Medical Notes 17-21

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Medical Notes this week…

Going gluten-free is very popular, but a new study finds that if you don’t have celiac disease, there’s no point in it. In fact, it may even hurt you. The 25-year study in the journal BMJ shows that people who eat the lowest levels of gluten have a 15% higher risk of heart disease. Researchers say the results aren’t necessarily cause-and-effect, but when people restrict heart-healthy whole grains to reduce gluten exposure, they often end up eating more refined grains.

Kidney transplants in children are helping them survive longer. A study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons shows that 96% of children who got a new kidney about 10 years ago are still alive today. The transplanted kidneys themselves are also surviving longer—78 percent of living donor kidneys are still functioning 10 years later, compared to less than half a few decades ago. Better immunosuppression drugs get much of the credit.

And finally, if you’ve heard fewer kids complaining about being bullied lately, there’s a reason. Researchers have documented a significant decline in school bullying over the last 10 years. An ongoing study in the journal Pediatrics asks students about their experience with bullying over the last month. Since 2005, the proportion of children saying they’d been bullied has dropped about two percent per year to below 10 percent. Fewer than half of students also say they’ve witnessed bullying in the most recent survey. In 2005, about two-thirds of kids said they’d witnessed it.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-20

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Medical Notes this week…

Researchers continue to search for a brain booster to combat the cognitive effects of advancing age, and they may have found one in human umbilical cord blood. A study in the journal Nature shows that human cord blood injected into old mice significantly improved the function of their brains. Researchers were then able to isolate the responsible factor in the newborn blood, a protein called timp-2. Timp-2 injected into old mice produced the same effects. Researchers say the findings could lead to new treatments of age-related mental decline.

More women who’ve had cancer are having children, but those kids are more likely to be born prematurely, with a below average birth weight. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that breast cancer treatment produces nearly double the risk for preterm birth later, while cancers such as Hodgkins lymphoma increased the risk by 6%. Doctors don’t know if those children have greater health risks later on in life.

And finally, a study now proves that when people get their pictures taken, most of them say “take my left side. It’s my better side.” And when people view pictures, they perceive the left side of faces to be more expressive. That’s according to a study in the journal Brain and Cognition. Scientists explain that the left side of the face is controlled by the right side of the brain, which is more involved in emotion.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-19

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Medical Notes this week…

You may need to rethink your drink. A study in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia shows that excess sugar, especially the fructose in soda, may damage your brain. People who drink a lot of sugary beverages are more likely to have a poor memory, a smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s important for learning and memory. But researchers say don’t reach for lo-cal soda. Another study in the journal Stroke, shows that people who drink diet soda are nearly three times as likely to have a stroke and develop dementia as those who don’t drink diet soda.

Courses that teach mindfulness and meditation help women, but a new study shows they don’t help men at all. The study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that while women are more prone to depression and downcast mood overall, learning mindfulness significantly helps them overcome it. However, men are mostly unaffected.

And finally, where a baby’s born makes a big difference in how much they cry. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics finds that on average, babies cry about two hours a day their first few weeks of life. Over three hours per day is officially a colicky baby. And you’ll find more of them in England, Canada and Italy than anywhere else. About a quarter to a third of babies there cry more than three hours a day. The lowest percentages were in Denmark and Germany, where only about five percent of babies spend so much time crying.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-18

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Medical Notes this week…

One of the most dangerous professions of all is “firefighter.” But the job carries more than just the risk involved in answering a call. Nearly half of all on-duty deaths are a result of heart attacks, often after the call is over. Now a study in the journal Circulation may show why. Researchers say that extreme heat combined with physical exertion dehydrate the body, divert blood to the skin, lower blood pressure and increase blood clotting in the body. Firefighters involved in the study rescued a simulated victim during exposure to temperatures as high as 750 degrees.

People are supposed to get eight hours of sleep per night if they can but more than nine hours a night could be an early sign of dementia. A study in the journal Neurology finds that elderly people who consistently sleep more than nine hours a night have twice the risk of dementia over the next 10 years as people who sleep less. The risk climbs to six times normal in long sleepers without a high school degree.

A finally, if you want people to avoid junk food in vending machines, make them wait. In a study presented to the Society of Behavioral Medicine, researchers rigged vending machines with a 25-second delay before dispensing junk food, and a notice of the delay on the machine’s LED screen. Purchasers had a chance to buy something else to avoid the delay, and many did. Healthy snack purchases increased by as much as five percent.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-17

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Medical Notes this week…

We’ve reported on how dogs can sniff out a variety of diseases in people with scientists trying to create a mechanical nose to do the same thing. Now a study presented to the American Chemical Society shows they’re making progress. Researchers have identified a signature odor in 90% of cases of prostate cancer and have developed a chemical test to detect it. Doctors are looking for an alternative to the PSA test to detect prostate cancer because of the high proportion of false positives.

People who are depressed have a surprisingly high risk for heart disease. A new study in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that depression is just as much of a cardiovascular risk as obesity and high cholesterol. The 10-year study finds that depression is to blame for about 15% of all heart disease deaths, a rate exceeded only by smoking and high blood pressure. About 350 million people around the world suffer from depression.

It might be easier to get into an argument when you’re tired because you’re misreading the emotions of other people. A study in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms shows that sleepy people have trouble interpreting some emotions in the faces of others compared to those who are well rested. Tired people can read fear and anger in others’ faces but more subtle emotions are misinterpreted far more often.

And finally, slightly more than half of parents give sports the green light for their kids but about one in every six completely rule them out. The reason? Concussions. The rest of parents, about a third of them, allow participation on a sport by sport basis, according to a Harris survey for the American Osteopathic Association. About two thirds of parents say basketball and baseball are ok for kids. But less than 20% approve of their children playing football.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-16

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Medical Notes this week…

Most of the attention on concussions in sports has centered on football, but a new study presented to the American Academy of Neurology shows that female athletes are more likely than men to suffer a concussion, even when football is considered. A study of 228 college athletes shows that 23% of women and 17% of men suffered concussions during their careers. Symptoms were similar except that men suffered more amnesia and women suffered more insomnia.

People who live extremely healthy lifestyles and have no family history, yet still develop cancer may wonder, “why me?” The answer? It’s a typo. A study in the journal Science finds that DNA typos are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the genetic changes that cause cancer, far more than those triggered by heredity or the environment. Researchers say overall, 66% of cancer mutations result from copying errors, 29% are due to lifestyle or the environment, and 5% are inherited.

And finally, firstborn children get all of their parents’ attention, at least for awhile, and don’t have to wear hand-me-downs. Now a study in the Journal of Human Resources finds that firstborns are also typically smarter than their younger siblings. Researchers say the results show up as early as age 1 and result from more parental engagement with the first-born child.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

Medical Notes 17-14

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Medical Notes this week…

Some people will do almost anything to relieve their allergy symptoms but here’s an idea that works according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  It’s a probiotic combination of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria sold in stores under the name kidophilus.  Allergy suffers taking the supplement reported few or no symptoms and a higher quality of life compared to those who took a placebo.  Researchers think the probiotics work by increasing the immune symptoms T cells.

Millions of people rely on inhalers for medication for their lungs, but a new study finds that between 70% and 90% of the time patients make mistakes using them. The result is that those patients receive as little as 7% of the medicine they need.  The study in the journal Chest shows that the biggest mistake is in coordination of breathing with the activation of the inhaler.  Many patients inhale too late.

And finally, there’s a reason you feel better when you sit out in a grove of green trees.  A study in the journal Pain shows that green light helps mitigate chronic pain. A group of rats with neuropathic pain were bathed in green light and for the next four days they tolerated more thermal and touch stimulus than a control group. Another group of rats fitted with green contact lenses showed the same benefit compared to a group getting opaque lenses.  Scientists have no idea how green light works or whether the same effect holds for humans.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.