In latest Vaccine Marketing Fraud, CDC says Gardasil Shots Should Be ‘Routine’ for Boys

Every male between the ages of 11 and 21 should get a Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer, and those between the ages of 13 and 21 should also get “catch-up” shots later down the road. This is only the opinion of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), of course, which recently announced its final recommendations for the controversial vaccine. Continue reading

Meditation Increases Well-Being in Boys

Mindfulness meditation — learning to become more aware of ongoing experiences — increases well-being in teenage boys, researchers in Britain say.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in England also describe mindfulness as a way of paying attention.

The study, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, finds 14- and 15-year-old boys trained in mindfulness had increased well-being — a combination of functioning well and feeling good — proportional to the time spent practicing the technique. Adolescents with higher levels of anxiety benefited the most.

“More and more we are realizing the importance of supporting the overall mental health of children,” Felicia Huppert said in a statement. “Importantly, many of the students genuinely enjoyed the exercises and said they intended to continue them — a good sign that many children would be receptive to this type of intervention.”

Huppert and colleagues analyzed 155 boys before and after four weekly 40-minute classes in mindfulness and 8 minutes a day listening to concentration/stress-reducing exercises. Students who attended religious studies were the controls.

Physically Active Boys Are Smarter

GOTHENBURG – Jocks get new respect in a large Swedish study that suggests physically active teen boys may be smarter than their couch-potato counterparts.

The findings, the investigators say, have important implications for the education of young people. Increasing, not decreasing, physical education in schools can not only slow the shift toward sedentary lifestyles but, by doing so, reduce risk of disease and “perhaps intellectual and academic underachievement,” they concluded.

Dr. H. Georg Kuhn and colleagues from the Institute of Medicine at the University of Gothenburg wanted to know if aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness and muscle strength were associated with brain power and future socioeconomic status.

They analyzed a physical and intelligence snapshot taken of all Swedish men (1.2 million) born between 1950 and 1976 when they reported for mandatory military duty at age 18.

They also assessed genetic and family influences by looking at the scores of brothers and twins and, over time, the association between all initial scores and measures of success at midlife, including education level and occupation.

The results show a strong positive link between cardiovascular fitness and smarts but not between muscle strength and intelligence measures.

The results also hint that positive fitness changes can have positive cognitive results in teen boys. “Male subjects with improved predicted cardiovascular fitness between 15 and 18 years of age exhibited significantly greater intelligence scores than subjects with decreased cardiovascular fitness,” Kuhn and colleagues report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The validity of the findings rest on the strength of the data, Kuhn noted in an email to Reuters Health. “The data are ‘objective’ and standardized measurements of fitness and cognition and do not rely on self-rating scales and questionnaires,” the researcher said.

The ability to compare twins’ scores was another important strength allowing the researchers to remove the “influence of genetic, social and family backgrounds. With several thousand twins, we were able to show that, on average, the fitter twin has also the higher IQ score,” Kuhn said.

The question remains: Are more-active boys smarter or smarter boys more active? This study does not answer that question. “More studies addressing causality are needed,” Kuhn and colleagues emphasize in their report.

“We cannot assume that fitness per se increases cognitive function, so joining a gym does not by itself make you ‘smarter’. But in order for optimal cognitive function/development to take place, regular cardiovascular exercise is needed,” Kuhn told Reuters Health.

Do the results hold true for girls? The study can’t say but, “there is no reason to assume that this cannot be extrapolated to girls. Women have more or less the same cardiovascular risk factors and therefore benefit from cardiovascular exercise in the same way,” Kuhn said.

SOURCES: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Teen-Age Good at Reasoning but Lack Emotional Maturity

WASHINGTON – A 16-year-old might be quite capable of making an informed decision about ending a pregnancy, in consultation with an adult. But the same teenager may lack the maturity to be held to adult levels of responsibility if she commits a violent crime, according to new research.

“Adolescents likely possess the necessary intellectual skills to make informed choices about terminating a pregnancy but may lack the social and emotional maturity to control impulses,” said Laurence Steinberg, who led the study.

Steinberg, professor of developmental psychology at Temple University, added: “This immaturity mitigates their criminal responsibility.”

“It is very difficult for a 16-year-old to resist peer pressure in a heated, volatile situation,” Steinberg said. “Most times, there is no time to talk to an adult to inject some reason and reality to the situation. Many crimes committed by adolescents are done in groups with other teenagers and are not premeditated.”

Steinberg and co-authors recruited 935 participants (age group 10-30) to examine age differences in a variety of cognitive and psychosocial capacities.

The participants took different tests measuring psychosocial (emotional) maturity and cognitive ability to examine age patterns in numerous factors that affect judgment and decision-making.

The maturity measures included tests of impulse control, sensation-seeking, resistance to peer influence, future orientation and risk perception. The cognitive battery included measures of basic intellectual abilities.

There were no differences among the youngest four age groups (10-11, 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17) on the measures of psychosocial maturity.

But significant differences in maturity, favouring adults, were found between the 16- to 17-year-olds and those 22 years and older, and between the 18- to 21-year-olds and those 26 and older. Results were the same for males and females, the authors said.

In contrast, differences in cognitive capacity measures increased from ages 11 to 16 and then showed no improvements after age 16 – exactly the opposite of the pattern found in the psychosocial measures.

The findings appeared in the October issue of American Psychologist.

Memory Test Spots Pre-Dementia

LONDON – Memory and language tests can reliably reveal “hidden” early dementia, say UK experts.

Most dementias are missed for years as the symptoms can be elusive until considerable brain tissue is lost.

But doctors from Oxford found they were able to spot very early warning signs when they looked closely enough.

The findings in Neurology could help doctors diagnose dementia sooner, which is crucial since treatment is most effective when given early.

Over a span of 20 years, the researchers studied a group of 241 healthy elderly volunteers, giving them regular tests designed to measure their thinking or cognitive powers.

Being able to spot and measure the initial stages of dementia is a crucial challenge if we are to improve drug testing and lay the groundwork for prevention trials

When they scrutinized the test results, the doctors found subtle clues that, in retrospect, hinted at ensuing impairment.

Specifically, the patients who went on to develop mild cognitive impairment or pre-dementia stumbled on tasks involving language expression, learning and recall.

For example, they had greater difficulty remembering the name for common objects or animals and explaining the meaning of a given word.

And those who were older and who scored lower on the language or memory tests tended to deteriorate more quickly.

Professor David Smith and his team say their findings fit with what we already know about dementia.

Experts have noted that the early stages of dementia are associated with linguistic problems, such as word-finding difficulties.

Early literary works by authors who have later been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s show similar changes in language use – simpler narratives and a smaller vocabulary.

 

Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: “This significant long-term study shows how subtle, but measurable, problems with language or memory can predict when a healthy elderly person is likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, which frequently develops into dementia.

“Early intervention will be crucial for future dementia treatments. Being able to spot and measure the initial stages of dementia is a crucial challenge if we are to improve drug testing and lay the groundwork for prevention trials.”

Latest work in Archives of General Psychiatry adds weight to the evidence that Alzheimer’s dementia is at least partly inherited, and that being healthy in mid-life could help lower your risk of the disease.

Dutch researchers found that people with a parental history of Alzheimer’s had higher blood pressure and indicators of arterial disease as well as different amounts of inflammatory proteins in their blood compared with those without a parental history of Alzheimer’s.

Men More Vulnerable to Mental Illness, Say Experts

NEW DELHI – Don’t reprimand your son for sobbing over a problem he is facing or tick him off for “behaving like a sissy”. It would only make him bottle up his emotions and lead to serious implications on his overall well being. Experts say men are more vulnerable to mental illness and depression than you would imagine.

Praveen Thapar, chairperson of the Sanjivni Centre for Mental Health, said while it’s true that women are more prone to depression, it’s equally true that women are better at sharing their emotions and problems than men – as a result most men keep their problems to themselves which has serious implications later.

In our society we co-relate the word man with power. From the time he is a child, a boy is told not to cry ‘like a sissy’ and be strong. Thus from an early stage he grows up with this learning that he should hide his emotions behind a serene face, Thapar told IANS ahead of World Mental Health Day Saturday.

This however can have serious implications later in life. This habit of bottling up one’s feelings and frustrations may lead to a breakdown later, she said.

Akhila Vasudev, a counselor, agreed.

“While women are more open about their problems and emotions, with men, even when they are with friends, the discussion rarely goes beyond the football match or finances. Often it’s because they have been molded that way.”

”A number of male patients that I have therefore admit that they feel much better after simply talking about their problems. It helps that I am a stranger, they say. Opening up in front of the family is harder,” said Vasudev.

Quoting an example, Thapar said at a post-retirement conference that she attended recently, all that was being discussed about was how to manage your finances.

Post-retirement phase is a different experiences altogether. You have more time on your hand, your expectations may increase, you may feel worthless and useless sitting around – but all that the men talked about was finances, she said.

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), mental illness will be the biggest health risk in India by 2010.

 

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) further says that while 20 million Indians suffer from major mental ailments, 50 million suffer from milder forms.

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and hysteria are all mild forms of mental illnesses which people often ignore, experts say.

According to R.C. Jiloha, head of the department of psychiatry at the Maulana Azad Medical College, among the most common form of mental disorders that men suffer from are anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Because of an increasing awareness on the issue, I have a lot of men coming to me for counselling. But the best way to tackle this is for the corrective measures to begin in the families itself,” Thapar said.

“Parents should interact more with their children and encourage them to be themselves. They should not have a different attitude towards their sons and daughters, she advised.

Binge Drinking Weakens Body’s Ability to Fight Infections

WASHINGTON – Binge drinking can weaken body’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours afterwards, finds a new study.

Stephen Pruett, currently at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, USA and Ruping Fan of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre, USA, focused their study on the effect of heavy drinking on toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a protein that has an important role in immune system activation.

Previous research has shown that too much alcohol inhibits the body’s production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are signalling molecules that launch the inflammatory response to infection.

The new study conducted over mouse model has confirm that acute alcohol exposure prevents the body from producing certain key pro-inflammatory cytokines.

The researchers found that ethanol molecules suppress TLR4’s usual ability to send signals that would normally trigger the production of inflammatory cytokines.

Alcohol’s effects continue long after the party is over: some cytokines were still not on full duty guarding against infection 24 hours after the binge.

“The time frame during which the risk of infection is increased might be at least 24 hours,” said Pruett.

“A persistent effect of ethanol on cells is indicated, such that inhibition of the response of some cytokines occurs even after the ethanol is cleared,” he added.

The study is published in the open access journal BMC Immunology.

Teenage Hormones – Watch Out

Teenagers can be weird creatures. They slam doors, burst into tears at the drop of a hat and get spots just when they want to look their best. But considering all the hormones and chemicals surging through their bodies their behavior is actually quite restrained.

Are hormones to blame when you suffer from teen angst, get spots just before a big night out or even battle to get out of bed in the morning?

If you understand what’s going on in your body it may help you realize why you are the way you are. It could also help you cope with certain things – such as getting those dreaded spots.

You’re exposed to mankind’s unique hormonal magic potion for the first time between the ages of six and eight. That’s when the adrenal glands at the top of the kidneys start secreting androgens. Androgens are just the start of the flood of hormones you’ll be exposed to.

Together they form a complex, sensitive system in which one hormone’s level determines another’s or triggers the secretion of another. At the age of about 10 for girls and 12 for boys the androgens in your body reach a level high enough to produce underarm and pubic hair, make your skin oilier and cause acne.

They’re also responsible for that nasty teen-specific smelliness that happens when you perspire and don’t bathe regularly.

Hormone attack

Androgen is followed by gonadotropin, a hormone that stimulates the sexual glands. Over the next year or two the level of gonadotropin in the blood increases sharply. This leads to the secretion of further hormones by the pituitary gland in the brain, which switches on the ovaries (in girls) and testes (in boys).

At this point you’re not fully formed yet but you are knee-deep in puberty and as you get deeper even more hormones are released. Ovaries produce oestrogen and progesterone. Testes produce testosterone. A teenage boy’s testosterone levels increase quickly to adult levels – 50 timeshigher than before, which is an enormous hormonal explosion.

And then parents wonder why a boy of 13 or 14 sometimes behaves strangely. It’s oestrogen that causes girls’ breasts to grow. It also determines a young woman’s shape through the redistribution of body fat.

 Fat is now stored on girls’ hips.

Testosterone takes charge of boys’ body shape: baby fat gives way to muscle and hair appears in unexpected places for the first time.

Eventually girls experience their first menstruation and boys their first full erection and ejaculation. This is the point at which you sometimes fall head over heels in love and the slightest touch, or even just a wink, from that special person has your heart skipping a beat.

The hormone mystery

Professor Steven Hough, a specialist in endocrinology (the study of hormones) at the University of Stellenbosch’s health sciences faculty, says scientists are still puzzled by what triggers hormone secretion. It’s thought that the nervous system, social and psychological factors, as well as your diet, all play a role.

It’s generally accepted children today start puberty at an earlier age. In 1850 girls got their first period at 17. Today it’s happening at 12.

A better diet, general prosperity and better medical care could be reasons for this. Being overweight can also cause you to start developing earlier. Many people believe hormones have just as dramatic an effect on the behavior of teenagers as they do on their body shape.

Parents talk about “hormones on legs” and complain about their teen kids’ fickle moods, impulsive behavior and over-emotionality. It appears young people crave excitement and enjoy wild behavior.

Statistics bear this out, Vivienne Parry writes in her book The Truth About Hormones (Atlantic Books, 2005). Accidents and thrill-seeking cause over three quarters of teen fatalities. The sturm und drang years (years of storm and longing), some call them.

But whether hormones are to blame when you sneak out of the house at night to go to a party is open to debate.

In the past it was believed the brain was fully developed by adolescence but new research shows biological adulthood is reached only by the late teens and early twenties. During the teen years the nerve endings in the forebrain are “pruned” to make them more effective.

This explains why thought processes such as goal setting, establishing priorities, organization and impulse control develop only later on.

“Hormones can’t get all the blame for teenage behavior. It’s not just testosterone that’s responsible for dangerous behavior but also the inability of an immature brain to perceive and evaluate risky behavior,’’ Parry writes.

When it comes to sexual behavior she compares the immature brain to a speeding car without a driver. Adolescent girls have the hormones and figures of adult women, while testosterone causes an adolescent boy to think of sex every six seconds – and this while the brain’s reasoning ability is still under construction.

Sleep is essential

Hormones are the culprits when it comes to your sudden desire to sleep all the time, though. A subtle shift in your sleep patterns occurs during puberty – the accelerated growth phase you go through during adolescence apparently requires more sleep.

This is partially explained by an increase in levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in teens’ blood. When that alarm goes off at 7 am your body thinks it’s still four in the morning.

Many teenagers get too little sleep in the long term, which leaves them with the same symptoms as jet lag.

Young people need nine hours of sleep a night but if you’re like most teens you won’t feel tired until the early hours of the morning.

Researchers say this is normal: teens’ circadian rhythms cause them to become sleepy only at around 2 am and to want to sleep till 11 am.

Dr Steve Delport, an endocrinologist and the father of two sons who’ve already been through puberty, says there’s nothing unusual about it. “Puberty is a normal period of growth and should be treated as such.

Talk about puberty

Much of the teen behavior that makes parents want to climb the walls can be prevented if they give their children the correct facts about puberty and talk to them about it regularly.

“Parents wrongly think their children are now grown up and therefore entrust them with responsibilities they’re not ready for,” Dr Delport says. (It’s good to know your parents aren’t always right!) “Teenagers need their parents’ support and advice now more than ever to be able to cope with peer pressure and body changes.”

Your self-image changes along with your body during your teens. That’s why you spend hours in front of the mirror and often feel self-conscious. Your parents need to know it’s normal for you to want to be alone a lot during this time.

Dr Delport also points out the genders differ markedly when it comes to maturation markers. Teen girls’ fast-growth phase starts when they’re around 12 but with some girls it starts at 10 or even earlier.

In boys the fast growth phase starts around 14 and sometimes even later. When puberty is delayed it can be a serious phenomenon that may require medical help.

“In most cases a large dose of patience is all that’s required but sometimes children need medical attention,” Dr Delport says.