Day: November 6, 2007

Talking boosts your memory

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Talking boosts your memory

NEW YORK: A friend or a neighbour may help you stay sharp just as much as a daily crossword — you only need to talk to him for ten minutes every day.

Researchers in the United States have carried out a study and found that spending ten minutes talking to another person helps improve the memory, the ‘ScienceDaily’ reported here on Friday.

“In our study, socialising was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance,”lead researcher Oscar Ybarra at the University of Michigan was quoted as saying.

In fact, the researchers came to the conclusion after conducting a test on 76 college students, aged 18 to 21.

After controlling for a wide range of demographic variables, including age, education, race/ethnicity, gender, marital status and income, as well as for physical health and depression, the researchers looked at the connection between frequency of social contact and level of mental function on the mini-mental exam.

Each student was assigned to one of three groups. Those in the social interaction group engaged in a discussion of a social issue for 10 minutes before taking the tests.

Those in the intellectual activities group completed three tasks before taking the tests. These tasks included a reading comprehension exercise and a crossword puzzle.

Those in a control group watched a 10-minute clip of ‘Seinfeld’. Then all participants completed two different tests of intellectual performance that measured their mental processing speed and working memory.

Ybarra said, “We found that short-term social interaction lasting for just 10 minutes boosted participants’ intellectual performance as much as engaging in so-called ‘intellectual’ activities for the same amount of time.

The higher the level of participants’ social interaction, researchers found, the better their cognitive functioning. This relationship was reliable for all age groups, from the youngest through the oldest.

“To our knowledge, this experiment represents the only causal evidence showing that social interaction directly affects memory and mental performance in a positive way.”

The findings also suggest that social isolation may have a negative effect on intellectual abilities as well as emotional well-being. And for a society characterized by increasing levels of social isolation the effects could be far-reaching.

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Breasts don’t sag by breastfeeding

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Breasts don’t sag by breastfeeding

Breastfeeding won’t make a new mom’s breasts sag, but having more babies might, a new study indicates.

“A lot of times, if a woman comes in for a breast lift or a breast augmentation, she’ll say ‘I want to fix what breastfeeding did to my breasts’,” University of Kentucky plastic surgeon Brian Rinker told Livescience. So he decided to study any possible connection. Rinker and his colleagues interviewed 132 women who came in for breast lifts or augmentation between 1998 and 2006. On average, the women were 39 years old, and 93% had experienced at least one pregnancy. Among the mothers, 58% had breastfed at least one of their children. The average duration of breastfeeding was nine months.

The researchers evaluated the study particpants’ medical history, body mass index, pre-pregnancy bra cup size and smoking status.

The results of the study, presented this week at a conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, showed no difference in the degree of breast ptosis (or sagging) between women who breastfed and those who didn’t. The main factors that did affect sagging were age, smoking status and the number of pregnancies.

Rinker noted that the smoking connection made sense because “smoking breaks down a protein in the skin called elastin, which gives youthful skin its elastic appearance and supports the breast”.

Pregnancy also “has a very strong contribution to breast ptosis (sagging)”, Rinker said. “In fact, our study showed that those negative effects increase with each pregnancy.”

Rinker says this finding should alleviate the fears of new mothers over what nursing their child might do to their breasts in the long run and will encourage them to breastfeed because of the health benefits to their infant. “Women may be reluctant to breastfeed because of this unfounded myth that doing so means the end of youthful breasts,” Rinker said. “Now, expectant mothers can relax knowing breastfeeding does not sacrifice the appearance of their breasts.”

First 3 hours after stroke crucial

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First 3 hours after stroke crucial

WASHINGTON: A new study has found that the first three hours at the start of a stroke are crucial for the treatment of the victim.

The study found that rhe damage caused by stroke can be reduced by giving tPA treatment, the only approved treatment for stroke caused by blood clots in the brain, to the patient. If given intravenously within the first three hours of the start of a stroke, or injected directly into the brain within six hours, tPA can break up clots and stop or slow the damage caused by strokes. The analysis showed that delay kept many patients away from receiving tPA.

“Efforts to speed up patients’ arrival at the hospital are absolutely crucial. We have very effective treatments; we just need to get patients to the hospital as fast as possible,” said Lewis Morgenstern, professor of neurology, emergency medicine and neurosurgery at the U-M Medical School. Morgenstern added a person experiencing a stroke really needed to get to a hospital within two hours of the start of a stroke to have the best chance of receiving tPA.

Cause of rheumatoid arthritis found

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Cause of rheumatoid arthritis found

LONDON: Researchers at the University of Manchester have identified a gene variant which leads to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the most inflammatory arthritis among common inflammatory arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects up to 1 percent of the adult population and is a chronic inflammatory disease that attacks almost all joints in the body, mainly the hands and feet.

The patients of this disease often undergo lung problems. In addition to this they are also prone to from cardiovascular disease and some cancers which can be fatal. With a very few god responses to the medication, most of the patients take the pain of life span disability.

According to Professor Jane Worthington and her team at the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) Epidemiology unit, there were 9 genetic regions known as potentially harbouring DNA variants that decide the susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis.

Even though the DNA variant is not located in a gene, scientists have recommended that it may control the behaviour of a nearby gene like the tumour necrosis factor associated protein (TNFAIP3) as it is a gene that is involved in inflammatory processes.

Till now only two other genes were known to explain 50 percent of genetically determined susceptibility. Now the Manchester researchers are working to understand how the variation within the chromosome 6q region influences the development of RA, the course of the disease and the response to treatment.

“This is a very exciting result; the validation of this association takes us one step closer to understanding the genetic risk factors behind what is a debilitating disease for sufferers and an expensive disease for the NHS,” Nature quoted Worthington, as saying.

“We are indebted to the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc) for their longstanding support of this research and for recognising the importance of establishing large well characterized cohorts of RA patients.

“This study was made possible by the fantastic collaboration of scientists from five other groups around the UK who helped us to assemble an impressive cohort of over 5,000 samples from RA patients for this experiment. Their continued collaboration will be significant in ensuring the continued progress of this research,” she added.

Dr Anne Barton, a clinician on the team, said: “RA is a complex, heterogeneous disease with some people suffering inflammation of the hands and feet which comes and goes whilst others develop a progressive form which can quite rapidly result in marked disability. We believe the genetic marker we have found may determine who develops RA or how severe the disease becomes.”

The study is published in the latest issue of Nature Genetics .

Dandruff may soon be history

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Dandruff may soon be history

LONDON: Scientists conducting a research for Proctor and Gamble have decoded the complete DNA of a natural fungus responsible for dandruff, a genetic breakthrough that may lead to the elimination of the problem of the flaky skin condition.

Dr Thomas Dawson, who led the five-year study, believes that his team’s work may pave the way for more effective shampoos, lotions, and medicines to provide people respite from the problem of dandruff.

“We have been able to see how the fungus interacts with the skin, and that opens up all sorts of new targets for medication,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

According to the researchers, nearly all skin conditions are associated with yeast called Malassezia globosa, which lives on human skin.

They say that by feeding off natural oils in the skin, and by releasing a toxic by-product that can irritate the scalp, the fungus causes itchiness and clumps of dead skin that are noticeable on hair and clothes.

While medicated shampoos are available to deal with fungal infections, they are not 100 per cent reliable.

It was about five years ago that researchers found that Malassezia globosa was associated with the problem of dandruff. The genome for the dandruff yeast has just 4,285 genes written in nine million chemical ‘letters’ of DNA, tiny compared to that for humans.

During the study, the researchers grew ten litres of the yeast in a tank, froze it in liquid nitrogen before extracting its DNA, and then smashed it up into fragments.

The researchers read the DNA sequences of the pieces, and fed them into a powerful computer.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Frequent fliers run risk of blood clots

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Frequent fliers run risk of blood clots

WASHINGTON: Researchers in The Netherlands have confirmed that business travellers who fly frequently are at an increased risk of developing life-threatening blood clots.

Life-threatening blood clots and flying have been linked for more than 50 years, but this is the first study to confirm this association.

“There is some evidence that the low air pressure in a plane affects the complex coagulation system of the blood,” the International Herald Tribune quoted Frits Rosendaal of Leiden University Medical Center as saying.

A blood clot that forms within large, deep veins of the body, usually in the leg, is called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If left untreated, part of the clot may break off and travel to the lungs, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal condition.

“We now know out of 4,500 people who fly, one will get a DVT within 8 weeks after travel. It’s not really a huge amount,” said another researcher Suzanne Cannegieter, but the risk increases with the duration of a flight and the number of flights in a short period.

The researchers tracked almost 9,000 employees of large international companies and organizations for four to five years.

Published in the online Journal PLoS Medicine, the study showed that obesity, extremes of height (shorter than 5’4″ and taller than 6’4″), oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy and inherited blood clotting disorders could also increase the risk of life-threatening blood clots.

Rosendaal said that a combination of such factors might lead to a 20 to 50-fold increase in the risk.

Rob Donnelly, vice president of health for The Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell that participated in the study, said that the company had started to use a Web-based tracking system that helped identify employees who were at risk, allowing the company to take additional measures if necessary.

He revealed that the employees logged on to the company’s intranet for training about risks, symptoms and preventive measurers for DVT and other diseases.

“This is a manageable risk for the vast majority of people,” the International Herald Tribune quoted him as Donnelly as saying.

Rochelle Broome, corporate medical director of primary care for CHD Meridian Heathcare, suggests that employees resort to walking and frequent seat exercises so that their blood circulation may increase.

“You don’t have to take a pill. There’s no shot. It’s easy,” said Broome, who experienced several serious DVTs herself.

Keeping well hydrated by drinking a lot of water, limiting alcohol and coffee, and wearing loose-fitting clothing have been referred to as some of the common preventive measures in the report.

Breastfed babies have higher IQ

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Breastfed babies have higher IQ

CHICAGO: Scientists have identified a gene which leads children to have higher IQs if they are breastfed, a study said.

The study, released on Monday, took a bite out of the nature versus nurture debate by showing that intellectual development is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors.

“There has been some criticism of earlier studies about breastfeeding and IQ that they didn’t control for socioeconomic status, or the mother’s IQ or other factors,” said study co-author Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Duke University and King’s College in London.

“Our findings take an end-run around those arguments by showing the physiological mechanism that accounts for the difference.”

Researchers examined more than 3,000 breast-fed infants in Britain and New Zealand and found that the child’s IQ was an average of 6.8 points higher if the child had a particular version of a gene called FADS2.

This difference remained after researchers were able to rule out the influence of socioeconomic status, the IQ scores of the mother, birth weight and gestational age as factors.

“The argument about intelligence has been about nature versus nurture for at least a century,” Moffitt said. “We’re finding that nature and nurture work together.”

Ninety per cent of the children had at least one copy of version of the gene which yielded higher IQ if they were breast-fed.

Curry may help stave off cancers

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Curry may help stave off cancers

WASHINGTON: Eating curry really may be good for your health, for a new study has found two new molecular analogues of curcumin, the yellowish component of turmeric that gives curry its flavour, which have powerful tumour suppressive properties that may help fight colorectal cancers.

The study was conducted on a mouse model by researchers from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and will be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Centennial Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine.

Research has associated curcumin with several distinct actions, including the suppression of genes that promote cell growth, and induction of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in colorectal cancer.

However, the downside is that natural curcumin has “low bioavailability” i.e. the molecule quickly loses its anti-cancer attributes when ingested.

With the aim of improving the therapeutic potential of curcumin lead researcher Hiroyuki Shibata, M.D, and his colleagues synthesized and tested 90 variations of the molecule’s structure.

They found that two variations, namely GO-Y030 and GO-Y031, proved to be more potent and bioavailable, than natural curcumin.

“Our new analogues have enhanced growth suppressive abilities against colorectal cancer cell lines, up to 30 times greater than natural curcumin,” said Shibata, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Oncology at the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University.

On the study they conducted on mice with colorectal cancer, they found that when fed with the variations, the rodents fared better than those in a control group.

“In a mouse model for colorectal cancer, mice fed with five milligrams of GO-Y030 or GO-Y031 fared 42 and 51 percent better, respectively, than did mice in the control group.”

Like curcumin, the researchers believe the new analogues have clinical potential that extends beyond colorectal cancer.

“In addition to colorectal cancer, the â catenin-degrading abilities of these molecules could apply to other forms of cancer, such as gastric cancer,” said Shibata.

“Like curcumin, these analogues also down-regulate a number of gene products, such as NF-kappa B, ErbB2, K-ras, that are also implicated in breast, pancreas and lung cancers among other diseases.

“In addition to their chemopreventative abilities, these molecules might also form the basis of a potent chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with other modes of therapy.”

The next step, the researchers state, is to further examine the drug delivery mechanisms, toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these analogues, before extending the research to clinical trials.

The study was funded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and the Miyagi Health Service Association.

Breastfed babies have higher IQ

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Breastfed babies have higher IQ
AFP news

CHICAGO: Scientists have identified a gene which leads children to have higher IQs if they are breastfed, a study said.

The study, released on Monday, took a bite out of the nature versus nurture debate by showing that intellectual development is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors.

“There has been some criticism of earlier studies about breastfeeding and IQ that they didn’t control for socioeconomic status, or the mother’s IQ or other factors,” said study co-author Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Duke University and King’s College in London.

“Our findings take an end-run around those arguments by showing the physiological mechanism that accounts for the difference.”

Researchers examined more than 3,000 breast-fed infants in Britain and New Zealand and found that the child’s IQ was an average of 6.8 points higher if the child had a particular version of a gene called FADS2.

This difference remained after researchers were able to rule out the influence of socioeconomic status, the IQ scores of the mother, birth weight and gestational age as factors.

“The argument about intelligence has been about nature versus nurture for at least a century,” Moffitt said. “We’re finding that nature and nurture work together.”

Ninety per cent of the children had at least one copy of version of the gene which yielded higher IQ if they were breast-fed.

Floating best stress and pain buster

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Floating best stress and pain buster
ANI news

WASHINGTON: A recent study has found that relaxing in large, sound –and –light proof tank with salt water-floating is an effective way of easing long-term stress-related pain.

The study was conducted at the Human Performance Laboratory at Karlstad University and was carried out in collaboration with the health authorities under the Varmland County Council.

It was authored by Sven-Ake Bood, who recently completed his doctorate in psychology, with a dissertation from Karlstad University in Sweden.

The research project took under four years for concluding and included 140 individuals, all with some form of diagnosis involving stress-related long-term pain.

The recent research also agrees with an earlier thesis that improved sleep patients feels more optimistic, and the content of the vitalizing hormone prolactin increases. Anxiety, stress, depression and perception of pain declines.

The research comprised four studies that involved the treatment of pain and stress-related disorders with the aid of a floating tank. A control group that was not treated in a floating tank experienced no improvement in their health. After a period of treatment lasting a total of seven weeks, 22 percent of the participants in the floating group were entirely free of pain, and 56 experienced a clear improvement. Nineteen percent felt no change and 3 percent felt worse. And the effect persists after the treatment is completed.

“Through relaxing in floating tanks, people with long-term fibromyalgia, for instance, or depression and anxiety felt substantially better after only twelve treatments. Relaxing in a weightless state in the silent, warm floating tank activates the body’s own system for recuperation and healing,” said Sven-Ake Bood.

“The stress hormone decreases, as does blood pressure. The findings confirm and reinforce our earlier studies on the effects of relaxing in a floating tank

“The treatment method can be used for several groups, such as people with whiplash injuries, fibromyalgia, depression, and long-term stress-related pain.

“We can also see that a combination of treatment in a floating tank and traditional therapy can be effective. We are now moving on in our research and will be monitoring blood circulation in the capillaries, the oxygen uptake of the blood, and how the body’s reflexes are affected,” he added.

The study has been published in the prestigious American publication International Journal of Stress Management .