Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Solutions for a nitrogen-soaked world

Solutions for a nitrogen-soaked world

Excerpts from the press release

Interdisciplinary panel reviews US nitrogen pollution trends, risks, and mitigation strategies

Nitrogen is both an essential nutrient and a pollutant, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion and a fertilizer that feeds billions, a benefit and a hazard, depending on form, location, and quantity. Agriculture, industry and transportation have spread nitrogen liberally around the planet, say sixteen scientists in the latest edition of ESA’s Issues in Ecology series, “Excess Nitrogen in the U.S. Environment: Trends, Risks, and Solutions,” with complex and interrelated consequences for ecological communities and our dependence upon the resources they provide, as well as human health.

Pulling from a broad pool of expertise in air quality, agronomy, ecology, epidemiology and groundwater geochemistry, the sixteen authors track nitrogen through its different chemical forms and biological incarnations as it progresses across economic, environmental and regulatory bounds. They argue for a systematic, rather than piecemeal, approach to managing the resource and its consequences. “We’re really trying to identify solutions,” said lead author Eric Davidson, a soil ecologist and executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center. “This is a paper about how much we do know, not about what we don’t know. We know about nitrogen cycles, and sources, and we know problems can be addressed in economically viable ways.”…

The report tabulates strategies to help farmers maximize efficient use of fertilizer, rather than just maximize crop yield, including buffer strips and wetlands, manure management, and ideal patterns of fertilizer application. It also considers the cost of implementing them, and programs for buffering farmers against losses in bad years.

“There are a variety of impacts due to the human use of nitrogen,” said Galloway. “The biggest is a positive one, in that it allows us to grow food for Americans and people in other countries, and we don’t want to lose sight of that.” Balancing inexpensive abundant food against the damage done by nitrogen escaping into the environment is a conversation the authors would like to hear more prominently in policy arenas.

“Yes, we have to feed people, but we also need clean drinking water, clean air, and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Davidson. “The science helps to show those tradeoffs, and where we most stand to gain from improved nutrient management in agriculture.”…

Read the entire news release here

January 25, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , | Leave a comment

A family history of alcoholism may make adolescent brains respond differently

A family history of alcoholism may make adolescent brains respond differently

Excerpts from the press release

 

  • Adolescents with a family history of alcoholism (FHP) are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders.
  • A new study has compared the brain activity of FHP youth to peers with no family history of alcoholism.
  • Two areas of the brain – the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum – responded differently during risky decision-making in high-risk youth compared to their lower-risk peers.

Researchers know that adolescents with a family history of alcoholism (FHP) are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders. Some studies have shown that, compared to their peers, FHP adolescents have deficits in behavioral inhibition. A study of the neural substrates of risk-taking in both FHP adolescents and their peers with a negative family history of alcoholism (FHN) has shown that FHP youth demonstrated atypical brain activity while completing the same task as the FHN youth.

Results will be published in the April 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“We know that a familial history of alcoholism is a significant risk factor for future alcohol abuse,” said Bonnie J. Nagel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University as well as corresponding author for the study. “We were interested in determining whether adolescents at heightened risk for alcohol use made more risky decisions during a laboratory task compared to their lower-risk peers. Additionally, we wanted to examine whether differences in brain responses when making risky decisions were present in these two groups. We wanted to investigate pre-morbid neural risk factors during decision making in FHP youth, as opposed to differences in brain response due to heavy alcohol use itself.”

“This is the first study to examine the neural substrates of risk-taking in FHP adolescents who are substance naïve,” ..

Read the entire press release here

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

NIH study shows 32 million Americans have autoantibodies that target their own tissues

NIH study shows 32 million Americans have autoantibodies that target their own tissues

From the 13 January 2012 Eureka news alert

More than 32 million people in the United States have autoantibodies, which are proteins made by the immune system that target the body’s tissues and define a condition known as autoimmunity, a study shows. The first nationally representative sample looking at the prevalence of the most common type of autoantibody, known as antinuclear antibodies (ANA), found that the frequency of ANA is highest among women, older individuals, and African-Americans. The study was conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers in Gainesville at the University of Florida also participated.

Earlier studies have shown that ANA can actually develop many years before the clinical appearance of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. ANA are frequently measured biomarkers for detecting autoimmune diseases, but the presence of autoantibodies does not necessarily mean a person will get an autoimmune disease. Other factors, including drugs, cancer, and infections, are also known to cause autoantibodies in some people…

“The peak of autoimmunity in females compared to males during the 40-49 age bracket is suggestive of the effects that the hormones estrogen and progesterone might be playing on the immune system,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and an author on the paper.

The paper also found that the prevalence of ANA was lower in overweight and obese individuals than persons of normal weight. “This finding is interesting and somewhat unexpected,” said Edward Chan, Ph.D., an author on the study and professor of the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Florida.

“It raises the likelihood that fat tissues can secrete proteins that inhibit parts of the immune system and prevent the development of autoantibodies, but we will need to do more research to understand the role that obesity might play in the development of autoimmune diseases,” said Minoru Satoh, M.D., Ph.D., another author on the study and associate professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Florida….

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Research prevents eco-fraud

Research prevents eco-fraud

From the 12 December Eureka news alert

In recent years, the growing demand for organic food products has led to the faking of food and fraud. Headed by the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, a European research project will now develop methods capable of both determining the geographical origin of a food product and deciding whether or not it is organic.

Today, many organic food products such as olive oil, coffee and wine are sold at a higher price because of the production methods involved, their special geographical origins or the absence of undesirable compounds.

Recently there have been several instances of falsification and fraud where conventionally grown produce has been sold as organic. This calls for tools capable of tracing the origins and cultivation methods of food products….

….

Great help for food authorities all over Europe

By analysing the chemical composition of fruits and vegetables, the researchers can, among other things, trace differences between conventional and organic growing methods.

In the laboratory, any use of pesticides can be traced and the geographical differences in soil characteristics also leave fingerprints which can be measured on the food by the researchers.

According to the researchers, the analytical tools to be developed by the research project may be used by food authorities at both a national and a European level during the coming years…..

Read the entire press release here

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , | 1 Comment

Designing Healthy Communities — Improving our nation’s public health by re-designing and restoring our built environment

Designing Healthy Communities — Improving our nation’s public health by re-designing and restoring our built environment

This project strives to ” offer best practice models to improve our nation’s public health by re-designing and restoring our built environment” [From their about page]

The present focus areas are Health,Transportation, Design, Food, and People.

Links in each of the above 5 areas include related PBS  series episodes and programs (as Tavis Smiley ),  related studies (as Pew reports),  and other related videos and news items.

Information about one this project’s DVD series Designing Healthy Communities (to be shown on PBS) may be found at http://designinghealthycommunities.org/designing-healthy-communities-complete-dvd-series/

Excerpt:

Developers in the last half-century called it progress when they built homes and shopping malls far from city centers throughout the country, sounding the death knell for many downtowns. But now an alarmed cadre of public health experts say these expanded metropolitan areas have had a far more serious impact on the people who live there by creating vehicle-dependent environments that foster obesity, poor health, social isolation, excessive stress and depression.

As a result, these experts say, our “built environment” — where we live, work, play and shop — has become a leading cause of disability and death in the 21st century.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Marijuana use associated with cyclic vomiting syndrome in young males

Marijuana use associated with cyclic vomiting syndrome in young males

From the 9th January 2011 Eureka news alert

Researchers have found clear associations between marijuana use in young males and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), where patients experience episodes of vomiting separated by symptom free intervals.

The study, published in the January issue of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, looked at 226 patients seen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York, USA, over a 13-year period.

These were broken into three groups. Eighty-two patients with CVS were randomly matched with 82 patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) based on age, gender and geographic referral region. Researchers also examined the records of 62 patients with functional vomiting (FV), recurrent vomiting that cannot be attributed to a specific physical or psychiatric cause.

“Our study showed that CVS and FV had very similar clinical features, apart from marijuana use” says Dr G Richard Locke III from the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Clinic.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Members of the CVS group were younger than members of the FV group (30 versus 36 years) and more likely to be male (53% versus 46%).
  • No statistically significant association was detected between membership of the CVS and FV groups and marital status, education level, body mass index, employment status, alcohol use or smoking history.
  • 37% of the CVS group had used marijuana (81% male), together with 13% of the FV group (equally split between male and female) and 11% of the IBS group (73% male).

Click here to read the rest of the article

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Fit females make more daughters, mighty males get grandsons

Fit females make more daughters, mighty males get grandsons

From the 9 January 2012 Eureka news alert

Females influence the gender of their offspring so they inherit either their mother’s or grandfather’s qualities. ‘High-quality’ females – those which produce more offspring – are more likely to have daughters. Weaker females, whose own fathers were stronger and more successful, produce more sons.

The study, by scientists at the University of Exeter (UK), Okayama University and Kyushu University (Japan), is published today (9 January) in the journal Ecology Letters. It shows for the first time that females are able to manipulate the sex of their offspring to compensate for the fact that some of the genes which make a good male make a bad female and vice versa.

The research focuses on the broad-horned flour beetle, Gnatocerus cornutus, but the team believes the findings could apply to other species across the animal kingdom, even mammals….

…Corresponding author Dr David Hosken of the University of Exeter said: “Our study shows females are able to bias the sex ratio of their offspring in surprising and subtle ways. These findings shed new light on why some families have lots of sons, while others have mainly daughters. Of course everyone will be interested to know if the study can help explain why this sometimes happens in human families but I’m afraid we can’t answer that!”

 

Link to the paper upon publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01725.x

 

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

Study: For Now, Web-Based Healthcare Tools [and Possibly Health Apps] Are Mostly Ineffective [With Links to Reviewed Health Apps For All]]

Health apps designed for the general population have potential in tracking health indicators (as food eaten, glucose levels) and also  communicating information and support among users. For example, Spark People  provides answers from dietitians & fitness trainers on message boards. One may connect with other members in support teams.

While it is very easy to find Health apps (iTunes, I believe,  is the largest supplier), it is very challenging to find easy to use apps that have been professionally reviewed.  The article below highlights one drawback of most present web-based healthcare tools- usability. It seems highly likely, that by extension, that health care apps are largely lacking in usability also.

Here are a few resources I used to create short lists of reputable easy to use health apps.

  • Hasman, Linda An Introduction to Consumer Health Apps for the iPhone Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet2011 Oct-Dec, 15(4):322-329.  “The 19 apps listed in this article are culled from approximately 350,000 total apps”.
     [Article available by subscription only,  I got this (for free!) through the interlibrary loan dept at my local library, it contains about 19 good sites, some I will add to my health apps page]
  • iMedicalapps – Medical Librarians corner iMedicalapps includes medical app reviews and commentary by medical professionals
    The Medical Librarians corner included these great resources

Study: For Now, Web-Based Healthcare Tools Are Mostly Ineffective

From the 13 January 2012 ReadWriteWeb column

study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association accents the limits of web-based health management tools that are currently available.

Researchers focused specifically on tools for managing diabetes, but the drawbacks could extend to other tools designed to help patients do everything from lose weight to quit smoking. The study concluded that “despite their abundance, few practical web-accessible tools exist.” In many case, the tools suffered from poor design that made them difficult to use….

….Of the 92 web tools analyzed in the study, 60% had three or more usability errors, included limited use of visual interaction and navigation that was not intuitive. Just 6% had no usability errors..

..The study recommended companies offering such tools work on improving attrition, standardizing quality indicators and making indicators transparent for patients and doctors choosing the best web-based tool.

“Web-based tools have the potential to improve health outcomes and complement healthcare delivery, but their full potential is hindered by limited knowledge about their effectiveness, high prevalence of usability errors and high attrition rates,” Yu wrote….

One of the biggest problems facing web-based health tools is patients often use them inconsistently.

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , | Leave a comment

   

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