Climate change does not cause extreme winters: ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology

Cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winters are not a consequence of climate change. Scientists at ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology have shown that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability.

Repeated cold snaps led to temperatures far below freezing across the eastern United States in the past two winters. Parts of the Niagara Falls froze, and ice floes formed on Lake Michigan. Such low temperatures had become rare in recent years. Pictures of icy, snow-covered cities made their way around the world, raising the question of whether climate change could be responsible for these extreme events.

It has been argued that the amplified warming of the Arctic relative to lower latitudes in recent decades has weakened the polar jet stream, a strong wind current several kilometres high in the atmosphere driven by temperature differences between the warm tropics and cold polar regions. One hypothesis is that a weaker jet stream may become more wavy, leading to greater fluctuations in temperature in mid-latitudes. Through a wavier jet stream, it has been suggested, amplified Arctic warming may have contributed to the cold snaps that hit the eastern United States.

Temperature range will decrease

Scientists at ETH Zurich and at the California Institute of Technology, led by Tapio Schneider, professor of climate dynamics at ETH Zurich, have come to a different conclusion. They used climate simulations and theoretical arguments to show that in most places, the range of temperature fluctuations will decrease as the climate warms. So not only will cold snaps become rarer simply because the climate is warming. Additionally, their frequency will be reduced because fluctuations about the warming mean temperature also  become smaller, the scientists wrote in the latest issue of the Journal of Climate.

The study’s point of departure was that higher latitudes are indeed warming faster than lower ones, which means that the temperature difference between the equator and the poles is decreasing. Imagine for a moment that this temperature difference no longer exists. This would mean that air masses would have the same temperature, regardless of whether they flow from the south or north. In theory there would no longer be any temperature variability. Such an extreme scenario will not occur, but it illustrates the scientists’ theoretical approach.

Extremes will become rarer

Using a highly simplified climate model, they examined various climate scenarios to verify their theory. It showed that the temperature variability in mid-latitudes indeed decreases as the temperature difference between the poles and the equator diminishes. Climate model simulations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed similar results: as the climate warms, temperature differences in mid-latitudes decrease, and so does temperature variability, especially in winter.

Temperature extremes will therefore become rarer as this variability is reduced. But this does not mean there will be no temperature extremes in the future. “Despite lower temperature variance, there will be more extreme warm periods in the future because the Earth is warming,” says Schneider. The researchers limited their work to temperature trends. Other extreme events, such as storms with heavy rain or snowfall, can still become more common as the climate warms, as other studies have shown.

North-south shift makes the difference

And the jet stream? Schneider shrugs off the idea: “The waviness of the jet stream that makes our day-to-day weather does not change much.” Changes in the north-south difference in temperatures play a greater role in modifying temperature variability.

Schneider wants to explore the implications these results have in further studies. In particular, he wants to pursue the question of whether heatwaves in Europe may become more common because the frequency of blocking highs may increase. And he wants to find why these high pressure systems become stationary and how they change with the climate.

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Prototype robot assistants for firefighters can help guide them through even the thickest smoke

When firefighters need to enter smoke-filled buildings to conduct search or rescue, they frequently suffer from low visibility and often need to feel their way along walls or follow ropes reeled out by the lead firefighter. With a limited supply of oxygen carried by each firefighter, being slowed by the inability to see can severely limit their capacity to carry out duties in these environments. Now researchers from King’s College London and Sheffield Hallam University have developed a prototype robot assistant for firefighters that can help guide them through even the thickest smoke.

Rather than an independent robot firefighter in itself, this device is instead intended to act somewhat like a guide dog where it leads a firefighter into a rescue area, with the firefighter following on behind holding onto the robot’s “reins.” According to the researchers, this allows the firefighter to move rapidly through hazardous, low-visibility conditions, as vibrations transmitted through the reins alert the user about the size and shape of any obstacle in its path.

Apparently it can even provide other information about encountered objects, such as their pliability or stiffness, which may also help the user locate unseen unconscious people.

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Higher risk of early death among those with painful knee osteoarthritis: ARUK Centre of Excellence for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, University of Oxford

Milan, Italy – March 28, 2015 Research looking at risk of early mortality of British middle-aged women and osteoarthritis was presented today at the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. It shows that any painful knee osteoarthritis is strongly associated with early overall and cardiovascular mortality. Interestingly these findings are independent to most of the known risk factors linked with early mortality. The study was based on the data from the Chingford Study. This is community based data from a cohort of middle-aged women followed up for 24 years. It was used to evaluate the effect of knee and hand pain with or without radiographic osteoarthritis on early overall and disease specific mortality.

The researchers’ objective was to compare a group of women with painful knee or hand osteoarthritis to mortality of women without osteoarthritis. Knee and hand symptoms, radiographic changes, majority of known cardiovascular risk factors and overall, cardiovascular, and cancer-related mortality were assessed based on study follow-up in 2014 and data from all available death certificates at this point.

The average follow-up was around 22 years. During that time the women with knee pain and radiographic osteoarthritis had an almost 2-fold increased risk of early overall mortality and over 3-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality, when compared with women without knee pain or radiographic changes. There was no link between hand osteoarthritis and excess mortality risk.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Stefan Kluzek of the ARUK Centre of Excellence for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, University of Oxford, stated, “These findings suggest that any self-reported knee pain in osteoarthritis, as opposed to hand pain, seems to be a crucial factor leading to early cardiovascular mortality and is likely to be linked with decreased mobility. Radiographic osteoarthritis without pain is not affecting long-term mortality. More research is needed to understand how people adapt to knee pain, and how this leads to cardiovascular impairment.”

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Reference

OC12 Painful knee but not hand osteoarthritis predicts excess mortality in a community-based cohort of middle-aged women with 23 years of follow-up
Osteoporosis International, Vol. 26, S 1. 2015

About IOF

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is the world’s largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases. IOF members, including committees of scientific researchers, leading companies, as well as more than 200 patient, medical and research societies, work together to make bone, joint and muscle health a worldwide heath care priority. http://www.iofbonehealth.org / http://www.facebook.com/iofbonehealth / https://twitter.com/iofbonehealth

About ESCEO

The European Society for Clinical & Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) is a non-profit organization, dedicated to a close interaction between clinical scientists dealing with rheumatic disorders, pharmaceutical industry developing new compounds in this field, regulators responsible for the registration of such drugs and health policy makers, to integrate the management of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis within the comprehensive perspective of health resources utilization. The objective of ESCEO is to provide practitioners with the latest clinical and economic information, allowing them to organize their daily practice, in an evidence-based medicine perspective, with a cost-conscious perception. http://www.esceo.org

About the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis & Musculoskeletal Diseases

Held jointly by IOF and ESCEO, the Congress is taking place in Milan, Italy from March 26-29, 2015. It is the world’s largest annual forum for the presentation of clinical research and new advances in the prevention and management of bone, muscle and joint disorders. The next Congress will be held in Malaga, Spain from April 14-17, 2016. For complete information visit http://www.wco-iof-esceo.org #OsteoCongress

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Love the cook, love the food: Attraction to comfort food linked to positive social connections

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A big bowl of mashed potatoes. What about spaghetti and meatballs? Sushi? Regardless of what you identify as comfort food, it’s likely the attraction to that dish is based on having a good relationship with the person you remember first preparing it, according to the results of a new study by a University at Buffalo research team.

The findings have implications for better understanding how social factors influence our food preferences and eating behavior.

“Comfort foods are often the foods that our caregivers gave us when we were children. As long we have positive association with the person who made that food then there’s a good chance that you will be drawn to that food during times of rejection or isolation,” says UB psychologist Shira Gabriel. “It can be understood as straight-up classical conditioning.”

Previous research has shown that comfort food can reduce feelings of rejection and isolation. The latest study published in the journal Appetite suggests why certain foods are attractive when we are feeling down.

“Because comfort food has a social function,” she says, “it is especially appealing to us when we are feeling lonely or rejected. The current study helps us understand why we might be eating comfort foods even when we’re dieting or not particularly hungry,” she says.

Comfort food is defined as food that helps people find comfort. For some of the study participants, comfort food was a healthy food choice, for others, it was starchy and fatty.

“For a lot of people it is the food they grew up eating,” says Gabriel.

“In a previous study, we gave all of the participants chicken noodle soup,” says Gabriel.

“But only those who had a social connection to that soup identified it as a comfort food and felt socially accepted after eating it.”

This research gives insight into a unique method by which people can feel socially connected and safe – through eating comfort foods. Because a threatened sense of belonging is related to mental and physical health risks, the researchers say it’s important to learn how that vulnerability can be managed.

However, this method of filling social needs is not without risks. As Gabriel says, “Although comfort food will never break your heart, it might destroy your diet.”

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Posted in Human Behavior: Relationships, Nutrition: Comfort Food | Leave a comment

Lands’ End Recalls Children’s Pajamas and Robes for Flammability

Recall Summary

Name of product: Children’s Pajamas and Robes

Hazard:

The pajamas and robes fail to meet federal flammability standards for children’s sleepwear, posing a risk of burn injuries to children.

Consumer Contact: Lands’ End toll-free at (800) 300-7487 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT daily or email customercare@landsend.com. Consumers can also visit the firm’s website at www.landsend.com and click on “Recall and Safety Info” for more information, including photos of all styles and colors.

Report an Incident Involving this Product

Recall Details

Units

About 173,000

Description

This recall involves 25 styles of boys, girls and toddler sleep sets, sleepers, pants, nightgowns and robes sold in 100% polyester fleece or knit. The garments were sold in sizes 3 months to 16 (girls) and 20 (boys), and in various colors and patterns. The style number is printed on a tag affixed to the garments’ neck, waist or side seam. Style numbers included in the recall are:

 

Style Number – Description
434255  TODDLER GIRL LONG SLEEVE SOLID FLEECE HOODED ROBE
439935  BOY KNIT SLEEP PANT SET
441286  LITTLE BOY KNIT SLEEP PANT SET
441540  TODDLER BOY KNIT SLEEP PANT SET
444983  TODDLER BOY FLEECE PAJAMA SET
444986  TODDLER BOY FLEECE SLEEP PANT
444991  TODDLER BOY FULL ZIP FLEECE SLEEPER
444999  TODDLER BOY HOOD FLEECE PRINTED ROBE
445595  TODDLER BOY SOLID HOODED FLEECE ROBE
445927  TODDLER GIRL SLEEP FLEECE SET
445930  INFANT LONG SLEEVE FULL-ZIP FLEECE SLEEPER
445933  TODDLER GIRL PRINT HOODED FLEECE ROBE
447284  BOY FLEECE OPEN BTM PAJAMA SET
447285  BOY FLEECE SLEEP PANT
447286  BOY FULL ZIP FLEECE SLEEPER
447287  BOY PRINT HOODED FLEECE ROBE
447288  BOY SOLID HOODED FLEECE ROBE
447352  GIRL LONG SLEEVE FLEECE SHIRRED GOWN
447353  GIRL LONG SLEEVE FULL-ZIP FLEECE SLEEPER
447354  GIRL LONG SLEEVE PRINT HOODED FLEECE ROBE
447357 GIRL KNIT SLEEP TOP
447359  GIRL LONG SLEEVE SOLID FLEECE HOODED ROBE
447361  GIRL SLEEP FLEECE PANT
447362  GIRL SLEEP FLEECE SET
448521  TODDLER GIRL LONG SLEEVE FLEECE GOWN
Incidents/Injuries

None reported.

Remedy

Consumers should immediately take the recalled sleepwear away from children and return it to Lands’ End for a full refund. Lands’ End is notifying all known consumers and will provide a prepaid mailing label. Consumers who return the recalled garments will receive a $15 Lands’ End gift card.

Sold exclusively at

Landsend.com and Lands’ End kid’s catalogs from January 2014 through February 2015 for between $19 and $35.

Importer(s)

Lands’ End Inc., of Dodgeville, Wis.

Manufactured in

China

Posted in Pediatric Health: Injuries | Leave a comment

Superfood Newbie: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

‘Extra virgin’ is a concept most of us associate with olive oil, almost instantly. EVOO has held a celebrated spot in the kitchens for many years, with its incredible properties and health benefits being raved about far and beyond. Joining this exclusive category in recent times is the tropics’ very own coconut as extra virgin coconut oil.

So what’s this buzz about extra virgin oils or is it another food fad? While the marketing driven world debates about this case in point, several households along the coastal lines of tropical countries have been making fresh, simple hand pressed coconut oil for centuries and extensively using it in cooking.  The pure oil has a sweet, nutty flavour with a lingering note similar to vanilla, which lends richness to various preparations.

The good virgin

While EVCO is meandering its way into the superfood status, the notorious records of the past had sprung from studies related to saturated fat and the refined variant, which is extensively treated with chemicals thereby stripping the oil of all its goodness. The partially hydrogenated oil, which is bleached and deodourised, has high levels of trans-fat that increases cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This was the reason why it was stamped as ‘worst than butter.’ According to an article in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, most studies claiming the dangers of coconut oil had used hydrogenated varieties.

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Posted in Health Care: Trends, Nutrition: Food: Coconut | Leave a comment

7 life events that can lead to divorce

We asked Elizabeth Ochoa, PhD, marriage counselor and chief psychologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, to weigh in on life events that can sometimes lead to divorce—and how to protect your relationship from their harmful effects.

Illness – When one spouse develops a serious or chronic health condition, it can change the entire dynamic of a relationship. “Illnesses create debt and pain and loss of self,” Ochoa said. “It can mean one partner isn’t able to maintain his or her part of the deal, which requires the other partner to step it up. Some couples will be better at dealing with that than others.”

Which spouse gets sick may have an affect on a couple’s future, as well. A recent study from Iowa State University found that divorce rates were 6 percent higher among relationships in which wives had an illness such as cancer, heart disease, or lung disease. Divorce rates didn’t increase when husbands were in poor health.

“Anecdotally, it might be harder for men to take on a caring role if the wife is unable to perform a lot of responsibilities that she’d normally do,” Ochoa said. “But I think it depends on how the tasks of the marriage were divided up between spouses. If the husband is the one who stays home and runs the household, it might be an easier adjustment.”

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Boys cheat more than girls in school

Research by the University of the Balearic Islands has analysed the phenomenon of academic plagiarism among secondary school students. The study, published in the journal ‘Comunicar’, confirms that this practice is widespread in secondary education, especially among the boys. Also, those who leave tasks to the last minute are the ones with a greater tendency to copy.

The subject of plagiarism at pre-university levels has been little studied and hardly dealt with in its Spanish-speaking context. For this reason, a team of scientists from the University of the Balearic Islands has investigated this activity amongst secondary school pupils, and its relationship with gender and procrastination (postponing tasks for later).

The scientists surveyed 1,503 pupils in their second, third and fourth year of secondary school and 1,291 staying on for their first and second year of their Baccalaureate on the Balearic Islands. The results show that practices constituting plagiarism are widespread in secondary school classrooms.

The study, published in ‘Comunicar’, also shows that the boys tend to commit plagiarism significantly more than the girls and that the pupils that tend to leave work until the last minute have a higher propensity to plagiarise.

“The common practices are known as ‘collage plagiarism’, or rather, creating work by copying odd fragments of text, either from digital or printed sources and including them in an academic piece without referencing them,” as Rubén Comas-Forgas, researcher at the University of the Balearic Islands and co-author of the work, explains to SINC.

A total of 81.3% of pupils declared to have copied fragments of texts from websites that they pasted directly into a document and handed in as work for a subject without referencing the source at least once during the previous academic year.

Similarly, 72.5% admitted to having copied (without referencing) fragments of printed sources (books, encyclopaedias, newspapers, magazine articles, etc.) and having added them as part of their work for a subject.

Other less common actions were: downloading the full piece of work from the internet and handing it in as their own, or presenting work already handed in by other pupils in previous years.

According to Comas-Forgas, “the secondary education centres must plan for and tackle this with decisive measures to reduce and prevent this type of academic fraud”.

The close relationship between procrastination and fraud

The results also recommend that teachers monitor and effectively control the process for creating academic work. “The improvement of pupils’ abilities to source information is one of the necessary strategies to effectively confront the problem,” adds the researcher.

For the authors, the fact that (as reflected by the data confirmed in this work) there is a marked relationship between plagiarism and procrastination or postponement is worth highlighting.

“The explanation can be this simple: pupils who have the greatest tendency to leave tasks until the last minute do not have time to do the activity set by the teacher themselves and the only way that they can do the work is by plagiarising in some way,” Comas-Forgas points out.

A ‘practice range’ for corruption

Teachers who set work and do not monitor its progress in any way “fuel the chance that their students leave the task to the last minute,” argues the expert.

For this reason, the team recommends breaking the work up and carrying out regular checks on the tasks, monitoring the process and not simply waiting for the outcome.

The study proposes the need to include academic integrity values in the educational centres, both as regulations and in adopting teaching methodologies adapted to information technology.

“We have to teach the pupils how to use the information effectively and ethically. Fraud in education is the main type of non-violent or white-collar antisocial academic behaviour. Not only that, but it is also the key practice range for fraud and corruption, as indicated in a pioneering study on the topic by teacher Juan Manuel Moreno in 2001,” he concludes.

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Posted in Human Behavior: Cheating, Human Behavior: Ethics, Human Behavior: Gender Differences | Leave a comment

High chronic sucrose intake accelerated sarcopenia in older male rats

Chronic Intake of Sucrose Accelerates Sarcopenia in Older Male Rats through Alterations in Insulin Sensitivity and Muscle Protein Synthesis 1,2,3

Eva Gatineau4,5,
Isabelle Savary-Auzeloux4,5,
Carole Migné4,5,
Sergio Polakof4,5,
Dominique Dardevet4,5, and
Laurent Mosoni4,5,*

J. Nutr. March 25, 2015 jn205583

- Author Affiliations

4National Institute of Agronomic Research, Joint Research Unit 1019 for Human Nutrition, Saint Genès Champanelle, France; and
5Clermont 1 University, Research and Training Unit Medicine, Joint Research Unit 1019 for Human Nutrition, Clermont-Ferrand, France

↵*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: laurent.mosoni@clermont.inra.fr.

Abstract

Background: Today, high chronic intake of added sugars is frequent, which leads to inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. These 3 factors could reduce meal-induced stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and thus aggravate the age-related loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia).

Objective: Our aim was to determine if added sugars could accelerate sarcopenia and assess the capacity of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents to prevent this.

Methods: For 5 mo, 16-mo-old male rats were starch fed (13% sucrose and 49% wheat starch diet) or sucrose fed (62% sucrose and 0% wheat starch diet) with or without rutin (5-g/kg diet), vitamin E (4 times), vitamin A (2 times), vitamin D (5 times), selenium (10 times), and zinc (+44%) (R) supplementation. We measured the evolution of body composition and inflammation, plasma insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) concentration and total antioxidant status, insulin sensitivity (oral-glucose-tolerance test), muscle weight, superoxide dismutase activity, glutathione concentration, and in vivo protein synthesis rates.

Results: Sucrose-fed rats lost significantly more lean body mass (−8.1% vs. −5.4%, respectively) and retained more fat mass (+0.2% vs. −33%, respectively) than starch-fed rats. Final muscle mass was 11% higher in starch-fed rats than in sucrose-fed rats. Sucrose had little effect on inflammation, oxidative stress, and plasma IGF-I concentration but reduced the insulin sensitivity index (divided by 2). Meal-induced stimulation of muscle protein synthesis was significantly lower in sucrose-fed rats (+7.3%) than in starch-fed rats (+22%). R supplementation slightly but significantly reduced oxidative stress and increased muscle protein concentration (+4%) but did not restore postprandial stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.

Conclusions: High chronic sucrose intake accelerated sarcopenia in older male rats through an alteration of postprandial stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. This effect could be explained by a decrease of insulin sensitivity rather than by changes in plasma IGF-I, inflammation, and/or oxidative stress.

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Exactly how much alcohol it takes to cause liver cancer: new study

It turns out three drinks a day is the tipping point — but drinking coffee might actually protect people from the disease that accounts for about 746,000 deaths in the world each year.

That’s according to the World Cancer Research Fund International, which on Wednesday released an analysis of global studies on the probable causes of and preventions for liver cancer.

Dr. Anne McTiernan, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is among the group of scientists who considered nearly three dozen studies from around the world. The studies included 8.2 million adults and analyzed 24,500 cases of liver cancer.

“The finding provides the clearest indication to date of how many drinks actually cause liver cancer,” McTiernan’s group said in a statement.

The panel found strong evidence that consuming more that 45 grams a day of alcohol — about three drinks — is a “convincing cause” of liver cancer. Drinking at least a cup of coffee a day decreased the risk, the panel found.

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Age-specific brain changes in autism: University of Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 26, 2015) – The field of autism research has tried to find a central theory underlying brain changes associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Now, a new study shows that individuals with the disorder exhibit different patterns of brain connectivity, when compared to typically developing (TD) individuals and that these patterns adjust as the individual ages.

“Our findings suggest that developmental stage must be taken into account to accurately build models that show how the brains of individuals with autism differ from neurotypical individuals,” said Lucina Uddin, assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Miami (UM) College of Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of the study. “We believe that taking a developmental approach to examining brain connectivity in autism is critical for predicting response to treatment in young children with ASD.”

Our brain is composed of more than one trillion cells called neurons. They interact with one another to form complex signaling networks. Previous studies have identified patterns of both functional hypo- and hyper-connectivity of these signaling networks in individuals with ASD. The current study, titled “Developmental Changes in Large-Scale Network Connectivity in Autism,” attempts to explain these conflicting results, by indicating that the developmental stage of the individual plays a key role in the findings. The study is published in the journal NeuroImage Clinical.

Key findings of the study include:

  • Children (7 to 11) with ASD, exhibit hyper-connectivity within large-scale brain networks, as well as decreased between-network connectivity, when compared to TD children.
  • Adolescents (age 11 to 18) with ASD do not differ in within network connectivity, but have a decrease in between network connectivity, from TD adolescents.
  • Adults (older than 18) with ASD show neither within, or between-network differences in functional connectivity compared with typical adults.

The findings suggest that alterations in the networks of the brain’s cortex may trigger the complex behavioral characteristics observed in individuals with ASD.

“This study helps us understand the functional organization of brain networks and how they change across the lifespan in autism,” said Jason S. Nomi, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at UM and lead author of the study.

The researchers are currently working to explicitly characterize an important developmental transition in individuals with autism: the onset of puberty.

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Thin air, high altitudes may cause depression in females: University of Utah Health Sciences

(SALT LAKE CITY) — In a novel study, University of Utah (U of U) researchers have shown that hypobaric hypoxia (the reduced oxygen experienced at high altitude) can lead to depression.

In the March 2015 edition of High Altitude Medicine and Biology online, the U of U researchers and a colleague from Tufts University show that female rats exposed to high-altitude conditions, both simulated and real, exhibit increased depression-like behavior. Male rats, interestingly, showed no signs of depression in the same conditions.

“The significance of this animal study is that it can isolate hypoxia as a distinct risk factor for depression in those living at altitude (hypobaric hypoxia) or with other chronic hypoxic conditions such as COPD, asthma or smoking, independent of other risk factors,” says Shami Kanekar, Ph.D., research assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author on the study.

The researchers housed rats for a week at simulated altitudes of sea level, 10,000 feet and 20,000 feet using altitude chambers, and at local conditions of 4,500 feet, the elevation of Salt Lake City where the research took place. They then used a widely accepted behavioral test in which depression is gauged by how much persistence rodents demonstrate in a swim test. “In female rats, increasing altitude of housing from sea level to 20,000 feet caused a parallel increase in depression-like behavior,” Kanekar says.

The correlation between altitude and high rates of depression and suicide is strikingly obvious in the Intermountain West region of the United States where elevations are considerably higher than in the rest of the country. In 2012, the eight states that comprise the Intermountain West-Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico-had suicide rates exceeding 18 per 100,000 people compared with the national average of 12.5 per 100,000, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The high rates of self-inflicted death in the West have earned the region a gloomy moniker: the Suicide Belt.

Several studies, including work by Perry F. Renshaw, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., USTAR professor of psychiatry at the U of U and senior author on this latest study, suggest altitude is an independent risk factor for suicide, and further that depression rates also increase with altitude and may contribute to the increased suicide risk.

Because rats are not subject to the same psychological and societal pressures as people, the current study bolsters the argument that physiological changes triggered by hypobaric hypoxia (the low oxygen at high altitude) can contribute to depression. What these changes are, and whether they also occur in people, will be the subject of future studies.

“There are many potential risk factors that contribute to depression and suicide at altitude, and we are not discounting any of these other factors at all,” says Renshaw. Several such factors that are prevalent in the Intermountain West include poverty, rural residence, low population density, gun ownership and psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disease. “But this new study shows that one factor inherent to living at altitude-hypobaric hypoxia-can cause depression. Hypobaric hypoxia thus clearly is linked to the high depression rates in regions of altitude, and this factor may need to be addressed.”

According to Renshaw, a potential cause for depression at altitude might be found in low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is thought to contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. Hypoxia impairs an enzyme involved in synthesis of serotonin, likely resulting in lower levels of serotonin that could lead to depression. In addition, Renshaw’s group has shown that brain cellular metabolism can be damaged by hypoxia in rats as well as in humans.

This deficit in brain function may contribute to what Renshaw calls “The Utah Paradox”. Despite having the highest use of antidepressants in the country, Utah also has the highest Depression Index, as defined by a National Mental Health Survey in 2007. Animal studies imply that SSRIs such as Prozac® may not work when brain serotonin levels are low. In current studies, Kanekar and Renshaw are therefore evaluating the effectiveness of currently available antidepressants in hypobaric hypoxia, with a major focus on SSRIs, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the United States. Future studies involve exploring novel therapeutic options for hypoxia-related depression.

“The fact that both depression and suicide rates increase with altitude implies that current antidepressant treatments are not adequate for those suffering from depression at altitude, leading to high levels of unresolved depression that can contribute to higher levels of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts,” says Kanekar.

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With diabetic nerve damage, walking can pose fall risk: Diabetes Care

(Reuters Health) – Diabetics with nerve damage are more likely to have an uneven stride and struggle to maintain their balance even when walking on flat ground, a small study finds.

So-called peripheral neuropathy, or diabetic nerve damage, can lead to numbness and pain in the feet, legs and hands. It is the most common complication of diabetes, and though it has long been linked to an increased risk of falls, less is known about how specific body movements contribute to balance problems during daily activities such as walking or climbing stairs.

“By investigating the activities during which falls are more likely to occur, we can look to identify specific detriments of the underlying balance mechanisms, allowing a more targeted and educated approach to preventing falls within this population in the future,” lead author Steven Brown, of Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, said in an email interview.

About one in nine adults has diabetes, and the disease will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.

Most of these people have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and advanced age and happens when the body can’t properly use or make enough of the hormone insulin to convert blood sugar into energy.

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Posted in Balance, Diabetes, Elder Care: Falls, Neuropathy | Leave a comment