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Doctors Issue New Neuropathy Test Guidelines
THURSDAY, Dec. 4 -- A combination of blood tests and other specialized assessments seems to be most effective in finding the cause of a common nerve problem called neuropathy, according to new guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology. Neuropathy, which affects one in 50 people in the general population and one in 12 people older than 55, usually causes numbness, tingling or pain that often starts in the feet and moves to the hands. Muscle weakness and wasting may also occur. Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy, which can also be caused by heredity, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition and autoimmune disorders, the academy said. The authors of the new guidelines analyzed all available scientific studies. "People with suspected nerve problems should talk to their doctors about screening tests, especially blood glucose, vitamin B12 level and serum protein levels, since these tests can often point to common causes of neuropathy," guidelines author Dr. John D. En [Read more]
Intestinal 'Sleeve' Mimics Effects of Gastric Bypass
THURSDAY, Dec. 4 -- Lining the upper small intestine with an impermeable sleeve may be as effective as invasive gastric bypass surgery to help people lose weight and avoid diabetes, a new report says. The procedure, tested on rats by the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center and Gastrointestinal Unit, led to reduced appetite, weight loss and a return to a normal glucose levels. "This is a clear proof of principle that the human version of this device may be an effective treatment for obesity and diabetes. The clinical device would be placed endoscopically, making it far less invasive than surgical therapies," study leader Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the MGH Weight Center, said in a hospital news release. Researchers secured a 10-centimeter-long "endoluminal sleeve" at the outlet of the rats' stomach so it blocked the duodenum and upper jejunum, areas of the small intestine where nutrients are sensed and absorbed. Obese and diabetic rats raised on a high-fat diet given t [Read more]
Fewer HIV-Infected Americans Passing the Virus On
TUESDAY, Dec. 9 -- The rate of HIV transmission in the United States has dropped 88 percent since 1984 and 33 percent since 1997, even though the number of people living with HIV in the United States has increased, researchers reported Tuesday. The study, done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appears online and in a future print issue of the JAIDS: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. "For every 100 persons living with HIV today, five or fewer will transmit the virus to an uninfected person in a given year. In other words, 95 percent or more of those living with HIV do not transmit the virus to others, which indicates that prevention efforts are having a real impact," lead author David Holtgrave, chair of Bloomberg's department of health, behavior and society, said in a Hopkins news release. The annual transmission rate in 1984 was 44 per 100 people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That decl [Read more]
Gene May Make Kids Crave Junk Food
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10 -- Some people may be genetically driven to seek out more calorie-dense foods, a new study suggests. In the Dec. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, British researchers report that children with a particular gene variant tend to eat more energy-dense foods, which means food with more calories per weight. However, the researchers didn't find any difference in metabolism between kids with the gene change and those without it. "What [this study] effectively shows is that people with the relevant variants on the gene have a trait which may lead them to eat more unhealthy, fattening foods," study senior author Colin Palmer, chairman of pharmacogenomics in the Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Dundee, said in a news release. "I would stress that this is a trait, and not an absolute occurrence." Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the weight management and wellness center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at the University of Pitt [Read more]
Fast Heart Rate Warns of Obesity, Diabetes
THURSDAY, Dec. 11 -- A too-fast heartbeat in early adulthood is a warning sign for increased risk of cardiovascular problems decades later on, a Japanese study suggests. The study of 614 residents of a rural farming community in southwestern Japan found that a heart rate greater than 80 beats a minute during a first examination in 1979 predicted the development of obesity and diabetes, which contribute to heart problems. The findings, from Kurume University School of Medicine, were published online Dec. 11 in the American Journal of Hypertension. A fast heart rate is a signal from the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system, which is the body's automatic pilot that governs instinctive responses, explained Mercedes Carnethon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. She found the same rapid heartbeat association in a group of Americans she studied. "If someone has a consistently fast heart [Read more]
New Food Pyramid Is Aimed at Kids
SATURDAY, Dec. 13 -- A new federal government food pyramid for preschoolers may help parents deal with picky eating problems, especially as youngsters are introduced to new kinds of foods during Christmas meals. The MyPyramid for Preschoolers interactive Web site (MyPyramid.gov) offers individualized nutrition guidance to meet the needs of children aged 2 to 5, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). "This is a great tool for all parents of preschoolers but particularly those of finicky eaters. It's loaded with great ideas and suggestions for families so they can help their kids eat a more varied and nutritious diet. What I find most useful is how to talk with kids about what to eat and tips on how to have fun with food around the dinner table," CNPP executive director Brian Wansink said in an USDA news release. Among the MyPyramid for Preschoolers tips to help parents deal with finicky eaters: * Set reasonable [Read more]
FDA Approves New Drug for Severe Epilepsy
FRIDAY, Nov. 21 -- A new drug called Banzel (rufinamide) has been approved as a supplementary treatment for a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday. The approval was based on results of a four-month clinical trial that included patients ages 4 to 30. Compared to patients who took a placebo, those who took the drug had 41 percent fewer tonic plus atonic seizures and 20 percent fewer seizures of any type, the agency said in a news release. Common side effects included headache, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, double vision, nausea, vomiting, and problems walking. As with all other antiepileptic drugs, Banzel will carry a warning that it may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors. All patients who take Banzel must be given a patient medication guide that describes the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors associated with this class of drugs, the FDA said. Banzel, manufactured by Eisai Medic [Read more]
Genetic Trait Linked to Alcoholism
THURSDAY, Nov. 20 -- Variations in the genetic makeup of alcoholics may affect how much they drink, a new study suggests. And the key might be the brain's control of serotonin, a mood-influencing neurological chemical. The research could potentially help doctors understand who might be at highest risk of becoming an alcoholic, and then treat that person, said study co-author Ming D. Li, head of neurobiology at the University of Virginia. Li added that the research is unique, because it shows that a single gene variation is connected to a kind of behavior -- alcoholism. The genetic blueprint that people inherit from their parents accounts for an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of a person's risk of becoming alcoholic, said Dr. Robert Philibert, director of the Laboratory of Psychiatric Genetics at the University of Iowa. The interplay between genetic makeup and environmental factors is responsible for the rest of the risk, said Philibert, who's familiar with the new st [Read more]
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