Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

(Reuters Health) - Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study. “These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.


Posted in Elder Care, Elder Care: Falls, Heart Health: Arrhythmia | Leave a comment

Why women must be picky about with whom they work to survive in movie industry

WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2015 — Actresses need to be pickier than men about with whom they work if they want to survive in the movie industry, suggests a new study.

“My research indicates that women in the film industry suffer a lack of access to future career opportunities when they tend to work with people who have collaborated frequently in the past,” said Mark Lutter, lead author of the study and head of the “Transnational Diffusion of Innovation” Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG) in Germany.

Titled, “Do Women Suffer from Network Closure? The Moderating Effect of Social Capital on Gender Inequality in a Project-Based Labor Market, 1929 to 2010,” the study will appear in the April print issue of the American Sociological Review and was published online today.

For the purposes of his study, Lutter analyzed the career data, including more than a million performances in almost 400,000 movies, of about 100,000 actors and actresses in the American film industry. The data originated from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), which contains details on all films produced since the advent of cinematography, as well as information on all of the actors and actresses involved and the networks within which they operated — in other words, with whom they worked.

Lutter found that when actresses work more often with less connected, more diverse groups featuring people from different social and cultural backgrounds, their career prospects become indistinguishable from those of actors.

“The career opportunities for actresses are more likely to dwindle if they work in homogeneous teams,” Lutter said.

If the groups they tend to work with also feature a large proportion of men in senior positions — directors and producers, for instance — or if the actresses work in male-dominated film genres, the risk of career decline is even greater. The effect is further amplified for actresses still in the early stages of their careers.

“I suspect that women suffer when they are frequently part of homogeneous teams because they might enjoy a much lower degree of active support from mentors than men, and their professional friendship networks might also give them access to fewer contacts in positions of power,” Lutter said. “This would mean that they are likely excluded from important sources of information about future projects.”

This is particularly problematic in project-based labor markets, such the film industry, in which jobs tend to be obtained through informal channels and personal networks.

“So rather than relying on close circles and personal friendships, women should focus on developing diverse networks of relationships outside their own circle,” Lutter said. “By and large, they should take a more strategic, considered approach to their decisions concerning future projects if they want their careers to benefit.”

While the study focuses on the film industry, the findings have implications for people in other industries as well.

“In this day and age, work very often takes place in project teams, the film industry being a prime example,” Lutter said. “Those involved in filmmaking move along from project to project — working together for a limited period of time and then going their separate ways — like many freelancers in the creative professions, but also not unlike many people working for larger corporations. My research highlights strategies women can use to increase their visibility in these job markets, as well as steps employers interested in advancing women’s careers can take when creating project teams.”


About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review

The American Sociological Association , founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA’s flagship journal.


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

Teen cannabis users have poor long-term memory in adulthood

CHICAGO — Teens who were heavy marijuana users - smoking it daily for about three years — had an abnormally shaped hippocampus and performed poorly on long-term memory tasks, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

The hippocampus is important to long-term memory (also known as episodic memory), which is the ability to remember autobiographical or life events. The brain abnormalities and memory problems were observed during the individuals’ early twenties, two years after they stopped smoking marijuana.

Young adults who abused cannabis as teens performed about 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused cannabis.

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,” said senior author Dr. John Csernansky, the Lizzie Gilman professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The study will be published March 12 in the journal Hippocampus.


  • Study links oddly shaped hippocampus to poor long-term memory in former marijuana users
  • The longer teens used cannabis, the more abnormal the hippocampus as adults
  • Former users perform 18 percent worse on long-term memory test
  • Cannabis affects short and long-term memory


The study is among the first to say the hippocampus is shaped differently in heavy marijuana smokers and the different looking shape is directly related to poor long-term memory performance. Previous studies of cannabis users have shown either the oddly shaped hippocampus or poor long-term memory but none have linked them.

Previous research by the same Northwestern team showed poor short-term and working memory performance and abnormal shapes of brain structures in the sub-cortex including the striatum, globus pallidus and thalamus.

“Both our recent studies link the chronic use of marijuana during adolescence to these differences in the shape of brain regions that are critical to memory and that appear to last for at least a few years after people stop using it,” said lead study author Matthew Smith, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

The longer the individuals were chronically using marijuana, the more abnormal the shape of their hippocampus, the study reports. The findings suggest that these regions related to memory may be more susceptible to the effects of the drug the longer the abuse occurs.

The abnormal shape likely reflects damage to the hippocampus and could include the structure’s neurons, axons or their supportive environments.

“Advanced brain mapping tools allowed us to examine detailed and sometimes subtle changes in small brain structures, including the hippocampus,” said Lei Wang, also a senior study author and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg. The scientists used computerized programs they developed with collaborators that performed fine mappings between structural MRIs of different individuals’ brains.

Subjects took a narrative memory test in which they listened to a series of stories for about one minute, then were asked to recall as much content as possible 20 to 30 minutes later. The test assessed their ability to encode, store, and recall details from the stories.

The groups in the study started using marijuana daily between 16 to 17 years of age for about three years. At the time of the study, they had been marijuana free for about two years. A total of 97 subjects participated, including matched groups of healthy controls, subjects with a marijuana use disorder, schizophrenia subjects with no history of substance use disorders, and schizophrenia subjects with a marijuana use disorder. The subjects who used marijuana did not abuse other drugs.

The study also found that young adults with schizophrenia who abused cannabis as teens performed about 26 percent more poorly on memory tests than young adults with schizophrenia who never abused cannabis.

In the U.S., marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, and young adults have the highest — and growing — prevalence of use. Decriminalization of the drug may lead to greater use. Four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 23 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized it for medical use.

Because the study results examined one point in time, a longitudinal study is needed to definitively show if marijuana is responsible for the observed differences in the brain and memory impairment, Smith said.

“It is possible that the abnormal brain structures reveal a pre-existing vulnerability to marijuana abuse,” Smith said. “But evidence that the longer the participants were abusing marijuana, the greater the differences in hippocampus shape suggests marijuana may be the cause.”


Other Northwestern authors include senior author Hans C. Breiter and coauthors Derin J. Cobia, James L. Reilly, Andrea G. Roberts and Kathryn I. Alpert.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, grants R01 MH056584 and P50 MH071616.

Posted in Cannabis, Human Behavior: Memory | Leave a comment

1 in 6 college students misuse ADHD stimulant drugs

Getting into trouble with drugs is one way to derail a promising future, and a lot more than traffickers in hard narcotics are engaging in risky behavior on university campuses. A recent literature review published by researchers at the University of South Carolina shows that one in six college students misuse common stimulant medications prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given that Ritalin, Adderall and their ilk are Schedule II controlled substances — the same as cocaine and methamphetamine — a lot of young adults are flirting with potentially serious legal jeopardy.

Senior psychology major Kari Benson has seen that firsthand with fellow students. As a sophomore, she had started working with associate professor Kate Flory in the University of South Carolina’s Parenting and Family Research Center, studying social impairment in children with ADHD.

Friends would ask her what she was up to, and once word got around that she was doing ADHD research, a few acquaintances that didn’t know her very well started making requests.

“People would ask me if I could get them Adderall or Ritalin,” Benson says. “I realized that this was a pretty prevalent issue on campus, and I wanted to see what I could do about it.”

She set out to analyze collegiate misuse of stimulant ADHD drugs, earning a grant as a Magellan Scholar from the Office of Undergraduate Research to help put together a survey of Carolina students. To familiarize herself with previous work in the area, she prepared a literature review that Flory thought merited publication, particularly because it highlighted how much uncertainty there was in the field.

“If you looked at individual studies, the rates of college student misuse were all over the place,” says Flory. “They ranged from 2 percent to 43 percent. So when we submitted this for publication, the journal was really interested in us doing a meta-review of all the existing studies.”

That involved standardizing and pooling data from 30 articles, which Benson and Flory did in collaboration with Kathryn Humphreys of the Tulane University School of Medicine and Steve Lee of UCLA. They recently published their results in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.

Because the meta-analysis comprises a much larger sample size than any individual study, it provides greater statistical certainty in conclusions. One result is the finding that 17 percent of college students misuse stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD. Misuse includes taking more than prescribed or taking the medication without a prescription.

College students misuse the drugs primarily because they think they bolster academic performance, although there is no study showing stimulant medication does so, Flory says. In fact, the meta-analysis suggested the opposite may be true, correlating poor academic performance with stimulant misuse.

Recreational use of the drugs, such as taking them with alcohol to prolong the amount of time a student can party, is less prevalent but extremely dangerous. “It makes it possible to drink beyond the normal limit,” Benson says. “So instead of passing out drunk, you might end up in the hospital having to get your stomach pumped.”

The review also concluded that the most common source of stimulant drugs was among friends, meaning there’s an informal network of students sharing Schedule II controlled substances on most college campuses. Each individual in the network carries legal risks not just for possession and trafficking, but also potentially for the consequences of someone else’s highly hazardous — and possibly fatal — recreational abuse of the drugs.

Benson and Flory are using the meta-analysis and the results of their student survey, which involves more than a thousand Carolina students, to examine specific characteristics that are associated with misuse of the drugs. They hope that will help identify students for intervention programs on college campuses.

“That’s something we’re hoping to do here,” says Flory. “We have a substance abuse prevention and education office, and they have a group that’s focused on prescription medications. We’ve pulled together an interdisciplinary group of researchers here at USC to apply for a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which would enable us to actually do an intervention on campus.”


Posted in ADHD, Drug Addiction | Leave a comment

How changes in body weight affect the human metabolism

Until now there have been few molecular epidemiological studies regarding the effects of weight changes on metabolism in the general population. In a recent study conducted and funded within the framework of the Competence Network Obesity, researchers at the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) evaluated molecular data of the KORA study*. “Techniques such as metabolomics and transcriptomics allow the simultaneous determination of a variety of low molecular weight metabolites or gene activities (transcripts of genes) using high-throughput methods,” said Simone Wahl and Susanne Vogt, doctoral students at the Institute of Epidemiology II of HMGU. They found that various metabolic pathways are associated with changes in weight. These include the metabolism of lipoproteins such as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). Furthermore, the association of a group of gene transcripts with weight change suggests that weight change also has an effect on red blood cell development

Innovative approach provides new insights

“Through our experimental approach, which involves both metabolomics and transcriptomics data, we have gained insights into the molecular mechanisms that are affected by weight gain,” said Dr. Barbara Thorand, who heads the research group “Diabetes Epidemiology” at the Institute of Epidemiology II. Thus, the researchers were able to establish associations between weight gain and changes in lipid and amino acid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial functioning and the development and function of blood cells at the molecular level. “The chosen evaluation strategy is a promising approach to better elucidate the relevant molecular relationships and to understand how weight changes affect metabolism and contribute to the development of certain diseases,” added Dr. Harald Grallert, head of the research group “Diabetes and Related Traits” of the Department of Molecular Epidemiology (AME) at the Institute of Epidemiology II.


Further Information

Original publikation: Wahl, S. et al. (2015). Multi-omic signature of body weight change: results from a population-based cohort study. BMC Medicine 2015, doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0282-y


Posted in Metabolic Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Metabolism | Leave a comment

Depression alters time perception

Psychologists at Mainz University have documented the differences in the way that depressed individuals subjectively assess the flow of time and evaluate the duration of specific time intervals.

Time perception is highly subjective and usually depends on the relevant situation so that, for instance, your sense of how fast or slow time is passing can be influenced by whether you are waiting for something or if a deadline is approaching.

Patients suffering from depression appear to experience time differently than healthy individuals. Statements made by corresponding patients indicate that for them time seems to pass extremely slowly or even stands still. Psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have collated relevant studies on the subject to analyze them in a so-called meta-study. What they found was that, in comparison with healthy individuals, depressed individuals actually do have a subjective feeling that time is passing more slowly. However, when asked to judge the duration of a specific time interval, such as two seconds or two minutes, their estimates are just as accurate as those of healthy subjects.

Sven Thönes and Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel of the Institute of Psychology at Mainz University looked at the results from 16 individual studies in which 433 depressed subjects and 485 non-depressed control subjects participated. “Psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and private practices repeatedly report that depressed patients feel that time only creeps forward slowly or is passing in slow motion,” reported Oberfeld-Twistel. “The results of our analysis confirm that this is indeed the case.” Initial scientific surveys on the subject were performed as early as the 1940s. The earliest study analyzed by the Mainz-based psychologists dates from 1977.

In the second part of their meta-analysis, Thönes and Oberfeld-Twistel examined subjective estimates of how long events last. In these studies, the subjects were asked, for example, to estimate the duration of a movie in minutes, press a button for five seconds, or discriminate the duration of two sounds. The results obtained for the depressed subjects were exactly the same as those for the healthy ones without any relevant statistical difference. “We found strong indicators that in depressed individuals the subjective feeling of the passage of time differs from the ability to assess the actual duration of external events,” concluded Oberfeld-Twistel, summarizing the findings.

Thönes and Oberfeld-Twistel identified several aspects of the relation between depression and time perception that have not yet been investigated adequately. Little is actually known about the effects of antidepressants and psychotherapy, or how patients with bipolar disorders compared to non-bipolar depression assess the passing of time. In the view of the authors of the meta-study, future studies in the field need to clearly differentiate between the subjective perception of the passage of time and the ability to estimate the length of precisely defined time intervals.


Posted in Human Behavior: Perception, Mental Health: Depression | Leave a comment

Understanding plants’ immune systems could lead to better tomatoes, roses, rice

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Spring is just around the corner and for millions of Americans, that means planting a garden with plenty of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes. However, some of the plants will be infected by bacteria, leading to stunted growth and less nutritional value. Now, a University of Missouri research team has uncovered new regulations of defense pathways for plants. This discovery could lead to helping those home-grown tomatoes fight off certain bacteria better and has implications for pear trees, roses, soybeans and rice.

“Each year, millions of dollars are lost from damage to crops and ornamental plants caused by pathogens, which include a bacteria known as Pseudomonas Syringae,” said Antje Heese, assistant professor of biochemistry at MU. “This bacteria directly affects tomatoes and causes speck disease that permanently damages the fruit and leaves. In our study, we used Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant that has the same immune response as tomatoes but grows at a faster rate, to study the immune responses of plants.”

Previously, researchers thought that a plant defended itself against bacteria by activating a specific, several-step process. However, Heese’s team found that if the plant is exposed to bacteria, it actually activates its immune system using three separate mechanisms.

Heese and her research team, including MU graduate student John M. Smith, confirmed that each mechanism responding to the infection is doing so independently of the other two mechanisms, and that each of these mechanisms must have the right amount of specific proteins, called immune receptors, in the right place to respond appropriately. Having the right combination provides the plant with an effective and efficient immune response. This discovery could allow future scientists to create new strategies to help plants fight disease and lead to better crops.

“Like any living organism, plants have limited resources and they have to use those resources effectively,” Heese said. “If the plant makes too much of the proteins responsible for these mechanisms, they will suffer in other areas, such as creating quality fruit. This same discovery can be applied to many crops, including rice and soybeans, and ornamental plants, including roses, pear and apple trees. The information discovered in this study gives scientists something new to study in plants, with the eventual goal of better crops and ornamental plants.”


The study, “Loss of Arabidopsis thaliana Dynamin-Related Protein 2B Reveals Separation of Innate Immune Signaling Pathways,” was published PLOS Pathogens. Sebastian Bednarek, professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MU assistant professors Abe Koo and Peter Cornish contributed to this research. The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (No. 1147032 and No. 0446157) and the University of Missouri.


Posted in Gardening, Immune System | Leave a comment

Homeopathy not effective: new research

Medical experts in Australia have concluded that an alternative form of medicine called homeopathy doesn’t have enough evidence to support its effectiveness. The idea behind homeopathy is that substances that can make a healthy person sick can also, in some cases, treat a person who is ill. For example, if a healthy person gets burning or watery eyes from cutting an onion, the idea is that a person with a cold who has those same symptoms could benefit from a very tiny dose of an onion remedy.

But in a review of 225 studies on homeopathy, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia concluded that there’s no high-quality scientific evidence to support the use of the practice. “Although some studies did report that homeopathy was effective, the quality of those studies was assessed as being small and/or of poor quality,” the NHMRC said in a statement. “These studies had either too few participants, poor design, poor conduct and or reporting to allow reliable conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of homeopathy.”


Posted in Alternative Medicine, Elder Care, Environmental Health: Indoor Pollution, Homeopathy, Nursing Homes | 1 Comment

Babies’ body mass index may predict childhood obesity

Body mass index (BMI) during infancy may help to predict if a child will be obese by age four. In a study focused on the infant BMI-childhood obesity relationship in a cohort with a majority of African-American children, researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) say that a better understanding of infant growth patterns may lead to more effective early efforts at obesity prevention.

“Given the public health importance of obesity-related medical problems, we investigated whether BMI in infants could be used as a tool to identify children at increased risk of future obesity, in order to develop better prevention strategies,” said study leader Shana E. McCormack, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at CHOP. “We also analyzed ancestry-based differences in growth patterns, and found differences that were apparent at as early as nine months of age were ultimately related to childhood obesity risk.”

McCormack, first author Sani M. Roy, M.D., a pediatric endocrinology fellow at CHOP, and colleagues published their study online Jan. 30 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

As a measure that includes both weight and height, BMI is an approximation of body fat content. BMI increases after birth, reaching its peak in infancy, usually between eight and nine months of age. The current study analyzed the electronic health records of 2,114 healthy Philadelphia-area infants, as part of a larger study conducted by CHOP’s Center for Applied Genomics. Sixty-one percent of the children in the study cohort were African-American, a population that, according to national estimates, has high rates of obesity and diabetes in adulthood. Investigators hope that more reliable, early identification of all infants at increased risk for obesity will offer a unique opportunity to develop and implement targeted interventions.

The research team identified significantly different growth trajectories between African-American infants and white infants. Peak infant BMI occurred around 12 days earlier in African-American children, and was about 3 percent higher in magnitude than others in the study, who were primarily of European ancestry. Overall, African-American infants appeared to have more than twice the risk of obesity at age four compared to infants of primarily European ancestry.

However, the study team performed statistical analyses to distinguish the effects of ancestry and infancy BMI, while also accounting for other factors such as birth weight and socioeconomic status. Their conclusion was that infancy BMI played a more important role than ancestry in determining the risk of childhood obesity. In addition, socioeconomic factors, inferred from geographic and insurance data, played a role in infancy BMI. Higher rates of poverty, for instance, were associated with higher and earlier peak BMI.

Roy added that the current study provides rich longitudinal data, including drawing on the many measurements that are made routinely during infancy and early childhood at well-child check-ups. It is one of the largest studies to date using longitudinal data in such a diverse population.

The actual causes of these differences in infancy BMI and risk of childhood obesity in African-Americans remain subjects for further research. One co-author, Babette S. Zemel, Ph.D., the director of the Nutrition and Growth Laboratory at CHOP, is leading a prospective study of African-American infants and families, investigating factors such as hormone levels, variations in intestinal bacteria, and feeding practices such as breastfeeding and formula feeding on growth and excess weight gain.

In children under age two, there is currently no consensus definition of obesity, said McCormack, who added, “In the absence of an accepted, valid definition of obesity in infancy, we struggle both as researchers and clinicians with how to best individualize recommendations for infants to prevent childhood obesity. Our findings suggest that infant BMI pattern could be one additional tool. In addition, infant BMI may be an early metric to use in evaluating the impact of public policy interventions.”


The National Institutes of Health supported this study (grants DK094723 and HD056465). Co-authors were from CHOP and from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-authors from CHOP’s Center for Applied Genomics included Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., and Struan Grant, Ph.D., who has long studied genetic influences on childhood obesity and diabetes.

Sani M. Roy et al, “Body Mass Index (BMI) Trajectories in Infancy Differ by Population Ancestry and May Presage Disparities in Early Childhood Obesity,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, published online Jan. 30, 2015. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-4028


Posted in BMI, Obesity | Leave a comment

Prescription for living longer: Spend less time alone: Brigham Young University

Ask people what it takes to live a long life, and they’ll say things like exercise, take Omega-3s, and see your doctor regularly. Now research from Brigham Young University shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity.

“The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead study author. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”

Loneliness and social isolation can look very different. For example, someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone. Other people may isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.

The association between loneliness and risk for mortality among young populations is actually greater than among older populations. Although older people are more likely to be lonely and face a higher mortality risk, loneliness and social isolation better predict premature death among populations younger than 65 years.

“Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet,” said Tim Smith, co-author of the study. “With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.”

The study analyzed data from a variety of health studies. Altogether, the sample included more than 3 million participants from studies that included data for loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Controlling for variables such as socioeconomic status, age, gender, and pre-existing health conditions, they found that the effect goes both ways. The lack of social connections presents an added risk, and the existence of relationships provides a positive health effect. The new study appears in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Previous research from Holt-Lunstad and Smith puts the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness in the same category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic. This current study suggests that not only is the risk for mortality in the same category as these well-known risk factors, it also surpasses health risks associated with obesity.

“In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we’re able to function not just emotionally but physically,” Smith said.

There are many things that help to subdue the effects of loneliness. With the evolution of the internet, people can keep in contact over distances that they couldn’t before. However, the superficiality of some online experiences may miss emotional context and depth. Too much texting with each other can actually hurt a romantic relationship, for example. The authors of that texting study note, however, that saying something sweet or kind in a text is universally beneficial.


Posted in Human Behavior: Friendship, Human Behavior: Happiness, Human Behavior: Loneliness, Human Behavior: Relationships, Longevity | 1 Comment

Mutating H7N9 bird flu may pose pandemic threat, scientists warn

(Reuters) - A wave of H7N9 bird flu in China that has spread into people may have the potential to emerge as a pandemic strain in humans, scientists said on Wednesday. The H7N9 virus, one of several strains of bird flu known to be able to infect humans, has persisted, diversified and spread in chickens across China, the researchers said, fuelling a resurgence of infections in people and posing a wider threat.

“The expansion of genetic diversity and geographical spread indicates that, unless effective control measures are in place, H7N9 could be expected to persist and spread beyond the region,” they said in a study published in the journal Nature.

The H7N9 bird flu virus emerged in humans in March 2013 and has since then infected at least 571 people in China, Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Canada, killing 212 of them, according to February data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

After an initial flare up of human cases at the start of 2013, the H7N9 appeared to die down — aided in large part by Chinese authorities deciding to close live poultry markets and issue health warnings about direct contact with chickens.



Posted in Infectious Diseases: H7N9 | Leave a comment

Supplement industry under scrutiny

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday announced that his office is leading a coalition of state attorneys general to widen his examination of the industry with the goal to “enhance transparency” and ensure that the products actually contain what their labels claim to contain, and nothing more.

In February, Schneiderman announced that tests solicited by his office determined that nearly four in every five herbal supplements tested at major retailers in New York didn’t contain the ingredients stated on the label. And more than a third of them contained “contaminants” such as rice, pine, beans, and asparagus. Schneiderman’s office said the supplements were purchased at GNC, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s. Schneiderman ordered those retailers to stop selling some store-brand supplements, including ginseng, St. John’s Wort, Echinacea and garlic, and requested information from the companies about how those products are processed.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition—a lobbying group whose members are makers of supplements—claimed the tests used were not accurate. GNC said its own testing, along with what it claimed was an independent, third-party test, “confirm in no uncertain terms that our products are safe, pure, properly labeled and in full compliance with all regulatory requirements.” Wal-Mart, meanwhile, insisted that the products it removed from shelves “contain accurately labeled ingredients and are safe.”




Posted in Nutrition: Supplements | Leave a comment

Parkinson’s could be eased by traditional Chinese medicine

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 10;10(3):e0118498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118498.
Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine as an Adjunct Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
Zhang G1, Xiong N1, Zhang Z2, Liu L1, Huang J1, Yang J1, Wu J3, Lin Z4, Wang T1.
Author information


1Department of Neurology, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
2Department of Neurology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
3Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and MOE Key Lab of Environment and Health, School of Public Health, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
4Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and Mailman Neuroscience Research Center, Belmont, Massachusetts, United States of America; Harvard Neuro Discovery Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



Idiopathic Parkinson disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disease that seriously hinders limb activities and affects patients’ lives. We performed a meta-analysis aiming to systematically review and quantitatively synthesize the efficacy and safety of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an adjunct therapy for clinical PD patients.


An electronic search was conducted in PubMed, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Chinese Scientific Journals Database and Wanfang data to identify randomized trials evaluating TCM adjuvant therapy versus conventional treatment. The change from baseline of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale score (UPDRS) was used to estimate the effectiveness of the therapies.


Twenty-seven articles involving 2314 patients from 1999 to 2013 were included. Potentially marked improvements were shown in UPDRS I (SMD 0.68, 95%CI 0.38, 0.98), II (WMD 2.41, 95%CI 1.66, 2.62), III (WMD 2.45, 95%CI 2.03, 2.86), IV (WMD 0.32, 95%CI 0.15, 049) and I-IV total scores (WMD 6.18, 95%CI 5.06, 7.31) in patients with TCM plus dopamine replacement therapy (DRT) compared to DRT alone. Acupuncture add-on therapy was markedly beneficial for improving the UPDRS I-IV total score of PD patients (WMD 10.96, 95%CI 5.85, 16.07). However, TCM monotherapy did not improve the score. The effectiveness seemed to be more obvious in PD patients with longer adjunct durations. TCM adjuvant therapy was generally safe and well tolerated.


Although the data were limited by methodological flaws in many studies, the evidence indicates the potential superiority of TCM as an alternative therapeutic for PD treatment and justifies further high-quality studies.


Posted in Parkinson's, Traditional Chinese Medicines | Leave a comment