April 12, 2011
Betcha Can’t Eat Just One
A study of 16 healthy adults who ate pistachio nuts as part of a controlled diet found that fat in the nuts may not be completely absorbed by the body and, therefore, pistachios contain fewer calories per serving than thought. "Existing scientific research indicates that fat from nuts is poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract," said researcher David J. Baer, Agricultural Research Service. "This study confirms that the fat from pistachio nuts, specifically, is not completely digested or absorbed, resulting in a lower energy value." Plus, pistachios are a “mindful snack” when they have to be shelled first. The snacker has to slow down to shell the nuts, and leftover shells, unless they’re cleared immediately, are a reminder of how many nuts have been eaten.
As Early As Age Seven
About 15 percent of American girls begin puberty early, says a study of 1,239 girls. One in 10 white girls begins breast development by age 7 and 23 percent of black girls hit puberty by that age. On TV’s "The Early Show," CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an OB-GYN who specializes in adolescent care, said the reason for precocious puberty is unknown, although some point to obesity. "Body fat generates the hormone estrogen, partially," Ashton said. "Estrogen is part of the hormones that trigger puberty.” Early puberty is associated with health risks including an increased risk of breast and uterine cancers as well as psychological problems including low-self esteem, which may lead to depression. Early puberty is “not a trivial thing by any means," Ashton said.
Got a Lot of Ground to Cover
Texans want to get there faster, and lawmakers are trying to help by passing a bill allowing for an 85 mph speed limit on some highways. The state already has some of the highest speed limits in the U.S., says USA Today. The bill allowing for the 85 mph speed limit just passed in the state House last week, and the Senate is now considering it. Some insurance companies warn against the new speed limit, saying that it will cause big increases in severe injuries and deaths. The new speed limit would be the second-fastest in the world behind Poland's 86 mph limit, reports The Week.
Real or Fake?
Previous studies into emotional recognition have found that older adults generally lagged behind younger folk in recognizing differences in facial expressions. Researchers at the Emotion Laboratory at Brandeis University have found one notable exception. Older adults have a better ability to tell the difference between a sincere smile and a phony, posed smile. A “static” smile does not contain critical cues, such as the visibility of certain muscles around the corners of the mouth that are present in a genuine smile notes lead author Derek Isaccowitz. A true smile, clinically known as the Duchenne smile, also elicits wrinkling around the eyes. Studies like this are important in the understanding of nonverbal communication.
Antioxidants Lower Cholesterol
Three recent studies have found that tart cherries have a unique combination of antioxidant levels and anti-inflammatory benefits that may help reduce risk factors for heart disease. The research, presented at the Experimental Biology annual meeting in Washington, D.C., note that freeze-dried tart cherries have an ORAC over 10,000 and contain a diverse range of phytochemicals. Eight ounces of tart cherry juice daily for four weeks significantly lowered important inflammation markers in 10 overweight adults, and many also showed a lowering of triglyceride levels. Animal subjects that consumed tart cherry powder reduced levels of C-reactive protein and cholesterol and had a 65 percent reduction in early death.
Both Systolic and Diastolic
People who drank pomegranate juice daily, both before and after exercise, experienced reductions in blood pressure as well as improvements in markers associated with exercise-induced oxidative stress. Researcher Emad Al-Dujaili PhD of Queen Margaret University in Scotland conducted a study in which 20 participants were randomized to consume 500 mL of water or 500 mL pomegranate juice containing 1,685 mg of total phenolics per liter daily. The subjects then exercised for 30 minutes on a treadmill. Those drinking pomegranate juice had a significant decrease in both pre-exercise and post-exercise systolic BP after one week. Diastolic BP also decreased. The juice drinkers also experienced a reduction in the ration of cortisol to cortisone, suggesting lowered stress response.
No Link to Sunlight Exposure
A study examining the levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D and early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) found that women young than 75 with higher levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in adults in the developed world. Of the 1,313 women, those with the highest levels had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the disease that causes the degeneration of the macula. Women who were at least 75 with higher levels appeared to be at an increased risk. The biggest dietary sources of vitamin D came from milk, fish, fortified margarine and cereal. The length of sunlight exposure did not have any correlation to the AMD risk. About 8.5 million Americans aged 40 and older have AMD.
Could Fight Liver Metastasis
Researchers are using high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) to carry siRNAs that inhibit genes involved in cancer attacked ovarian cancer tumors in mice. RNA interference had great potential but delivery has been difficult because without nanoparticles, the siRNA gets degraded before it reaches the tumor In mice, this technique reduced tumor size and the quantity by 60 to 80 percent and adding it to chemotherapy further reduced it by 90 percent. Previous research showed that the SR-B1 receptor on cancer cells and liver take up HDL. Another advantage is that since the liver has these receptors, any cancers that metastasize there will be targeted as well. No adverse side effects were observed and the next experiments will focus on developing a nanoparticle that can be used in humans.
Vector Delivers Pain Relief
Using gene therapy, researchers successfully transferred the endogenous opioid peptide enkephalin in 10 patients with unmanageable pain using the vector NP2. Animal studies showed that the vector decreased pain so the 10 patients in this small trial had it injected into an area linked to where the pain was. A lower dose did not do much for pain relief, but a larger dose reduced pain by 80 percent for a month after treatment. NP2 is a modified herpes simplex virus-based vector. Since the herpes virus travels along the nerves, it's ideal for delivering and expressing genes such as enkephalin in the nervous system. The discovery represents a new technology called a nerve-targeting drug delivery system. The next step is to conduct clinical trials in which NP2 is compared to a placebo.
What You Can’t See You Can Get
People infected with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2), known as genital herpes who are asymptomatic may be just as contagious and as easily transmittable as if they were symptomatic according to new research. Five hundred people who had swabs taken every day for one to two months and researchers found that the virus was detected 20 percent of the time and 10 percent in people with symptoms and without symptoms, respectively. The majority of the estimated 536 million people with HSV2 do not even know they are infected with one of the top sexually transmitted diseases. There is a blood test that can detect HSV-2 but it is unavailable in over 70 percent of clinics that treat STDs. Condom use and drugs the decrease viral shedding can lower the risk by about 50 percent.
Addiction a Learning Disorder?
It’s well known that drinking too much alcohol makes it difficult to remember random facts but new research at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that it increases the ability to learn by increasing the ability to form new connections in a certain part of the brain. Alcohol allows the subconscious to remember the habits such as music, food they eat and the social circle linked to their drinking implying that drug and alcohol addiction may be a problem related to learning and memory. The subconscious learns to drink more because the things connected to alcohol release dopamine. Although seen more as a reward transmitter, dopamine is a learning transmitter and alcohol takes that system prisoner. Researchers hope this information helps them develop new ways to deal with addiction.
Other Cancers on the Rise
The CDC has release statistics showing that cancers related to AIDs have decreased in America. Some of the cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and invasive cervical cancer are part of that trend. From 1991 to 1995, there were 34,000 cases but that number went down to approximately 10,000 from 2001 to 2005. The antiretroviral therapy that helps the immune system fight infection is credited with most of the drop. Unfortunately all other cancers in HIV-positive people from about 3000 to about 10,000 during the time periods previously stated. Researchers believe the increases are related to the many factors that can increase cancer for anyone and the presence of an aging population regardless of HIV status.
Weight Loss Drugs a Risk
Researchers in Canada have observed a link between the weight loss drug Xenical and an increased risk of kidney injuries. Healthcare databases in Ontario showed that people who went to the hospital for kidney problems quadrupled from 0.5 before taking the drug to 2 percent after they started using it. Previous studies demonstrated that some people on Xenical experienced kidney problems but was not noted as a side effect of the drug. Researchers want to emphasize this is as an example of why weight loss drugs need to be given under the guidance of a doctor with whom the patient has a close relationship. All drugs have side effects and other measures such as healthy eating, exercising and lifestyle changes can prevent and treat obesity.
Your Virus Is My Virus
Countries are about to come to an agreement that will regulate the exchange of influenza viruses for access to vaccines. This was prompted by members of the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the emergence of the H5N1 bird flu in southeast Asia. Indonesia wanted to have some of the vaccines that were manufactured and withheld sample of virus samples as leverage. It was also a challenge to create an H1N1 flu vaccine and the first pandemic passed before it was readily available. Some in the WHO feel that pharmaceutical industry and regulators were to blame for the delayed distribution of the vaccine to poor countries. The two major goals of the agreement are to be able to respond faster to the next flu pandemic and making sure that all countries have access to the vaccine.
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