Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An egg a day helps children grow taller - and it could make them become healthier adults

Babies given an egg a day consumed less sugary foods, offering hope to tackle the child obesity crisis.

When babies 6 to 9 months old were given an egg a day, their growth improved and they ate less sugary foods.

Giving weaned babies an egg a day for six months dramatically improves their growth if they are undernourished, a trial has found, boosting their chances of becoming taller, healthier adults.

About 80 babies between 6 and 9 months that had recently been weaned were given an egg a day for six months in addition to their normal routine, and 80 babies in the same community in Ecuador continued to be fed as usual. After six months, babies given an egg were half as likely to have reduced growth as the other group.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was carried out in Ecuador, where growth stunting is a widespread problem. Among the indigenous highland communities in the Ecuadorian Andes, where the study was carried out, about 43% of children under 5 have stunted growth.

This is the first randomised, controlled trial to test the effect of eggs on stunting.

"It's no single nutrient in the eggs but rather the whole package of amino acids and fatty acids, and also vitamins like and choline and B12," study author Lora Iannotti of Washington University in St Louis told IBTimes UK.

Tackling stunting

The World Health Assembly identified stunting as its top challenges to overcome by 2025. Babies with stunted growth tend to become smaller children, and to eventually have a reduced height as an adult. And it's not just about height.

"Men and women with stunted growth both have a reduced lifespan and limited economic productivity," said Inka Barnett of the Institute of Development Studies, a paediatric nutritionist who was not involved with the study.

Quichua indigenous people are pictured in Chimborazo province in the central Ecuadorian Andes highlands. Growth stunting is a significant problem in the community.

"And probably even more devastating are the changes in cognitive development. Brain development needs nutrients. If these nutrients are not given in first 1,000 days from conception, the brain cannot develop to its full potential.

"This has lifelong consequences with respect to educational outcomes, job prospects and the economic development of the whole country."

The study offers a promising and relatively cheap way to tackle stunting in countries where it is a significant problem, Barnett said.

"It's not an industrially produced food, it's a natural food. So perhaps it's more accessible than micronutrient biscuit, which is given to mothers in some contexts."

The eggs in the study were bought from local small-to-medium-scale chicken farms. They are also a part of the diet of the population already, but are not typically given to babies.

A woman feeds a hen outside her house in Ecuador.

Less appetite for sugar?

As well as improving the babies' growth, those given an egg a day were also less likely to eat sugary foods.

"We weren't looking for this, but we found in the group who received eggs that it reduced the children's consumption of sugar-sweetened foods," Iannotti said. "That wasn't what we were trying to do, but that was a very good finding."

Exactly why eating eggs reduced intake of sugary foods isn't yet clear. It could be because the eggs filled them up and so they had less appetite for other foods, Ianotti said, although further research would be needed to test this.

This finding could be significant in developed countries where obesity is the type of malnutrition that dominates.

"This is the case in many places right now – there is a dual burden of under and over-nutrition. Even in children, the consumption of sugar-sweetened food and drinks is on the rise and it's very problematic for nutrition," said Ianotti.

"The nice thing about eggs is that in many places in the world that already a part of the diet. They're a high-quality food that isn't packed with empty calories."

Pinched nerves don’t have to be such a “pain in your neck” – prevention and treatment can make all the difference

Anyone who’s experienced a pinched nerve knows just how “unnerving” it can truly be. The odds are that most of you have dealt with an episode or two, and will more than likely will do so again in the future. After all, you might be surprised to know that a pinched nerve is one of the world’s more common medical maladies.

Sure, they can be short-lived in duration and minor in discomfort. But, they can also be quite lengthy, painful and debilitating, limiting your range of motion and impeding even the simplest of daily activities. It can be excruciating just lifting your head off the morning pillow, looking over your shoulder when backing out of a parking space or even pulling your shirt over your head.

I would contend, however, that pinched nerves do not have to be such a “pain in the neck.” In fact, there are preventative steps you can take to limit your exposure, and treatment modalities you can follow upon occurrence that can make all the difference in the world.

Pay attention to the warning signs, though they’re hard to miss

Simply put, a pinched nerve is the name given to the uncomfortable sensation, pain or numbness caused when there’s increased pressure on a nerve. Your body’s nerves extend from the brain and spinal cord, sending important messages from head to toe. When pressure builds on a nerve or, in other words, it gets pinched, the messages and the nourishing fluid don’t flow quite as well as they should. In turn, a very distinct and painful message can get sent to the brain, potentially leading to weakness, numbness or tingling.

These warning signs are clearly evident. Muscle weakness that seems to worsen is the first sign of a pinched nerve. You may be unable to clench your fists as hard. Or, you may have tingling or “pins and needles” sensations. This may be intermittent, only manifesting itself when triggered by certain motions or activities. Pain, on the other hand, may tend to get progressively worse. Constant pain is very unpleasant and can stop you from engaging in day-to-day activities.

Where did my pinched nerve come from – and how can I make sure it never comes back?

So you may ask yourself – what brought on my pinched nerve? Well, there are many reasons why a pinched nerve occurs. Most common and recognizable is that you held your body in one position for a long period of time, such as when sleeping. Or, you put a specific body part through too many repetitive motions, such as your wrist from typing or elbow from tennis. Sometimes, you can experience a pinched nerve from lifting a heavy object, other times from twisting the wrong way during exercise. You might wake up with soreness in your back or neck that lasts for a few days before progressing to a shooting pain.

There are also more overt reasons why a nerve compression may occur, such as a traumatic episode of blunt force, such as a car accident. Of course, a pinched nerve can also be the result of complications related to discs in your neck or back, when cartilage becomes displaced and pushes on a nerve. This can all be part of the natural aging process. It’s normal for our vertebrae and discs to weaken due to age and degenerative spine conditions can naturally develop over time.

Now that we know how they occur, it begs the question of what can we do to prevent a pinched nerve from occurring? Paying attention to body positions and maintaining good posture is probably the easiest precautionary measure. There are proper ways to sit, stand and perform daily activities with good body mechanics. In addition, one of the best ways to prevent a pinched nerve is to live a healthy lifestyle. Developing a strong and flexible back reduces the likelihood of injury, while staying in good shape reduces the weight put on the spine, limiting the development of disc problems and other forms of deterioration.

Be mindful, if your profession or daily routines include repetitive activities to perform a task, try incorporating frequent breaks or rest periods to reduce or eliminate the risk of nerve injury. You’ll be very glad you did.

Full range of conservative treatments can provide much needed relief

One of the most important things you should understand about a pinched nerve is that symptoms tend to exacerbate without treatment. Seeking prompt medical attention is the best way to get long-term relief. There are a comprehensive range of conservative treatments to ease symptoms. I advise most patients to try physical therapy, Pilates, yoga or other core-based exercise routines, supplemented as needed by medication or spinal injections.

An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can do the trick. Plus, oral corticosteroid or a steroid injection can, furthermore, reduce the swelling and pain, and allow inflamed nerves to recover.

How long it takes for symptoms to subside can change from person to person. Treatment also varies depending on the severity, cause and location of the nerve compression. In many cases, symptoms can be resolved when treatment allows the nerve to recover. Because nerves can regenerate very slowly over time, it’s important to seek evaluation for symptoms which persist or recur over a number of days or weeks.

Some people will benefit greatly from simply resting the injured area and avoiding activities that tend to worsen the symptoms. In many cases, that’s all you need to do. However, studies show that completely resting for two to three days can sometimes bring about an adverse impact due to muscle atrophy. So, I don’t recommend rest that exceeds more than one or two days.

It may seem counter intuitive, but you can rest the pinched nerve and still keep your blood pumping. Good circulation and toned muscles can help the healing process. Start with low-impact exercise that feels comfortable. Pilates is excellent for balancing muscle development, building strong core muscles in the back and abdomen, and reinforcing good posture. With stronger back muscles, you can provide better support to the vertebrae and discs, placing less pressure on the spinal column and nerves.

Yoga combines classic poses, controlled breathing and deep relaxation to condition and strengthen your body regardless of your current flexibility or other physical limitations.

Physical therapy is a great option for neck and lower back discomfort

When a pinched nerve is caused by problems in the neck or lower back, physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles is often a great option. Exercises may strengthen the back or core muscles and decrease or eliminate pressure on the nerve.

The goal is to increase strength, flexibility and support in the areas surrounding your impacted area.

A physical therapist will work with you to create a program that helps your recovery. However, be careful. Working out alone can worsen your condition. It’s important to have the guidance of a trained medical professional whenever attempting to exercise or stretch with a pinched nerve.

Physical therapy lasting about four to six weeks, sometimes accompanied by anti-inflammatory medications, can help in 90-95 percent of cases. Then, once your physical therapy is complete, continue core-based exercises at home.

Remember these helpful tips and keep your head up.

In some respects, there isn’t much you can do to protect yourself from a pinched nerve. It’s simply going to happen to some people. That is, unless you’re going to lead a life free of turning, twisting and lifting, which isn’t too likely. But, by being mindful of these important tips, taking care of your body and paying attention to your body posture, you can do wonders to avoid the pitfalls of pinched nerves. Keep your shoulders back, sit up straight and, most of all, keep your head up in all ways possible.

Dr. Grigory Goldberg is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. Part of the Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute with offices in Freehold Township and Monroe, Dr. Goldberg is affiliated with CentraState Medical Center. He can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.

Blood, brains and yogurt parry pathogens

NEW ORLEANS – As antimicrobial-resistant infections continue to inspire the search for modern cures, microbiologists are also looking to some ancient and unexpected corners of the world for progress. Alligator blood, cockroach brains and even commercial yogurt may harbor bug-beating elements, recent research presented at ASM Microbe 2017 suggests. All explorations were early in their progress. But each offers tantalizing invitations to further research.

A study from Purdue University, Northwest (PNW) showcased alligator serum's power to inhibit the growth of several human pathogens, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Though alligator blood was already known to be a potent antimicrobial, the mechanism for making it that way has been largely unknown. To begin to uncover that secret, PNW professor Lindsay Gielda supervised a study led by then-undergraduate Nate Poling, who exposed 28 species of bacteria to sera from alligator, cat, dog, duck, boa constrictor, turtle, lobster and opossum.

Out of all bacterial strains tested, the alligator serum showed the most antimicrobial potential – except when it came to one pathogen: Serratia marcescens, a pathogen known for causing septicemia in alligators. The reason for that, the scientists hypothesized, is a special nitrogen regulation system in S. marcescens that is able to escape a mechanism alligators have evolved over millions of years to limit nitrogen availability in their blood, thus inhibiting most bacterial growth, since all organisms need nitrogen to survive.

"A lot of antimicrobials take a 'target-and-kill' approach" Gielda told BioWorld Today. "What if we can have some kind of factor that steals nutrients away?" Determining that could eventually help lead to the discovery of either new antimicrobials or synergistic combination therapies, she said.


Though research into sourcing powerful therapies from the natural world has tended to focus on plants and animals, another study presented during the meeting noted that insects also represent a plentiful and untapped potential source of new antimicrobials.

Research conducted by scientists in Malaysia and Pakistan took that idea to its logical end, putting cockroaches to the test – or at least cockroach parts. Reasoning that the insects have a deserved reputation as one of the hardiest creatures on earth and are routinely exposed to all kinds of wastes and pathogenic microbes, they dissected and extracted cockroach body parts to test against both S. aureus and neuropathogenic E. coli K1. Cockroach brain lysates, they found, exhibited both high antibacterial activity and were nontoxic to human cells. Out of hundreds of compounds present in the brain extracts, only 20 different compounds were identified, 18 of which appeared to possess broad-spectrum antimicrobial, anticancer and analgesic properties, they said.

The research was conducted by Salwa Mansur Ali, of Sunway University in Malaysia, and Ruqaiyyah Siddiqui, an assistant professor at the University of Karachi in Pakistan.


For those averse to bugs fighting bugs, researchers at Howard University offered a potentially more palatable set of results. They found that a Lactobacillus isolate from commercial yogurt, identified as Lactobacillus parafarraginis, inhibited growth of several multidrug-resistant and extended spectrum beta-lactamase bacteria from patients in a Washington hospital.

In light of the current rise of antibiotic resistance in hospitals, said Rachelle Allen-McFarlane, a doctoral candidate in the biology department at Howard, findings from the yogurt study may hold promise for therapeutic applications.

No studies regarding how sick a patient might need to be to imbibe alligator blood or eat cockroach brains were reported during the meeting. U.S. yogurt sales, also not featured in any studies at ASM, topped $7.7 billion in 2015.

‘Olive oil prevents brain cancer’

OLIVE OIL… A compound found in olive oil may help to prevent cancer developing in the brain.

The oily substance — one of a group of nutrients known as fatty acids — stimulates the production of a cell molecule whose function is to prevent cancer-causing proteins from forming.

The study team says it is too soon to say whether dietary consumption of olive oil may help prevent brain cancer. Their findings, however, point towards possible therapies based on the oil to prevent brain cancer from occurring.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh analysed the effect of oleic acid on a cell molecule, known as miR-7, which is active in the brain and is known to suppress the formation of tumors.

They found that oleic acid prevents a cell protein, known as MSI2, from stopping production of miR-7. In this way, the olive oil component supports the production of miR-7, which helps prevent tumors from forming.

Researchers made their discoveries in tests on human cell extracts and in living cells in the lab. The Medical Research Council and the Welcome Trust funded the study, published in the Journal of Molecular Biology.

Dr. Gracjan Michlewski of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: “While we cannot yet say that olive oil in the diet helps prevent brain cancer, our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumor-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab. Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.”

Also, walking for just 30 minutes a day can boost the chances of beating cancer by almost half, research shows. Separate studies involving breast and bowel cancer patients found that regular exercise had a huge impact on survival.

The first was carried out by a team from Harvard University who followed 992 men with stage three bowel cancer, which had spread to nearby tissue, for seven years. Stage three is the second most advanced form of cancer, meaning it is large and fast-growing.

Patients who did 30 minutes’ moderate exercise five days a week and ate healthily were 42 per cent less likely to die. They also lived longer if the cancer returned.

The second study, by Australian researchers, looked at 194 women who had recently undergone surgery to remove breast cancer.

Half of patients were told to do 180 minutes’ moderate activity a week for at least eight months – although many carried on for longer. The other half continued about their normal lives and both groups were examined after eight years.

The team from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane found that women who had exercised were 55 per cent more likely to still be alive. The majority of patients in both studies did brisk walking as their main activity but heavy cleaning, gentle cycling and mowing the lawn also counted.

Scientists believe that even moderate exercise can slow tumor growth or prevent their returning by reducing levels of hormones. They include insulin, which helps tumor cells multiply, as well as estrogen in women, which encourages the development of breast cancer.

Exercise is particularly important for bowel cancer as it reduces inflammation, which can lead to cells multiplying and forming tumors. It also prevents patients becoming obese, as fat tissue produces hormones that stimulate tumor growth.

The bowel cancer study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, the world’s largest cancer meeting. Also, cancer patients are more likely to survive their battle if they live in the countryside, new research suggests.

Being surrounded by trees and fields in every direction reduces the risk of death by 29 per cent for those with the disease. Experts believe it could be down to the ease of getting a GP appointment in rural villages, allowing symptoms to be addressed quickly.

A closer relationship with the doctor may offer another explanation for the results of the British study, which city-dwellers often struggle to develop. Scientists also hinted that those living away from urban areas are more likely to be affluent – a factor known to increase someone’s life expectancy.

Moderate drinking may alter brain, study says

Drinking in moderation can help our health, some research has showed. Many doctors recommend a glass of wine or beer a night as part of diet plans such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which have been proven to keep your heart and brain healthy. However, a new study suggests that even moderate drinking may not be great for your brain.

As part of the study, which was published Wednesday in the BMJ, researchers looked at people’s weekly alcohol intake from the Whitehall II study, which tracks disease and social behaviors in a group of British civil servants for 30 years. University of Oxford and University College London scientists studied how participants fared with regular brain function tests and an MRI.

What they noted was that the people who drank the most had the highest risk of hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that can impact spatial navigation and can be associated with memory-loss conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The heavier drinkers saw a faster decline in language skills and had poorer white matter integrity, which is crucial to processing thoughts quickly.

Some studies have shown that the brains of heavier drinkers change over time, and not in a good way, but this research suggests that the brains of even moderate drinkers were changing, too. They also had a higher risk of hippocampal atrophy than those who didn’t report any drinking at all.

If you’re starting to worry and are afraid to drown your sorrows, note that there are many caveats, and more research needs to be done. Some experts suggest you shouldn’t change your drinking behavior based on this one study, but the results of these brain scans and memory tests for moderate and lighter drinkers were not what researchers expected.

“We were surprised that the light to moderate drinkers didn’t seem to have that protective effect,” said study co-author Dr. Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. “These are people who are drinking at levels that many consider social drinkers, so they are not consuming a lot.”

Even the heaviest of the drinkers aren’t big nightly bingers. The “drank the most” group in this study consumed about 30 units of alcohol a week, with a unit considered to be 10 milliliters or 8 grams of pure alcohol. A medium glass of wine has about two units of alcohol, and so does a pint of some beers, depending on the alcohol content.

If you do the boozy math, the study’s heaviest drinkers had a little more than two medium glasses of wine or two beers every night of the week.

The moderate group was drinking about 14 to 21 units of alcohol per week, or about a medium glass of wine each night, plus a little extra on the weekends.

Researchers discovered that the moderate group was three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy compared with people who didn’t drink at all. However, in the heavy and moderate drinkers, there is no evidence to show how clinically significant this change is, and there is no evidence linking this loss to any negative general cognitive effects, even the ones for which the participants were tested.

With the light drinkers, those who had a small glass of wine a night or up to seven units per week, researchers didn’t see a significant difference compared with the abstainers, but they didn’t see any protective qualities, either.

The abstainers may be one subject that needs further development, according to Eric Rimm, a professor of medicine and director for the program in cardiovascular epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Rimm, who was not involved in the new study, has researched the impact of alcohol for years. He said that although the study has an interesting hypothesis, the abstainer group (22 men and 15 women) is tiny and may be throwing off the results.

If you are a moderate drinker, he said, you don’t have to give up the booze based solely on this report.

“There are so many other lifestyle factors that are not taken into account in this study, like nutrition. Eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables have been linked with slower cognitive decline,” Rimm said. Attributing mental decline to alcohol is too limited, he said.

Tom Dening, a professor of dementia research and Director of the Centre for Old Age and Dementia at the University of Nottingham, called the study “most impressive” and suggests it may be a good reminder that “perhaps we should all drink a bit less,” but he also questioned its results. People typically are not honest about how much they really drink, he noted.

“People tend to underestimate their actual consumption, partly to appear more respectable,” Dening said. “If actual consumption was under-reported, then the apparent adverse effects of modest amounts of alcohol could have been magnified.”

Earlier studies have also shown that people tend to drink less as they age, said Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the new research.

“These type of studies also cannot account for all the (factors), and therefore they cannot, and should not, conclude causation,” Heneghan said. “Using all the available evidence provides a much more balanced approach for the public on deciding how much to drink.”

Although drinking can increase your cancer risk, Rimm points out that many studies have showed that people who consume moderate amounts have much better overall health. Moderate drinkers have a 30% to 40% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who don’t drink, studies show. There are cardiovascular benefits, and moderate drinkers seem to live longer than abstainers.

Rimm wondered whether there were so few abstainers in the study because, after 30 years, they hadn’t lived as long as the others.

When it comes to the brain, this is not the first research to question whether drinking even moderate amounts had an impact, though results have been mixed. One 2008 study found that unlike with the heart, for which alcohol has protective qualities, the more people drank, the smaller their total brain volume, meaning their brains aged faster.

“An observational study cannot truly prove that alcohol causes dementia, but the findings are in keeping with my clinical experience,” said Dr. Elizabeth Coulthard, a consultant senior lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the new research. “Hopefully this research will contribute to a greater understanding of true safe limits for alcohol consumption that ensure protection from future dementia. Until we have further studies, the good news is that low alcohol intake was not associated with brain or memory decline in this sample.”

Topiwala said she and her co-authors want to try to replicate the results, particularly with a more diverse population. Most in this study were men with similar backgrounds, with generally higher IQs than the population as a whole, all factors that can affect the results.

“We think, though, this study asks some really important questions in an area that does have a knowledge gap,” Topiwala said.