Take the bat, leave the candy: The food environment of youth baseball

‘Take me out to the ballgame’ doesn’t exactly conjure up images of apple slices and kale chips. The more likely culprits include French fries, soda and the occasional box of Crackerjacks.Unfortunately for children who play youth baseball, eating unhealthy food during practices and games may be contributing to weight problems, according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study, published in the current online edition of Childhood Obesity, found that high-calorie snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks dominate the youth baseball scene.“Though youth sports are an excellent way to promote physical activity, social interaction and positive health behaviors, the food environments are often characterized by less healthy food options with high calorie contents and lower nutrient density,” said Joseph Skelton, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study.In this observational study, the research team conducted an environmental scan of foods consumed by players and family members during 12 games at a youth baseball field in northwest North Carolina. The players were boys 8 to 11 years old on six teams.The researchers found that most snacks were high-calorie food items, including French fries, candy and cookies and most beverages were sugar-sweetened. Nearly 90 percent of food and beverage items purchased were from the concession stand.“Team sports like baseball are still very important for children’s activity and development,” said Megan Irby, M.S, co-author and research program manager of Brenner FIT, a multidisciplinary pediatric obesity program at Wake Forest Baptist.“But as seen in this study, games and practices can be upwards of two to three nights a week, and many children participate on multiple sports teams each year. Parents should plan ahead for these busy times and even advocate in their local sports leagues for policies that address snacks and drinks.”This research was the first step in exploring the question of whether children and families attending youth sporting events may be increasing their risk for being overweight or obese as a result of chronic unhealthy food behaviors associated with sports participation, Skelton said. Contrary to the intent of youth sports, these findings indicate that children may be leaving the ball field having consumed more calories than they expended.“Despite the benefits of participating in sports, the increased exposure to unhealthy foods and disruption of meal times may increase children’s risk for poor nutritional habits that can contribute to weight management issues,” Skelton said.A limitation of the study was the ability to accurately document all foods consumed at the ballpark without being intrusive.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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New heart failure symptom: Shortness of breath while bending over

UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists have defined a novel heart failure symptom in advanced heart failure patients: shortness of breath while bending over, such as when putting on shoes.The condition, which UT Southwestern cardiologists named “bendopnea” (pronounced “bend-op-nee-ah”), is an easily detectable symptom that can help doctors diagnose excessive fluid retention in patients with heart failure, according to the findings published in a recent edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.”Some patients thought they were short of breath because they were out of shape or overweight, but we wondered if there was something more to it. So we developed this study to further investigate this symptom,” said Dr. Jennifer Thibodeau, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Cardiology.Dr. Thibodeau cautions that bendopnea is not a risk factor for heart failure, but rather a symptom that heart failure patients are becoming sicker and may need to have their medications or treatments adjusted.Bendopnea is a way for both doctors and patients to recognize something may be amiss with their current heart failure treatment. Patients should speak with their cardiologist or health care provider if they experience bendopnea, notes Dr. Thibodeau.Of the 5.7 million Americans living with heart failure, about 10 percent have advanced heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. The condition is considered advanced when conventional heart therapies and symptom management strategies no longer work.UT Southwestern doctors enrolled 102 patients who were referred to the cardiac catheterization lab for right heart catheterization and found that nearly one-third of the subjects had bendopnea.When the patients were lying flat, clinicians measured both the pressures within the heart as well as the cardiac output — how well the heart is pumping blood to the rest of the body — in all 102 patients. Then, they repeated these measurements in 65 patients after they were sitting in a chair for two minutes, and then bending over for one minute.”We discovered that patients with bendopnea had too much fluid in their bodies, causing elevated pressures, and when they bent forward, these pressures increased even more,” said Dr. Thibodeau, first author of the study.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Promising cervical cancer study: Combining drugs, chemo to extend life

Research on cervical cancer performed by a physician at the University of Arizona Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The multi-site research project by Bradley J. Monk, MD, is expected to change the standard of care for women with advanced cervical cancer.The featured research revealed that women with advanced cervical cancer live about four months longer with the combined use of bevacizumab (Avastin) and chemotherapy compared to chemotherapy alone. Women who combined bevacizumab with chemotherapy lived an average of 17 months after diagnosis, while those who received chemotherapy alone lived 13.3 months.”This research proves that there are new options for patients with metastatic cervical cancer,” says Dr. Monk, the project’s senior author. “I predict that adding bevacizumab to chemotherapy will become the new standard of care.” Dr. Monk is nationally recognized for his expertise in cervical cancer and chairs the Gynecologic Oncology Cervical Cancer Committee for the National Cancer Institute funded Gynecologic Oncology Group. Krishnansu S. Tewari, MD, at the University of California Irvine was the first author on the study published online February 20 in the Journal.The research was conducted between April 2009 and January 2012. …

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Silicone ear is ‘indistinguishable’ from real thing for man who lost ear to cancer

To look at Henry Fiorentini’s artificial right ear, you could never tell he lost his real ear to cancer.Loyola University Medical Center ear surgeon Sam Marzo, MD, fitted Fiorentini with a prosthetic ear that looks just like the real thing. Marzo implanted three small metal posts in the side of Fiorentini’s head. Each post is fitted with a magnet. The silicone prosthetic ear also is magnetized, so it sticks to the metal posts.But even more remarkable to Fiorentini is the delicate surgery Marzo performed to successfully remove the cancer, without harming the facial nerve. Other doctors had told Fiorentini it couldn’t be done.”Dr. Marzo saved my life,” said Fiorentini, 56. “I now have a long life ahead of me, free of significant disfiguration and recurrent cancer.”Fiorentini had basal cell skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. It’s slow-growing and usually easily treated. But in Fiorentini’s case, the cancer would become life-threatening.The cancer started behind his right ear. And despite multiple surgeries at other centers, the cancer persisted. …

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How to cope with football withdrawal symptoms after Superbowl ends

After the final play of the Super Bowl, millions of fans will go through withdrawal symptoms from not being able to watch football for months.Loyola University Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Angelos Halaris describes the effects this has on the brain and offers tips on how fans can cope.Halaris explains that when a person engages in a pleasurable activity, such as watching a football game, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called dopamine is released in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.When the pleasurable activity ends, the person is left with a feeling of deprivation. It’s similar to what a smoker feels when deprived of a cigarette — except there’s no quick fix like a cigarette for the football fan.”When the football season is over and there’s no other game on the schedule for months, you’re stuck, so you go through withdrawal,” Halaris said.For hard-core fans, the feeling can be similar to post-holiday blues, Halaris said.Halaris offers these tips for fans who suddenly have to face months without football:Don’t go cold turkey. Watch football on YouTube, or on recordings, in gradually diminishing amounts. Share your feelings of withdrawal and letdown with a friend or spouse. While it can be unpleasant, football withdrawal is not serious enough to require antidepressants or other medications. And do not self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Most important, buck up. “You’re just going to have to basically tough it out until football starts up again,” Halaris said. Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Loyola University Health System. …

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New pathway discovered in blood vessel inflammation and disease

Sep. 4, 2013 — Case Western Reserve researchers have identified a genetic factor that blocks the blood vessel inflammation that can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other potentially life-threatening events.The breakthrough involving Kruppel-like factor (KLF) 15 is the latest in a string of discoveries from the laboratory of professor of medicine Mukesh K. Jain, MD, FAHA, that involves a remarkable genetic family. Kruppel-like factors appear to play prominent roles in everything from cardiac health and obesity to metabolism and childhood muscular dystrophy.School of Medicine instructor Yuan Lu, MD, a member of Jain’s team, led the study involving KLF-15 and its role in inflammation, which appears online this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Lu and colleagues observed that KLF-15 blocks the function of a molecule called NF-kB, a dominant factor responsible for triggering inflammation.This finding reveals a new understanding of the origins of inflammation in vascular diseases, and may eventually lead to new, targeted treatment options.“It had been suspected that smooth muscle cells were related to inflammation, but it hadn’t been pinpointed and specifically linked to disease,” said Jain, Ellery Sedgwick Jr. Chair and director, Case Cardiovascular Research Institute at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. Jain also is chief research officer for the Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “This work provides cogent evidence that smooth muscle cells can initiate inflammation and thereby promote the development of vascular disease.”Smooth muscle cells are only one of two major cell types within blood vessels walls. The other cell type, endothelium, has traditionally taken the blame for inflammation, but Jain’s study suggests that both cells are critically important in the development of vascular disease.The researchers learned that expression of this factor appeared mainly in smooth muscle cells and that levels were markedly reduced in atherosclerotic human blood vessels. To establish causality, the team generated genetically-modified mice where they deleted KLF-15 gene in smooth muscle cells.“We expected to see more proliferation of the smooth muscle cells as this is a common response of this cell type in disease,” Lu said, first author on the paper. …

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Stressful life events significantly raise the risk of falls in older men

Sep. 3, 2013 — A study of around 5,000 older men has shown that stressful life events such as death of a loved one, or serious financial problems, significantly raised the risk of falls in the year following the incident. The research is published online today in the journal Age and Ageing.Dr Howard A. Fink of the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis and colleagues conducted a study of 5,994 community-dwelling men over the age of 65 who were enrolled in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) study in six locations across the United States. 5,125 participated in a second study visit and answered questions on stressful life events in the prior year. A further subset of 4,981 men reported complete data on falls for one year after the second visit.During the second visit, participants were asked their marital status, and if widowed, their spouse’s date of death. They were also asked to report occurrence of any of the following stressful life events: serious illness or accident of wife/partner; death of other close relative or close friend; separation from child, close friend, or other relative on whom the participant depended on for help; loss of pet; given up important hobby or interest; serious financial trouble; move or change in residence. Following the second visit, the participants were contacted every four months for one year regarding falls or fractures. Any fractures were confirmed by central review of radiography reports. Overall response rates exceeded 99%.Among the 4,981 men with complete stressful life event and falls data, 27.7% fell and 14.7% fell multiple times during the year after visit two. …

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Answering critical questions to respond to anthrax attack

Aug. 15, 2013 — If terrorists targeted the United States with an anthrax attack, health care providers and policy makers would need key information — such as knowing the likelihood of an individual becoming infected, how many cases to expect and in what pattern, and how long to give antibiotics — to protect people from the deadly bacteria.Those questions gained urgency when anthrax-laced letters killed five people and infected 17 others in the wake of the terror attacks of September 2001. Now, using information from prior animal studies and data from a deadly anthrax exposure accident in Russia in the late 1970s, University of Utah and George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center researchers have developed a mathematical model to help answer critical questions and guide the response to a large-scale anthrax exposure.In an Aug. 15, 2013, study in PLOS Pathogens online, the researchers use their model to estimate that for an individual to have a 50 percent chance of becoming infected with anthrax (known as ID50), he or she would have to inhale 11,000 spores of the bacteria. A 10 percent chance of being infected would require inhaling 1,700 spores and a 1 percent chance of infection would occur by inhaling 160 spores. The researchers also found that at ID50, the median time for anthrax symptoms to appear is 9.9 days and that the optimal time to take antibiotics is 60 days.”Anthrax is a well-studied disease and experimental animal data exist, but there is no real good information on dose response for the disease in humans,” says Adi V. Gundlapalli, M.D., Ph.D., an infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist, associate professor of internal medicine at the U of U School of Medicine and staff physician at the Salt Lake City George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “We don’t want to be overly fearful, but we need to be prepared in the event of a bioterrorism attack with anthrax.”Although studies with animals at other institutions have looked at anthrax, the data are limited and usually involved vaccine testing and not exposure amounts for infection. …

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Mechanisms of action for green tea extract in breast cancer prevention identified

Oct. 18, 2012 — An oral green tea extract, Polyphenon E, appears to inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor and hepatocyte growth factor, both of which promote tumor cell growth, migration and invasion.

Researchers made this discovery during a secondary analysis of a phase Ib randomized, placebo-controlled study of Polyphenon E in a group of 40 women with hormone receptor-negative breast cancer. Katherine D. Crew, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., presented the data at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 16-19, 2012.

“Many preclinical studies have looked at epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, which is one of the main components of green tea, and the various possible mechanisms of its action against cancer, but it is very difficult to do those same kinds of studies in humans,” Crew said. “This study was too small to say for sure if green tea will prevent breast cancer, but it may move us forward in terms of understanding antitumor mechanisms.”

In the primary analysis, presented at last year’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting, 40 women were randomly assigned to 400 mg, 600 mg or 800 mg of Polyphenon E or to placebo twice daily for six months. During that time, researchers collected blood and urine samples from participants at baseline and at two, four and six months.

In this secondary analysis, Crew and colleagues used the blood and urine samples to examine biologic endpoints, such as inflammatory proteins, growth factors and lipid biomarkers, which might point to the mechanism of action behind green tea extract. Biomarker data were available for 34 of the 40 patients.

Women assigned to the extract had an average 10-fold increase in green tea metabolites compared with placebo. In addition, they had a significant reduction in hepatocyte growth factor levels at two months compared with women assigned to placebo. However, at the four-month and six-month follow-ups, the difference was no longer statistically significant.

The researchers also identified a trend toward decreased total serum cholesterol and decreased vascular endothelial growth factor in women assigned to the extract.

According to Crew, it is still too early to recommend green tea extract to prevent breast cancer. Currently, researchers are conducting several ongoing studies to explore the use of oral green tea extract in high-risk women for the primary prevention of breast cancer.

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Neuroscientists explain how the sensation of brain freeze works

May 22, 2013 — Brain freeze is practically a rite of summer. It happens when you eat ice cream or gulp something ice cold too quickly. The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, but that’s a mouthful. Brain freeze is your body’s way of putting on the brakes, telling you to slow down and take it easy. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., explains how it works.

“Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well,” he said. “Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue — that’s why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn’t give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well.”

Here’s how it happens: When you slurp a really cold drink or eat ice cream too fast you are rapidly changing the temperature in the back of the throat at the juncture of the internal carotoid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts.

“One thing the brain doesn’t like is for things to change, and brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that,” Godwin said.

The brain can’t actually feel pain despite its billions of neurons, Godwin said, but the pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries and that’s the sensation that the brain is interpreting as pain.

Analyzing brain freeze may seem like silly science to some, but “it’s helpful in understanding other types of headaches,” Godwin said.

“We can’t easily give people migraines or a cluster headache, but we can easily induce brain freeze without any long-term problems,” he said. “We can learn something about headache mechanisms and extend that to our understanding to develop better treatments for patients.”

Is there a cure for brain freeze? Yes — stop drinking the icy cold beverage. You can also jam your tongue up to the roof of your mouth because it’s warm or drink something tepid to normalize the temperature in your mouth.

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