Monthly Archives: July 2008

Is Pre-Eclampsia Autoimmune ?

 

Researchers from University of Texas-Houston Medical School have revealed that pregnancy-induced high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia might be an autoimmune disease.
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In the study conducted using a mouse model, researchers injected the mice with pre-eclampsia with certain human autoantibodies that have been found in women with the disorder.

During the analysis, they team noticed that the mice showed multiple features of the disorder with dangerously high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and placental abnormalities,

The mice were then injected with a substance that blocks the activity of autoantibodies. This prevented the development of pre-eclampsia.

The team including Dr Yang Xia, Ph.D., and Rodney E. Kellems, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; and Susan M. Ramin, M.D., Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science hope that the new findings would help in improving diagnosis and treatment of pre-eclampsia.

Xia, the senior author, said that unlike antibodies that attack foreign substances and clear diseases from the body, autoantibodies attack their own cells and cause conditions in which a person’s immune system attacks the body’s own organs and tissues.

“This collaborative research is important because of its potential to lead to a possible cure of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Using the animal model we were able to prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnant mice,” Nature quoted Dr Susan Ramin, study co-author as saying.

“I don’t want to overstate the implications, but this is clearly a very exciting time for all of us involved in the research. We plan to focus our efforts in expanding this research to pregnant women,” she added.

Preterm births have serious implications on the infant’s heath. Infants are likely to die in the first month of life and those who survive face the risk of including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, and other chronic conditions including asthma.

Sources: The Times Of India

 

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Artificial Pancreas Just Years Away

Researchers working on an artificial pancreas believe they are just a few years away from a nearly carefree way for people with diabetes to monitor blood and inject insulin as needed.
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They believe they can link two current technologies — continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps — into a seamless package. Such a mechanical pancrease could greatly reduce the need for fingersticks and injections of insulin that diabetics must now endure several times a day, researchers told a meeting this week at the National Institutes of Health. “I think we are on the brink of a first-generation artificial pancreas,” said Dr Roman Hovorka of Britain’s University of Cambridge, who is testing some experimental devices with components by Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic, the No 1 maker of insulin pumps and continuous monitors.

Hovorka’s team has been testing devices in patients with type-1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease caused when the body mistakenly destroys the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. A continuous glucose sensor is implanted under the skin, and transmits blood sugar readings to a monitor.

A computer calculates the right dose of insulin, which is delivered by an insulin pump — something many patients already wear. His team is ready to send some patients home with the device, but has to work out the logistics of keeping a nurse full-time in each volunteer’s home, just in case. US Food and Drug Administration regulators are working closely with the researchers to ensure they design studies in a way that can lead to quick review, said Dr Aaron Kowalski of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which funds many of the artificial pancreas study teams.

Sources:The Times Of India

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Amazing Effects of Bananas

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“NEVER PUT BANANA IN THE REFRIGERATOR

Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose,fructose and glucose
combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant,
sustained and substantial boost of energy.

Research has proven that just two bananas
provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout.
No wonder banana is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes.

But energy isn’t the only way a banana can
help us keep fit.
It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial
number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet..

Depression: According to a recent survey
undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain
tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin,known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you
feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills – eat a banana… The
vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate
the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is
extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure.
So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration
has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham
(Middlesex) school were
helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast,break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has
shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist
learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas
in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing
a hangover is to make a banana milkshake,sweetened with honey.The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect
in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between
meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect
bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swellingand irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that
help calm the nervous system.
Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute
of Psychology in Austria found pressure at wor k leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients,
researchers found the most obese were more
likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that,to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar
levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods
every two hours to keep levels steady.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food
against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Temperature control: Many other cultures see
bananas as a’cooling’ fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand ,for example,
pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby
is born with a cool temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can
help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

Smoking &Tobacco Use: Bananas can also
help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as
the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which
helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body’s water
balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic
rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help
of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in The New
England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk
of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

Warts:
Those keen on natural alternatives swear
that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place
with a plaster or surgical tape!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the
carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five
times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say,
‘A banana a day keeps the doctor away!’

May I add one here; want a quick shine on our
shoes??
Take the INSIDE
of the banana skin, and rub directly on the
shoe…polish with dry cloth.
An Amazing fruit ! Is’nt it?

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Diabetics, Beware

US scientists have found a link between high blood sugar levels and Alzheimer’s.

It’s a puzzle that has baffled scientists for long. The brain, which has an impenetrable protective layer around it in the form of a thick blood-brain barrier, should not be affected that easily by the chemical changes taking place elsewhere in the body. The blood-brain barrier, composed of tightly packed cells, insulates the brain from an overload of undesirable chemicals that circulate in the bloodstream, while still allowing the essential metabolic functions.

This is thought to be true in the case of blood sugar as well. Diabetes patients, who have high levels of glucose in their blood because of faulty insulin production, normally have near-normal glucose levels in the blood circulating through the myriad blood vessels in the brain.

Yet scientists have found that 30 to 65 per cent of diabetics run the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease — a debilitating degenerative brain disorder that severely impairs cognitive function and memory — in their old age. The connection between the two, though circumstantial, has so far perplexed researchers.

The issue is of critical importance to India which may soon be the diabetes capital of the world. With the number of diabetes cases in the country rising, there may be an increase in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease, as has been happening in the West. Despite being the focus of the medical world for long, there is no cure for this severest form of dementia.

But a team of researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in the US seems to have resolved the puzzle. The scientists, led by David Schubert, claim to have found a molecular basis for the diabetes-Alzheimer’s interaction.

Though the brain remains largely insulated from the high blood sugar otherwise found in the body, the layers of the blood-brain barrier — which is composed of cells that are more densely packed than elsewhere in the body — are often exposed to the high blood sugar. As a result, the central nervous system is indirectly affected, scientists hypothesise.

To investigate this, Schubert — a professor at the institute’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory — and his colleagues studied the blood vessels in the brain of young mice that were rendered diabetic. The study, reported in the latest issue of Neurobiology of Aging, looked specifically at the interaction between the elevated blood glucose levels and beta-amyloid — protein molecules that clump together to form the senile plaques that riddle Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.

To their surprise, the scientists found that despite having beta-amyloid in very low levels — not enough to trigger the brain disorder — the mice began suffering from significant memory loss. They also noticed an increase in inflammation in the brain. “The damage took place long before the first plaques appeared,” says Schubert.

The mice suffered damage to the blood vessels well before any overt signs of Alzheimer’s — such as nerve cell death or the acquisition of amyloid deposits, the hallmark of the disease — could be detected in their brains. Further experiments revealed that the vascular damage was due to the overproduction of free radicals, resulting in oxidative damage to the cells lining the brain’s blood vessels.

“Because of the elevated blood glucose in diabetes, the blood vessels of the brain become damaged. This damage will lead to more stress in the brain because the availability of nutrients in the blood is reduced. Since nerve cells in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are themselves weakened, the additional stress of a poor nutrient supply may lead to their premature death, resulting in early onset of Alzheimer’s,” Schubert told KnowHow.

According to Joseph Burdo, co-author of the study, researchers earlier could not find a link between the two because they were looking for a direct connection between an impaired insulin signalling and Alzheimer’s, which never existed. “Many studies have focused on altered insulin signalling in the brain as a possible mechanism for the association between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes but researchers paid much less attention to the impact of increased blood glucose levels on brain function and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s,” explains Burdo.

While it is normal for a person to have a low level of amyloid circulating in his or her blood, in diabetics there may be a synergistic toxicity between the amyloid and high level of blood glucose which comes in the way of proper blood vessel formation, says Burdo.

Anoop Misra, who heads the department of diabetes and metabolism at the Fortis Group of Hospitals, New Delhi, says that though it is too early to say the study may have any clinical significance, there is a lesson to take home. “If you could keep your blood sugar well under control, you can deal with two monsters — diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”

And that would be much like the proverbial stone that can kill two birds with one shot.

Turmeric helps
While there is no clear-cut study to establish the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the Indian population, scientists infer that cases of the neurodegenerative disease may be far fewer in India than in the West despite increased life expectancy because of the amount of haldi (turmeric) Indians consume. A team of researchers at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences in the US has now discovered that a downstream derivative of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, does enhance cognition and memory. In a recent work published in Neurobiology of Aging, the scientists report isolation of the compound (called CNB-001), saying that it boosts communication between brain cells, facilitating long-term retention of memory. They feel that it could be a potential remedy for treating brain disorders affecting memory and cognition such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Why Tofu Wrecks Your Brain

Eating high levels of some soy products, such as tofu, could raise the risk of memory loss.

A study that examined more than 700 elderly Indonesians found that high tofu consumption (at least once a day) was associated with worse memory, particularly among those over age 68.

Soy contains phytoestrogens, which may heighten the risk of dementia.

However, tempeh, a fermented soy product made from the whole soy bean, has been associated with better memory. This could be related to the fact that it contains high levels of the vitamin folate, which is known to reduce dementia risk.

Sources:
BBC News July 4, 2008
Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders June 27, 2008; 26(1):50-57 [Epub Ahead of Print]

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Feeling Threatened

Afraid Of The Truth :
Most of us have had the experience of being in possession of a piece of truth that we were afraid to share because we knew it would not be well received. There are also instances in which we ourselves have been unable to handle some truth confronting us. This might be a small truth, such as not wanting to see that our car needs repairs because we don’t want to pay for them, or a large truth, such as not fully accepting that someone close to us is pushing us away. Usually the truth is evident, and we can see it if we choose, but we have elaborate ways of hiding the truth form ourselves, no matter how apparent it is.

For the most part, we avoid the truth because it scares us, or makes us angry, or makes us feel like we don’t know what to do. We often create our lives based on a particular understanding, and if that understanding turns out to be fully or even partially incorrect, we may feel that our whole sense of reality is being threatened. It takes a strong person to face the truth in circumstances like these, and many of us run for cover instead. Nevertheless, we can only avoid the truth for so long before it begins to make itself known in ever more forceful ways.

Ultimately, there is no way to avoid the truth, no matter how painful it is, so the sooner we let down our defenses, the better. When we know the truth and accept that we may have to adjust our lives to accommodate, we are in alignment with reality. At the same time, we can be patient with people around us who have a hard time seeing the truth, because we know how painful it can be. Whatever the truth is, we make a sincere effort not to close our eyes to it, but instead to be grateful that we have access to it.

Sources:Daily Om

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Some Health Quaries & Answers

Q: My neighbour has about 30 cats. They are strays who have congregated on his verandah because he feeds them cooked chicken and fish offal purchased from the market. The stench permeates everywhere and is repulsive. He recently developed cancer of the colon. Could it be because of the cats? You had mentioned in an earlier column that cats harbour cancer causing H. pylori.

A: Cats do carry H. pylori which is associated with cancer of the stomach, not of the colon. But more disturbing here is the large congregation of unimmunised cats. Any one of them might harbour the rabies virus. Also, the garbage will attract flies and rodents that are responsible for spreading their own set of infectious diseases.

It is best to inform the local public health authorities about the hygiene problem. There is usually a medical health officer who can be approached on such matters. The neighbours should immunise themselves against rabies (in case a person is accidentally scratched or bitten). This can be done by taking “pre-exposure prophylaxis”. The vaccine consists of three injections and will give protection against rabies for five years. The schedule is available with doctors. Also, as far as possible, avoid contact with the cats.

Chewing vs smoking:

Q: I have heard that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking. Is this true?

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A: No, that’s a myth. If you hold tobacco flakes or leaves between your gums and cheek for 30 minutes, your body receives the same amount of harmful chemicals as that contained in three cigarettes. Chewing tobacco is as addictive as smoking cigarettes. In addition, the chemicals in it can cause cancers of the gum and cheek. As the juice is often swallowed, the risk of cancers of the throat, larynx and oesophagus also increases. Teeth and gum problems abound, with inflammation and recession of the gums.

Rising BP:-

Q: Is there any way to control my blood pressure? I am on medication but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

A: You can buy an electronic blood pressure recording apparatus. You can then monitor your blood pressure. Other measures are to maintain an ideal body weight with diet and exercise, stop using tobacco, and reduce caffeine and alcohol intake. Sodium contained in table salt plays a role in blood pressure control and maintenance. There is a medical controversy about whether salt restriction should be recommended to all persons with high blood pressure. The recommended dietary intake of sodium is only half teaspoon (2.5gm) per person a day. Most of us consume more than this. One way to cut down is to avoid salty snacks, pickles, chutneys and preserved and canned foods. Also, do not sprinkle extra salt on your food.

Eyesight correction:-

Q: I have poor eyesight and have been recommended surgical correction. I have heard the results are good, but no one is mentioning the side effects, if any. Is surgery advisable?

A: Technology is improving in this field rapidly. You can expect to achieve 20/20 (70 per cent) or 20/40 (90 per cent). The side effects are increased sensitivity to light, problems with glare, clouded vision, haloes around lights and intolerance to contact lenses. Before deciding on the surgeon, check for how many years he or she has been performing this operation and how good the results have been.

Collar not cool:-

Q: I suffer from neck pain. The doctor has diagnosed cervical spondylosis and has asked me to wear a collar for three months. However, I find this awkward and uncomfortable. Is there any other way out?

A: Cervical spondylosis usually occurs as part of the normal ageing process. The cartilage cushioning bones of the neck deteriorate with age. As the body attempts to repair this damage, extra spurs of bones are formed, pressing on the nerves and causing pain. Mild cervical spondylosis needs exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and either traction or a collar to relieve the discomfort. If you do not follow the doctor’s advice, the condition may worsen. Once that happens you may require surgery. A collar worn short term is definitely an easier option.

Baby’s day out:-

Q: I am pregnant and want to know when the baby is due.

A: You can calculate the due date if you know the date of your last menstrual period. The first day of that is taken as day 1. Add seven days and then nine months. If your period started on, say, March 7, 2008, your baby is due on December 14, 2008. If your cycles are not regular this date may not be accurate. A scan can also tell you the approximate due date. But all these calculations are only approximate. The best thing would be to have regular antenatal check-ups with a doctor. He or she will be able to advice you appropriately.

You may click to see:->Pregnancy timeline

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Drug Dilemma

Anti epilepsy drugs if taken during pregnancy may raise the risk of birth defects:

A widely used anti epilepsy drug called topiramate raises the risk of birth defects as much as 14-fold when taken by pregnant women, especially in combination with another drug called valproate, say researchers.

However, the study involved only 203 women and thus there was still significant statistical uncertainty about it, they caution.

But the results are not surprising, they added, because the drug — sold by Johnson & Johnson under the brand name Topamax — has been shown to cause similar defects in animals. Other epilepsy drugs that have been studied have also been found to increase the risk of such defects, suggesting that the entire class of drugs may interfere with the reproductive process.

Despite the enormous risks, doctors say that epileptic women cannot stop taking the drugs during pregnancy because the seizures can also damage the unborn infant, perhaps even more severely.

But women who are taking the drug to prevent migraines should halt its use if they become pregnant or are planning to do so, said Dr John Craig of the Royal Group of Hospitals in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who led the research, published recently in Neurology.

Epilepsy is a disorder characterised by powerful seizures. Topamax accounts for about one in every five prescriptions for treating it.

Valproate, which is one of the most common drugs used in treating the problem, has previously been associated with birth defects or foetal death in about 20 per cent of women who take it.

Craig and his colleagues studied 203 women who became pregnant while taking topiramate either alone or in combination with other epilepsy drugs. Of the 203 pregnancies, 18 ended in spontaneous abortions, two in still births and five in induced abortions.

Of those born, 16 had major birth defects. Three of those were in mothers who had taken only topiramate and 13 in those who had taken it in combination with other drugs.

Four of the babies had cleft palates or lips, a rate 11 times higher than the normal rate of one in 500 expected among women not taking epilepsy drugs. Four male babies had genital birth defects, which is 14 times higher than the normal rate of one in 300.

The women in the study were part of the UK Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register, which was set up to determine the relative safety of such drugs.

Sources: Los Angles Times

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Why Does the Skin Tan?

Go to any beach and you are sure to find sun worshipers baking their bodies in the sun, totally oblivious to the fact that the sunburns they acquire may develop into skin cancers 10 to 20 years later. In most parts of the world, tanning is considered to be the “in” thing, as opposed to the earlier times when pale skin was preferred. It was thought that the paler one’s skin the higher was the class, and men and women went to great (and sometimes unhealthy) lengths to be pale.

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Tans are natural shields against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can damage skin tissue by causing sunburns as well as cancer in the long run.

Exposure to UV rays causes certain skin cells to produce the pigment melanin, which darkens through oxidation. Over exposure causes those cells to migrate closer to the skin’s surface and produce more melanin, further darkening the skin into a suntan. It’s no wonder then our bodies are equipped to produce melanin.

Melanin absorbs UV radiation and defends against further penetration of skin tissue. In other animals it proves diversely useful. It absorbs heat, an essential for cold-blooded creatures. It colours bird feathers, fish scales and squid ink, and helps to conceal nocturnal animals. Melanin even absorbs scattered light inside the eye to sharpen vision.

But it appears that only humans will risk their skins for a little extra skin pigment!

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Soy Foods ‘Reduce Sperm Numbers’

A regular diet of even modest amounts of food containing soy may halve sperm concentrations, suggest scientists.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found 41 million fewer sperm per millilitre of semen after just one portion every two days.

The authors said plant oestrogens in foods such as tofu, soy mince or milk may interfere with hormonal signals.

However, a UK expert stressed that most men in Asia eat more soy-based products with no fertility problems.

“Oestrogenic compounds in food or the environment have been of concern for a number of years, but we have mostly thought that it was boys exposed in the uterus before birth who were most at risk” says
Dr Allan Pacey,Sheffield University

Animal studies have suggested that large quantities of soy chemicals in food could affect fertility, but other studies looking at consumption in humans have had contradictory findings.

The Harvard School of Public Health study looked at the diets of 99 men who had attended a fertility clinic with their partners and provided a semen sample.

The men were divided into four groups depending on how much soy they ate, and when the sperm concentration of men eating the most soy was compared with those eating the least, there was a significant difference.

The “normal” sperm concentration for a man is between 80 and 120 million per millilitre, and the average of men who ate on average a portion of soy-based food every other day was 41 million fewer.

Dr Jorge Chavarro, who led the study, said that chemicals called isoflavones in the soy might be affecting sperm production.

These chemicals can have similar effects to the human hormone oestrogen.

Dr Chavarro noticed that overweight or obese men seemed even more prone to this effect, which may reflect the fact that higher levels of body fat can also lead to increased oestrogen production in men.

Worried men

However, the study pointed out that soy consumption in many parts of Asia was significantly higher than even the maximum found in these volunteers.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology from the University of Sheffield, said that if soy genuinely had a detrimental effect on sperm production, fertility might well be affected in those regions, and there was no evidence that this was the case.

“Many men are obviously worried about whether their lifestyle or diet could affect their fertility by lowering their sperm count.

“Oestrogenic compounds in food or the environment have been of concern for a number of years, but we have mostly thought that it was boys exposed in the uterus before birth who were most at risk.

“We will have to look at adult diet more closely, although the fact that such large parts of the world have soy food as a major part of their diet and don’t appear to suffer any greater infertility rates than those on western diets suggests that any effect is quite small.”

Sources: BBC NEWS:July 24,’08

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