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15 August 2008

Research shows high vitamin C intake beneficial

Having a high level of vitamin C in your blood, consistent with that achieved by supplementation and eating a high fruit and vegetable diet, reduces your risk of diabetes by 62%. That's the conclusion of a study of more than 21,000 people over a 12-year period, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.1

Those in the top fifth of plasma vitamin C were 62% less likely to develop diabetes, compared to those in the bottom fifth. The greater a person's vitamin C levels, the lesser was their risk. This relationship was much stronger than the relationship between their intake of fruit and vegetables - those in the top fifth reduced their diabetes risk by 22%.

The level of vitamin C needed to induce this risk reduction was above 1.1mg per decilitre (1.1mg/dL) of blood for men and 1.29mg/dL for women. Those who supplement 1 gram a day have, on average, a level of 1.62mg/dL, while those who take a basic multivitamin, usually containing 60 to 80mg of vitamin C, have a level of 0.94mg/dL, compared to non-supplementers, who average 0.66mg/dL.

The lead author Anne-Helen Harding from Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: "The strong independent association observed in this prospective study, together with biological plausibility, provides persuasive evidence of a beneficial effect of vitamin C and fruit and vegetable intake on diabetes risk."

The researchers state that vitamin C's antioxidant properties may be specifically protective against diabetes. "Oxidative stress, the situation in which an imbalance between the levels of reactive oxygen species and antioxidants exists, can lead to disturbed glucose metabolism and hyperglycemia. Oxidative stress is consistently observed in patients with diabetes, and the degree of oxidative stress tends to be greater in those with more diabetic complications."

The moral of this story is supplement vitamin C, eat vitamin C rich foods and eat lots of fruit and vegetables.

Did you know that out of oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pepper and brocolli that per 100g brocolli contains the most vitamin C, followed by peppers, Kiwi fruit, strawberries and then oranges!

14 August 2008

Stem cells repair damaged tissue after heart attack

THE discovery of heart stem cells in 2006 raised hopes that new treatments for heart disease would soon follow. Now, it seems heart stem cells may already help to repair the damage after a heart attack, if only to a limited degree.

Richard Lee of the Harvard Medical School and colleagues genetically engineered mice so that their heart muscle cells could be stained with a fluorescent protein. Only 80 per cent of the heart muscle cells in young mice picked up the stain. However, as the mice aged, this level remained the same, suggesting that adult mice don't normally make new heart muscle cells. When the team induced heart attacks in the mice, the number of stained cells dropped to 70 per cent, while the overall number of heart cells remained about the same, suggesting that new muscle cells can form in response to injury (Nature Medicine, DOI: 10.1038/nm1618).

Lee thinks that the adult mouse heart has a limited ability to repair itself. "The mechanism to activate cardiac regeneration is present, but it's inadequate," he says. "Could that be because mammals don't have enough [heart] stem cells? We need to understand what is holding the system back so that we can devise a strategy to turn that brake off."

But Kenneth Chien of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston isn't convinced. "The most important question now is: can you identify that new pool? Are they pre-existing immature cardiac muscle cells? Or are they [stem cells] from the heart or elsewhere in the body?"

The Outsourcing of Clinical Trials

The price of bringing a new drug to market is, on average, $1 billion. Much of that is spent on human clinical trials, the most crucial and time-consuming phase of drug development.

With tight regulations at home and shrinking profits due to expiring drug patents, western drug makers are looking to expedite the process by outsourcing safety and efficacy studies to countries such as India. An amendment proposed last year by the technical advisory committee of India's Health Ministry would allow drug companies to test their products widely on patients in India even before they're proved safe at home. In a country that lacks the medical infrastructure to care for people harmed by untested drugs, this could lead to potentially devastating consequences.

Already, toxic drugs have posed problems. In 2003, researchers from India-based Sun Pharmaceuticals gave the anticancer drug letrozole to 430 young women to see if it would induce ovulation, despite the fact that the drug is known to be toxic to embryos.


* Time August 11, 2008

13 August 2008

My Book: Organizing my jumbled thoughts

As I started to organize the labyrinth of my thoughts, I tried to identify a strong "theme" from my outline. At this point, I began to:

Rank my research material; making the most important, the important and the least important or useless material. Later I used these rankings to decide where to put the emphasis. The rankings also helped me later choose a title for my book.
Next, I struggled to minimize the length. I knew that in order to be engaging, I had to avoid repetition, be concise, state general problems or solutions and then lead to a specific conclusion.

My book had to be a verbal sketch of my deepest thoughts, so I could not be casual or careless with the choice of my words. I had to use them frugally and carefully.

Writing in a way forced me to examine and reorder your thoughts. At this stage I was not imposing order; rather I was just arranging my thoughts in a random order. I was indeed allowing my mind to think freely of ideas/items that related to my topic. The order came much later. Rather it evolved on its own through this brain storming process. I brainstormed, not with another person, but my own self. Often, I chose my girlfriend as my staunchest critic. Since I wanted to persuade my readers, brainstorming served as a free exploration, it helped the process. It helped establish norms of relevance, logic and clarity. All this enabled me to catalogue things that were most important to my purpose - a way of classifying everything you know about the topic into two categories: information that belongs to my book from one that didn’t. I was conscious of the fact that throughout this painful process, I remained committed to a definite plan - a direction, scope, sequence, tone and level of difficulty that I wanted to establish in my book.

12 August 2008

Beets: The New Spinach?

Beets have recently been identified as nutritional powerhouses, high in folate, manganese and potassium.

If you want to take advantage of this delicious and nutritious vegetable, the best time to buy them is June through October, when they are at their most tender.

Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, unwilted greens. The greens bring an additional set of nutrients to the plate, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium.


* New York Times August 4, 2008

Broccoli Reverses Diabetes Damage

Eating broccoli could reverse the damage that diabetes inflicts on heart blood vessels. The key is most likely a compound in the vegetable called sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and reduces the number molecules which cause cell damage.

People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.


* BBC News August 5, 2008

Eggs Are the Better Breakfast Choice

A study shows that eating two eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet, helps overweight adults lose more weight and feel more energetic than those who eat a bagel breakfast of equal calories. This study supports previous research which showed that people who ate eggs for breakfast felt more satisfied and ate fewer calories at the following meal.

Compared to the subjects who ate a bagel breakfast, men and women who consumed two eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet:

* Lost 65 percent more weight
* Exhibited a 61 percent greater reduction in BMI
* Reported higher energy levels

The egg and bagel breakfasts provided the same number of calories.


* Eurekalert August 5, 2008

Health Hazards in Household Cleaners Exposed

Recent research suggests that exposure to cleaning products or air fresheners that contain a compound called 1,4 dicholorobenzene can reduce lung function by 4 percent. Another study found that the use of spray household cleaners could increase the risk of developing asthma by nearly 50 percent.

Most people with asthma instinctively avoid these types of products, the study on 1,4 dicholorobenzene suggests that other people should probably avoid them, too.

1,4 DCB is the chemical that gives mothballs their distinctive odor. It's also found in room deodorizers, insecticides and in urinal blocks.


* U.S. News & World Report July 25, 2008

Spices That Defend You Against High Blood Sugar

Herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants, and they are also potent inhibitors of tissue damage and inflammation caused by high levels of blood sugar.

When researchers tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices, they found a direct correlation between antioxidant phenol content and the ability of the extracts to block the formation of compounds that contribute to damage caused by diabetes and aging.

Spices such as cloves and cinnamon have phenol levels that are 30 percent and 18 percent of dry weight, respectively, while herbs such as oregano and sage are 8 and 6 percent phenol by dry weight. Blueberries, which are widely touted for their antioxidant capabilities, contain roughly 5 percent phenol by dry weight.


* Science Blog August 5, 2008

Lack of Deep Sleep Causes Adolescent Obesity

The obesity rate in the U.S. has more than tripled among 6 to 11-year-olds over the past three decades. A new study indicates that cutting down on REM sleep, a deep restorative form of rest, is associated with obesity among teens and children.

In the study, 335 children and teens were observed in a sleep clinic during three consecutive nights. The children who slept the least were the most likely to be overweight, and the less REM sleep they got, the greater the likelihood of obesity.

It could be that sleep loss changes the hormone levels in the body that may impact how much a person eats during the waking hours. Exhaustion may also influence levels of exercise.


* Injury Board August 6, 2008

When a Little Poison is Good for You

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is a phrase that contains more than a grain of truth. It describes the theory of hormesis -- the process whereby organisms exposed to low levels of stress or toxins become more resistant to tougher challenges.

The theory of hormesis has been around for decades, but has long been met with skepticism or downright suspicion. In recent years, however, biologists have pieced together a clear molecular explanation of how it works, and hormesis has finally been accepted as a fundamental principle of biology and biomedicine.

As an example, exposing mice to small doses of gamma ray radiation shortly before irradiating them with very high levels of gamma rays actually decreases the likelihood of cancer. A similar effect occurs when dioxin is given to rats.

The biochemical mechanisms by which hormesis works are not well understood. It is thought that a low dose of a toxin can trigger certain repair mechanisms in the body, and these mechanisms, having been initiated, are efficient enough that they not only neutralize the toxin's effect, but can even repair other defects not caused by the toxin.

One of the areas where the concept of hormesis has been explored extensively is aging. It is thought that exposing cells to mild stress could result in the adaptive or hormetic response that has anti-aging effects. Some of the mild stresses that might work for this include heat shock, irradiation, pro-oxidants, hypergravity, food restriction, and even exercise.


* New Scientist August 6, 2008

Dogs Can Read Their Owner's Minds

A study that shows that dogs can "catch" human yawns provides evidence that dogs may be able to read the mind of their owners.

Scientists have known for decades that yawns are infectious among people, so much so that simply thinking about them can trigger a chain reaction of "contagious yawning". The phenomenon is thought to be linked with empathy and the ability to read the thoughts of another individual.

Now the first ever study to report that human yawns induce yawning in dogs found that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned in response to human yawning, showing that "dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy."


* The Telegraph August 6, 2008

How Hospitals Are Killing ER Patients

In June, Esmin Green, a 49-year-old mother of six, tumbled off her chair and onto the floor of the Kings County psychiatric ER waiting room in New York City. She'd been waiting for a psychiatric-unit bed to open up for more than 24 hours. Members of the hospital staff saw her lying there but did nothing for about an hour.

When Green was finally brought into the ER, she was dead. An autopsy revealed that she died from a pulmonary embolism, a blot clot in the legs which traveled to her lungs.

Why was Green sitting and waiting for so long while blood pooled in her legs? Despite increasing evidence that crowded ER’s can be hazardous to your health, hospitals have incentives to keep their ER patients waiting. As a result, there has been an explosion in ER wait times over the past few years, even for those who are the sickest.

A major cause for ER crowding is the hospital practice of boarding inpatients in emergency departments. If there are no inpatient beds in the hospital then the patient stays in the ER long past the completion of the initial emergency work. The problem is that boarding shifts ER resources away from the new patients in the waiting room. A recent study found that critically ill patients who board for more than six hours in the ER are 4 percent more likely to die.

Why hospital would promote such a practice? Those that make money off of it. There are two competing sources for inpatient beds. The first source is patients who come in through direct and transfer admissions. They are more likely to come with private insurance and need procedural care, both of which maximize profits. The second source is ER patients, who are more likely to be uninsured or have low-paying Medicaid.


* Slate July 24, 2008