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Aug 31
Night sleep vital for brain to focus
Not being able to sleep at night could be costing our mind dearly, as researchers have observed difference in brain function of people saying they have insomnia and those enjoying a full night`s sleep.

According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, the poor sleepers struggled in focussing part of their brain during memory tests. Other experts said the brain`s wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality, the BBC reported.

The findings, published in the journal Sleep, have shown how people with insomnia not just struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences for them during the day in terms of delayed reaction times and memory.

The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with as many describing themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests.

Sean Drummond, one of the researchers, said: "We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off `mind-wandering` brain regions irrelevant to the task.

"This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day."

Aug 30
Researchers propose larvae control to target malaria
Although, there has been a steady decline in malaria related deaths signalling a good progress in fight against this life-threatening disease, researchers still feel that new methods are needed to control the disease in order to put a check on the number of cases of malaria in Africa and Asia.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have proposed authorities to use a new approach called "larval source management (LSM)". This method involves targeting mosquito larvae and pupae as they mature in standing water.

The LSM method involves targeting mosquito breeding sites by removing standing water in drains or filling land or larviciding by adding chemicals or biological larvicides to standing water to kill larvae.

However, there is a lack of consensus on how effective the LSM method can be and in which settings it is appropriate.

Malaria is an infectious mosquito-borne disease caused by plasmodium. It begins with a bite from an infected female anopheles mosquito, which infects red blood cells. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, called 'malaria vectors'. The disease remains inextricably linked with poverty as the highest malaria mortality rates are being seen in countries that have the highest rates of extreme poverty.

Aug 30
Whole fruit deters diabetes, juice boosts risk: Study
Eating more whole fresh fruit, especially blueberries, grapes, apples and pears, is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but drinking more fruit juice has the opposite effect, says a study.

British, US and Singaporean researchers pored over data from three big health investigations that took place in the United States, spanning a quarter of a century in all.

More than 187,000 nurses and other professional caregivers were enrolled.

Their health was monitored over the following years, and they regularly answered questionnaires on their eating habits, weight, smoking, physical activity and other pointers to lifestyle.

Around 6.5 percent of the volunteers developed diabetes during the studies.

People who ate at least two servings each week of certain whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent compared to those who ate less than one serving per month.

"Our findings provide novel evidence suggesting certain fruits may be especially beneficial for lower diabetes risk," said Qi Sun, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

On the other hand, those who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day saw their risk of the disease increase by as much as 21 percent.

Swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits resulted in a seven-percent reduction in risk, although there was no such difference with strawberries and cantaloupe melon.

"Greater consumption of specific whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas greater fruit juice consumption was associated with a higher risk," the authors say in the paper.

The paper, published on Friday by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), says further work is needed to to explore this "significant" difference.

It speculates that, even if the nutritional values of whole fruit and fruit juice are similar, the difference lies with the fact that one food is a semi-solid and the other a liquid.

"Fluids pass through the stomach to the intestine more rapidly than solids even if nutritional content is similar," says the paper.

"For example, fruit juices lead to more rapid and larger changes in serum [blood] levels of glucose and insulin than whole fruits."

The study also points to evidence that some kinds of fruit have a beneficial effect for health.

Berries and grapes, for instance, have compounds called anthocyanins which have been found to lower the risk of heart attacks.

But, say the authors, how or even whether this also applies to diabetes risks is for now unclear.

The investigation looked at data from the Nurses` Health Study, which ran from 1984-2008; the Nurses` Health Study II (1991-2009); and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2008).

Ten kinds of fruit were used in the questionnaire: grapes or raisins; peach, plums or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe melon; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; and blueberries.

The fruit juices identified in the questionnaire were apple, orange, grapefruit and "other."

Aug 27
How eyes connect to the brain
A new research has identified an essential circuit within the developing visual system that helps dictate how the eyes connect to the brain, and has implications for treating amblyopia.

Amblyopia is a vision disorder that occurs when the brain ignores one eye in favour of the other.

Fifty years of research on it has even led to a general theory of plasticity called the sliding threshold model. The new study tested a fundamental piece of a model that at first seems at odds with ocular dominance.

Working with the lab of Xiangmin Xu, Ph.D., at the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Joshua Trachtenberg and his team at UCLA investigated this problem in mice. To induce changes in ocular dominance, they temporarily patched one eye in young mice. After 24 hours, they removed the patch and recorded how the firing rate of binocular zone cells changed in response to vision through each eye.

They found that the cells` firing rates immediately dropped by half when vision was restricted to one eye, as expected. But over the next 24 hours, the cells responding to either eye-even the eye that had been temporarily patched-increased their firing rate back to the normal range.

The team`s next goal was to explain the increased firing rate. "Since the signals from the patched eye to the binocular zone are reduced, we wanted to know what drives the increase," Dr. Trachtenberg said.

First, they investigated the possibility that the binocular zone cells were getting more stimulation from other parts of the brain, but that wasn`t the case. Instead, the key turned out to be a brain circuit that normally inhibits the cells. When vision through one eye is impaired, the inhibition from that circuit gets weaker. This loss of inhibition restores the cells` firing rate to the range where their connections can be remodeled.

By manipulating this circuit, the researchers were able to prevent ocular dominance in young mice and induce it in older mice that were already beyond the critical period.

According to Dr. Trachtenberg, if this circuit could be controlled in the human brain-for example, with a drug or with implants of the kind sometimes used to treat Parkinson`s-it would open the door to correcting amblyopia years later than is currently possible.

The study was published in journal Nature.

Aug 27
Blood cancer drug may also stop spread of breast cancer cells
A drug that is used for treating blood cancers may also help stop the spread of invasive breast cancer, according to researchers.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida`s study, found that in the lab and in animals, the drug Decitabine turns on a gene coding for protein kinase D1 (PRKD1) that halts the ability of cancer cells to separate from a tumor and spread to distant organs.

Study`s senior investigator, Peter Storz, Ph.D., a biochemist and molecular biologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, said that treatment with low doses of decitabine in an animal model of breast cancer restored PRKD1 expression, reduced tumor size, and blocked metastasis to the lung.

He said that the outcome of patients with invasive breast cancer is less than optimal despite many attempts to improve treatment, including advanced chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.

Storz asserted that they are hoping that this study may offer a new avenue to prevent breast cancer from becoming aggressive and untreatable.

First author Sahra Borges, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Storz`s lab, found that the gene coding for PRKD1 was silenced in all but one subtype of invasive breast cancer, including aggressive triple negative breast cancer. That subtype is invasive lobular carcinoma.

She also developed an assay that can be used to measure the amount of PRKD1 that is silenced in patients` breast tumors.

Borges said that because they found that PRKD1 is increasingly silenced as breast cancer becomes aggressive and spreads, the hope is that this test can be further developed and used to predict which patients are at risk for cancer metastasis, and thus may benefit from decitabine.

Storz said that treating genes that are silenced is much easier than trying to restore function of a mutated gene.

The study has been published online in Breast Cancer Research.

Aug 26
Cracking down on spurious medicines
In a global sting operation targeting the spurious medicine trade, the Interpol has seized 98 lakh doses of spurious medicines so far this year.

The operation led to the shutdown of more than 9,600 fake online pharmacies and dozens of arrests across the globe. Information such as this was among the case developments disclosed at the national training workshop on 'Secured Medicines and Robust Pharmacovigilance', organised by the Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) India Initiative on Friday in the city.

"Spurious medicines pose a global and borderless threat and can impact any consumer regardless of age, income or geographic location. We must protect patients by educating them on the importance of choosing safe medicines," said Scott LaGanga, executive director of PSM.

Bejon Misra, trustee of the Consumer Online Foundation and founder of PSM India Initiative, said that though there are a lot of mechanisms to ensure safe medicines for consumers in India, a lot of work remains to be done. "India now serves as a model for other countries working to ensure safe medicines for consumers. However, work remains to be done and we must continue to share ideas that will only help us achieve our shared goals," he said.

Aug 26
Know the right quantity of nutrients required by body
Annapurna Agrawal, nutritionist at Snap Fitness India, recommends a list of nutrients that are required by our body. Focus on the quantity to avoid health problems.

It's well known that iron, vitamins or carbohydrates are nutrients essential to keep our body fit. But be careful about the quantity, warns an expert.

Annapurna Agrawal, nutritionist at Snap Fitness India, recommends a list of nutrients that are required by our body. Focus on the quantity to avoid health problems.

Carbohydrate: Whole grains cereals, legumes, fruits, milk, sugar, honey and potatoes are sources of carbohydrates. Quantity should be 40 percent to 60 percent of your calories requirement.

It provides energy, and helps in oxidation of fat. Insufficient amount of carbohydrate can cause lack of calories, which can lead to malnutrition. Excessive consumption will make you obese.

Protein: Eat pulses, legumes, nuts, milk and its products, chicken, fish, and egg to give your body much needed protein. According to body weight, consume 0.8 to 1 gm or Kg of protein to help in growth and maintenance of body.

It gives structure and shape to all the cells, organs and connective tissues. Proteins also help your body fight infection.

Malnutrition, weight loss, thinning of hair, muscle soreness, weakness and lethargy, are among other things that you will experience if there is less amount of protein present in your body.

Fat: Ghee, butter, cream, cheese, nuts, seed, egg, fish, chicken, pork and beef are all rich in fat. 15 to 25 percent of calories requirement is the right quantity.

It provides energy, helps in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A,D,E and K. It is important for the development of brain and central nervous system.

There will be poor vitamin absorption and depression, if you don't have fat in your body. Overeating food items rich in fat will lead to obesity, stroke and many more.

Vitamin A: Sweet potato with peel, carrots, spinach, liver, fish are the sources of this vitamin. 700 to 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A per day strengthen immunity against infection and help in vision.

Lack of it can cause night blindness and rough skin. Excess of it can affect the bone, which increases the risk of fracture.

Vitamin D: 15 mcgs of vitamin D rich food items like egg yolks, liver help to form and maintain your teeth and bones.

Rickets (long, soft bowed legs), flattening of the back of the skull, osteomalacia (muscle and bone weakness), and osteoporosis (loss of bone mass) are some of the major diseases that one can suffer from, if vitamin D is not taken.

Too much of it leads to slowed mental and physical growth, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting.

Vitamin E: This acts as an antioxidant and protects vitamins A and C, and red blood cells from destruction. So have 15 mcg of vegetable oil like soybean, corn and cottonseed. Egg yolks also contain vitamin E.

Vitamin E deficiency is rare. Cases of this vitamin deficiency usually occurs in premature infants.

Vitamin K: All leafy vegetables are said to be good for health. Turnip greens, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil and olive oil are all rich in vitamin K.

The vitamin is required for proper blood clotting. Just have 120 mcg every day. Haemorrhaging can happen if you don't include it in your diet. Overindulgence can lead to vomiting.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): The sources are whole grain, bread and cereals. Non-vegetarians can find this vitamin in liver, pork, and eggs. 0.8 to 1 mg per day is sufficient.

It helps with energy production in your body. Deficiency can cause numbness, tingling and loss of sensation.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Dark green vegetables, legumes, whole and enriched grain products, and milk, along with liver, eggs should be eaten. 1.1 to 1.3 mg per day of this vitamin helps to release energy from foods, promotes good vision, and healthy skin.

Cracks at the corners of the mouth, light sensitivity, and a sore, red tongue are the problems you can face if you don't have vitamin B2.

Vitamin C: Citrus fruits like orange and lemon, are known for being source of this vitamin. 75 to 90 mg per day is the right quantity required by your body.

It heals wound, helps in bone and tooth formation, strengthens blood vessel walls, improves immune system function, increases absorption and utilisation of iron, and acts as an antioxidant.

If you don't take vitamin C rich food, you can be a victim of scurvy, causing a loss of collagen strength throughout the body. Loss of collagen results in loose teeth, bleeding and swollen gums, and improper wound healing.

Excess leads to formation of kidney stones and you may even suffer from diarrhoea.

Iron: Have beans, lentils, beef, eggs to stay away from anaemia, dizziness or fainting.

Men should have 8mg per day. For women 18 mg per day is sufficient.

Calcium: Milk, yoghurt, spinach are rich in calcium. 1000 mg per day of calcium is essential for bone growth and strength, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and the transmission of nerve signals.

Absence of calcium can lead to thinning and weakening of bone.

Aug 24
Home remedies to get rid of cough
As the season changes, it brings with it the whacky cough, which all of us know is irritating and sometimes painful too. A persistent cough not just disrupts one's daily routine, but especially dry cough brings you in public view.

Now, there are basically two types of coughs. The first one is dry cough, which can be caused by fumes, cigarette smoke or from some other source. Then, there is wet cough which gives away sticky mucus and can be caused due to cold, changing weather conditions, respiratory viruses etc.

Irrespective of whatever kind of cough you have, whether dry or wet, here are few home remedies that will help you get relief instantly:

Gargling: Take some luke warm water, add a pinch of salt to it and then gargle with it to cure the soreness of throat. Gargling will give you instant relief as it helps in thinning the mucus.

Rub your chest: One can also opt to rub one's chest and throat with some balm or that contains camphor or menthol. Remember that these should not be consumed internally.

Ginger and honey remedies: Believe it or not, but a slice of ginger works wonders when it come to curing cough. Just, cut a piece of ginger, sprinkle some salt on it and chew it for sometime, you will surely get relief from cough. Also, honey too helps soothen throat irritation. Take glass of hot milk, add some honey to it and drink it before going to sleep at night to get instant respite.

Hot milk and turmeric: This one is the most traditional remedy that will surely work. Take a glass of milk and heat it. Now, add half a teaspoon of turmeric to it and drink all of it. You will surely find some relief from cough.

Thyme tea: Thyme tea is a natural cough reliever and helps loosen mucus. Take 2 tablespoons fresh thyme and add it to 1 cup of water. Now, boil it for 10 minutes. After this, drain out the herb and add honey to it. Drinking this thrice a day will help relieve cough and congestion.

Aug 24
Higher intake of fruits and vegetables may reduce bladder cancer risk in women
Researchers have claimed that a greater consumption of fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk of invasive bladder cancer in women.

The investigation was conducted as part of the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) Study, established in 1993 to assess the relationships among dietary, lifestyle, genetic factors, and cancer risk.

Park and her fellow researcher`s analyzed data collected from 185,885 older adults over a period of 12.5 years, of which 581 invasive bladder cancer cases were diagnosed (152 women and 429 men).

After adjusting for variables related to cancer risk (age, etc.) the researchers found that women who consumed the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest bladder cancer risk.

For instance, women consuming the most yellow-orange vegetables were 52 percent less likely to have bladder cancer than women consuming the least yellow-orange vegetables.

The data also suggested that women with the highest intake of vitamins A, C, and E had the lowest risk of bladder cancer. No associations between fruit and vegetable intake and invasive bladder cancer were found in men.

Their findings have been published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Aug 23
Factors that trigger heart attack in Indians revealed
Indian researchers have conducted a data mining exercise to find out important risk factors in increasing the chances of an individual having a heart attack.

The authors confirm that the usual suspects high blood cholesterol, intake of alcohol and passive smoking play the most crucial role in `severe,` `moderate` and `mild` cardiac risks, respectively.

Subhagata Chattopadhyay of the Camellia Institute of Engineering in Kolkata used 300 real-world sample patient cases with various levels of cardiac risk - mild, moderate and severe and mined the data based on twelve known predisposing factors: age, gender, alcohol abuse, cholesterol level, smoking (active and passive), physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, family history, and prior cardiac event.

He then built a risk model that revealed specific risk factors associated with heart attack risk.

Chattopadhyay explained that the essence of this work essentially lies in the introduction of clustering techniques instead of purely statistical modelling, where the latter has its own limitations in `data-model fitting` compared to the former that is more flexible.

He said that the reliability of the data used, should be checked, and this has been done in this work to increase its authenticity. I reviewed several papers on epidemiological research, where I`m yet to see these methodologies, used.

The study has been published in International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.