Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Super Fiber That Controls Your Appetite and Blood Sugar

Imagine eating 12 pounds of food a day -- and still staying thin and healthy. That may sound crazy, but it's exactly what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate for millennia! And they didn't have any obesity or chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or dementia.
Of course, I wouldn't advise anyone today to eat 12 pounds of food, because the food in our society lacks one major secret ingredient that our ancestors ate in nearly all their food -- fiber!

Fiber has so many health benefits that I want to focus on it in this week's blog. I'll explain some of its benefits and give you nine tips you can begin using today to get more fiber in your diet. I'll also tell you about my favorite "super-fiber" that can help you increase your total fiber intake overnight.
But before I tell you about what fiber can do for you, let's a look a little more at the history of fiber.
Why Bushmen are Healthier than the Average Westerner
Dr. Dennis Burkitt, a famous English physician, studied the differences between indigenous African bushmen and their "civilized" western counterparts. The bushmen seemed to be free of the scourges of modern life -- including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Dr. Burkitt found that the average bushman had a stool weight of two pounds and the "civilized" men had a stool weight of only four ounces - that's 87.5 percent smaller! The difference was in the amount of fiber they ate.
Today, the average American eats about 8 grams of fiber a day. But the average hunter and gatherer ate 100 grams from all manner of roots, berries, leaves and plant foods. And the fiber is what helped those ancestors of ours stay healthy. Just take a look at all the good things that fiber can do for your body.
You need fiber to keep you healthy from top to bottom, as well as to provide food for the healthy bacteria that work within you to promote health.
In fact, fiber can actually prevent obesity(i) and all the chronic disease of aging. This is because fiber slows the rate at which food enters your bloodstream and increases the speed at which food exits your body through the digestive tract. (ii) That keeps your blood sugar and cholesterol in ideal balance -- and quickly eliminates toxins from your gut and reduces your appetite,
There's good science to back this up. Research shows that fiber can lower blood sugar as much as some diabetes medications,(iii) lower cholesterol(iv), and promote weight loss.(v)
It's clear, fiber is a great ally in the battle of the bulge.
But it's also a hero in more serious battles.
For example, one recent study showed how butyrate made by gut bacteria from certain types of fiber acts as a switching molecule that turns on an anticancer gene -- and turns OFF colon cancer. In fact, fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as a third and breast cancer by almost 40 percent.
It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent.(vi) And if you have diabetes, adding fiber to your diet may even help you use less insulin. Plus, it's a great natural cure for constipation and irregularity.(vii)
Now that you know how beneficial it is, let's look at how you can begin taking advantage of fiber's health benefits.
Getting Enough Daily Fiber
You should shoot to get 30 to 50 grams of fiber into your diet every day.(viii) The type of fiber you choose is important, too.
Most people think that bran is the best type of fiber to eat. But bran (wheat fiber) is mostly insoluble and doesn't get digested. Think of it as more of a scouring pad for your intestines. That's good for getting you regular, but it just can't help your health the way that soluble fiber can.
You'll find soluble fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and most whole grains. The bacteria in your gut metabolizes the soluble fiber in these foods, and that's when the benefits start.
Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin, prevent cancer, balance hormone levels, remove excess estrogen and reduce the risk of breast cancer, make vitamins and minerals, provide food for the colon cells, and more. So it's easy to see just how crucial soluble fiber is to good heath!
In just a minute, I'm going to tell you how to increase your fiber intake. But first, I want to tell you about some recent discoveries regarding an ancient fiber source that can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, reduce your appetite and lower your blood sugar more effectively than ANY other fiber. It's called glucomannan, but I call it super fiber!
Glucomannan: The Benefits of Super Fiber
Glucomannan (GM) is a soluble, fermentable, and highly viscous dietary fiber that comes from the root of the elephant yam, also known as konjac (Amorphophallus konjac or Amorphophallus rivieri), native to Asia. The konjac tuber has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy and to make traditional foods such as konjac jelly, tofu, and noodles. More recently, purified konjac flour, or GM, has been used as a food stabilizer, gelling agent, and supplement.
What makes this fiber so super is the fact that it can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water -- making it one of the most viscous dietary fibers known.
That means that GM can help you shed pounds. In many studies, doses of two to four grams of GM per day were well-tolerated.(ix),(x) This amount also resulted in significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.(xi)
GM works by promoting a sense of fullness.(xii),(xiii) Plus, it pushes more calories out through your colon, rather than letting them be absorbed.(xiv) It also lowers the energy density of the food you eat. In other words, it bulks up food in your gut -- creating a lower calorie content per weight of food you eat.(xv)
And since fiber has almost no calories but a lot of weight, adding it to your diet lowers the energy-to-weight ratio of the food that you eat. Studies show that the weight of food controls your appetite, so the fiber increases the food's weight WITHOUT increasing calories -- a critical factor in weight control.
This powerful fiber may also control your appetite in other key ways.
For example, it sends signals to your brain that there is a lot of food in your gut and tells it to slow down on stuffing food in there.
GM also leaves your stomach and small bowel slowly because it is so viscous. By slowing the rate of food absorption from the gut to the bloodstream, GM reduces the amount of insulin produced after a meal, which also controls your appetite.
It may also increase the level of hormones in the gut (such as cholecystokinin), which is another way to control your appetite.(xvi)
And finally, you lose more calories through stool because GM soaks up all those extra calories!
GM can also help your health in other ways. In addition to weight reduction, GM has been studied for its effects on constipation, serum cholesterol,(xvii) blood glucose,(xviii) blood pressure,(xix) and insulin resistance syndrome.(xx)
With all those benefits, there's no doubt you should eat more fiber. No, you probably won't be eating 12 pounds of food like your ancestors did! But you can increase your fiber intake, just by being smart about what you eat. Here are some simple suggestions for increasing fiber in your diet.
9 Tips for Increasing the Fiber in Your Diet
1. Get the flax. Get a coffee grinder just for flax seeds, grind 1/2 cup at a time, and keep it in a tightly sealed glass jar in the fridge or freezer. Eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day. Sprinkle it on salads, grains, or vegetable dishes or mix it in a little unsweetened applesauce.
2. Load up on legumes. Beans beat out everything else for fiber content!
3. Bulk up on vegetables. With low levels of calories and high levels of antioxidants and protective phytochemicals, these excellent fiber sources should be heaped on your plate daily.
4. Go with the grain. Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa are rich in fiber, too.
5. Eat more fruit. Include a few servings of low-sugar fruits to your diet daily (berries are the highest in fiber and other protective phytochemicals).
6. Go nuts. Include a few handfuls of almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts to your diet every day.
7. Start slowly. Switching abruptly to a high-fiber diet can cause gas and bloating. Increase your fiber intake slowly till you get up to 50 grams a day.
8. Consider a good fiber supplement. If you're have trouble getting your fill of fiber, choose a supplement that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber and no sweeteners or additives.
9. Choose GM. By now, you know that my favorite kind is glucomannan (GM), or konjac. Many companies sell it in capsule form. Although I don't normally recommend specific brands, I like the one produced by Natural Factors called WellBetX. You can take 2 to 4 capsules with a glass of water, 30 to 60 minutes before eating. Don't take any medications within 1 hour before or 2 hours after taking it because the fiber may absorb the medication.
As you can see, fiber has big benefits for your health -- from encouraging weight loss to preventing chronic diseases. I hope you'll start adding more of this important compound into your diet today!
Now I'd like to hear from you ...
Have you noticed any ill-health effects from having a low fiber intake?
How much fiber do you think you currently eat every day?
What high-fiber foods do you enjoy?
What steps are you taking to get more fiber in your diet?
Please let me know your thoughts by adding a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
(i) Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutr Rev. 2001;59:129-139.
(ii) Burton-Freeman B. Dietary fiber and energy regulation. J Nutr. 2000; 130(2S Suppl):272S-275S
(iii) Vuksan V, Sievenpiper SL, Xu Z, et al. Konjac-Mannan and American Ginseng: Emerging alternative therapies for type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(5Suppl):370S-380S.
(iv) Gallaher DD, Gallaher CM, Mahrt GJ, et al. A glucomannan and chitosan fiber supplement decreases plasma cholesterol and increases cholesterol excretion in overweight normocholesterolemic humans. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002;21(5): 428-433.

(v) Baer DJ, Rumpler WV, Miles CW, Fahey GCJ. Dietary fiber decreases the metabolizable energy content and nutrient digestibility of mixed diets fed to humans. J Nutr. 1997;127: 579-586.
(vi) Vuksan V, Jenkins DJ, Spadafora P, et al. Konjac-mannan (glucomannan) improves glycemia and other associated risk factors for coronary heart disease in type 2 diabetes. A randomized controlled metabolic trial. Diabetes Care. 1999;22(6):913-919.
(vii) Astrup A, Vrist E, Quaade F. (1990). Dietary fibre added to a very low calorie diet reduces hunger and alleviates constipation. Int J Obes. 1990;14:105-112.
(viii) Walsh DE, Yaghoubian V, Behforooz A. Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: A clinical study. Int J Obes. 1984;8:289-293.
(ix) Livieri C, Novazi F, Lorini R. The use of highly purified glucomannan-based fibers in childhood obesity. Pediatr Med Chir. 1992;14(2):195-198.
(x)Vita PM, Restelli A, Caspani P, Klinger R. Chronic use of glucomannan in the dietary treatment of severe obesity. Minerva Med. 1992;83(3):135-139.
(xi) Cairella M, Marchini G. Evaluation of the action of glucomannan on metabolic parameters and on the sensation of satiation in overweight and obese patients. ClinTer. 1995;146(4):269-274.
(xii) Burley VJ, Paul AW, Blundell JE. Influence of a high-fibre food (myco-protein) on appetite: Effects on satiation (within meals) and satiety (following meals). Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993;47:409-418.
(xiii) Hill AJ, Blundell JE. Macronutrients and satiety: The effects of a high protein or high carbohydrate meal on subjective motivation to eat and food preferences. Nutr Behav. 1986;3:133-144.
(xiv) Pasman WJ, Saris WH, Wauters MA, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Effect of one week of fibre supplementation on hunger and satiety ratings and energy intake. Appetite, 1997;29:77-87.

(xv) Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FP, Rosner B, Colditz G. Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(5):920-927.
(xvi) Bourden I, Yokoyama W, Davis P, et al. Postprandial lipid, glucose, insulin, and cholecystokinin responses in men fed barley pasta enriched with beta-glucan. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69:55-63.
(xvii) Arvill A, Bodin L. (1995). Effect of short-term ingestion of konjac glucomannan on serum cholesterol in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;61:585-589.

(xviii) Chen H-L, Sheu WH, Tai T-S, Liaw Y-P, Chen Y-C. Konjac supplement alleviated hypercholesterolemia and hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetic subjects--a randomized double-blind trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003;22(1):36-42.
(xix) Reffo GC, Ghirardi PE, Forattini C. Glucomannan in hypertensive outpatients: Pilot clinical trial. Curr Ther Res. 1988; 44(1):22-27.
(xx) Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Owen R, et al. Beneficial effects of viscous dietary fiber from konjac-mannan in subjects with the insulin resistance syndrome: Results of a controlled metabolic trial. Diabetes Care. 2000;23(1):9-14.
Mark Hyman, M.D. practicing physician and founder of The UltraWellness Center is a pioneer in functional medicine. Dr. Hyman is now sharing the 7 ways to tap into your body's natural ability to heal itself. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on Youtube and become a fan on Facebook.

System failing dementia patients, MD says

Inadequate care causes more trips to the ER, hospitalizations 

The health system in Eastern Ontario is failing seniors with dementia, leaving many to languish without proper care, says a leading elder care specialist.
More than 16,000 Eastern Ontarians suffer from dementia, but a lack of preventive care means many land in hospitals unnecessarily, said Dr. Frank Molnar, a geriatrician at The Ottawa Hospital.
The situation creates long waits in emergency rooms and costs the region’s health-care system millions in avoidable expenses, he added.
“As a system, I don’t think we’re providing adequate dementia care. And, because of that, we have increased ER visits, increased hospitalizations,” Molnar told a public forum on dementia Friday. “My fear is that dementia care will remain a weak link.”
In Eastern Ontario, which has the fastest-growing seniors population in the province, gaps in dementia care have resulted in overcrowded hospitals and nursing homes as well as long waits to get into both.
Molnar said the gaps include a lack of home-care managers dedicated to monitoring the complex needs of dementia sufferers; access to respite care for spouses and children who look after seniors with dementia; and outpatient clinics to provide followup care for dementia patients who are discharged from hospital.
The Champlain Community Access Centre, the agency responsible for home care in Eastern Ontario, has hinted that it plans to look at creating more dedicated case managers for seniors with dementia, modelled after a team that currently serves the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell area.
But Molnar reserved his sharpest words for hospitals, including his own, which, he said, often fails seniors with dementia. Once hospitalized, such patients are too quickly labelled as candidates for nursing homes and left to languish without proper care.
And once discharged, dementia sufferers struggle to remain in their own homes, creating a burden on family and friends. As a result, these seniors often get caught in a revolving door of expensive and ineffective hospital visits.
“As a system, we let things deteriorate, escalate and then we end up spending 10 times as much caring for people in the hospital at a time when it’s less possible to reverse the problem,” said Molnar.
“We need to provide the services in the community so that they don’t get to the emergency room in the first place.”
Dementia is a degenerative disease that first attacks memory and then harms other brain functions, eventually robbing its victims of their personality and independence.
Seniors with dementia often suffer from other complex illnesses such as diabetes; when they lose their memory, they forget to take their medications and follow a proper diet, putting them at even higher risk of complications that result in unnecessary hospital admissions.
In Eastern Ontario, Molnar co-chairs a coalition of physicians and community support groups called the Champlain Dementia Network, which trains family doctors how to diagnosis and treat dementia patients early in the disease cycle.
The network also helps patients and their families find the necessary services to help seniors with dementia live in their own homes.
The Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County also offers a program called First Link, which connects dementia patients and their families with education, support services and counselling.
While all these services are aimed at preventing premature hospital and nursing-home admissions, they are largely volunteer-driven and underfunded, said Molnar.
In most cases, the services have more clients than they can handle, said Kathy Wright, executive director of the Alzheimer Society.
First Link, for example, receives $262,000 annually in provincial funding, which allows them to help about 2,000 Eastern Ontarians, or about one in eight seniors with dementia. “We know lots of people don’t get to us,” said Wright.
Molnar blamed the situation on the province, which, he said, has not made dementia care a priority.
The head of Eastern Ontario’s health authority acknowledged the pressures on existing dementia-care programs.
But Dr. Robert Cushman defended the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, saying the agency, which decides how provincial health dollars are spent in the region, has increased funding to some dementia-care programs. Among them is the Memory Disorder Clinic at Bruyère Continuing Care, which assesses seniors to determine whether they have dementia.
“We want to get as much money to the community to ensure that people stay out of the more expensive institutions,” said Cushman.

Brain-injured veterans say VA slights them

WASHINGTON — Improvised bombs rattled former Army Spc. Adam Pittman a dozen times in his three tours in Iraq, most severely when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle ran over one hidden in the dirt in 2005.

Now, on most days, he can't think straight.

He leaves the room and forgets what he was searching for. He gets migraines so piercing that his right eye sometimes curls away from his left. Anger comes easily, inspiring rages that sometimes have his wife terrified for herself and their 3-year-old daughter.

Although Pittman, who lives in Lillington, N.C., left the military in July 2008 complaining of headaches and memory loss, it took nearly a year for him to get a brain scan and five more months to start getting temporary disability benefits.

"They were blowing me off," Pittman, 30, said of the Department of Veterans Affairs. "I feel like things that have to happen, they're dragging their feet on."

Nearly 30,000 veterans have experienced traumatic brain injury in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, an estimated 2,000 of them severe enough to put the warriors into comas or leave them with severe disabilities. Yet more than eight years after the invasion of Afghanistan, testimony before Congress shows that veterans experience yawning gaps in coverage for what has become the signature wound in both wars.

"It requires someone screaming and fighting on behalf of that soldier," said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Many veterans and their relatives say that veterans with consistent help — a spouse or parent, usually — are best able to navigate the system. Others are left scrambling to seek assistance.

"There's almost a culture of no at the VA," Burr said.

"For the average service member or family member that asks, 'Can we do this?' the automatic answer is no," he said. "Can we get that service locally? No. Can we go to an outside rehabilitation facility? No."

Among the complaints, from advocates, veterans, relatives and testimony to Congress:

• The military has yet to provide an accurate baseline measurement of individuals' brain function to determine later whether those people have TBI. For now, troops fill out online questionnaires.

• It can take more than a year for service members to transition from the Department of Defense to the VA, which delays treatment and the disability ratings that veterans need to receive financial benefits.

• The VA doesn't routinely refer patients to private providers who might live closer or be more expert in treating traumatic brain injuries.

• The VA has denied therapy to veterans who aren't continuing to make progress, when TBI patients need consistent therapy just to keep from sliding backward.

"They're just not getting what they deserve and what's available," said Karen Bohlinger, whose son has a severe brain injury he sustained as a special-forces officer in Iraq. She's married to Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.

The VA repeatedly denied Bohlinger's request to get a brain scan for her son, who now lives in a rehabilitation facility in Seattle. She eventually paid herself.

"If it's available, why aren't our veterans getting it?" asked Karen Bohlinger, who testified to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs this month.

Outside help

Advances in roadside bombs and trauma medicine have left thousands of warriors seriously injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — but alive.

For those with severe TBI, the injuries are obvious: They fall into comas or are left with debilitating speech and cognitive problems. Many, such as the Bohlingers' son, are steered to intensive rehabilitative care.

Harder to diagnose are soldiers and Marines who experience the more common mild or moderate traumatic brain injuries. Those come from concussions or repeated blasts, can often be mixed with post-traumatic stress disorder and leave veterans unable to complete basic tasks because of memory loss, disorientation or intense pain.

The military has said it's offering predeployment and postdeployment cognitive screenings for Marines and soldiers who are headed to war zones, but congressional staff members have found that the screenings amount to little more than filling in bubbles in online questionnaires.

"I'm just as worried about the mild TBI cases we're not picking up," Burr said.

Shannon Pittman said her husband made little progress with the VA until a friend recommended that the couple contact the office of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., who paved the way for Adam Pittman to receive first an MRI and then temporary benefits.

Still, she would like to see more services for her husband, whom the VA has told that he must return for another MRI in late 2011 to measure progress.

"He's not being given the tools to be taught how to live with it," Shannon Pittman said. "They act like it's going to go away. It's not going away."

Lack of data

Burr said he had seen little improvement in services since Congress gave the VA new authority in 2008 to begin contracting with private care providers for TBI patients.

The VA said it had more than 300 agreements in place with private providers across the country, but it couldn't provide the number of veterans who were referred to private care.

"It's disappointing to me, because I think they could have been doing so much to take advantage of existing capacity within the [brain-injury] community," said Bruce Gans, executive vice president and chief medical officer at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey. Gans testified before Congress this month.

The 2008 defense bill also authorized the creation of federal recovery-care coordinators, VA workers who try to help veterans find the care they need.

Two years later, there are about 30 federal recovery- care coordinators across the country, according to the VA. However, the VA was unable to tell the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee what each coordinator's caseload is now. A report to the committee about the VA's progress in treating TBI indicated that of three case studies in the report, one had a federal recovery-care coordinator.

In its report to the committee, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the agency paid $21.4 million last fiscal year for public and private medical services for 3,708 veterans with traumatic brain injuries. That averages less than $6,000 a patient.

The VA has begun a pilot program to develop assisted-living facilities for veterans with traumatic brain injuries.

In his report, Shinseki wrote that the agency has made "significant progress" in treating TBI.

Former soldiers such as Pittman, however, say more needs to be done. In a recent interview, he offered advice for other veterans:

"For everybody else that's going through this, to not give up. Because the way the system is set up, it's for you to get started, and get frustrated and quit. Keep trying."

Eating bacteria 'can boost brain power'

London: Eating bacteria could boost brain power, according to a new study in mice.
Scientists have carried out the study and found that mice given peanut butter laced with a common, harmless soil bacterium learnt to ran through mazes twice as fast and even enjoyed doing so, the 'New Scientist' reported.
A team, led by Dorothy Matthews of the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, laced the treat with a tiny bit of Mycobacterium vaccae, and found that the mice ran through the maze twice as fast as those given plain peanut butter.
"This suggests that they had learned to navigate the maze faster," Matthews said.
Moreover, the mice given the bacteria continued to run the maze faster than those without it for 18 more trials over the next six weeks, showing they weren't just made more alert by a surprise change to their treat.
This effect lasted for four weeks after the last piece of doctored peanut butter was given to the mice.
According to the scientists, this was caused by the effect M. vaccae has on the immune system, something that was investigated in 2007 by a team, led by Chris Lowry, now at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The bacteria may speed up learning because the Raphe nuclei stimulate a brain region called the hippocampus, which handles spatial memory, Matthews said.
But the bacteria also changed the mice's mood - they showed less behaviour that indicates anxiety, such as grooming and searching, perhaps analogous to the calmer behaviour immune activation triggers in people.
This is likely to have been caused by changes to the higher mental functions in the forebrain, which perhaps allowed them to focus better on the maze.
Matthews said that exposure to soil bacteria may affect human brains too. "It just shows that we evolved with dirt as hunter-gatherers. So turn off your TV and go work in your garden, or walk in the woods."

Cold sore virus could lead to schizophrenia

Schizophrenia (Getty Images)
Cold sore virus could lead to cognitive symptoms characteristic to schizophrenia patients, research led by Johns Hopkins scientists has found.

Dr. David J. Schretlen and colleagues found that exposure to cold sore virus may be partially responsible for shrinking regions of the brain and the loss of concentration skills, memory, coordinated movement and dexterity widely seen in patients with schizophrenia.

"We're finding that some portion of cognitive impairment usually blamed solely on the disease of schizophrenia might actually be a combination of schizophrenia and prior exposure to herpes simplex virus 1 infection, which reproduces in the brain," said Schretlen.

The research could lead to new ways to treat or prevent the cognitive impairment that typically accompanies this mental illness, including with antiviral drugs, the scientists say.

Doctors have long known that cognitive impairment, including problems with psychomotor speed, concentration, learning, and memory, are prevalent features of schizophrenia.

Cognitive deficits often surface months to years before symptoms that are traditionally used to diagnose this disease, such as delusions or hallucinations.

Some previous studies have shown that schizophrenic patients with antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores, often have more severe cognitive deficits than patients without these antibodies.

Other studies have shown that patients with HSV-1 antibodies have decreased brain volumes compared to patients without the antibodies.

However, it has been unclear whether the cognitive deficits are directly related to the decreased brain volume.

To investigate, the researchers recruited 40 schizophrenic patients from outpatient clinics at the Johns Hopkins and Sheppard Enoch Pratt hospitals in Baltimore, Md.

Blood tests showed that 25 of the patients had antibodies for HSV-1 and 15 didn't.

The researchers gave all of the patients tests to measure speed of coordination, organizational skills and verbal memory.

The patients then underwent MRI brain scans to measure the volume of particular regions of their brains.

As in previous studies, results showed that patients with antibodies to HSV-1 performed significantly worse on the cognitive tests than patients without the antibodies.

But expanding on those earlier studies, analysis of the brain scans showed that the same patients who performed poorly on the tests also had reduced brain volume in the anterior cingulate, which controls processing speed and the ability to switch tasks.

There was also shrinkage in the cerebellum, which controls motor function.

The results suggest that HSV-1 might be directly causing the cognitive deficits by attacking these brain regions, said Schretlen.

The researchers said that the results already suggest new ways of treating the disorder.

Data from other studies has shown that antiviral medications can reduce psychiatric symptoms in some patients with schizophrenia.

"If we can identify schizophrenic patients with HSV-1 antibodies early on, it might be possible to reduce the risk or the extent of cognitive deficits," he added.

Brain response patterns for early, passionate love are universal: Study

Patterns of brain response in the early-stage of intense passionate love are universal, a new study has found.
Previous research found that Easterners (those from collectivistic cultures such as China) seem to have different notions of love as compared to Westerners (those from individualist cultures such as the United States).
But since these studies were conducted with self-report questionnaires, researchers wanted to find if these cultural differences exist due to actual differences in the experience of love.
Researchers have now used neuroimagining via functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to find an answer to the question.
The study team comprised Xiaomeng Xu, Doctoral Candidate in Psychology and Arthur Aron, Professor of Psychology, both at Stony Brook University, Lucy Brown at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Guikang Cao and Tingyong Feng of Southwest University, China and Xuchu Weng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.
The researchers looked at the brain patterns of 18 Chinese college students who had just fallen madly in love and were in the early stages of a romantic relationship.
The students were placed in the scanner at the Beijing MRI Center for Brain Research and looked at alternating pictures of their romantic partner and an acquaintance they had no special feelings for (who was the same sex as their partner).
The results of this study done in China were compared to results from a previous study done with American Stony Brook University students to see if there were cultural differences in brain activations for early-stage intense passionate love.
Unlike past research based on questionnaires showing cultural differences, this study found that the patterns of brain response were extremely similar for Chinese and Americans.
For people intensely in love in both cultures, viewing images of the beloved elicited brain activations in the midbrain dopamine-rich reward/motivation system (a system closely related to drug addiction) including the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) and caudate.
The researchers also followed up on the Chinese participants 18 months after they had been in the scanner to investigate whether brain activations during the "madly in love" stage of the relationship predicted relationship satisfaction as the relationship developed over time.
Activations in specific brain areas known to be associated with reward/pleasant feelings ( in the subgenual and superior frontal gyrus) substantially predicted greater relationships satisfaction18 months later.
This is the first neuroimaging study of love to examine follow-up data.
The study has appeared in Human Brain Mapping.

Brain gain: African migrants returning home

Ghanaian fashion model Ghana's fashion industry has lured some African professionals home
Africa may still be suffering from a chronic brain drain but some of the continent's elite are turning their backs on the West and taking their talents back home according to film-maker Andy Jones.
The story is as old as the hills. Man leaves village to seek riches in the big city.
In recent years, the village has been the continent of Africa, the city represented by the bright lights of Europe and America.
Any number of Africans seek to cross the ocean and make their fortunes, never to be seen again.
But when our team travelled around Africa recently to film a new TV documentary series, we found a different story. Many of the Africans I met had worked or been educated in the West and come back.
Across nine African countries and a journey of 7,000 miles from Mali to South Africa, from Ghana to Ethiopia, the story was often the same. Africans were returning from working or studying abroad either for patriotic reasons or because of the growing opportunities back home.
Fashion industry These were educated Africans like Kofi Ansah, a Ghanaian fashion designer. Born into an artistic family, he studied fashion at Chelsea School of Art before graduating with first class honours in 1977. He spent 20 years living and working in Europe before returning to Ghana in 1992.
Mr Ansah still travels the world, and could live anywhere, but his business is growing, his family are settled and he feels like he's making a difference in Accra. "I came to help try to develop the clothing textile industry. And I thought, if we could do it right, it could help our employment situation."
Mr Ansah now creates jobs for tailors and designers, models and marketers.
At one of his fashion shows, we met make-up artist Nana Amu Fleisher-Djoleto who grew up in London. Her view is that not only are more people returning, but they are coming home sooner.
"I'm finding now that younger people want to go away maybe to university, but then come back after gaining some experience. They're not working for years and coming back when they're decrepit."
Global mobility For decades, African leaders have complained of a brain drain, losing many of their brightest and best to Western countries keen to attract highly skilled migrants.
This brain drain cannot be stopped or reversed according to Jean Phillipe Chauzy at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). But he sees other factors at play in Africa's favour.
"The fundamental difference is new technology allowing African professionals in the West to transfer their skills and do some teaching," says Mr Chauzy.
It is a relatively new trend with digital technology allowing African academics and other professionals abroad to support African universities, schools or individuals back home to bridge the skills gap with the West.
He also sees "a pattern of mobility for people with skills" with greater global mobility allowing "countries which have the right conditions" to attract skilled professionals home either temporarily or permanently.
A recent IOM report on Ghana highlighted its "relative peace, security and political stability" and found "growing incidence of return or circular migration".
"Of the more than 1.1 million Ghanaians who left the country between 2000-2007, only 153,000 did not return either temporarily or permanently."
Commodity Exchange For many returnees including former World Bank senior economist Eleni Gabre-Madhin, loyalty and the desire to give something back is an important motivation for returning.
Inside Ethiopia's commodities exchange
Her brainchild is the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, which began trading in 2008 and which she hopes will make a difference to the lives of millions of farmers.
"I'd spent years doing analysis and writing, but then the food crisis hit in 2003, and it made me think, OK we're talking about things, but we're not doing anything."
The new exchange, owned by the Ethiopian government and supported by the World Bank, trades in six commodities including coffee, produced by around 12 million small-scale farmers in Ethiopia.
While deals are still sealed with a traditional slap of hands, cutting edge technology ensures that all transactions are logged on computers within four seconds, with prices transmitted across the country by radio and around the world via the internet.
The farmers benefit by being guaranteed a good international market price, preventing exploitation by middlemen and they get paid within 24 hours.
The first two years have seen over $400m (£274m) worth of produce traded and despite a number of teething problems, the exchange looks set to prosper, with nearby countries such as Tanzania and Uganda now considering similar schemes.
Ms Gabre-Madhin acknowledges there have been problems but she would like to see more people joining her in making solutions work, rather than sniping from overseas.
The African brain drain with emigration outstripping immigration may be destined to continue but for those countries which can offer the security and political stability, there is a growing dividend from those who feel they owe something to their former home.

Making Your Way Through the Fog of Chemotherapy

Though accepted as real, 'chemo brain' still befuddles patients and researchers For many people with cancer, chemotherapy can be a lifeline to the future. And more aggressive, high-dose therapy has been shown to produce better results.
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But there's a downside, too: Chemotherapy is linked to a mental fog called "chemo brain."
For years, people's complaints were dismissed as "all in your head," but that's no longer the case. It's now the topic of serious research, with investigators working hard to figure out why it happens and what can be done to help those who suffer from it.
Yet even with the added focus on chemo brain research, many doctors who care for cancer patients are either unaware of the phenomenon or don't think to discuss the possibility with their patients, said Saskia Subramanian, a research sociologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has researched and published on chemo brain and wrote After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors.
She encourages patients to bring it up themselves, especially if they think they're experiencing it.
Among the symptoms:
  • Forgetting things that are usually easy to recall, such as names or words
  • Having problems concentrating
  • Having difficulty multi-tasking
  • Being slower at doing routine tasks
Exactly how many people develop chemo brain is unknown, agreed Subramanian and Christina Meyers, professor and chief of neuropsychology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who has researched the condition for more than two decades.
"I would say more than half of the cancer patients in active treatment have some kind of symptomology" related to chemotherapy, Meyers said. "It could range from pretty mild to so severe that a person is unable to perform their normal activities."
Subramanian said the estimates vary widely, from 20 or 30 percent to 90 percent of chemo patients. "My guess is it's somewhere in the middle," she said. "My suspicion is it has to do with how aggressive the treatment is."
Because the trend is toward more aggressive chemo, the pressure is on to learn more about the condition, what's behind it and how people can cope.
Researchers who've done studies involving imaging of the brain have found changes in the brain activity of breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy, compared with those who didn't get chemo.
Meyers said that recent studies have also found acute injury to brain cells and damage to myelin, the white matter that coats nerve cells.
They are important clues, but much is still unknown about chemo brain. Even so, no one is suggesting that people opt out of chemo that is recommended to them, Subramanian noted. "It's not a reason to forego needed chemo," she said.
Some researchers are looking at medicines in use for such conditions as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dementia to see if the drugs might help those with chemo brain. And research is also underway to develop animal models and come up with new drugs to counteract the effects of chemo brain, Meyers said.
But until then, she said, anyone having chemotherapy would be wise to develop compensatory measures. These could include:
  • Setting up a "memory station" at home -- one place to keep keys, important papers and work-related items you need to take to the office.
  • Using a day planner or personal digital assistant for reminders about meetings and appointments.
  • Using checklists. One might be a list of things to do when leaving work: Log off your network, turn off your computer, turn on voice mail, turn off the coffee pot, turn off the lights -- anything that needs to get done.
  • Parking in the same place at work, at the mall, wherever you go often.
  • Not trying to multi-task. Even if you were champion before, Meyers said, for now do just one task at a time.
Certain strategies, though, are not helpful, Meyers added. For instance, one thing that she said doesn't work is doing repetitive mental exercises, such as crossword puzzles or video games. She said many people with chemo brain tell her they try that, but she said it doesn't seem to translate to remembering names better.

Also, the experts agreed that anyone complaining of chemo brain ought to be evaluated to make sure that other problems -- such as depression or a thyroid problem -- aren't contributing to the fog and mental slowdown.