Saturday, March 29, 2008

Breast-Fed Babies Unlikely To Develop Type-2 Diabetes Later!

Childhood obesity and the emergence of type-2 diabetes in youth have become a major health problem for many countries. This has actually prompted many researches to identify lifestyle approaches to primary prevention of both conditions.

A recent paper, published in the medical journal Diabetes Care by a team of researchers from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, revealed that breast-fed babies are less likely to develop type-2 diabetes when they become adolescence.

In order to investigate factors related to the development of type-2 diabetes in individuals between 10 to 21 years old, the researchers employed a subset of data from a larger study. The analysis included 80 subjects with type-2 diabetes who were compared to 167 'controls' without diabetes.

As compared with the control subjects, the breast-feeding rate was actually lower for subjects with type-2 diabetes. The rates of breast-feeding used in the study for the 3 ethnic groups were: 20 versus 27 per cent for African Americans; 50 versus 84 per cent for Hispanics; and 39 per cent versus 78 per cent for non-Hispanic whites, respectively.

Irrespective of ethnic group, the protective effect of breast-feeding against type-2 diabetes was mainly attributable to its effect in moderating current childhood weight. Nevertheless, breast-feeding in itself had a protective effect

With all other well-established reasons for breast-feeding, the researchers concluded that renewed efforts to encourage breast-feeding in populations at high risk for type-2 diabetes may be useful.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is Diabetes Risk Nurture or Nature?

Most people are aware that diabetes, being a risk factor for heart disease, is caused by development of insulin resistance. Nevertheless, many may not know what cause diabetes.

Previous research has shown that babies who are small at birth are more likely to have rapid weight gain in childhood. This means that it is highly possible that these babies will be obese and have insulin resistance in adulthood.

A new study in twins, carried out by the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, indicated that development of insulin resistance is influenced more by current body weight than by birth weight. Based on the results found, the researchers further suggested the after delivery growth pattern is potentially more important than fetal growth, in terms of later development of insulin resistance.

1194 females twins aged between 18 and 74 were included in the study. The relationships between birth weight, body mass index (BMI) and change in body size over the life course and insulin resistance were studied.

The researchers could not determine a significant relationship between a person’s weight at birth and the development of insulin resistance. However, they did find out that there was a significant positive relationship between current weight and insulin resistance: insulin resistance increased with the increasing of current BMI.

This association was mediated equally through both individual effects and shared environment influences of the twins. No evidence was found to show that relationships between birth weight, BMI and change in body size and insulin resistance were mediated by genetic makeup.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mothers’ Breast Milk Content May Affect Child’s Obesity Risk!

Because of favorite findings from numerous past studies, most health experts have supported the idea of breast-feeding and recommended mothers to carry out breast-feeding for their babies. However, a new German study reported that the contents of mothers’ breast milk might somehow determine whether their children may become obese later.

Researchers from The German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg found that a child’s likelihood of being overweight by the age of 2 rose with the amount of adiponectin in his or her mother’s milk.

In order to investigate how breast-feeding might affect obesity risk, the researchers looked at adiponectin and another protein secreted by fat cells, known as leptin, which regulates appetite and the body’s use of energy from food. Adiponectin is involved in metabolism of fats and sugars. The fetus and placenta produce both proteins at high levels making the researchers to believe that there is high possibility that they play a role in fetal development.

The levels of both proteins were measured in the breast milk of the mothers of 674 children when the infants were 6 weeks old. Among the children who were breast-fed for at least 6 months, obesity risk rose with the adiponectin levels in breast milk. Nevertheless, the leptin levels did not show any association with whether or not a child would be overweight.

Based on the data obtained, the researchers concluded that the possible protective effect of breast-feeding against childhood obesity might depend, at least partly, on the low levels of breast milk adiponectin.

According to other health experts, the significance of these findings remains unclear. This is because infants may not be able to absorb the adiponectin contained in breast milk. Furthermore, high levels of adiponectin in adults actually reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, which contradicts to the fact that high levels would contribute to excess weight in children.

While there are still controversies on whether nursing does protect children from becoming overweight, the researchers do agreed that further study is required to determine the health implications of the research. Interestingly, they also maintain the advice that all women should try their best to breast-feed their children for at least 12 months, with the first 4 to 6 months consisting of exclusive breast-feeding.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Heart Attack May Be Reduced With Arthritis Pill!

A generic drug, which has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for people with the painful joint condition. This is the findings reported by an international team of researchers in the journal Arthritis & Therapy on March 6, 2008. In the paper, the researchers also provide further evidence of the benefits of the generic drug, known as methotrexate, and emphasize the importance of prescribing it early on.

About 20 million people worldwide have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease caused when the body confuses healthy tissue for foreign substances and attacks itself.

Several drugs are used to treat it: some reduce inflammation directly but others tone down immune system response. The later type of drugs may risk patients to infections and cancer.

Methotrexate was developed as a cancer drug. Its function is to alter the body’s use of folic acid, which is required for cell growth. It can start working as early as 3 to 6 weeks after commencement of treatment.

In order to examine the causes and effects of rheumatoid arthritis and the potential benefits of medications, the researchers from Spain, Argentina and the United States carried out a long-term study on more than 4,300 people in 15 countries. After adjusting for traditional risk factors such as exercise, smoking and diabetes, the researchers found potential health benefits for patients given methotrexate.

The study indicated that patients who used methotrexate for 1 year, their risk of heart attack was cut by 18 percent and that of stroke was cut by 11 percent. Moreover, results from the study also suggested that newer drugs that block an inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) were also effective at reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Nevertheless, further research is necessary to gather more evidences.

Of course, methotrexate is not the only drug that can treat arthritis. There are other drugs with similar functions as methotrexate, for instance, Johnson & Johnson's Remicade, Amgen's Enbrel, and Abbott Laboratories's Humira. However, because they are expensive, patients often do not get them right away.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Wireless Device To Monitor Heart Rate!

If elderly people who live alone experience certain medical conditions such as heart attack, heart failure, etc, medical assistance may not be able to offer in time to save their life. Thanks to technology, a new high-tech gizmo was designed by a group of engineers from a polytechnic in Singapore that can be used to help these elderly people.

The new device, known as Wireless Pulse Sense (WiPS), is actually a heart-rate monitor. It is a portable device capable of detecting irregular pulse rate in the presence of body fluids and environmental contaminants such as water by using magnetic forces. If abnormal heart rate is detected, the device will send out a phone call or text message to Peace Connect, a voluntary welfare organization in Singapore, in the day and to youth volunteers' cellphones after office hours. The organization is in fact developing a buddy system that will pair seniors with neighborhood kids aged between 10 and 13.

The WiPS can be worn on the wrist like a watch, and its sensitivity would not be affected by long period of usage or contaminants because its performance is independent on direct skin contact.

WiPS was originally designed for the military. While undergoing strenuous exercises, a soldier's pulse rate may change drastically. This could be a sign of possible heat stroke or heart failure. Using WiPS, irregularities in a soldier’s pulse rate during field training can be detected immediately so that timely medical aid can be given.

In Singapore, WiPS has won the prestigious 2007 Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors' Award in defense science. More information on how WiPS was designed can be found at the following webpage:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can Body Mass Index Effectively Determine Need For Weight Loss?

As we know, excess body fat is a risk factor for many health issues such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc. Body Mass Index (BMI) has been used to determine whether one is overweight or obese. However, health experts have raised concerns that BMI may not be accurate enough to identify such health risks.

A recent study, conducted by researchers from the University of Pavia in Italy, has reported in the Nutrition Journal that measuring body fat instead of BMI appears to be more accurately identify people who need lifestyle interventions to lose weight.

Why is this so? According to the researchers, the use of BMI alone could not differentiate between fat mass and fat-free mass, nor reflect the fat mass distribution.

In the study, 23 men and 40 women, aged 20 to 65, were recruited to undergo body composition analysis in the Human Nutrition and Eating Disorders Research Centre at the University. These volunteers were healthy but had sedentary lifestyle and were not following a low-calorie diet.

The BMI as well as body-fat measurements including waist circumference and total percent body fat were obtained for each person. In fact, a measurement similar to BMI, known as Body Fat Mass Index (BFMI), was calculated by the researchers to identify fat mass.

Based on BMI calculations, there were 11 percent of the group needed strong recommendations and 41 percent needed basic recommendations to lose weight. The calculations of waist measurements indicated that about 25 percent would require strong recommendations to cut down the weight whereas 36 percent would require basic weight loss recommendations.

On the other hand, figures from total percent body fat measurements showed that there were 29 percent and 48 percent would require strong and basic recommendations to lose weight, while figures from BFMI showed that 21 percent and 54 percent would receive the similar recommendations.

The results clearly showed that a greater percentage of the study population would receive recommendations for weight loss using criteria based on fatness rather than body weight. The researchers felt that studies that focus on changes in body fat among larger groups of people recommended for lifestyle change might better identify which body fat index is most clinically relevant.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Pill With Dual Compounds To Treat Hypertension!

A new drug has been approved by Food Drug Administration (FDA) on January 21, 2008 with dual compounds for treating hypertension (high blood pressure), according to a statement made by the manufacturer, Novartis AG.

The new tablets contain a combination of the blood pressure medication aliskiren and water pill hydrochlorothiazide. Aliskiren, approved during March 2007, was sold under the name Tekturna in the United States and as Rasilez everywhere else.

Tekturna targets renin, an enzyme responsible for high blood pressure. The newly approved version with the name of Tekturna HCT also includes hydrochlorothiazide, a compound that inhibits the kidney’s ability to retain water. Helping the body get rid of unneeded water and salt in the urine, it was among the first high blood pressure treatments, as removing fluid helps control blood pressure. It has been commonly prescribed by doctors to patients for treating hypertension.

Tekturna HCT tablets, available in early February 2008, are intended for patients whose blood pressure has not been controlled by a single drug.

Data shows that high blood pressure affects nearly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. An estimated 70% of these patients are not currently at their target blood pressure level based on established guidelines. Most patients require 2 or more medicines to reach their goal. Single-tablet combination therapies could simply make blood pressure management more convenient for people by reducing the number of pills they take daily.

High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and many other medical disorders, and even death. Controlling the blood pressure at the ideal levels becomes very important. However, several studies show that many adults with high blood pressure remained uncontrolled despite treatment. One important reason is that too often doctors fail to treat aggressively enough. According to health experts, a tablet combining the direct renin inhibitor and a diuretic would give doctors a new treatment option to help patients reach their treatment goals.

Nevertheless, when it comes to side effect, there is no exception for Tekturna HCT. The side effects include dizziness, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, cough, tiredness and skin rashes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is Surgery A Better Choice For Treating Obese Diabetics?

Doctors will usually advise their obese patients to watch their diet in order to cut down the unwanted weight. Surgery will only be used as the last resort when everything else fails.

However, a new study has found that abdominal surgery is more effective than dieting in helping obese diabetic patients to cut weight and control blood sugar.

The research, which appeared in the January 23 Issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that Type-2 diabetics, overweight patients receiving gastric bypass surgery lost 5 times more weight and were better able to contain the disease compared to patients who tried to lose weight by dieting.

The study was conducted in Australia by researchers from Monash University in Melbourne. They believed it is not the method but the degree of weight loss that appears to be the major driver of glycemic improvement and diabetes remission in obese participants. As such, they recommended using intensive weight-loss therapy as the first step in the management of diabetes rather than simple lifestyle change.

Over the span of 2 years, the study followed 60 obese participants, some of whom practiced conventional dieting and others who received gastric surgery.

The remission rate in the diet group was only 15 percent as compared to 76 percent for the group receiving the abdominal operation. The surgery group also had an average of 20.7 percent body weight loss after 2 years, comparing with only 1.7 percent among the conventional dieting group. In general, a weight loss of about 10 percent is required for the participants to see a remission in their diabetes.

Data showed that some 20 million Americans suffer from Type-2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity and high blood pressure. Diabetes results when a person’s body cannot regulate blood’s level of insulin, an essential hormone that tells the body to store or burn sugar.

Very often, diabetics will also have other health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol that increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, and circulatory problems, which can damage heart, liver and kidneys. A patient's vision, legs, feet and other extremities can also be adversely affected.

Data from the American Diabetes Association indicates that more than 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Can Glucosamine Help Raise Good Cholesterol?

Glucosamine is an amino sugar and a prominent precursor in the biochemical synthesis of glycosylated proteins and lipids. It is commonly used to treat osteoarthritis. More information about glucosamine can be found at


Many people have taken glucosamine for arthritis-like symptoms. Previous research has made medical experts to think that it may also have a beneficial effect on HDL (good cholesterol). Nevertheless, a recent study has proved that the HDL level would not be increased for diabetics who are prescribed glucosamine at commonly taken doses.

The researchers at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri evaluated the effects of glucosamine (500 milligrams taken 3 times daily) versus matching 'placebo' capsules in 10 people with Type-2 diabetes and 2 people with Type-1 diabetes.

The study examined 3 men and 9 women, all with low HDL cholesterol, who were randomly assigned to take glucosamine or placebo for 2 weeks, and were switched over to a 2-week course of the alternative therapy. The finding revealed that there was no benefit of glucosamine on HDL cholesterol or any worsening of the diabetes control.

Their report, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care, indicated that the lack of an effect on the control on diabetes is consistent with previously published studies on the effect of glucosamine in both diabetic and non-diabetic individual. However, the study did not go further to answer whether higher dose or longer duration of glucosamine may make any difference to HDL levels.

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. As such, appropriately managing diabetes is very important.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Coronary Bypass Or Stents, Which One To Choose?

When a person is diagnosed with blockages in the coronary arteries, there is always a dilemma to face. Should he or she undergo bypass operation or choose the drug-eluting stents? This is certainly not an easy decision to make!

A group of researchers from the State University of New York, Rensselaer published their findings in the January 2008’s New England Journal of Medicine. In the paper, they indicated that patients with several blockages in their coronary arteries should choose to undergo bypass grafting instead of having the new generation of drug-eluting stents inserted because the mortality rates are lower.

The study compared outcomes of nearly 10,000 patients with multiple coronary lesions who were treated with drug-eluting stents and almost 7500 similar patients who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting.

After adjusting the presence of other illnesses, the chances that patients who died within 18 months were approximately 25 percent lower for those with the coronary bypass operation than those with insertion of drug-eluting stents. Estimated rates of heart attacks and need for another procedure also ranked bypass grafting higher than stenting.

The results more or less confirm that coronary artery bypass grafting remains the standard for car for patients who require clearing multiple coronary blockages. However, stents may still be an alternative for patients who are at high risk for surgical complications, or when the patient chooses a less invasive option instead.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How Does Sleep Duration Link To Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity is a tough issue and many health experts have attributed such disorder to unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyle. However, a recent study has found that children who lack enough sleep face a greater risk of becoming obese than kids who get a good night's sleep.

An analysis of epidiomogical studies by the researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed on February 5, 2008 that each extra hour of sleep cuts a child's risk of becoming overweight or obese by 9 percent. In comparison, children who got the least sleep had a 92 per cent higher chance of being overweight or obese than children who slept enough.

The researchers reviewed 17 published studies on sleep duration and childhood obesity, and the finding was published in the journal Obesity. The results clearly shows there is association between sleep duration and the risk for overweight or obesity in children, and the risk decreased with more sleep.

When comparing with other measures, desirable sleep behavior may be an important low cost means to prevent childhood obesity. As such, it should be considered in future intervention studies, as recommended by the researchers.

The findings may also have important implications for societies where children with insufficient sleep due to the pressure for academic excellence and where the rate of obesity is rising, such as in many East Asian countries.

As recommended and supported by other researches, those children under 5 years old sleep 11 hours or more a day, while children age 5 to 10 should get 10 or more hours of sleep, and children older than 10 should sleep at least 9 hours.

One should bear in mind that childhood obesity may lead to many chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. when these obese children become adults later on.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Modern Society Is The Culprit That Fosters Obesity!

People are worry about the many diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, etc that will be brought to their body if they do not manage their weight properly.

Overweight or obesity has become one of the toughest issues facing many countries. Based on the fast increasing number of obese people, governments will have to spend a great deal of financial resources just to tackle the health expenses that will follow.

Naturally, unhealthy diet and lifestyle are being blamed as the main reasons for the obesity epidemic but according to a newly released report, it is the modern society, which adds pressure to these individuals to put on weight.

During October 2007, a study by British government think-tank Foresight called for greater help to counter the "'obesogenic' environment" by designing towns and cities to promote walking and cycling and encouraging people to buy healthier food. The report also indicated that it could take some 30 years to tackle the problem. In fact, obesity rates have more than doubled in Britain in the last 25 years. In 2004, nearly a quarter of men and women in England were obese.

The report suggested there is compelling evidence that humans are predisposed to put on weight by their biology. Despite personal responsibility plays a crucial part in weight gain, human biology is also being overwhelmed by the effects of today's 'obesogenic' environment: abundance of energy-dense food, motorized transport and sedentary lifestyles. As such, people of the UK are becoming heavier simply by living in the Britain of today.

The government-commissioned research had suggested, if current trends are not halted, half of all Britons would be obese in 25 years; 86 percent of men will be overweight in 15 years and 70 percent of women in 20.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Living Near Airport Can Boost Your Blood Pressure!

It seems that high blood pressure is a very popular disease among us. A few of my friends have developed this disease, majority of them are below the age of 40.

Health experts used to blame unhealthy diet and lifestyle to cause hypertension. People who like salty foods since they are young are prone to getting high blood pressure. Some articles on the relationship of heart disease and salt can be found by clicking the following links:

Relationship between Salt and Heart Disease

A new study, however, has found another culprit that can raise blood pressure.

On February 13, 2008, the environmental health researchers from the University of Glasgow conducting the European Commission-funded study reported that loud noise instantly boosts a sleeping person’s blood pressure.

As revealed in the study, people living for at least 5 years near a busy airport and under a flight path have a greater risk of developing chronic high blood pressure than those who live in quieter areas. The louder the noise is, the higher a person's blood pressure. The finding suggests that people living near airports are not just irritating; there is a greater risk of health problems for them.

Hypertension, as it is known to some people, is a risk factor for stroke, kidney failure and heart disease. If it is not managed appropriately, the consequence could be very serious, or even deadly. Medical records show that it affects more than a billion adults worldwide.