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5 studies you may have missed
A new study finds about 12 million U.S. adults are misdiagnosed during an outpatient visit every year.
April 18th, 2014
10:38 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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
Journal: Pediatrics

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
Journal: PLOS ONE

Looks like 40 isn't the start of old age. Neuroscientists say age-related cognitive-motor decline begins at age 24 - and it's all downhill from there. That means that at 24 your reaction time starts to slow, and never picks back up. By 39 your speed has dropped about 15%, researchers found.

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
Journal: Pediatrics

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
Journal of Consumer Research

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
Journal: BMJ Quality & Safety

Primary care doctors usually have a small window of time to diagnose each patient they see. So it's not a big surprise that mistakes can be made.

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


Salmonella cases down, but watch out for other foodborne bacteria
Foodborne illnesses often found in raw or undercooked shellfish have increased by 75% since 2006-2008, the CDC says.
April 17th, 2014
03:33 PM ET

Salmonella cases down, but watch out for other foodborne bacteria

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


Casual marijuana use may damage your brain
April 16th, 2014
09:02 AM ET

Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

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


Obesity during pregnancy raises stillbirth risk
April 15th, 2014
04:58 PM ET

Obesity during pregnancy raises stillbirth risk

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


Herbal remedy may improve arthritis symptoms
April 14th, 2014
08:48 PM ET

Herbal remedy may improve arthritis symptoms

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."
FULL POST


Low blood sugar makes couples more aggressive
Study participants were asked to stick pins in a voodoo doll that represented their spouse to measure aggression.
April 14th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

Low blood sugar makes couples more aggressive

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.

Background

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.
FULL POST


Fussy infants and toddlers watch more TV
April 14th, 2014
09:51 AM ET

Fussy infants and toddlers watch more TV

Does your baby have difficulty calming him or herself? Falling and staying asleep? It can be stressful, especially for new parents. But once again, researchers are recommending that parents avoid plopping them down in front of the television.

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, fussy babies and toddlers tend to watch more TV and videos than infants with no issues or mild issues. And that can lead to problems down the road.

"We found that babies and toddlers whose mothers rated them as having self-regulation problems – meaning, problems with calming down, soothing themselves, settling down to sleep, or waiting for food or toys – watched more TV and videos when they were age 2," said study author Dr. Jenny Radskey, who works in the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center.

"Infants with self-regulation problems watched, on average, about 9 minutes more media per day than other infants. This may seem small, but screen-time habits are established in these early years."
FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
April 11th, 2014
11:46 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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.

Germophobes beware: Coughs and sneezes create floating clouds
Journal of Fluid Mechanics

The next time you hear an "achoo!" nearby, shield yourself. A new study shows people blow out gas clouds when they sneeze or cough - and these clouds propel germs further than previously thought.

Scientists at MIT studied how coughs and sneezes move in slow motion using high-speed imaging, in addition to mathematical modeling techniques and simulations. They found that coughs and sneezes have two phases: A quick, jet-like propulsion of droplets, and then a "puff" in which the droplets are suspended in a gas cloud.

When the researchers analyzed the trajectory of the expelled particles, they found that relatively large droplets in the clouds - measuring 100 micrometers in diameter - moved five times further than previous studies had shown. The smaller ones, 10 micrometers across, traveled 200 times farther.

So stop the spread of disease by covering your coughs and sneezes.

Fathers' obesity may be related to children's autism
Journal: Pediatrics

As scientists continue to explore the potential causes of autism, a question has been raised about paternal obesity.

Researchers looked at a large sample of 92,909 children from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The children were between 4 and 13 years old.

Although a mother's weight was only weakly linked with autism in her child, an obese father was associated with a significant increase in risk. Children of obese fathers had a 0.27% likelihood of an autistic disorder, compared to 0.14% for children whose fathers were at a normal weight.

The general risk of an obese father having a child with autism is still small, study authors noted, but the association is worth further study.

"It would definitely be beneficial to replicate our analyses in population studies from other countries," lead researcher Dr. Pal Suren, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, told HealthDay News.

Read more from HealthDay News via WebMD

Exercise may help older women’s brains
British Journal of Sports Medicine

Mild cognitive impairment is a condition affecting memory and thinking that is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. We don't know how to prevent or cure MCI, but there is some indication that exercise may help.

A new study looked at 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who had probable mild cognitive impairment. The women were randomly assigned to aerobic exercise, resistance training, or balance and tone training (the control group) for 26 weeks. Researchers measured the volume of the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in memory, in participants before and after the interventions.

Those who had done aerobic exercise showed bigger hippocampal volume after the intervention, compared to the group that did balance and tone. Those who did resistance training did not show the benefit.

Strangely, those who had larger hippocampal volume also tended to score worse on a verbal learning test. This was a small study and more research is needed to explain the findings.

Read more from The Atlantic

Cells involved in touch identified
Journal: Nature

Scientists have uncovered how cells that lie under the surface of your skin allow you to perceive details and textures. These cells are called Merkel cells.

“These experiments are the first direct proof that Merkel cells can encode touch into neural signals that transmit information to the brain about the objects in the world around us,” researcher Ellen Lumpkin said in a statement.

The work could have implications for understanding conditions in which touch sensitivity is lost. Sensitivity also declines with normal aging; at the same time, Merkel cells start disappearing in people in their early 20s.

“It’s an exciting time in our field because there are still big questions to answer, and the tools of modern neuroscience give us a way to tackle them,” Lumpkin said.

Read more from Columbia University

Junk food may bring on laziness - in rats
Journal: Physiology & Behavior

Poor eating habits may not only expand your waistline, but also make you less motivated, a new study suggests.

Researchers fed some rats a low-fat diet that was high in simple sugars and refined flour, and others a healthier diet. All rats learned that they would be able to get a bit of sugar water as a reward for pressing a lever. The number of lever presses required to access to the reward increased during the experiment.

Eventually both sets of rats tired of this exercise, but junk-food rats gave up a lot sooner than the ones who had a healthy diet. Both groups seemed to have similar energy levels, so researchers believe there's something happening in the brains of the ones eating poorly to explain the behavior difference. More research is required to find out if that's true.

Note that this research was in rats, so we don't know how it will apply to humans. Still, lead author Aaron Blaisdell told the LA Times: "Rats are a great animal model for humans because there is so much overlap in the systems that regulate appetite and metabolism."

Read more from the LA Times


5 studies you may have missed
If you have fewer copies of the AMY1 gene , carbs may be your weight-loss nemesis.
April 4th, 2014
08:46 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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 link between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Missing this gene? Carbs may be your weight-loss nemesis
Journal: Nature Genetics

Depending on who you ask (and the diet trend of the week), carbohydrates can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to losing weight. New research suggests the truth may lie in our genes.
FULL POST


Five studies you may have missed
Smoke-free laws seem to be reducing rates of pre-term births and hospital admissions for children with asthma.
March 28th, 2014
09:47 AM ET

Five studies you may have missed

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.

Autism may begin in the womb
Journal: New England Journal of Medicine

With this week's CDC announcement that 1 in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, there's even more reason to look at how and when this condition develops.

A new study suggests that there are changes in a developing child's brain even before he or she is born that are associated with autism. Researchers found patches of abnormalities in several brain areas, including those involved in social, emotional, communication and language functions.

But this is a small study, which looked at the brain tissue of only 22 children.

"Although interesting differences in brain architecture were found, questions regarding underlying mechanisms remain unanswered," says Zack Warren, director of  the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

Read more from the BBC

It's not safe to the pee in the pool
Journal: Environmental Science & Technology

There are two types of swimmers, an old saying goes: Those who pee in the pool, and those who say they don't. A new study may create a new kind - those begging the rest of us to stop.

Chemists found that mixing urine with sweat and chlorine in water created two compounds: trichloramine (NCl3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl). NCl3 is associated with lung problems, and CNC1 may affect the lungs, heart and central nervous system, according to the American Chemical Society.

"Swimmers can improve pool conditions by simply urinating where they’re supposed to — in the bathrooms," the ACS concluded.

Lower back pain is a major cause of disability
Journal: Annals of Rheumatic Diseases

Lower back pain is common, affecting approximately 1 in 10 people around the globe. But you may not realize how disabling it can be.

Researchers pooled information from 117 studies in 47 different countries and 16 world regions. They concluded that lower back pain is the leading cause worldwide of years lost to disability. It was No. 1 among 291 conditions analyzed in this study.

Not all lower back pain comes from working, but many people do get it on the job. So what should people do?

“Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles. Maintaining and building muscle strength is particularly important for persons with skeletal irregularities,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Read more from TIME.com

Bariatric surgery does more than change your stomach size
Journal: Nature

Gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of an obese patient's stomach in hopes of making them eat less. But new research suggests the underlying chemical changes that occur in the patient's digestive system after surgery may be just as important - if not more so - to their ability to lose weight.

"We have more bacteria in our guts than we have cells in our bodies," study author Randy Seeley told USA Today. "Those bacteria and their interaction with our bodies is really important."

Scientists spent four years analyzing gastric bypass surgeries in mice. After bariatric surgery, our bodies increase liver bile acids that bind to a nuclear receptor called FXR, according to the study. When researchers removed the FXR receptor from the mice, they lost less weight than other mice who had undergone a gastric bypass procedure. The scientists also noticed changes in the mice's gut bacteria.

The results of this study could lead scientists to develop new ways to mimic the effects of bariatric surgery without physically altering the stomach.

Read more from USA Today

Smoking bans seem to be working
Journal: The Lancet

Rates of pre-term births and hospital admissions for children with asthma have dropped significantly since many states here and countries in Europe have introduced smoke-free legislation.

Researchers analyzed 11 studies and determined that the rates were reduced in the year after the laws went into effect. This shows a clear link between a reduction in second-hand smoke and a decrease in these conditions, they say.

"Together with the known health benefits in adults, our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health, and provides strong support for WHO recommendations to create smoke-free public environments on a national level," Dr. Jasper Been told ScienceDaily.

Read more from ScienceDaily


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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.

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