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5 studies you may have missed
May 30th, 2014
07:30 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that can 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.

The entire world is getting fat
Journal: The Lancet

In what is the most comprehensive look at global obesity in decades, scientists said they can’t find a single positive note in the fight against the epidemic.

In every single country they studied - there were 188 of them - the obesity rates stayed the same or got worse.

Nearly 30%, or almost one out of every third person on this planet, is overweight or obese, according to the study. In 1980 there were 857 million people considered overweight or obese. In 2013, that number was 2.1 billion.

Obesity is more of a common problem in the developed world, but it has become a growing problem in poorer countries.

The country with the most obese people is the United States. About a third of American adults are overweight, which accounts for 13% of all the heavy people worldwide. The United States is only a little over 4% of the world's population, so that's a startling statistic.

Women saw the bigger gains. Between 1980 and 2013, the rate of women who are obese increased from 29.8% to 38%. For men it increased from 28.8% of the population to 36.9% of the population.

Read more from PLOS Blogs


Men who watch a lot porn may have smaller brains

Journal: JAMA Psychiatry

Men who watch a lot of porn are a little lighter when it comes to their gray matter, according to a  study out of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

Scientists made brain scans of a small group of 64 healthy men from 21 to 45 as they looked at pornographic images. Researchers also assessed how often the men typically looked at porn.

The study may be the first to establish a link between the amount of pornography consumption and brain size. The study does not determine whether men who watch a lot of porn have smaller brains to begin with or whether the volume of their brains has shrunk over time.

The study did show that the region of the brain that activates when someone experiences sexual stimuli is less active in those men who typically watch a lot of porn.

Read more from TIME.com

Want to look younger? Avoid the sun, smoking and high-calorie diets
Journal: Cell Press

Forget special creams and surgeries to look younger - what you really need is to avoid cigarettes and sunshine, according to scientists at the University of North Carolina.

If you avoid “gerontogens" - that’s the fancy word for stuff in the environment that may make you age - you may look younger and may even live longer.

Other “gerontogens” include the chemicals used in chemotherapy. A low-calorie diet may also slow aging, as may a low-stress environment, according to the study.

We still don’t know why some people age faster than others. But the researchers hope their study will someday lead to a blood test that would allow doctors to look at someone’s DNA for biomarkers of aging. Those biochemical signatures would help determine how fast a person is aging and why, and perhaps slow or stop the process. That’s a long way off though. This study is still in the mouse model phase.

Read more: Cell Press release

Teen sunbathers beware: 5 bad sunburns increase risk for deadly cancer
Journal: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

People who say they had more than five or more blistering sunburns before they turned 20 have an 80% increased risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

A study examined the health of 108,916 registered nurses for 20 years. Of those nurses, the ones who had five or more bad sunburns, the kind with blisters, when they were ages 15 to 20, had a 68% increased risk for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and an 80% increased risk for melanoma.

People who had a similar number of bad sunburns when they were older faced no similar increased risk for melanoma, but they did have a greater chance of developing basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.

Scientists caution people who have a propensity to develop moles or who sunburn easily should take particular care in the sun, especially early in life.

Read more: American Association of Cancer Research

Laser treatment helps tooth regeneration in mice
​Journal: Science Translational Medicine

Lasers sound a lot more fun than root canals. Scientists demonstrated in a new study that it's possible to regenerate dentin, the hard bone-like tissue in teeth, using light.

The technique makes use of stem cells already found in teeth. Researchers did not have to transplant these cells that have tremendous potential in regenerative medicine.

By shining infrared light on damaged teeth in mice, scientists activated molecules called reactive oxygen species. These molecules bind to stem cells, making the stem cells turn into dentin-forming cells that help regenerate the tooth structure, said David Mooney, senior author of the study and researcher at Harvard University.

Scientists demonstrated this in rodents, but not humans, however. Also it's a somewhat lengthy process, which would take weeks to months to work.

If it were successful in humans, though, the technique "potentially could replace the root canal," Mooney said.

Read more from Harvard


5 studies you may have missed
May 23rd, 2014
05:21 PM 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.

Mental illness reduces lifespan even more than smoking
Journal: World Psychiatry

Oxford University psychiatrists say the life expectancy of people with serious mental illness is reduced by 10 to 20 years. That's a toll on life roughly equal or even more dramatic than for people who smoke at least 20 cigarettes a day.

Mental illness is also roughly as common in the United Kingdom than smoking cigarettes, the researchers report: 25% of people will suffer from a mental health problem annually, while 19% of British men and 19% of women are smokers. In the United States, mental illness affects 20% of Americans over 18 in a year.

The study examined information about 1.7 million patients, analyzing 20 scientific reviews and studies that had mostly drawn upon data from wealthy countries.

Lead study author Dr. Seena Fazel told NPR that stigma may play a role in the pattern observed in this study. 

"So much emphasis has been placed on reducing smoking and smoking deaths. Mental illness doesn't receive the same attention in public health and public policy," Fazel told NPR. 

Read more from NPR

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Study: Don't delay measles vaccine
May 19th, 2014
02:18 PM ET

Study: Don't delay measles vaccine

There are many myths about vaccinations floating around the Internet, says Dr. Simon Hambidge. One that giving vaccinations too close together is unhealthy  has prompted some parents to request that their children receive vaccines on an alternate schedule, Hambidge told CNN in an e-mail.

Hambidge, an expert in pediatric vaccination with Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research Colorado, is lead author of a new study that examines the association between vaccine timing and seizures.

His team found that in the first year of life, there is no relationship between the recommended vaccine schedule and seizures. But delaying the measles vaccine until after a child is 15 months old may raise his or her seizure risk. The study results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"A number of people have claimed that a young child’s immune system is not robust enough to be given multiple vaccines, and that it is safer to 'spread out' vaccination," Hambidge said. "There is no scientific evidence for this, and there is evidence that it is safe and effective to follow the current recommended schedule."

FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
May 16th, 2014
01:29 PM 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.

Pregnant moms: Be careful when you are driving
Journal: Canadian Medical Association

A study out of Canada suggests women in their second trimester of pregnancy are more likely to have a traffic accident than other women.

Researchers looked at every newborn in Ontario, Canada, over a five-year span. They found a 42% increase of life-threatening motor accidents in the second trimester of their pregnancy.
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Impairment from solvents might last decades
May 12th, 2014
04:00 PM ET

Impairment from solvents might last decades

In the workplace, fumes from solvents such as paints, glues, degreasers and adhesives have been implicated in cognitive damage - in other words, impaired thinking and memory abilities. Now, researchers report in the journal Neurology that the detriments linked to these chemicals might last many years.

"What it shows is that these chemicals might have more long-term effects than have previously been thought, and continue to affect people long after they are retired," said Erika Sabbath, research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and lead author of the study.

A solvent is a substance used to dissolve another chemical. For instance, water dissolves salt. The solvents targeted in this study included benzene (found in detergents and plastics), chlorinated solvents (found in paint strippers and dry cleaning solutions) and petroleum solvents (found in varnish).

But note that researchers did not directly measure whether these chemicals cause brain damage. They simply found a statistical association between impairment on tests and exposure to chemicals. More research would be needed to prove that one directly results in the other.

FULL POST


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


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


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


Studies question fatty acids' heart benefits
March 17th, 2014
05:00 PM ET

Studies question fatty acids' heart benefits

Many health organizations, including the American Heart Association, recommend eating polyunsaturated fatty acids – particularly those called omega-3s and omega-6s – for heart health.  But new research once again casts doubt on whether these fatty acids have any effect on reducing your risk of heart disease.

A meta-analysis published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine did not find significant evidence to support eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fats. It didn't seem to matter whether the fats came from dietary sources or supplements.

"Current evidence does not clearly support guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats," the study authors concluded.

And a second study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that supplementing a diet with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids did not reduce study participants' heart disease risk.
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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