Thursday, November 28, 2013

Weight loss surgery: do the benefits really outweigh the risks?

Posted by Neill Abayon

Obesity prevalence is the highest it has ever been. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more that one-third of American adults are affected. And with the increase in obesity comes an increase in the number of weight loss surgery procedures. But how safe are the procedures, and do the benefits outweigh the risks?

There is no doubt that obesity is a major cause of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.

The condition can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and it has also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer. A recent study reported by Medical News Today even suggested a link between obesity and pancreatic cancer.

Furthermore, the condition can severely damage a person's quality of life, leaving them immobile and often triggering depression.

Based on these factors, it is not difficult to understand why excessively overweight individuals look to various weight loss interventions in order to combat their obesity.

And weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is now one of the most common interventions to which obese individuals turn.

According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the number of surgical weight loss procedures carried out in the US has increased from 13,000 in 1998 to more than 200,000 in 2008.

More here.


Excessive alcohol consumption triggered by gene mutation

Posted by Neill Abayon

In a study involving mice, researchers have found a gene that regulates alcohol consumption. When this gene is faulty, the mice are prompted to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, suggesting a potential genetic component at play in human alcohol consumption.
The research was undertaken by researchers from five universities in the UK and was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust and the European Foundation for Alcohol Research (ERAB).
Results of the findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers observed that normal mice showed no interest in alcohol presented to them, choosing a bottle of water over a bottle of diluted alcohol.
But when mice with a mutated Gabrb1 gene were offered alcohol, they consistently opted for alcohol over water, consuming nearly 85% of their daily fluid intake as alcohol.
"It's amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviors like alcohol consumption," says Dr. Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and joint lead author.
More here.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

How torture affects pain perception

Everyone feels pain differently, but the expectation of something hurting may make the experience even more painful.
 Posted by Neill Abayon

Torture survivors are likely to experience chronic pain, even decades later. And now, researchers from Tel Aviv University say the effects of torture may be permanent, particularly in how survivors perceive pain.
If you have experienced extreme pain, the memory of it can linger. Studies have shown that the memory of pain may even overshadow the primary experience, and researchers have shown when pain is anticipated, patients report a worsening of pain.

Conversely, even the expectation of pain relief can produce a placebo effect, diminishing the experience of pain.

Researchers from Israel set out to study the long-term effects of torture on the human pain system, publishing their results in the European Journal of Pain. They claim that torture survivors "regulate pain in a dysfunctional way." 

More here.


Music training in childhood boosts the brain in adulthood

The effects of playing a musical instrument as a child may endure into adulthood, with musically trained adults processing sound more quickly than non-trained ones.
 Posted by Neill Abayon

If you have to endure hours of squeaky tunes while your child practices their music, take heart. A new study has shown that even a little musical training in early childhood has a lasting, positive effect on how the brain processes sound.

Researchers from Northwestern University state that playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain. But they questioned whether these changes continue after the music training stops.

For the study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers tested 44 adults, some of whom had previously had musical training and others with no training at all.

The musical groups began their training at around age 9, a common age for schools to start teaching music. The researchers tested the participants' brains to see how they responded to fast-changing sounds.

More here.