Tweets about migraines provide data on pain
Social media outlets like Twitter may help doctors better understand causes and potential treatments for people who have migraines, according to new research.
Scientists from the University of Michigan examined approximately 22,000 tweets that included the word “migraine” that were posted over a one-week period. They found that globally, the migraine tweets spiked at 10 a.m. on Monday. In the United States, about 74 percent of the migraine tweets came from women, and the majority of the tweets occurred between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Researchers said they were unable to conclude whether women have more migraines than men or whether they are simply more open to talking about their migraines on social media than are men.
The findings, published in Journal of Medical Internet Research, do not provide answers to the scientific community’s questions about migraines. It remains unclear what causes them, who is more at-risk and how to best treat them. However, the researchers concluded that social media outlets such as Twitter provide a healthy opportunity for people suffering from migraines to share experiences and get some emotional relief. They also suggested that doctors could benefit from observing patients’ social media behavior, as it may help them better understand patients and identify trends in their condition.
Party drug may help treat depression
An illegal party drug called ketamine may be an effective treatment for people with clinical depression, according to a new study from the U.K.
Scientists from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust conducted a small trial on 28 people with depression, many of whom had had incurable symptoms for decades. The participants were given doses of ketamine over 40 minutes on up to six occasions.
Nearly 30 percent of the patients reported improved symptoms following the trial, half of which showed enough improvement to no longer be classified as clinically depressed. Some of the patients began to show improvements in symptoms in fewer than six hours after their first infusion of ketamine.
Researchers said that the study’s findings suggest that ketamine may be an “exciting” and “dramatic” treatment for depression. However, they added that many additional studies would be necessary before the drug could be used as a routine treatment for depression patients. The findings, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, warned that ketamine has serious side effects and that people should not attempt to self-medicate. The beneficial effects of the drug also appeared to only be short-term, as some of the patients relapsed within days, while others experienced benefits for up to three months.
Another study suggests chocolate helps fight obesity, diabetes
Eating chocolate may help prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study. Although previous studies have concluded similar findings, few have aimed to find out exactly what ingredient may be responsible for the health benefits of chocolate.
In the study, scientists from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) tested the effects of six different diets on mice for 12 weeks. The diets were either high- or low-fat and were supplemented with various types of flavanols—a type of antioxidants found in cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate.
The researchers found that the mice that were fed a high-fat diet supplemented with a flavanol called oligomeric PCs (procyandins) demonstrated the best ability to maintain a healthy weight and showed the most improvement in glucose tolerance, which could help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The findings, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, suggest that oligomeric PCs appear to be more effective in preventing obesity and diabetes than the other flavanols found in cocoa. The study’s implications for humans, however, cannot be concluded until the effects of flavanols are tested in human clinical trials.
Materialistic people more likely to be depressed
People who most value material items may be more at risk for depression than people who are non-materialistic, according to a new study from Baylor University.
In the study, scientists recruited 246 individuals from a university’s marketing department, who had an average age of 21. Participants answered an online questionnaire about materialism, gratitude and desired versus actual satisfaction. Results revealed that the participants who scored the lowest on gratitude and the highest on need for satisfaction were more likely to be materialistic and less satisfied with their lives.
The results, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, suggest that materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have and may be more likely to be depressed regardless whether they obtain desired possessions. The researchers explained that as people acquire more material goods, they are unlikely to become happier, as they are simply continuing to raise their point of reference. They concluded both that a materialistic mindset may lead to depression and a grateful attitude may correspond with a more satisfied life.
Simple blood test could help detect cancer
Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a blood test that they say could help detect various cancers.
The new test works by searching the bloodstream for DNA from cancer tumors. Previous research has shown that tumor DNA is a biomarker for cancer, but methods for detecting it have been expensive, time-consuming and unavailable to many patients.
In the first part of the study, the researchers tested blood from patients with lung cancer and found that the test was able to identify approximately 50 percent of patients with stage 1 lung cancer and 100 percent of patients with stage 2 or higher. In the second half of the study, researchers aimed to identify the specific DNA sequences that might indicate cancer. They identified certain sets of DNA mutations that were shared among patients, despite the type of cancer they had, and were successful in identifying 139 genes that are mutated in lung cancer.
Researchers said that their blood test—which they are calling CAPP-Seq (Cancer Personalized Profiling by deep Sequencing)—would be able to identify a wide range of cancers, be customized for individual patients and possibly be used in clinics. The findings, published in Nature Medicine, suggest that, with further research, the blood test may one day be used to screen for cancer in healthy and at-risk populations, as well as to follow progress of tumors in those who have already been diagnosed with cancer.