Researchers from France report evidence that diabetes may be influenced by nutritional factors at a very early age.Their study of young adults born small for their gestation age found a difference in glucose metabolism, compared to those who were heavier babies. The underweight babies were also below normal in height as adults, and were less responsive to insulin.1 Researchers speculate that poor nutrition during fetal development forever alters the biochemistry of these people, making their body more sensitive to whatever nutrition they are able to obtain. This, they argue, would explain why such children who later indulge in high-sugar and high-fat diets have a high predilection for diabetes.
1. British Medical Journal, August 9, 1997.
Fish Oil for Schizophrenia
A new study reports that a component of many fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can reduce symptoms of schizophrenia by 25 percent.2 Less than half an ounce per day is enough to produce the effect. EPA, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health. The study was very small, but is now being repeated in India on a larger scale in an attempt to duplicate these findings. Some experts are convinced that one reason anti-psychotic drugs perform so poorly is because many mental disorders are an effect of low blood levels of this and similar fats.3
2. Reported at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Chicago, August 1997, by Dr. Malcolm Peet of the University Department of Psychiatry, Sheffield, England.
3. United Press, August 17, 1997, interviewing Marc Hillbrand of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middleton.
Watering Down Baby's Food Supply
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expressing concerns that many mothers don't understand that supplementing an infant baby's food with water is usually unnecessary and may even be dangerous. The effects of "oral water intoxication" can range from low body temperatures to altered mental states and even seizures. Babies less than one month old seem especially susceptible, since they are unable to remove water from their systems as quickly as older infants. According to their research, mothers who most frequently add water to their baby's diet tend also to bottle feed, to be high school dropouts, and to belong to lower economic groups.4
4. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, August, 1997.
Mammograms and Menstrual Periods
A paper published in the journal Cancer5 reports that the outcome of a mammogram can be influenced by the menstrual cycle of the woman undergoing the test. Canadian researchers performed both mammograms and manual breast examinations on more than 8,000 women between the ages of 40 and 44, comparing the results of tests done at different times of the women's cycles. Women who at one time had been on estrogen therapy and were tested during the last two weeks of their period were more likely to show false negatives, confirmed by histological inspection. The upshot seems to be that if you've taken estrogen in the past and are contemplating mammography, schedule the exam soon after the beginning of your menstrual cycle.
5. Cancer, August 15, 1997.
Finland Recovering from Resistance
Health officials in Finland, recognizing the danger of overprescribing antibiotics earlier than most, began a campaign during 1992 to urge doctors to prescribe erythromycin and related compounds in a more responsible fashion. Antibiotic prescriptions have since dropped to half their previous level.
The bacteria also seem to notice: strep resistance to the drug dropped from 19 percent in 1993 to 9 percent in 1996.6 A few other studies are showing similar results involving this drug as well as vancomycin.
6. New England Journal of Medicine, August 14, 1997.
Hepatitis C from Transfusions
An advisory committee to the Public Health Service recently recommended that a massive campaign be started to alert pre-1993 recipients of blood transfusions to the possibility that they may have a chronic hepatitis C infection. The infection, which might be asymptomatic for years but eventually result in liver failure, was not reliably detected in blood bank screens before that time. The committee also urged blood banks to track down such persons by backtracking the distribution of blood products from donors who later tested positive for the infection.7 Apparently, they're quite worried.
7. Associated Press, August 13, 1997.
Motor Skill Learning
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine say that there is a critical period after learning a new motor skill that can impact how well the skill is learned. They say that during the six hours following the practice of a new activity, the nervous system organizes most of the neural pathways involved. Attempting a second, new skill during that time period, they say, may interfere or even nullify the earlier work.8
8. United Press, Health Notes, August 12, 1997.
A new deal struck between a Johnson & Johnson company and a firm in Finland will bring to North America a pine-tree derivative that is thought to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Benecol stanol ester was credited with reducing cholesterol by 10 percent in a small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995. It has been on the market in Finland and mixed into margarine since that time, where it generates about $17 million in sales each year. It is also easily combined with other forms of fat, say its promoters, such as chocolate.9 The marketing will presumably be directed to those still caught up in the anti-cholesterol frenzy, helping them to feel better about eating fatty foods.
9. Reuter, July 15, 1997.
Hopelessness and Atherosclerosis
A new study in Finland reports that despondency seems to accelerate atherosclerotic changes in men. This four-year project used ultrasound to measure arterial narrowing and compared the rates of progression in men with different outlooks on life. Those that had expressed a feeling of hopelessness at the beginning of the study progressed 20 percent faster than the more positive subjects: even after researchers adjusted for a variety of circumstances such as smoking, alcohol usage, and medication.10
10. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, American Heart Association Journal, August 1997.
HCFCs and Liver Damage
The refrigerant that has replaced CFCs in appliances and automobiles is being blamed for an outbreak of liver disease in a group of factory workers. The workers shared a cabin that used the coolant for air conditioning. After nine cases of hepatitis and other liver dysfunctions, it was discovered that one of the pipes carrying the hydrochlorofluorocarbons had developed a leak inside the cabin. A report in The Lancet11 urges that "safer alternatives" be investigated.
11. The Lancet, August 23, 1997.
Submissiveness and Longevity
Another study published in The Lancet12 reports that mild-mannered and yielding women are less likely to experience heart attacks. In fact, the more submissive the better: researchers report that heart attack risks decrease by 31 percent for every four-point increase on the "submissiveness scale" in their psychological profile. Nearly 800 women aged 55 and above were studied over a five-year period.
12. The Lancet, August 23, 1997.
Permanent Smoke Damage
Research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that there is at least one carcinogenic effect of cigarette smoking that does not reverse with cessation of smoking, at least if the smoking was long-term. They found that people who have smoked at least one pack per day for 25 years were still likely, years after quitting, to have a certain smoker-specific protein on the surface of their lung tissue.13 This protein is called gastrin-releasing peptide receptor, and plays a part in accelerating cell division in lung tissue, leading to tumors. This was a very small study, but a large scale trial is now underway to investigate further.
13. Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, August, 1997.
Brian Sutton, DC
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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