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Atkins Secret, Heart Warning for Healthy Women, More.

Saturday, 23 September 2006 12:00 AM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. The Secret to How the Atkins Diet Works
2. High Lipoprotein Raises Heart Risk in Healthy Women
3. Tiny Amounts of Lead Linked to Heart Deaths
4. Earthquake Research Used to Prevent Fractures
5. Anemia May Affect the Brain
6. Sleeping Pills Not for Seniors
7. Microorganisms May Cause Obesity

 

1. The Secret to How the Atkins Diet Works

High protein diets, such as Atkins and South Beach, were previously believed to be successful because they changed the body's normal metabolic process.

However, Dr. Rachel Batterham of the Imperial College of Medicine in London has proven differently. Her recent study shows that high-protein foods actually increase the amount of YY Peptides which, in turn, create a feeling of fullness.

YY Peptides are a hormone, controlled by the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates hunger) and released into the blood stream. A lack of the peptide triggers appetite.

Batterham and her team asked test subjects to fast for 14 hours and maintain their current activity level. The volunteers were then given a 1,200 calorie meal. The process was repeated several times over the course of three weeks.

While each meal was rated identically for taste and satiety, their contents varied. One was high in protein, another was based on carbohydrates and the third was laden with fat.

Researchers tested blood from the participants several times, in half hour increments, after each meal. The highest level of YY peptide, and the lowest level of hunger, was recorded after the subjects had eaten the high-protein food.

Dr. Batterham then tried her theory on rodents. She first proved that mice respond to high-protein meals much the same as people. Both the short-term response (less consumption afterwards) and the long-term results (a reduction in obesity) were the same.

The mice's gene for YY peptide was first eliminated from their DNA. They were initially fed a diet similar to Atkins and became obese. However, once the peptide was re-introduced to their systems, they consumed a regular diet and lost weight.

While the study sounds promising in our fight against obesity, it should be noted that Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland attempted to replicate Batterham's work using both mice and rhesus monkeys. They reported that their results were inconclusive.

2. High Lipoprotein Raises Heart Risk in Healthy Women

Very high levels of lipoprotein (a), measured by a state-of-the-art assay, are independently associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events in healthy women, Boston-based investigators report.

The investigators note, however, that the finding does not "support generalized screening of lipoprotein (a) in the population as a whole, because only extremely high levels were associated with cardiovascular risk." Moreover, most lipid-correcting therapies currently available have no effect on lipoprotein (a) concentrations.

Instead, they recommend that high-risk individuals with elevated levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol should be treated aggressively, with a statin or with niacin, when lipoprotein (a) levels are also high.

Dr. Jacqueline Suk Danik of Brigham and Women's Hospital and her associates explain that lipoprotein (a) has been associated with heart disease, but its relevance as a biomarker has not been established, due at least in part to variability in assays.

Their aim was to clear up this controversy by using a new assay, validated and supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In a prospective study, 27,791 initially healthy participants of the Women's Health Study were evaluated. The WHS enrolled healthy women at least 45 years old between 1991 and 1995. The subjects were followed for 10 years.

Blood samples obtained at baseline and stored in liquid nitrogen were analyzed for lipoprotein (a) concentrations.

During follow up, 899 women suffered a nonfatal heart attack, nonfatal stroke, underwent coronary revascularization or died of a cardiac cause.

Analyses showed that women in the top 90th percentile of lipoprotein (a) levels (at least 65.5 mg/dL) had a significant excess risk of suffering a first-time cardiac event, compared with women with lower concentrations, independent of other traditional cardiac risk markers.

The highest rates of cardiac events occurred in women with lipoprotein (a) levels at or above the 90th percentile plus LDL cholesterol levels at or above the median (at least 124 mg/dL).

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, September 20, 2006.

Copyright Reuters 2006.

3. Tiny Amounts of Lead Linked to Heart Deaths

Butterbur, a plant used for centuries to treat ailments as varied as asthma and the plague, may help bring relief to the 20 percent of Americans who suffer from hay fever. Studies have shown that the plant, which is found in Asia, Europe, and parts of North America, to be as effective as antihistamines in treating the symptoms of hay fever without the side effects.

Research suggests that even low blood levels of lead may raise the risk of adverse heart and circulatory outcomes.

Previous reports have linked lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter with increased risks of death. The safety of lower levels, which are present in 99 percent of U.S. adults, was unclear.

To investigate, Dr. Paul Muntner, from Tulane University in New Orleans, and colleagues analyzed data from 13,946 adults who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1988 to 1994 and were followed for up to 12 years.

The average blood lead level in the study group was 2.58 micrograms/dL, they report in the journal Circulation.

Subjects with levels of 3.62 micrograms/dL or higher were 25 percent more likely to die from any cause and 55 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular causes, compared with subjects with lead levels below 1.94 micrograms/dL.

"Our study found the association of blood lead with cardiovascular death to be evident at levels as low as 2 micrograms/dL," Muntner said in a statement.

"Since 38 percent of U.S. adults had lead levels above 2 micrograms/dL in 1999-2002, the public health implications of these findings are substantial."

Muntner notes that the study was not designed to assess the risks of lead levels below 2 micrograms/dL and adds that further research will be needed to determine if any levels are, in fact, safe.

SOURCE: Circulation, September 26, 2006.

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