2016-09-27T07:32:12+00:00cientists at Baylor College of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have discovered a new mechanism in the mouse brain that regulates obesity. The study, which appears in Cell Reports today, shows that this new mechanism can potentially be targeted to treat obesity. “It’s well known that the brain is involved in the development of obesity, but how a high-fat diet changes the brain so it triggers the accumulation of body fat is still unclear,” said senior author Dr. Makoto Fukuda, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor and the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital. Fukuda and colleagues studied the mouse Rap1 gene, which is expressed in a variety of tissues, including the brain where it is involved in functions such as memory and learning. Little was known, however, of the role brain Rap1 plays in energy balance.
2016-09-27T07:30:52+00:00How the brain responds to nicotine depends on a smoker’s belief about the nicotine content in a cigarette, according to new research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. The study, recently published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that smoking a nicotine cigarette but believing that it lacked nicotine failed to satisfy cravings related to nicotine addiction. Contrary to their expectations, researchers found that in order to satisfy nicotine cravings, smokers had to not only smoke a cigarette with nicotine but also believe that they were smoking nicotine. “These results suggest that for drugs to have an effect on a person, he or she needs to believe that the drug is present,” said Dr. Xiaosi Gu, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and the study’s lead author.
2016-07-12T09:24:05+00:00Whether you’re an avid baker, or just love a sweet treat, it’s hard to resist the appeal of chocolate. But increasing evidence shows that resistance may not be necessary. Studies demonstrate myriad benefits of chocolate, from creating a feel-good buzz to boosting cardiovascular health. Read on to learn more, then try some healthy recipes. The Latest Research A recent study in the journal Heart shows that habitual chocolate consumption is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Keeping in mind that the study only demonstrated correlation (not causation), it’s nonetheless exciting to see that among participants who consumed a relatively high volume of chocolate every day, 12% developed or died of cardiovascular disease during the 12-year study. Compare that to participants who didn’t eat chocolate at all, among whom 17.4% developed or died of the disease. How much were the chocolate-eaters consuming? About 16 to 100 grams per day, or roughly one half to two typical chocolate bars.
2016-06-22T06:49:55+00:00Researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center have announced the results of a study that may change how nutrition therapy is delivered to overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. The “Nutrition Pathway Study” compared three models of nutrition therapy and found that a highly structured nutrition plan provides the most significant impact on A1C, body weight and lipid profiles. The study results were presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, Louisiana. Participants in the structured nutrition therapy arm of the study reduced A1C by an average of 0.67 percent and reduced body weight by an average of 3.5 Kg over 16 weeks. According to Osama Hamdy, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of the Obesity Clinical Program at Joslin Diabetes Center and lead investigator on the study, these results were achieved without increasing exercise, changing medications or undertaking behavioral changes. “This drop in A1C due to nutrition therapy alone is much better than what we have been able to achieve with many of the current medications for type 2 diabetes ,” said Dr. Hamdy. “This is very encouraging since participants in the study have lived with type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years and were not able to control their blood glucose or weight with multiple medications.”
2016-06-22T06:35:47+00:00Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent, disabling and expensive public health crises in the United States. It affects more than 100 million Americans, with annual costs estimated at $635 billion, says a 2014 report from the American Pain Society. Despite the enormous societal impact of chronic pain, present treatment options are limited to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), opioids, anticonvulsants and antidepressants, which provide pain relief to only about half of patients. Furthering the problem, prescription opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. There were more than 45,000 painkiller-related deaths in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine are aiming to identify new molecular mechanisms involved in pain. Their latest study, published this month in Epigenetics & Chromatin, shows how one protein - acting as a master controller - can regulate the expression of a large number of genes that modulate pain.
2016-06-11T22:36:57+00:00The combination of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease can be deadly. New research from a global study led by a physician from UConn Health has found that patients with Type 2 diabetes admitted into the hospital for congestive heart failure face a one in four chance of dying over the next 18 months. The results were presented on June 11 at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) annual meeting in New Orleans and published online in the ADA journal Diabetes Care. The findings paint a much grimmer picture of the outcome for diabetes patients with severe heart disease than was previously known.
2016-06-07T08:03:01+00:00Battling the childhood obesity epidemic is a priority for many researchers, as obesity during adolescence increases the risk of chronic diseases throughout life. Because obese children have lower quality of life and self-esteem, greater levels of depression and anxiety, and also face more teasing and bullying than normal-weight peers, including mental health in any intervention is necessary. To that end, researchers studied the self-perception of children participating in the Fit Families program. Fit Families is a program based on Social Cognitive Theory delivered through the New Mexico Cooperative Extension service. The program was developed for areas of southern New Mexico lacking resources to help combat childhood obesity in a positive, culturally appropriate manner by encouraging healthy food and nutrient intake and increased physical activity. For this study, children with a body mass index at least in the 85th percentile were referred by local physicians. The final study included 46 children, ranging from 8 to 17 years of age, 43% of whom were male, and 80% of whom were Hispanic. “With our emphasis on fun physical activity, children and parents reported enjoying the games at Fit Families. We believe this may have resulted in the children’s increased self-perception related to their athletic ability,” said Martha Archuleta, PhD, RD, lead author of the study. “Children also improved the perception of their physical appearance, possibly due to the way self-acceptance and diversity of body sizes were promoted.”
2016-05-08T00:30:07+00:00Colorectal cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in the United States, expected to claim the lives of an estimated 49,190 people in 2016. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed to increase access to CRC screening by not holding patients responsible for all costs of the procedure, yet current Medicare insurance beneficiaries lacking supplemental insurance may not be able to afford colon cancer screening and treatment. This policy disproportionally puts low-income Americans at risk and adds unnecessary strains on overall health care costs, according to a commentary in the May issue of the journal Gastroenterology. “Study after study shows that screening saves lives,” said Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH, chair and the Presidential Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and lead author of the commentary. “Yet many of those in the group most affected by this deadly disease are unable to afford the screening they critically need. We must renew efforts to ensure equitable access to and use of disease prevention, detection, and treatment services for colorectal cancer.” For CRC screening, a full colonoscopy is necessary, where the doctor inspects the rectum and entire colon through a flexible lighted tube, and can remove any abnormal growth. The entire colon has to be cleansed before the colonoscopy, for which the patient is usually sedated There are currently an estimated 55.5 million Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 14 percent lacked supplemental coverage. Until recently, colon cancer screening has been viewed as a one-time activity, while in practice, screening is a series of clinical activities to identify and test patients and perform diagnostic confirmation when necessary. This series of tests and steps include a diagnostic workup, which can include a biopsy to obtain a tissue sample or polypectomy, in which polyps are removed to prevent them from becoming cancerous.
2016-04-26T10:02:03+00:00The alarming increase in U.S. childhood obesity rates that began nearly 30 years ago continues unabated, with the biggest increases in severe obesity, according to a study led by a Duke Clinical Research Institute scientist. “Despite some other recent reports, we found no indication of a decline in obesity prevalence in the United States in any group of children aged 2 through 19,” said lead author Asheley Skinner, Ph.D., associate professor at Duke. “This is particularly true with severe obesity, which remains high, especially among adolescents.” Skinner, along with colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a large, ongoing compilation of health information that has spanned decades.
2016-04-22T17:56:15+00:00Babies with a high body mass index (BMI) at age two months are at risk for obesity at age two years, say pediatric researchers. The authors, in an online study published today in Pediatrics, say that BMI better predicts early childhood obesity than weight-for-length, the current standard measurement. “An important factor in preventing obesity in adults is identifying at-risk individuals as early as possible, when interventions may have the greatest effect - even during infancy,” said lead author Sani Roy, M.D., a pediatric endocrinology fellow at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “However, there is no currently accepted definition for excess body weight below age two.” Roy added that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends using weight-for-length (WFL) as a standard measurement during infancy, and that WFL is also predominantly used worldwide.
2016-04-14T09:32:23+00:00Long associated with liver cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reveals for the first time that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is associated with certain head and neck cancers. The findings, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, could have significant implications for both the screening of those with the virus and the treatment of those with head and neck cancers. Hepatitis C, the most common blood-borne infection in the U.S., is a virus that affects up to 1.5 percent of the population. It’s estimated that as many as 3.9 million are chronically infected with the virus, according to the researchers. In the last few years, new antiviral drugs have made it possible to cure more than 90 percent of the HCV population, says Harrys A. Torres, M.D., associate professor, Infectious Disease, Infection Control and Employee Health. The antivirals are oral medications taken once or twice daily with almost no side effects, he explains.
2016-04-04T18:48:09+00:00A UT Dallas scientist has found a new neurological mechanism that appears to contribute to a reduction in pain. According to Dr. Ted Price, associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the discovery of neuroligin-2 as a cause exacerbating chronic pain is significant for the research community. Although the findings likely won’t immediately lead to new pain therapies, the findings offer a potential new therapeutic direction to investigate, he said. Price’s research on the topic has recently been published online in Pain, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. The study focused on the body’s inhibitory networks - a series of biochemical reactions that decrease certain neurological activity, such as pain. Price said a great deal of previous research in this area has focused on the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, a chemical released by nerve cells in the brain.
2016-04-04T18:46:38+00:00Abuse of prescription opioid medicines used to treat chronic pain has reached epidemic proportions, so much that the White House has announced new efforts to combat addiction and prevent the thousands of overdose-related deaths reported in the U.S. each year. But a University of Texas at Arlington research team has been working on an alternative solution: electrical stimulation of a deep, middle brain structure that blocks pain signals at the spinal cord level without drug intervention. The process also triggers the release of beneficial dopamine, which may reduce the emotional distress associated with long-term pain, researchers said. “This is the first study to use a wireless electrical device to alleviate pain by directly stimulating the ventral tegmental area of the brain,” said Yuan Bo Peng, UTA psychology professor. “While still under laboratory testing, this new method does provide hope that in the future we will be able to alleviate chronic pain without the side effects of medications.”
2016-03-22T19:36:06+00:00A new study sheds light on a powerful tool that may detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease before patients show any symptoms of cognitive decline: the home computer. An early online version of this paper detailing the findings has been published and is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (volume 52, issue 2). OHSU researchers have found a significant correlation between infrequent daily computer use and brain imaging signs commonly seen in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.
2016-03-17T18:02:07+00:00Most children overeat significantly when served large portions of calorie-dense popular foods, according to a Penn State study. The results suggest that manipulating calorie content and portion size can substantially reduce children’s overall caloric consumption. Researchers in the Department of Nutritional Sciences found that caregivers can lower the calorie density (CD) of children’s meals by choosing palatable lower-CD, commercially available products, such as un-breaded, grilled chicken pieces and reduced-sugar applesauce. “With acceptable and readily available products, strategies to reduce calories can be easily implemented in homes and childcare settings, and can be strategically combined with changes in portion size by serving larger portions of lower-CD foods with smaller portions of higher-CD foods,” said Barbara Rolls, co-author, professor and the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences. “These strategies that moderate the effects of portion size are practical and effective in reducing calorie intake; however, policy makers and food producers need to provide the resources and products to help parents and caregivers counter pervasive influences.”