Less Sleep Makes You Obese

No matter which part of the world you live in, if you don’t get enough of sleep, there’s a fair chance you are going to put on weight, states a new study.

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What’s more is that it doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child.

In one of the first studies to observe cross-sectional relationships between duration of sleep and obesity in both children and adults, researchers have discovered a consistent increased risk of obesity among short sleepers.

The study, led by Francesco P Cappuccio, MD, of Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, involved an orderly search of publications on the relationship between short sleep duration and obesity risk.

Of the 696 studies, the researchers short-listed 12 studies on children and 17 studies on adults based on the inclusion criteria. This involved report of duration of sleep as exposure, body mass index (BMI) as continuous outcome and prevalence of obesity as categorical outcome, number of participants, age and gender.

In children, the study included 13 population samples from the 12 studies, representing 30,002 participants aged between two to 20 years, and found that 7 of 11 studies showed a significant link between short sleep duration and obesity.

In case of adults, 22 population samples from the 17 studies were included that meant a total of 604,509 participants aged between 15-102 years. It was discovered that 17 population samples showed a significant association between short duration of sleep and obesity.

In fact, all studies in adults showed a consistent and significant negative association between hours of sleep and BMI, quite unlike studies in children.

Cappuccio said that this study showed a consistent pattern of increased odds of being a short sleeper if you are obese, both in childhood and adulthood.

“By appraising the world literature, we were able to show some heterogeneity amongst studies in the world. However, there is a striking consistent overall association, in that both obese children and adults had a significantly increased risk of being short sleepers compared to normal weight individuals. The size of the association was comparable (1.89-fold increase in children and 1.55-fold increase in adults),” said Dr Cappuccio.

He added: “This study is important as it confirms that this association is strong and might be of public health relevance. However, it also raises the unanswered question yet of whether this is a cause-effect association. Only prospective longitudinal studies will be able to address the outstanding question.”

Click to see also :->Lack of Sleep and Obesity

Lack of sleep ‘makes you fatter’

New Weight Loss Prescription
Sources: The Times Of India

Dizziness

Definition
Dizziness is classified into three categories—vertigo, syncope, and nonsyncope nonvertigo. Each category has a characteristic set of symptoms, all related to the sense of balance. In general, syncope is defined by a brief loss of consciousness (fainting) or by dimmed vision and feeling uncoordinated, confused, and lightheaded. Many people experience a sensation like syncope when they stand up too fast. Vertigo is the feeling that either the individual or the surroundings are spinning. This sensation is like being on a spinning amusement park ride. Individuals with nonsyncope nonvertigo dizziness feel as though they cannot keep their balance. This sensation may become worse with movement…..CLICK & SEE

Description
The brain coordinates information from the eyes, the inner ear, and the body’s senses to maintain balance. If any of these sources of information is disrupted, the brain may not be able to compensate. For example, people sometimes experience motion sickness because the information from their body tells the brain that they are sitting still, but information from the eyes indicates that they are moving. The messages don’t correspond and dizziness results.

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Vision and the body’s senses are the most important systems for maintaining balance, but problems in the inner ear are the most frequent cause of dizziness. The inner ear, also called the vestibular system, contains fluid that helps to fine tune the information the brain receives from the eyes and the body. When fluid volume or pressure in the inner ear changes, information about balance is altered. The discrepancy gives conflicting messages to the brain about balance and induces dizziness.

Certain medical conditions can cause dizziness because they affect the systems that maintain balance. For example, the inner ear is very sensitive to changes in blood flow. Because such medical conditions as high blood pressure or low blood sugar can affect blood flow, these conditions are frequently accompanied by dizziness. Circulation disorders are the most common causes of dizziness. Other causes are head injuries, ear infections, allergies, and nervous system disorders.

Dizziness often disappears without treatment or with treatment of the underlying problem, but it can be long-term or chronic. According to the National Institutes of Health, 42% of Americans will seek medical help for dizziness at some point in their lives. The costs may exceed a billion dollars and account for five million visits to physicians annually. Episodes of dizziness increase with age. Among people aged 75 or older, dizziness is the most frequent reason for seeing a doctor.

Causes & symptoms
Careful attention to symptoms can help determine the underlying cause of the dizziness. The underlying problems may be benign and easily treated, or they may be dangerous and require intensive therapy. Not all cases of dizziness can be linked to a specific cause. More than one type of dizziness can be experienced at the same time and symptoms may be mixed. Episodes of dizziness may last for a few seconds or for days. The length of an episode is related to the underlying cause.

The symptoms of syncope include dimmed vision, loss of coordination, confusion, lightheadedness, and sweating. These symptoms can lead to a brief loss of consciousness or fainting. They are related to a reduced flow of blood to the brain; they often occur when a person is standing up and can be relieved by sitting or lying down. Vertigo is characterized by a sensation of spinning or turning, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, headache, or fatigue. An individual may have trouble walking, remaining coordinated, or keeping balance. Nonsyncope nonvertigo dizziness is characterized by a feeling of being off balance that becomes worse if the individual tries moving or performing detail-intense tasks.

A person may experience dizziness for many reasons. Syncope is associated with low blood pressure, heart problems, and disorders in the autonomic nervous system, which controls such involuntary functions as breathing. Syncope may also arise from emotional distress, pain, and other reactions to outside stressors. Nonsyncope nonvertigo dizziness may be caused by rapid breathing, low blood sugar, or migraine headache, as well as by more serious medical conditions.

Vertigo is often associated with inner ear problems called vestibular disorders. A particularly intense vestibular disorder, Ménière’s disease, interferes with the volume of fluid in the inner ear. This disease, which affects approximately one in every 1,000 people, causes intermittent vertigo over the course of weeks, months, or years. Ménière’s disease is often accompanied by ringing or buzzing in the ear, hearing loss, and a feeling that the ear is blocked. Damage to the nerve that leads from the ear to the brain can also cause vertigo. Such damage can result from head injury or a tumor. An acoustic neuroma, for example, is a benign tumor that wraps around the nerve. Vertigo can also be caused by disorders of the central nervous system and the circulation, such as hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), stroke, or multiple sclerosis.

Some medications cause changes in blood pressure or blood flow. These medications can cause dizziness in some people. Prescription medications carry warnings of such side effects, but common drugs such as caffeine or nicotine can also cause dizziness. Certain antibiotics can damage the inner ear and cause hearing loss and dizziness.

Diet may cause dizziness. The role of diet may be direct, as through alcohol intake. It may be also be indirect, as through arteriosclerosis caused by a high-fat diet. Some people experience a slight dip in blood sugar and mild dizziness if they miss a meal, but this condition is rarely dangerous unless the person is diabetic. Food sensitivities or allergies can also be a cause of dizziness. Such chronic conditions as heart disease and serious acute problems such as seizures and strokes can cause dizziness. These conditions, however, usually exhibit other characteristic symptoms.

Diagnosis
During the initial medical examination, an individual with dizziness should provide a detailed description of the type of dizziness experienced, when it occurs, and how often each episode lasts. A diary of symptoms may help to track this information. The patient should report any symptoms that accompany the dizziness, such as ringing in the ear or nausea, any recent injury or infection, and any medication taken.

The examiner will check the patient’s blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and body temperature as well as the ear, nose, and throat. The sense of balance is assessed by moving the individual’s head to various positions or by tilt-table testing. In tilt-table testing, the person lies on a table that can be shifted into different positions and reports any dizziness that occurs.

Further tests may be indicated by the initial examination. Hearing tests help assess ear damage. X rays, computed tomography scan (CT scan), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can pinpoint evidence of nerve damage, tumors, or other structural problems. If a vestibular disorder is suspected, a technique called electronystagmography (ENG) may be used. ENG measures the electrical impulses generated by eye movements. Blood tests can determine diabetes, high cholesterol, and other diseases. In some cases, a heart evaluation may be useful. Despite thorough testing, however, an underlying cause cannot always be determined.

Doctors caution that childhood syncope (fainting), although rarely serious, can indicate a serious cardiac. If the fainting is abrupt or happens with exertion, it may indicate a more serious problem.

Treatment:-

Because dizziness may arise from serious conditions, it is advisable to seek medical treatment. Alternative treatments can often be used alongside conventional medicine without conflict. Potentially beneficial therapies include nutritional therapy, herbal remedies, homeopathy, aromatherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, and relaxation techniques.

Nutritional therapy
To prevent dizziness, nutritionists often advise eating smaller but more frequent meals and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, foods high in fat or sugar, or any substances that cause allergic reactions. A low-salt diet may also be helpful to some people. Nutritionists may also recommend certain dietary supplements:

*Magnesium citrate, aspartate or maleate: for dizziness caused by magnesium deficiency.
*B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B12: for dizziness caused by deficiency of these essential vitamins.

Herbal remedies

The following herbs have been used to treat dizziness symptoms:

*Ginger: for treatment of dizziness caused by nausea.
*Ginkgo biloba: may decrease dizziness by increasing blood flow to the brain.

Homeopathy

Homeopathic therapies can work very effectively for dizziness, and are especially applicable when no organic cause can be identified. They are chosen according to the patient’s specific symptom profile:

*Aconite: for feeling light-headed from postural hypotension (getting up too quickly)
*Coccolus: for motion sickness or syncope
*Conium maculatum: for feeling dizzy while looking at rapidly-moving images.
*Gelsemium: for feeling light-headed and out of balance, often associated with influenza or stage fright.
*Petroleum: for dizziness upon standing up too fast and headache before and after a storm.

Aromatherapy:

Aromatherapists recommend a warm bath scented with essential oils of lavender, geranium, and sandalwood as treatment for dizziness. This therapy can have a calming effect on the nervous system.

Osteopathy:

An osteopath or chiropractor may suggest manipulations or adjustments of the head, jaw, neck, and lower back to relieve pressure on the inner ear.

Acupressure:

Acupressure may be able to improve circulation and decrease the symptoms of vertigo. The Neck Release, which involves pressing on five pairs of points on the shoulder blades and neck, is helpful for dizziness associated with migraine headaches.

Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and massage therapy for relieving tension, are popularly recommended methods for reducing stress.

Allopathic treatment:
Treatment of dizziness is determined by the underlying cause. If an individual has a cold or influenza, a few days of bed rest is usually adequate to resolve dizziness. Other causes of dizziness, such as mild vestibular system damage, may resolve without medical treatment. If dizziness continues, drug therapy may be required to treat such underlying illnesses as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, nervous conditions or diabetes. A physician may also prescribe antibiotics if ear infections are suspected. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have recently been shown to relieve dizziness in patients who have psychiatric symptoms. When other measures have failed, surgery may be suggested to relieve pressure on the inner ear. If the dizziness is not treatable by drugs, surgery, or other means, physical therapy may be used and the patient may be taught coping mechanisms for the problem.

Expected results
The outcome of treatment depends on the cause of dizziness. Controlling or curing the underlying factors usually relieves the dizziness itself. In some cases, the symptoms disappear without treatment. In a few cases, dizziness can become a permanent disabling condition.

Prevention

Most people learn through experience that certain activities will make them dizzy and they learn to avoid them. For example, if reading in a car produces motion sickness, reading should be postponed until after the trip. Changes in diet can also cut down on episodes of dizziness in susceptible people. For example, persons with Ménière’s disease may avoid episodes of vertigo by leaving salt, alcohol, and caffeine out of their diets. Reducing blood cholesterol can help diminish arteriosclerosis and indirectly treat dizziness. Daily multiple vitamin and mineral supplements may help prevent dizziness caused by deficiencies of these essential nutrients. Relaxation techniques can help ward off tension and anxiety that can cause dizziness.

Some cases of dizziness cannot be prevented. Acoustic neuromas, for example, are not predictable or preventable. Alternative approaches designed to rebalance the body’s energy flow, such as acupuncture and constitutional homeopathy, may be helpful in cases where the cause of dizziness cannot be pinpointed.

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Dizziness/Vertigo

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/dizziness

Women Sound Sexier When Fertile

A fascinating study has suggested women’s voices to be sexiest at the time of their menstrual cycle when they were at their most fertile.

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Earlier studies have already documented flirtatious behaviour and changes to body scents believed to be clues to a woman’s fertility status.

The latest study, to be published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour , found that a woman’s voice becomes more attractive during her monthly cycle when she is at her most fertile.

Nathan Pipitone and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany recorded women counting from 1 to 10 at four occasions during their menstrual cycle. When it was replayed at random, both males and females judged the women’s voices to be most attractive during the peak fertility period.

“The results showed a significant increase in voice attractiveness ratings as the risk of conception increased across the menstrual cycle in naturally cycling women. There was no effect for women using hormonal contraceptives,” the researchers were quoted as saying by the New Scientist magazine.

Click to see also:->Women’s voices sound sexier during ovulation

Fertile women ‘have sexier voice’

Fertile women smell sexy, say scientists

 

BBC Homepage

Fertile women smell sexy, say scientists

Sources: The Times Of India

Red Wine and Tea Can Help Regulate Your Blood Sugar

Researchers have shown that red wine and tea may both hold promise for regulating the blood sugar of people with type 2 diabetes.

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Levels of blood glucose rise sharply in patients with type 2 diabetes immediately following a meal. Red wine and tea contain antioxidants that help to slow the passage of glucose through the small intestine and into the bloodstream, which can prevent the blood sugar spike.

Keeping blood sugar levels normal is one of the key challenges of managing diabetes; doing so can help prevent the disease from contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure as well as damaging the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

In the study, researchers tested how well wine and tea could inhibit the activity of a target enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, which is responsible for triggering the absorption of glucose by the small intestine.

Red wine came out on top, as it was able to inhibit the enzyme by nearly 100 percent, compared to white wine at 20 percent.

Out of the four types of tea tested — black, oolong, white and green — black tea was most effective, followed by white tea and oolong tea.
Sources:
Science Daily April 3, 2008
Journal of Food Biochemistry February 2008, Volume 32 Issue 1 Page 15-31

Ingrown Toenail

Definition:

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that has grown into the skin instead of over it. This usually happens to the big toe, but it can also happen to other toes. An ingrown toenail can get infected. It may be painful, red, and swollen, and it may drain pus. See an illustration of an ingrown toenail….CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
It occurs when a nail grows into the flesh at the side of the nail. This usually affects the toes, particularly the big toe. People with curved or thick nails are most likely to develop a problem with ingrown nails, although ingrown nails can affect anyone.

Anyone can get an ingrown toenail, but adults get them more than children do. People who have curved or thick nails are more likely to get an ingrown toenail. This is more common in older adults.

Causes:

An ingrown toenail can have a number of different causes. Cutting your toenail too short or rounding the edge of the nail can cause it to grow into the skin. Wearing shoes or socks that don’t fit well can also cause an ingrown toenail. If your shoes are too tight, they might press the nail into the toe and cause it to grow into the skin.

You can get an ingrown toenail if you hurt your toe, such as stubbing it. This can cause the nail to grow inward. Repeating an activity that injuries the nail, such as kicking a soccer ball, can also cause an ingrown nail.

Ingrown toenails result when the nail grows into the flesh of your toe, often the big toe. Common causes include:

  • Wearing shoes that crowd your toenails
  • Cutting your toenails too short or not straight across
  • Injury to your toenail
  • Unusually curved toenails
  • Thickening of your toenails

An ingrown toenail can result from curved toenails, poorly fitting shoes, toenails that are trimmed improperly, or a toe injury. The skin around the toenail may become red and infected. The great toe is usually affected, but any toenail can become ingrown.

The condition may become serious in people with diabetes.

Symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:

*Pain and tenderness in your toe along one or both sides of the nail
*Redness around your toenail
*Swelling of your toe around the nail
*Infection of the tissue around your toenail

Risk factors:

Anyone can develop an ingrown toenail. But you may be more prone to ingrown toenails if you have toenails that curve down.

Ingrown toenails are also more common in older adults, because nails tend to thicken with age. This thickening or change of the curvature of your nails can cause ingrown toenails.

Complications:

Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and lead to a serious bone infection.

Complications can be especially severe if you have diabetes because the circulation and nerve supply to your feet can be impaired. Therefore, any relatively minor injury to your foot — cut, scrape, corn, callus or ingrown toenail — can lead to a more serious complication. In rare cases, an ingrown toenail can result in a difficult-to-heal open sore (foot ulcer), which could eventually require surgery. Foot ulcers left untreated may become infected and eventually even gangrenous. Rarely, amputation is the only treatment option.

Exams and Tests:
A doctor’s examination of the foot is sufficient to diagnose an ingrown toenail.

Treatment:

To treat an ingrown nail at home:

  1. Soak the foot in warm water.
  2. Use a nail file to separate the nail from the inflamed skin.
  3. Place a small piece of cotton under the nail. Wet the cotton with water or antiseptic.

Repeat those steps, several times a day if necessary, until the nail begins to grow out and the pain goes away. Also, trim the toenail and apply over-the-counter antibiotics. If this does not work and the ingrown nail gets worse, see a foot specialist (podiatrist) or skin specialist (dermatologist).

If steps you take at home don’t help, your doctor can treat an ingrown toenail by trimming or removing the ingrown portion of your nail to help relieve pain. Before this procedure, your doctor numbs your toe by injecting it with an anesthetic. After the procedure, you may need to rest your foot and soak it in warm water. Your doctor may also recommend using topical or oral antibiotics for ingrown toenail treatment, especially if the toe is infected or at risk of becoming infected.

For a recurrent ingrown toenail, your primary doctor or foot doctor may suggest removing a portion of your toenail along with the underlying tissue (nail bed) to prevent that part of your nail from growing back. This procedure can be done with a chemical, a laser or other methods.

Prognosis:
Treatment will generally control the infection and relieve pain. However, the condition is likely to return if measures to prevent it are not taken. Good foot care is important to prevent recurrence.

Prevention :

To prevent an ingrown toenail:

  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
  • Trim toenails straight across the top and not too short.
  • Keep the feet clean and dry.
  • People with diabetes should have routine foot exams and nail care.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:

http://www.revolutionhealth.com/articles/ingrown-nail/tp12748

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ingrown-toenails/DS00111/DSECTION=4

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001237.htm

A Step Forward

The Jaipur foot is now even better, thanks to a dedicated group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Looking for a project to do in his third undergraduate year, Goutam Reddy was sure he would not do anything “fashionable”. He was studying electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. “I wanted something that would find application in the developing world, not the next fast car,” he says.

Reddy grew up in Michigan State, but his parents were of Indian origin. During one of his visits to India, he came to know about the Jaipur foot, which was being fitted to patients by the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti in New Delhi. He visited this organisation, trying to understand and improve the technology as part of his project. But he could not find anything to do immediately.

Anyone who sees the Jaipur foot being fitted to patients will never forget the experience. It was no different for Reddy. The Jaipur foot, developed in the 1970s by the late P.K. Sethi, an orthopaedic surgeon, and artisan Ram Chandra, is the one of the best options in the world if you lose your leg. It is lightweight and strong, made of easily available materials like rubber, and costs only $28. An artificial foot in the US would cost a few thousand dollars at least. It was popular among soldiers in war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan. Soldiers who lost their legs came to Jaipur to be fitted with this low-cost miracle. At least 250,000 of these have been fitted to poor people who have lost their legs.

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The Jaipur foot (above) gave Sudha Chandran(a great dancer) a new lease of life after she lost a leg in a 1981 accident.

Yet the Jaipur foot is far from perfect. Reddy realised that the manufacturing methods needed improvement. Several devices used in the Jaipur foot could be improved as well. This was expected, because they were still using techniques developed 30 years ago. If the knee is also amputated, as often happens, the patient will not be able to bend his or her leg — in this case, the artificial foot. This is a common problem with most low-cost artificial legs. Although he could not develop a project immediately, Reddy realised that he could improve the Jaipur foot sometime in the future. The fitting process, in particular, seemed in need of betterment.

The traditional way of fitting was to use plaster of paris moulds. A year and a half ago, the Centre for International Rehabilitation in Chicago developed a new process. This consisted of making the amputees put their leg inside sand and then applying a vacuum. The vacuum made the sand rock solid, and the resulting impression a perfect mould. The vacuum is created using an air compressor, and this necessitated the use of a generator. Reddy, along with other MIT students, found a way to eliminate this generator. They also gave a new name to the Samiti: the Jaipur Foot Organisation (JFO).

After Reddy finished his master’s degree at MIT, he set up a non-profit organisation called Developing World Prosthetics. Other MIT students also joined him. These students were also studying engineering at MIT, and they chose improving the Jaipur foot as their undergraduate project. Some of them travelled to India — using a grant from MIT’s public Service Centre and a $7,500 prize from a competition — to work on this. Finally, they developed a method using a cycle pump and human power to generate a vacuum in the fitting process. The students returned with a better perspective of the developing world. “I want to work on developing world prosthetic projects,” says Philip Garcia, one of the students.

Meanwhile, Reddy has initiated a course at MIT on wheelchair design in developing countries. He remains deeply interested in robotic prosthetics, and in improving the Jaipur foot farther. Members of the JFO rarely get the time to improve the original invention. “Our primary aim is to make and fit the foot,” says Sanjeev Kumar, manager of the Delhi branch of the JFO. Reddy and his organisation will now attempt this task.

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The dancer enthralls her audience in the hugely popular TV show Jhalak dikhla ja

For example, they are trying to improve the sand-casting system for adoption in rural areas. Another project is to improve the flexibility of the device. If the Jaipur foot is fitted above the knee, the patient has to walk with a straight leg — they can bend the “knee” only when they want to sit. The MIT students and Developing World Prosthetics are now working on this problem. The spring session at MIT has a course on developing world prosthetics, and solving the straight knee problem will be one of their primary tasks.

SourcesL : The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

Smoke Signals

Facebook has many uses, but scientific research is not usually considered to be one of them. However, this social networking site, immensely popular among young people, helped Canadian researchers track children who were part of a study five years ago. The study was on nicotine dependence among school children. As they followed the habit once again among the teenagers, the scientists gained two valuable insights on smoking and adolescents — first, that smoking does not make girls thin and, second, that it makes boys shorter. Both findings contradicted common perceptions about smoking in North America, and probably in the rest of the world as well.

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Researchers have been looking at smoking in children and adolescents for some time now, because tobacco addiction generally starts somewhere in high school or early university life. By global standards, the problem is not very serious in North America, which has seen a decline in smoking over the years. In fact, the World Health Organization lists India as one of the nations with a high prevalence of smoking among the young, along with Central and Eastern Europe and some Pacific Islands. However, smoking does start early sometimes in North America, as in India and other parts of the world. And misconceptions about smoking are often a strong motivation to start tobacco use.

As a young girl, Jennifer ’ Loughlin had heard about smoking and weight control early in life. “Smoking will make you thin,” she was told by many while she was growing up. Now as an epidemiologist and biostatistician at the University of Montreal, she has been studying the natural history of nicotine dependence. A few years ago, she had found compelling evidence for a genetic role in the development of nicotine dependence among teenagers. Now her study, done with colleagues in other Canadian institutions, debunks a popular myth: that smoking is good for weight control among girls.

As she had known always, girls in North America often cite this as a reason to start smoking. This finding should thus be a strong deterrent, but what the scientists found among boys was even more interesting. Boys who smoked regularly grew up to be an inch shorter. Since growing tall is one of the ambitions of adolescent boys, this finding should be an even stronger deterrent to smoking among boys. Says ’ Loughlin: “Boys now may see smoking as a bad choice if they want to grow tall.”

Smoking among children and adolescents has received considerable attention among scientists of various disciplines. Most of these studies did not provide any conclusive evidence of why adolescents smoked or how smoking affects them. For example, a part of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey in Punjab in 2003 got conflicting results regarding motivations. The participants said that boys or girls who smoke have more friends. But they also said that those who smoke are less attractive.

Three years ago, scientists at the Yale University studied all the research literature on smoking and weight concerns among teenagers. They found that a significant number of teenage girls believed smoking was a way of weight control, but they did not find any relationship in practice. On the other hand, heavier boys reduced their body mass index when they smoked. Girls who smoked more cigarettes were more concerned about gaining weight after they quit, which provided a strong motivation to continue smoking.

’ Loughlin had started studying smoking in children in 1999. She had funding from the Canadian Cancer Society. She followed a cohort of students in high school for five years. “Children in North America generally start smoking at the age of 12,” she says. “Some start even at eight.” She had then found a possible genetic link, a predisposition that makes some pick up the habit when exposed to it.

A few years later, she wanted to follow these students again. There were 1,300 of them, and many of them had gone away from where they originally lived. But the scientists managed to trace every one of them. “We used Facebook heavily to trace the students,” says ’ Loughlin. She had a grant of $650 million, again from the Canadian Cancer Society. The results of the study provided compelling evidence of smoking and height and weight among children aged between 12 and 17. Girls do not shed weight when they smoked. Boys shed height when they did.

While common sense says that smoking should not cause any difference in weight, the decrease in height is more intriguing. The study found that boys who smoked 10 cigarettes a day from the age 12 to 17 would be an inch shorter than a boy who did not smoke. This was not true of girls, probably because boys attain full height a few years later than girls do. Why does this happen? There is no clear answer, but we can hazard a guess. Maybe nicotine deprives the body of oxygen. Maybe it somehow affects the growth hormones. Whatever the reason is, the message is loud and clear.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

Exercise During Pregnancy Means a Healthier Heart for Both Mom and Baby

Exercise is good not only for mothers-to-be, but also for their developing babies, according to a new study by researchers from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

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Maternal exercise during pregnancy may have a beneficial effect on fetal cardiac programming by reducing fetal heart rate and increasing heart rate variability. Researchers studied fetal heart rates with magnetocardiography (MCG), a safe, non-invasive method used to record the magnetic field surrounding the electrical currents generated by the fetal heart and nervous system.

There were significantly lower heart rates among fetuses that had been exposed to maternal exercise. The heart rates among non-exposed fetuses were higher, regardless of the fetal activity or the gestational age.

The researchers concluded that exercising during pregnancy can benefit a mother’s own heart and her developing baby’s heart as well.
Sources:
Science Daily April 10, 2008
121st annual meeting of the American Physiological Society April 5-9, 2008, San Diego, CA

Arthritis Can Be Managed With Diet and Exercise

exercise, yogaMany people with arthritis automatically reach for pain medication, but it is not always necessary to do so. There are other solutions that work just as well, or even better, for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.For instance, a variety of supplements — including bromelain, essential fatty acids, and glucosamine — can be beneficial for arthritis. But the best supplement of all is proper food. Proper, nutritious food has yielded health effects that surpass any supplement.

Exercises, including activities that engage the full body, are also recommended for individuals with arthritis. This:

  • Helps joint mobility
  • Prevents loss of lean muscle tissue
  • Maintains strength
  • Reduces pain and stiffness
  • Mobilizes stiff or contracted joints

But perhaps most importantly, it helps people with arthritis stay independent.

Mystics and Medicine

Are we being hoodwinked by alternative medicine? ……Two leading scientists examine the evidence. The first of a two-part extract from Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst:
MIRACLE CURE? Alexander Technique,……… aromatherapy and magnet therapy


Which therapies work and which ones are useless? Which therapies are safe and which ones are dangerous? These are questions that doctors have asked themselves for millennia in relation to all forms of medicine.

And yet it is only comparatively recently that they have developed an approach that allows them to separate the effective from the ineffective, and the safe from the dangerous.

This approach, known as evidence-based medicine, has revolutionised medical practice, transforming it from an industry of charlatans and incompetents into a system of healthcare that can deliver such miracles as transplanting kidneys, removing cataracts, combating childhood diseases, eradicating smallpox and saving millions of lives each year.

Evidence-based medicine is about using the current best evidence — gathered through clinical trials and other scientific investigations — to make medical decisions. Alternative medicine claims to be able to treat the same illnesses and diseases that conventional medicine tries to tackle.

We set out to establish the truth of these claims by using the principles of evidence-based medicine.

Some people will be suspicious of this, perceiving evidence-based medicine as a strategy for allowing the medical establishment to defend its own members and treatment, while excluding outsiders who offer alternative treatments.

In fact, the opposite is often true — evidence-based medicine actually allows outsiders to be heard; it endorses any treatment that turns out to be effective, however strange it may seem.

In the 18th century, for instance, lemon juice as a treatment for scurvy was regarded as implausible but the establishment had to accept it because it was backed up by evidence from trials.

We had no axe to grind — indeed Professor Ernst even practised as a homeopath for many years (as well as receiving treatment as a patient) — and we came to our conclusions based on a fair, thorough and scientific assessment of the evidence.

So what did we find? While some therapies do provide some health benefits (e.g. osteopathy), most have nothing to offer.

Many popular therapies are “effective” only because they are good at eliciting a placebo response; making the patient feel better simply because they believe the treatment will help.

You might feel that as placebos help patients, this alone justifies the use of the therapy. But any treatment that relies on the placebo effect is essentially a bogus treatment. And it’s far from cheap.

If alternative practitioners are making unproven, disproven or vastly exaggerated claims, and if their treatments carry risks, then we are being swindled at the expense of our own good health.

Too many alternative therapists remain uninterested in determining the safety and efficacy of their interventions. These practitioners also fail to see the importance of rigorous clinical trials in establishing proper evidence for or against their treatments — where evidence already exists that treatments are ineffective or unsafe, alternative therapists carry on regardless.

Despite this disturbing situation, the market for alternative treatments is booming, and the public is being misled over and over again, often by misguided therapists; sometimes by exploitative charlatans.

It is time for the tricks to stop, and for the real treatments to take priority. The same scientific standards, evaluation and regulation should be applied to all types of medicine.

If this doesn’t happen, then homeopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, herbalists and many other alternative therapists will continue to prey on the most vulnerable — raiding their wallets, offering false hope and even endangering their health.

ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE:-

WHAT IS IT?….. A technique for relearning correct posture and body movements. Alexander teachers guide their clients through exercise sessions using a gentle, hands-on approach. As plenty of repetition is needed, 30 to 100 such sessions are usually required to master the technique, demanding a considerable level of commitment from the client, in terms of both time and money.

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DOES IT WORK? ……Very little research so far has been conducted on the technique. Some promising findings have emerged in terms of improvement of respiratory function, reduction of anxiety, reduction of disability in Parkinson’s disease and improvement of chronic back pain.

However, for none of these conditions is the evidence sufficient to claim that the Alexander technique is effective.

AROMATHERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT?
Plant essences (known as “essential oils”) are used to treat or prevent illnesses or enhance wellbeing. Most commonly, the diluted oil is applied to the skin via a gentle massage, but it can also be added to a bath or diffused in the air.

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Aromatherapists believe that different essential oils have different specific effects. Aromatherapy is advocated for chronic conditions such as anxiety, tension headache and musculoskeletal pain.

DOES IT WORK? Some clinical trials confirm the relaxing effects of aromatherapy massage. However, this is usually short-lived and therefore of debatable therapeutic value. Some essential oils do seem to have specific effects. For instance, tea tree has anti-microbial properties. However, these effects are far less reliable than those of conventional antibiotics. There is no evidence that aromatherapy can treat specific diseases.


CHIROPRACTIC THERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to realign the spine to restore mobility. Spinal manipulation can be a fairly aggressive technique, which pushes the spinal joint slightly beyond what it is ordinarily capable of achieving, using a technique called high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust — exerting a relatively strong force in order to move the joint at speed, but the extent of the motion needs to be limited to prevent damage to the joint and its surrounding structures.

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Some chiropractors claim to treat everything from digestive disorders to ear infections, others will treat only back problems.

DOES IT WORK?
There is no evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation is effective for anything but back pain and even then conventional approaches (such as regular exercise and ibuprofen) are just as likely to be effective and are cheaper. Neck manipulation has been linked to neurological complications such as strokes — in 1998, a 20-year-old Canadian woman died after neck manipulation caused a blood clot which led to stroke. We would strongly recommend physiotherapy exercises and osteopathy ahead of chiropractic therapy because they are at least effective and much safer. The dangers of chiropractic therapy to children are particularly worrying because a chiropractor would be manipulating an immature spine.


HYPNOTHERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? The use of hypnosis, a trance-like state, for therapeutic purposes. Hypnotherapists treat a range of chronic conditions, including pain, anxiety, addictions and phobias.

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DOES IT WORK?
Dozens of clinical trials show that hypnotherapy is effective in reducing pain, anxiety and the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, the evidence is that it’s not effective to help you stop smoking, even though it is frequently promoted in this context.


MAGNET THERAPY:-

WHAT IS IT? The use of magnetic fields from static magnets, which are usually worn on the body, to treat various conditions, most frequently pain. These days rapidly fluctuating magnetic fields are used in conventional medicine in high-tech imaging machines (such as MRI scanners) and for promoting the healing of bone fractures. However, alternative medicine tends to use static magnets, which create a permanent magnetic field, to treat many conditions, mostly to alleviate chronic pain.

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DOES IT WORK? There is no evidence that static magnets offer any medical benefit for pain relief. As they are usually self-administered, there is a danger of missing serious diagnoses and losing valuable time for early treatment of serious diseases.

OSTEOPATHY:-

WHAT IS IT? A manual therapy which focuses on the musculoskeletal system to treat disease. Osteopaths use a range of techniques to mobilise soft tissues, bones and joints. Osteopathy and chiropractic therapy have much in common, but there are also important differences.

Osteopaths tend to use gentler techniques and often employ massage-like treatments. They also place less emphasis on the spine than chiropractors, and they rarely move the vertebral joints beyond their physical range of motion, unlike chiropractors. Therefore osteopathic interventions are less likely to injure.

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In general they treat mainly musculoskeletal problems, but many also claim to treat other conditions such as asthma, ear infection and colic.

DOES IT WORK? There is reasonably good evidence that the osteopathic approach is as effective as conventional treatments for back pain, but there is no good evidence to support the use of osteopathy in nonmusculoskeletal conditions.

People with severe osteoporosis, bone cancer, infections of the bone or bleeding problems should confirm with the osteopath that they will not receive forceful manual treatments.

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP:-


*Advice for anyone considering alternative medicine:

*Consult and inform your GP — the treatment might interfere with any ongoing conventional therapies.

*Do not stop your conventional treatment unless your doctor advises that this is sensible.

*Alternative therapies can be expensive, so make sure there is evidence to support the efficacy of a therapy before spending huge sums of money.

*Every treatment carries risks, so make sure the risks are outweighed by the benefits.

Sources: THe Telegraph (Kolkata, India)