The ugly truth about summer allergies

As if a runny nose and red eyes weren’t enough to ruin your warm weather look, summer allergies can gift you with even more than you’ve bargained for this year. In fact, some unusual symptoms can leave you looking like you lost a round in a boxing ring.”Summer allergies can cause severe symptoms for some sufferers, and can be just as bad as the spring and fall seasons,” said allergist Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Symptoms aren’t always limited to the hallmark sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. Black eyes, lines across the nose and other cosmetic symptoms can occur.”Even if you’ve never before had allergies, they can suddenly strike at any age and time of year. You might want to consider visiting your board-certified allergist if these undesirable signs accompany your sniffle and sneeze.Allergic Shiner: Dark circles under the eyes which are due to swelling and discoloration from congestion of small blood vessels beneath the skin in the delicate eye area. Allergic (adenoidal) Face: Nasal allergies may promote swelling of the adenoids (lymph tissue that lines the back of the throat and extends behind the nose). This results in a tired and droopy appearance. Nasal Crease: This is a line which can appear across the bridge of the nose usually the result of rubbing the nose upward to relieve nasal congestion and itching. Mouth Breathing: Cases of allergic rhinitis in which severe nasal congestion occurs can result in chronic mouth breathing, associated with the development of a high, arched palate, an elevated upper lip, and an overbite. Teens with allergic rhinitis might need braces to correct dental issues. …

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Common blood thinner for pregnant women proven ineffective

It’s a daily injection to the belly for pregnant women at risk of developing blood clots and it’s ineffective, according to a clinical trial led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and published today by the medical journal The Lancet.As many as one in 10 pregnant women have a tendency to develop blood clots in their veins, a condition called thrombophilia. For two decades these women have often been prescribed the anticoagulant low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) to prevent pregnancy complications caused by placental blood clots. This treatment requires women to give themselves daily injections — a painful and demoralizing process that requires women to poke their abdomen with hundreds of needles over the course of their pregnancy.Now, a randomized clinical trial led by Dr. Marc Rodger, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute who heads up the Thrombosis Program of The Ottawa Hospital, provides conclusive evidence that the commonly prescribed LMWH anticoagulant has no positive benefits for the mother or child. In fact, Dr. Rodger’s study shows that LMWH treatments could actually cause pregnant women some minor harm by increasing bleeding, increasing their rates of induced labour and reducing their access to anesthesia during childbirth.”These results mean that many women around the world can save themselves a lot of unnecessary pain during pregnancy,” says Dr. Rodger, who is also a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. “Using low molecular weight heparin unnecessarily medicalizes a woman’s pregnancy and is costly.”Since the 1990s, using LMWH to treat pregnant women with a tendency to develop blood clots became commonplace, despite the fact that a large, multi-site randomized clinical trial had never been conducted to prove its effectiveness. Low molecular weight heparin is also prescribed by many physicians worldwide to women, with and without thrombophilia, to prevent placenta blood clots that may lead to pregnancy loss, as well as preeclampsia (high blood pressure), placental abruption (heavy bleeding) and intra-uterine growth restrictions (low birth weight babies). The anticoagulant LMWH is also prescribed to prevent deep vein thrombosis (leg vein blood clots) and pulmonary embolisms (lung blood clots).”While I wish we could have shown that LMWH prevents complications, we actually proved it doesn’t help,” adds Dr. …

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Improving understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry

A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components.”Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Assistant Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “However, the actual patterns and causes of variation of water quality in headwater streams are often unknown.””Understanding the chemistry of these streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help us protect aquatic ecosystems,” said Gene E. Likens, president emeritus and distinguished senior scientist emeritus with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Connecticut.Results of the study that used a new statistical tool to describe spatial patterns of water chemistry in stream networks are published in the April 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science by a team of ecosystem scientists, including McGuire and Likens.The data used in the new analysis consist of 664 water samples collected every 300 feet throughout all 32 tributaries of the 14-square-mile Hubbard Brook Valley in New Hampshire. The chemistry results were originally reported in 2006 in the journal Biogeochemistry by Likens and Donald C. Buso, manager of field research with the Cary Institute.McGuire and other members of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research team at the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study decided that the huge, high-resolution dataset was ideal for a new statistical approach that examines how water flows both within the stream network and across the landscape.”The goal was to visualize patterns that no one has been able to quantify before now and describe how they vary within headwater stream networks,” said McGuire. “Some chemical constituents vary at a fine scale, that is patterns of chemical change occur over very short distances, for example several hundred feet, but some constituents vary over much larger scales, for example miles. Several chemical constituents that we examined even varied at multiple scales suggesting that nested processes within streams and across the landscape influence the chemistry of stream networks.””The different spatial relationships permit the examination of patterns controlled by landscape versus stream network processes,” the article reports. Straight-line and unconnected network spatial relationships indicate landscape influences, such as soil, geology, and vegetation controls of water chemistry, for instance. In contrast, flow-connected relationships provide information on processes affected within the flowing streams.The researchers are very familiar with the Hubbard Brook Valley and could point to the varying influences of the geology and distinct soil types, including areas of shallow acidic organic-rich soils.The findings revealed by the analysis technique showed how chemistry patterns vary across landscapes with two scales of variation, one around 1,500 feet and another at about 4 miles. …

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Growth of breast lifts outpacing implants 2-to-1, stats show

New statistics released today by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) show that breast lift procedures are growing at twice the rate of breast implant surgeries. Since 2000, breast lifts have grown by 70 percent, outpacing implants two-to-one. Breast implants are still by far the most performed cosmetic surgery in women, but lifts are steadily gaining. In 2013, more than 90,000 breast lift procedures were performed by ASPS member surgeons.”Many women are looking for a youthful breast by using the tissue they already have,” said ASPS President Robert X. Murphy, Jr., MD.According to the new statistics, women between the ages of 30-54 made up nearly 70 percent of the breast lift procedures performed in 2013. “The breast lift procedure is way up in my practice,” said Anne Taylor, MD, an ASPS-member plastic surgeon in Columbus, Ohio. “More women are coming to us who’ve had children, whose breast volume has decreased and who are experiencing considerable sagging,” she said. “For many of them, we are able to get rid of excess skin and lift the breasts back up where they’re supposed to be.”Kim Beckman of Casstown, Ohio is one of the women who went to Dr. Taylor. “Childbirth, breastfeeding and aging takes a toll on the body,” she said. …

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Beauty FAQ: Common beauty questions answered

Learn more about Herbalife – Follow @Herbalife on Twitter- Like Herbalife on Facebook- What is Herbalife? More fitness advice – Watch ‘Fit Tips’ Videos on YouTube- Straightforward exercise advice- Get fit = be happy. Positivity advice Nutrition advice for you – Watch ‘Healthy Living’ on YouTube- Dieting advice you might like- Interesting weight loss articles Copyright © 2013 Herbalife International of America, Inc.

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The Dangerous Zohydro Hits the Market This Week

A few months ago, we wrote about Zohydro – the controversial painkiller approved by the FDA last October. Despite its controversy and attempts to block its release, the opiate hits the market this week. Health care and addiction recovery advocates are still pushing for an appeal, as they fear widespread abuse of the painkiller while opiate abuse has reached epidemic levels in the US.The controversy over Zohydro lies in the fact that it is a pure hydrocodone drug, without acetaminophen or other drugs added to it, making it 5 times stronger than other popularly abused opiates. In addition, it is crushable when most crushable painkillers were taken off the market a few years ago. Large scale efforts were made to remanufacture opiates like Percocet and OxyContin to …

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Sleep apnea may contribute to fatigue in multiple sclerosis: Study

A new study provides evidence that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is highly prevalent in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and it suggests that OSA may be a contributor to the fatigue that is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of MS.Results show that one-fifth of MS patients surveyed in a large tertiary MS practice carried a diagnosis of OSA, and more than half were found to have an elevated risk for OSA based on a validated screening tool. Further analysis showed that OSA risk was a significant predictor of fatigue severity, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, gender, body mass index (BMI), sleep duration and depression.”OSA may be a highly prevalent and yet under-recognized contributor to fatigue in persons with MS,” said lead author and principal investigator Tiffany J. Braley, MD, MS, an Assistant Professor of Neurology from the University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Centers in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Our study suggests that clinicians should have a low threshold to evaluate MS patients for underlying sleep disturbances.”The study results appear in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which is published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.”Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic illness that can have a destructive impact on your health and quality of life,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr. “People with multiple sclerosis who are found to have a high risk of OSA should be referred to a board certified sleep medicine physician for a comprehensive sleep evaluation.”Braley and her colleagues, Benjamin M. Segal, MD (Director of the University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis Center), and Ronald D. Chervin, MD, MS, (Director of the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center) studied 195 MS patients who completed a sleep questionnaire and four validated instruments designed to assess daytime sleepiness, fatigue severity, insomnia severity and OSA risk. …

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Survey: Americans struggle with science; respect scientists

While most Americans could be a bit more knowledgeable in the ways of science, a majority are interested in hearing about the latest scientific breakthroughs and think highly of scientists.This is according to a survey of more than 2,200 people conducted by the National Science Foundation, one that is conducted every two years and is part of a report — Science and Engineering Indicators — that the National Science Board provides to the president and Congress.A Michigan State University faculty member served as lead author for the chapter in the report that covers public perceptions of science. John Besley, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations, reviewed the data, as well as similar surveys from around the world, and highlighted key findings on Feb. 14 during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.According to the survey, more than 90 percent of Americans think scientists are “helping to solve challenging problems” and are “dedicated people who work for the good of humanity.””It’s important for Americans to maintain a high regard for science and scientists,” said Besley, who also is the Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations. “It can help ensure funding and help attract future scientists.”Unfortunately, Americans still have a tough time answering some basic science questions. Out of a total of nine questions that covered the physical and biological sciences, the average score was 6.5 correct answers.For example, only 74 percent of those queried knew that Earth revolved around the sun, while fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.Some of the other highlights of the survey include:A majority of Americans — more than 90 percent — say they are “very interested” or “moderately interested” in learning about new medical discoveries. The United States appears to be relatively strong in the use of what’s known as “informal science education.” Nearly 60 percent of Americans have visited a zoo/aquarium, natural history museum or a science and technology museum. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed think the benefits of science outweigh any potential dangers. About a third of the respondents think science and technology should get more funding. Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. …

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Madagascar sells first forest carbon credits to Microsoft

The Government of Madagascar has approved carbon sales with Microsoft and its carbon offset partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich. The carbon credit sales will support the Government of Madagascar’s REDD+ Project (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation “plus” conservation) in the Makira Natural Park and mark the first sale of government-owned REDD+ credits in Africa.Through carbon credit sales from avoided deforestation, the Makira REDD+ Project will finance the long-term conservation of one of Madagascar’s most pristine remaining rainforest ecosystems harboring rare and threatened plants and animals while improving community land stewardship and supporting the livelihoods of the local people.Through a unique funding distribution mechanism designed by WCS and the Government of Madagascar, the funds from carbon sales will be used by the Government of Madagascar for conservation, capacity building, and enforcement activities, and by WCS to manage the Makira Natural Park. The largest share of the sale — half of the proceeds — will go to supporting local communities in the areas surrounding Makira for education, human health and other beneficial projects.”The Government of Madagascar is thrilled to have played the role of pioneer in carbon sales in Africa. Makira is a highly valued part of our natural heritage and the revenues from this sale will not only protect this oustanding area, but represent an important step in our plan to develop sustainable sources of financing for the whole protected area network. We hope that other organizations will follow the lead of Microsoft, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich and join us in this effort to conserve Madagascar’s unique biodiversity through the sale of future carbon credits,” said Pierre Manganirina Randrianarisoa the Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.Said WCS President and CEO Cristin Samper “These sales represent a first for WCS, a first for Africa, and a first for Madagascar in advancing the use of carbon credits to fight climate change while protecting biodiversity and human livelihoods. We are thankful to Microsoft, The CarbonNeutral Company and Zoo Zurich, and we look forward to future purchases by other forward-thinking organizations.”Said Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft: “Supporting forest conservation and community building projects like Makira is an important part of Microsoft’s strategy to reduce its environmental impact, support sustainable economic growth, improve health and education, and address societal challenges. The project’s important role in protecting a crucial area of biodiversity value also aligns with Microsoft’s own focus on using technology, information and research to develop new approaches and solutions to sustainability.”Said Jonathan Shopley, Managing Director of The CarbonNeutral Company: “Increasingly our clients are looking for opportunities to manage the entire environmental impact of their organisation, driven by the need to build resilience in their supply chains. The Makira project enables clients to do this by selling carbon credits while also delivering biodiversity value and community support.”Makira contains an estimated one percent of the world’s biodiversity including 20 lemur species, hundreds of species of birds, and thousands of plant varieties, including many found nowhere else on earth. The Makira forest spans nearly 400,000 hectares (more than 1,500 square miles), making it one of the largest remaining intact blocks of rainforest in Madagascar. In addition, Makira’s forests serve as a zone of watershed protection, providing clean water to over 250,000 people in the surrounding landscape.WCS, which has worked in Makira since 2003, is the delegated manager of the park and is responsible for implementing the REDD+ project that aims to safeguard the Makira Natural Park, one of Madagascar’s largest protected areas.Last September the Government of Madagascar and WCS announced that 710,588 carbon credits had been certified for sale from the Makira Forest REDD+ Project. …

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Thinking skills take biggest hit from anxiety in midlife women with HIV

Hot flashes, depression, and most of all, anxiety, affect the thinking skills of midlife women with HIV, so screening for and treating their anxiety may be especially important in helping them function, according to a study just published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). The reproductive stage, whether it was premenopause, perimenopause or postmenopause, did not seem to be related to these women’s thinking skills.The conclusions come from a new analysis of data on 708 HIV-infected and 278 HIV-uninfected midlife women from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WHIS), a national study of women with HIV at six sites across the country (Chicago, Bronx, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC). Today, nearly 52% of persons with HIV/AIDS are 40 to 54 years old. Because more women with HIV are now living to midlife and beyond, it is important to understand what challenges menopause pose for them. We learned just recently, from a study published online in Menopause in July, that women with HIV do face a bigger menopause challenge than uninfected women because they have worse menopause symptoms.Whether, how, and when the process of transitioning through menopause affects cognition have been debated. Large-scale studies of healthy women indicate that the menopause-related thinking deficiencies are modest, limited to the time leading up to menopause (“perimenopause”), and rebound after menopause. But in these women who underwent mental skills testing, menopause symptoms and mood symptoms did affect thinking skills.Mental processing speed and verbal memory were more related to depression, anxiety, and hot flashes in both HIV-infected and healthy women than the stage of menopause. Hot flashes in particular correlated with slightly lower mental processing speed, a skill that is also affected by the HIV virus. Depression correlated with decreased verbal memory, processing speed, and executive function (such as planning and organizing).Of all the symptoms measured, anxiety stood out as having the greatest impact on thinking skills, and the impact was much greater on women with HIV. Anxiety particularly affected their verbal learning skills. …

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In the Brain: Number of neurons in a network may not matter

Last spring, President Obama established the federal BRAIN Initiative to give scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action.To do so, the initiative’s architects envision simultaneously recording the activity of complete neural networks that consist of thousands or even millions of neurons. However, a new study indicates that it may be possible to accurately characterize these networks by recording the activity of properly selected samples of 50 neurons or less — an alternative that is much easier to realize.The study was performed by a team of cognitive neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University and reported in a paper published the week of Feb. 3 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The paper describes the results of an ambitious computer simulation that the team designed to understand the behavior of the networks of hundreds of thousands of neurons that initiate different body movements: specifically, how the neurons are coordinated to trigger a movement at a particular point in time, called the response time.The researchers were surprised to discover that the range of response times produced by the simulated population of neurons did not change with size: A network of 50 simulated neurons responded with the same speed as a network with 1,000 neurons.For decades, response time has been a core measurement in psychology. “Psychologists have developed powerful models of human responses that explain the variation of response time based on the concept of single accumulators,” said Centennial Professor of Psychology Gordon Logan. In this model, the brain acts as an accumulator that integrates incoming information related to a given task and produces a movement when the amount of information reaches a preset threshold. The model explains random variations in response times by how quickly the brain accumulates the information it needs to act.Meanwhile, neuroscientists have related response time to measurements of single neurons. “Twenty years ago we discovered that the activity of particular neurons resembles the accumulators of psychology models. We haven’t understood until now how large numbers of these neurons can act collectively to initiate movements,” said Ingram Professor of Neuroscience Jeffrey Schall.No one really knows the size of the neural networks involved in initiating movements, but researchers estimated that about 100,000 neurons are involved in launching a simple eye movement.”One of the main questions we addressed is how ensembles of 100,000 neuron accumulators can produce behavior that is also explained by a single accumulator,” Schall said.”The way that the response time of these ensembles varies with ensemble size clearly depends on the ‘stopping rules’ that they follow,” explained co-author Thomas Palmeri, associate professor of psychology. For example, if an ensemble doesn’t respond until all of its member neurons have accumulated enough activity, then its response time would be slower for larger networks. On the other hand, if the response time is determined by the first neurons that react, then the response time in larger networks would be shorter than those of smaller networks.Another important factor is the degree to which the ensemble is coordinated. …

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New links found between sleep duration, depression

A genetic study of adult twins and a community-based study of adolescents both report novel links between sleep duration and depression. The studies are published in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.”Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr. “This new research emphasizes that we can make an investment in our health by prioritizing sleep.”A study of 1,788 adult twins is the first to demonstrate a gene by environment interaction between self-reported habitual sleep duration and depressive symptoms. Results suggest that sleep durations outside the normal range increase the genetic risk for depressive symptoms. Among twins with a normal sleep duration of seven to 8.9 hours per night, the total heritability of depressive symptoms was 27 percent. However, the genetic influence on depressive symptoms increased to 53 percent among twins with a short sleep duration of five hours per night and 49 percent among those who reported sleeping 10 hours per night.”We were surprised that the heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with very short sleep was nearly twice the heritability in twins sleeping normal amounts of time,” said principal investigator Dr. Nathaniel Watson, associate professor of neurology and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle, Wash. …

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Concerned about the health risk of soda?

Last week, Consumer Reports released a study on the levels of a caramel coloring agent known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in many popular, carbonated beverages. The report used phrases such as “health risk” and “potential carcinogen,” leaving many wondering whether their favorite sodas should be discarded because of a cancer risk. This is a question that toxicologists can help answer.”Our work as toxicologists is to help conduct and interpret the findings of a variety of studies that evaluate the potential hazard of natural products, environmental chemicals, and drugs to provide people with the information necessary to make informed, personal decisions,” says Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman, PhD, ATS, 2013-2014 President of the Society of Toxicology.There have been many toxicological studies of 4-MEI over the years, but focusing on the study conducted by the National Toxicology Program cited in the Consumer Reports article, there are some significant details of how the study was conducted that are important toxicologically and for understanding the results.4-MEI was administered to both mice and rats over their two-year lives through their food, so the exposure to the chemical was oral or the same as exposure would be in humans by drinking carbonated beverages. Different levels, or doses, of 4-MEI were tested. A basic tenant of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. The level at which exposure occurs is crucial to understanding if a chemical poses a risk to health. Likewise, the greater the dose, the greater or more likely the adverse affect. The rats in the study exposed to only the highest doses of 4-MEI (not the minimal or moderate doses) experienced a higher incidence of leukemia than the control group. The mice, though, showed no such result. …

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FDA Issues Approval for Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Potential New Mesothelioma Treatment

The FDA has issued approval for biopharmaceutical company Verastem to begin a Phase 2 clinical study of a new drug for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. VS-6063 is an orally available, small molecule inhibitor of a crucial signaling pathway inside stem cells called the Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) pathway.FAK is vital for tumor development and is critical for the survival of cancer stem cells. VS-6063 was well-tolerated in a Phase 1 study and demonstrated signs of clinical activity in advanced solid tumors.Dr. Dean Fennell, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology at the University of Leicester, incoming President of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) and a member of the Verastem Mesothelioma Steering Committee, presented promising data at a briefing session on VS-6063 at the annual American …

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New study finds spike in sugary drink consumption among California adolescents

Oct. 18, 2013 — While consumption of soda and other sugary drinks among young children in California is starting to decline, a new study released today shows an alarming 8 percent spike among adolescents, the biggest consumers of these beverages.Based on interviews with more than 40,000 California households conducted by the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the study, “Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages,” provides a comprehensive look at youth (2- to 17-year-olds) consumption of sugary drinks, charting consumption patterns from 2005-07 to 2011-12.The study, which also provides county-by-county youth consumption rates, was produced collaboratively by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.The most encouraging finding was the dramatic drop in the proportion of young children drinking sugary beverages daily over the seven-year period. Only 19 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds drink a sugary beverage daily, a 30 percent decline from the 2005-07 reporting period. Among 6- to 11-year-olds, 32 percent were daily consumers in 2011-12, representing a 26 percent drop since 2005-07.Of greatest concern, however, is the significant rise among the biggest consumers of sugary drinks — adolescents (12- to 17-year-olds). Today, a full 65 percent of California adolescents drink sugary beverages daily, an 8 percent climb since 2005-07. And while the study’s authors point out that roughly the same proportion of these youth are drinking soda, 23 percent more are consuming energy and sports drinks every day.”California has made real progress in reducing the consumption of sugary beverages among young children,” said Dr. Susan Babey, the report’s lead author. “But teens are in trouble. Soda or sports drinks should be an occasional treat, not a daily habit. If this trend isn’t reversed, there may be costly consequences for teens, their families and the health care system in the form of increased obesity and diabetes.”Although the study does not directly examine the causes for the sugary spike among teens, Dr. …

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Bacteria-eating viruses ‘magic bullets in the war on superbugs’

Oct. 16, 2013 — A specialist team of scientists from the University of Leicester has isolated viruses that eat bacteria — called phages — to specifically target the highly infectious hospital superbug Clostridium difficile (C. diff).Now an exciting new collaboration between the University of Leicester, the University of Glasgow and AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation could lead to the use of bacteriophages for treating the superbug Clostridium difficile infections.Dr Martha Clokie, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation has been investigating an alternative approach to antibiotics, which utilizes naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages, meaning ‘eaters of bacteria’.The work has predominantly been funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).Dr Clokie said: “Ever since the discovery of the first antibiotic, penicillin, antibiotics have been heralded as the ‘silver bullets’ of medicine. They have saved countless lives and impacted on the well-being of humanity.”But less than a century following their discovery, the future impact of antibiotics is dwindling at a pace that no one anticipated, with more and more bacteria out-smarting and ‘out-evolving’ these miracle drugs. This has re-energised the search for new treatments.”One alternative to antibiotics is bacteriophages, known as phages, which unlike antibiotics, are specific in what they kill and will generally only infect one particular species, or even strain, of bacteria — referred to as the ‘host’. Following attachment to their hosts, they inject their DNA into the bacterium, which then replicates many times over, ultimately causing the bacterial cell to burst open. The phages released from the dead bacterium can then infect other host cells.”Dr. Clokie and her team have achieved the remarkable feat of isolating and characterising the largest known set of distinct C. diff phages that infect clinically relevant strains of C. diff. …

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The Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 – Yet Another Obstacle to Banning Asbestos in the U.S

TheChemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009)(CSIA) is a bill currently before congress. The legislation is designed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. Many public health advocates who support TSCA reform do not support the CSIA as it is currently written, believing that the chemical industry is behind the draft legislation.On July 31, 2013, Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, and a long-time leader in the effort to ban asbestos in the U.S., testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPWC) at a hearing in support of TSCA reform. According to Ms. Reinstein, the CSIA as currently drafted would do more harm to public health and the environment than good. As detailed in the ADAO position paper, the …

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T-rays offer potential for earlier diagnosis of melanoma

Sep. 11, 2013 — The technology that peeks underneath clothing at airport security screening check points has great potential for looking underneath human skin to diagnose cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages, scientists say.Anis Rahman, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic, explained that malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, starts in pigment-producing cells located in the deepest part of the epidermis. That’s the outer layer of the skin. Biochemical changes that are hallmarks of cancer occur in the melanocytes long before mole-like melanomas appear on the skin.”Terahertz radiation is ideal for looking beneath the skin and detecting early signs of melanoma,” Rahman said. “T-rays are different from X-rays, which are ‘ionizing’ radiation that can cause damage. T-rays are a form of ‘non-ionizing’ radiation, like ordinary visible light, but they can be focused harmlessly below into the body and capture biochemical signatures of events like the start of cancer.”T-rays occupy a niche in the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, which includes X-rays and visible light, between microwaves like those used in kitchen ovens and the infrared rays used in TV remote controls. One of the advantages of T-rays is that they penetrate only a few millimeters through cloth, skin and other non-metallic material. Ten sheets of printer paper would be about 1 millimeter thick. This key characteristic has led to their use in quality control in the pharmaceutical industry to check the surface integrity of pills and capsules, in homeland security to remotely frisk underneath clothes, and as a non-destructive way of probing beneath the top layers of famous paintings and other culturally significant artwork.Rahman, president and chief technology officer of Applied Research & Photonics in Harrisburg, Pa., said that medical imaging is one of their newest and most promising potential uses. He described research focusing T-rays through donated samples of human skin that suggest the technology could be valuable in diagnosing melanoma.In addition to developing T-rays for cancer diagnostics, Rahman’s team has successfully harnessed them to measure the real-time absorption rates and penetration in the outer layer of skin of topically applied drugs and shampoo — measurements that until now had not been possible.Other wide-ranging applications include the detection of early stages of tooth decay, trace pesticides on produce, flaws in pharmaceutical tablet coatings, and concealed weapons under clothing, as well as testing the effectiveness of skin cosmetics. …

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Medicaid pays for nearly half of all births in the United States

Sep. 3, 2013 — Medicaid paid for nearly half of the 3.8 million births in the United States in 2010—an amount that has been rising over time, according to a report out today. The study, published in the September 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Women’s Health Issues, offers the most comprehensive information to date on Medicaid financing of births in each of the 50 states and nationally.The new data will help researchers gauge the impact of health reform on maternal and child health, the authors say. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some states are expanding Medicaid and the expansion may lead to improved coverage of well-woman and maternity care—and perhaps result in better health outcomes, said lead author of the study Anne Markus, JD, PhD, MHS, an associate professor of health policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS).“As states expand coverage, low-income women of childbearing age will be able to obtain more continuous coverage before and between pregnancies,” said Markus. “Now, for the first time, researchers will have a comprehensive baseline that will help them determine how increased access to services might change pregnancies and ultimately birth outcomes.”Previously, data on Medicaid funding of births either did not exist in a comprehensive form or were not reliable. Markus and a team that included researchers from the March of Dimes set out to change that by collecting all such data on Medicaid births from individual states from 2008 to 2010.They discovered that in 2010 Medicaid paid for 48 percent of all births in the United States, up from 40 percent of Medicaid covered births in 2008. That represents a 19 percent increase in the proportion of all births financed by Medicaid and a 5 percent increase in the total number of Medicaid-financed births in just two years. The authors found that the number of Medicaid-financed births increased by 90,000 over the course of the study.The hope is that researchers will be able to use such data to determine whether rates of Medicaid financing of births change in the coming years and whether there is a connection between Medicaid coverage and health outcomes. For example, future studies would be able to examine whether expanding Medicaid coverage before and between pregnancies leads to fewer complicated pregnancies and more healthy, full-term babies.“About half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States every year,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. …

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Surprising result: Risk factors for cardiovascular problems found to be inverse to disease and deaths

Sep. 2, 2013 — Despite living with the highest risk factors for heart disease, people in high income countries suffer less from serious cardiovascular disease, says an international study by the global PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology ) collaboration and led by McMaster University researchers.At the same time, the study found that people in low income countries, although living with fewer risk factors for heart disease, have a higher incidence of serious cardiovascular disease including death.”These findings were a total surprise,” says Dr. Salim Yusuf, lead author of the study being presented to the European Society of Cardiology today. Yusuf is also a professor of medicine of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, vice president of research at the Hamilton Health Sciences and director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI).The study followed 155,000 people from 628 urban and rural communities in 17 countries over four continents for nearly four years.The international research team found risk factors for cardiovascular disease was lowest in low income countries, intermediate in middle income countries and highest in high income countries. However, the incidence of serious cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and deaths followed the opposite pattern: highest in the low income countries, intermediate in middle income countries and lowest in high income countries. Hospitalizations for less severe cardiovascular diseases were highest in the high income countries.”These results in the high income countries are likely due to earlier detection of disease, better hospital management of the disease and better prevention after an event,” said Yusuf. “While efforts to reduce the risk factors need to be pursued, there should be a major additional focus on strengthening health care systems.”Co-author Dr. Koon Teo, a professor of medicine of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and at the Population Health Research Institute, agreed: “PURE emphasizes how important access to good health care is likely to be, as the differences in mortality rates between the richest and poorest countries are three-fold.””The study is important,” said co-author Dr. …

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