Nov 26 2011

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. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

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.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

HIV virus used to turn white blood cells into cancer serial killers

The HIV virus may be about to become a new weapon in the fight against cancer as initial tests have shown it can drastically minimize and even help cure the most common form of leukemia.

A research team, led by Dr. Carl June working out of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has been experimenting with using a harmless version of the HIV virus combined with genetically modified white blood cells as a new way to fight cancer. The cells are taken from patients and modified with new genes that make them target cancer cells, but just as importantly, they can also multiply once injected allowing them to scale up as a small army inside the body.

The results have surprised everyone. These modified cells have acted like serial killers, multiplying and killing all of the cancer cells in two patients, while reducing them by 70% in a third. The equivalent of five pounds of cancer cells has disappeared from each patient. More good news stems from the fact that the modified cells remain in the body and have been seen to reactivate and kill new cancer cells as long as 12 months after they were first injected.

h/t digby and she notes:

Amazing. And it’s even more of a miracle that this research was done at all:

   It’s important to note that this small trial involving just three patients was lucky to go ahead at all. The study was rejected by pharamceutical companies and the National Cancer Institute. It was only through a grant awarded by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy that these patients received the treatment. We suspect the next trial will have more than enough interest, and therefore money, to go ahead.

If there’s enough money in it.

From the depths of the deepest hell comes some hope.

General Medicine/Family Medical

Most Drug-Related Hospitalizations Due to Handful of Drugs

by Kathleen Doheny

Blood Thinners and Diabetes Drugs Are Among Causes of Many Emergency Hospitalizations

Nov. 23, 2011 — Just a few medicines are responsible for a majority of the emergency hospitalizations for bad events related to medication use in older U.S. adults, according to new research.

Each year in the U.S., there are nearly 100,000 emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug events in adults 65 and older, says researcher Daniel S. Budnitz, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Medication Safety Program.

“The most significant finding of this study was [that] of the thousands of medicines available to older adults, it’s really a small group … that causes two-thirds of the hospitalizations,” he tells WebMD.

The blood thinner warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelets such as aspirin, and oral diabetes drugs led the list.

Bacteria Flourish in Public Restrooms

by Denise Mann

Study Shows Many Strains of Bacteria Are Common on Surfaces in Public Restrooms

Nov. 23, 2011 — You don’t have to be a germophobe to get anxious about using public restrooms. And now new research shows what many people have long suspected — bacteria are plentiful in men’s and women’s public restrooms.

Using a high-tech genetic sequencing tool, researchers identified 19 groups of bacteria on the doors, floors, faucet handles, soap dispensers, and toilets of 12 public restrooms in Colorado — six men’s restrooms and six women’s restrooms.

The new findings appear online in PLoS ONE.

Higher Cancer Risk in People With HIV

by Daniel J. DeNoon

AIDS Virus + Risk Factors = More Cancers

Nov. 22, 2011 — People with HIV infection have a higher risk of many kinds of cancer — but not all the risk is due to the AIDS virus.

The finding comes from a study comparing 1996-2008 medical records of nearly 21,000 people with HIV to those of over 215,000 matched people without HIV. That was enough data to calculate risk for 10 kinds of cancer.

“The incidence rates of six of 10 cancers were markedly elevated in HIV patients,” study leader Michael Silverberg, PhD, MPH, of Kaiser Permanente’s research division, says in a news release.

Acne Patients Who Take Antibiotics May Get More Sore Throats

by Rita Ruben

Researchers Say Acne Patients Should Consider Risks vs. Benefits of Treatment With Antibiotics

Nov. 22, 2011 — Young adults taking oral antibiotics for acne were more than three times more likely to complain of sore throats than people who weren’t, new studies show.

Acne and the use of oral antibiotics to treat it are so common that these patients represent “an ideal group in which to study the effects of long-term antibiotic use,” University of Pennsylvania researchers write.

Their findings are published in the Archives of Dermatology.


Consumer Group: Dangerous Toys Are on Store Shelves

by Bill Hendrick

U.S. Public Interest Research Group Says Some Toys Have Choking Hazards and Other Risks

Nov. 22, 2011 — Though toy makers have made major safety strides in recent years, many hazardous toys can still be found on store shelves or online, a consumer watchdog group says in a new report.

Toys with small parts are choking hazards, and some toys contain toxic chemicals, including lead, according to the report, “Trouble in Toyland,” by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

Energy Drinks Send Thousands to the ER Each Year

by Brenda Goodman, MA

ER Visits From Drinking Energy Drinks Jump Tenfold Since 2005, Report Says

Nov. 22, 2011 — There’s been a big spike in the number of people who need emergency medical attention after they guzzle popular caffeinated energy drinks, according to a new government report.

The report shows a more than a tenfold increase in the number of emergency room visits tied to the use of these drinks between 2005 and 2009.

In 2005, 1,128 ER visits were associated with the use of energy drinks compared to 13,114 in 2009. That number peaked in 2008 with more than 16,000 ER visits linked to energy drinks.

Seasonal Flu/Other Epidemics/Disasters

2011: Turning Point in World AIDS Pandemic?

by Daniel J. DeNoon

United Nations Report Shows Deaths, New HIV Infections Down 21% Since Global Peak

Nov. 21, 2011 — World AIDS deaths and new HIV infections have each dropped 21% since the peak of the AIDS pandemic, according to the latest United Nations report.

It’s the most optimistic report since the beginning of the epidemic. For the first time, the U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is able to point to trends going in the right direction.

One major factor is that life-saving HIV treatments got to 1.35 million more people in 2010 than in 2009. In low- and middle-income nations, these treatments have saved 2.5 million lives since 1995.

“We have seen a massive scale-up in access to HIV treatment, which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere,” Michel Sidibe, executive director of the U.N. AIDS program, says in a news release.

Women’s Health

Coffee May Cut Endometrial Cancer Risk

by Kathleen Doheny

Women Who Drink 4 or More Cups Daily Had 30% Lower Risk, but Lifestyle Matters, Too

Nov. 22, 2011 — Long-time coffee fans who drink four or more cups a day of caffeinated coffee may be reducing their endometrial cancer risk by 30%, a new study shows.

And if you prefer decaf, drinking two or more cups showed a trend toward reducing risk by about 22%. “Consistent with other reports, this study suggests that women who drink coffee, regular or decaf, are at reduced risk of endometrial cancer,” says study researcher Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.

Pediatric Health

Daily Steroids May Not Be Needed for Wheezing

by Salynn Boyles

Study Suggests Occasional Treatment Is Effective and May Reduce Risk of Decrease in Growth

Nov. 23, 2011 — Daily inhaled steroids are currently recommended for preschoolers with frequent wheezing who have a high risk for developing persistent asthma or high risk for severe asthma, but the treatment may cause a small decrease in their growth.

Now new research finds that less frequent treatment with higher doses of inhaled steroids works just as well to control wheezing with less overall exposure to the drug.

Researchers compared outcomes among 278 high-risk preschoolers treated with either the occasional inhaled steroid regimen or the recommended daily regimen.

They found the treatments to be equally effective for reducing the frequency of wheezing episodes that required the use of oral steroids over the course of a year.

The study appears in the Nov. 24 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Texting May Be New Arena for Bullies

by Denise Mann

Study Shows an Increase in Text-Related Bullying by Kids

Nov. 21, 2011 — Texting among U.S. children is increasing in popularity, and as a result, more kids may be harassed or bullied via text messages, a new study finds.

The study included 1,588 young people aged 10 to 15 who answered questions online in 2006, 2007, and 2008 as part of the Growing Up with Media survey.  

While there was not an increase in exposure to violent material, harassment, bullying, or unwanted sexual encounters on the Internet during this time frame, there was an uptick in texting-related bullying or harassment.

The study is published in Pediatrics.


Study: Sex Puts a Shine on Golden Years

by Peter Russel

Married Seniors With a Regular Sex Life Are More Likely to Be Happy

Nov. 22, 2011 — The more often older people have sex, the more likely they are to be happy with life and enjoy a good marriage, a small study shows.

The findings show that elderly people who had sex more than once a month were 50% more likely to say they were very happy with their life than those who reported no sexual activity during the previous year.

The findings were based on an opinion poll of 238 people aged 65 or older conducted by researchers at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Participants were asked to rate their feelings about life and their marriage according to whether they were happy, pretty happy, or not too happy.

Lower Weight May Be Early Alzheimer’s Sign

by Salynn Boyles

Changes in Weight May Occur Before Symptoms Even Show

Nov. 21, 2011 — Being overweight in middle age is now recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, but being overweight or obese later in life is associated with a lower risk for age-related memory decline.

New research may help explain this, suggesting that weight loss may be one of several bodily changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease long before memory problems and other symptoms appear.

Mental Health

Meditation May Help Brain Tune Out Distractions

by Jennifer Warner

Study Helps Explain Why Meditation Improves Concentration

Nov. 21, 2011 — People who meditate may be able to use their brain in ways others can’t to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand.

A new study shows that experienced meditators may have less activity in parts of the brain associated with daydreaming and distraction while meditating and in their day-to-day lives.

Researchers say this brain network, known as the “default mode network,” has also been linked to anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer’s disease.


All Beans Aren’t the Same in Gassy Side Effects

by Denise Mann

Study Suggests Some Heart-Healthy Beans Are Worse Than Others When It Comes to Flatulence

Nov. 23, 2011 — You might not know a line of Shakespeare, and you might even forget the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but this chestnut is a classic to all: “Beans, beans are good for the heart … the more you eat, the more you … ”

You can finish the rest of the verse yourself, no doubt, but new research suggests that all beans are not created equal when it comes to your risk of flatulence. And even the worst offenders are not as bad as many might think.

Despite the known health benefits of beans and legumes, many people tend to shy away from them because of fears of excessive and embarrassing gas.

The new report analyzed flatulence and stomach distress, including stool changes and bloating, among people in three studies that looked at beans and heart disease risk.

The findings appear in Nutrition Journal.

Can of Soup a Day Linked to High BPA Levels in Urine

by Denise Mann

But Study Doesn’t Show if High Bisphenol A Levels Affect Health

Nov. 22, 2011 — Eating just one 12-ounce serving of canned soup a day for five days straight may lead to more than a 1,000% increase in the amount of the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in your urine, a new study shows.

BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of many metal food and beverage cans, among other uses.

The canned soup study did not look at how — or even if — the BPA spike in urine affects health. This is a major sticking point for many critics of the study who caution against overinterpreting the findings.

Previous research has linked BPA to a risk of breast and prostate cancer in animals and obesity, thyroid problems, reproductive abnormalities, heart disease, and neurologic disorders in humans.

CDC: Teens Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Veggies

by Car Nierenberg

Study Shows U.S. Teens Eat Fruits and Veggies an Average of 1.2 Times a Day

Nov. 23, 2011 — Many American teenagers may be eating fewer fruits and vegetables each day than nationwide guidelines recommend for this age group, a CDC report suggests.

In 2010, about one in four high school students ate fruit less than once a day, and one in three didn’t eat vegetables more than once a day.

Although diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help control weight and are also linked with a lower risk of chronic diseases and some cancers, most teens are falling short of the recommended daily levels.

To find out how much produce teenagers were typically eating, the CDC reviewed data from the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study.