Reducing nicotine in cigarettes could curb addiction

Reducing nicotine content in cigarettes may decrease their addiction potential in vulnerable populations, says a study. The research team examined the addiction potential of cigarettes with reduced nicotine content in three vulnerable populations of smokers — individuals with psychiatric disorders (affective disorders, opioid-use disorder), and socio-economically disadvantaged women.

“Evidence in relatively healthy and socially stable smokers indicates that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes reduces their addictiveness,” said lead researcher Stephen Higgins, Professor at University of Vermont in the US.

nicotine content, smokers, vulnerable to tobacco, reducing the nicotine content, cigarette, indian express, indian express news“Whether that same effect would be seen in populations highly vulnerable to tobacco addiction was unknown,” Higgins said. The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is “the first large, controlled study to examine the dose-dependent effects of cigarettes with reduced nicotine content on the reinforcing effects, subjective effects, and smoking topography of vulnerable populations”, according to the study’s authors.

The study ran between March 2015 and April 2016 and included 169 daily smokers, including 120 women and 49 men. “This study provides a very encouraging indication that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes would help vulnerable populations,” Higgins said.

Too much of good cholesterol bad for your health: Study

While high levels of good cholesterol have long known to be beneficial, its excess can also raise your risk of death, researchers claim. Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. However, the findings showed that people with extremely high levels of good cholesterol have a higher mortality rate than people with normal levels.

For men with extremely high levels, the mortality rate was 106 per cent higher than the normal group, while for women it was found to be 68 per cent higher.

high good cholesterol, higher mortality rate, increased risk, extremely low levels, risk of death, Indian express, indian express news“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol. Doctors have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate,” said Borge Nordestgaard, Professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

For the study, the team analysed data of 116,000 people. They were followed for an average of six years and the result showed over 10,500 deaths. On the other hand, people with extremely low levels of HDL in the blood were also at increased risk of mortality, the researchers said.

The people with medium levels of HDL in the blood had the lowest mortality. For men, this level was 1.9 mmol/L. For women, it was 2.4 mmol/L. “It appears that we need to remove the focus from HDL as an important health indicator in research at hospitals and at the general practitioner,” Nordestgaard said.

Oral steroids ineffective for chest infections in adults

Oral steroids should not be used for treating acute lower respiratory tract infection or chest infections in adults who don’t have asthma or other chronic lung disease as they do not reduce the duration or severity of symptoms, according to a new study.
“Oral and inhaled steroids are known to be highly effective in treating acute asthma as well as infective flares of other long-term lung conditions but need to be used carefully because of the risk of unwanted side effects,” said Michael Moore, Professor at the University of Southampton in the UK.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA, the team looked at 398 non-asthmatic adults with acute chest infections — but no evidence of pneumonia and not requiring immediate antibiotic treatment — who were randomly split into two groups, one receiving 40 mg of the oral steroid “prednisolone” for five days and one receiving a placebo over the same time period.

Oral steroids, side effects of steroids, oral pills, acute asthma, chest infection, antibiotic, treatment, respiratory tract infection, indian express, indian express news“We have conclusively demonstrated steroids are not effective in patients with the symptoms of chest infections, such as shortness of breath, wheeze and cough with phlegm that overlap with acute asthma,” Moore added. Moore said that alternative methods of treating chest infections should be found to reduce the amount of antibiotics being used to combat anti-microbial resistance, which is considered a global health crisis.

It does not look as if steroids are the answer, he said. “More needs to be done to find alternative treatments to antibiotics if we are to get ahead of antibiotic resistance, which is increasing at an alarming rate. Herbal remedies could have a potential role to play,” Moore noted.

Novel eye test may help detect Alzheimer’s

Scientists have developed a noninvasive eye imaging test that could allow early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The technology, developed by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and NeuroVision company in the US, scans the retina using techniques that can identify beta-amyloid protein deposits – hallmarks of Alzheimer’s – that mirror those in the brain.

Accumulations of neurotoxic beta-amyloid protein can be detected with positron emission tomography, or PET scans, and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, but these are invasive, inconvenient and costly, making them impractical for routine screening and follow-up evaluation. “This is the first study demonstrating the potential to image and quantify retinal findings related to beta-amyloid plaques noninvasively in living patients using a retinal scan with high resolution,” said Maya Koronyo-Hamaoui, a research scientist at Cedars-Sinai. “Findings from this study strongly suggest that retinal imaging can serve as a surrogate biomarker to investigate and monitor Alzheimer’s disease,” said Koronyo-Hamaoui.

Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's disease risk, Alzheimer's disease symptoms, Alzheimer's disease prevention, health, regular exercise, fitness, jogging, daily exercise, gym and jog, physical activity, lifestyle, indian express, indian express newsAs a developmental outgrowth of the central nervous system that shares many of the brain’s characteristics, the retina may offer a unique opportunity to easily and conveniently detect and monitor Alzheimer’s disease, said Keith L Black, from Cedars-Sinai. “We know that Alzheimer’s begins as many as 10 or 20 years before cognitive decline becomes evident, and we believe that potential treatments may be more effective if they can be started early in the process.

“Therefore, screening and early detection may be crucial to our efforts to turn the tide against the growing threat of this devastating disease,” said Black. The researchers carried a 16-patient clinical trial to demonstrate the feasibility of identifying beta-amyloid in the eye using autofluorescence imaging. They found a 4.7-fold increase in retinal plaque burden in patients with Alzheimer’s, compared to controls.

With the imaging technology’s ability to detect autofluorescence signal related to retinal beta-amyloid, these findings may lead to a practical approach for large-scale identification of the at-risk population and monitoring of Alzheimer’s, the researchers said.

Here’s why your adolescent kid is at high obesity risk

Don’t blame your adolescent kid for eating high calorie food — he or she may not be able to control the urge for burgers, pizzas and french fries due to an impairment in a brain region linked to self-regulation, says a study.

The findings have revealed that adolescents, who are at an increased risk of obesity, have progressively less neural activity in circuits of the brain that support self-regulation and attention.

“The study establishes that risk for obesity isn’t driven exclusively by the absence or presence of urges to eat high-calorie foods, but also, and perhaps most importantly, by the ability to control those urges,” said Bradley Peterson, Professor at the University of Southern California.

obesity in children, high calorie intake, obese child, urges to eat, self-regulation, high-calorie foods, Indian Express, Indian Express newsFor the study, reported in the journal NeuroImage, the team used fMRI to observe relationship between neurological activity and risk for obesity in overweight compared with lean adolescents.

In adolescents who were obese or who were lean but at high familial risk for obesity, they observed less activation in attention and self-regulation circuits. Brain circuits that support attention and self-regulation showed the greatest activation in lean/low-risk adolescents, less activity in lean/high-risk participants and least activation in the overweight/obese group.

Vegan diet may help lower your cholesterol

Are you suffering from high cholesterol? Try plant-based vegetarian diets, especially vegan diets, which can significantly help lower the levels of cholesterol — known to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a study.

The findings showed that long-term adherence to plant-based eating patterns leads to changes in body composition which help in reducing the cholesterol levels. The reductions were found to be greater compared to omnivorous diets.

The immediate health benefits of a plant-based diet like weight loss, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol are well known.

However, “our goal is to capture the net risk reduction of using a vegetarian diet to control lipid levels. We hope to empower patients with new research about the long-term cardiovascular health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which include a reduced risk of a heart attack, stroke and premature death,” said Susan Levin from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington.

turning vegan, vegan diets, Plant-based diet, lower cholesterol, beneficial for health, naturally rich in components, Indian express, Indian express newsCholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body.While high levels of “good” HDL cholesterol are beneficial, too much “bad” LDL cholesterol can lead to heart disease.

Plant-based diet includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains, which are naturally rich in components such as soluble fiber, soy protein and plant sterols, while an omnivorous diet includes both plant and animal foods.

For the study, appearing in the journal Nutrition Reviews, the team conducted a dietary review of 49 observational and controlled studies.

The results revealed that a plant-based vegetarian diet is associated with total cholesterol that’s 29.2 mg/dL lower. Further, in clinical trials, a plant-based diet lowered total cholesterol by 12.5 mg/dL.

Contact sports may alter brains of young, healthy athletes

Playing contact sports such as soccer, basketball and field hockey may lead to greater effects on the brain of athletes, researchers say. Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital performed pre-season brain scans of athletes and found that the athletes in collision and contact sports had differences in brain structure, function and chemical markers typically associated with brain injury, compared to athletes in non-contact sports.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers of Neurology, found differences in the structure of the brain’s white matter — the fibre tracts that connect different parts of the brain and allow them to communicate with one another.

Athletes in sports with higher levels of contact also showed signs of reduced communication between brain areas and decreased activity, particularly within areas involved in vision and motor function, compared to those in non-contact sports such as volleyball, the researchers said.

“This study fills an important gap in understanding how contact affects healthy brains, as a step towards better understanding why a small number of athletes in contact sports show negative long-term health consequences,” said Tom Schweizer, head of the Neuroscience Research Programme and the paper’s co-author.

Most of the research in this area has focussed on the long-term effects for athletes in collision sports such as football and ice hockey, where players may be exposed to hundreds of impacts in a single season, the researchers noted. Less is known about the consequences of participating in contact sports where body-to-body contact is permitted but is not purposeful such as soccer, basketball and field hockey, the researchers added.

Statins may help combat typhoid, malaria

Besides lowering cholesterol levels, drugs such as statins or Ezetimibe may one day prove to be effective in providing protection against infectious diseases, including typhoid fever, chlamydia and malaria, researchers have found.

The findings give insight into the mechanisms that govern human susceptibility to infectious disease and point to possible avenues to protect against pathogens — like Salmonella or Ebola — that hijack cholesterol to infect host cells. “This is just the first step,” said Dennis C. Ko, Assistant Professor at the Duke University in the US.

“Our study provides a blueprint for combining different techniques for understanding why some people are more susceptible to disease than others, and what can be done about it,” Ko added.

The study, appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some people may be more susceptible to the highly contagious disease through a gene variant — VAC14 — which affects cholesterol levels. This mutation was found to raise cholesterol levels which binds Salmonella Typhi, the culprit behind the potentially deadly infection, to a person’s cells, thus increasing the risk of typhoid fever.

According to World Health Organisation estimates, nearly 21 million cases and 222,000 typhoid-related deaths occur annually worldwide.

“Discovering the mechanism was important because plenty of people are on cholesterol-lowering drugs, especially statins, for high cholesterol,” Ko said. “We wondered if similar drugs could be given to reduce the risk of Salmonella infection,” Ko noted.

Furthermore, other common cholesterol-lowering drug like Ezetimibe were found to protect zebrafish against Salmonella Typhi. The researchers emphasised the need to try the approach in different model organisms, such as mice, and likely with different pathogens, before considering taking this into the clinic.

Globally 8 in 1,000 kids born with foetal alcohol syndrome

Nearly eight out of every 1,000 children worldwide are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), which increases their risk of developing physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities, according to researchers.

The study estimated that one out of 13 women, who consumed alcohol at any point or frequently during pregnancy, gave birth to a child with FASD.

“FASD prevalence estimates are essential to effectively prioritise and plan health care for children with FASD who are often misdiagnosed,” said Svetlana Popova, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Ontario.

“Most of these children will require lifelong care, so the earlier they have access to appropriate therapy and supports, the better their long-term health and social outcomes will be,” Popova added. For the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the team looked at the prevalence — or the frequency that FASD—occurs for children from birth to age 16 in 187 countries.

While the European region reported the highest levels worldwide at nearly 20 cases of FASD per 1,000 children, the Eastern Mediterranean Region has showed the lowest FASD prevalence. The US showed 15 cases of FASD per 1,000 children, while Canada reported eight cases per 1,000 children. In 76 countries, more than one out of 100 young people reported FASD.

The researchers also found that FASD occurred more frequently among children in care (such as foster care or orphanages), in the criminal justice system, in psychiatric care and aboriginal young people compared to the general population.

“There is a need for targeted screening and diagnosis for these high-risk populations as well as interventions to prevent alcohol use among mothers of children with FASD in relation to subsequent pregnancies,” Popova said.

Public health messages about the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and routine screening by health care professionals to detect alcohol consumption before or at early stages pregnancy should be followed, the researchers said.

Strong adolescence friendship bond may boost mental health

Worried over your son or daughter being too friendly with his or her mates? Take heart, having strong and intimate friendships during adolescence may help improve several aspects of mental health such as anxiety, social acceptance, self-worth and symptoms of depression, researchers say.

“Our research found that the quality of friendships during adolescence may directly predict aspects of long-term mental and emotional health,” said lead author Rachel K. Narr, PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia.

“High school students with higher-quality best friendships tended to improve in several aspects of mental health over time, while teens who were popular among their peers during high school may be more prone to social anxiety later in life,” Narr added.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, looked at a community sample of 169 adolescents over 10 years, from the time they were age 15 to when they were 25.

The youth were racially, ethnically and socio-economically diverse, with 58 per cent Caucasian, 29 per cent African American and eight per cent of mixed race or ethnicity and with median family income $40,000 to $59,999.

Adolescents were assessed annually, answering questions about who their closest friends were, reporting on their friendships and participating in interviews and assessments exploring such feelings as anxiety, social acceptance, self-worth and symptoms of depression.

Researchers found that teens who prioritised close friendships at age 15 had lower social anxiety, an increased sense of self-worth and fewer symptoms of depression by the time they reached age 25 than their peers.

Neither having a strong friendship nor being more popular predicted short-term changes in mental health, the researchers noted. The researchers suggested that this may be because positive experiences with friends help bolster positive feelings about oneself during a stage of life when personal identity is being developed.

Also, close friendships may set adolescents on a trajectory to expect and therefore encourage supportive experiences in the future.