Tags: Asthma | Eczema | Alcohol | Risk | Prostate | Fat | Matters

Asthma, Eczema, Alcohol Risk, Prostate, Fat Matters

Saturday, 01 April 2006 12:00 AM

The combination of alcohol and energy drinks like Red Bull or Rock Star can be risky, according to a new study from Brazil.

The combo, very popular on the club scene of today's youth, can fool people into thinking they are less drunk and more capable than they really are, say researchers at Federal University in Sao Paulo.

Dr. Maria Lucia O. Souza-Formigoni and her colleagues ran performance tests on 26 young men under various conditions.

For one test, the subjects drank vodka mixed with Red Bull, another test involved vodka mixed with fruit juice, and in the third they drank only the energy drink.

The researchers found that the men reported fewer headache symptoms and less weakness with the Red Bull mixture compared with the standard mixed drink. The men also thought their hand-eye coordination was sharper.

But these feelings of sharpness did not translate into sharper performances. The men did no better on objective tests of hand-eye coordination and reaction time to visual cues.

Dr. Souza-Formigoni said the effect of masking drunkenness could be dangerous because young drinkers might feel free to drink even more alcohol and engage in activities they might otherwise avoid.

The report appears in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

If you have a heart attack, whether or not you live or die may depend on what hospital you're taken to, according to an eye-opening new study from Yale.

The survival differences they found were striking. The 30-day mortality rate for heart attack patients treated at hospitals in the top 5 percent was 15 percent. But the rate was only 20 percent for similar patients taken to hospitals in the lowest quartile of performance.

Likewise for heart failure patients. The 30-day mortality was 10 percent in top hospitals versus 14 percent for bottom tier hospitals.

"These are meaningful differences in the risk of dying, and what most patients really care about is whether they are going to survive," said study leader Dr. Harlan Krumholz. "For every 20 heart attack patients admitted to a bottom-rated hospital rather than to a top-rated hospital, there is one additional death."

The report appears in the journal, Circulation.

Men with localized prostate cancer may need to decide on a treatment plan - but they often get biased information from their doctors and even from most patient-education material, according to a disturbing new study.

Urologists almost always advise that surgery is the best treatment, the study found, while radiation oncologists usually tell patients that radiation therapy is best.

Dr. Scott Ramsey and his colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, reviewed 69 articles about prostate cancer treatment published from 1990 to 2004.

The articles included surveys of patients, focus group reports, and attempts to design decision aids for patients. The treatments covered included watchful waiting, radical prostate surgery and radiation therapy.

The Seattle study found that most patient education materials contained biases toward active treatment, minimized the role of watchful waiting, and underestimated the likelihood and severity of side effects.

Many men reported not being presented with the option of watchful waiting by their physicians. Further, many men were led to believe that watchful waiting meant "doing nothing."

"Considerable progress is needed in helping patients fully understand how to balance the complex issues surrounding making a decision regarding prostate cancer treatment," the researchers concluded.

Their report is published in the journal, Cancer.

Sick building syndrome could well be named "lousy job syndrome," according to a British study.

Dr. Mai Stafford, and her colleagues at the University College London Medical School assessed the potential syndrome-causing properties of 44 office buildings in and around London.

They also surveyed more than 4,000 civil servants, ages 42 to 62, who worked in those buildings, asking about their work environment, psychosocial work stress, and 10 syndrome symptoms.

Building properties that are said to contribute to the syndrome include temperature; humidity; the presence of dust mites or volatile organic compounds; and high levels of airborne bacteria, fungi, or dust.

Symptoms of the syndrome include headache, cough, dry eyes, fatigue, rashes, sore throat, and wheeze.

The researchers found that while the symptoms correlated only weakly with the environment of office buildings, they correlated strongly with work problems.

In particular they correlated with having a demanding job and lacking supportive colleagues. Workers who reported having the most demanding jobs scored an average of nearly half a point higher on the symptom scale than those reporting the least demanding jobs.

The study appeared in the journal, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In an advance that could benefit up to 60 million people around the world, scientists have identified a gene defect responsible for eczema and asthma.

The gene in question produces filaggrin, a protein that prevents skin dryness. If your body lacks filaggrin, your skin can become inflamed and you could develop eczema. Lack of filaggrin may also mean more foreign bodies entering your lungs, this can lead to asthma.

People with the faulty gene produce less filaggrin than they should.

The research was done cooperatively by investigators in Dublin, Ireland; Dundee Scotland; Copenhagen, Denmark.

In Dundee, 50 percent of 600 children who had asthma, and 300 who had eczema, were found to have the faulty gene. Researchers in Dublin found that over 60 percent of the children with eczema they examined also had this faulty gene.

In Copenhagen, researchers found that over 60 percent of infants who carried with faulty gene went on to develop eczema later on.

Experts say that the discovery should help them tackle the root cause of the problem, as opposed to just treating the symptoms, and could ultimately lead to a more targeted treatment of the condition in specific individuals.

"We see this as the dawn of a new era in the understanding and treatment of eczema and the type of asthma that goes with eczema as well," said Dr. Irwin McLean, of Dundee University's human genetics department.

"If you imagine the disease as a burning building, up until now we've just been throwing buckets of water on the roof.  But now we know exactly where the fire is underneath and we can put the hoses in there and hopefully tackle the cause of the problem properly."

The study will be published in the journal, Nature Genetics.

Waist size is an excellent sign of diabetes risk in children and adolescents and is independent of the Body Mass Index (BMI), according to a new study from Pennsylvania.

A team headed by Dr. Silva A. Arslanian investigated how well waist size reflects total fat, superficial abdominal fat (subcutaneous fat) and fat surrounding internal organs (visceral fat) in youths, and whether waist circumference alone predicts insulin resistance.

The researchers found that waist size was an independent predictor of total body fat tissue, total abdominal fat tissue, visceral fat tissue and abdominal subcutaneous fat tissue.

Surprisingly, waist circumference was consistently better at predicting these conditions than the combination of waist circumference and BMI.

Waist size is especially useful because it requires only one measurement, whereas BMI requires weight and height measurements plus a calculation, said Dr. Arslanian. The study appears in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Most people have a basic sense that being overweight is bad for their health, but few appreciate just how dangerous it is.

As I pointed out in the last two newsletters, visceral fat (the beer gut) is much worse than fat under the skin. Usually they go together, but some fat people have very little visceral fat, while some thin people have an abundance of visceral fat.

Men should have a waist circumference of less than 40 inches and women less than 35 inches.

Another way to measure obesity is by using the basal metabolic index (BMI), which takes your height and weight into account to calculate your degree of obesity. You can go to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Web site and calculate your own BMI.

Go to

However, more recent studies have found that the BMI measurement is not as accurate as waist circumference in predicting cardiovascular and other disease risk.

The BMI overestimates obesity in men and women with good muscular builds and underestimates it in elderly people with poor muscle mass. Other risk factors - such as triglyceride levels and especially the ratio of triglyceride to HDL cholesterol - are even more important.

A great deal of evidence indicates that excess visceral fat is strongly connected to the metabolic syndrome and therefore to type-2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, stroke, arthritis, asthma and even cancer.

Again, this is because these visceral fat cells secrete enormous amounts of harmful cytokines into the bloodstream, generating chronic inflammation and associated free radical and lipid peroxidation buildup in a number of tissues and organs.

The end result could be extensive atherosclerosis, insulin resistance (type-2 diabetes), amputations, heart attacks, strokes, nerve pain (neuropathy), blindness, kidney failure, heart failure - or a combination of all of these.

Any way you look at it, it's a life of misery. Visceral fat is not to be ignored. Your life, and the lives of your children, is at stake.

The antioxidant beta-carotene helps protect the lungs against age-related and smoking-related decline and may help prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study from France.

Researchers at the University of Medicine Bichat, analyzed lung function and antioxidant blood levels in over 1,200 men and women over an eight year period. Lung function was measured by a test of forced expiratory volume (FEV1).

They found that both smokers and non-smokers who had higher levels of beta-carotene showed smaller annual declines in lung function. They also found that high levels of vitamin E and beta carotene slowed lung function decline in smokers.

On the other hand, there was no link of lung function with alpha-carotene, vitamin A, or vitamin E itself.

"These results strongly suggest that beta-carotene protects against the decline in FEV1 and that beta-carotene and vitamin E are protective in heavy smokers," the authors said.

"These powerful antioxidants may help to reduce oxidative stress - one of the factors thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of COPD - and thus may contribute to reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality related to this disease," they said.

The report was published in the April issue of Thorax.


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The combination of alcohol and energy drinks like Red Bull or Rock Star can be risky, according to a new study from Brazil. The combo, very popular on the club scene of today's youth, can fool people into thinking they are less drunk and more capable than they really are,...
Saturday, 01 April 2006 12:00 AM
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