Corporate fitness programs positively affect the bottom line: new data

J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]

The Association of Self-Reported Employee Physical Activity With Metabolic Syndrome, Health Care Costs, Absenteeism, and Presenteeism.

Burton WN1, Chen CY, Li X, Schultz AB, Abrahamsson H.

Author information

1From the University of Illinois at Chicago (Dr Burton); American Express Company (Dr Burton), New York, NY; University of Michigan Health Management Research Center (Dr Chen, Li, and Schultz), Ann Arbor; and Akershus Universitetssykehus (Dr Abrahamsson), Sykehusveien, Loerenskog, Norway.



To examine employees’ self-reported physical activity and metabolic syndrome (MetS) risks and their association with health-related workplace outcomes.


Employees participated in a health risk appraisal in 2010. Generalized Linear Modeling was used to test the association between MetS risk factors, physical activity, and the outcome measures while controlling for confounders.


MetS was found in 30.2% of employees. Health care costs for employees with MetS who reported sufficient exercise (150 or more minutes/week) totaled $2770 compared with $3855 for nonsufficient exercisers. The percentage of employees with MetS who had absenteeism and presenteeism was also significantly lower for employees achieving sufficient physical activity. All risk factors for MetS were mitigated for regular exercisers.


Employers should consider programs and services to support regular aerobic exercise to address the growing prevalence and costs of MetS in the workforce.


Posted in Corporate Wellness, Workplace Issues | Leave a comment

For plantar fasciitis, high-load strength training may aid in a quicker reduction in pain and improvements in function

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Aug 21. doi: 10.1111/sms.12313. [Epub ahead of print]

High-load strength training improves outcome in patients with plantar fasciitis: A randomized controlled trial with 12-month follow-up.

Rathleff MS1, Mølgaard CM, Fredberg U, Kaalund S, Andersen KB, Jensen TT, Aaskov S, Olesen JL.

Author information

1Orthopaedic Surgery Research Unit, Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark.


The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of shoe inserts and plantar fascia-specific stretching vs shoe inserts and high-load strength training in patients with plantar fasciitis.

Forty-eight patients with ultrasonography-verified plantar fasciitis were randomized to shoe inserts and daily plantar-specific stretching (the stretch group) or shoe inserts and high-load progressive strength training (the strength group) performed every second day.

High-load strength training consisted of unilateral heel raises with a towel inserted under the toes.

Primary outcome was the foot function index (FFI) at 3 months.

Additional follow-ups were performed at 1, 6, and 12 months.

At the primary endpoint, at 3 months, the strength group had a FFI that was 29 points lower [95% confidence interval (CI): 6-52, P = 0.016] compared with the stretch group.

At 1, 6, and 12 months, there were no differences between groups (P > 0.34).

At 12 months, the FFI was 22 points (95% CI: 9-36) in the strength group and 16 points (95% CI: 0-32) in the stretch group.

There were no differences in any of the secondary outcomes.

A simple progressive exercise protocol, performed every second day, resulted in superior self-reported outcome after 3 months compared with plantar-specific stretching.

High-load strength training may aid in a quicker reduction in pain and improvements in function.


Posted in Plantar Fasciitis, Science Updates | Leave a comment

Kids’ headaches tied to sedentary behaviors in new study

Cephalalgia. 2014 Aug 22. pii: 0333102414547134. [Epub ahead of print]

Relationship of childhood headaches with preferences in leisure time activities, depression, anxiety and eating habits: A population-based, cross-sectional study.

Bektaş O1, Uğur C2, Gençtürk ZB3, Aysev A2, Sireli O2, Deda G4.

Author information

1Department of Pediatric Neurology, Ankara University Medical School, Turkey

2Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Ankara University Medical School, Turkey.

3Department of Statistics, Ankara University Medical School, Turkey.

4Department of Pediatric Neurology, Ankara University Medical School, Turkey.



The objective of this article is to determine the relationship between headache frequency and socio-demographic data, personal characteristics, habits, daily activities, daily loss of ability, depression and anxiety in the headache subtypes in the pediatric population.


Our sample group was composed of approximately 5355 children aged between 9 and 18 years. An eight-stage questionnaire was administered to the children. In the second stage of the study, headache subtypes were created according to the ICHD-II criteria. The resulting data were compared according to the results of the headache subtypes.


In school-age children, the prevalence of recurrent headaches was 39.4%, and the prevalence of migraine was 10.3%. The subjects with migraine mostly preferred sedentary activities in their leisure time, and preferred less exercise than the subjects with the other headache types. The PedMIDAS score of the children who preferred to play sports was significantly lower than those who did not prefer to play sports. In the group that preferred reading books, an opposite relationship was found. In overweight and obese migraine sufferers, other types of headache were found to be significantly higher.


In the management of treating childhood headaches, the association of psychiatric comorbidities should be considered. To minimize disability, children should be directed to more useful physical activities.


Posted in Exercise: Benefits, Headaches, Human Behavior: Sedentary, Pediatric Health | Leave a comment

Blueberries lower blood pressure: new evidence

Nutr Res. 2014 Jul;34(7):577-84. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2014.07.002. Epub 2014 Jul 8.

Six weeks daily ingestion of whole blueberry powder increases natural killer cell counts and reduces arterial stiffness in sedentary males and females.

McAnulty LS1, Collier SR2, Landram MJ2, Whittaker DS3, Isaacs SE4, Klemka JM4, Cheek SL4, Arms JC2, McAnulty SR2.

Author information

1Dept. of Nutrition and Health Care Management, Boone, NC, 28608. Electronic address:

2Dept. of Health and Exercise Science Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, 28608.

3Boone Dermatology, Clinic, Boone, NC, 28608.

4Dept. of Nutrition and Health Care Management, Boone, NC, 28608.


Evidence suggests that berries contain bioactive compounds, which reduce certain cancers and hypertension.

Our hypothesis was that daily blueberry (BB) consumption would increase natural killer (NK) cells and plasma redox capacity and reduce blood pressure, augmentation index (AIx), central pulse wave velocity, and aortic systolic pressures (ASPs).

Twenty-five men and postmenopausal women aged 18 to 50 years were recruited and randomized to BB (n, 13) or placebo groups (n, 12).

Participants were provided with BB (equivalent to 250 g berries) or placebo powders each day for 6 weeks.

Blood pressure, vascular performance testing, and blood samples were taken at baseline (presupplementation).

Participants returned after 6 weeks and repeated all procedures.

Presupplementation to postsupplementation comparisons for the main effects of treatment, time, and treatment-time interaction were made using a 2 (treatment) × 2 (times) repeated-measures analysis of variance for all vascular measures, redox status, and NK cell counts.

Anthropometric measures were compared using t tests.

Body mass, composition, and overall blood pressures were not affected in either group.

Overall, AIx and ASPs were decreased in BB (treatment effect, P = .024 and P = .046, respectively).

Plasma redox was not affected.

Absolute NK cells were increased in BB (time, P = .001 and interaction, P = .012).

Subjects (n, 9) with prehypertensive pressures (≥120/80 mm Hg, respectively) were examined as a subset using t tests and exhibited significant reductions in diastolic pressure (P = .038) from presupplementation to postsupplementation in BB.

We conclude that BB ingestion for 6 weeks increases NK cells and reduces AIx, ASP, and diastolic pressures in sedentary males and females.


More articles about blueberries

Posted in Hypertension, Nutrition is Medicine, Nutrition: Food: Blueberries | Leave a comment

Music-based exercise may prevent age-related physical decline in older adults

Calcif Tissue Int. 2014 Aug 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Long-Term Exercise in Older Adults: 4-Year Outcomes of Music-Based Multitask Training.

Hars M1, Herrmann FR, Fielding RA, Reid KF, Rizzoli R, Trombetti A.

Author information

1Division of Bone Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine Specialties, Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, Rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil 4, 1211, Geneva 14, Switzerland,


Prospective controlled evidence supporting the efficacy of long-term exercise to prevent physical decline and reduce falls in old age is lacking.

The present study aimed to assess the effects of long-term music-based multitask exercise (i.e., Jaques-Dalcroze eurhythmics) on physical function and fall risk in older adults.

A 3-year follow-up extension of a 1-year randomized controlled trial (NCT01107288) was conducted in Geneva (Switzerland), in which 134 community-dwellers aged ≥65 years at increased risk of falls received a 6-month music-based multitask exercise program.

Four years following original trial enrolment, 52 subjects (baseline mean ± SD age, 75 ± 8 years) who (i) have maintained exercise program participation through the 4-year follow-up visit (“long-term intervention group”, n = 23) or (ii) have discontinued participation following original trial completion (“control group”, n = 29) were studied.

They were reassessed in a blind fashion, using the same procedures as at baseline. At 4 years, linear mixed-effects models showed significant gait (gait speed, P = 0.006) and balance (one-legged stance time, P = 0.015) improvements in the long-term intervention group, compared with the control group.

Also, long-term intervention subjects did better on Timed Up & Go, Five-Times-Sit-to-Stand and handgrip strength tests, than controls (P < 0.05, for all comparisons).

Furthermore, the exercise program reduced the risk of falling (relative risk, 0.69; 95 % confidence interval, 0.5-0.9; P = 0.008).

These findings suggest that long-term maintenance of a music-based multitask exercise program is a promising strategy to prevent age-related physical decline in older adults.

They also highlight the efficacy of sustained long-term adherence to exercise for falls prevention.


Posted in Elder Care, Exercise: Benefits, Music, Music Therapy | Leave a comment

Reducing sedentary time does not always lead to more physical activity

J Sci Med Sport. 2014 Jan;17(1):39-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Mar 16.

Exploring changes in physical activity, sedentary behaviors and hypothesized mediators in the NEAT girls group randomized controlled trial.

Dewar DL1, Morgan PJ2, Plotnikoff RC2, Okely AD3, Batterham M4, Lubans DR5.

Author information

1Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.

2Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia; School of Education, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.

3Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.

4Centre for Statistical and Survey Methodology, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.

5Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia; School of Education, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia. Electronic address:



To evaluate the impact of a 12-month school-based multi-component program on adolescent girls’ physical activity and sedentary behaviors, and hypothesized mediators of physical activity behavior change.


Group randomized controlled trial with 12-month follow-up.


The intervention, guided by Social Cognitive Theory, involved 357 adolescent girls (13.2 ± 0.5 years) from 12 secondary schools (6 intervention schools, 6 control schools) in low-income communities in the Hunter and Central Coast regions of New South Wales, Australia. The intervention included enhanced school sport, lunchtime physical activity sessions, interactive seminars, student handbooks, nutrition workshops, pedometers, parent newsletters and text messages to encourage physical activity and healthy eating, and a decrease in sedentary behavior. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and 12-months and included: physical activity (accelerometers), sedentary behaviors (questionnaire and accelerometers), and social-cognitive mediators of physical activity (questionnaire).


There were significant between group differences in favor of the intervention group for self-reported recreational computer use (-26.0 min; 95% CI, -46.9 to -5.1), and sedentary activities summed (-56.4 min; 95% CI, -110.1 to -2.7), however objective sedentary behavior showed no differences. There were no group-by-time effects for any of the physical activity outcomes or hypothesized mediators.


A school-based intervention tailored for adolescent girls from schools located in low-income communities significantly reduced time spent in sedentary activities. However, improvements in physical activity and hypothesized mediators of physical activity behavior were not observed. Future studies are encouraged to explore alternative mechanisms of behavior change derived from integrated and socio-ecological theories.


Posted in Human Behavior: Motivation, Human Behavior: Sedentary, N.E.A.T. | Leave a comment

Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with later excess weight/obesity during adolescence

  • Growth deficiency is a defining feature of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).
  • A new study has found that rates of excess weight/obesity are elevated in adolescents with partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS).
  • Females with FASD may be at a greater risk for excess weight/obesity than males during adolescence.


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) refer to a range of disabilities, and include individuals with neurocognitive impairments as well as growth irregularities ranging from deficient to normal. However, very little is known about the prevalence of excessive weight and obesity as components of FASD in the long-term. A study examining body mass index (BMI) in a large clinical sample of children with FASD has found that rates of excess weight/obesity are elevated in children with partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS).

Results will be published in the September 2014 online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“Growth deficiency is a defining feature of FASD and typically babies and children with FASD have short stature and low weight,” explained Jeffrey R. Wozniak, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, as well as corresponding author for the study. “Individuals with FAS, the most severe form of the condition, typically continue to show growth deficiency into adulthood. However, a number of FASD investigators have consistently heard from families that weight gain is a problem in adolescence and adulthood in some patients, and we thought it was important to examine this further.”

“Because being underweight is part of the diagnostic criteria for FAS, and because the neurological consequences can be so profound, little attention has been given to the possibility that prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) might also affect body weight in later life,” added Susan Smith, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “There have been anecdotal observations and several hints and clues that this may be a problem, but no real data.”

Wozniak and his colleagues examined 617 children (257 males, 360 females), ages 2 to 19, who had been clinically evaluated for FASD between April 2005 and April 2013: 446 with an FASD diagnosis – FAS (n=64), pFAS (n=166), and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (n=216) – as well as 171 with no FASD diagnosis. Prevalence of being overweight/obese using the measure of BMI was compared to national and state prevalence, and also examined in relation to FASD diagnosis, gender, and age. Dietary intake data were additionally examined for a young sub-sample (n=42).

“We found that overweight and obesity were not necessarily a universal problem for those exposed prenatally to alcohol,” said Wozniak, “but that there were specific patient characteristics that were associated with increased rates. Specifically, we found that those with pFAS were at particularly high risk for obesity and overweight during the adolescent years. We also found that females were at greater risk for obesity/overweight than males during adolescence.”

“This study adds to suggestions that PAE might increase the risk for obesity/overweight as girls reach adolescence,” concurred Smith. “However, there’s a big caveat because the obesity rates were no different from U.S. norms, and were greater only when compared with girls in the geographic region of Minnesota. So there is not enough evidence to say that ‘PAE causes obesity’ and it is critical that we do not take this interpretation.”

Wozniak agreed: “At this point, all we really know is that there is an association between a diagnosis of FASD – especially partial FAS – and obesity/overweight. The link could be a biological one (metabolic/endocrine), a behavioral one (related to eating or exercise patterns), or a combination of the two. On the biological side, a 2012 study showed increased adiposity (fat storage) and pancreatic abnormalities in guinea pigs exposed prenatally to alcohol. On the behavioral side, our group has shown that children with FASD have diets that are insufficient in multiple nutrients, a finding that is consistent with the clinical understanding that many of these children have abnormal eating patterns.”

Smith believes that the metabolic/endocrine link is currently tenuous. “We do have animal studies that suggest PAE may cause problems in glucose handling,” she said. “However, obesity experts know that its causes are complex. Children with PAE face a lot of challenges that can increase obesity risk. For example, some of the most commonly used medications these children need to take will increase their appetite. Many children with FASD find it hard to participate in organized sports, so maybe they get less exercise. Maybe their neurodevelopmental problems mean that these girls worry less about their body image, as compared with typically developing teen-age girls. To that end, my lab has started an animal study to tease out the myriad potential causes of overweight in PAE, and we’re looking at everything from endocrine disruption to eating behavior to medication effects.”

“Parents raising children with FASD should seek help with early eating difficulties such as pickiness or strong preferences for high calorie, nutritionally-deficient foods,” said Wozniak. “Much of the usual advice applies, even though there may be additional challenges because of behavioral problems associated with FASD: young children need many small exposures to new foods before they will incorporate them into their diets; rejected foods should be re-visited repeatedly over time in a non-threatening, non-coercive manner; consistently timed family meals encourage healthy eating; snacking should be minimal and include primarily healthy options; soft drinks should be avoided. Children with FASD have inhibitory difficulties, therefore, portion sizes should be determined by the parent(s). Regular physical activity is essential, especially during adolescence, and children with FASD may not be as inclined toward organized team sports, thus, individual sports may be a good alternative.”

“Obesity/overweight is a significant health problem in children, with or without PAE,” added Smith. “It’s good that this study will remind parents to be alert to this potential problem. If their child does struggle with unhealthy weight, they can work with their treatment providers to identify possible influences. As Jeff mentioned, individualized solutions won’t differ much from best practices.”




Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) is the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Co-authors of the ACER paper, “Overweight and Obesity among Children and Adolescents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders,” were Anita J. Fuglestad and Birgit A. Fink of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota; Christopher J. Boys, Pi-Nian Chang, Bradley S. Miller, Judith K. Eckerle, Lindsay Deling, and Marie K. Hickey of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota; Heather L. Hoecker of Emory University; and Jose M. Jimenez-Vega of the Division of Endocrinology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. This release is supported by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network at


Posted in Alcohol, Obesity | Leave a comment

The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy, Backed By Science

The town of Framingham, Massachusetts, was the focus of a multi-generational study on happiness, known as the Framingham Heart Study. Beginning in 1948, the study has tracked three generations of Framingham residents and their offspring to discover trends in the way that happiness moves among a population. A few of their takeaways:

  • Individual happiness cascades through groups of people, like contagion.
  • The more happy people you add to your life, the greater positive effect it will have on you. (This is not true of sadness.)
  • Geographically close friends (and neighbors) have the greatest effect on happiness.

Below is the chart that summarizes this last point about geographic closeness. Basically, researchers broke down the happiness effect based on a participant’s relationship to others (the so-called “alters” in the chart) and their proximity to one another.

The breakdown:

  1. Nearby mutual friends (literally off the charts, the actual probability percentage is 148 percent)
  2. Next-door neighbor
  3. Nearby friend (a person whom the participant named as a friend but the “friend” did not reciprocate the label)
  4. Nearby alter-perceived friend (a person whom the participant did not name as a friend but who claimed to be friends with the participant)
  5. Nearby sibling
  6. Coresident spouse
  7. Distant sibling
  8. Non-coresident spouse
  9. Same block neighbor
  10. Distant friend

Proximity of nearby mutual friends, according to the study, included those who lived with one mile of each other. Others fall into the “distant friend” category.

Is it possible to have mutual friends that close by? I’d love to hear your experience. Personally, it reminds me of the happiness and fun of dorm life, big-city living, and vacationing with friends.


Posted in Human Behavior: Happiness | 1 Comment

Sleep Drunkenness Disorder May Affect One in Seven

Newswise — MINNEAPOLIS – A study is shining new light on a sleep disorder called “sleep drunkenness”. The disorder may be as prevalent as affecting one in every seven people. The research is published in the August 26, 2014, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Sleep drunkenness disorder involves confusion or inappropriate behavior, such as answering the phone instead of turning off the alarm, during or following arousals from sleep, either during the first part of the night or in the morning. An episode, often triggered by a forced awakening, may even cause violent behavior during sleep or amnesia of the episode.

“These episodes of waking up confused have received considerably less attention than sleepwalking even though the consequences can be just as serious,” said study author Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, DSc, PhD, with Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, CA.

For the study, 19,136 people age 18 and older from the general US population were interviewed about their sleep habits and whether they had experienced any symptoms of the disorder. Participants were also asked about mental illness diagnoses and any medications they took.

The study found that 15 percent of the group had experienced an episode in the last year, with more than half reporting more than one episode per week. In the majority of cases—84 percent—people with sleep drunkenness also had a sleep disorder, a mental health disorder or were taking psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants. Less than 1 percent of the people with sleep drunkenness had no known cause or related condition.

Among those who had an episode, 37.4 percent also had a mental disorder. People with depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, panic or post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety were more likely to experience sleep drunkenness.

The research also found that about 31 percent of people with sleep drunkenness were taking psychotropic medications such as antidepressants. Both long and short sleep times were associated with the sleep disorder. About 20 percent of those getting less than six hours of sleep per night and 15 percent of those getting at least nine hours experienced sleep drunkenness. People with sleep apnea also were more likely to have the disorder.

“These episodes of confused awakening have not gotten much attention, but given that they occur at a high rate in the general population, more research should be done on when they occur and whether they can be treated,” said Ohayon. “People with sleep disorders or mental health issues should also be aware that they may be at greater risk of these episodes.”

The study was supported by the Arrillaga Foundation.

Posted in Sleep, Sleep Apnea | Leave a comment

The risk of young people driving drunk increases if their parents drink

If parents consume alcohol, it is more likely that their children will drive under its influence. This is one of the conclusions of a new study analysing the data of more than 30,000 students and their relationship with drinking and driving. The results have been published in the “Adicciones” journal.

Campaigns of the Spanish General Traffic Directorate warn that drinking and driving are two incompatible activities. However, a high percentage of accidents in Spain continue to occur because the driver has consumed alcohol, as was revealed by the report issued in 2007 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Experts consider the problem to be even more pronounced if the drivers are teenagers. Thus, a new study led by researchers of the University of Zaragoza analyses the socioeconomic factors related to driving under the influence of alcohol in Spanish adolescents between 14 and 18 years of age.

“It is difficult to convince a teenager that they should not drink if they are driving a vehicle,” José Julián Escario Gracia, researcher at the Aragonese institution and lead author of this study, published in the “Adicciones” journal, explained to SINC.

The data, from 30,183 students who participated in the 2008 State Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Schools, showed that 6.7% of students surveyed had driven after drinking alcohol.

“This percentage may seem low, but bearing in mind that the mean age of participants was 15.60 years of age and, therefore, that few had a driving licence, this figure is considerable,” added the researcher.

The work also highlights that if parents consume alcohol, it is more likely that their children will end up driving under the influence, which shows, in Escario’s words, that prevention is also the responsibility of parents, since their behaviour influences their children. This risky behaviour is more common in boys than in girls and also in older adolescents.

We can conclude from the results that information campaigns on the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol work. “Some people have shown their scepticism regarding this matter, but in light of the work carried out, it seems that they do reduce the likelihood of adolescents driving drunk,” the author said.

The expert maintains that, to be successful, these campaigns should focus more on male teenagers, older teenagers and those who do not study at Baccalaureate level, since they are the groups in which driving prevalence is highest. Likewise, if parents were included, better results could be obtained.

Maternal influence on consumption

“The percentage of teenagers who drive under the influence of alcohol is lower amongst those who live with their mothers,” said Escario. “Perhaps the traditional role of the mother, characterised, amongst other features, by caring for their children, has an impact on this result”.

In fact, other authors have found that maternal socialisation is related with low alcohol and tobacco consumption. Information campaigns in schools on the consequences of alcohol and other drugs reduce the likelihood of students driving under their influence.

This relationship was observed to a greater extent in males and young teenagers. “Furthermore, the result that relates being in a boarding school positively with a greater tendency to carry out this risky behaviour is curious,” he said.

Adolescents and risky behaviour

Some previous studies indicate that there is a relationship between early alcohol consumption and the likelihood of suffering an alcohol-related accident at a later stage. In Spain, according to the State Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Schools (ESTUDES 2008), alcohol is the substance most consumed by teenagers.

“Hence, it would seem that, bearing in mind that it is not permitted to legally drive cars in Spain until 18 years of age, the incidence of accidents amongst teenagers due to driving should be low,” according to Escario.

The author suggests that this could be the reason why few studies have analysed this behaviour, even though it is known that it is legal to drive mopeds from 15 years of age (before 2010, from 14 years of age) and motorbikes of 125 cm3 from 16 years of age.


Posted in Alcohol, Drunk Driving, Parenting | Leave a comment

Link between prenatal antidepressant exposure and autism risk is questioned

Previous studies that have suggested an increased risk of autism among children of women who took antidepressants during pregnancy may actually reflect the known increased risk associated with severe maternal depression. In a study receiving advance online publication in Molecular Psychiatry, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report that – while a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder was more common in the children of mothers prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy than in those with no prenatal exposure – when the severity of the mother’s depression was accounted for, that increased risk was no longer statistically significant. An increased risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, persisted even after controlling for factors relating to a mother’s mental health.

“We know that untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it’s important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child’s risk of autism,” says Roy Perlis, MD, MSc, MGH Department of Psychiatry, senior author of the report.

The authors note that, while genetic factors are known to play a substantial role in autism, exactly how that risk may be exacerbated by environmental factors is not well understood. While animal studies and investigations based on health records have suggested an increased risk associated with prenatal antidepressant exposure, others found no such association. And since discontinuing antidepressant treatment significantly increases the risk of relapse – including an increased risk of postpartum depression – the current study was designed to clarify whether or not any increased autism risk could actually be attributed to the medication.

To investigate this possibility, the research team analyzed electronic health record data for children born at MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, or Newton Wellesley Hospital – hospitals belonging to Partners HealthCare System – for whom a diagnostic code for pervasive developmental disorder, a category that includes autism, was entered at least once between 1997 and 2010. They matched data for almost 1,400 such children with that of more than 4,000 controls with no autism diagnoses, born the same years and matched for a variety of demographic factors.

The children’s information was paired with that of their mothers, noting any factors related to the diagnosis and treatment of major depression or other mental illness, including prescriptions for antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. A similar analysis was done for almost 2,250 children with an ADHD diagnosis, compared with more than 5,600 matched controls with no ADHD diagnoses.

While prenatal exposure to antidepressants did increase the risk for either condition, in the autism-focused comparison, adjusting for factors indicating more severe maternal depression reduced the strength of that association to an insignificant level. Taking antidepressants with stronger action in the serotonin pathway, which has been suspected of contributing to a possible autism risk, did not increase the incidence of the disorder. In addition, the children of mothers who took a serotonin-targeting non-antidepressant drug for severe morning sickness had no increased autism incidence. Prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs sometimes used to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression, as well as psychotic disorders, did appear to increase the risk for autism. For ADHD, however, the increased risk associated with prenatal antidepressant exposure remained significant, although reduced, even after adjustment for the severity of maternal depression.

“There are a range of options – medication and non-medication – for treating depression and anxiety in pregnancy,” says Perlis, an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “But if antidepressants are needed, I hope parents can feel reassured about their safety.”


Caitlin Clements of the MGH Department of Psychiatry is lead author of the Molecular Psychiatry paper. Additional coauthors are Sarah Blumenthal, Hannah Rosenfield, Maurizio Fava, MD, Alysa Doyle, PhD, and Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, MGH Psychiatry; Victor Castro , MD, and Shawn Murphy, MD, PhD, Partners Research Computing; Anjali Kaimal, MD, MAS, MGH Obstetrics and Gynecology; Elise Robinson, PhD, MGH Center for Human Genetic Research; Jane Erb, MD, and Isaac Kohane, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Susanne Churchill, PhD, Partners Information Systems. Support for the study includes National Institute of Mental Health grant R01MH086026 and support from the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $785 million and major research centers in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.


Posted in Antidepressants, Autism, Health Care: Medical Errors | Leave a comment

Exposure to toxins may make great granddaughters more susceptible to stress

Scientists have known that toxic effects of substances known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), found in both natural and human-made materials, can pass from one generation to the next, but new research shows that females with ancestral exposure to EDC may show especially adverse reactions to stress.

According to a new study by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University, male and female rats are affected differently by ancestral exposure to a common fungicide, vinclozolin. Female rats whose great grandparents were exposed to vinclozolin become much more vulnerable to stress, becoming more anxious and preferring the company of novel females to familiar females. Males who have the same combination of ancestral exposure and stress do not have the same adverse effects.

“These results should concern us all because we have been exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals for decades and we all go through natural challenges in life,” said David Crews, the Ashbel Smith Professor of Zoology and Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study. “Those challenges are now being perceived differently because of this ancestral exposure to environmental contamination.”

The study was published July 22 online in the journal Endocrinology.

Vinclozolin is a fungicide commonly used by farmers to treat fruits and vegetables.

To test the effects of stress on rats, the researchers confined some of them to soft, warm cylinders for six hours a day for three weeks. This was done during adolescence, a developmentally sensitive time of life for rats, just as for humans. Months later, the researchers tested the brain chemistry, brain function, gene expression and behavior of the rats as adults.

They discovered that for female rats, ancestral exposure to vinclozolin alone or stress during the animal’s adolescence alone had negligible effects on the rats’ hormonal balance and behavior. However, the combination of ancestral exposure and stress caused the female rats to have dramatically higher levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone similar to cortisol in humans), higher expression of genes associated with anxiety and more anxious behaviors. Other research has shown that stress hormones cause degeneration of a region of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Crews said that following exposure to EDCs, what is being passed down from generation to generation is not a change in the genetic code of the animals, but rather a change in the way specific genes are expressed. Gene expression is the process by which a cell uses the genetic code to make useful products such as proteins. If a section of a person’s genetic code were a cookie recipe, gene expression would refer to how many cookies, if any, a cook makes with the recipe. The observation that changes in gene expression can be passed on to future generations has led to a new field of research known as epigenetics.

Crews and others have shown that EDCs can increase the risk in future generations for human illnesses such as autism, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Crews noted that environmental levels of EDCs are continuing to rise, as well as the rates of these diseases, particularly mental disorders.




Crews’ co-authors are Ross Gillette, Isaac Miller-Crews and Andrea Gore of The University of Texas at Austin; and Eric Nilsson and Michael Skinner of Washington State University.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Download the paper “Sexually dimorphic effects of ancestral exposure to vinclozolin on stress reactivity in rats”:


Posted in Environmental Health: EDCs, Environmental Health: Vinclozolin | Leave a comment

New mindfulness coping strategy for the memory impaired and their caregivers

CHICAGO — Mindfulness training for individuals with early-stage dementia and their caregivers together in the same class was beneficial for both groups, easing depression and improving sleep and quality of life, reports new Northwestern Medicine study.

“The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members and caregivers,” said study lead author Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.”

The study will be published August 25 in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are particularly hard on caregivers, who are often close family members. They tend to have an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction and other health concerns as well as an increased mortality rate, according to prior studies.

This is the first study to show that the caregiver and the patient both benefit from undergoing mindfulness training together. This is important because caregivers often don’t have much time on their own for activities that could relieve their emotional burden.

The training also helps the patient and caregiver accept new ways of communicating, scientists said.

“One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities,” noted study co-author Sandra Weintraub, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg and a neuropsychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past. It is a good way to address stress.”

The study included 37 participants including 29 individuals who were part of a patient-caregiver pair. Most of the patients were diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor to dementia. Others had memory loss due to strokes or frontotemporal dementia, which affects emotions as well as speaking and understanding speech. Caregivers included patients’ spouses, adult children, a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law.

Although the individuals with Alzheimer’s had mild to severe memory loss, they still were able to use other cognitive functions to participate in the mindfulness training and to experience emotion and positive feelings, Weintraub noted.

The participants attended eight sessions designed specifically for the needs of patients with memory loss due to the terminal neurodegenerative illness (dementia) and for the needs of their caregivers. Both groups completed an assessment within two weeks of starting the program and within two weeks of completing it.

Paller had expected mindfulness to be helpful for dementia caregivers based on previous research in the field. But he was uncertain whether a program would be successful for patients with memory impairments and whether patients and their caregivers could be trained together.

“We saw lower depression scores and improved ratings on sleep quality and quality of life for both groups,” said Paller, director of the cognitive neuroscience program. “After eight sessions of this training we observed a positive difference in their lives.”

“Mindfulness involves attentive awareness with acceptance for events in the present moment,” Paller said. “You don’t have to be drawn into wishing things were different. Mindfulness training in this way takes advantage of people’s abilities rather than focusing on their difficulties.”

Developing mindfulness is about learning different habits and a person has to practice a new habit for it to stick, Paller noted.

Paller said he hoped the study findings would encourage caregivers to seek out resources for learning mindfulness for themselves and the individuals with illness.






  • Mindfulness training eases depression and improves sleep for affected persons and caregivers
  • Living in the present moment can lead to more joy, less worry
  • Just eight sessions of training made a positive difference
  • Mindfulness works with abilities, rather than focusing on problems 

The paper is titled: “Benefits of Mindfulness Training for Patients With Progressive Cognitive Decline and Their Caregivers.”

Read the study

Other Northwestern authors include Jessica Creery, Susan Florczak, M. Marsel Mesulam, Paul Reber, Jessica Kiragu, Joshua Rooks, Adam Safron, Darby Morhardt, Mary O’Hara, Kathryn Gigler, John Molony and Michael Maslar.

The study was supported by grant P30 AG13854 from the National Institute of Aging/National Institutes of Health, the Retirement Research Foundation, the State of Illinois, and the Mind and Life Institute.


Posted in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia, Elder Care, Mindfulness | Leave a comment