Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Most Important Factor in Teen Obesity

Posted by Neill Abayon

One crucial reason teenagers eat more burgers and fries than fruits and vegetables may be their parents.

Researchers have found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are in turn more likely to do the same.

Here are some findings from a recent study:

  • Teens whose parents drink soda every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink soda every day themselves
  • Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same
  • 48 percent of teens whose parents drink soda every day eat fast food at least once a day
  • 45 percent of teens whose parents do not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once a day

Educating parents about unhealthy food choices, as well as how to plan and prepare healthier fare, could help in reducing teen obesity.

Losing weight can cure obstructive sleep apnea in overweight patients

Posted by Neill Abayon

For sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a new study shows that losing weight is perhaps the single most effective way to reduce OSA symptoms and associated disorders, according to a new study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, one of the American Thoracic Society's three peer-reviewed journals.

Weight loss may not be a new miracle pill or a fancy high-tech treatment, but it is an exciting therapy for sufferers of OSA both because of its short- and long-term effectiveness and for its relatively modest price tag. Surgery doesn't last, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are only as effective as the patient's adherence, and most other devices have had disappointing outcomes, in addition to being expensive, unwieldy and having poor patient compliance. Furthermore, OSA is generally only treated when it has progressed to a moderate to severe state.

"Very low calorie diet (VLCD) combined with active lifestyle counseling resulting in marked weight reduction is a feasible and effective treatment for the majority of patients with mild OSA, and the achieved beneficial outcomes are maintained at 1-year follow-up," wrote Henri P.I. Tuomilehto, M.D., Ph.D., of the department of Otorhinolaryngology at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.

Read the full article here.

Hidden Phosphorus in Fast Food

Posted by Neill Abayon

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with advanced kidney disease are taught to avoid certain foods that are naturally high in the mineral phosphorus, which is difficult for their compromised kidneys to get rid of. But in a report published Wednesday, researchers warn that a fair amount of processed and fast food actually contains phosphorus additives, which can be just as harmful for people with advanced kidney disease.

Because high blood levels of phosphorus can lead to heart disease, bone disease, and even death among patients with advanced kidney disease, these patients must avoid certain meats, dairy products, whole grains, and nuts that are naturally high in phosphorus, the researchers note in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The problem, according to Dr. Ashwini R. Sehgal and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is that it has become an increasingly common practice by food manufacturers to include phosphate salts to processed foods.

Read the full article here.

Higher blood sugar levels linked to lower brain function in diabetics

Posted by Neill Abayon

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues show that cognitive functioning abilities drop as average blood sugar levels rise in people with type 2 diabetes.

The study appears in this month's issue of Diabetes Care.

The ongoing Memory in Diabetes (MIND) study, a sub-study of the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes Trial (ACCORD), found a statistically significant inverse relationship between A1C levels (average blood glucose levels over a period of two to three months) and subjects' scores on four cognitive tests. No association, however, was found between daily blood glucose levels (measured by the fasting plasma glucose test) and test scores.

For the study, researchers at 52 of the 77 ACCORD sites throughout the United States and Canada administered a 30-minute battery of cognitive tests to nearly 3,000 individuals ages 55 years and older.

"The tests used in the study measured several aspects of memory function," said Jeff Williamson, M.D., M.H.S., principal investigator for the study at the Wake Forest clinical site. "For example, we tested one's ability to switch back and forth between memory tasks or to 'multitask,' an important skill for people needing to manage their diabetes."

Read the full article here.

How to Make Decisions Under Pressure

Posted by Neill Abayon

You’re often forced to make your most important decisions under pressure. Whether that pressure is caused by a lack of time, emotional duress, or something else entirely, it’s hardly the best state in which to make reliable decisions.

You can never eliminate all the bias that comes from emotions and circumstances, but you can minimize that bias through the use of a reliable process and make the most of a bad situation. Here’s how:

1. Know the Situation

Knowledge is power. The better you understand the decision and all that it entails, the more likely you are to make a good decision. Study the relevant material until you’re intimate with it. Employ various research techniques. You want to know the big picture, and you want to know the fine print. Leave no stone unturned.

2. Know the Outcomes

There’s no way you can know the future, but the knowledge you have gathered will help you to get closer to it. Make the best prediction you can as to the outcome of the various options you have at your disposal. What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects?

3. Consult with the Objective

Talk to objective people (people who aren’t your friends) who are experts or knowledgeable in the area you need to make a decision in. Objective experts can look at your situation, and without emotional attachment to you, give advice on the best course of action.

4. Commit

If you’ve followed a sound process for determining the best course of action, and the advice you have obtained is sound advice, the best course of action should be clear by now. That doesn’t mean it’s the easiest course of action -- the best one rarely is the easiest. Be sure when you make your final decision, and commit to it. Start implementing it as soon as your situation allows, because once you’ve made the first steps it’s harder to fall back into indecision.

Unexplained chest pain can be due to stress

Posted by Neill Abayon

Each year, many people seek emergency treatment for unexplained chest pains. A thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, indicates several common factors among those affected, including stress at work, anxiety, depression and a sedentary lifestyle.

Chest pain is a common reason for patients to seek emergency treatment. A considerable number of patients are diagnosed with unexplained chest pain, which means that the pain cannot be linked to biomedical factors such as heart disease, or some other illness. The patient group is significant in size, with just over 20,000 patients seeking hospital treatment in 2006, and so far researchers have been unable to identify specific causes for unexplained chest pain.

"Many suffer from recurring bouts of pain over several years, while the healthcare services are unable to find out what's causing it," says Registered nurse Annika Janson Fagring, the author of the thesis.

In her thesis, Annika Janson Fagring describes and analyses symptoms among patients with unexplained chest pain. The results show that most of them are middle-aged, and that over a third of those affected were born outside Sweden. The chest pain had a negative impact on the patients' daily life in the form of tiredness, anxiety and fear of death.

Read the full article here.

Vigorous exercise may help prevent vision loss

Posted by Neill Abayon

Berkeley, CA -- There's another reason to dust off those running shoes. Vigorous exercise may help prevent vision loss, according to a pair of studies from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The studies tracked approximately 31,000 runners for more than seven years, and found that running reduced the risk of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

The research, which is among the first to suggest that vigorous exercise may help prevent vision loss, offers hope for people seeking to fend off the onset of eye disease.

"In addition to obtaining regular eye exams, people can take a more active role in preserving their vision," says Paul Williams, an epidemiologist in Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division who conducted the research. "The studies suggest that people can perhaps lessen their risk for these diseases by taking part in a fitness regimen that includes vigorous exercise."

Read the full article here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Exercise improves leg pain caused by arterial disease

Posted by Neill Abayon

OAK BROOK, Ill. – Patients with leg pain caused by arterial disease may be able to forego treatment of the affected artery by participating in hospital-supervised exercise, according to a new study published in the February issue of Radiology.

Intermittent claudication is a painful leg condition affecting some patients with peripheral arterial disease. Various treatments are available, including drug therapy or endovascular revascularization, a minimally invasive technique that widens and restores blood flow to the affected artery.

"The results from our clinical trial demonstrate that after six and 12 months, patients with intermittent claudication benefited equally from either revascularization or supervised exercise," said the study's lead author, Sandra Spronk, Ph.D., researcher in the Department of Epidemiology and Radiology at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands. "However, improvement is more immediate following revascularization."

For the study, 151 patients with intermittent claudication were randomly assigned to undergo revascularization or hospital-supervised exercise. Supervised exercise consisted of 30-minute, semi-weekly sessions of walking on a treadmill. Follow-up was performed after six and 12 months.

The patients who had undergone revascularization showed more immediate improvement. However, no significant differences were observed between the two groups after six months or 12 months with functional capacity and quality of life scores increasing for all patients.

"Revascularization is increasingly being performed as a first line of treatment," Dr. Spronk said. "This study emphasizes that all patients with intermittent claudication should initially be treated with exercise training, and that invasive procedures should be considered only if symptoms fail to improve."

Read the full article here.

Children Who Take Vitamins Often Don’t Need Them

Posted by Neill Abayon

Most children who take vitamins don’t really need them, and kids who eat poorly and are most likely to benefit from nutritional supplements rarely get them, a new study reports.The results surprised researchers, said lead author Dr. Ulfat Shaikh, a pediatrician at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine who treats children with nutritional problems.

“We hypothesized that people who use minerals and vitamin supplements might be using them to cushion the effects of poor nutrition,” she said. “We actually found the opposite.”

The children who used supplements the most were those who already drank a lot of milk, ate a lot of fiber and didn’t consume much fat or cholesterol, Dr. Shaikh said. They were healthier overall and tended to be white, have health insurance and come from upper-income families. They also tended to get a lot of exercise, weren’t overweight, considered themselves in good health and didn’t watch too much television or spend a lot of time playing video games.

The study was published in today’s issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Read the full article here.

Physically Fit Kids Do Better in School

Posted by Neill Abayon

A new study in the Journal of School Health found that physically fit kids scored better on standardized math and English tests than their less fit peers.

Researchers examined the relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement in a racially and economically diverse urban public school district of children enrolled in grades 4 – 8 during the 2004 – 2005 academic year.

Results of their study show that there is a significant relationship between students' academic achievement and physical fitness. The odds of passing both standardized math and English tests increased as the number of fitness tests passed increased, even when controlling for gender, race/ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

School time and resources are often diverted from Physical Education and opportunities for physical activity such as recess. However, this study shows that students who do well on fitness tests also do well on math and English standardized tests.

"For families and schools, these results suggest investments of time and resources in physical activity and fitness training may not detract from academic achievement in core subjects, and, may even be beneficial," the authors conclude.

Read the full article here.

How Many Apples Can You Count?

Posted by Neill Abayon

A teacher teaching math to seven-year-old Arnav asked him, "If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” Within a few seconds Arnav replied confidently, "Four!"

The dismayed teacher was expecting an effortless correct answer (three). She was disappointed. "Maybe the child did not listen properly," she thought. She repeated, "Arnav, listen carefully. If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?"

Arnav had seen the disappointment on his teacher's face. He calculated again on his fingers. But within him he was also searching for the answer that will make the teacher happy. His search for the answer was not for the correct one, but the one that will make his teacher happy. This time hesitatingly he replied, "Four ..."

Read the full article here.

Chemists Shed Light On Health Benefits Of Garlic

Posted by Neill Abayon

Researchers have widely believed that the organic compound, allicin – which gives garlic its aroma and flavour – acts as the world's most powerful antioxidant. But until now it hasn't been clear how allicin works, or how it stacks up compared to more common antioxidants such as Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, which stop the damaging effects of radicals.

"We didn't understand how garlic could contain such an efficient antioxidant, since it didn't have a substantial amount of the types of compounds usually responsible for high antioxidant activity in plants, such as the flavanoids found in green tea or grapes," says Chemistry professor Derek Pratt, who led the study. "If allicin was indeed responsible for this activity in garlic, we wanted to find out how it worked."

The research team questioned the ability of allicin to trap damaging radicals so effectively, and considered the possibility that a decomposition product of allicin may instead be responsible. Through experiments with synthetically-produced allicin, they found that an acid produced when the compound decomposes rapidly reacts with radicals.

Their findings are published in the January 2009 issue of the international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

Read the full article here.

Speed Reading Successfully

Posted by Neill Abayon

There are more books and other written works today than there have ever been before. It’s impossible to read everything ever written, but the number of words we’re expected to take in keep going up just the same. That means that speed reading is a good tool to have in your personal arsenal.

There are multiple methods for increasing your reading speed, and different approaches to reading have both benefits and drawbacks. In general, the methods that allow you to read faster don’t always provide for the same level of comprehension that slower reading allows. There are speed reading systems that claim they can get you up to reading 20,000 words per minute -- about 300 words per minute is typical for someone with no training -- but at best, that 20,000 words per minute allows only for skimming. More realistic speeds range from 600 to 2,000 words per minute.

No matter what approach a particular speed reading system takes, most start with eliminating bad reading practices such as:

  • Sounding out word out loud as you read (subvocalizing)
  • Re-scanning over passages already read
  • Moving your eyes across the page as you read
  • Using one reading speed for all reading material
Read the full article here.

Weight loss reduces incontinence for women

Posted by Neill Abayon

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Starting a weight-loss regimen significantly reduces urinary incontinence for women, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of California, San Francisco.

A six-month program of diet, exercise and behavior modification resulted in a loss of 17 pounds and nearly one-half (47 percent) fewer incontinence episodes per week on average, the study authors said.

By contrast, an information-only program on diet and exercise without any direct weight-loss training led to a loss of 3 pounds and 28 percent fewer incontinence episodes per week on average, the researchers said.

The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Earlier research has shown that behavioral weight-loss programs have many benefits, including decreasing blood pressure and helping to fight off diabetes. Here we've shown that weight loss has measurable impact on reduced incontinence," said Frank Franklin, M.D., Ph.D., a UAB professor in the School of Public Health and a co-author on the NEJM study.

Read the full article here.

Children with inflammatory bowel disease have surprisingly high folate levels, study finds

Posted by Neill Abayon

Children with newly diagnosed cases of inflammatory bowel disease have higher concentrations of folate in their blood than individuals without IBD, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and UC Berkeley. The findings bring into question the previously held theory that patients with IBD are prone to folate – also known as folic acid – deficiency.

"This is exciting work that opens the door to additional research into the role of folic acid and its genetic basis in the development of IBD, especially in young patients," said first author Melvin Heyman, MD, a professor of pediatrics, chief of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, and director of the Pediatric IBD Program at UCSF Children's Hospital.

Read the full article here.