Medical marijuana may ease some MS symptoms
March 24th, 2014
04:02 PM ET

Medical marijuana may ease some MS symptoms

Medical marijuana might be the most effective complementary or alternative medicine to provide relief of symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) released Monday.

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are nontraditional therapies often used in addition to (and sometimes instead of) doctor recommended treatments.

The guidelines are based on recommendations made by a panel of nine physicians chosen by the AAN who are experts in the field of CAM. They identified and reviewed 291 studies and literature from the last 43 years. Of those, 115 made the cut; most were short, lasting between six and 15 weeks.

"This is the first-ever review, evidence-based recommendation, on the treatment of MS with CAM therapies," says Dr. Vijayshree Yadav, lead author and clinical director of Oregon Health and Science University's Multiple Sclerosis Center. "There were 29 different therapies included in the guidelines. Nineteen studies looked at cannabis." FULL POST

Colon cancer rates down since 1980s
March 17th, 2014
12:01 AM ET

Colon cancer rates down since 1980s

Colon cancer, which was once the most common cause of cancer death in America, has been on a steady decline for decades, according to a new study in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

In 1985, there were an estimated 66.3 cases of colon cancer for every 100,000 adults in the United States. By 2010 that rate had fallen to 40.6 cases for every 100,000 adults. Deaths dropped during the same time period as well - from 28.5 to 15.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

"Incidence is declining primarily because of screening and finding polyps, which are precancerous lesions that can be removed," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "We find these precancerous lesions, remove them and 'voilà!' the patient doesn't get cancer."

Grown-ups: Put down the smartphones at mealtime
March 10th, 2014
04:08 PM ET

Grown-ups: Put down the smartphones at mealtime

You’ve seen it before: Parents using cell phones while their children vie for their attention. Now a new study suggests these behaviors can be seen often at mealtime - an important time for child-caregiver interactions.

In the new study, published Monday in Pediatrics, researchers not only observed these behaviors, but extensively recorded and described aspects of caregiver cell phone use.

Researchers observed 55 caregivers with young children at fast-food restaurants in the metropolitan Boston area. Out of the 55 observed, 40 caregivers (73%) used devices at some point during the meal. Nearly 30% used the device almost continuously throughout the meal, only briefly putting it down. FULL POST

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5 studies you may have missed
A team of researchers has developed an intravaginal ring designed to prevent HIV and unwanted pregnancy.
March 7th, 2014
07:27 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. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Don't diss canned vegetables
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

Researchers at Michigan State University analyzed more than 40 scientific journal studies to see if canned fruits and vegetables provide the same nutritional benefits as fresh and frozen produce. Cans are often cheaper than fresh or frozen products, and therefore easier for low-income families to buy.

Middle-aged? Put down the meat
March 5th, 2014
09:12 AM ET

Middle-aged? Put down the meat

Eating a high-protein diet in middle age could increase your risk of diabetes and cancer, according to a study published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism. But don't stay away from meat for too long - the same study showed those over 65 need more protein to reduce their mortality risk.


Insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, is a protein in your body related to growth and development. Past studies have linked IGF-1 to age-related diseases, including cancer. Mice and humans with higher levels of IGF-1 often have a higher risk of developing these diseases.

Scientists believe protein intake plays a role in IGF-1 activity. Eating less protein, studies have shown, can lead to lower levels of IGF-1 in your body. So theoretically, protein consumption could be directly linked to disease incidence and death. FULL POST

Schoolchildren are eating more fruits, veggies
March 4th, 2014
10:10 AM ET

Schoolchildren are eating more fruits, veggies

Are schoolchildren actually eating more fruits and vegetables under the new school lunch program? Apparently they are, according to a new study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Children returning to school beginning in fall 2012 found some significant changes to their cafeteria menus: more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The healthier foods were the result of changes to the National School Lunch Program made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

But lack of enthusiasm about these new requirements soon surfaced. A few school districts even dropped out of the lunch program.

However, the authors of this study say their research proves the opposite: “Contrary to media reports, these results suggest that the new school meal standards have improved students' overall diet quality. Legislation to weaken the standards is not warranted.” FULL POST

Five studies you may have missed
Overworked nurses may raise the risk of patient death, according to a new study.
February 28th, 2014
08:17 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.

Your nurse needs a break. I wouldn’t complain if I were you 
Journal: The Lancet

An overworked nursing staff raises the risk of patients dying, while hiring better-educated nurses reduces those odds, a study of European Union hospitals that have undergone recent staffing cuts concludes.

Adding one patient to a nurse’s workload raises the chances of a patient dying by 7%. But a 10% increase in nurses with bachelor’s degrees reduced those odds by the same amount, researchers from several EU countries reported in The Lancet.

“Nurse staffing cuts to save money might adversely affect patient outcomes. An increased emphasis on bachelor's education for nurses could reduce preventable hospital deaths,” they concluded.

The study examined discharge data from more than 400,000 patients over 50 from 300 hospitals in nine European countries.

Read more from The Guardian

Mice skin cells transformed into liver cells
Journal: Nature

In a development that could give hope to patients awaiting transplants, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and its affiliated Gladstone Institute have been able to reprogram skin cells into working liver cells in mice. The scientists caution that the results are early, but the cell growth showed no signs of slowing down after nine months.

“In the future, our technique could serve as an alternative for liver-failure patients who don’t require full-organ replacement, or who don’t have access to a transplant due to limited donor organ availability,” UCSF scientist Holger Willenbring said in announcing the results.

The study involved using reprogramming genes and chemical compounds to take skin cells back to a form that resembles endoderm cells, which mature into many of the body’s major organs. Willinbring and Gladstone senior investigator Sheng Ding cultivated the cells in a petri dish, then “coaxed” them into growing into liver cells through another set of genes and chemicals.

“Many questions remain, but the fact that these cells can fully mature and grow for months post-transplantation is extremely promising,” Willenbring said.

Read more from UT-San Diego

Twins’ brains show same marks of Alzheimer’s
Journal: Brain Pathology

Twins who died after suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had similar areas of damage to their brains, a project by researchers in California and Sweden concluded.

The scientists studied the brains of seven pairs of twins who died after years of diagnostic tests - among them the brains of identical twins who died at age 98 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The results support previous findings that genetics may determine how vulnerable someone is to Alzheimer’s and other conditions, said University of Southern California psychologist Margaret Gatz, who led the study.

"We looked not just at the hallmark indicators of Alzheimer's, but at all the other damage in the brain. Across the whole array of neuropathological changes, the identical twins appeared to have more similar pathologies," Gatz said in announcing the findings. "This is fascinating. It's not just a key pathology related to the twins' diagnoses but the combination of things happening in their brains.”

Gatz and Diego Iacono of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute drew their subjects from the Swedish Twin Registry, which Gatz has delved into for decades to study aging. The findings add more data to suggest that rather than a single cause, Alzheimer’s develops from a range of factors that genetics may affect.

The kids are all right: The rest of you, hit the gym
Journal: Journal of the American Medical Association

Despite years of warnings about obesity, the number of severely overweight Americans hasn’t changed in a decade. On the bright side, it hasn’t gotten any worse, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service found.

Researchers calculated that 17% of children and 35% of adults were obese in 2011-2012. The figures show “no significant changes” since 2003, they reported.

There is one bright spot in the study: a “significant decrease” in obesity rates in children between the ages of 2 and 5, from 14% in 2003 to about 8% in the 2011-2012 figures. But that drop was offset by a sharp increase in women over 60, the researchers found.

“Obesity prevalence remains high, and thus it is important to continue surveillance,” they noted.

Read more from The Washington Post

New knowledge literally reshapes your mind
Journal: Nature Neuroscience

University of British Columbia researchers have found that learning brings together a fatty acid and a brain protein that combine to connect brain cells - a finding that may provide an explanation for some mental disabilities.

The biochemical change “is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning,” the Vancouver-based university said in announcing the results. And it’s the first time scientists have described the role of that protein, known as delta-catenin, in the process of forming memories.

Animals who were exposed to new environments had almost twice the amount of modified delta-catenin in their brains, co-authors Shernaz Bamji and Stefano Brigidi reported. Learning more about the role the protein plays in building brain cells could help understand how degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s Disease work, they say.

Read more from Science Daily

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February 27th, 2014
02:10 PM ET

Study: Children of older fathers face higher risk of psychiatric disorders

Do men have a biological clock of sorts? A large new study suggests they may.

Compared to younger fathers, older fathers' children were found to be significantly more at risk for a host of psychiatric disorders, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

For example, the children of fathers ages 45 and over were three times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, and 24 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the children of fathers aged 20 to 24.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2.6 million children born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the effects of paternal age.


MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels
February 25th, 2014
04:11 PM ET

MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels

Scientists are making strides in unraveling the mystery of the MERS coronavirus, which so far has sickened at least 182 people, including 79 deaths.

While human cases have been traced back to September 2012, according to the World Health Organization, researchers in the United States and in Saudi Arabia have found evidence of MERS in camels going back at least 20 more years.

By taking samples from front and hind orifices of camels in all parts of Saudi Arabia, scientists found evidence of MERS in 74% of all dromedaries (single-hump camels) living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a new study. FULL POST

Fukushima: A closer look
February 24th, 2014
04:15 PM ET

Low radiation risks outside Fukushima zone, study finds

The safety measures imposed after the 2011 meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant appear to have averted widespread health risks to the surrounding population, Japanese scientists say.

People who live on the outskirts of the evacuation zone surrounding the plant received only slightly more radiation than normal background doses in the year following the world's second-worst nuclear accident, researchers at Kyoto University concluded. The study indicates that the fallout from the crippled plant presents little hazard to those outside the closed zone, even in towns along its edges.

"In conclusion, food supply and associated regulations are considered effective in the study areas in Fukushima thus far, and external exposure is a major component of the radiation dose rate," the researchers found. FULL POST

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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.