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May 2nd, 2014
08:29 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.

'Healthy obesity' doesn't exist
Journal: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Can you be fat and fit? Recent research has suggested that the answer is no - obesity is never healthy. A new study supports that conclusion.

Researchers examined data on 14,828 healthy Korean adults. They found that, compared to people with normal weight, obese participants had a higher prevalence of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis, meaning early plaque buildup in their arteries. This condition, if not managed, can result in heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

"Obese individuals who are considered 'healthy' because they don't currently have heart disease risk factors should not be assumed healthy by their doctors," said lead study author Dr. Yoosoo Chang in a statement. "Our research shows that the presence of obesity is enough to increase a person's risk of future heart disease and that the disease may already be starting to form in their body. It's important that these people learn this while they still have time to change their diet and exercise habits to prevent a future cardiovascular event."

Read more from EurekAlert!

Pig bladder used to regrow muscle
Journal: Science Translational Medicine

Regenerative medicine saw a breakthrough this week: A study showed how muscle could be regrown in mice and humans.

The human participants were five men who had lost 58% to 90% of one of their leg muscles. To treat them, researchers used a a scaffold made from a pig bladder. This scaffold coaxed stem cells in the men's remaining leg muscle to grow into muscle, too.

"Biological scaffolds, when they degrade, release signal molecules," lead author Dr. Stephen Badylak, of the University of Pittsburgh, told LiveScience. "They can tell cells to do things like divide and line up in a certain way."

Three of the patients showed significant improvement, while the other two had less or no benefit from the procedure.

Researchers are trying the technique in other patients.

Read more from LiveScience

Manicure lamps linked to small cancer risk
Journal: JAMA Dermatology

If you frequent the nail salon, this news is for you: Researchers say there could be a cancer risk associated with the ultraviolet lamps used for nail polish drying. But the risk varies according to the kind of bulb used at the nail salon.

Dr. Lyndsay Shipp and colleagues calculated that at some salons, it may only take 24 visits to accumulate DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiation that could cause cancer. At other salons, it would take 625 visits.

More research is needed, Shipp told TIME.com. In the meantime, rest assured one manicure won't give you cancer. But if you're concerned, or have a family history, you could wear sunscreen for the ultraviolet light, or just air-dry your nails.

Read more from TIME.com

Higher antidepressant doses linked to self-harm in teens, young adults
Journal: JAMA Internal Medicine

Young patients are at risk of harming themselves if they receive doses of antidepressants that are higher than recommended, a new study says.

There has been mixed evidence on the subject of antidepressant and suicidal behavior among youth in the past. A government review found an association with self-harm, prompting a so-called "black box warning," or warning on the drug's label. But other studies have found no link, and argue that the benefits of these drugs outweigh the risks.

This study, however, specifically examines the connection to dose levels. It looked at three popular drugs: Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac.

Researchers found a risk in self-harm associated with higher-than-recommended doses in patients under age 24. They did not find the same effects in individuals over age 25, or those who took lower drug dosages.

Further study is needed. In the meantime, doctors are recommended to start young patients slowly on antidepressants, at low doses, CBS reports.

Read more from CBS.com

Of mice smelling men: Sex of researcher may affect lab rodents' behavior
Journal: Nature Methods

Rodents get stressed out in the presence of human males, but less so females, a new study suggests.

The stress hormone corticosterone went up in mice and rats when they were put with a man alone in a room, or were given a T-shirt that a man had worn. Researchers did not observe this high level of stress associated with a woman or female-worn shirt.

This difference could be significant because this hormone decreases the rodents' response to pain, so the results of scientific studies involving rodents could be skewed, depending on who was in the room with the critters.

Apparently, time can reduce the rodent stress effect.

“The ideal solution would be for the male researchers to sit in the room with the rodents for 30 to 60 minutes before conducting experiments,” study author and McGill University psychologist Jeffrey Mogil told the New York Times. “But no one is going to do that.”

Read more from the New York Times


Why laughing is healthy
April 28th, 2014
09:57 AM ET

Why laughing is healthy

Can watching a funny cat video at work actually improve your productivity?

Maybe!

A study presented at this year's annual Experimental Biology conference finds that when people laugh, their brains are activated in the same way as when people are mindfully meditating.

FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
April 25th, 2014
07:02 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you 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.

Low tolerance for pain? Blame your parents
Presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting

Researchers believe they've identified four genes that are responsible for your ability to tolerate pain. In their study, they asked 2,721 people with chronic pain to rate their pain on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the most painful. Researchers then grouped the participants according to low-pain, moderate-pain or high-pain ratings, and identified which genes were more prevalent in each group.

“Chronic pain can affect every other part of life,” study author Dr. Tobore Onojjighofia said in a statement. “Finding genes that maybe play a role in pain perception could provide a target for developing new therapies and help physicians better understand their patients’ perceptions of pain.”
FULL POST


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


Apathy in older folks could signal shrinking brain
April 16th, 2014
04:13 PM ET

Apathy in older folks could signal shrinking brain

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


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


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


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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