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Use of Anti-Obesity Drug Rising in Kids

There has been a significant increase in weight-loss drugs being prescribed to combat childhood obesity in UK, according to a new study.
Obese kids ->……Obese kids

The researchers said thousands of children and adolescents are using anti-obesity drugs that in the UK are only licensed for use by adults.

The number of young people receiving prescriptions for these drugs has increased 15-fold since 1999.

However, most stop using them before they could expect to see any benefit.

The study showed that more than three quarters of those included in the study received prescriptions for orlistat, also known as Xenical or Alli.

Orlistat has been approved for children as young as 12 in the US, but only for adults in the UK.

Most patients given orlistat stopped using it very quickly, on average after just three months, and therefore would have been unlikely to see any benefit.

“It”s possible that the drugs are being given inappropriately, or that they have excessive side effects that make young people discontinue their use,” said Russell Viner, one of the authors of the study based at the General & Adolescent Paediatrics Unit at University College London.

On the other hand they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle “quick fix” and stop using them when sudden, rapid weight loss does not occur, he added.

Study author Ian Wong says that children who are prescribed orlistat may need more support and should be made fully aware of the potential side effects, which include loose, oily stools if fat intake is not reduced.

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Source:The study appears in British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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Elderly Skin ‘Raises Cancer Risk’

Older people are more at risk of skin cancer and infection because their skin is unable to mobilise the immune system to defend itself, UK research suggests.

It contradicts previous thinking that defects in a type of immune cell called a T cell were responsible for waning immunity with age.
Elderly skin 'raises cancer risk'
In fact, it is the inability of the skin to attract T cells to where they are needed that seems to be at fault.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Study leader, Professor Arne Akbar from University College London, said reduced immunity in older people is well known, but why and how it happens is not.

“Going in to intervene may have consequences that we don’t realise and that’s where we need to do more research”says Professor Arne Akbar, study leader.


A number of volunteers – one group of 40-year-olds and one group aged over 70 – were injected with an antigen to stimulate an immune response from T cells.

As expected, the immune response in the older group was much less than that in the younger volunteers.

But when the researchers looked at the T cells there was nothing wrong with them.

What had declined in the older group was the ability of the skin to attract T cells – effectively the signals to direct them to the right place were missing.


Further experiments with skin samples in a test tube showed that the skin was still able to send the appropriate signals when pushed, suggesting the problem is reversible.

“At the outset we thought it would be the cells responsible for combating infections that might be at fault, but the surprising thing was the T cells were fine but they couldn’t get into the skin – the signals were missing,” Mr Akbar said.

He said it raised the possibility of ways to boost the immune system in older people to give them a better chance of fighting infection and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

“The question that it raises is what survival advantage there is to this, is there a negative reason for having too much immunity in the skin when you get older?

“Going in to intervene may have consequences that we don’t realise and that’s where we need to do more research.”

He added that the same immune problems may be apparent in other tissues in the body.

Steve Visscher, deputy executive at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which funded the research, said knowing more about the ageing process was vital as people increasingly live longer.

“The more knowledge we have about healthy ageing, the better we get at preventing, managing and treating diseases that are simply a factor of an ageing body.”

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Source: BBC NEWS: Aug.29 2009

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Very Little Sleep is Bad for Woman’s Heart but not Man’s

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Around a third of British adults regularly get less than five hours a night and previous studies have found that such lifestyles can raise the risk of diabetes and stroke, while more sleep reduces the chance of catching a cold.

But the imbalance between the sexes is a newer phenomenon.

Michelle Miller, professor of biochemical medicine at Warwick Medical School, who conducted the latest research, said everyone should aim for seven to eight hours’ shut-eye a night, but that it was particularly important for women.

‘These results support the idea that short sleep is associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk and that the association between sleep duration and cardiovascular risk factors is markedly different in men and women.’

The research, conducted jointly by Warwick University and University College London, found that the levels of two chemicals linked to heart problems vary significantly with sleep duration in women, but not men.

Levels of Interleukin-6, a marker related to coronary heart disease, were significantly lower in women who slept for eight hours rather than seven.

And levels of High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which can indicate a future risk of cardiovascular disease, were significantly higher in women who slept for five hours or less.

But among men, the differences were far less marked. Professor Miller said more study was needed to work out why this was, although she said differences in hormone levels may be to blame.

The study, published in the American journal Sleep, involved more than 4,600 civil servants from London, aged between 35 and 55. Some 73 per cent were men.

They were asked about length of sleep and their health was assessed by a screening examination, during which blood tests were taken.

June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study found that women – but not men – who sleep less tend to have indicators of increased inflammation.

It is thought that inflammation in our body is related to heart and circulatory disease.

‘Previous research suggests that a good night’s sleep may help to keep our heart and circulation healthy, and this study could point to an underlying reason behind that finding.’

Source: Mail Online . July 1st.’09

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Probiotic Drinks not Helpful Healthy People


Consuming probiotic supplements  is of no benefit to healthy people and can, infact, harm a person with compromised immune systems, warns  a leading microbiologist.

According to Michael Wilson, Professor of Microbiology at University College London, there were some cases when topping up on “good bacteria” could help recovery from illness, but understanding of the supplements is “shaky”.

“There are certain instances when probiotics are useful but the problem is there’s no regulation,” The Telegraph quoted Wilson, as saying.

“They are regarded as food supplements not medicinal products – anyone can get a suspension of bacteria and market it as a probiotic,” said Wilson, speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

“With medicinal treatments, the pharmaceutical industry makes sure the things they produce are safe,” he added.

Prof Wilson believes increasing the bacterial load in people with compromised immune systems could lead to health problems.

“No bacterium is totally innocuous. If you are healthy there is probably no harm in taking probiotics, but there is also no benefit. But to increase the bacterial burden if you are immuno-compromised is asking for trouble,” he said.

Source: The Times Of India

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Bacteria to Clean Arsenic Spills

Scientists have stumbled on a new bacteria that can clean up arsenic spills even in previously inhospitable terrains.

The Giant Mine in Canada is in the sub-arctic region. The presence of over 230,000 tonnes of arsenic-containing dust makes it one of the most polluted places on earth, as well as one of the most inhospitable.

“Water seeps through the mine cracks carrying the arsenic with it as it drips down the walls,” said Thomas Osborne of University College London. “We discovered new types of bacteria living in biofilms on the walls of Giant Mine that consume arsenic compounds contained in the polluted water seeping through.”

Arsenic is toxic to all living cells, and in people causes fatal cancers of the lung, liver, kidney and bladder. It also causes cirrhosis and gangrene, and on a wider scale seriously damages wildlife in fragile environments.

Arsenic contamination is a global problem, with parts of India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, Argentina and the US severely affected.

“Until now, no bacteria have ever been isolated that can thrive in cold temperatures and deal with arsenic contamination. The new bacteria we discovered function at temperatures between minus 20 degrees Celsius and four degrees C,” said Osborne.

“These bacteria also live in a community called a biofilm, which means that we can build them into a new system to clean up contaminated areas by removing the arsenic from soil or drinking water, even in the cold far north and south, or in winter.

“The other exciting possibility that this opens up is that we can isolate the enzyme from these new strains of bacteria and develop an arsenic biosensor to use in cold environments.

“This will warn when traces of arsenic are escaping from areas like mine workings, industrial chemical facilities, or even laboratories, alerting us before pollution manages to get into water courses or drinking water supplies. We could also use it to test newly drilled wells in countries like Bangladesh where water supplies are known to be contaminated.”

Many organisms, including all plants and animals, ultimately get their energy from the sun via photosynthesis. But over the last few decades scientists have discovered more and more microbes that can get their energy directly from breaking down chemical bonds.

This enables them to survive in extraordinary and dark environments such as deep inside the earth or at the bottom of the coldest, deepest oceans, where previously no life was expected to exist at all.

These findings were presented on Monday at the Society for General Microbiology‘s Autumn meeting being held this week at Trinity College, Dublin.

Sources: The Times Of India

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