DC Online is a periodic column featuring summaries of the latest wellness research relevant to chiropractic practice. Each summary includes references to assist readers interested in learning more about the topic discussed.
Sinus Infections and Antibiotics
A study from the University of Southampton in England reports that antibiotics are of no use in treating most sinus infections.This paper1 compared amoxicillin, a steroid spray or placebos as treatment options for 240 adults with sinusitis. There basically was no difference in the time it took for the infections to clear up regardless of which treatment was used. Sinus infections are diagnosed in about 31 million Americans each year and are a very common reason for doctor visits.2
- JAMA, Dec. 5, 2007.
- Associated Press, Dec. 4, 2007.
Breast Cancer and Weight
Recent research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health3 suggests that keeping off weight after being diagnosed with breast cancer greatly increases a woman's chance of survival. This study gathered statistics on about 4,000 women from 1998 to 2001. Comparing survival rates with body mass index calculations, the researchers found that for every 11 pounds gained after the initial diagnosis, the risk of death from breast cancer or other causes increased by 14 percent. Women classified as obese died at twice the rate of normal-weight females.
- Led by doctoral student Hazel Nichols, Reuters, Dec. 7, 2007.
Honey for Your Cough
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine4 recently did a comparison between children's cough preparations. Parents evaluated treatment effectiveness on a seven-point scale. The medications were randomly assigned to the families and consisted of either a honey-flavored medicine that contained dextrometh-orphan, similar-sized doses of just honey or nothing at all. The honey treatment consistently scored better on the evaluations than either the medicine or no treatment. Interestingly, a number of pediatricians interviewed about their reaction after reading the study (in light of recent warnings that cough and cold medicines should be avoided in small children) said that they would recommend honey "if their patients were seeking alternative treatments."5 The researchers warned that honey should not be given to infants in their first year because of a rare risk of botulism.
- Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, December 2007.
- Associated Press, Dec. 3, 2007.
A study from the University of Michigan6 draws a very strong correlation between lack of sleep in children and their risk of becoming obese as they grow older. One finding was that each additional hour a third-grader sleeps at night reduces the risk by 40 percent of becoming obese in the sixth grade. Irregular bedtimes, caffeine intake and in-room televisions are all thought to contribute to the obesity epidemic we've seen in recent years. Sleep deprivation appears to upset the balance between two hormones that regulate the appetite: ghrelin (which promotes hunger) and leptin (which contributes to the feeling of fullness). Studies on adults also have suggested a similar correlation between weight and lack of sleep. The average third grader in this study slept 9 hours each night. Those least likely to become obese routinely slept 10 to 12 hours nightly.
- Pediatrics, November 2007.
The World Health Organization is adding a new item to its long list of "probable" cancer risk factors: working the night shift.7 The connection has been suspected since 1987, when researchers were looking into the reason why breast cancer incidence suddenly spiked when nations became industrialized. Subsequent studies noticed a similar link in humans and animals. The theory is that since melanin, which can suppress tumor development, is mostly produced during periods of darkness and artificial light (or lack of a dark room in which to sleep) disrupts production, the individual is predisposed to tumor growth. Other explanations involve a simple circadian rhythm disruption, or perhaps the stress induced in people who work nights as part of a rotating schedule. Researchers are testing a number of different options, including using red lights for illumination during night work. Red light seems to have the least effect on melanin production.
- Associated Press, Nov. 29, 2007.
A study published in the British Medical Journal8 concludes that for normal deliveries, elective cesarean deliveries double the risk of maternal death or serious health complications. It also might result in up to 70 percent more deaths of the child. Antibiotic treatment for the mother is required five times as often after a cesarean delivery. This study analyzed data from nearly 100,000 births - about one-third of which were by C-section. This study is interesting in light of physicians' tendency to suggest they are "playing it safe" by electing to perform a non-emergency cesarean procedure.9
- BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.39363.706956.55 (published Oct. 30, 2007).
- Reuters, Oct. 31, 2007.
TB Vaccine Killing HIV-infected Infants
Researchers observing the health of infants in developing countries report that a large number of babies are getting sick and dying following administration of the BCG (Bacille calmette-guerin) vaccine. The vaccine typically is given at birth and is intended to protect against tuberculosis. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for babies to be born with an HIV infection in many of these countries. Since BCG is a live vaccine, it introduces the pathogen into the infants' systems. The HIV infection prevents an adequate immune response, and the tuberculosis agent proliferates out of control.
In one study, so-called "BCG disease" was seen in about 400 per 100,000 HIV-infected infants in South Africa. Some estimates place the mortality rate as high as 75 percent of infants.10
- Reuters, Nov. 2, 2007, citing figures from Dr. Mark Cotton of Stallenbosch University in South Africa.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine11 reports that children who watch four or more hours of television a day are three times more likely to have high blood pressure than those who view less than two hours' worth. High blood pressure in children, previously a rare occurrence, has become much more prevalent in recent years. Blame most often is placed on lack of exercise, junk food and the obesity that follows. The study involved 546 children, ages 4 to 17, who were being treated at weight management clinics. About 17 percent of U.S. children are classified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.12
- AJPM, Oct. 30, 2007.
- Reuters, Oct. 30, 2007.
Sunlight Cuts Breast Cancer
In a report bound to some confuse people with cancer fears, the American Journal of Epidemiology13 concludes that sunlight exerts a protective effect against advanced breast cancer. The effect was only significant in light-skinned women, but it translated into a 47 percent lower risk of the disease. The researchers suspect that the vitamin D formed in light-skinned individuals exposed to the ultraviolet rays is responsible for the benefit. Vitamin D formation is reduced as the skin tone darkens. The study involved approximately 3,900 women.
- AJE, Oct. 18, 2007.
Iron for Cough
Researchers who were investigating why women appear to suffer from chronic, unexplained coughs more than men have come up with an unexpected explanation: iron deficiency.14 They evaluated 16 women with chronic, idiopathic coughs and found that they all were iron-deficient. All showed signs of throat inflammation such as redness, swelling and vocal cord sensitivity. After two months of iron supplementation, all the women showed either vast improvement or complete recovery. The current hypothesis is that a lack of iron leads to abnormal regulation of immune and inflammation proteins, particularly affecting the upper respiratory tract because of its vulnerable location.
- Reuters, Oct. 23, 2007, reporting on the work of Dr. Caterina Bucca of the University of Turin in Italy.
Whole Grain for Heart Success
Whole-grain foods already are well-known for their protective effects against heart attacks, but another study now suggests they also make one less likely to suffer from congestive heart failure. This study gathered information over 20 years from 21,000 male doctors averaging 53.7 years of age. They found that those men who averaged one bowl of whole-grain cereal a day (25 percent or more whole grain or bran by weight) were diagnosed with heart failure half as often, compared to those who rarely consumed such cereals.15
- Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 22, 2007.
A Useful Appendix
A Duke University Medical Center doctor has come up with a hypothesis on the purpose of the human appendix. Dr. William Parker suggests that the appendix acts as a reservoir of beneficial bacteria. This stock of good bacteria is needed after the intestines are purged of their contents; for example, after a bout of diarrhea. The appendix presumably would stay closed off during the cleansing, then release its bacteria supply into the gut to reconstitute the intestinal flora afterward.16
- Journal of Theoretical Biology, Oct. 8, 2007 online issue.
Click here for previous articles by Brian Sutton, DC.