa also report that subjects who took the weight loss drug experienced a lowering of their blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar levels. These indicators, along with being overweight, are risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Therefore along with the weight loss benefits, Qnexa could provide other health advantages.

New York Times, Sept. 9, 2009
Reportlinker report, “Booming Global Obesity Drug Market”
San Jose Mercury, Sept. 9, 2009
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2009

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Cinnamon is the Wonder Spice for Health and Wellbeing

Cinnamon is well known as the world’s oldest spice. It has a beautiful warm aroma that makes it an inviting ingredient to add to food. In the past Cinnamon was seen as an expensive luxury that was used as an aphrodisiac, and as it was more expensive to buy than silver, many people simply used it as currency. It is a wonder spice for health and wellbeing.

Apart from its amazing taste and aroma that made it so popular for cooking cinnamon was also used by many physicians to treat colds, coughing and sore throats. Burning Cinnamon in your household was thought to cleanse the air and the people within. Roman Emperor Nero took this literally and after he murdered his wife he ordered a year’s supply of cinnamon to be burnt to cleanse him of the crime.
While burning cinnamon may not actually be able to clean out your soul modern day research has found that this most ancient of spices is very good for your health.

Cinnamon And Diabetes

Studies in to the effects of cinnamon on people with diabetes are at this stage very minimal. But the extremely positive results have the medical community screaming for larger trials. In one study conducted in the Malmo University Hospital in Sweden, results showed that eating a meal laced with cinnamon actually lowered the food’s effects on the blood’s sugar levels. The test only included 14 people half of whom were given normal rice pudding while the other half had rice pudding with cinnamon. They repeated the test again at a later date and came up with the same results. The researchers led by Joanna Hlebowicz believe that cinnamon may slow down part of the digestion process giving the body more time to break up the carbohydrates, therefore lessening the post-meal blood-glucose concentration.

Cinnamon And Arthritis

Another test conducted in Copenhagen seems to have found that cinnamon mixed with honey can significantly reduce the pain associated with arthritis. The study was conducted on 200 arthritis suffers who were all given a honey and cinnamon mixture before they ate breakfast. All of the patients tested reported some improvement in their pain management while 73 of those seemed to be relieved of all pain within a month. The results have astounded the medical community and brought hope to the thousands of chronic arthritis sufferers in the world.

While these tests are by no means conclusive, anything that may produce a positive result in the battle against these diseases without any nasty side effects is definitely worth trying.………

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Vitamin D Helps Heart During Weight Loss

A daily vitamin D supplement of 83 micrograms (mcg) may enhance heart health during weight loss efforts, according to a new study by German scientists. The studyresults appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

People who are overweight or obese often have several risk markers for cardiovascular disease, including high levels of triglycerides, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha; a marker for inflammation), and parathyroid hormone. These and other markers join excessive body weight to increase the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event. Investigators were curious as to what impact the addition of vitamin D may have on heart health and weight loss efforts by overweight or obese individuals.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in the United States. According to the Vitamin D Council, the optimal blood levels of vitamin D are 50 to 80 ng/mL (or 125-200 nmol/L), yet approximately 50 percent of Americans have much lower levels, with a higher percentage seen among the elderly. Deficient levels of vitamin D are associated with heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, and therefore people who are overweight or obese and who are on a weight loss program could help their heart by taking vitamin D.

The current study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that included 200 healthy overweight individuals who had an average vitamin D level of 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL). The participants were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin D or placebo for one year. All the subjects also participated in a weight loss program.

At the end of the study, participants who had taken vitamin D showed an increase in blood levels of vitamin D of 55 nmol/L (22 ng/mL) compared with only 11.8 nmol/L(4.7 ng/mL) in the placebo group. Patients in the vitamin D group also had reductions in risk markers for cardiovascular disease: a 26.5 percent reduction in parathyroid hormone levels compared with 18.7 percent in the placebo group; a 13.5 percent decrease in triglycerides compared with 3.0 percent; and a 10.2 percent decline in TNF-alpha compared with 3.2 percent. All of these benefits were independent of weight loss.

Results of this study indicate that including a vitamin D supplement of 83 mcg daily can improve several risk markers for cardiovascular disease in overweight, vitamin D deficient individuals while they participate in a weight loss program. There is even some evidence, although not yet verified, that adding vitamin D to a reducedcalorie diet will improve weight loss efforts, according to study results presented at the Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting in June 2009.


Sibley S. Plasma Vitamin D: A Predictor of Subsequent Weight Loss Success. Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting
Vitamin D Council
Zittermann A et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009 May; 89:1321-27

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