"Anti-aging" hormone could actually shorten life
Common anti-aging treatments involving hormone-replacement therapy may actually decrease a person’s life span, according to a study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Researchers conducted an 11-year study of 184 men and women in their mid 90s. The researchers found that the people who had the greatest chance of living through the study period had relatively low blood levels of hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. The findings add to those of previous studies that have found individuals with high IGF-1 levels have an increased risk of cancer death.
The results of the study, published in the journal Aging Cell, are significant because it reflects the potential dangers of the anti-aging treatment that involves administering human growth hormone (HGH). It causes the body to produce higher levels of the hormone IGF-1.
The study did not explain what the findings might mean for treatments now offered by anti-aging clinics. Researchers explained that while their study provides better understanding of side effects of anti-aging hormone therapy, further research is necessary to better understand the complex relationship between hormone levels, life expectancy and disease.
Organic food doesn't reduce women's chances of developing cancer
The risk of developing cancer is the same among women who eat organic food and those who don’t, concludes a study from the University of Oxford in the U.K.
While the definition of “organic” can vary from country to country, it generally refers to food produced without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Scientists collected data on more than 600,000 middle-aged women for almost a decade, including information on their diet and the number of participants who developed 16 specific types of cancer. Approximately 180,000 women reported never having eaten organic food over the course of the study, compared with about 45,000 women who said they always or usually ate organic food. Researchers said they found no difference in overall cancer risk between the two groups.
The researchers then looked for discrepancies between the two groups when it came to the 16 specific types of cancer under study. They found that the women who reported always or usually having eaten organic food had a slightly higher risk of breast cancer and a slightly lower risk of lymphoma; the risk, however, could have been influenced by other factors or simply by chance, researchers said.
The study’s findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, suggest that eating a healthy diet—including enough fruit and vegetables—is what’s important, not whether the produce is organically-grown or otherwise.
First artificial heart: April 4, 1969
Dr. Denton Cooley implants the world’s first artificial heart into the chest of a 47-year-old man dying of heart failure. Since no human heart is available for the patient named Haskell Karp, Denton feels he has no choice but to use the half-pound plastic and Dacron device to keep him alive until one can be found.
Karp survives three days until a heart is flown in from a donor body in Massachusetts. But he lives less than two more days before his body rejects the new heart.
The procedure, though, is hailed as a major breakthrough and just as quickly sets off one of the longest-running feuds in medical history. The artificial heart had been developed in a laboratory at Baylor University that was under the authority of another top heart surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey, who also was a former partner of Cooley’s.
According to Cooley’s version of the story, the man who actually built the device, Dr. Domngo Liotta, had become frustrated with what he felt was DeBakey’s lack of enthusiasm to use the artificial heart and brought it to Cooley. When faced with the impending death of Karp, the heart patient, Cooley thought he had little choice but to use it. “Was I going to let Mr. Karp die on the operating table or try to save his life by whatever means?,” he would later write.
But DeBakey would see the incident in a very different light. He believes that Cooley had taken the device, without his permission, because he wanted to be the first person to implant an artificial heart.
Their dispute, enflamed by a cover story in _Life_magazine the following year titled “A Bitter Feud,” would last until 2007, when DeBakey, 99 years old and in a wheelchair, would shake hands with Cooley at a public event in Houston where the former accepted a lifetime achievement award from the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society.
DeBakey died in 2008. Cooley is now 93 and lives in Houston, Texas. The artificial heart is in the Smithsonian.
Smartphone app may help alcoholics recover
A new smartphone app may help increase chances of long-term success for people recovering from alcoholism, according to a new study.
The app is called the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System, or A-CHESS, and has several features designed to help recovering alcoholics avoid risky behaviors. The app allows users to alert friends and family when they need support, tracks patients’ movements through GPS and sends support messages when patients spend a long time near a formerly-frequented bar.
In the study, scientists recruited more than 170 men in their 30s and 40s recovering from alcoholism and split them into two groups. The first group was provided with the smartphone app, and the second group was instead given a monthly therapy session or other traditional treatment. Participants from both groups answered questions about their drinking habits four, eight and 12 months following treatments.
The study’s results, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, showed that the patients who used the A-CHESS app experienced fewer days of “risky drinking” than those who underwent traditional treatment but did not use the app. Results also showed that 52 percent of participants who used the app were able to abstain from alcohol in the previous 30 days, compared to 40 percent of participants who did not use the app.
The findings suggest that apps like A-CHESS may be an effective, low-cost way for people recovering from alcoholism to maintain success, but should not be substituted for treatment from professionals. Researchers added that further studies among more diverse populations are needed in order to confirm the findings.
Optimistic women more likely to eat healthy
Women who are naturally more optimistic may be more likely to adopt healthy eating habits, according to a new study.
A research team from the University of Arizona in Tucson looked at data from roughly 30,000 women between ages 50 and 79. More than 13,500 women had been asked to improve their eating habits, while the rest of the women were not asked to make any changes in their diets. All of the women filled out a questionnaire about different aspects of their overall healthfulness, including diet and outlook on life, at the beginning of the study and then, one year later.
The researchers found that the women who were most optimistic improved their nutrition the most over the course of the study. The participants’ diet improvement was measured on a numbers scale, and researchers said the difference between the most versus the least optimistic women was “statistically meaningful.”
The study’s findings, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggest that optimism itself does not directly equate to a person’s ability to adhere to healthy habits; rather, optimism is a marker of other traits that optimists tend to have. Researchers cited examples such as self-regulation—conscious decision-making of a person’s behavior—and the ability to cope with stress and unpleasant emotions through healthy and productive means. By adopting such traits, the researchers concluded that both optimistic and pessimistic people can make positive changes to diet and overall health.
Gene mutation raises risk of melanoma
Risk of melanoma—the most dangerous form of skin cancer—may be higher in individuals with a specific gene mutation, according to new research.
Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K. conducted an international study involving 184 cases of melanoma from 105 families living in the U.K., Australia and The Netherlands. Previous evidence has allowed researchers to identify genetic mutations that account for approximately 40 percent of inherited incidences of melanoma. In the new study, the research team used DNA sequencing with the goal of identifying hereditary mutations that may cause the other 60 percent of inherited melanoma.
Following analysis of DNA sequencing, the researchers found that people with mutations of a gene known as POT1 had an increased risk of melanoma. The gene POT1 plays an important role in protecting against damage to chromosomes. The mutation identified in the new study essentially deactivates the POT1 gene, which can lead to DNA damage.
Researchers also found that among families with POT1 mutations, other cancer types such as leukemia and brain tumors were more prevalent. The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, suggest that the mutations that deactivate the POT1 gene may be responsible for multiple types of cancer, in addition to melanoma. The discovery, the scientists said, could help lead to the development of new screening and treatment methods.