Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Health Headlines - March 10

Oily Fish May Not Protect Against Dementia: Study

Eating oily fish may not help prevent dementia in old age, say U.K. researchers who studied data from a trial of more than 800 older people.

Initially, the researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found a significant association between eating a couple of portions of oily fish per week and higher scores on tests of cognitive function, BBC News reported.

However, that association almost vanished when the researchers factored in education and psychological health. The finding, published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, challenges previous research suggesting that oily fish may help prevent dementia.

"The evidence on this has always been sporadic," said study leader Dr. Alan Dangour, BBC News reported. "What this shows is there is a link between people who eat oily fish and better cognitive function, but if you adjust for education and mood, this relationship goes, so it's not at all clear that healthy older people get any benefit from eating fish oil."


Scientists Identify Genes Linked to Childhood Brain Cancer

Genetic malfunctions linked to one of the leading types of childhood brain cancer have been identified by a Canadian-led team of researchers, who said their findings may lead to new treatments for medulloblastoma.

In the largest-ever genetic study of childhood brain cancer, the scientists sequenced the DNA of brain tumors taken from 800 children worldwide, the Globe and Mail reported.

They identified a family of eight genes capable of causing the deadly form of brain cancer, which occurs when primitive brain cells develop into tumors at the back of the brain. When the genes work properly, they instruct neurons in that area of the brain to stop growing. But a malfunction in any of the eight genes leads to medulloblastoma, which kills 40 percent of patients within five years.

Scientists are racing to test compounds already known to affect these eight genes, the Globe and Mail reported.

The study was published online Sunday in the journal Nature Genetics.


CNN's Gupta Won't Be U.S. Surgeon General

Citing family and work considerations, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has withdrawn his name as a candidate for U.S. Surgeon General, White House officials said Thursday.

Gupta had been under "serious consideration" for the post but decided he wants to focus on his medical career and spend more time with his family, an administration official told the Associated Press.

There were no problems that would have disqualified Gupta from becoming surgeon general, the official added.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Gupta noted he had two young daughters and a third child on the way.

"My wife is imminent with our third child. You know, this job ... takes us away from our children for so many years at once, and I sort of came to grips with the fact that I'd probably be away at least the first several years. ... And I just didn't feel like I should do that now," Gupta said in the interview.


Optimism Boosts Health, Life Span: Study

Optimists live longer and healthier lives than pessimists, according to a U.S. study of 100,000 women who were surveyed about their personality traits and then followed for eight years.

Those who said they were optimists were less likely to die from any cause and 30 percent less likely to die from heart disease. Women who were more pessimistic had a higher overall death rate and were 23 percent more likely to die from a cancer-related condition, ABC News reported.

The findings were presented Thursday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

Optimistic people may have less physical reaction to stress, or may be more likely to follow a doctor's advice and, therefore, maintain their health, suggested lead author Hilary Tindle, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, the AP reported.


Companies Halt U.S. Sales of Baby Bottles With BPA

Baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) will no longer be sold in the United States by the six largest manufacturers of the products.

The companies made the announcement after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and other colleagues asked them to voluntarily halt their use of the chemical, which has been linked to numerous health effects, the Washington Post reported.

"The evidence seems too clear and emphatic and unequivocal to say we should simply permit this stuff to go into children on a massive scale," Blumenthal said Thursday. "And there's no reason for it, because there are substitutes available."

BPA, which is found in a wide range of products, mimics the hormone estrogen and may disrupt the body's endocrine system. The chemical poses a particular threat to fetuses, infants and children because it can interfere with cell function when their bodies are still developing, public health experts say.

Last year, the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, warned there was "some concern" BPA may affect the brain and behavioral development of fetuses, infants and young children, the Post reported.

Blumenthal is working to gain support from other attorneys general to demand that manufacturers stop using BPA to make infant formula cans and all other food and beverage containers.


Viruses May Cause Diabetes: Study

Common viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea may trigger many cases of diabetes, according to British researchers, who said their findings raise the possibility of a vaccine.

They found evidence of enteroviruses in the insulin-producing pancreatic cells of 60 percent of children with type 1 diabetes and of 40 percent of adults with type 2 diabetes, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

It's known that genetics play a major role in diabetes risk, but the idea of a viral cause of diabetes has been considered for decades, BBC News reported.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In children with a genetic predisposition to this form of diabetes, enterovirus infection may trigger the immune reaction that results in the disease, the researchers suggested.

Type 2 diabetes is often linked to obesity in adults. Enterovirus infection may harm the ability of beta cells in the pancreas to produce insulin. The researchers said this, in combination with the greater demand for insulin in obese people, may trigger diabetes, BBC News reported.

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