Thursday, 25 September 2008

OH!!! And By The way?

Cary G Dean.

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Being Vegetarian Shrinks The Brain
2. Migraines Linked to Blood Clots in Legs
3. Estrogen Creams Don't Help Sun-Damaged Skin
4. Healthy Lifestyle Increases Anti-Aging Enzyme
5. Gastric Bypass Beats Band

Being Vegetarian Shrinks The Brain

Becoming a vegetarian could be good for the planet, but it’s bad for your brain. Scientists at Oxford University in England have found that vegetarians are six times more likely to have brain shrinkage than those who include meats in their diets.

The cause could be a lack of vitamins. Vegetarians are more likely than meat-eaters to be deficient in vitamin B12, which is mainly found in meats, and a B12 deficiency is known to cause anemia and inflammation of the nervous system.

Oxford researchers examined 107 people between the age of 61 and 87 using physical exams, memory tests and brain scans. When the same volunteers were retested five years later, those with the lowest amounts of B12 had the most brain atrophy.

Swedish researchers found that being overweight is also linked to brain loss. Women with a BMI (body mass index) that averaged 27 showed brain shrinkage. (A BMI of 25 or over is “overweight” and a BMI of 30 or higher is “obese.”) For every additional point in BMI, brain loss increased by 13 to 16 percent.

Migraines Linked to Blood Clots in Legs

People with migraines may also be more likely to develop blood clots in their veins, according to a study published in the September 16, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

In the condition, called venous thrombosis or thromboembolism, blood clots form in a vein, which can limit blood flow and cause swelling and pain. Those clots can then dislodge from the vein and travel to the heart and the lungs, which can be fatal.

For the study, 574 people in Italy age 55 and up were interviewed to determine whether they had a history of migraine or migraine at the time of the evaluation and their medical records were reviewed for cases of venous thrombosis. The arteries in their necks and thighs were scanned with ultrasounds to check for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Of the participants, 111 people had migraine. A total of 21 people with migraine also had one or more instances of venous thrombosis, or 19 percent. In comparison, 35 people without migraine had the condition, or 8 percent.

Researchers do not know why migraine and venous thrombosis are linked. One theory is that the blood of people with migraine may be more prone to clotting.

The study also found that people with migraine are not more likely to have hardening or narrowing of the arteries, which is contrary to a current theory.

“The thinking has been that because people with migraine are more likely to have strokes and other cardiovascular problems, that they would also have more severe and early atherosclerosis,” said study author Stefan Kiechl, MD, of Innsbruck Medical University in Austria. “This study is the first to use high-resolution ultrasound to examine this theory, and it provides solid evidence to refute it.”

Estrogen Creams Don't Help Sun-Damaged Skin

Treating the skin with estrogen can stimulate collagen production — which improves the appearance of the skin — in areas not typically exposed to the sun, according to new research from the University of Michigan Health System.

But in sun-damaged skin, the same treatment does not increase collagen production, the study found. The findings elucidate why it is so difficult to reverse the effects of sun damage on the skin, says lead author Laure Rittie, Ph.D., research investigator in the U-M Department of Dermatology.

“Frankly, we were very surprised to find that stimulation of collagen production by topical estrogen treatment was restricted to skin not chronically exposed to sunlight. These results suggest that sun exposure alters the ability of skin to respond to topical estrogen, and point out how difficult it is to repair photoaged skin,” Rittie says. The study appears in the new issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

Seventy seniors—40 post-menopausal women and 30 men—participated in the study. Researchers analyzed biopsies of skin taken from the patients’ hips, and either forearm or face, before treatment began and after it ended two weeks later.

The study participants all had photoaged skin—that is, sun-damaged skin that appears dry, with coarse wrinkles and uneven pigmentation.

Participants were treated topically with the estrogen medication called estradiol. They were given doses of 0.01 percent, 0.1 percent, 1 percent or 2.5 percent, or a vehicle that contained no estradiol.

Estradiol was found to increase collagen levels in women’s hip skin more than threefold, on average, compared with the inactive medication. This included procollagen I and III mRNA levels. In men, the collagen levels increased by a factor of about 1.7 on average. The improvements were higher when the doses of estradiol were higher.

In contrast, collagen levels in the photoaged skin on the forearm and face did not improve significantly with treatment, no matter the dosage of estradiol.

Healthy Lifestyle Increases Anti-Aging Enzyme

Sweeping lifestyle changes including a better diet and more exercise can raise the body's levels of an enzyme closely involved in controlling the aging process, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The small study involved 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who underwent three months of lifestyle changes. They had blood levels of the enzyme telomerase 29 percent higher after these three months than when they began.

Telomerase fixes and lengthens parts of chromosomes known as telomeres that control longevity and are also important for maintenance of immune-system cells.

The research in the journal Lancet Oncology was led by Dr. Dean Ornish, head of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, and a well-known author advocating lifestyle changes to improve health.

The lifestyle changes included a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.

"This is the first study showing that anything can increase telomerase. If it were a new drug that had been shown to do this, it would be a billion-dollar drug. But this is something that people can do for free," Ornish said in a telephone interview.

Shortening of telomeres is seen as an indicator of disease risk and premature death in some types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer.

Previously published findings from the same group of men showed they experienced dramatic changes at the genetic level.

As expected, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and saw other health improvements.

They also had changes in activity in about 500 genes. The activity of disease-preventing genes increasing while some disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down, the researchers said.

Gastric Bypass Beats Band

Gastric bypass surgery is more likely to result in successful weight loss, both short and long term, than is gastric banding, according to one of the first head-to-head comparisons of the two most commonly used surgeries in obese patients.

Patients who underwent the bypass procedure also lost more weight and showed more consistent weight loss, Dr. Nancy Puzziferri of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and colleagues report.

Although evidence supports a faster weight loss with gastric bypass, 3 years after surgery the results of bypass and banding were the same, Puzziferri and her colleagues note.

However, the pros and cons of each procedure need to be weighed for each patient, they add. Bypass is a riskier and more complicated surgery, and banding requires more intensive follow-up.

"Risk-benefit ratios and the patient's ability to return to clinic are critical factors in choosing which procedure better suits a particular patient," they write in the Annals of Surgery.

To better understand how outcomes compare for the two procedures, Puzziferri's team evaluated 1,102 patients who had undergone gastric bypasses and 631 who had gastric banding at their center between 1997 and 2006. A total of 1,518 patients were available for evaluation.

Bypass patients lost more weight, lost it faster, and were less likely to have transient weight gain than patients who had the band procedure. The results of the bypass procedure were also more consistent from patient to patient.

While 18.1 percent of the band patients had lost less than 25 percent of their body weight 2 years later (the goal was 40 percent or more), just 2.6 percent of bypass patients did.

While 53.2 percent of the bypass patients lost at least 75 percent of their excess body weight by the study's end, 9.8 percent of the patients who underwent banding did.

The bypass patients were more than 18-times as likely as the banding patients to have achieved successful weight loss within 6 months of having the procedure, and 2 years out their odds of success were 9-times greater.

Weight loss with gastric banding is similar to the gradual loss seen with low-calorie diets, the researchers note. "Behavioral practices may be more critical to weight loss success in gastric band than in gastric bypass," they suggest.

"Despite its higher operative risk, gastric bypass may be a better choice for selected patients," the researchers add. They suggest that a larger study with at least 5 years of follow-up is needed to clarify how the risks, benefits and costs of the two procedures compare.

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