Friday, October 31, 2008

Can Next-generation Heart Stent Perform Better than the Old One?

Stents are tiny metal wire-mesh tubes, with or without coated drugs. These devices can be inserted into blood vessels to keep them open so that blood flowing is ensure, and heart attack is prevented.

A new study found that patients using the so-called next-generation artery-opening device known as Xience drug-eluting stent had far fewer heart attacks and heart-related deaths after one year. The researchers from Columbia University in New York published their findings on April 22, 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study of 1,000 patients known as Spirit III compared results of Abbott’s Xience with Boston Scientific’s Taxus stent. It was reported that Xience proved significantly better at preventing scar tissue from re-narrowing treated blood vessels, a measure called in-segment late loss.

It also performed as well as Taxus in lowering rates of target vessel failure, a measure of re-treatment required either because the device did not work, or because of heart attacks or death. Furthermore, it also reduced major adverse cardiac events, including heart attacks and heart-related deaths by as much as 42 percent after one year.

The results of the study had no doubt convinced people that we are entering an era where we can make user of some safer and more effective drug-eluting stents.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has been working on soluble stents for 5 years and they expect such stents can be tested on heart patients in Singapore within the next 2 years.

The soluble stents can dissolve completely over time and releases drugs or proteins to prevent side effects such as blood clots. As there is no foreign body remains in the blood vessel, it can heal much faster. This could lower the risk of the vessel becoming clogged over the next few years.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fruit Juice May Be Superior Than Fruit To Prevent Heart Disease

Fruit and vegetables should form part of everyday’s diet if one wishes to prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy body. Yet, most of the health experts would advise us not to take fruit juice because it may cause a person to gain weight.

However, a recent study by French researchers from the Universite Montpellier reported in May 2008 that grapes, apples and their juices could prevent atherosclerosis being developed in hamsters eating a high-fat diet, high-cholesterol diet.

The term atherosclerosis refers to buildup of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks or stroke.

The study found that fruit juices had a more powerful anti-atherosclerotic effect than the fruit itself. This is probably the first time that processing fruits can have a major impact on its health benefits.

In the study, hamsters were fed with grapes, grape juice, apples, apple juices or water, along with a diet designed to promote atherosclerosis. The aim is to investigate how juice might influence the content of phenolic compounds, which are powerful antioxidants contained in fruits. Meanwhile, a control group of animals ate normal chow.

The hamsters, which were fed with fruits, had the amount equivalent to 3 apples or 3 bunches of grapes daily for a human, while the amount of juice given to another group of hamsters was equivalent to 4 glasses daily for a person weighing 70 kilos.

The researchers noted that apples and grapes had roughly the same phenol content but the purple grape juice had 2.5 times more phenols than apple juice.

When comparing with hamsters given water, those consumed fruit or fruit juice had lower cholesterol levels, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in their aorta (the main vessel supplying oxygenated blood to the body). In terms of health effects, purple grape fruit rank high, followed by purple grapes, apple juices and apples.

According to the researchers, while the amounts of phenols contained in a food have a direct effect on its antioxidant properties, other antioxidant compounds in the fruits such as Vitamin C, carotenoids could also contribute to their effects. Such findings do provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juice may have significant clinical and public health relevance.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Want To Lose Weight, Use Pedometer!

When a person is overweight, chances that he or she would become victim of heart disease is much higher. In order to prevent heart disease, overweight or obese people are anxiously finding means to help them cut down the extra weight they have.

United States researchers from the University of Michigan reported in their study on January 15, 2008 in the “Annals of Family Medicine” that walking can actually help people lose weight, especially if they use a pedometer to ensure they are going far enough.

A pedometer (also known as Tomish-meter or step counter) is a device, which counts each step a person takes by detecting the motion of their hips. Originally, it was used by people engaged in sports and physical fitness but now it becomes popular as an everyday exercise measurer and motivator.

The modern pedometer is usually portable and electronic or electromechanical; a typical one is shown below:

It was observed in the study that people who walked 20 to 40 minutes a day lost a small but steady amount of weight. According to the researchers, the increase in physical activity can have health benefits independent of weight loss. In fact, increasing physical activity is expected to lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and blood pressure, and will help dieters keep lean muscle tissue when they are dieting.

A total of 9 studies involving 307 men and women were reviewed in the study. The participants took part in the studies of pedometer use, which ranged from 4 weeks to a year.

Participants in all the studies except one lost some weight (about 0.05 kilo a week on average). The weight loss was found to be 'remarkably consistent' across all of the studies, and this added up to 2.25 kilos over a year.

It is believed that changing eating habits could help even more. People could add between 2,000 steps per day to more than 4,000 steps per day. For an average person, 2,000 steps equals to about 0.6 km.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How Adma Is Linked To Heart Risk in Diabetics?

Adma is the abbreviation for asymmetric dimethylarginine. It is a naturally occurring component of human blood plasma, and it can inhibit a compound that is capable of dilating blood vessels.

Diabetes has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease. A recent study by Steno Diabetes Center, Gentofte, Denmark found that people with Type-1 diabetes and kidney disease are at higher risk of heart-related events and progressive kidney disease because of the high blood levels of Adma.

In fact, previous research has already shown that high blood levels of Adma do reduce the ability of the blood vessels to widen, and this would lead to an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

In the new study, researchers investigated how the value of Adma could be related to heart and kidney events in 397 Type-1 diabetic patients with diabetic kidney disease and 175 diabetic controls without kidney disease.

For patients with diabetics with kidney disease, those with Adma levels above the median were more likely (43.4 percent) to suffer a fatal or nonfatal major cardiovascular event such as heart attack than those with Adma levels below the median (19.4 percent).

Moreover, patients with Adma levels above the median also experienced a faster decline in their kidney function than those with lower Adma levels. Meanwhile, the researchers also indicated that patients with higher Adma levels were 3.2 times more likely to develop end-stage renal disease (the most advanced form of kidney disease) than those with lower levels of Adma.

The overall mortality was found to be 67 percent higher for patients with higher Adma levels than those with lower Adma levels.

If other future studies could also confirm similar finding, then Adma might be used by doctors to identify relevant Type-1 diabetic who are at particularly high risk of adverse heart and kidney-related events.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Modified CPR Could Save More Life!

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving medical procedure that is useful in retrieving a victim who experiences certain life-threatening emergencies including heart attack, cardiac arrest, or respiratory arrest that cause the breathing or heartbeat to stop.

Standard CPR involves compressions of the chest, but the modified one involves pumping both the abdomen and the chest at the same time. It was found that such modified CPR could double the survival rate of victims who collapse with a heart attack

A 5-year study in Poland jointly conducted by Katowice's Silesian School of Medicine, Nowy Targ's City Hospital, and Dabrowa Gornicza's City Hospital has found that this modified form of CPR revived 38 percent of patients, compared to 16 percent saved by the standard CPR. Meanwhile, the rate of those discharged from hospital after a sudden-collapse was also improved from 10 percent to 24 percent.

These results were presented in September 2007 at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Vienna, which had more than 25,000 attendees.

In the study, the modified method had been performed on the 207 patients with an average age of 71, who had suddenly collapsed and become unconscious from 2002 to 2006. Then results were compared with that of a group of 138 similar patients, with an average age of 69 on whom standard CPR had been used in 2000 and 2001.

Standard CPR is no doubt a resuscitative procedure to treat those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, however, it is effective in only 5 to 10 percent of patients due to insufficient arterial pressure generated by chest compressions alone. In view of this, the researchers introduced simultaneous abdominal compressions.

According to the study, the modified method not just raised the survival rate, but also caused fewer complications than standard CPR. Hence, they recommended that it should be made an element of training courses in resuscitation.

One should also note that CPR is unlikely to restart the heart. Its purpose is to maintain a flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and the heart so that tissue death could be delayed and chances for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage could be extended.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How Would Hostility Raise Heart Disease Risk?

Before we get into the topic, we need to understand 3 terms: free radical, antioxidant and oxidative stress. Let us look at how they are related.

Technically, oxidative stress is a condition, which occurs when production of free radicals in the human body exceeds the body's ability to neutralize and eliminate them. Free radicals would start chain reactions that disturb the body’s ability to neutralize them, hence resulting in tissue or cell damage. Oxidative stress has been associated with heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.

Antioxidants could stop these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C and E can help counteract oxidative stress. On the other hand, activities like smoking and pollution can actually increase it.

A study has indicated that hostility could raise a person’s risk of heart disease by depleting the level of certain heart-healthy antioxidants.

The researchers from the University of Minneapolis, who carried out the study, suggested that antioxidants could help explain why hostile individuals are more likely to smoke and drink, and poor diet and smoking can deplete antioxidants.

In their study, the researchers investigated 3,579 men and women of the age between 18 and 30 years old who were participating in the so-called Cardiovascular Risk Development in Young Adults study. Their levels of several different carotenoids and tocopherols (vitamin E) were measured.

It was found that people having high levels of hostility at the beginning of the study were more likely to have lower levels of several types of carotenoids 7 years later, but hostility did not predict levels of tocopherols or lycopene. The increased risk was found to be, nevertheless, small but significant.

Lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and drinking probably play a part in explaining why hostility reduces levels of antioxidants, but the researchers are not clear whether the differences are importantly related to the risk of coronary heart disease. Therefore, further study is necessary.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is Wealth Really Associated with Stroke Risk?

According to the American Heart Association, every year there are about 780,000 Americans suffering strokes; about 27 percent of which occur before the age of 65.

If someone tells you that “a person’s risk of getting stroke depends on how rich he or she is”, do you believe? Initially, I was doubtful about the statement because many health experts have in fact linked many health hazards like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, stroke, etc. with the prevailing wealthy lifestyles.

Nevertheless, the statement was supported by a study conducted by Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands and its findings were published in the American Heart Association's journal “Stroke”.

The researchers found that people who aged 50 to 64 years old and wealthy seems to protect them against stroke, but wealth appears to make little difference in stroke risk after the age of 65.

In other words, lower wealth, education and income are associated with increased stroke risk up to the age of 65, and wealth is the strongest predictor of stroke among the factors sought by the researchers.

In the study, the effect of income (annual earnings), wealth (total of all assets minus liabilities) and education on stroke risk were assessed in 19,445 Americans in the ongoing University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study (HRS) that surveys Americans of the age of 50 and above every 2 years.

All of these participants were free from stroke when they were assessed in 1992, 1993 or 1998. During an average of 8.5 years, 1,542 people in the study were found to have a stroke. According to the researchers, the stroke risk of the 10 percent of people with the lowest wealth at the age of 50 to 64 was 3 times higher than that of those with the highest wealth.

It appears that the lack of material resources, in particularly wealth, would strongly affect people’s chances of a first stroke. This also means that closing the wealth gap for people of the age of 50 to 64 could actually help reduce the large disparities in stroke.

It is believed that wealth would increase access to medical care as well as other material and psychosocial resources. However, the researchers were quite surprised to see that stroke risk was not significantly different between the 2 wealth groups for both men and women who aged 65 and above.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let Your Baby Sleep Enough To Avoid Overweight!

Childhood overweight or obesity has been a hot topic among people. This is because the extra weight accumulated in the body of these youngsters may greatly increase their risk of become victims of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and even cancer in their life later.

Many causes, for example, over-eating and physical inactivity, can actually help a person gain weight or become obese. Nevertheless, a recent study revealed that babies with insufficient sleep could become overweight too!

Published in the “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine”, the findings from the so-called “Project Viva” study indicated that infants who sleep an average of less than 12 hours per day have doubled their risk of being overweight by the age of 3, compared to babies who get at least 12 hours of sleep per day

The adverse effect of shorter sleep duration was especially obvious among children who also watched at least 2 hours of television per day.

Previous research has already linked short sleep duration to obesity in older children, adolescents and adults, but the current study examined the relationship between the hours of sleep during infancy and weight in childhood.

The mothers of 915 infants who were involved in the study were asked at 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years how many hours their child slept in a 24-hour period, including naps. At the age of 3, 9 percent of children were overweight, which was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) for age and sex in the 95th percentile or greater.

After removing the influence of other variables like demographics, maternal characteristics, breast-feeding duration, and birth weight, the researchers found that infants who slept an average of less than 12 hours per day were almost twice as likely to be overweight.

Moreover, a much higher association between sleep duration of less than 12 hours per day and television viewing of more than 2 hours per day was also noted. Such combination significantly raises the chances of becoming overweight by nearly 6 times.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggested that childhood overweight prevention should target not only on the reduction in television viewing but also on making sure adequate sleep duration.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Music Listening is a Viable Option to Lower Blood Pressure!

To some people, listening to music may just be a hobby, but to people with high blood pressure (hypertension), it could be a way to help them lower their blood pressure.

A study by the University of Florence in Italy reported at the American Society of Hypertension meeting in New Orleans in May 2008 that people with mild hypertension had their blood pressure significantly reduced by listening to classical, Celtic or India (raga) music for 30 minutes a day for a month.

Listening to music could be soothing. It has already been associated with controlling patient with pain or anxiety and was reported acutely reducing blood pressure. For the very first time, however, daily music listening does show an impact on ambulatory blood pressure. Ambulatory blood pressure refers to readings taken repeatedly over the course of a day.

The researchers enrolled 48 adults who aged 45 to 70 and took medication for controlling mild hypertension into the study. These participants were divided into 2 groups. The first consisted of 28 who listened to 30 minutes of 'rhythmically homogeneous' classical, Celtic or raga music on a daily basis while practicing slow and controlled breathing exercises. The remaining 20 participants were put in the control group and no changes were made on their daily routine.

Blood pressure readings obtained one and four weeks later showed that systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) dropped significantly for the music listeners. In contrast, people in the control group experienced only small, non-significant reductions in blood pressure.

The statistics in the current study indicated that something as simple, easy and enjoyable as daily music listening combining with slow abdominal breathing might help people naturally lower their blood pressure.

The health experts have predicted that some 56 billion people worldwide will be hypertensive by 2025, despite the global focus on prevention. People with high blood pressure are known to have a higher risk of getting heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, etc.

As such, the new findings would instill confidence to health professionals who could explore music listening as a safe, effective, and non-pharmacological treatment option or a complement to the prevailing therapy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Watch Out Your Waist, Ladies!

Weight used to be a health concern for people because many diseases may be developed as a result of overweight. However, a recent large United States study suggested women with large bellies may die earlier of cancer and heart disease than other women, regardless of their weight.

In the medical journal “Circulation”, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School reported that middle-aged and older women who were abdominally obese (with a waistline of 35 inches or more) were more likely than those thinner one to die of heart disease or cancer during the study period.

In the past, studies have shown that abdominal obesity appear to be at risk of clogged arteries, diabetes and high blood pressure, and it has also been linked to certain cancers like kidney cancer and colon cancer.

Over a period of 16 years, the researchers tracked more than 44,000 women in the United States and found that those with abdominal obesity had doubled their chances of dying of heart disease or stroke, as compared with women who had waistlines smaller than 28 inches. Meanwhile, women with largest waists had a 63 percent higher risk of dying of cancer than those women with small waists.

Furthermore, the study also found that the risk of a large waist were independent of a woman’s overall body mass index (BMI). In fact, those women with waistlines of 35 inches or more were subject to a higher risk of dying of heart disease or stroke.

While maintaining a healthy weight remains important in the prevention of chronic diseases and premature death, and should continue to be encouraged, it is also essential to keep a healthy waist size to prevent abdominal obesity.

Excess abdominal fat has been regarded by experts as unhealthy because of its metabolic effects. Too much fat in the abdomen would raise cholesterol levels, promote insulin resistance (a precursor to Type-2 diabetes), and spur body-wide inflammation. People with these conditions may just end up with heart disease and certain cancers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why Overweight Diabetics Should Go For Low-Carbohydrate Diet?

By following low-carbohydrate (low-carb) diet, overweight Type-2 diabetics can actually keep their weight and blood sugar under control over the long term. Diabetes, if not handled appropriately, can easily lead to heart disease and many other medical disorders.

Swedish researchers from the Blekingesjukhuset diabetes clinic in Karlshamn, Sweden limited carbohydrate intake of the participants in their study to 20 percent of total calories. The most significant effect of this low-carb diet is the absence of hunger. As explained by the researchers, the reduction in food intake will naturally force the body to use its own stores of fat for fuel resulting in weight reduction.

Starch-rich bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and breakfast cereals were strictly prohibited, and the carbohydrate intake of 80 to 90 grams a day was limited mainly to vegetables, salad and crisp bread. This would actually minimize the glucose spikes making necessary for diabetics to take insulin.

Previously, the researchers had already found that the weight loss and glucose control were superior among the 16 obese diabetics who followed a low-carb diet compared with 15 similar patients who adopted a diet containing 55 to 60 percent of energy from carbohydrates over a 22-month period.

The current study recorded a total of 44 months of follow up data. In the findings, which were published in May 2008 in the BioMed Central journal Nutrition and Metabolism, they reported that 5 out of the 16 patients have retained or reduced body weight since the 22 month point and all but only one have lower weight at 44 months than at start. They further revealed that the glucose levels also dropped soon after the start of the diet and have stayed down over the 44-month period.

In conclusion, the advice given to obese patients with Type-2 diabetes who followed a 20 percent carbohydrate diet with certain restriction in calorie intake has a lasting effect on the body weight and glycemic control.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Why Women Should Watch Their Level of Thyroid Function?

Thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. Its function is to control how quickly the body burns energy, how sensitive the body should be to other hormones, and makes proteins.

In April 2008, researchers form Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine those women, who had slightly low thyroid function, might subject to a higher risk of dying of heart disease. Even women with normal thyroid function but at the low end of the range were more likely to die of heart disease.

Thyroid function can be measured indirectly, by checking a hormone called thyrotropin, or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH for short). TSH is released by another gland known as the pituitary gland. High TSH level is an indication that implies low thyroid function, which can cause symptoms such as sluggishness, hair loss, weight gain and a feeling of being cold.

Clinically, an estimated 10 percent of older women are suffering from low thyroid function, but this can be corrected by taking a daily thyroid hormone pill.

17,311 women and 8,002 men were studied and these subjects had no known thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease or diabetes at the beginning of the study. Over the next 8 years, it was found that 1.3 percent of the women and 2.3 percent of the men died of heart disease. What strike the researches was that the higher the TSH levels, the higher the risk of heart death. The link, however, was only significant in women but not men, and it was true even for levels that had been considered normal and healthy.

This study clearly shows that mortality resulted from coronary heart disease increases in women with increasing levels of thyrotropin within the reference range. The results also indicate that relatively low but clinically normal thyroid function may increase the risk of fatal coronary heart disease.

In fact, thyroid hormones may affect the heart and arteries in several different ways: they affect heart and blood vessel muscle cells, cholesterol and other functions. As such, doctors are advised to take seriously readings of thyroid hormone levels.

Although patients who get replacement thyroid hormones do lose weight, show improved cholesterol levels and see improvements in artery health, there is no study ever conducted to determine whether replacing thyroid hormone might actually affect heart disease risk.

The researchers also recommended more studies to see if treating low thyroid function could reduce the risk of heart disease.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Healthy Elderly Lifestyle is the Key to Long Life!

Aging population is an impending phenomenon not only in United States but also in many other countries. If one wants to live longer in good health with good physical function, he or she has to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

For 25 years, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston tracked about 2,400 male doctors whose average age was 72 when they took part in the study in the early 1980s.

Published on February 11, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study found that those, who exercised 2 to 4 times a week, did not smoke, maintained normal body weight and blood pressure, and avoided diabetes, had a 54 percent chance of living to 90. People having at least one or any combination of these factors were also beneficial, but those who did nothing had only a 4 percent chance of reaching the age of 90.

According to the researchers, people who lived to at least 90 enjoyed better physical function and mental well-being late in their lives than those who died at a younger age. In fact, genetics accounts for only about 25 to 30 percent in determining how long people can live, with other factors playing a bigger role.

In another study appearing in the same journal by Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, the researchers looked at 523 women and 216 men age 97 or older. They found that about a third of these participants lived to this advanced age despite having developed age-associated disease before age 85 such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease or stroke.

In quantifying how certain behaviors affect longevity, another British study, which tracked 20,000 people, revealed in January 2008 that those who exercised, avoided smoking, drank moderately and ate many fruit and vegetables lived 14 years longer on average than people who did none of these things.

It is rather difficult for an individual to initiate lifestyle changes. He or she may prefer to take a pill, which is much easier. Therefore, the onus is on an individual! If there were anything that one could do for a healthy lifestyle, then it would be ‘do not smoke and do exercise’!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Which is Superior, Angioplasty or Bypass?

I always hear people around me debating about the superiority of angioplasty and coronary artery bypass grafting. Some insisted angioplasty is good because it carries lesser risk than bypass, while others argued that bypass could prevent heart patients from getting a repeat procedure or surgery over a longer period.

Coronary Angioplasty (or angioplasty, in short) is a technique to treat coronary heart disease and angina. It involves opening narrowed or blocked blood vessels known as coronary arteries of the heart.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. A person with angina may feel pressure or squeezing in the chest. The pain may also occur in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.

While angioplasty is a procedure, coronary artery bypass grafting (in short, bypass) is a type of heart surgery. It is sometimes called CABG ("cabbage"). During the operation, the surgery reroutes, or "bypasses," blood around clogged arteries by using a segment of a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart.

In October 2007, a new study revealed that bypass is indeed better than angioplasty at relieving chest pain and preventing the need for a repeat procedure. On the other hand, both angioplasty and bypass could provide patients with heart disease who need a procedure or surgery to clear their clogged coronary arteries the similar 10-year survival rates.

1.2 percent of patients undergoing bypass and 0.6 percent of those being treated with angioplasty incurred strokes. Angina was relieved over a 5-year period in 84 percent of bypass patients comparing with 79 percent of the angioplasty group.

Meanwhile, the researchers also found that 43 percent of patients treated with angioplasty and less than 10 percent of patient undergone coronary bypass required repeat procedures after 5 years.

Nevertheless, as noted by the researchers, emergence of new and refined techniques has made such a comparison to “remain a moving target”. In fact, new studies have already begun to investigate how the availability of drug-coated stents used in angioplasty affects the comparative efficacy of these techniques.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Heavy Mother May Give Birth To Babies with More Fat, Less Muscle!

There are a growing number of obese pregnant women. Meanwhile, more and more North American and European infants weigh 4,000 grams or more at birth, and these heavy infants are more likely to become obese when they grow up. We all know that obesity is a risk factor for developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, etc.

In one of the first studies to compare the body composition of newborn babies to their mothers’ pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre in Oklahoma reported in April 2008 that babies with overweight or obese mothers have more fat and less muscle than those with normal-weight mothers.

The researchers used the Pea Pod (a body composition system made by Concord, California-based Life Measurement Instruments) to measure the percentage of body fat, fat-free body mass, and total fat mass in 72 babies no older than 35 days.

Instead of using several different machines and took hours to complete, the Pea Pod can actually gauge body composition in just 5 minutes. Though the machine is expensive and just 15 are in use worldwide, the researchers predicted that more and more hospitals would begin using them.

In the study, the researchers noted that there was no differences in average birth weight between babies whose mothers with normal BMIs and those whose mothers were overweight or obese.

However, it was found that babies of the 39 overweight or obese mothers had significantly higher percentages of body fat (13.6 verse 12.5 percent), higher fat mass (448.3 grams verse 414.1 grams), and lower fat-free mass (3,162.2 grams verse 3,310.5 grams) than those born to the 33 normal-weight women.

As indicated out in the study, babies who have heavy mothers may face a higher risk of getting diabetes as they have less muscle mass.

While gauging babies’ body composition at birth could indeed provide a clearer picture of their health than weight alone, the most important thing is still to find out what should be done to those babies with a high percentage of body fat. As suggested by the researchers, one good way to encounter this is to encourage their mothers to breastfeed, as research does showed that formula-fed babies tend to be fatter.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Can Alcohol Really Help Prevent Heart Disease?

People who have never drunk alcohol may wish to consider picking up this habit. Does this contradict to the advices that we used to get: drinking alcohol is bad for our health?

In fact, a recent study conducted by the researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston showed non-drinkers who begin the occasional drinking live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease.

The researchers reported on March 7, 2008 in the “American Journal of Medicine” that people who commenced their drinking in middle age were 38 percent less likely to get a heart attack or other serious heart problem than abstainers were, even if they were overweight, had diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or other heart risks.

In the study, medical records of 7,697 people, between 45 and 64, who began as non-drinkers as part of a larger study were studied. Over a period of 10 years, 6 percent of these volunteers began drinking, though the reason for them to start drinking was unknown.

Over the next 4 years, the new drinkers were tracked and when compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, it showed that there was a 38 percent drop in new cardiovascular disease. Even after factoring in heart disease risks like cholesterol, education levels, exercise, high blood pressure, obesity, race and smoking, the findings still held. In fact, some volunteers who had more than one risk factor still benefited from adding alcohol.

Findings also showed that less than one percent of people drank more than what is recommended, a drink or 2 a day by most guidelines. Meanwhile, the researchers also noted that half of these drinkers were wine drinkers only. Actually, wine-only drinkers showed that they received a much bigger benefit.

The same research team has also started a new study in which non-drinkers would be randomly assigned to start either having a glass of wine a day, a glass of grape juice, or grape juice spiked with antioxidants, compounds believed to help prevent heart disease.

Nevertheless, people are advised not take the findings as an excuse for them to drink freely.