Vitamin D Decreases Infection And Antibiotic Overuse

If you have low levels of vitamin D, supplementing with the sunshine vitamin may make you less prone to respiratory tract infections and decrease reliance on antibiotics, according to a new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital.

Vitamin D has long been associated with boosting immune defenses. This recent study, published in BMJ Open, supports this notion. The results showed that symptoms of respiratory tract infection declined by almost a quarter and the use of antibiotics by almost half. Vitamin D treatment was also tolerated well by all patients and gave no serious side effects.

“Our research can have important implications for patients with recurrent infections or a compromised immune defence, such as a lack of antibodies, and can also help to prevent the emerging resistance to antibiotics that come from overuse,” says Peter Bergman, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and doctor at Karolinska University Hospital’s Immunodeficiency Unit. “On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be anything to support the idea that vitamin D would help otherwise healthy people with normal, temporary respiratory tract infections.”


Hope On The Horizon For Alzheimer’s

A major breakthrough shows much hope for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, a complicated and devastating disease affecting both victim and loved ones.

The research, published in FASEB Journal, was carried out by scientists from the National Institutes of Health using mice diseased with the equivalent of human Alzheimer’s. When a molecule called TFP5 was injected into the mice, their symptoms reversed and memory was restored. Also remarkable is that the injections caused no toxic side effects.

TFP5 was derived from the regulator of a key brain enzyme, called Cdk5. The over activation of Cdk5 is implicated in the formation of plaques and tangles, the major hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The next step is to find out if this molecule can have the same effects in people, and if not, to find out which molecule will,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. “Now that we know that we can target the basic molecular defects in Alzheimer’s disease, we can hope for treatments far better — and more specific — than anything we have today.”

“We hope that clinical trial studies in AD patients should yield an extended and a better quality of life as observed in mice upon TFP5 treatment,” said Harish C. Pant, Ph.D., a senior researcher involved in the work from the Laboratory of Neurochemistry at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders at Stroke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “Therefore, we suggest that TFP5 should be an effective therapeutic compound.”

Bloodletting May Become Part Of Modern Healthcare

Bloodletting conjures images of medieval doctors in long robes applying leeches or small cuts to poor sick souls who likely wouldn’t survive the ancient procedure. Appearing to have little or no effect on most illness, the practice was abandoned in the 19th century. But new research in the BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine just might help bring it back.

The research demonstrated that blood donation has real benefits for obese people with metabolic syndrome. In just two sessions of bloodletting, blood pressure improved, as did markers of cardiovascular disease.

Patients with metabolic syndrome suffer from a variety of illnesses, including insulin resistance, hypertension and an increased risk of diabetes. Because the accumulation of iron in the body is associated with hypertension and diabetes, researchers from Berlin and University of Duisburg-Essen created two groups, one of which underwent iron reduction by phlebotomy — or drawing of blood.

Prof Andreas Michalsen from the Charité-University Medical Centre, Berlin, who led this research explained: “Consecutive reduction in iron stores was able to improve markers of cardiovascular risk and glycemic control. Consequently blood donation may prevent not just diabetes but also cardiovascular disease for the obese. Obviously this treatment will not be suitable for people with anemia however for those eligible for treatment blood donation may prevent escalation of their condition.”

Combined Therapies May Relieve Back Pain Best

Conventional medicine and alternative medicine most often seem to be at odds with each other. However, many people — whether due to growing skepticism, skyrocketing medical costs or desperation –are opting for alternative treatments.

A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests what many of us have suspected for a while: Traditional medicine does not have all the answers — especially when it comes to dealing with back pain.

Persistent low back pain is a common ailment affecting nearly eight out of 10 Americans. It is incapacitating to the sufferer, as well as costly and difficult to treat.

David M. Eisenberg, M.D., and his colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), Group Health Research Institute (Seattle), and Brown University (Providence, R.I.) compared conventional therapy alone — defined as “usual care” — to the combination of an integrated program of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies plus usual care. They report significant differences between the two randomized patient groups in outcomes that included pain, functional status and difficulty performing routine, self-identified challenging activities.

CAM therapies were provided by a trained team of healthcare practitioners and included acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, mind-body techniques and nutritional counseling. Usual care consisted of treatments provided by subjects’ primary care physicians and typically included non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy and bed rest as needed, education and changes in activity levels.

The study concluded that many patients may find significant relief from an individualized, multidisciplinary, team-based model of care that includes access to licensed complementary care practitioners in addition to conventional care providers.

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane — No, It’s Super Puffed Rice!

The puffed rice that we’re used to seeing in our breakfast cereals and snack foods now packs a powerful nutritious punch thanks to a new process that not only blows the grains up with air, but adds three times the protein.

Previously, puffed rice was created using hot steam that typically destroys heat-sensitive nutrients. But scientists, including Syed S. H. Rivi and colleagues, used a process that employs supercritical carbon dioxide. In addition to adding three times the protein as the old method, this process allows eight times more dietary fiber, plus calcium, iron, zinc and other nutrients lacking in conventionally puffed rice.

The scientists also claim their puffed rice was crispier than commercial products with a better taste and crunch.

The report, which appeared in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, states the new rice is “ideally suited for consumption as breakfast cereals, snack food and as part of nutrition bars for school lunch programs. The balanced nutritional profile and use of staple crop byproducts such as broken rice makes these expanded crisps unique to the marketplace.”

Strong Link Between Domestic Violence And Mental Health

Victims of domestic violence, both men and women, can experience long-lasting effects, including mental health disorders, according to new research from King’s College of London’s Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Bristol.

Previous studies have focused on depression as the link between abuse and mental health problems, but this study was the first to look widely at the issue affecting both female and male victims.

According to the results of the study published in PLOS ONE, women with depressive disorders were about 2.5 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their adult lifetime compared to women without mental health problems. Women with anxiety disorders were more than 3.5 times more likely; and women with post-traumatic stress disorder were about seven times more likely.

As well, men with various types of mental disorders were at risk of experiencing increased domestic violence, though with less frequency than their female counterparts.

Professor Louise Howard, senior author of the study from King’s Institute of Psychiatry, stated: “In this study, we found that both men and women with mental health problems are at an increased risk of domestic violence. The evidence suggests that there are two things happening: domestic violence can often lead to victims developing mental health problems, and people with mental health problems are more likely to experience domestic violence.”

Howard concluded: “Mental health professionals need to be aware of the link between domestic violence and mental health problems, and ensure that their patients are safe from domestic violence and are treated for the mental health impact of such abuse.”

Gluten Intolerance? We’ve Got a Pill for That!

The number of people suffering from gluten intolerance and celiac disease is on the rise, and more and more attention is being paid to finding a way to help these patients enjoy a healthy, pain-free lifestyle that includes the foods they want to eat.

To that end, scientists recently reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, advancement toward development of a pill that, like lactase pills for the lactose-intolerant, would zero in on the primary culprit robbing so many of their health — peptides.

Justin Siegel, Ingrid Swanson Pultz and colleagues explain that when gluten is consumed in foods, enzymes in the stomach break it down to small pieces called peptides. For most of us, peptides are not problematic. However, for the 2 million to 3 million Americans with celiac disease, peptides trigger an autoimmune response that includes painful symptoms.

That’s where the pill idea comes in. If the peptides could be further broken-down for digestion, celiac patients could quite possibly eat foods containing gluten without ill effects.

The scientists discovered a naturally occurring enzyme that had some of the ideal properties needed to further break down the peptides into smaller pieces. Upon modification in the laboratory, the new enzyme was able to break down more than 95 percent of a gluten peptide implicated in celiac disease in acidic conditions like those in the stomach.

According to the researcher, “These combined properties make the engineered [enzyme] a promising candidate as an oral therapeutic for celiac disease.”

Rosemary—Benefits Far Beyond The Kitchen

Rosemary, the aromatic and evergreen Mediterranean herb known for its delicate pink, purple or blue flowers, may play as significant a role in our health as it has in the culinary arts.

In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) report that carnosic acid, a component of the herb rosemary, promotes eye health.

Using rodent models with light-induced retinal damage, Lipton’s research team found that carnosic acid protected retinas from degeneration and toxicity.

In one part of the study, the researchers induced oxidative stress on retinal cells. They found that cells treated with carnosic acid triggered antioxidant enzyme production in the cells, which in turn lowered levels of cell-damaging free radicals and peroxides.

These findings show promise that rosemary’s carnosic acid may have clinical applications for diseases that affect the outer retina, including age-related macular degeneration, the most common eye disease in the U.S.

According to Lipton, improved derivatives of carnosic acid and related compounds are being developed to protect the retina and other brain areas from a number of degenerative conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and various forms of dementia.

Will Your Child Be Safe At School If A Pandemic Strikes?

These days, everyone from your neighbor to your employer and, hopefully, you may be developing preparedness plans in the event of bioterrorist attacks or flu pandemics. Unfortunately, your child’s school is likely to be very unprepared.

Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the dire consequences that faced the Nation in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza pandemic-that-wasn’t resulted in 18,000 deaths worldwide, many U.S. schools are not prepared for bioterrorism attacks, outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases or pandemics, according to a study by researchers at Saint Louis University’s Institute for Biosecurity.

The study, led by Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., surveyed about 2,000 nurses working in elementary, middle and high schools across 26 States. Findings revealed that only 48 percent of schools address pandemic preparedness and only 40 percent of schools have updated their plans since the 2009 H1N1 scare that affected 214 countries.

“There is a lot of research that shows influenza spreads quickly in schools because it’s a communicable disease and kids interact closely,” Professor Rebmann said. “Schools need to have a written pandemic plan in order to be prepared to put interventions into place quickly when an event occurs.”

Published in the American Journal of Infection Control, the study also found that 44 percent of schools do not participate in community surveillance that tracks the presence of a disease based upon symptoms reported by area residents. These efforts are coordinated through local public health departments that assess indicators of biological threats.

“Health care professionals can best inform school administrators about unique aspects of pandemic planning that need to be included in school disaster plans,” Rebmann said. “Results from this study indicate that better prepared schools were ones that involved their nurses in the disaster planning committee. The school nurse is the best person in a school district to know about infection control and be able to make recommendations about the best interventions to implement during a biological event.”

Does Your Dog Really Think You’re A Great Person?

While the direct impact of pet ownership on one’s health may be hard to prove, there’s little doubt that the special relationship between owner and dog plays a very therapeutic roles in our lives.

In fact, that special relationship has spawned a popular saying, “I only want to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am.”

Wouldn’t it be great if, when Fido looks sweetly into your face and cocks his little head sideways, you could know whether he was communicating his affection for you or only wishing for another tasty treat? Thanks to research at Emory University, researchers may soon be able to explore and understand the mind of man’s best friend and help you answer that question.

After developing new methodology using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (the same technique that unlocked the secrets of the human brain), scientists were able to scan the brains of alert dogs who were trained to hold their heads perfectly still on a chin rest during the scanning process. The four-legged participants also wore earmuffs to protect them from the noise of the scanner.

Dog lovers may not need convincing on the merits of researching the minds of our canine companions.

“To the skeptics out there, and the cat people, I would say that dogs are the first domesticated species, going back at least 10,000 years, and by some estimates 30,000 years,” said Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project. “The dog’s brain represents something special about how humans and animals came together. It’s possible that dogs have even affected human evolution. People who took dogs into their homes and villages may have had certain advantages. As much as we made dogs, I think dogs probably made some part of us, too.”

All procedures for the dog project were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Emory.