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Nov 20
Skin Color Gives Clues To Health
Skin color can tell a lot about our health! Researchers from the universities of Bristol and St. Andrews in the UK have found that the color of a person's skin affects how healthy and therefore attractive they appear, and have found that diet may be crucial to achieving the most desirable complexion. The work will be published in the December issue of Springer's International Journal of Primatology.

Using specialist computer software, a total of 54 Caucasian participants of both sexes were asked to manipulate the skin color of male and female Caucasian faces to make them look as healthy as possible. They chose to increase the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.

"Most previous work on faces has focused on the shape of the face or the texture of the skin, but one of the most variable characteristics of the face isskin color," said Dr. Ian Stephen who is now at the University of Bristol.

"We knew from our previous work that people who have more blood and more oxygen color in their skins looked healthy, and so we decided to see what other colors affect health perceptions. This has given us some clues as to what other skin pigments may relate to a healthy appearance."

Skin that is slightly flushed with blood and full of oxygen suggests a strong heart and lungs, supporting the study's findings that rosier skin appeared healthy. Smokers and people with diabetes or heart disease have fewer blood vessels in their skin, and so skin would appear less rosy.

The preference for more golden or 'yellow-toned' skin as healthier might be explained by the 'carotenoid pigments' that we get from the fruit and vegetables in our diet.These plant pigments are powerful antioxidants that soak up dangerous compounds produced when the body combats disease. They are also important for our immune and reproductive systems and may help prevent cancer.

They are the same dietary pigments that brightly colored birds and fish use to show off their healthiness and attract mates, and the researchers think that similar biological mechanisms may be at work in humans.

"In the West we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the color of your skin," said Ian Stephen, "but our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better."

Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan color when skin is exposed to the sun makes the skin darker and more yellow, but participants in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier.

"This discovery is very exciting and has given us a promising lead into cues to health," said Professor David Perrett, head of the Perception Lab at the University of St. Andrews, where the research took place.

"What we eat and not just how much we eat appears to be important for a healthy appearance. The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high infruit and vegetables."

Nov 19
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked To Heart Disease
Insufficient intake of vitamin D, long known to play a key role in bone health, may significantly increase a person's risk of stroke, heart disease and even death, a US study said Monday.

Examining 27,686 Utah patients aged 50 or older with no history of cardiovascular disease, the study found those with very low vitamin D levels were 77 percent more likely to die early than those with normal levels.

They were also found to be 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke, said the research by the Heart Institute at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Those with very low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to develop heart failure, said the study which was due to be presented later Monday at a conference organized by the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida.

"If increasing levels of vitamin D can decrease some risk associated with these cardiovascular diseases, it could have a significant public health impact," said study co-author Heidi May, noting that vitamin D deficiency is easily treatable.

"When you consider that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, you understand how this research can help improve the length and quality of people's lives."

Studies have shown that Vitamin D also helps regulated key body functions such as blood pressure, inflammation and glucose control -- all related to heart disease -- and that deficiency of the vitamin is associated with musculoskeletal disorders.

Brent Muhlestein, another co-author of the study and the director of cardiovascular research at Intermountain, stressed that because the study was only observational, definitive links between vitamin D deficiency and heart disease could not be established.

He called for randomized treatment trials of patients with insufficient levels of the vitamin.

Two thirds of the Utah population does not get enough vitamin D, according to the study.

The researchers chose Utah -- home to the Mormon church -- in part because the population consumes low levels of tobacco and alcohol, thus allowing them to focus the study on vitamin D's effects on the cardiovascular system, explained Muhlestein.

The patients were divided into three groups based on their vitamin D levels -- normal (over 30 nanograms per milliliter), low (15-30 ng/ml) or very low (less than 15 ng/ml) -- and were followed for a year to determine whether they developed some form of heart disease.

Nov 19
Your Stem Cells Can Treat Heart Disease
The largest national stem cell study for heart disease showed that transplant subjects also experienced fewer deaths than those who didn't receive stem cells.

In the 12-month Phase II, double-blind trial, subjects' own purified stem cells, called CD34+ cells, were injected into their hearts in an effort to spur the growth of small blood vessels that make up the microcirculation of the heart muscle.

According to researchers, the loss of these blood vessels contributes to the pain of chronic, severe angina. "This is the first study to show significant benefit in pain reduction and improved exercise capacity in this population with very advanced heart disease," said principal investigator Dr. Douglas Losordo at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

He also said that this study provides the first evidence that a person's own stem cells can be used as a treatment for their heart disease. However, he cautioned that the findings of the 25-site trial with 167 subjects, require verification in a larger, Phase III study.

The stem cell transplant is the first therapy to produce an improvement in severe angina subjects' ability to walk on a treadmill. Twelve months after the procedure, the transplant subjects were able to double their improvement on a treadmill compared to the placebo group.

It also took twice as long until they experienced angina pain on a treadmill compared to the placebo group, and, when they felt pain, it went away faster with rest. In addition, they had fewer overall episodes of chest pain in their daily lives.

In the trial, the CD34+ cells were injected into 10 locations in the heart muscle.
A sophisticated electromechanical mapping technology identified where the heart muscle is alive but not functioning, because it is not receiving enough blood supply.

Nov 18
Global health alliance targets chronic disease
A global health alliance including US, Indian and Chinese organizations has pledged to coordinate efforts against "chronic non-communicable diseases" that kill millions globally each year.

The Global Alliance for Chronic Disease, which brings together institutions managing an estimated 80 percent of all public health research funding worldwide, announced its first targets for action in a statement this week.

The alliance said it would seek to reduce hypertension, tobacco use and the indoor pollution caused by the types of cooking stoves used in many developing countries.

The group, founded last year by organizations from the United States, China, India, Canada, Britain and Australia, said the three priorities were chosen because they contribute to one in five deaths worldwide each year.

The targets were selected during the organization's inaugural scientific summit, held in November in New Delhi, India.

According to the World Health Organization, which belongs to the group's board, chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) were responsible for some 60 percent of the 58 million deaths worldwide recorded in 2006.

The number of deaths caused by CNCDs is twice the combined total of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and peri-natal conditions and nutritional deficiencies, according to the alliance.

"The health impact and socio-economic cost of CNCDs is enormous and rising, upending efforts to combat poverty," the group said in a statement.

The three issues targeted by the alliance are believed to be responsible for some 11.5 million deaths per year, almost a third of all deaths associated with CNCDs, the group said.

The unregulated sale of cigarettes in countries like India could kill a billion people over the course of this century if nothing is done, and the number of people suffering from hypertension could rise to 1.5 billion by 2025 without action.

"The epidemic of chronic disease in the world has accelerated. We urgently need to understand how to reverse the trend, not just in small trials, but in all world communities. This new initiative will provide urgently needed resources to find and implement solutions," said David Matthews, a professor at Oxford University and acting executive director of the alliance.

Nov 18
Chocolate that helps you lose weight!
Want to shed flab? Well, you can now gorge on a special chocolate to lose weight, provided you don't mind its green tinge.

Sounds strange, but scientists have produced a new kind of chocolate, called Lola, which contains chemicals that trick one's brain into believing that one is not hungry and stops one from over -eating, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

However, the scientists from Spanish manufacturer Cocoa Bio claim that though the chocolate tastes just like regular bars, they have a slight green tinge because of the unusual extra ingredients.

"People should eat one or two chocolates around one hour before a meal. They'll feel pleasantly full and less like eating to excess. The chocolate has an intense flavour and extremely high antioxidant properties," lead scientist Armando Yanez, was quoted as saying.

He said the green tinge is because the chocolate contains the dietary supplement spirulina, a microscopic algae with a high level of nutrients such as vitamin A and B12, which also have weight loss benefits.

The scientists also claim that amino acids in the recipe stimulate the production of a hormone in the brain which suppresses the appetite.

The chocolates, priced about 5 pounds for a box of five will initially be sold only in Spain, but may come to Britain if there is enough interest.

It is not the first time that the potential health benefits from regularly eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, have been identified.

Nov 17
Gene to help you live to 100 'identified'
Scientists have identified a gene which can help one live to 100 years, a breakthrough that they claim may pave the way for anti-ageing drugs.

An international team, led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine, studying a group of people in American Ashkenazi Jewish community with an average age of 97, found they had all inherited a gene that appears to prevent cells ageing.

Their study found that the 86 people analysed and their children had higher levels of an enzyme telomerase which is known to protect the body's DNA from degrading, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

According to the scientists, the finding could lead to anti-ageing drugs.

Telomerase is known to protect telomeres which stop the string of DNA unravelling much like the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces stop fraying. Each time a cell divides, its telomeres shortens and the cell becomes more susceptible to dying.

Nov 17
Gut disorder 'blamed on leaks'
enetic defects leading to a leaky gut are a key cause of the inflammatory disorder ulcerative colitis, UK research suggests.

The disorder causes ulceration of the rectum and the colon, but its exact cause has yet to be pinned down.

The latest study links the condition to four genes which all play a role in keeping the intestine lining healthy.

The Nature Genetics study is based on an analysis of the genes of 12,700 people.

It is twice as large as any previous study - giving the results far greater robustness.

Ulcerative colitis is a life-long, incurable condition, which can cause diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain and swelling and weight loss. It affects approximately one in 1,000 people.

The researchers, from the UK IBD Genetics Consortium and the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, compared the genomes of 4,700 people with the condition, with those of 8,000 healthy people.

Their work highlighted variants in three regions of the genome which appeared to increase the risk of the condition.

In particular, they zeroed in on four genes - LAMB1, CDH1, CDH3 and HNF4A - which keep the epithelium - the lining of the intestine - working.

The genes affect the seals at the junctions between the cells of the epithelium.

The gut contains a huge number of bacteria which play a key role in the digestive process, and in keeping the gut healthy.

However, defects in the epithelium can allow these bacteria to leak into the wall of the intestine, where they can trigger an immune reaction, leading to prolonged inflammation.

Many experts believe this is one of the causes of ulcerative colitis - and the latest research provides hard evidence of a genetic basis to the theory.

Robust evidence

Researcher Dr Miles Parkes, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said: "We have long suspected that genetic defects in the epithelial barrier are important in ulcerative colitis.

"This large scale genetic study provides the first robust genetic evidence that this is the case."

Professor Chris Mathew, from King's College London, who also worked on the study, said: "This is very significant as most treatments to date are based on damping down immune response.

"In fact, our data suggests there may be mileage in trying to tighten up the mucosal barrier as well."

One of the genes highlighted by the research, CDH1, has also been implicated in the spread of colon cancer, suggesting their may be a genetic link between the two conditions.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said the study strongly suggested genetic inheritance was to blame for some people's vulnerability to ulcerative colitis.

"Although it is a long way from this discovery to developing new treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, new approaches to the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases require new insights into their causes."

Richard Driscoll, Director of the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease, welcomed the research.

He said: "Every increase in knowledge moves us closer to the time when identifying a person's genes may enable them and their doctor to make decisions on treatment with a more certain understanding of how their disease is likely to develop over time."

Nov 17
Check your pulse to stave off stroke
Experts have urged people to check their pulse for atrial fibrillation, a condition that might cause stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is characterised by an abnormal heart rhythm.

A survey involving over 2000 people showed that while 57pct of the respondents were far more likely to check their passport expiry date, only 32pct checked their pulse.

In addition only 28pct of the people knew taking their pulse was a health check they should carry out on themselves.

The British Heart Foundation has launched a dedicated phone line and new area of its website ( so people can hear examples of regular and irregular heartbeats, and get advice on how to take their pulse.

"Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that can be easily detected and treated," the Telegraph quoted Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, as saying.

Nov 14
India laggard in measles fight
India has slipped behind all of Africa and Asia in combating measles, delaying action to bolster immunisation against the infection that kills an estimated 160,000 children in the country each year, medical experts have said.

India was among 47 African and Asian countries identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than two years ago as "worst-affected" by measles, accounting for 98 per cent of global deaths from the infection.

All the countries were advised to introduce a second dose of the measles vaccine through their immunisation programmes that would help protect nearly all children.

Among the countries that have taken the action to reduce measles mortality are Angola, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Vietnam, Yemen and Pakistan, public health experts have said.

India remains the only country in the world that has not systematically introduced the second dose of the measles vaccine, two experts said in a commentary in Indian Pediatrics, a journal of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics.

"This is certainly a shame," Panna Choudhury, a co-author and president of the academy, told Newspapers. "India has the resources, the infrastructure and the measles vaccine is widely and easily available."

A single dose of the measles vaccine given to children at about nine months of age protects only 85 per cent of immunised children. The second dose between 15 and 18 months is dubbed as a "second opportunity" expected to protect 99 per cent children.

The early public health advisories for a second dose emerged in 2004 and were reiterated by the WHO's strategic advisory group of experts on immunisation in November 2008.

But the health ministry still has not introduced the second dose in the public immunisation programme, although it is routinely provided by doctors in the private sector.

"We expect this (a second dose) will start sometime in 2010," said T. Jacob John, co-chair of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which has asked the health ministry to introduce the second dose through two strategies.

States where routine immunisation coverage is higher than 80 per cent have been asked to deliver the second measles dose when a child comes to get a booster dose of the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine at 18 months. The other states may need to introduce the second dose through mass immunisation campaigns of the type used to deliver the oral polio vaccine, John said.

Public health experts believe poor routine immunisation, lack of diagnosis and access to proper treatment and poor awareness among people are among the factors that have frustrated efforts to reduce measles mortality in the country. "A dose of vitamin A can reduce the risk of complications and mortality in measles infection but many children do not get this vitamin A as part of routine therapy," a public health expert said.

"The immunisation programme also appears understaffed," John said. The advisory group on immunisation has asked a panel of experts to examine the human resource requirements to improve immunisation coverage.

"Measles can cause life-threatening pneumonia in children but many parents still appear unaware of this," Choudhury said. "Action against measles could significantly reduce mortality in children below five years of age," he said.

Nov 14
Understand diabetes and take control
DIABETES is spreading like wildfire. International Diabetes Federation estimates that Diabetes has already affected more than 50 million adults in India. The number of people expected to have diabetes by 2030 is around 87 million, according to the IDF Atlas published in October this year.

Diabetes is a devastating disease, both in terms of morbidity and economic burden. This is true for individuals as well as for society. The World Health Organisation has predicted net losses in national income from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases of 336.6 international dollars in India.

Diabetes is the leading cause for blindness, kidney failure and foot amputations, besides tremendously increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke. Education and awareness are the only ways to tackle the huge threat posed by diabetes.

'Diabetes education and prevention' is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013. The campaign calls on all those responsible for diabetes care to understand diabetes and take control.

There are many risk factors for type-II diabetes. They include, obesity and overweight, lack of exercise, previously identified glucose intolerance, unhealthy diet, increased age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a family history of diabetes and a history of gestational diabetes.

Understand diabetes

The warning signs of diabetes include, frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, tiredness, lack of interest and concentration, vomiting and stomach pain, a tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slowhealing wounds, these can be mild or absent in people with type-II diabetes. If you show these signs, seek medical attention.

Evaluation and management

Diabetes is a lifelong disease characterised by high blood glucose levels. It may cause symptoms like increased urination, thirst, hunger and weight loss. It leads to various short-term problems like increased chance for infections and fatigue.

In the long term, it leads to various complications like eye disease (retinopathy), Kidney disease (nephropathy) and nerve disease (neuropathy). It also increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and foot ulcers.

Diabetes, however, can be very effectively managed. One needs to do three things in this regard; control blood glucose, look for and treat associated diseases and prevent or treat complications at the earliest. To achieve this, one need to know the complete status of the patient.

Three important diseases associated with diabetes are high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood cholesterol (dyslipidaemia) and obesity.

These diseases increase the risk for complications tremendously.

We need to identify and manage these conditions effectively.

Complications or their chance should be identified at the earliest so that they are not allowed to cripple the patient in any way.

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