Good diet boosts health but not wealth

The idea that a good diet means a healthy population with lower health costs only holds true when it comes to emergency care, a study shows.Researchers from Monash University, the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, and the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, found that although men and women aged over 65 years who ate healthily had shorter stays in hospital, they were strong users of other medical services. In fact, they tended to make greater use of outpatient services, preventive care and dental care than those who did not follow a healthy eating regime.Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute said individuals with a higher socioeconomic status usually followed a healthier diet and took better care of their health needs, while those on lower incomes were more likely to cut back on basic needs like food and medication.”A diverse diet can be quite costly, which can lead to food insecurity for low socioeconomic groups who cannot afford it,” Professor Wahlqvist said.”This may partly explain the greater expenditure on acute care that they incur.”Professor Walhlqvist said that economic factors played an inescapable role in the development of health policies, but the medical costs of diet-related and nutritionally related diseases were rarely given attention.The findings have important implications for nutrition-related health service policy given that most countries are facing increased medical expenditure as their population ages.”Such a policy should pay close attention to socially disadvantaged groups with poorer dietary quality,” Professor Wahlqvist said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Monash University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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New ‘artificial nose’ device can speed diagnosis of sepsis

Sep. 9, 2013 — Disease-causing bacteria stink — literally — and the odor released by some of the nastiest microbes has become the basis for a faster and simpler new way to diagnose blood infections and finger the specific microbe, scientists reported in Indianapolis today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).The new test produces results in 24 hours, compared to as much as 72 hours required with the test hospitals now use, and is suitable for use in developing countries and other areas that lack expensive equipment in hospital labs.”We have a solution to a major problem with the blood cultures that hospitals have used for more than 25 years to diagnose patients with blood-borne bacterial infections,” said James Carey, Ph.D., who presented the report. “The current technology involves incubating blood samples in containers for 24-48 hours just to see if bacteria are present. It takes another step and 24 hours or more to identify the kind of bacteria in order to select the right antibiotic to treat the patient. By then, the patient may be experiencing organ damage, or may be dead from sepsis.”Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is a toxic response to blood-borne infections that kills more than 250,000 people each year in the United States alone. The domestic health-care costs to treat sepsis exceed $20 billion. In such a medical emergency, every minute counts, Carey explained, and giving patients the right antibiotics and other treatment can save lives.That’s why a research team at the University of Illinois that included chemistry professor Ken Suslick, and Carey, set out to develop a faster, simpler test. Carey, of the National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan in the Republic of China, described a completely new way to identify bacteria compared to an earlier version of such a test developed at Illinois.The new device consists of a plastic bottle, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, filled with nutrient solution for bacteria to grow. Attached to the inside is a chemical sensing array (CSA), an “artificial nose,” with 36 pigment dots. The dots change color in response to signature odor chemicals released by bacteria.Using the device is simple, Carey said. …

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High dose statins prevents dementia, study suggests

Aug. 31, 2013 — High doses of statins prevent dementia in older people, according to research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr. Tin-Tse Lin from Taiwan. The study of nearly 58,000 patients found that high potency statins had the strongest protective effects against dementia.Dr Lin said: “Statins are widely used in the older population to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But recent reports of statin-associated cognitive impairment have led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to list statin-induced cognitive changes, especially for the older population, in its safety communications.”He added: “Previous studies had considered statin therapy to exert a beneficial effect on dementia. But few large-scale studies have focused on the impact of statins on new-onset, non-vascular dementia in the geriatric population.”Accordingly, the current study examined whether statin use was associated with new diagnoses of dementia. The researchers used a random sample of 1 million patients covered by Taiwan’s National Health Insurance. From this they identified 57,669 patients aged >65 years who had no history of dementia in 1997 and 1998. The analysis included pre-senile and senile dementia but excluded vascular dementia.There were 5,516 new diagnoses of dementia during approximately 4.5 years of follow-up. The remaining 52,153 patients aged >65 formed the control group. …

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How sleep helps brain learn motor task

Aug. 20, 2013 — Sleep helps the brain consolidate what we’ve learned, but scientists have struggled to determine what goes on in the brain to make that happen for different kinds of learned tasks. In a new study, researchers pinpoint the brainwave frequencies and brain region associated with sleep-enhanced learning of a sequential finger tapping task akin to typing, or playing piano.You take your piano lesson, you go to sleep and when you wake up your fingers are better able to play that beautiful sequence of notes. How does sleep make that difference? A new study helps to explain what happens in your brain during those fateful, restful hours when motor learning takes hold.”The mechanisms of memory consolidations regarding motor memory learning were still uncertain until now,” said Masako Tamaki, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University and lead author of the study that appears Aug. 21 in the Journal of Neuroscience. “We were trying to figure out which part of the brain is doing what during sleep, independent of what goes on during wakefulness. We were trying to figure out the specific role of sleep.”In part because it employed three different kinds of brain scans, the research is the first to precisely quantify changes among certain brainwaves and the exact location of that changed brain activity in subjects as they slept after learning a sequential finger-tapping task. The task was a sequence of key punches that is cognitively akin to typing or playing the piano.Cap of SensorsIn a sleep lab on Brown’s campus researchers use now using caps of EEG sensors in studies of how the brain works to consolidate learning visual tasks. Here graduate student Aaron Berard models the cap.Specifically, the results of complex experiments performed at Massachusetts General Hospital and then analyzed at Brown show that the improved speed and accuracy volunteers showed on the task after a few hours sleep was significantly associated with changes in fast-sigma and delta brainwave oscillations in their supplementary motor area (SMA), a region on the top-middle of the brain. …

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Hong Kong skyscrapers appear to fall in real-world illusion

June 20, 2013 — No matter how we jump, roll, sit, or lie down, our brain manages to maintain a visual representation of the world that stays upright relative to the pull of gravity. But a new study of rider experiences on the Hong Kong Peak Tram, a popular tourist attraction, shows that specific features of the environment can dominate our perception of verticality, making skyscrapers appear to fall.The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.The Hong Kong Peak Tram to Victoria Peak is a popular way to survey the Hong Kong skyline and millions of people ride the tram every year.”On one trip, I noticed that the city’s skyscrapers next to the tram started to appear very tilted, as if they were falling, which anyone with common sense knows is impossible,” says lead researcher Chia-huei Tseng of the University of Hong Kong. “The gasps of the other passengers told me I wasn’t the only one seeing it.”The illusion was perplexing because, in contrast with most illusions studied in the laboratory, observers have complete access to visual cues from the outside world through the tram’s open windows.Exploring the illusion under various conditions, Tseng and colleagues found that the perceived, or illusory, tilt was greatest on night-time rides, perhaps a result of the relative absence of visual-orientation cues or a heightened sense of enclosure at night. Enhancing the tilted frame of reference within the tram car — indicated by features like oblique window frames, beams, floor, and lighting fixtures — makes the true vertical of the high rises seem to tilt in the opposite direction.The illusion was significantly reduced by obscuring the window frame and other reference cues inside the tram car, by using wedges to adjust observers’ position, and by having them stand during the tram ride.But no single modification was sufficient to eliminate the illusion.”Our findings demonstrate that signals from all the senses must be consonant with each other to abolish the tilt illusion,” the researchers write. “On the tram, it seems that vision dominates verticality perception over other sensory modalities that also mediate earth gravity, such as the vestibular and tactile systems.”The robustness of the tram illusion took the researchers by surprise:”We took the same tram up and down for hundreds of trips, and the illusion did not reduce a bit,” says Tseng. “This suggests that our experiences and our learned knowledge about the world — that buildings should be vertical — are not enough to cancel our brain’s wrong conclusion.”Co-authors on the study include Hiu Mei Chow of the University of Hong Kong and Lothar Spillmann of China Medical University and the University of Freiburg.The study was supported by grants from the Hong Kong Grant Research Council and the University of Hong Kong Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research to Chia-huei Tseng, and by awards from the Serena Yang Educational Fund and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Council) and National Science Council of Taiwan to Lothar Spillmann.

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App to protect private data on iOS devices finds almost half of other apps access private data

June 20, 2013 — Almost half of the mobile apps running on Apple’s iOS operating system access the unique identifier of the devices where they’re downloaded, computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have found. In addition, more than 13 percent access the devices’ location and more than 6 percent the address book. The researchers developed a new app that detects what data the other apps running on an iOS device are trying to access.The findings are based on a study of 130,000 users of jailbroken iOS devices, where users have purposefully removed restrictions that keep apps from accessing the iPhone’s operating system. Most apps in the study were downloaded from Apple’s App Store and access the same type of information on unlocked, jailbroken, phones and on locked phones, said Yuvraj Agarwal, a research scientist in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego, who co-authored the study with fellow researcher Malcolm Hall. Agarwal will present the findings at ACM MobiSys, the premier mobile systems conference, which takes place June 25 to 28 in Taipei, Taiwan.The findings suggest that although Apple’s App Store no longer accepts new apps or app updates that access the unique identifier as of March of this year, many apps can still get a hold of that information. The unique identifier allows app vendors and advertisers to track users’ behaviors across all the different apps on their devices, including iPhones, iPads and iPods. In addition, some apps can associate the unique identifier with the user’s email and other personal information.The researchers believe that it’s the first time anyone has done such an extensive privacy study focused on iOS-based apps across a large user population.The ProtectMyPrivacy AppTo carry out their study, researchers developed an app of their own, called ProtectMyPrivacy, or PMP. It lets users know what personal information the other apps on their devices are trying to access. PMP enables users to selectively allow or deny access to this information on an app-by-app basis, based on whether they feel the apps need the information to function properly — for example, a map app needs to access the location of a device to provide driving directions. iOS devices currently notify users when apps try to access location, photos and contacts. …

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