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Jun 29
Processed carbohydrates tempt people to overeat
A new study has found that eating highly- processed carbohydrates like cakes, cookies and chips could affect pleasure centers in the brain, leading to serious cravings that might cause people to overeat.

Our brains consist of a complex network of pathways and regions that control for all our bodily functions. Chemical messengers called neurotransmitters allow signals to pass from one nerve cell to the next to aid in these functions.

One neurotransmitter, dopamine, plays a major role in the brain`s reward pathways.

For example, the brain gets flooded with dopamine when people take addictive drugs including cocaine and nicotine.

To find out how food intake was regulated by the dopamine -reward pathway, Ludwig and his colleagues recruited 12 overweight or obese men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old, CBS News reported.

On two occasions, they were fed milkshakes that were almost identical except one had a high-glycemic index and one was low-glycemic.

High-glycemic carbohydrates get digested rapidly, and include white bread, pasta, rice and baked goods, WebMD notes. Low-glycemic carbs are digested much slower, and include fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains and legumes.

Four hours after the meals, they were given fMRI brain scans that measured activity of these networks and pathways.

Participants who drank the high-glycemic milkshakes saw their blood sugar levels surge, only to sharply crash four hours later.

When their blood sugar dropped, not only did they feel excessive hunger, but the fMRIs showed "intense" activation in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain involved in addiction.

This study showed that when calories and sweetness are equal, glycemic index could still trigger brain changes that might lead to overeating.

"These findings suggest that limiting high-glycemic index carbohydrates like white bread and potatoes could help obese individuals reduce cravings and control the urge to overeat," Ludwig said.

The research is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Jun 29
Ritalin may help cure cocaine addiction
A single dose of a stimulant drug prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could improve brain function and modify connectivity in parts of the brain that are involved with self-control and craving when given to cocaine addicts, according to a new study.

Methylphenidate (brand name Ritalin) normalizes certain brain circuits that underlie self-control and craving among cocaine-addicted individuals, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found.

Previous research has shown that oral methylphenidate improved brain function in cocaine users performing specific cognitive tasks such as ignoring emotionally distracting words and resolving a cognitive conflict. Similar to cocaine, methylphenidate increases dopamine (and norepinephrine) activity in the brain, but, administered orally, takes longer to reach peak effect, consistent with a lower potential for abuse. By extending dopamine`s action, the drug enhances signaling to improve several cognitive functions, including information processing and attention.

"Orally administered methylphenidate increases dopamine in the brain, similar to cocaine, but without the strong addictive properties," said Rita Goldstein, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, who led the research while at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York. "We wanted to determine whether such substitutive properties, which are helpful in other replacement therapies such as using nicotine gum instead of smoking cigarettes or methadone instead of heroin, would play a role in enhancing brain connectivity between regions of potential importance for intervention in cocaine addiction."

Anna Konova , a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University, who was first author on this manuscript, added, "Using fMRI, we found that methylphenidate did indeed have a beneficial impact on the connectivity between several brain centers associated with addiction."

Dr. Goldstein and her team recruited 18 cocaine addicted individuals, who were randomized to receive an oral dose of methylphenidate or placebo. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the strength of connectivity in particular brain circuits known to play a role in addiction before and during peak drug effects. They also assessed each subject`s severity of addiction to see if this had any bearing on the results.

Methylphenidate decreased connectivity between areas of the brain that have been strongly implicated in the formation of habits, including compulsive drug seeking and craving. The scans also showed that methylphenidate strengthened connectivity between several brain regions involved in regulating emotions and exerting control over behaviors-connections previously reported to be disrupted in cocaine addiction.

"The benefits of methylphenidate were present after only one dose, indicating that this drug has significant potential as a treatment add-on for addiction to cocaine and possibly other stimulants," said Dr. Goldstein. "This is a preliminary study, but the findings are exciting and warrant further exploration, particularly in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive remediation."

The study has been published in JAMA Psychiatry, a JAMA network publication.

Jun 28
Women no more safe from heart troubles: Survey
A new survey shows that changing lifestyle has exposed women to the risk of cardiovascular diseases, shattering the popular belief that oestrogen hormone protects them from such ailments.

The survey, `Visualising the Extent of Heart Disease in Indian Women`, revealed that 65 percent doctors believe that oestrogen`s deficiency due to changing lifestyle and other co-morbid conditions are among the top five reasons responsible for younger women developing cardiovascular diseases.

According to the survey, 55 percent cardiologists observed 16-20 percent growth in cardiovascular diseases among women in the last five years, while 41 percent of the doctors claimed 10-15 percent growth in such diseases among women in the age group of 20-40 years -- the category which was earlier considered protected from heart ailments.

"Quite contrary to conventional medical ideology that due to oestrogen hormone women, especially menstruating ones, are safe from heart diseases. But lately, there has been a significant rise in number of female cardiovascular patients," said J.P.S. Sawhney, senior cardiologist at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here.

"The trend may be attributed to changing lifestyle which is bringing such drastic hormonal changes that heart protecting effect of oestrogen hormone is getting nullified," Sawhney added.

The survey showed that due to changes in lifestyle not only have the risk factors for the cardiovascular diseases like stress, smoking and drinking increased considerably, but co-morbid conditions like obesity, hypertension and diabetes have also gone up.

But despite the threat, 83 percent of the doctors believed that Indian women are ignorant about heart diseases, while 76 percent observed that women die of heart diseases as they get late in going to hospitals.

Sixty-six percent said that cardiovascular disease-related deaths among women are due to late diagnosis.

"Women often overlook symptoms and discomfort pertaining to heart diseases, and rarely consult an expert. Even if they opt for consultation, more often than not, they discontinue the treatment as soon as they get symptomatic relief. The compliance rate is comparatively poor among women," Sawhney said.

The survey also revealed a striking contrast between working and non-working women in terms of awareness and risk factors.

While 81 percent of the doctors believed that working women are more conscious about their heart health, majority of the doctors still noted that heart diseases are on the rise in working women.

"Considering the fact that working women juggle between home and work responsibilities, they are more likely to get exposed to stress and unhealthy lifestyle and, therefore, may be more prone to cardiovascular diseases as compared to non-working women," said Chandrakant S. Pandav, head of department, Centre for Community Medicine, All India IMS.

"Nevertheless, due to huge burden of household responsibilities and lack of self-care, non-working women cannot be considered to be at lesser risk," he added.

The survey covered covered about 600 cardiologists and general practitioners from both metro and non-metro cities and was based on subjective and objective questions.

Jun 28
Even thinking of stress can make you sick
Researchers have found just thinking about being stressed can make individuals fall seriously ill and even increase the chance of suffering a heart attack.

It was found, while following more than 7,000 civil servants over a period of up to 18 years, how the increased perception of stress almost doubled the risk of suffering a heart attack.
The is the first time a link has been discovered between heart disease and people`s own view on how stress is affecting their health, Daily Mail reported.

It suggests the doctors should take a patients` perspective into account when managing stress-related complaints.

It could also mean that helping patients to unwind can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Participants, who had an average age of 49.5, were asked to what extent they felt day-to-day stress had affected their health. Besides taking their medical background into account, they were also asked about personal lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and exercise.

Lead author Hermann Nabi, from the Inserm medical research institute in Villejuif, France, said: "We found that the association we observed between an individual`s perception of the impact of stress on their health and their risk of a heart attack was independent of biological factors, unhealthy behaviours and other psychological factors.

"One of the important messages from our findings is that people`s perceptions about the impact of stress on their health are likely to be correct."

Jun 27
Doctor claims breakthrough in race for spinal 'cure'
A leading researcher into severe spinal cord injuries today said trials for stem-cell therapy showed groundbreaking results in giving immobile patients the ability to walk again.

After progress in a second round of tests using stem cells to regrow nerve fibres, the China Spinal Cord Injury Network (ChinaSCINet) has applied for regulatory approval in China for a third and final phase, which it hopes to start in the autumn.

"This will convince the doctors of the world that they do not need to tell patients `you will never walk again`," US-based doctor Wise Young, chief executive officer of ChinaSCINet, told AFP.

He said that 15 out of 20 patients in the Chinese city of Kunming, who received umbilical cord blood cell transplants and intensive walking therapy, were on average able to walk with minimal assistance seven years after complete spinal cord injury.

"It`s the first time in human history that we can see the regeneration of the spinal cord," Young said.

The treatment involves injecting umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells into patients` damaged spines to help regenerate nerves, while lithium is used to promote the growth of the nerve fibres.

Each component of the combination therapy will be tested in the third phase, which Young said would involve 120 patients in China and another 120 across India, Norway and the United States.

"If the phase three trial is successful, we should have achieved worldwide regulatory approval by the beginning to the middle of 2015," he said.

ChinaSCINet, a non-profit organisation that calls itself the world`s largest clinical trial network for spinal cord therapies, was established in Hong Kong in 2005.

"Hong Kong is going to be way ahead of all the other countries if the spinal cord injury trial turns out to be positive," Young said. "That means Hong Kong will be the centre for stem-cell therapies."

Young also said China is investing heavily into stem-cell research, while the technology remains highly controversial in the United States because of the anti-abortion camp`s concerns about cells derived from human embryos.

Jun 27
Govt bans anti-diabetes drug Pioglitazone, painkiller Analgin
The Health Ministry has banned three medicines in a move to avert the health risks associated with them.

According to report in a leading daily, the manufacture and sale of all three drugs - painkiller Analgin, anti-diabetes drug Pioglitazone and its combinations, and anti-depressant Deanxit- have been banned under Section 26A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 with immediate effect, through a notification issued on June 18.

While Pioglitazone is banned in France as it is believed to cause urinary bladder cancer and heart failure, it is sold in the US and Europe with a boxed warning.
Analgin is sold under various trade names, including Metamizole, Algozone, Algocalmin, Analgin, Dipirona, Novalgin, Neo-Melubrina and Optalgin. It was withdrawn from the market in various countries after it was found that it can cause a potentially fatal condition called agranulocytosis.

Earlier in January 2013, manufacturers were given six months by the Drugs Controller General of India to establish safety and effectiveness of Deanxit for sale in the country as it has been banned in Denmark, its country of origin. Under the Drugs and Cosmetic Rule 30-B, a drug cannot be marketed in India unless it is approved in its country of origin. The drug is banned in other countries as well as its user experienced cardiovascular effects, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia and vomiting.

Jun 26
Chicken consumption during teenage years may help keep colon cancer at bay
Addition of chicken in teenagers` diet will help reduce their risk of developing colon cancer, a new study has suggested.

The study of about 20,000 women, found women who consumed more chicken when they were teens had lower risks of suffering from colorectal adenomas - benign tumours, which may progress into colon cancer, Fox News reported.

The researchers found that substituting one serving per day of red meat with a serving of chicken or fish could reduce rectal and advanced adenomas` risk by about 40 percent.

Researchers wrote in their study that Colorectal carcinogenesis is a long process which may take several decades, and the initial steps of carcinogenesis could occur at young ages.

19,771 women in the age group of 34 - 51 gave answered questions about their diet when they were teenagers and over 10 years, 1,494 of women were found to be suffering from colorectal adenomas of which 305 were in an advanced stage.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Jun 26
Deactivating brain trigger could thwart addiction relapse
Researchers have been able to identify and deactivate a brain pathway, in rats, which is associated to memories that cause cravings for alcohol.

Lead author Segev Barak, PhD, UC San Francisco, said that one of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered by the memory by certain cues - like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol.

He said that they learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving.

In the first phase of the study, rats had the choice to freely drink water or alcohol over the course of seven weeks, and during this time developed a high preference for alcohol.

In the next phase, they had the opportunity to access alcohol for one hour a day, which they learned to do by pressing a lever. They were then put through a 10-day period of abstinence from alcohol.

Following this period, the animals were exposed for 5 minutes to just the smell and taste of alcohol, which cued them to remember how much they liked drinking it.

The researchers then scanned the animals` brains, and identified the neural mechanism responsible for the reactivation of the memory of the alcohol - a molecular pathway mediated by an enzyme known as mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1).

They found that just a small drop of alcohol presented to the rats turned on the mTORC1 pathway specifically in a select region of the amygdala, a structure linked to emotional reactions and withdrawal from alcohol, and cortical regions involved in memory processing.

They further showed that once mTORC1 was activated, the alcohol-memory stabilized (reconsolidated) and the rats relapsed on the following days, meaning in this case, that they started again to push the lever to dispense more alcohol.

Barak said that the smell and taste of alcohol were such strong cues that we could target the memory specifically without impacting other memories, such as a craving for sugar.

In the next part of the study, the researchers set out to see if they could prevent the reconsolidation of the memory of alcohol by inhibiting mTORC1, thus preventing relapse. When mTORC1 was inactivated using a drug called rapamycin, administered immediately after the exposure to the cue (smell, taste), there was no relapse to alcohol-seeking the next day. Strikingly, drinking remained suppressed for up to 14 days, the end point of the study. These results suggest that rapamycin erased the memory of alcohol for a long period, said Ron.
The authors also said it would be interesting to test if rapamycin, an FDA-approved drug currently used to prevent organ rejection after transplantation, or other mTORC1 inhibitors that are currently being developed in pharmaceutical companies, would prevent relapse in human alcoholics.

The study has been published online in Nature Neuroscience.

Jun 25
Key risk factors for distress in employees revealed
Workers, who face high emotional demand and conflicting roles, are more likely to report psychological distress, a new study has revealed.

Hakon A Johannessen, PhD, and colleagues of the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, used nationwide survey data to look at how the psychosocial work environment affects employees ` levels of psychological distress.

It was found that 16 percent of workers said that they were at least slightly bothered by psychological distress- including symptoms of depression and anxiety- over the past month.

The study focused on two main risk factors: role conflict, such as being given work tasks without enough resources to complete them and receiving contradictory requests from different people; and emotional demands, defined as "dealing with strong feelings such as sorrow, anger, desperation, and frustration" at work.

The research suggested that perceived role conflict and emotional demands were "the most important and most consistent risk factors" for psychological distress.

The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Jun 25
Weight loss does not lower heart disease risk: Study
People undergoing weight management and increased physical activity have no difference in heart attacks and strokes, a new study has suggested.

The landmark study investigating the long-term effects of weight loss on the risks of cardiovascular disease among patients with Type 2 diabetes, which was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and at clinical facilities throughout the United States, the multicenter clinical trial investigated the effects of an intensive lifestyle intervention program, intended to achieve and maintain weight loss in overweight or obese people with Type 2 diabetes, on rates of cardiovascular disease.

Begun in 2001, the trial enrolled more than 5,000 people at 16 clinical centers across the US.

The study found that weight loss among members of the study`s Intensive Lifestyle Intervention group, provided with a program of weight management and increased physical activity, resulted in no difference in heart attacks and strokes when compared with the study`s control group, the Diabetes Support and Education group, which was provided with only general health information and social support.

The effect of the intervention program on weight loss, however, was significant: Participants in the intervention group lost 8.7 percent of their initial body weight after one year of the study versus 0.7 percent among the control group`s members; the intervention group also maintained a greater weight loss, 6 percent of their initial weight, versus 3.5 percent for the control group, at the study`s conclusion.

The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) study is the first to achieve such sustained weight loss. A weight loss of 5 percent or more in short-term studies is considered to be clinically significant and has been shown to improve control of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other risk factors. Comparable weight loss can also help prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese adults.

John Jakicic, chair and professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in Pitt`s School of Education and Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, said weight loss improves physical function and quality of life, and causes reduction in risk factors like lipids and blood pressure with less reliance on medication, better diabetes control with less reliance on medication, improved sleep, psychological and emotional health benefits, and many others.
He said that adults with diabetes can begin to realize many of these health benefits with even modest reductions in body weight and modest increases in physical activity.

The study has been published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.