October 25th, 2013
02:08 PM ET
Here's a roundup of five medical studies published recently 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.
Some obesity may be related to slow metabolism, really
"Slow metabolism" as an explanation for obesity has been largely knocked down by doctors as inaccurate. But University of Cambridge researchers showed in a new study that mutations on a particular gene slow metabolism, which may be linked to obesity in some people.
Previous research had shown that mice without the gene KSR2 tended to become overweight.
In this study, researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,101 people with severe early-onset obesity and 1,536 people who were not obese. They saw that mutations in KSR2 were associated with "hyperphagia (increased appetite) in childhood, low heart rate, reduced basal metabolic rate and severe insulin resistance."
Fewer than one in 100 people have KSR2 mutations, and some of those do have normal weight, BBC News reports.
This genetics research could have implications for developing drugs that help people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, the study said.
High blood sugar linked to memory problems
Past studies have suggested that diabetes raises the risk for Alzheimer's disease although it's not entirely clear why. New research finds that even in people who don't have diabetes, chronically higher blood glucose levels are associated with poorer outcomes in the brain.
This study looked at 141 people, average age 63, without diabetes or pre-diabetes. No participants were overweight or had memory and thinking impairment.
On cognitive tests, participants with lower blood glucose levels performed better in terms of delayed recall, learning ability and memory consolidation than those with higher levels. What's more, those with higher levels tended to have smaller volumes in the hippocampus, a sea horse-shaped brain structure crucial for memory.
“These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age,” study author Dr. Agnes Flöel of Charité University Medicine in Berlin said in a statement. “Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested.”
This study received significant media attention, but Dr. Jane Chiang, the American Diabetes Association's Senior vice president of medical affairs and community information, said she has a lot of concerns about the way it was conducted. The participants weren't entirely "healthy," according to their blood glucose levels - in fact, they may have diabetes and not know it, she said.
A bigger concern, Chiang said, is that older adults aren't recommended to have a strictly regulated "normal" blood glucose in the first place. Low blood sugar presents dangerous risks of falls and seizures, so the American Diabetes Association discourages tight blood sugar control in older adults.
September 23rd, 2013
05:32 PM ET
Being married may significantly improve the likelihood of surviving cancer, researchers say.
In a new study of more than 700,000 people with diagnoses of the most deadly cancers in the United States, patients who were married were more likely to detect their disease early, receive potentially curable treatments and live longer. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The researchers observed a 20% reduction in deaths among the patients who were married compared to unmarried patients - a benefit bigger than several kinds of chemotherapy used for treating cancer.
July 29th, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Editors note: This story was initially published in July. We're republishing because the final USPSTF recommendation was issued Monday.
For the first time the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending lung cancer screening for people who have a high risk of developing the disease. People who have a "30 pack year history of smoking" (for instance, at least 2 packs a year for 15 years), who are between the ages of 55 and 79, and who have smoked their last cigarette within the last 15 years are considered high risk.
The USPSTF's recommendations were published Monday. When it last looked at this in 2004, the group said the data was insufficient to recommend screening for lung cancer.
The task force's new recommendations are based on a review of seven clinical trials where researchers found Low-Dose Computed Tomography (CT) scanning was an effective way to detect lung cancer before patients began to show symptoms.
"Close to 160,000 people in the U.S. die from lung cancer every year," says Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of USPSTF. That's more than breast, prostate and colon cancer deaths combined. LeFevre estimates that screening the right people may prevent up to 20,000 deaths each year.
July 15th, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Many studies have touted the benefits of aspirin, and the latest one has good news for women.
This new research shows that low-dose aspirin may serve as a protection against colorectal cancer. The study was based on a long-term trial in a large group of women, who have been underrepresented in studies on this topic, said lead author Nancy R. Cook, associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School. The study is being published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
June 19th, 2013
02:53 PM ET
Cases of human papillomavirus (HPV) have significantly decreased since the advent of the HPV vaccine in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numbers have outpaced even their greatest predictions.
"The prevalence of the types of HPV that commonly cause cervical cancer in women has dropped by about half in girls ages 14 to 19," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director. "That decline is even better than we had hoped for." FULL POST
June 18th, 2013
08:36 AM ET
Scientists may be able to predict throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) more than 10 years before patients get diagnosed, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Using a blood test that is still in the research stage, experts were able to detect blood markers indicating early signs of the disease.
Actor Michael Douglas recently made headlines when The Guardian reported he said his throat cancer may have been caused in part by HPV transmitted through oral sex. Douglas later said he simply was stating that oral sex can lead to cancer.
HPV: What you need to know
HPV is the most common type of sexually transmitted virus in the United States and is passed on through sexual contact – genital or oral. There are more than 40 types of HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV during their lifetime. FULL POST
June 17th, 2013
06:23 PM ET
Cities including New York, Toronto, and San Francisco have launched public awareness campaigns to promote vaccination, but the authors also call on physicians to assess the risk to their patients and discuss the strain.
Since August 2010, 22 cases have been reported in New York City among men who have sex with men. More than half of those were already HIV positive. Seven men died. In fact, in New York City last year, men who have sex with men were 50 times more likely than the general population to be infected with the virus, according to city health officials.
June 7th, 2013
01:30 PM ET
For the field of cancer research, a reliable blood test for colorectal cancer would be a revelation. Currently, the condition is diagnosed through stool blood tests and uncomfortable colonoscopies, but the dream is to be able to find genetic markers predictive of such cancers in order to intervene early or follow patients in their treatment.
A study published Friday in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics suggests that a blood test for colon cancer could be on the horizon. But the research is still preliminary and the test is not currently recommended as a screening tool, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.
The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 20, and men are slightly more likely to get it than women, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2013, it is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths.
June 3rd, 2013
02:11 PM ET
In some parts of the world, cancer patients are treated with some of the newest targeted cancer drugs which can cost more than$100,000 per year, while in other regions, patients don't even know they have cancer because they're not being screened.
But where pap smears are not available, there may be a decidedly low-tech way to screen for cervical cancer and reduce cancer deaths, according to a large clinical trial released Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago: swabbing a woman's cervix with vinegar.
This study out of India is one of the top five out of more than 5,300 studies presented at the conference. It was given a spotlight usually reserved for the newest blockbuster drug research. FULL POST
May 14th, 2013
02:28 PM ET
Reducing salt consumption below the currently recommended 2,300 milligrams - about 1 1/2 teaspoons– per day maybe unnecessary, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The news follows a decades-long push to get Americans to reduce the amount of salt in their diet because of strong links between high sodium consumption and hypertension, a known risk factor for heart disease.
The IOM, at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reviewed recent studies published through 2012 that explored ties between salt consumption and direct health outcomes like cardiovascular disease and death. The organization describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public."
Researchers determined there wasn't enough evidence to say whether lowering salt consumption to levels between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day could increase or decrease your risk of heart disease and mortality. But lowering sodium intake might adversely affect your health, the panel found.
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.