Europe Bans Bee-Killing Neonicotinoid Pesticides: When will America Take Action?

A major victory for the world’s bee populations has been achieved in Europe, where a majority of European Union (EU) member states voted recently to ban the use of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides across the entire continent for at least two years. In an overwhelming vote of 15 to 8, these member states decided that, Continue reading

Analysis Finds Flu Vaccine Efficacy Lacking, as Flu Vaccines are Suspended across Europe and Canada

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  • A recent review found that flu vaccines may not offer protection as previously thought. The elderly, in particular, do not appear to receive measureable value from the flu shot. Trivalent inactivated influenza vaccines also didn’t offer much protection to children over the age of seven Continue reading

Contamination of La Selva Geothermal System in Girona, Spain

There are no legal limits for uranium concentrations in water in the EU Continue reading

Which Foods Are Best for the Brain?

Diet is inextricably linked to conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. However, what we consume also seems to have significant implications for the brain: Unhealthy diets may increase risk for psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and dementia, whereas healthy diets may be protective. Continue reading

Noodles Made with Barley May Change Pasta’s Reputation

When people think of foods that add to excess inches around the waist, pasta is often one of the foremost offenders that come to mind. This is because noodles are often made with flour that has been processed to contain little more than simple carbohydrates.

In search of a healthier type of pasta, officials from the Italian Ministry of Instruction, University and Scientific Research and the Spanish Ministry of Education funded a study to determine whether spaghetti made from whole barley flour could be a tasty vehicle for heart-healthy nutrients and fiber.

When comparing their proprietary pasta to a traditional semolina variety, researchers discovered that the barley-based spaghetti had higher antioxidant and fiber content. Interestingly, these healthful benefits appeared to diminish when gluten was added to the barley flour.

Barley contains about 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 190 calories per serving.  Continue reading

Antioxidants of Interest to Address Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction

A growing body of evidence suggests that antioxidants may have significant value in addressing infertility issues in both women and men, including erectile dysfunction, and researchers say that large, specific clinical studies are merited to determine how much they could help.

A new analysis, published online in the journal Pharmacological Research, noted that previous studies on the potential for antioxidants to help address this serious and growing problem have been inconclusive, but that other data indicates nutritional therapies may have significant potential.

The researchers also observed that infertility problems are often an early indicator of other degenerative disease issues such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. The same approaches that may help treat infertility  Continue reading

Battle Won against Asian Tiger Mosquito

An experimental research carried out in Sant Cugat del Vallès and Rubí, coordinated by researchers from UAB, assessed the efficacy of a combination of strategies to reduce the population of tiger mosquitos (Aedes albopictus). The research began in February 2008. The research focused on monitoring eggs found in small experimental traps. Researchers observed that for the first time, the number of eggs diminished after applying the measures.

The strategies began with a visit to the affected areas, where owners were informed on prevention measures and told the importance of eliminating any stagnant water accumulating in gardens or patios. The next stage included applying insecticides to plugholes, water storage tanks and drains to eliminate larvae, and removing vegetation from parks and gardens to get rid of adult mosquitos. Continue reading

Milk During Pregnancy May Lower a Baby’s Risk of Developing MS Later in Life

Recent media reports have covered research announced ahead of the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in April which suggested that milk during pregnancy may lower a baby’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life.

The theory from the researchers in Boston, announced in an AAN press release, was based on a survey of American mothers.

It was claimed that MS risk was lower among women born to mothers with high milk or dietary vitamin D intake in pregnancy.

Unfortunately UK media reports focused on the milk link ; however it is in fact the case that there are only trace elements of vitamin D in milk consumed in this country.

Unlike America, most of Britain’s milk is not fortified with vitamin D and so whatever quantity of milk is ingested, vitamin D levels in the body are likely to remain unaffected.

While it may be true that vitamin D has previously been shown to potentially play a role in MS, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet including oily fish and exposing skin to safe levels of sunshine are the best ways to increase levels of vitamin D.

No Need for Pregnant Women to Fast During Labor

No Need for Pregnant Women to Fast During Labor

DETROIT –  There is no reason why pregnant women at low risk for complications during delivery should be denied fluids and food during labor, a new Cochrane research review concludes.

“Women should be free to eat and drink in labour, or not, as they wish,” the authors of the review wrote in the Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

Dr. Jennifer Milosavljevic, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, who was not involved in the Cochrane Review, agrees that pregnant women should be allowed to eat and/or drink during labor.

“In my experience,” she told Reuters Health in an email, “most pregnant patients at Henry Ford are placed on a clear liquid diet during labor which includes water, apple juice, cranberry juice, broth, and jello. If a patient is brought in for a prolonged induction of labor, she will typically be permitted to eat a regular diet and order anything off the menu in between different induction modalities.”

Milosavlievic has “not seen any adverse outcomes by allowing women the option of liquids and/or a regular diet in labor.”

Standard hospital policy for many decades has been to allow only tiny sips of water or ice chips for pregnant women in labor if they were thirsty. Why? It was feared, and some studies in the 1940s showed, that if a woman needed to undergo general anesthesia for a cesarean delivery, she might inhale regurgitated liquids or food particles that could lead to pneumonia and other lung damage.

But anesthesia practices have changed and improved since the 1940s, with more use of regional anesthesia and safer general anesthesia.

And recently, attitudes on food and drink during labor have begun to relax. Last September, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a “Committee Opinion” advising doctors that women with a normal, uncomplicated labor may drink modest amounts of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp, carbonated beverages, clear tea, black coffee, and sports drinks. They fell short of saying food was okay, however, advising that women should avoid fluids with solid particles, such as soup.

“As for the continued restriction on food, the reality is that eating is the last thing most women are going to want to do since nausea and vomiting during labor is quite common,” Dr. William H. Barth, Jr., chair of ACOGs Committee on Obstetric Practice, noted in a written statement at the time.

But based on the evidence, Mandisa Singata of the East London Hospital Complex in East London, South Africa, an author on the new Cochrane Review, says “women should be able to make their own decisions about whether they want to eat or drink during labour, or not.”

Singata and colleagues systematically reviewed five studies involving more than 3100 pregnant that looked at the evidence for restricting food and drink in women who were considered unlikely to need anesthesia. One study looked at complete restriction versus giving women the freedom to eat and drink at will; two studies looked at water only versus giving women specific fluids and foods and two studies looked at water only versus giving women carbohydrate drinks.

The evidence showed no benefits or harms of restricting foods and fluids during labor in women at low risk of needing anesthesia.

Singata and colleagues acknowledge that many women may not feel like eating or drinking during labor. However, research has shown that some women find the food and drink restriction unpleasant. Poor nutritional balance may be also associated with longer and more painful labors. Drinking clear liquids in limited quantities has been found to bring comfort to women in labor and does not increase labor complications.

The researchers emphasize that they did not find any studies that assessed the risks of eating and drinking for women with a higher risk of needing anesthesia and so further research is need before specific recommendations can be made for this group.

SOURCE: Cochrane Library, 2010.

 

Cola Drinking Linked to Diabetes in Pregnancy

NEW ORLEANS – Drinking lots of sugar-sweetened cola may increase women’s likelihood of developing diabetes during pregnancy, a condition known as gestational diabetes, new research shows.

Compared to women who had less than one such beverage a month, women who drank at least five servings of non-diet cola a week were at greater risk of gestational diabetes, even after accounting for their body mass index (BMI), level of physical activity, and other diabetes risk factors, researchers found.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the top source of added sugar in US diets, and several studies have linked high sugary drink intake with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in women, Dr. Liwei Chen of the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans and colleagues note in the latest edition of the journal Diabetes Care.

But there is little information on whether consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages before pregnancy might increase gestational diabetes risk, they add.

To investigate, the researchers analyzed data from the Nurses Health Study II, looking at 13, 475 women who had at least one pregnancy between 1992 and 2001. During that time, 860 women reported having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes for the first time.

Women who drank five or more sugar-sweetened beverages of any type per week were 23 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who drank less than one serving a month, and the relationship remained even after the researchers accounted for other gestational diabetes risk factors such as BMI and family history of diabetes.

But accounting for a Western-style diet — heavy in red meats, processed meats, sweets, snacks and other less-healthy foods — did explain some of the association between diabetes and sugary drinks.

The researchers looked separately at cola beverages, because the caramel coloring used in them has been linked in animal studies to insulin resistance and inflammation. They found a 22 percent increased risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy for women who drank five or more non-diet colas a week, compared to women who had less than one serving of cola a month.

There was no relationship between diet beverage consumption and gestational diabetes risk.

The demands pregnancy puts on a woman’s metabolism may “unmask” a tendency toward developing diabetes and similar conditions, Chen and colleagues note. Drinking cola could contribute to this tendency by making for a sugar-filled diet, they add, which in and of itself may be harmful to the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.

Because diet cola didn’t increase gestational diabetes risk, they add, caramel coloring isn’t likely to be a major factor in the relationship observed with non-diet cola.

The findings “are particularly relevant” given that so many people drink sugar-sweetened cola, the researchers write. They call for more research on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and gestational diabetes, as well as other pregnancy outcomes.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, December 2009.

 

Brain Prods You Into Gorging on Good Food

AUSTIN – The brain prods you into splurging on an extra ice-cream scoop or that second burger, practically sabotaging your efforts to get back into shape, a new study says.

Findings from a new University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre (UTSMC) study suggest that fat from certain foods we eat makes its way to the brain.

There, these fat molecules cause the brain to send messages to the body’s cells, directing them to ignore the appetite-suppressing signals from leptin and insulin, hormones involved in weight regulation.

Researchers also found that one particular type of fat — palmitic acid — is particularly effective at instigating this mechanism. It is a common saturated fatty acid, occurring in butter, cheese, milk and beef.

“Normally, our body is primed to say when we’ve had enough, but that doesn’t always happen when we’re eating something good,” said Deborah Clegg, assistant professor of internal medicine at UTSMC. Clegg led the study on rodents.

“What we’ve shown in this study is that someone’s entire brain chemistry can change in a very short period of time.”

“When you eat something high in fat, your brain gets ‘hit’ with the fatty acids, and you become resistant to insulin and leptin,” Clegg said. “Since you’re not being told by the brain to stop eating, you overeat.”

In animals, the effect lasts about three days, potentially explaining why many people who splurge on Friday or Saturday say they’re hungrier than normal on Monday, added Clegg.

Clegg said that even though the findings are in animals, they reinforce the common dietary recommendation that individuals limit their saturated fat intake. “It causes you to eat more,” she said, according to an UTSMC release.

The next step, Clegg averred, is to determine how long it takes to reverse completely the effects of short-term exposure to high-fat food.

The study appeared in the September issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Swine Flu Prompts Calls for Kissing Strike in Spain

MADRID – H1N1 influenza is prompting tough health measures around the globe, but could it go as far as forcing a “kissing strike” in traditionally affectionate Spain?

The health authorities are recommending that Spaniards no longer greet each other with the usual kiss on both cheeks. But many people say kissing is so important they are willing to risk catching the disease, popularly known as swine flu.

“What would people think if I refused to return their kisses?” exclaims Maria, 40. “I am so used to it, I could not stop doing it.”

Even Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez herself has been seen greeting officials with kisses, despite the warnings issued by her ministry.

As in some other Mediterranean countries, Spanish women and even male relatives or friends greet each other with kisses or at least with gestures of kissing on the cheeks.

Spanish people generally like touching each other, for instance placing their hand around the shoulder or their hand on the hand of the person they are talking to.

However, kisses and hugs are among the most effective ways of spreading H1N1, experts warn in the country where swine flu has killed around 20 people, one of the highest rates in Europe.

The health ministry is planning to vaccinate people with chronic diseases, health and some other professionals, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups. There will be sufficient vaccines for up to 60 percent of the population.

Above all, however, the authorities intend to focus on information campaigns advising people to avoid habits that could spread the virus.

“Do not kiss, do not shake hands, just say hi,” the Madrid city council recommended in a placard it placed on a wall of the city hall.

“Getting used to limiting close contact diminishes the risk of transmission (of the virus),” Juan Jose Rodriguez Sendin, president of a doctors’ organisation, told the daily El Pais.

The Catholic Church has heeded the warning, recommending to believers that they refrain from kissing statues of the Virgin Mary during religious celebrations.

During religious services where Catholics eat a small wafer of bread, some priests have also begun placing the wafer in the hand of the communicant. Traditionally, priests placed it directly in the mouth of the person.

Some churches have emptied fonts of holy water to prevent the virus from spreading if an infected person dips a hand in the font.

Prior to the appearance of swine flu, the custom of kissing the cheeks had become a little less common. Some sociologists say that was possibly because of the influence of the colder and physically more distant US culture.

Kissing has often not been replaced with the handshake typical of US or northern European cultures, observed Irene, a Madrid civil servant.

“Some people no longer touch each other at all when meeting, just nodding at each other,” she said.

That would be ideal for fighting H1N1, but experts doubt whether most Spaniards can change their ways, and concede that they would have a lot to lose if they did.

There is an abundance of scientific studies proving what nearly every human being instinctively knows: that touching is good for us.

It increases self-confidence, lowers arterial pressure, makes people more sociable and less aggressive, studies show.

“It is very unlikely that we will forget kissing,” El Pais concluded.