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Dec 30
Folic acid good for pregnant mums
A new study has revealed that mothers who take folic acid, iron during pregnancy have smarter kids.

In developing countries where iron deficiency is prevalent, prenatal iron-folic acid supplementation could increase intellectual and motor functioning in offspring, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

They examined the intellectual and motor functioning of children in rural Nepal and found such micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy positively impacted working memory, inhibitory control and fine motor functioning in the school-aged children.

"Iron is essential for the development of the central nervous system," said Parul Christian, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.

"Early iron deficiency can alter neuroanatomy, biochemistry, and metabolism, leading to changes in neurophysiologic processes that support cognitive and sensorimotor development," she added.

Christian's team studied 676 children, aged 7 to 9 from June 2007 to April 2009 who were born to women in a community-based, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of prenatal micronutrient supplementation between 1999 and 2001.

Study children were randomly assigned to receive daily iron, folic acid and zinc, or multiple micronutrients containing these plus 11 other micronutrients.

All received vitamin A, as did a control group of vitamin A alone from early pregnancy through 3 months postpartum.

The researchers assessed intellectual functioning using the universal nonverbal intelligence test (UNIT) and motor function was assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (MABC).

They found that maternal prenatal supplementation with iron and folic acid was positively associated with general intellectual ability, some aspects of executive function, and fine motor control compared to offspring of mothers in the control group.

"This innovative study shows that in very low-income settings, children's cognitive performance is influenced by their mother's iron + folic acid status during pregnancy, along with school attendance, illustrating the importance of both nutritional and environmental interventions," said Maureen Black, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and an adjunct professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.

"Few studies have examined whether micronutrient supplementation during gestation, a critical period of central nervous system development, affects children's later functioning," said Christian.

"Considering the significant role of iron and folic acid in the development of both intellectual and motor skills, antenatal use per international guidelines should be expanded in many low and middle-income settings where program coverage continues to be poor," she added.

The results are published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dec 29
Injection to lose fat in 6 months - Anti-Obesity medicine that will signal brain to stop eating
A drug that could help obese people drop two dress sizes in six months could be available on the market in three years, its Danish maker has said.

Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical producer, claimed that liraglutide could also lower blood pressure levels, raise "good" cholesterol and help control diabetes, the Daily Mail reported today.

The drug, which can be injected using a pen-like device, is based on incretin, a gut hormone that tells the brain when it is time to stop eating but breaks down within minutes of being produced. In contrast, the drug stays in the body for hours.

The company is currently carrying out large-scale, definitive trials on 5,000 obese men and women. It expects them to finish in 2013.

In the first phase of the trials, nearly 550 male and female volunteers, who've struggled with their weight for years, lost an average of a stone-and-a-half over six months, according to the findings.

In that trial, some subjects were given daily doses. Others were given dummy pills.

Those who took liraglutide lost an average of a stone and a half over six months - more than twice as much as those on some dummy pills. In addition, 28 per cent of those on the highest dose of liraglutide shed at least 10 per cent of their weight.

The women dropped an average of three inches from their waistline and male pot bellies also shrank. When they continued to take the drug for a further 18 months, the weight stayed off. But those on dummy pills began to pile the pounds.

And, if all the trials prove as successful as those already carried out, the drug could be routinely given to the obese and overweight in three years, say the scientists.

Viggo Birch, managing director of Novo Nordisk, said: "We have had phenomenal results from the first clinical trials in obesity. The effects on confidence and health were life-changing."

Experts have welcomed the new jab.

Nick Finer, a University College London expert in hormones and weight loss, said the jab could cut the need for gastric bands, stomach stapling and other expensive and potentially dangerous operations.

Dec 29
Obese teenagers don't benefit from meal replacements
Obese teenagers opting for replacement diet as a quick-fix solution in their battle of the bulge may shed weight quickly in the initial stages of dieting. Unfortunately in the long run these replacement meals are no better than regular standard low calorie diets.

Meal replacement products comprising bars, shakes and other types of pre-prepared food rations offer a way to help control calorie intake without people having to worry about counting them because they contain determined amounts of calories and nutrition. However, unlike adults, teenagers may have trouble estimating portion sizes or adhering to the regimen and find themselves eating too often or choosing foods high in fat and calories. In such a scenario, meal replacements may not work for them.

In order to determine whether meal replacements help teenager shift weight, the researchers recruited a group of 113 obese teenagers of America and split them into three groups. The participants of each group were assigned to a different diet regime. One group was asked to follow a standard 1,300 to 1,500 calorie diet daily for a period of a year. The second group was put on a meal replacement diet for four months, which was later swapped with a low-calorie diet for eight months. The third group was assigned to meal replacements (three SlimFast shakes, one prepackaged entree, and five servings of fruits and vegetables) for an entire year.

It was noted that one-third of the participants dropped out of the study. Among those who continued, strict adherence to the allotted regimens declined. At the close of the study, teenagers on the meal-replacement diet were using SlimFast for only 1.6 days in a week compared with 5.6 days in the second month.

During the first phase of the study at four months, teenagers on the meal replacement diet exhibited 6.3 percent loss in their body mass index - a number, derived by using height and weight measurements, that gives a general indication of whether or not weight falls within a healthy range - (BMI) as opposed to 3.8 percent for those assigned to a low-calorie diet. In the second phase, the participants in all the three groups gained weight. In the last phase at one year, the study subjects assigned to low-calorie diet group lost 2.8 percent of their BMI.

Those put on meal replacement plus low-calorie diet group lost 3.9 percent while teenagers in the straight meal replacement group lost 3.4 percent of their BMI. In statistical terms there was not much variation in weight loss among the three groups.

The researchers concluded that the potential benefit of meal replacement in maintaining weight loss was not supported and suggested further study to find ways of getting obese teens to start diets and stay on them.

Dec 28
Proteins Influence AIDS Immunity
A new study has suggested that it is the proteins which help some HIV infected people not end up having AIDS.

A large-scale genetic analysis has suggested that tiny changes in the structure of a protein help the immune system to recognize and destroy infected cells, reports Nature.

Most people who contract HIV eventually end up with full-blown AIDS as the virus replicates in their cells, reaching very high levels and damaging their immune systems.

However, the virus does not progress to this stage in about 1 out of every 300 infected people. These 'HIV controllers' do not require treatment, because their bodies suppress the replication of the virus.

Bruce Walker of the Harvard University in Charlestown, first thought of carrying out the study when he recognized the clinical value of such HIV controllers.

"I realized that we could create a cohort by going directly to physicians around the world, and I thought we should figure out what is genetically unique about people who do well compared with people who do badly," he said.

Walker and his colleagues sampled the DNA of more than 900 HIV controllers. They compared it with the genetic code of 2,600 individuals with normal HIV infections, using a technique called a genome-wide association study (GWAS).

The GWAS tested single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) variations - changes in one letter of DNA - at a million points in the genomes of these individuals, and found more than 300 sites that were statistically associated with control of HIV.

Dec 28
New Meningitis Vaccine from Novartis on the Anvil
A new vaccine against meningitis B is likely to be unveiled sometime next year with Novartis revealing that the jab has been successfully tested among humans.

Novartis' drug, Bexsero has been lauded by health experts who say that the vaccine will help see a sharp drop in the number of children dying due to the disease to which no protection is currently available.

According to Novartis, the vaccine has been successful in trials in which more than 7,500 children, adolescents and adults took part with the vaccine producing antibodies against more than 77 percent of more than 800 meningitis B strains.

Says Andrin Oswald, Head of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Division, "The Bexsero submission in the EU is an important milestone toward achieving the world's first broad-coverage MenB vaccine through our unique multi-component approach."

Dec 27
Asthma Cases on Rise in December and January Due to Air Pollution
A recent survey conducted in Chennai revealed that there has been a rise in cases of respiratory diseases and pulmonary disorders. This is mainly due to increase in air pollution because of vehicular pollution, industrial waste, burning of garbage and construction debris.

Doctors have pointed out that air pollution is a triggering factor for asthma mainly in months of December and January. During these months hospitals record an increase in the number of cases of asthma.

According to doctors, death due to respiratory disease is the fourth leading cause of death in Chennai. Respiratory diseases can affect all age groups and class of people. Even pediatricians have claimed that 1 in 8 children are prone to asthma. President of Indian Academy for Paediatrics, Dr S Balasubramanian said, "Heredity is a factor, but increased pollution in the city is a major trigger."

Dec 25
Oranges offer more health benefits than vitamin C pills: Study news
Is the protective effect of vitamin C pills the same as that of the whole orange fruit? According to experts if an antioxidant is what you think to want to keep you healthy, you should rather consider eating oranges than popping vitamin C pills.

Oranges, they say, not only taste better they also contain a unique mix of antioxidants besides being rich in vitamin C. Anti-oxidants are compounds that protect cells against damaging molecules called oxygen-free radicals, that cause disease and aging.

The ample amounts vitamin C in the fruit and multiple antioxidants make it perfect to help fight cancer (abnormal cells that multiply without control, and that can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body) , premature aging, increase immunity, prevent bone related problems, and possibly also heart diseases.

According to lead author of the study, Tory Parker, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science at Brigham Young University in Utah, there was something about an orange that made it better than taking a vitamin C capsule, which is what the researchers were trying to figure out.

He added it was the particular mixture of antioxidants in the fruit that made it so good for health and wellness.

According to Parker, high intake of carbohydrates and fat in daily diet elevates the level of free radicals in the blood stream, which in turn raises the risk of hardened arteries and heart disease. However consumption of fruits a few hours following meals helped counteract the adverse effect.

Dec 24
Genetic predisposition for breast, kidney cancers discovered
Scientists have revealed multiple genetic discoveries that may permit easier diagnosis and disease management for Cowden syndrome patients who are predisposed to breast and kidney cancer.

The research, led by Charis Eng, Chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute at Cleveland Clinic, revealed KILLIN as a novel predisposition gene for Cowden syndrome (CS) and Cowden-like syndrome (CLS) features in individuals without germline PTEN mutations, which also plays a role in cancer risk.

Mutations in the PTEN gene are the foundation of Cowden syndrome. PTEN is a tumor suppressor gene, helping to direct the growth and division of cells.

Inherited mutations in the PTEN gene have been found in approximately 80 percent of Cowden syndrome patients. These mutations prevent the PTEN protein from effectively regulating cell survival and division, which can lead to the formation of tumors.

However, not all CS and CLS patients carry mutated PTEN. In fact, in CLS, less than 10 percent have PTEN mutations, yet they develop cancers just like CS.

In those patients without the PTEN mutation, 42 percent of Cowden syndrome patients and 33 percent of Cowden-like syndrome patients have low levels of KILLIN tumor suppressor gene.

"We know that 80 percent of Cowden patients carry the PTEN mutation and half of the remaining 20 percent carry the inactive KILLIN gene," Eng said.

"What that means is that altogether PTEN and KILLIN should account for 90 percent of all cases of classic Cowden syndrome, a huge step forward in diagnosing an often overlooked disease. More importantly, KILLIN and PTEN should account for almost half of CLS individuals."

This study shows that CS/CLS individuals with KILLIN promoter methylation, which switches the KILLIN gene off, have a threefold greater risk of breast cancer, and a twofold greater risk of kidney cancer, compared to those with mutant PTEN.

The study is published in the Dec. 22 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Dec 24
Yoga bad for your knees, Indian doctor warns
Dr Ashok Rajgopal says he has performed knee replacement surgery on a number of leading yoga gurus.

His warnings are a serious challenge to those who say yoga, which is now a multi-billion pound global industry, can ward off the effects of ageing and leave devotees feeling fitter, stronger and at peace with the world.

Some of its most charismatic teachers, like India's Baba Ramdev, who has built a worldwide empire through television appearances, believe its breathing exercises can even cure diseases like HIV Aids and cancer. In the United States alone, more than 4 billion pounds a year is spent on yoga equipment and 15 million people are regular practitioners.

But according to Dr Rajgopal, the extreme stretching exercises at the heart of the discipline cause severe stress on joints, leading to arthritis.

He has seen a higher incidence of joint and bone ailments among yoga followers.

"Yoga is wonderful provided it is done in a controlled environment, and people are trained and built up to doing such postures but putting the public at large through these extreme yoga postures can create problems for them," he said.

"Many yoga gurus had to undergo knee surgeries, they had been affected by yoga postures," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"Extreme postures like acute deep knee bends, particularly for people who are not used to doing these postures, it is definitely harmful to them in terms of the abnormal stresses, and damage to cartilages. In that respect it is harmful."

He said he had seen particular problems among people who had practised yoga in classes of more than 100 people.

"We see a significant number of people who have been not trained adequately to get into yoga and harmed themselves.

"The vast majority of people have to build up to the level where they can actually take to such postures without harming their joints."

Many yoga gurus had suffered knee and joint problems from performing the 'vajrasana' posture, also known as the 'thunderbolt,' where the practitioner kneels with heels tucked under buttocks, while he or she performs a 'pranayama' fast breathing routine.

Savira Gupta, an instructor at India's Yogalife centre said while it was possible to suffer injuries in yoga, they could be avoided by slowly building up to more strenuous exercises.

"Anatomy is key when you are teaching yoga because everybody has a different body and build. We have to be very careful how we could keep up from one posture to another without injuring them. Everything has to be done according to what your body can handle. With proper alignments and training one can avoid these injuries," he said.

A yoga society was formed in Britain in 1910 but its popularity began to take off in the late 1950s when pioneer BKS Iyengar taught Sir Yehudi Menuhin and later in 1968 after the Beatles joined a yoga retreat in India with their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In the 1970s its popularity spread through school halls and community centres as 'keep fit classes.' Today there are an estimated 30 million people around the world practicing yoga every week with around 500,000 in Britain where there are more than 30,000 yoga classes.

Dec 23
New anti-AIDS drug goes after virus, avoids side-effects
German scientists have discovered a substance known as a peptide that thwarts the AIDS virus and causes far fewer side-effects than existing anti-HIV drugs, they said on Wednesday. The breakthrough was reported in the science journal Science Translational Medicine after it had been tested on 18
AIDS patients.

But the scientists at Hanover university hospital or MHH in northern Germany said they have yet to find a way to put the substance, VIR-576, in a pill. All the test patients received it as an intravenous drip.

Variants of the new therapy could also be devised to fight measles, hepatitis C and Ebola disease, they said.

VIR-576 is a protein that smothers human immunodeficiency virus, stopping it docking with cells in the human body.

"It is a completely new therapy approach which we hope will reduce side effects," said Reinhold E Schmidt of MHH. Other existing medicines offered since the mid-1990s work by proofing cells of the body against the virus.

"Our peptide works on the virus, not on the cells, so some of the side-effects won't happen at all," he said.

Current anti-AIDS medications ensure an almost normal life span for HIV-infected people but raise the risk of strokes and liver damage. VIR-576 caused some diarrhoea, but no other major side effects, the tests suggested.

Schmidt cautioned that it could take years before VIR-576 was available from pharmacies as a medicine.

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