Monthly Archives: October 2015

Why women shouldn’t ignore mini-strokes

depression-main “Women are care-givers and so they generally do not pay much attention to slight temporary changes that occur during their activities,” says expert (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Leading neurologists and stroke specialists here on Thursday urged women to seek immediate medical attention in case of “mini-strokes” as delaying treatment could increase risk of a major stroke.

“Women are care-givers and so they generally do not pay much attention to slight temporary changes that occur during their activities. Mini-strokes or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) basically means that brain function is disrupted for a short time (less than 24 hours),” said Nabin Sarkar, senior consultant neurologist and stroke specialist at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals here.

“It can last for 30 to 90 minutes and many do not even notice the signs such as sudden numbness in arms or slurred speech etc.,” he said.

Sarkar and colleague Shankar Loharuka sounded the alarm bell on the risks associated with mini-strokes.

“One in twelve run the risk of getting a major stroke within 48 hours of TIA and within a week, it increases to ten percent. So instead of taking signs of numbness lightly, women should immediately go to a hospital where stroke management services are available,” they said.

In commemoration of World Stroke Day, the experts emphasised the gender-benders when it comes to stroke and its recovery and severity.

“Chances of recovery is less for women as compared to men and even severity is more for women. They are more likely to die of strokes than a man,” the experts said, adding community awareness and educating women as well as their partners is important.

They suggested the F.A.S.T. system to remember the sudden signs of stroke: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call (the doctor or emergency service).

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Tuberculosis ranks alongside HIV as leading killer worldwide, says WHO report

TB main In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.5 million people, 400,000 of whom were HIV-positive (Source: Thinkstock Images)

In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.5 million people, 400,000 of whom were HIV-positive, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday, ranking the disease alongside HIV as a leading killer worldwide.

WHO said in a report that the fight against TB is paying off, however, with this year’s death rate nearly half of what it was in 1990, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2015, most of the improvement came since 2000, the year the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were established. In all, effective diagnosis and treatment saved 43 million lives between 2000 and 2015.

Worldwide, TB incidence has fallen 1.5 percent per year since 2000, for a total reduction of 18 percent.

The report highlighted the need to close detection and treatment gaps, fill funding shortfalls, and develop new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

Global advances included the achievement of the MDG that called for halting and reversing TB incidence by 2015. The goal was reached globally and in 16 of the 22 high-burden countries that collectively account for 80 percent of cases.

“The report shows that TB control has had a tremendous impact in terms of lives saved and patients cured,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

“These advances are heartening, but if the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research,” she added.

“Ending the TB epidemic is now part of the Sustainable Development Goal agenda,” said Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/tuberculosis-ranks-alongside-hiv-as-leading-killer-worldwide-who-report/

Shampoo ingredient can increase breast cancer risk

shampoo-main Is your shampoo putting you at risk of breast cancer? (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Even at low levels, a class of preservatives widely-used in consumer products like shampoos, cosmetics, body lotions, and sunscreens can contribute to development of breast cancer, suggests new research.

The estrogen-mimicking chemicals called parabens also have implications for other diseases that are influenced by estrogens, the study noted.

These chemicals are considered estrogenic because they activate the same estrogen receptor as the natural hormone estradiol.

Studies have linked exposure to estradiol and related estrogens with an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as reproductive problems.

As a result, the use of parabens in consumer products increasingly has become a public health concern.

“Although parabens are known to mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, some consider their effect too weak to cause harm,” said lead investigator Dale Leitman, a gynecologist and molecular biologist at University California, Berkeley in the US.

“But this might not be true when parabens are combined with other agents that regulate cell growth,” Leitman noted.

However, existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation and fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

To better reflect what goes on in real life, the researchers looked at breast cancer cells expressing two types of receptors: estrogen receptors and HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.

The study demonstrated that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested, which may spur scientists and regulators to rethink the potential impacts of parabens on the development of breast cancer.

The findings were published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Chocolate, pizza among most addictive foods

The Top 20 list of addictive food includes chocolate, ice cream, French fries, pizza, cookies, cheese, bacon, pretzels, fried chicken, soda and cake. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Chocolate and pizza are the most addictive foods, according to a new study that found that these highly processed foods are closely linked to eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction.

A research team from the University of Michigan and Columbia University’s New York Obesity Research Centre looked into common addictive foods. The team analysed 35 different foods items and surveyed 120 undergraduates at the University of Michigan and around 400 adults. The team used the Yale Food Addiction Scale, developed by psychologist and lead author of the study Ashley Gearhardt, to assess food addiction risk.

Chocolate topped the list of foods that are most addictive. It was followed by favorites such as ice cream, French fries, pizza and cookies, ‘Tech Times’ reported. Cheese, bacon, pretzels, fried chicken, soda and cake also made it to the Top 20 list. Processed foods have higher levels of glycemic load and fat compared to the non-processed ones.

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Researchers found that processed foods are closely associated with eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction. “Processing appears to be an essential distinguishing factor for whether a food is associated with behavioural indicators of addictive-like eating,” the researchers said.”Highly processed foods are altered to be particularly rewarding through the addition of fats and/or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar),” said researchers. For instance, poppy is not addictive until it is processed into a refined state (opium). Grapes are not as addictive until turned into wine.

Symptoms of food addiction include loss of control when it comes to quantity intake, inability to stop or cut down intake despite the presence of strong desire and continued use regardless of existing negative effects.

Researchers also found there is an increased activity in parts of the brain related to the reward system when given food cues. This increased activation in the same region is present in patients with substance-abuse illnesses. The study was published in the US National Library of Medicine.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/chocolate-pizza-among-most-addictive-foods/

After iodine, an iron shot for salt

By M R Gandhi & Team

For several years now, iodine has been a standard ingredient in common salt that we use in India. The presence of iodine has almost eradicated the goitre disease that occurred because of iodine deficiency.

Our team at the CSMCRI has often been asked whether common salt can be fortified with iron as well. Iron deficiency is a common problem in India. Women, especially during pregnancies, need a good dose of iron, which cannot be supplied by a normal diet.

About couple of years ago, we made attempts to add iron supplements to salt. While the process might seem to be a straightforward case of adding a chemical into salt, but that is not the case. When we tried to add iron, we found that the iodine in the salt got destabilised. Iodine is present in salt in the form of Potassium iodate (KIO3). When we tried to add iron, in the form of Ferrous fumarate or Ferrous sulphate (FeSO4), the two compounds reacted to produce another set of compounds that produced a very pungent smell. In addition, while Ferrous fumarate is dark in colour, Ferrous sulphate is greenish. This resulted in a change in colour of the salt.

We had to find a way to prevent the iron and iodine compound from reacting with each other. To tackle this problem we decided to use Magnesium hydroxide Mg(OH)2 molecules. The Magnesium hydroxide has lattice-like structure which traps other molecules and acts like a cage. We decided to use this method for iron and iodine compounds.

In our experiments, we saw that the IO3- ion indeed was getting trapped inside the matrix consisting of layers of Mg(OH)2 molecules. Even the iron, Fe3+++, ion was getting trapped. We, therefore, produced two Magnesium hydroxide matrices, one comprising iodate ions and the other having ferric ions. When the common salt was fortified in this form, the iron and iodate ions don’t come in contact with each other. This method imparted ultra fine stability to the constituents.

The resulting double-fortified salt has cleared animal trials. For this, three sets of mice were starved of iron because of which the haemoglobin in their blood dropped. Then one set of mice were given normal salt, that is available in the markets, and the other set was given the salt which had iron and iodine in the Magnesium hydroxide matrix, and the third set was given iron and iodine salt, without the Magnesium hydroxide matrix.The results showed that the maximum improvement in the haemoglobin levels happened in the mice that were given iodine and iron through the Magnesium hydroxide matrix.

We believe that salt fortification does not need human trials, but we have done that as well. Two trials on batches of 10 candidates each have been carried out and the toxicity results have been normal. Another round of human trials is currently on.

Meanwhile, our laboratory has tied up with the district administration of Bhavnagar to include this salt in the mid-day meal programme.

For your research to be considered for this column, please write to Senior Editor Amitabh Sinha at

amitabh.sinha@expressindia.com

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/after-iodine-an-iron-shot-for-salt/

Enjoy black coffee? You may be a psychopath

Black coffee_759_Petr Kratochvil_Wikimedia Commons According to the research, bitter-taste preferences were linked to malevolent personality traits. (Source: Petr Kratochvil/Wikimedia Commons)

A fondness for bitter-tasting food and drinks, such as black coffee, may be a sign of dark personality traits, including Machiavellianism, sadism and narcissism, according to a new study.

Christina Sagioglou, study author and psychologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, and her colleague Tobias Greitemeyer, studied how bitter taste preferences may be associated with antisocial personality traits. About 1,000 participants with an average age of 35 were analysed in two experiments. In the first experiment, 500 men and women were shown a long list of foods with equal numbers of sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and were asked to rate them on a six-point scale ranging from “dislike strongly” to “like strongly”.

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The participants then completed four separate personality questionnaires that measured their levels of aggression by asking them to rate statements that resonated with them, such as “Given enough provocation, I may hit someone”.

For the second half of the experiment, participants were asked to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements that assessed personality traits of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism — which is characterised by a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. The participants were also asked to answer questions relating to the “big five” personality traits — extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotionality stability, the ‘Medical Daily’ reported.

Everyday sadism was assessed by the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies. The second experiment assessed their preferences for food tastes, except the list was reduced to 20 items — sweet and bitter. The participants also had the choice to choose “I don’t have an option” to each of the food items.

Based on both experiments, the researchers concluded bitter-taste preferences were linked to malevolent personality traits. “General bitter taste preferences emerged as a robust predictor for Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, and everyday sadism,” the researchers said.
For people with sadistic traits, the consumption of bitter foods was comparable to a roller-coaster ride, where they enjoyed things that induced fear, according to Sagioglou. The study was published in the journal Appetite.

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Diabetic? Daily glass of red wine can improve heart health

Both red and white wine can improve sugar control, depending on alcohol metabolism genetic profile. Both red and white wine can improve sugar control, depending on alcohol metabolism genetic profile.

A glass of red wine every night may help people with Type-2 diabetes manage their cholesterol and cardiac health, suggests new research. People with diabetes are more susceptible to developing cardiovascular diseases than the general population and have lower levels of “good” cholesterol, the study said.

“Initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics, as part of a healthy diet, is apparently safe, and modestly decreases cardio-metabolic risk,” the study said.

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Additionally, both red and white wine can improve sugar control, depending on alcohol metabolism genetic profile, the findings showed.

While slow alcohol-metabolisers who drank wine achieved an improvement in blood sugar control, fast alcohol-metabolisers (with much faster blood alcohol clearance) did not benefit from the ethanol’s glucose control effect. The study led by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba, Israel aimed to assess the effects and safety of initiating moderate alcohol consumption in diabetics, and sought to determine whether the type of wine matters.

The two-year trial was performed on 224 controlled diabetes patients (aged 45 to 75), who generally abstained from alcohol. They gradually initiated moderate wine consumption, as part of a healthy diet platform, and not before driving. “Red wine was found to be superior in improving overall metabolic profiles, mainly by modestly improving the lipid profile, by increasing good (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) cholesterol, while decreasing the ratio between total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol,” the study said.

“The differences found between red and white wine were opposed to our original hypothesis that the beneficial effects of wine are mediated predominantly by the alcohol,” principal investigator Iris Shai said.

“Approximately 150 ml of the dry red or white tested wines contained approximately 17 g ethanol and approximately 120 kilocalorie, but the red wine had seven-fold higher levels of total phenols and four to 13-fold higher levels of the specific resveratrol group compounds than the white wine,” Shai pointed out, underlining the effects of non-alcoholic constituents of red wines.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/diabetic-daily-glass-of-red-wine-can-improve-heart-health/

India may have 60 mn osteoarthritis cases by 2025

arthritis-main India may become the osteoarthritis capital of the world with over 60 million cases of the disease by 2025, doctors say. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

India may become the osteoarthritis capital of the world with over 60 million cases of the disease by 2025, doctors say.

Doctors say osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis in India, affecting over 15 million adults every year.

“In the last few decades, Indians in the age-group of 30 to 50 years are falling prey to osteoarthritis and it continues to have serious impact on the lives of elderly people,” said Mudit Khanna, consultant Orthopedics at Wockhardt Hospital. (Also read – Dealing with arthritis: 4 ways to keep fit)

He said though the south Asian nations also have a high number of osteoarthritis cases, they are only the a fourth of the cases in India.

“Such diseases lead to complete disability of the knee. If the pain is not relieved by medication or physiotherapy for long, a person may be bedridden in the long run. So, surgery is advisable,” he said.

Osteoarthritis occurs when there is damage in and around the joints that the body cannot fully repair. The exact causes are not known but there are several factors thought to increase the risk of developing the condition.

According to doctors, though the current solution for osteoarthritis is surgery — transplant — only 10 percent of the Indians undergo it due to fear of late recovery.

Nirad vengsarkar, consultant orthopedic joint replacement surgeon at the Lilavati and Breach Candy Hospital, said: “Women are more prone to suffer from osteoarthritis because of weaker bone and muscle strength in women.”

“Come 2025 and India is likely to notice an endemic of osteoarthritis with about 80 percent of the 65 and above population in the country suffering with wear and tear of joints. Forty percent of these people are likely to suffer from severe osteoarthritis, which will disable them from daily activities.”

The reason behind the onset of this endemic is said to be increasing longevity of Indians. By 2020, the number of 65 and above population in India is likely to be about 177 million, whereas India had 100 million people in this age group in 2010.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/india-may-have-60-mn-osteoarthritis-cases-by-2025/

Dealing with arthritis: 4 ways to keep fit

Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help keep arthritis at bay. (Source: Daveynin/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Do you have joint pain or experience stiffness after sitting for long hours in the office? Do you find it really difficult to climb stairs because of that stiffness in your knees and other aches in your joints? Chances are that you could be suffering from arthritis.

Arthritis, a very common health problem in today’s world, sends over 14 per cent of the Indian population to their doctors for help every year. “Earlier, arthritis was believed to be associated with age-related degeneration. However, with sedentary lifestyles, imbalanced diet and poor work-life balance, more and more people in the early 30s are visiting the doctor’s clinic,” says Dr Bharat Bhushan Kukreja, a Guwahati-based orthopedic surgeon.

There are over 100 types of arthritis identified in the medical world. However, broadly, the condition can be divided into two types: osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), which is mostly common with older people and relates to the wear-and-tear of the cartilage. The second type is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic progressive disease that causes inflammation in the joints, resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet and ankles. RA can affect people of any age, including children under 16.

Though analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs are common medications to help reduce the pain and inflammation, changes to ones lifestyle and inclusion of a healthy diet and regular exercise are crucial while dealing with the pain or even trying to delay its on-set. The latter is actually a better option since “the regular, chronic use of these types of medications (for arthritis aches and pains) are associated with significant, and very serious, side effects such as kidney and/or liver damage,” says Dr Kukreja.

In such a scenario, here are some effective measures that can provide some relief to people suffering from arthritis:

1) Watch your weight. Exercise: One of the main reasons for arthritis pain is excessive weight. The more pressure you put on your joints, the faster your tissues will wear off. Start with low-impact exercises like walking. According to a research at Boston University, walking an hour a day will go a long way to keep you fit. “Walking not only builds muscle strength and flexibility, it also helps reduce arthritic pain,” says the study.

2) Keep a balanced diet: Sticking to a well-balanced diet is an absolute must. Explains Dr Kukreja, “Apart from adding more green vegetables and fruits to your diet, eat more fibre-rich foods to maintain a healthy weight. Limiting fat and white carbs is also a good idea.”

3) Top up on Vitamin D: Also called the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D deficiency is a one of the most common problems in India today. The vitamin is also responsible for maintaining calcium homeostasis to prevent osteoporosis and maintain bone health in the body, which is why Dr Kukreja says that keeping one’s Vitamin D levels up is a good way to prevent arthritis or strengthen your joints.

4) Drink more water: We should not need a reason to drink water. However, in case you want one, here you go: Drinking water can prevent arthritis. One of the most important things that water does is lubing up your joints for maximum and pain-free movement. The cartilage in the joints is made up mostly of water, which is what makes it such a great cushion. If there is not enough water in your joints, bones get brittle, thereby, making it much easier to crack. Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day.

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Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/dealing-with-arthritis-4-ways-to-keep-fit/

Diamonds can help spot cancers at early stage

Shiny diamonds on black background Attaching hyperpolarised diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules’ movement in the body

Researchers have found a way to use diamonds to act as beacons in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and identify cancerous tumours before they become life-threatening.

Their findings revealed how a synthetic version of the precious gem can light up early-stage cancers in MRI scans. “We knew nano diamonds were of interest for delivering drugs during chemotherapy because they are largely non-toxic and non-reactive,” said David Reilly from University of Sydney in Australia.

“We thought we could build on these non-toxic properties realising that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs,” Reilly noted.

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The researchers turned their attention to hyperpolarising nano-diamonds, a process of aligning atoms inside a diamond so they create a signal detectable by an MRI scanner. “By attaching hyperpolarised diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules’ movement in the body,” the study’s lead author Ewa Rej from University of Sydney noted.

“This is a great example of how quantum physics research tackles real-world problems, in this case opening the way for us to image and target cancers long before they become life-threatening,” Reilly said. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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