Read Yourself Thin?

Need to lose some pounds before the holidays? Then start reading. Yes, yes, we know you’re already reading this blog (thank you)…but what you really need to start doing, according to a new study, is reading food labels while you shop.

You see, people, and women in particular, who read food labels while they grocery shop weigh, on average, 9 pounds less than people who don’t.

An international team of scientists led by Maria Loureiro, of the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain analyzed more than 25,000 observations on health, eating and shopping habits from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.  Among the data collected were responses about reading nutritional information in supermarkets.

First we analyzed who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,” said Loureiro.

The study found big differences between the people who read food labels and those who did not. Interestingly, smokers paid little attention to the nutritional information on foods.

Their lifestyle involves less healthy habits and, as a consequence, it could be the case that they are not so worried about the nutritional content of the food they eat, according to our results,” the researchers suggested.

People who live in cities were the most careful about reading food labels. People with high school and college educations also paid more attention to nutritional labels. Fifty-eight percent of men took the time to read labels, compared with 74% of women. And white women who lived in cities read food labels most often.

On average, women who read the nutritional information have a body-mass index of 1.48 points lower, whereas this difference is just 0.12 points in men,” Loureiro said. “We know that this information can be used as a mechanism to prevent obesity.”

The researchers suggest that campaigns and public policy should be designed to promote the use of nutritional labeling, not just on the foods we buy in stores but also on menus at restaurants and other public establishments.

As someone, who lives the vida low-carb, I for one would fully support this move.  Would you?

We’d Like to Bounce Something Off You…

In 1945, George Nissen, a competitive gymnast, patented the modern trampoline as a “tumbling device. Initially intended as a training tool for acrobats and gymnasts it was subsequently used for military aviator training.

More recently, at least if my neighborhood backyards are anything to go by, the main use of trampolines, is recreational. Driven perhaps, by parents concerns that their kids are becoming more sedentary, along with a family-friendly price tag, it seems there are few family gardens in suburban Northern America that don’t have a trampoline

All this despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other lofty medical organizations such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine have issued guidelines discouraging the use of trampolines in homes and playgrounds..

In fact, with each new set of guidelines comes an increase in the numbers of trampolines in the home setting.

And an increase in injuries…

In 2009, the rate of trampoline-associated injuries was 160 per 100,000 among 5-14 year olds. And approximately 75% of these injuries occurred when more than one person was on the trampoline at the same time.

The most common site of trampoline injury, is the lower leg accounting for 34% – 50% of injuries and >60% involved the ankle,  Upper extremities are injured in 24% – 36% of cases. Most commonly, when people fall off the trampoline. Of these, approximately 60% are fractures.

Head and Neck Injuries account for 10% to 17% of all trampoline-related injuries and 0.5% of these, result in permanent neurologic damage.

And before, you succumb to your precious little angel’s demands, or are tempted by fall yard sale trampoline bargains you may also want to consider the following:

  • The potential for severe and devastating injury is high.
  • Enclosures and padding may provide a false sense of security and do not prevent the large numbers of injuries that occur on the trampoline mat itself.
  • Many injuries occur even with reported adult supervision.
  • Multiple jumpers increase injury risk, particularly to the smallest participants; so trampoline use should be restricted to a single jumper at any given time
  • Individuals 5 years and younger appear to be at increased risk of fractures and dislocations from trampoline-related injuries.
  • Somersaulting, flipping, and falls put jumpers at increased risk of head and cervical spine injury with potentially permanent and devastating consequences. These maneuvers should not be performed in the recreational setting.
  • Active supervision by adults familiar with the above recommendations should occur at all times. Mere presence of an adult is not sufficient.

Have you got a trampoline story to tell? SRxA’s Word on Health is looking forward to hearing from you.

An Unexpected Exercise in Exercise

Despite the fact that numerous studies have shown the powerful effect that exercise can have on recovery from cancer, including reducing tumor recurrence rates by up to 50%, a new study has shown that many cancer patients are reluctant to exercise, and fewer still discuss it with their oncologists.

According to the Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, patients took exercise advice most seriously when it came directly from their oncologists, but none of those studied had discussed it with them.

The study was part of a series of investigations looking at exercise habits among 20 adult lung cancer patients. Researchers found that patients who exercised regularly before their diagnosis were more likely to exercise than those who had not. Many patients considered daily activities, such as gardening, sufficient exercise.

“There was a real sense of what I do every day, that’s my exercise,” said lead author Andrea Cheville, MD.

Most of the patients thought that their daily activities equated to exercise, whereas in reality, most of these activities required minimal effort.  Such inactivity can contribute to weakening of the body and greater vulnerability to problems, including cancer recurrence.

Generally, patients are not being given concrete advice about exercise to help them maintain functionality and to improve their outcomes,” added Dr. Cheville.

Exercise can improve patients’ mobility, enable them to enjoy activities and keep them from becoming isolated in their homes. It can contribute to overall feelings of strength and physical safety, ease cancer-related fatigue and improve sleep.

The researchers now plan to investigate how to make the message about exercise meaningful to cancer patients so that they can optimize symptom relief and enhance their own recovery.

Coping with the challenges of cancer…one bead at a time

Childhood cancer is almost always devastating for the patient, their family and friends. But now, in an innovative program patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, are using beads to help them put everything in perspective.  The beads help to commemorate the cancer journey and come to represent treatment milestones, such as losing their hair to completing chemotherapy.

The Legacy Bead program was launched in 2009. In the first year alone the hospital purchased more than 90,000 beads.  If placed end-to-end, this string of baubles would have extended longer than six football fields. And the program has been growing ever since.

When eight year old Kayla Dehnert tells friends and family in Northern California about life as a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, she pulls out a string of beads taller than she is.  “This is a learning-to-take medicine bead,” Kayla explains, fingering the bumps of a bluish-lavender bead and working her way down the long strand. “This yellow bead is the change-the-bandage bead, and the tiger bead is the losing-your-hair bead.”

Kayla, is just one of the hundreds of St. Jude patients who have participated in the program. Patients and their families discover a tangible way to illustrate their journeys using 55 glass beads as unique as they are.  Patients receive vivid green cylindrical beads for blood transfusions; sapphire round beads for lumbar punctures; tear-drop beads in assorted colors for homesickness; and blue, triangle-shaped beads for clinic visits. Other beads mark triumphs such as the completion of radiation or chemotherapy or challenges ranging from cancer’s return to the death of a friend.

Each bead represents an important part of her journey,” said Denny Dehnert, Kayla’s father. “They’ve made some harder days more bearable.”

According to Shawna Grissom, author of a newly published paper that outlines the benefits of the program, some patients use the beads to express how they are feeling about their treatment. Other patients have the beads as a memory of what happened during this step in their journey of life and still others will leave the string as a memory for their families to have and pass on.

Because patients collect the beads throughout the hospital, Grissom said the program also gives staff the opportunity to talk to patients about their care, including, for example, why needle sticks are necessary.

Kayla’s bead collection started December 6, 2011, the day she arrived at St. Jude for treatment of her brain tumor. Her string begins with beads that spell out her name and a bead with the hospital’s logo. While she has added many more since, the bead Kayla is most anxious to get is silver and barrel-shaped, which marks the end of chemotherapy.

The Legacy Bead program was so popular the hospital added a similar program for patient siblings. Brothers and sisters earn beads for contributions ranging from serving as bone marrow donors to traveling to St. Jude with their families.

Paola, another patient, who lost both her eyes to a rare eye cancer can identify her favorite Legacy Beads by shape, size and texture.  “This triangle bead is for a needle stick,” she says with a smile. “It’s sharp and pointed like a needle.”

As her hands wander down the necklace with practiced ease, she pauses at a round, yellow bead.  “I got this one for changing the dressing on my leg,” says Paola, who is now receiving treatment for the bone cancer osteosarcoma. With maturity that belies her years, Paola explains the significance of the beads she finds most interesting. “I strung them myself,” she proudly declares.

The St. Jude families find novel ways to display their Legacy Beads. While many end up as jewelry, others are hung from the ceiling or adorn strollers, purses or backpacks.  Teens say the beads give weight and heft to their stories, providing a tactile method for demonstrating the breadth of their experiences. They help bridge that gap as they talk with people who don’t understand what they’ve been through.

When the times get really tough, stringing beads is a good way to get our minds off the bad things that are happening,” says the mother of Tyler, a 7 year old cancer patient.

In the past year, she has collected 307 beads, signifying operations, chemotherapy treatments and hair loss, bad days and good days, needle sticks, inpatient admissions, platelet transfusions and many other events. She plans to hang the long strings of beads in her son’s bedroom as a symbol of his treatment and a celebration of his bravery.

The Legacy Bead program is one of several methods, including journaling and memory boxes, which the St. Jude Child Life Program offers to patients and families to chronicle their journeys.

 

The Buzz on Bee Venom

While many of us, myself included, may be sad to say goodbye to summer, at least the cooler temperatures should mean fewer biting and stinging insects.  And while that’s good news for people, myself included, who seem to attract and be bitten by every venomous bug out there, there are some people, it seems, who just can’t get enough.

At least when it comes to bees. Thanks, in part, to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton, everyone’s buzzing about bee venom.  It’s being touted as the latest magic ingredient and can be found in an increasing number of skin creams, lip-plumping potions and face masks.

People are calling bee venom a “natural Botox” thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen production and elastin to smooth, lift and tighten skin. Venom also contains a compound called melittin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Which led SRxA’s Word on Health to wonder if it works.  Turns out that much of the clinical research into bee venom has focused on its effect s in patients with cancer and arthritis. Studies of its use in skin-care have been limited.

When applied to the skin bee venom causes tingling but has no lasting effect.

I couldn’t find any legitimate scientific studies of the benefit of bee venom either topical or injected,” says David Leffell MD, a professor of Dermatology and Surgery at Yale School of Medicine.

He is skeptical of the extent that bee venom could smooth or tighten skin. There is evidence, however, that the honey also in many of the products could be beneficial as a moisturizer, he says.

But given that one gram of venom costs about $304 – more than eight times the current value of gold, that’s a lot of money for a moisturizer!

And good news for beekeepers, many of whom are able to add this lucrative sideline to their established honey businesses. Salons and spas are also boarding the bee bandwagon and charging over $100 for 30 minute bee-venom facials.

Have you, or would you try bee venom over botox?  Buzz us with your comments.

Chicken Soup For the Airways?

As we approach Fall, our thoughts turn to pumpkins, cold mornings, dark nights and welcoming bowls of soup.  Soup is also on the minds of a group of researchers in Scotland. A new study will be conducted by Baxter Food Group, together with researchers from the University of Aberdeen plan to study whether soups enhanced with vitamin E may help reduce the chance of childhood asthma.

Together, they have developed 3 soups containing ingredients with high levels of vitamin E. By judicious tweaking of ingredients, for example, substituting normal tomatoes found in cream of tomato soup with their sun-dried counterparts, they were able to develop three new varieties of “super-soups”.  The soups also contain other ingredients rich vitamin E, including beans, lentils, wheat-germ, sunflower oil and sun-dried tomatoes.  They’ve also created “placebo soups” which have been made to look and taste similar to the real ones, but do not contain intensified levels of vitamin E.

Their intent is to increase the daily intake of vitamin E among pregnant women from current levels which are on average of 8mg per day to approximately 15mg per day.  The 50 women involved in the study will begin consuming 3 servings of soup per week when they are 12 weeks pregnant, and do the same until they deliver their babies.

They will examine whether the new dietary intervention is well tolerated by the women and if it has the desired effect on vitamin intake. And, during the first week of the babies’ lives their lung function will be examined.

The researchers hope that fortifying soup with vitamin E could help prevent childhood asthma.  Prior studies have shown that low vitamin E diets for pregnant women tend to result in babies being born with a higher chance of asthma by the time they reach 5 years old.   But this will be the first asthma study to use dietary supplementation of vitamin E rather than tablet supplements.

Graham Devereux, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Aberdeen and Honorary Consultant Physician at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, commented: “Although far more difficult, it seems more natural to give vitamin E in a natural food form rather than a vitamin E pill because the vitamin E containing foods comprise a complex mix of nutrients that might be critically important. When one considers the foods containing vitamin E, soup seems an obvious intervention”.

The overall approach has support from both nutritionists and asthma experts.

If we’re really lucky we might show that the children [born to women] receiving vitamin E enhancement may actually have better lung function,” Prof Deveraux says. “The ultimate aim of this research is to reduce the prevalence of asthma by an effective, inexpensive, acceptable and safe public health dietary intervention. If successful, the proposed intervention could form the basis of public health dietary advice to pregnant women that could reduce the prevalence of childhood asthma by 15-20% within five years.”

Depending on the outcome of the current study, Deveraux and his team plan to launch a much bigger study.

So will these super soups work?  Stay tuned and we’ll ladle out the news as it breaks!

Keeping harmful protein fibers at bay

Misfolded clothes, are the bane of many a fashion retail worker’s existence; misfolded proteins on the other hand are not just useless,  they can also be toxic. When proteins in the human body get out of alignment they form linear aggregates known as amyloid fibers that can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

So SRxA’s Word on Health was interested to learn that US researchers have discovered a protein machinery that inhibits the formation and helps to dissolve such fibers.

The researchers set out to study whether two small heat shock proteins (HSPs) – proteins that assist other proteins in folding – could affect the generation of amyloid fibres by a misfolded protein of the same organism (Sup35). Using purified proteins, derived from baker’s yeast they showed that Hsp26 and Hsp42 inhibited amyloid formation.

Even cleverer still, they were able to determine exactly which steps of the process were affected. Hsp42 slowed down early structural reorganization of small aggregates before the fibers were formed, whereas Hsp26 inhibited fiber growth.

All of which, we’re sure you’re saying, is great news for baker’s yeast, but you’ve never seen a loaf of bread with Alzheimer’s!

And here’s the problem.   Humans and other animals lack the yeast enzyme – Hsp104 – that rapidly dissolves amyloid.  As such, it was unclear if and how our cells could get rid of amyloid fibres.

Undeterred, the scientists started to experiment further.  They showed that Sup35 fibers can be dissolved by a combination of several yeast HSPs (Hsp40, Hsp70 and Hsp110) in the absence of Hsp104.  And, the effect was even better if the fibers were pretreated with Hsp26 and Hsp42.

What’s more, they obtained similar results when using the equivalent human HSPs to disaggregate the amyloid fibres involved in Parkinson’s disease. Although amyloid disassembly took many days, the researchers propose that such system could work in long-lasting cells such as neurons.

The full results are published here.

While their findings suggest that enhancing the activity of certain HSPs in affected cells and/or introducing yeast Hsp104 could help to dissolve the amyloid in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, additional research would be needed to assess the efficacy and safety of such treatments before human testing can begin.

Nevertheless it’s a step in the right direction.  Now, if only we could find an answer to misfolded clothes!

Does Your Doctor ‘Get You’?

Does your doctor understand you? Does he (or she) know what you’re thinking? Does he really feel your pain? In short, does he care?

Seems this is something you should really care about. According to a study just published in Academic Medicine, patients of doctors who are more empathic have better outcomes and fewer complications.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University together with a team from Parma, Italy evaluated relationships between physician empathy and clinical outcomes among 20,961 Italian diabetic patients and their 242 physicians.

The study was a follow up to a smaller one undertaken at Thomas Jefferson University that included 891 diabetic patients and 29 physicians, and showed that patients of physicians with high empathy scores had better clinical outcomes than patients of other physicians with lower scores.

This new, large-scale research study has confirmed that empathic physician-patient relationships is an important factor in positive outcomes,” said Mohammadreza Hojat, Ph.D., Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and the Director of Jefferson Longitudinal Study at the Center.  “It takes our hypothesis one step further. Compared to our initial study, it has a much larger number of patients and physicians, a different, tangible clinical outcome, hospital admission for acute metabolic complications, and a cross-cultural feature that will allow for generalization of the findings in different cultures, and different health care systems.”

The Italian researchers used the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) –an instrument used to measure empathy in the context of medical education and patient care. The JSE includes 20 items answered on a seven-point scale (strongly agree = 7, strongly disagree = 1) and measures understanding of patient’s concerns, pain, and suffering, and an intention to help.

The primary outcome measure of the study was acute metabolic complications, including hyperosmolar state, diabetic ketoacidosis, and diabetic coma. These were used because they require hospitalization, can develop quickly, and their prevention is more likely to be influenced by the primary care physicians.

A total of 123 patients were hospitalized because of such complications. Physicians with higher empathy levels had 29 : 7,224 patients admitted to the hospital, whereas physicians with lower levels had 42 : 6,434 patients admitted.

There are many factors that add to the strength of the study. Firstly, because of universal health care coverage in Italy, there is no confounding effect of difference in insurance, lack of insurance or financial barriers to access care.

What’s more, this study was conducted in a health care system in which all residents enroll with a primary care physician resulting in a better defined relationship between the patients and their primary care physicians than what exists in the United States,” said co-author Daniel Z. Louis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 25 million people in the U.S. population have been diagnosed with diabetes, with almost 700,000 hospitalizations per year. There are approximately 2 million new cases per year. Worldwide, the number of total cases jumps to 180 million.

Results of this study confirmed our hypothesis that a validated measure of physician empathy is significantly associated with the incidence of acute metabolic complications in diabetic patients, and provide the much-needed, additional empirical support for the beneficial effects of empathy in patient care” said Dr. Hojat. “These findings also support the recommendations of such professional organizations as the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Board of Internal Medicine of the importance of assessing and enhancing empathic skills in undergraduate and graduate medical education.”

Does your doctor get you? Let us know.

Sweet! – Stroke prevention for men

Some good news for our sweet-toothed male readers.  According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, men who eat a moderate amount of chocolate each week have a lower risk of stroke.
Investigators from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden studied 37,103 men aged 49 to 75. They were given a food questionnaire that assessed how often they consumed various foods and drinks.  Researchers then identified stroke cases through a hospital discharge registry. Over the 10 years of study there were 1,995 cases of first stroke.

Men who ate the largest amount of chocolate had a lower risk of stroke compared to those who did not consume any chocolate. Those eating the highest amount of chocolate had a 17% lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate no chocolate.

While other studies have looked at how chocolate may help cardiovascular health, this is the first of its kind study to find that chocolate, may be beneficial for reducing stroke in men,” said study author Susanna C. Larsson, PhD.

In a larger analysis of five studies that included 4,260 stroke cases, the risk of stroke for individuals in the highest category of chocolate consumption was 19% lower compared to non-chocolate consumers. For every 2 ounce increase in chocolate consumption per week the risk of stroke decreased by about 14 percent.

The beneficial effect of chocolate consumption on stroke may be related to the flavonoids in chocolate. Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also possible that flavonoids in chocolate may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure,” said Larsson.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just dark chocolate that conferred the benefit.  Although dark chocolate has previously been associated with heart health, about 90% of the chocolate consumed during this study was milk chocolate.

While this means that some more guilt can be removed from the pleasure of chocolate eating, we’re not advocating a mass testosterone-fuelled rush to the candy store.  Before you embark on a bob-bon binge, SRxA’s Word on Health warns that the average amount of chocolate consumed in the study was only about two and a half ounces per week – that’s the meager equivalent of one-third of a cup of chocolate chips.

More than that could lead to weight gain, which puts a strain on the entire circulatory system. Obesity also leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which can .increase the risk of stroke.

As always, everything in moderation!