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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


Flu drugs may not be worth stockpiling
April 10th, 2014
02:23 PM ET

Flu drugs may not be worth stockpiling

Tamiflu, commonly used to reduce flu symptoms, may not work as well as the federal government believed when it spent more than $1.3 billion stockpiling it.

The Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit network of health practitioners, researchers and patient advocates, recently analyzed 46 clinical study reports on Tamiflu and another influenza drug called Relenza to determine their effectiveness.

The researchers concluded that while both drugs can stop adults' symptoms about half a day earlier, on average, than no treatment, the drugs do not reduce the rate of serious influenza complications, such as hospitalizations and pneumonia. The results were published this week in the British Medical Journal.

"A significant number of doctors see them as pretty mediocre drugs that don't do a whole bunch," said Dr. Peter Doshi, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and associate editor at BMJ.
FULL POST


Severe obesity in kids on the rise
This chart shows the trends in prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1999 and 2012.
April 7th, 2014
04:01 PM ET

Severe obesity in kids on the rise

The decline of childhood obesity rates seen in a couple of recent studies may be nothing more than an illusion, according to a new study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.

Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category - meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.
FULL POST


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


Running more may not help you live longer
April 3rd, 2014
12:58 PM ET

Running more may not help you live longer

No, this isn't an excuse to put down your running shoes. Unless, of course, you're already running more than 20 miles a week.

Research presented this week at the annual American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in Washington shows runners who average more than 20 miles a week don't live as long as those who run less than 20 miles a week. In fact, they live, on average, about as long as people who don't run much at all.

In other words, like most things in life, moderation may be key.
FULL POST


Study: Eat 7 servings of fruit, veggies daily
March 31st, 2014
06:31 PM ET

Study: Eat 7 servings of fruit, veggies daily

You know the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"? Turns out eating one apple isn't enough. A new study suggests people who eat up to seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day can cut their risk of premature death by 42% - and that vegetables may be more important than fruit to your overall health.

The study, conducted by scientists in the United Kingdom, was published online Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study

Researchers looked at data from more than 65,000 adults over age 35 who participated in the Healthy Surveys for England study between 2001 and 2008.
FULL POST


Marriage is good for your heart and other new research
March 31st, 2014
02:13 PM ET

Marriage is good for your heart and other new research

More than 13,000 cardiovascular experts met in Washington over the past few days for the Annual American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions, where more than 2,000 studies are being presented so doctors and researchers can learn about the latest research in diagnosing, treating and preventing heart disease.  Here's a small sample of the studies presented:

Married people have healthier hearts

You might have heard it before; being married may be good for your health.

In a new study, researchers screened 3.5 million adults for cardiovascular problems and found that those who were married had less heart disease and healthier blood vessels throughout the body than people who were single, divorced or widowed.

Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin, spokesperson for the American College of Cardiology, says the findings may be linked in part to the effects of stress and the strength of a marriage. In a healthy marriage, there may be less conflict and less stress. 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


Study: Stress may reduce fertility
March 24th, 2014
05:38 PM ET

Study: Stress may reduce fertility

If you're trying to get pregnant, relax and try to keep your stress down.  That sounds like good advice, which your doctor has probably given you, but there has been very little science to back it up - until now.

Researchers, publishing in the journal Human Reproduction, say they have put out the first prospective study showing an association between stress and infertility.  They measured stress using biomarkers in the saliva of women who wanted to conceive, and found a strong correlation with alpha-amylase.

"The women who had the highest levels of this salivary stress biomarker had a 29% decreased probability of pregnancy over time, and that actually translated into a more than two-fold risk of infertility for them by the end of the study," said lead author Courtney Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

FULL POST


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


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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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