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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


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


5 studies you may have missed
March 14th, 2014
11:50 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.

Blood test may diagnose sports injuries to the brain
Journal: JAMA Neurology

Sports concussions have received a lot of attention recently, as evidence mounts that repetitive injuries to the brain can have damaging long-term consequences. But the science of sports-related head injuries, including how to measure recovery and decide when it's OK for a patient to play again, needs work.

This study proposes using blood biomarkers to diagnose sports-related concussions. To study the phenomenon, researchers used 280 players from 12 teams in the Swedish Hockey League, the top professional ice hockey league in Sweden.

Researchers say a blood test measuring a protein called tau could help determine the severity of a concussion, whether there could be long-term consequences and when a patient can return to play. The test could evaluate severity just one hour after injury, they said.

"Concussions are a growing international problem," lead study author Henrik Zetterberg of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg told Reuters Health. "The stakes for the individual athlete are high, and the list of players forced to quit with life-long injury is getting ever longer."

Read more from Reuters Health

FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
February 21st, 2014
08:38 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.

Changing schools linked to psychotic symptoms
Journal: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

When a child switches schools, it may have more dire consequences for him or her than one might think.

Researchers at the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom examined data from almost 14,000 children born between the years 1991 and 1992. They found increased signs of psychosis among children who switched schools three or more times in early childhood. These symptoms included hallucinations and interrupting thoughts.

FULL POST


Bullies in popular culture
February 17th, 2014
03:13 PM ET

Bullying's mental health toll may last years

Victims of bullying may suffer mental and physical consequences even after bullying occurs, research shows.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds that bullying is associated with poor physical and mental health among children, particularly among those who were bullied in the past and are being currently bullied.

The effects were strongest among children who were bullied continuously, in more than one grade, particularly in terms of psychological health, said lead author Laura Bogart, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. Psychological measures included negative emotions such as anger and depression.

"We were able to show that these effects of bullying snowballed and compounded over time," Bogart said. FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
February 7th, 2014
09:18 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.

Yogurt may lower diabetes risk
Journal: Diabetologia

Type 2 diabetes is a big public health problem. According to the World Health Organization, 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, and 90% of those cases are type 2, which is associated with excess body weight and physical inactivity.

A new study by University of Cambridge researchers looks to yogurt as a possible means of prevention.

Scientists examined dietary records from 753 people who developed type 2 diabetes during an 11-year period. They compared that data with eating habits of 3,500 healthy people from the same population. Participants were part of a large study in Norfolk, England.

They found a 28% decreased risk of diabetes in people who chowed down on low-fat yogurt at least four times a week, compared to people who did not eat yogurt.

This study does not prove that yogurt directly protects against diabetes or causes any outcomes. But Forbes notes that yogurt does have ingredients associated with good health: calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and fatty acids. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

FULL POST


Gay, bisexual boys more likely to use steroids
February 4th, 2014
12:36 PM ET

Gay, bisexual boys more likely to use steroids

Everyone has heard about steroid abuse in the context of professional athletics, but its misuse among adolescent boys has gotten a lot less attention.

A new study suggests that gay and bisexual adolescent boys are more than five times more likely to use anabolic-androgenic steroids - which increase the development of secondary male sex characteristics - than heterosexual adolescent boys.  The study appeared Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers Aaron Blashill and Steven Safren, both affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, were "shocked" at how much more steroid use affects sexual minorities, Blashill said.  It is not common to find such a strong disparity in psychological research. FULL POST


5 studies you may have missed
January 24th, 2014
08:51 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.

Sunlight may lower blood pressure
Journal: Journal of Investigative Dermatology

Going outside and embracing the sun may come with unexpected health benefits, a new study suggests. But don't get so much direct exposure that you risk skin cancer.

Researchers looked at the benefits of radiation from the sun. Volunteers received a dose of ultraviolet-A radiation in a laboratory that was equivalent to being in the sun for 30 minutes in summertime in Southern Europe. 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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