Jul 24 2010

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

Eggplant on the Grill


Eggplant is at its best in the summer months, which, as luck would have it, is also when backyard grills start seeing regular use. It’s a wonderful coincidence, because eggplants love smoke. The vegetable’s flesh absorbs the flavor from the grill as easily as it does olive oil.


When you grill eggplant, you don’t need much olive oil – none if you’re grilling whole eggplants, just enough to lightly brush the slices if your dish calls for sliced eggplant.

If you live in an apartment and want to make some of this week’s dishes, I recommend using a panini grill for sliced eggplants. If you’re grilling whole eggplants, seek out smaller varieties, like narrow Japanese eggplants and some Mediterranean varieties, which don’t take so long to soften all the way through.

Grilled Eggplant Slices With Tomatoes and Feta

Grilled Eggplant and Pepper Salad

Grilled Eggplant Purée With Pomegranate Syrup and Almonds

Smoky Eggplant and Yogurt Purée

Spicy Grilled Eggplant Slices

General Medicine/Family Medical

Darker skin doesn’t mean melanoma immunity

(Reuters Health) – Melanoma is on the rise among certain groups of dark-skinned Floridians, new research shows.

And while it’s not clear why from the current study, the study does provide an important take home message, according to Dr. Robert S. Kirsner of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: “Just because you have darker skin pigmentation, whether you’re Hispanic or black, does not make you immune to skin cancer,” he told Reuters Health.

Medicare drug benefit boosts use of heart failure meds

(Reuters Health) – The Medicare drug benefit may be helping more older Americans with heart failure get the medications recommended for controlling the disease, a new study finds.

The study, of nearly 7,000 older heart failure patients in one large insurance plan, found that the number of filled prescriptions for standard heart failure medications increased after the Medicare drug benefit kicked in in 2006.

The biggest increase was seen among seniors who had previously lacked any form of drug coverage.

Study: Insulin Pump Better Than Injections

July 21, 2010 — Encouraging research raises new hopes that a long awaited “artificial pancreas” to treat patients with type 1 diabetes could be available in the U.S. within the next few years, experts say.

In the largest and longest study ever of an insulin pump with a continuous glucose sensor, patients who used the device achieved better control of their blood sugar than patients taking insulin injections.

Those in the study who used the insulin pump marketed by medical device maker Medtronic Inc., had to adjust their insulin levels manually, just as patients who give themselves insulin injections do.

But Medtronic and other companies are working on a closed-loop system — often referred to as an artificial pancreas — which will continuously monitor blood sugar levels and adjust insulin delivery automatically.

Study raises hope for safer diabetes drugs

(Reuters) – A new understanding of the link between diabetes and obesity may help drug companies design safer versions of treatments like GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The researchers had believed Avandia and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co’s Actos work by stimulating a protein known as PPAR-gamma. Now the team thinks the drugs also act on the insulin resistance that diabetics develop through a different route.

Experts identify three culprits for gluten allergy

(Reuters) – Researchers have identified three fragments in gluten that appear to trigger a disorder in people who are allergic to the wheat protein.

The findings, published on Thursday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, may lead to a more targeted cure instead of what sufferers practice now — life-long abstinence from food containing gluten, such as cereal, pasta, cookies and beer.

“If you can (narrow down) the toxicity of an allergen to a few components, that enables you to make a highly targeted therapy in a way that you no longer need to target the whole immune system,” said researcher Robert Anderson of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, Australia.

Adults born in famine show higher pre-diabetes risk

(Reuters Health) – Middle-aged adults born at the height of China’s famine in the 1950s and 60s may have a greater risk of abnormally high blood sugar than those born just a few years earlier or later, a new study finds.

The findings, reported in the journal Diabetes, support the theory that nutrition and growth during fetal development may affect the odds of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Previous studies, for example, have found a relationship between low birth weight and higher diabetes risk in adulthood in both developed and developing countries, said Dr. Frank B. Hu, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the senior researcher on the study.

Glaucoma patients struggle with applying eyedrops

(Reuters Health) – People in most need of sight-preserving eyedrops may be the least successful in landing the therapy in their eyes, suggests a new study.

Buildup of internal eye pressure is one of the main causes of the vision damage associated with glaucoma, a potentially blinding disease that affects more than 4 million Americans, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Standard treatment relies on self-administering pressure-lowering eyedrops.

Torn ACL May Heal Without Surgery

July 21, 2010 — Many patients with a torn ACL — the ligament that stabilizes the knee — may avoid surgery by delaying the operation and first giving physical therapy a try.

One of the most feared sports and work injuries is a torn anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. It’s the tough piece of tissue that keeps the knee from bending sideways when you plant your foot and pivot.

Nobody is exactly sure of the best way to treat a torn ACL. Yet every year, at least 200,000 Americans undergo ACL reconstruction, in which the ACL is restored with tendon grafts. Most patients undergo this surgery soon after their injury.

But that may not be the best strategy for everyone, suggests a clinical trial by physiotherapist Richard B. Frobell, PhD, of Sweden’s Lund University, and colleagues.

Zinc sprays dull sense of smell in some users

(Reuters Health) – Homeopathic zinc nasal sprays don’t fight colds, and they probably cause some people to lose their sense of smell, the authors of a new analysis conclude.

“Increased Food and Drug Administration oversight of homeopathic medications is needed to monitor the safety of these popular remedies,” Drs. Terence M. Davidson and Wendy Smith of the University of California, San Diego, and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Health System write in the July issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery

Combat injuries may cause epilepsy years later

(Reuters Health) – Soldiers may develop epilepsy from a head injury as many as 30 years down the road, hints a new study of Vietnam veterans.

Post-traumatic epilepsy, as the seizure disorder is known, is common after brain injuries sustained in battle.

“Soldiers have more severe injuries than what commonly occurs in the civilian populations,” Dr. L. James Willmore, who was not involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.


FDA warns Abbott on blood sugar monitors

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned Abbott Laboratories’ diabetes care unit about manufacturing problems at its Alameda, California plant, a letter released Tuesday said.

In a letter dated July 2, FDA said its inspectors found Abbott’s Freestyle and Navigator blood glucose monitoring products were adulterated and not conforming with codes for good quality system manufacturing practices.

“The letter relates to our corrective and preventative measures and some of our internal validation and documentation procedures,” Abbott spokesman Greg Miley said.

The warning does not affect the availability of those products, he said.

FDA Panel: Avastin Not for Breast Cancer

uly 20, 2010 — Avastin is not helpful in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, and the drug’s approval for this use should be withdrawn.

That’s the verdict of an FDA advisory panel, whose 12-1 vote urges the FDA to remove breast cancer from the list of approved uses of the Genentech drug. The vote is specific to breast cancer and does not affect Avastin’s approval for the treatment of colon, lung, brain, or kidney cancer.

Against the advice of a previous advisory committee, the FDA in 2008 gave Avastin “accelerated approval” for the treatment of spreading breast cancer, in combination with chemotherapy. As a condition of that approval, Genentech agreed to conduct two new clinical trials.

Those trials showed no evidence that Avastin offered an overall benefit to breast cancer patients. In contrast, the drug added significantly to the side effects of chemotherapy.

H1N1/Seasonal Flu/Other Epidemics

Whooping Cough Epidemic Hits California

July 21, 2010 — Six infants have died in California in what looks like the state’s worst whooping cough epidemic in 50 years.

To date, the CDC says South Carolina is the only other state where whooping cough cases have exceeded the “epidemic threshold” — a statistical measure that means there are significantly more cases than usual for the time of year.

After declaring an official epidemic of pertussis, the medical term for whooping cough, California health officials announced a broadened vaccination campaign for teens and adults of all ages. Anyone who comes into contact with babies is particularly urged to get the vaccine — even pregnant women and the elderly.

“Teens and adults should be vaccinated, especially anyone who is going to have contact with infants who are too young for vaccinations,” CDC epidemiologist Stacey Martin, MSc, tells WebMD. “Those California deaths were all in infants less than 3 months old. They don’t have the benefit of vaccination yet, so we have to vaccinate around them.”

Early, rural-based HIV care offers hope in Africa

(Reuters) – Treating HIV patients in remote areas of Africa soon after they are infected and using community care teams instead of doctors can cut costs and help people live longer than those treated later, a charity said Thursday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said research in Mozambique and in Lesotho, where 23 percent of adults have HIV, suggested implementing early treatment cut death rates and made it easier for patients to keep taking their drugs.

“Treating people before they get very sick is better for the individual, better for the community and actually lessens the burden on the health system,” Helen Bygrave, a doctor working with MSF in Lesotho, told an AIDS conference in Vienna.

Circumcision could halt 4 mln new African HIV cases

(Reuters) – More than 4 million new HIV infections could be prevented in eastern and southern Africa by 2025 if male circumcision rates were increased to 80 percent, researchers said on Tuesday.

Expanding circumcision services to 80 percent of adult and newborn males in the region would also save $20.2 billion in HIV-related health costs between 2009 and 2025, they said.

“With global resources spread thin, we must focus on expanding proven and cost-effective methods like male circumcision to prevent HIV transmission,” Krishna Jafa, an HIV expert at health aid group Population Services International (PSI), said at an AIDS conference in Vienna.

J&J AIDS drug shows promise

(Reuters) – Two pivotal trials of a Johnson & Johnson experimental HIV drug found it worked as well as an existing drug, with fewer side effects but also with nearly twice as many patients failing to respond to treatment.

The drug, rilpivirine or TMC278, is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) being developed for use in combination therapy for treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

J&J already has a deal with U.S. biotech company Gilead Sciences to develop a single pill combining rilpivirine with Truvada, a drug containing Gilead’s tenofovir and emtricitabine.

WHO still monitoring H1N1 pandemic: spokesman

(Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s emergency committee will not meet this week to review data on the H1N1 swine flu pandemic nor will it declare for now an end to the pandemic, a WHO spokesman said.

“There is no EC (emergency committee) this week. We are still monitoring and seeing how the virus behaves in the rest of the southern hemisphere winter,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told Reuters.

Bloomberg News, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported late on Monday that the emergency committee intended to convene as early as Tuesday to review data and declare an end to the pandemic which officially began in June 2009.

Women’s Health

Moderate Coffee Drinking OK in Pregnancy

July 21, 2010 — Many pregnant women cut out caffeine the minute they find out they are expecting because of fears that their daily coffee may increase their risk for miscarriage or preterm birth.

But a new position statement issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) should put some of their fears to rest. The group states that moderate caffeine intake — less than 200 milligrams a day — won’t increase their risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.

The same cannot be said for higher amounts of caffeine, the group states in the August issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“For years, women have been getting mixed messages about whether or not they should have any caffeine during pregnancy,” says William H. Barth Jr., MD, chair of ACOG’s committee on obstetric practice, in a news release. “After a review of the scientific evidence to date, daily moderate caffeine consumption doesn’t appear to have any major impact in causing miscarriage or preterm birth.”

New Guidelines for Women With Prior Cesareans

July 21, 2010 — Many women who have had a cesarean section  delivery — and some who have had two C-sections — can safely attempt to deliver vaginally, according to updated guidelines on vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

”What is new are a couple of key things,” says William A. Grobman, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and a co-author of the updated guidelines.

Under the new guidelines, women with two previous cesareans and no previous vaginal delivery, women expecting twins, and women with an unknown type of scar from the previous C-sections are now considered reasonable candidates for vaginal delivery, updating guidelines on the topic issued in 2004 and 2006.

“In the times since those guidelines [were issued], new information was available,” Grobman tells WebMD, including two large and scientifically sound studies about VBAC.

Cleaning Products Linked to Breast Cancer?

July 20, 2010 — Frequent use of household cleaning products may boost breast cancer risk, according to a new study that drew criticism from medical experts and the cleaning industry.

Air fresheners and products to control mold and mildew were particularly linked, says researcher Julia Brody, PhD, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., who led the study.

It is published in the journal Environmental Health.

The study is believed to be the first published report linking household cleaning products and breast cancer risk. “Many laboratory studies led us to be concerned about particular compounds in cleaning products and air fresheners,” Brody tells WebMD.

Men’s Health

No link seen between coffee, prostate cancer risk

(Reuters Health) – Men who enjoy their morning cup of coffee can drink a little easier. A new research review finds that java lovers appear no more likely to develop prostate cancer than other men.

In an analysis of a dozen studies on coffee intake and prostate cancer risk, researchers found no strong evidence linking the beverage to either an increased or decreased risk of the disease.

The findings, published in the medical journal BJU International, add to the conflicting body of research on coffee and cancer risk.

Pediatric Health

Most Kids With ADHD Take Medication

July 20, 2010 — More than 80% of children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder take prescription medications at some point to treat their symptoms, according to a new nationwide survey of parents by Consumer Reports Health.

Among the survey’s major findings:

   * 67% of parents identify drug therapy as being beneficial, while 45% feel that switching their kids to schools better suited to help ADHD kids helps considerably.

   * More than half of the children whose parents were questioned had tried two or more medications in the past three years.

   * 37% of parents say having a learning specialist or tutor work with the child helps “a lot.”

   * 35% of parents say providing structure by maintaining a schedule of activities helps “a lot.”

Benefit confirmed in “bubble boy” treatment

(Reuters) – A 10-year study of nine boys born without the ability to ward off germs has found that gene therapy is an effective long-term treatment, but it carries a price: four of them developed leukemia.

The technique is designed to help boys with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disease, or SCID, a rare mutation that prevents the body from making mature T cells or natural killer cells, which are vital tools for fighting infections.

Without a bone marrow transplant, which works best with a matching donor, such “bubble babies” have to live in germ-free environments and usually die within a year. Doctors hope gene therapy will work when no donor is available.


States Cut Aid to the Homebound

A couple of decades back, people who think about how we care for older Americans – and who noticed how many more of them there were, and how much longer they were living – sounded the alarm about the way the United States was spending Medicaid dollars.

The issue: the great majority of those dollars were being spent to maintain elders in nursing homes, the places they don’t want to be. Only a sliver of this federal and state money was helping to support low-income seniors at home, where they do want to be.

Mental Health

Ecstasy May Ease PTSD Symptoms

July 20, 2010 — The street drug known as ecstasy may play a role in treating severe posttraumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) when used in conjunction with intensive therapy in a very controlled setting, according to preliminary new research in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

When used in this manner, MDMA, also known as ecstasy, was so effective that 80% of participants had resolution of their PTSD symptoms after the end of the trial. And some participants who had been unable to work because of their symptoms were able to rejoin the workforce. The new work was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group based in Santa Cruz, Calif., that studies the use of psychedelic drugs and marijuana in difficult-to-treat conditions.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatic event. It is marked by persistent thoughts and fears of the event, flashbacks, and sleeplessness. Some people with PTSD withdraw from society as a result of these debilitating symptoms.

Nutrition/Diet/Healthy Recipes

Meat lovers may pack on the pounds over time

Reuters Health) – Being a little less carnivorous may help you stay slim, a study in hundreds of thousands of Europeans suggests.

Dr. Anne-Claire Vergnaud of Imperial College London in the UK and her colleagues found that people who ate more meat gained more weight over 5 years than those who ate less meat, but the same amount of calories.

“Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management,” they wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Heart risk factors less common in fish lovers

(Reuters Health) – Middle-aged and older men who eat fish every day are less likely than infrequent fish eaters to develop a collection of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke, a new study suggests.

Whether a fishy diet itself is the reason for the benefit is not clear from the findings.

But, the researchers say, the results are in line with studies showing that omega-3 fatty acids — found most abundantly in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna — may have heart benefits.

Autistic kids grow normally despite limited diet

(Reuters Health) – Children with autism tend to be picky eaters, but a new study suggests that their growth may not be impaired because of it.

The study, which followed 79 UK children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and nearly 13,000 autism-free children to the age of 7, found that although children with ASDs were more often rated as picky eaters by their parents, their average intake of calories and major nutrients was similar to their peers’.

Moreover, there were no differences in the two groups’ weight and height attainment, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

Pitchers More Prone to Baseball Injuries

July 20, 2010 — Baseball may be a funny game, as former Major Leaguer Joe Garagiola once wrote, but it’s also fraught with the risk of injury, especially for pitchers, a new study finds.

Researchers who studied data for the 2002-2008 seasons say pitchers suffered significantly higher injury rates for upper and lower extremity injuries than fielders.

According to the study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in Providence, R.I., pitchers spent a greater proportion of days on the disability list, 62.4%, compared to 37.6% for fielders.

The study also says that fielders as well as pitchers spent significantly more days on the disabled list for upper extremity injuries than for the lower extremities.

Fish eaters show lower risk of age-related eye disease

(Reuters Health) – Older adults who eat fatty fish at least once a week may have a lower risk of serious vision loss from age-related macular degeneration, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported in the journal Ophthalmology, do not prove that eating fish cuts the risk of developing the advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.


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