April 18th, 2014
10:38 AM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.
Antidepressants may increase autism risk
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy may increase your child's risk of autism, especially if the baby is a boy, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at data from 966 mothers and their children. Kids who were exposed to SSRIs, also known as antidepressants, in utero were more likely to have autism or another developmental delay.
The researchers also distinguished between the sexes; boys with an autism spectrum disorder were three times as likely to have been exposed to SSRIs than typically developing children. But the risk of autism remains low, study authors say, and letting depression go untreated could have other serious consequences.
Read more from U.S. News & World Report
You're over the hill at 24
Of course, you might be able to compensate for this slower reaction time with skill and experience. If you can still remember what it was like when you were young, that is.
Read more from TIME
Scientists studying rare diseases should turn to social media
You may have seen the viral video of 4-year-old Eliza O'Neill laughing and playing as her parents talk about her life with Sanfilippo syndrome.
Scientists studying rare diseases often struggle to find patients and funding because so few people are affected. But social media is helping lighten the load. Viral videos and other campaigns often bring people with the same disease together, making it easier for scientists to identify clinical trial patients. In this study, researchers found social media outlets referred 84% of all patients for two pediatric rare disease trials.
Learn how a genetic disorder was discovered thanks to one dad's blog.
You just think hard candy has fewer calories
The texture of our food affects our perception about its calorie content, says Dipayan Biswas, a marketing professor at the University of South Florida.
In a series of studies, researchers asked people to sample foods that were hard, soft, rough or smooth and then asked them how many calories they thought they had eaten. On average, study participants thought foods that were harder or rougher contained fewer calories.
"Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice, and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices," the study authors concluded.
Read more from The Huffington Post
Always get a second opinion
A new study finds more than 5%, or about 12 million U.S. adults, are misdiagnosed during an outpatient visit every year. The researchers estimate about half of those errors are harmful to the patient.
“The pressure to move patients in and out and the resulting brief clinical interactions between doctor and patients is a situation that fosters medical errors,” Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society told Modern Healthcare.
Read more from Modern Healthcare
April 17th, 2014
03:33 PM ET
You might want to think twice before heading out to your favorite oyster bar.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual report card on foodborne illnesses, vibrio infections – most frequently found in raw or undercooked shellfish - have increased by 75% since the CDC's previous analysis period, 2006-2008.
That's about 6,600 cases for every 100,000 people - and for every case that is reported, the CDC estimates there 142 more that aren't diagnosed.
The microbe that causes vibrio is found naturally in coastal saltwater. It only represents 1% of foodborne illness in the United States, according to the CDC, but that's still 35,000 cases of food poisoning each year. Vibrio infections are at their highest rate since the CDC started tracking nine foodborne illness-related microorganisms in 1996, according to the new report. FULL POST
April 16th, 2014
04:13 PM ET
Being apathetic is usually defined as showing a lack of enthusiasm or energy. Most people who experience it say they just aren’t motivated to do anything.
Although anyone in any age group can become apathetic, it has been well documented that apathy tends to affect those in their golden years. Now scientists believe that an elderly person’s lack of emotion and indifference to the world could be a sign his or her brain is shrinking.
A study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, and funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Aging, found that older folks, who are apathetic - but not depressed – may be suffering from smaller brain volumes than those without apathy. FULL POST
April 16th, 2014
03:55 PM ET
In what may be another step forward in treating spinal cord injuries, a safety trial will begin this year on the practice of injecting stem cells directly into the injury site, Neuralstem Inc. announced Wednesday.
The Maryland company said the University of California, San Diego's Institutional Review Board had approved its clinical trial protocol, which also has approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
The first eight patients who will be enrolled will be paraplegics who had a thoracic spinal cord injury one to two years ago and have no motor or sensory function below the point of their spinal cord injury.
Thoracic spinal cord injuries are rare, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, because of the protection afforded by a person's rib cage. In addition to the loss of function in legs, patients also experience a loss of physical sensation, bowel and bladder problems and sexual dysfunction. However, in most cases, function of the arms and hands are not affected.
It's the latest trial designed to inject stem cells into patients' spines. The trial is supposed to show that the drug - stem cells, in this case - is safe, although researchers hope to provide some benefit as well. FULL POST
April 16th, 2014
03:47 PM ET
It can be one of the most difficult diagnoses for a doctor to make: whether a brain-damaged patient is in a permanent vegetative state and will never wake up, or if he is in a minimally conscious state and may one day recover.
In fact, for patients with significant swelling in the brain, a doctor's outcome prediction is currently "a little better than flipping a coin," researchers Jamie Sleigh and Catherine Warnaby write in The Lancet this week.
April 16th, 2014
09:02 AM ET
If you thought smoking a joint occasionally was OK, a new study released Tuesday suggests you might want to reconsider.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to link casual marijuana use to major changes in the brain. And according to the researchers, the degree of abnormalities is based on the number of joints you smoke in a week.
Using different types of neuroimaging, researchers examined the brains of 40 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who were enrolled in Boston-area colleges. Twenty of them smoked marijuana at least once a week. The other 20 did not use pot at all. FULL POST
April 15th, 2014
04:58 PM ET
Pregnant women who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of delivering a stillborn baby, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers looked at 38 studies to better understand the potential risks to an unborn child in relation to its mother's body mass index. They found even a modest increase in an obese pregnant woman's weight is linked to an increased risk of fetal death, stillbirth and infant death.
The highest risk was in women with a BMI over 40 (30 is considered obese). These women were two to three times more likely to experience complications. Even women with a BMI over 25 (which is considered overweight) were found to experience increased complications. FULL POST
April 14th, 2014
08:48 PM ET
A traditional herbal remedy may treat rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as an FDA-approved drug treatment, according to a preliminary study published this week in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Triptergium wilfordii Hook F, also known as the "Thunder God Vine," has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat joint pain and inflammation, though no U.S. manufacturer currently sells the root extract, according to the NIH.
"It actually does show a clinical benefit," said Dr. Eric Matteson, rheumatology chair at Mayo Clinic, who was not involved with the study. "I think it is something that deserves further evaluation, without a doubt."
April 14th, 2014
05:01 PM ET
The prevalence of diabetes in the United States has nearly doubled in the past two decades, according to a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study authors found that this rise in diabetes from 5.5% to 9.3% of the U.S. population over the last 20 years paralleled the growing rate of obesity in America.
Better screening tools such as a hemoglobin A1c diagnostic test have also helped physicians identify more diabetes cases, the researchers say.
In 1988, about 16% of individuals who met the criteria for diabetes were not diagnosed by a physician. That number fell to 11% in 2010. Because the total number of diabetics in the United States has increased to nearly 21 million, the study authors say the number of estimated undiagnosed cases - around 2.3. million - has remained the same over the last two decades.
"My hope, and obviously everybody's hope, is that 11% will go down further as there's improved access to healthcare for all Americans," said Dr. Martin Abrahamson, who was not involved in the study.
Experts predict that the number of Americans with diabetes will reach 44 million by 2034 if things don't change.
April 14th, 2014
03:02 PM ET
You've heard the term "hangry," right? People who are hungry often report being unreasonably angry until they're fed.
"Hangry" is a relatively new buzz word, but science is backing it up. A new study published in the journal PNAS suggests married couples are more aggressive when they have low blood sugar levels.
Everyone gets upset at their spouse or significant other sometimes. But self-control hopefully prevents you from taking that anger out on them in a physical manner.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.