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5 studies you may have missed
Sleep cleans your brain, a new study finds.
October 18th, 2013
06:46 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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.

Autism cases in the UK rose but leveled off 
Journal: BMJ Open (British Medical Journal)

We've been hearing for the past several years that autism is on the rise but by how much? A new study shows that while autism cases among 8-year-olds in the United Kingdom rose five-fold in the 1990s, the numbers plateaued early in the 21st century and have held since 2010.

That's quite a contrast to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found a 78% increase in the condition in 8-year-old children from 2004 to 2008 in the United States.
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October 17th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

CDC back at work to track the flu

Update 10/18 3:30 p.m.: The CDC has released an abbreviated FluView report for the week ending in October 12. See it here

Published 10/17: Now that the U.S. government shutdown is over, federal workers are returning to work, including the furloughed doctors and epidemiologists who work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

One of the many things the CDC does is keep track of the flu, something that was stopped on October 1, leaving the overall flu picture in the United States a little murky.

Every Friday, the CDC is supposed to post how many cases of flu have been reported in the 50 states and U.S. territories. But during the shutdown, the CDC said on its website that it would "not be routinely analyzing surveillance data nor testing laboratory specimens submitted as part of routine surveillance."

So the most recent weekly CDC report provides data for the week of September 21. Under normal circumstances, the CDC would be posting data tomorrow from the week ending October 12 (they are always one week behind).  But since their staff is just now returning to work, it's likely the FluView reports will probably resume next Friday, a CDC spokesperson said.
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Attention sperm: Bacon bad, fish good
October 16th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Attention sperm: Bacon bad, fish good

The quality of a man's semen is directly related to his ability to help conceive a child. But science hasn't found many solutions for men looking for a baby-making boost. Now a study suggests men who are hoping to start families may want to pay attention to what they eat.

A study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston this week, and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, suggests that processed meat intake is linked to poorer semen quality, and fish is linked to better semen quality.

Myriam Afeiche, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues looked at how types of meat could be associated with semen quality. They took samples from 156 men at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston and had the men answer a questionnaire about their eating habits.
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Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study
October 16th, 2013
12:21 PM ET

Oreos as 'addictive' as cocaine in lab rat study

Anyone who's ever eaten an Oreo knows how difficult it can be to eat just one.

Scientists have long suspected that our brains crave junk food in the same way they crave other pleasurable substances, such as illegal drugs. Previous studies in rodents and in humans have shown the same area of the brain that lights up on scans when people use drugs, also shows increased activity when study participants consume, or even look at, high fat, high sugar foods like ice cream or bacon.

Some scientists believe certain foods trigger the brain to signal for more, similar to the way addictive drugs prompt cravings; if we don't fulfill the brain's request, the body could produce a physical response (like caffeine headaches) similar to withdrawal symptoms.

New research from undergraduate students at Connecticut College adds to the growing evidence suggesting that food can be addictive. The students were interested in understanding how the availability of junk food in low-income areas has contributed to America's obesity epidemic.

“Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat, high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability,” study designer and neuroscience major Jamie Honohan said in a statement.
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30,000 may carry human form of mad cow
October 15th, 2013
04:06 PM ET

30,000 may carry human form of mad cow

Up to 30,000 people in Britain may be silent carriers of the human form of mad cow disease, according to new research published Tuesday.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) is the human form of the fatal brain-wasting disease found in cows called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) - better known as mad cow disease.  So far there have only been 177 confirmed human cases in the United Kingdom, according to the study. Forty-nine more cases have been reported in 11 other countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Previous research suggested maybe 1 in 4,000 people living in Britain were carrying the protein that causes vCJD, says Dr. Sebastian Brandner, one of the study authors and head of the Division of Neuropathology at Queen Square, one of the largest academic neuropathology departments in the UK. But that estimate was made using a smaller sample, says Brandner.

This new study, published Tuesday in the medical journal BMJ, was much larger. Researchers studied appendix samples from 32,441 people and found 16 that tested positive for vCJD. Given that population of the United Kingdom is a little over 60 million, Brandner says that means about 1 in 2,000 people - or roughly 30,000 people total - have this potentially lethal prion.
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Can brain scientists read your mind?
This is a grid of numbered electrodes, with many contacts on the brain. Each contact is like a "spying microphone" capturing the activity of hundreds of thousands of cells, says Dr. Josef Parvizi.
October 15th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Can brain scientists read your mind?

What are you thinking about? You wouldn’t always want the answer to that question available to others, but science may be heading in that direction.

For now, researchers are far from being able to tap into your thoughts. But a new study shows how, just by looking at brain activity, it may be possible to see whether or not you're thinking about numbers.

"The patient doesn’t need to talk to you. They can think about numbers and you can see that red mark (corresponding with activity in a particular brain region) go up," said Dr. Josef Parvizi, associate professor of neurology at the Stanford University Medical Center and senior author of the study. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
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Study: Diet supplement has meth-like chemical
October 14th, 2013
01:42 PM ET

Study: Diet supplement has meth-like chemical

Update (Tuesday 11:30 a.m. ET) - Driven Sports attorney Marc Ullman says Driven Sports suspended the production and sales of Craze several months ago while it investigated reports regarding the safety of Craze; the company does not currently have plans to resume production.

Less than a week after health officials asked stores to pull a fat-burning supplement from shelves, another dietary supplement is coming under fire.

Craze, a sports supplement marketed to bodybuilders, contains a chemical compound similar to the illegal drug methamphetamine, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Drug Testing and Analysis journal. The substance, called N,alpha-diethylphenylethylamine or N,a-DEPEA, has never been studied in humans, according to Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.

Scientists tested three Craze samples from three different suppliers, according to the study. They found N,a-DEPEA in all three - about 20 to 35 milligrams of the drug in a serving size of the supplement. These dosages suggest it was "not a minor contaminant resulting from the manufacturing process," the study authors wrote.
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5 studies you may have missed
LeBron James is one of the athletes with the most unhealthy food and beverage endorsements, a new study found.
October 11th, 2013
12:58 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

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.

Athlete endorsements may be detrimental to kids' health
Journal: Pediatrics

Could sports superstars be encouraging bad eating habits in children? A new study takes a hard look at the products that professional athletes endorse, and the news isn't good.

"Seventy-nine percent of the 62 food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and 93.4% of the 46 advertised beverages had 100% of calories from added sugar," study authors wrote.

The awards for most endorsements for energy-dense, nutrient-poor products goes to football player Peyton Manning and basketball player LeBron James. Bleacher Report has more on this study.

Scientists have brain breakthrough in mice
Journal: Science Translational Medicine

Researchers have discovered the first chemical compound that stops brain tissue from dying in a neurodegenerative disease, TIME.com reports.

This drug could be instrumental in fighting brain conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, scientists say. But so far, the research has only been done in mice; further investigation is necessary to see if it would work in humans.
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Report: States failing to curb prescription abuse
October 7th, 2013
12:44 PM ET

Report: States failing to curb prescription abuse

Since 1999, sales of prescription painkillers in the United States have quadrupled. So have the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Prescription drug misuse is now responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

Despite these shocking statistics, a new report from Trust for America's Health finds many states are lacking effective strategies to curb prescription drug abuse.

The report, titled "Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic," shows more than half the states scored a six or less on the advocacy organization's scale, which assesses the ways states are trying to combat prescription drug abuse. Only two states, New Mexico and Vermont, scored 10 out of 10.

"In the past two decades we've seen many advances in the development of new prescription drugs, which have been a miracle for many," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "But we've also seen a corresponding rise in misuse, and the consequences can be dire."
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5 studies you may have missed
October 4th, 2013
01:45 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.

ICU puts patients at risk of cognitive impairment
Journal: New England Journal of Medicine

A new study finds an alarming trend: Thinking and memory problems can last at least a year in patients discharged from the intensive care unit.

Adults who have been in the ICU because of respiratory failure or shock were evaluated three and 12 months after discharge. Of the 821 participants, 74% had developed delirium, characterized by confused thinking, while in the hospital.

Researchers found signs of persistent cognitive impairment in both older and younger patients.
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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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