Friday, May 31, 2013

Psychotherapy is just as effective as anti-depressants at beating the blues

  • Research finds little difference in the effects of drug and non-drug therapies
  • All non-drug therapies are found to work equally well for younger and older patients and for mothers suffering from post-natal depression

  • Non-drug therapy, such as psychotherapy, is just as effective for treating depression as taking anti-depressants, according to a new study.
    Researchers led by Doctor J├╝rgen Barth from the University of Bern, Switzerland, say their findings suggest that patients with depression should discuss different forms of non-drug therapy with their doctors and explore which type of therapy best suits them.
    New evidence suggests that therapies such as psychotherapy can work just as well as anti-depressants
    New evidence suggests that therapies such as psychotherapy can work just as well as anti-depressants
    The conclusions were reached by reviewing 198 published studies involving more than 15,000 patients receiving one of seven types of psychotherapeutic intervention: interpersonal psychotherapy, behavioural activation, cognitive behavioural therapy, problem solving therapy, psychodynamic therapy, social skills training and supportive counselling.
    The researchers compared each of the therapies with each other and with a control - patients on a waiting list or receiving usual care - the taking of anti-depressant tablets - and combined the results.

    They found that all seven non-drug therapies were better at reducing symptoms of depression and that there were no significant differences between the different types of therapy.
    The researchers also found that the therapies worked equally well for different patient groups with depression, such as for younger and older patients and for mothers with post-natal depression.
    Experts suggest patients discuss alternative therapies with their GP before taking anti-depressants
    Experts suggest patients discuss alternative therapies with their GP before taking anti-depressants
    They also found no substantial differences when comparing individual with group therapy or with face-to-face therapy compared with internet-based interactions between therapist and patient.
    Speaking of the findings published in the journal PLOS Medicine, Dr Barth said: 'We found evidence that most of the seven psychotherapeutic interventions under investigation have comparable effects on depressive symptoms and achieve moderate to large effects vis-a-vis waitlist.
    'All seven psychotherapeutic interventions achieved a small to moderate effect compared to usual care.
    'Overall, we found that different psychotherapeutic interventions for depression have moderate-to-large effects.'
    ‘Interpersonal psychotherapy’ is short and highly structured, using a manual to focus on interpersonal issues in depression.
    ‘Behavioural activation’ raises the awareness of pleasant activities and seeks to increase positive interactions between the patient and his or her environment.
    ‘Cognitive behavioural therapy’ focuses on a patient’s current negative beliefs, evaluates how they affect current and future behaviour, and attempts to restructure the beliefs and change the outlook.
    ‘Problem solving therapy’ aims to define a patient’s problems, propose multiple solutions for each problem, and then select, implement, and evaluate the best solution.
    ‘Psychodynamic therapy’ focuses on past unresolved conflicts and relationships and the impact they have on a patient’s current situation.
    In ‘social skills therapy’, patients are taught skills that help to build and maintain healthy relationships based on honesty and respect.
    ‘Supportive counselling’ is a more general therapy that aims to get patients to talk about their experiences and emotions and to offer empathy without suggesting solutions or teaching new skills.'

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    Donating blood is as good for YOUR health as it is for the receiver

  • Research discovered donating blood can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer
  • It has this affect by reducing iron levels which can thicken blood and increase free-radical damage
  • Beneficial for weight watchers too as people burn 650 calories with every pint donated

  • Donating blood could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers and boost weight loss
    Donating blood could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and boost weight loss
    We all know giving blood provides an essential lifeline to those in need, but a growing body of research demonstrates that it could have health benefits for the donor too.
    Findings have shown that donating blood reduces the risk of heart attacks and even cancer.
    It even burns 650 calories for every pint given. 
    The news could come as welcome boost to British blood banks which use an average of 7,000 units of blood every day.
    It is thought that the benefits arise from lowering high iron levels.
    Iron affects how thick and sticky the texture of the blood is.  High iron levels causes the blood to be thicker.
    Raised iron levels also accelerate the oxidisation process of cholesterol. 
    This can affect blood consistency and create increased friction as it travels through blood vessels. 
    As this increases wear and tear to the lining of arteries it could then contribute to cardiovascular disease. 
    Because donating blood removes some of its iron content, it may therefore have a protective benefit if done on a consistent basis by helping thin the blood.   
    According to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that those aged 43 to 61 had fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months.

    A study of 2,682 men from Finland found they had an 88 per cent reduced risk of heart attacks than those who don’t donate, reported Medical Daily.
    Likewise, a study published in the Journal of the National cancer Institute also links iron to an increased cancer risk as it’s believed to increase free-radical damage in the body. 
    In line with this theory, a four-and-a-half-year study involving 1,200 people found those who made bi-annual blood donations had a lower incidence of cancer and mortality than those who didn’t because blood donations lowered their iron levels.
    However, these benefits depend on making donations on a regular basis, rather than once in a while.
    British hospitals use an average of 7,000 units of blood every day
    British hospitals use an average of 7,000 units of blood every day
    Another side effect of donating blood is that it can burns a large number of calories too. 
    After donating blood, the body replaces all of the blood volume within 48 hours, and all the red blood cells within four to eight weeks.
    The University of California in San Diego estimate that for every one pint of blood donated, 650 calories are burned as the body must replenish itself. 
    Although this could be seen as an attractive effort-free way to lose weight, the NHS Blood and Transplant centre still encourage people to donate for altruistic purposes for the benefit others first, rather than for themselves. 
    The NHS Blood and Transplant service currently collects 2 million units of blood each year from 1.3 million British blood donors.

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    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    Could artificial sweetener CAUSE diabetes? Splenda 'modifies way the body handles sugar', increasing insulin production by 20%

  • Study found sugar substitute sucralose had an effect on blood sugar levels
  • Also discovered that insulin production increased by 20% when consumed
  • Scientists aren't sure what implications are, but said that regularly elevated insulin levels could eventually cause insulin resistance and even diabetes

  • Sugar substitute Splenda is made of sucralose, which has been found to affect blood glucose and insulin levels
    Splenda is made of sucralose, which has been found to affect blood glucose and insulin levels
    Splenda can modify how the body handles sugar and could lead to diabetes, according to a new study.
    Scientists found that consuming the sugar alternative made of sucralose caused a person's sugar levels to peak at a higher level and in turn increase the amount of insulin a person produced.
    Researchers said that while they did not fully understand the implications of the findings, they might suggest that Splenda could raise the risk of diabetes.
    This is because regularly elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, which is a known path to type 2 diabetes.
    'Our results indicate that this artificial sweetener is not inert - it does have an effect,' said Yanina Pepino, research assistant professor of medicine at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, who led the study.
    'And we need to do more studies to determine whether this observation means long-term use could be harmful.'
    Sucralose is made from sugar, but once processed its chemical make up is very different. Gram for gram it is 600 times sweeter than table sugar.
    The scientists analysed the effects of Splenda in 17 severely obese people who did not have diabetes and did not use artificial sweeteners regularly.
    Participants had an average body mass index of just over 42. A person is considered obese when their BMI reaches 30. 
    Scientists gave subjects either water or dissolved sucralose to drink before they consumed glucose (sugar). 


    They wanted to understand whether the combination of sucralose and glucose would affect insulin and blood sugar levels.
    Every participant was tested twice. Those who drank water followed by glucose in one visit drank sucralose followed by glucose in the next. In this way, each person served as his or her own control group.
    'We wanted to study [overweight people] because these sweeteners frequently are recommended to them as a way to make their diets healthier by limiting calorie intake,' Pepino said.
    They found that when study participants drank sucralose, their blood sugar peaked at a higher level than when they drank only water before consuming glucose.
    Better off with the real thing?: Artificial sweeteners were once thought to be the holy grail for dieters and diabetics
    Better off with the real thing?: Artificial sweeteners were once thought to be the holy grail for dieters and diabetics, but recent studies have shown that they could pose dangers to health
    Insulin levels also rose about 20 percent higher. So despite no extra sugar being consumed, the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response.
    Professor Yanina explained that they do not fully understand the implications that these rises could have.
    She said: 'The elevated insulin response could be a good thing because it shows the person is able to make enough insulin to deal with spiking glucose levels. 
    'But it also might be bad because when people routinely secrete more insulin, they can become resistant to its effects, a path that leads to type 2 diabetes.'
    It has been thought that artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, don’t have an effect on metabolism.
    They are used in such small quantities that they don’t increase calorie intake. Rather, the sweeteners react with receptors on the tongue to give people the sensation of tasting something sweet without the calories associated with natural sweeteners, such as table sugar.
    While scientists are not sure what the implications of the study are, they said there could be an increased risk of diabetes
    While scientists are not sure what the implications of the study are, they said there could be an increased risk of diabetes
    But recent findings in animal studies suggest that some sweeteners may be doing more than just making foods and drinks taste sweeter. 
    One finding indicates that the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreas can detect sweet foods and drinks with receptors that are virtually identical to those in the mouth. 
    That causes an increased release of hormones, such as insulin. 
    Some animal studies also have found that when receptors in the gut are activated by artificial sweeteners, the absorption of glucose also increases.
    Professor Pepino added: 'Most of the studies of artificial sweeteners have been conducted in healthy, lean individuals. In many of these studies, the artificial sweetener is given by itself. 
    But in real life, people rarely consume a sweetener by itself. They use it in their coffee or on breakfast cereal or when they want to sweeten some other food they are eating or drinking.'
    Just how sucralose influences glucose and insulin levels in people who are obese is still somewhat of a mystery.
    'Although we found that sucralose affects the glucose and insulin response to glucose ingestion, we don’t know the mechanism responsible,' said Pepino. 
    'We have shown that sucralose is having an effect. In obese people without diabetes we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences.'
    She said further studies are needed to learn more about the mechanism through which sucralose may influence glucose and insulin levels, as well as whether those changes are harmful. 
    The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.
    In a statement, Splenda said: 'Numerous clinical studies in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and non-diabetic people have shown that Splenda Brand Sweetener (sucralose) does not affect blood glucose levels, insulin, or HbA1c. 
    'FDA and other important safety and regulatory agencies from around the world have concluded that sucralose does not adversely affect glucose control, including in people with diabetes.
    'Experts from around the world have found that Splenda Brand Sweetener is suitable for everyone, including those with diabetes.'

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    Fecal Transplant Crackdown: FDA Moves To Regulate Infection-Fighting 'Stool' Treatment

    The FDA is cracking down -- but not on a dangerous drug or nutritional supplement. The agency has issued strict new guidelines regarding poop -- or, more specifically, the use of fecal transplants to treat severe and potentially lethal bacterial infections.
    Known formally as fecal microbiota for transplantation (FMT) -- and less formally asfecal bacteriotherapy or simply stool transplants -- the transplants involve taking bacteria-laden feces from a healthy person and inserting it (via colonoscope, nasogastric tube, or enema) into the colon of an individual infected with the bacterium Clostridium difficile.
    C. difficile can cause severe, debilitating diarrhea that often can't be controlled even with powerful antibiotics. Yet fecal transplants have proven highly effective at curbing C. difficile infection, with one recent study showing them to be more effective than the powerful antibiotic Vancomycin for the treatment of recurrent infections (by helping to recolonize the colon with healthy bacteria).
    But in a recent letter to the American Gastroenterological Association, the agency indicated that doctors who wish to treat a patient with a fecal transplant must first file a so-called "investigational new drug application" (NDA), according to a blog published on on May 19. As the blog explained:
    This requires a lot of advance paperwork, 30 days of consideration, and does not return not a guaranteed yes [sic]. For the transplants, which have been performed informally but carefully by a growing number of physicians as a treatment (and often cure) for devastating C. difficile infection, it may improve safety, but it can't help but impose obstacles and delay.
    If that sounds like a needless roadblock, the agency has an explanation:
    "It is FDA's duty to ensure that a drug is safe, effective and does not expose a patient to unreasonable risks," FDA spokesperson Curtis Allen told The Verge in an email.
    But might the FDA's decision be putting needless obstacles between patients and effective treatment?
    Last August, Rhiannon Maher, then a 20-year-old college student, was diagnosed with C. difficile after experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and high fevers so severe that she had to drop out of college and quit her job, according to The Verge. The antibiotics her doctors prescribed helped at first, but the infection kept coming back.
    "I was in a lot of pain," Maher told The Huffington Post in an email. "I couldn't eat. I was dehydrated, couldn't stand up without getting dizzy and my doctor wanted to put me back in the hospital for the ninth time so I could be on IV fluids and more antibiotics. My mother thought I was dying."
    Maher's mother, Paula Peters, begged doctors to give her daughter a fecal transplant, but doctors demurred on account of the new FDA policy, according to The Verge. So her mother followed online video tutorials and transplanted some of her own stool into her daughter.
    "I noticed improvement right away in my energy level, less frequency going to the bathroom," Maher told The Huffington Post. "My appetite hasn't quite come back yet but my colon will take some time to heal because of the damage done by the C. diff."
    The fecal transplants haven't been a "magic bullet," Maher said in the email. But, she said, "I can eat and go to work and function like a normal person, which is all I wanted to do."

    Babies will be born deaf and blind if teenagers don't get MMR to prevent rubella timebomb, warns leading scientist

  • Professor Colin Blakemore has urged teenagers to get vaccinated to prevent wave of mumps and rubella
  • Said their babies could be born deaf, blind, with heart problems as well as other congenital abnormalities
  • Last year the number of rubella cases in England were at their highest in ten years

  • Babies will be born deaf and blind unless they are given the MMR jab, a leading expert has warned.
    Professor Colin Blakemore said the measles epidemic that has centred in South Wales is just one part of a much wider problem that could lead to disabling and even life-threatening outbreaks of mumps and rubella.
    The reluctance to immunise babies came about in 1998 after a scientific paper was published by Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet. 
    It claimed that children who had the combined vaccine were at a greater risk of developing autism and colitis.
    Unvaccinated teenagers are putting their future children at risk of catching mumps and rubella which could leave them blind, deaf and with heart problems
    Unvaccinated teenagers are putting their future children at risk of catching mumps and rubella which could leave them blind, deaf and with heart problems
    Rates of immunisation plummeted after the article and although numbers have risen steadily since the study was discredited, more than 300,000 British children aged between 10 and 16 remain unvaccinated.
    A further 300,000 have only had one of the recommended two doses of the vaccine.


    Professor Blakemore, the former chief executive of the Medical Research Council, wrote in The Times that children who missed out on the jab are now teenagers and that many will soon become pregnant.
    He explained that mumps can render young men infertile and added that women infected with rubella have a 20 per cent chance of abortion.
    A large number of babies who survive will suffer with permanent deafness, blindness and heart problems associated with rubella syndrome.
    Pregnant women with rubella (pictured) have a 20 per cent chance of abortion
    Pregnant women with rubella (pictured) have a 20 per cent chance of abortion
    'We might think that the measles epidemic is the last gasp of Mr Wakefield. But I fear he still has more damage to wreak,' Professor Blakemore said.
    He added that people were in danger of forgetting the 'miraculous' powers of vaccines because immunising causes us to forget quite how dangerous infections disease are.
    Rubella numbers have risen in recent years. Last year there were 65 cases in England alone - the highest number for over a decade.
    Jof McGill of deaf blind charity Sense added that people who were born deaf and blind in the 1950s and 1960s still require long-term care. 
    He said: 'A baby born affected by rubella is said to have congenital rubella syndrome. Many will have hearing loss, cataracts, other eye conditions, heart problems requiring significant hospital treatment and ongoing health concerns that affect a person throughout their lives. 
    'You can't wait for an outbreak and then react. The only want to to protect women is to stop the disease [with universal immunisation].'
    Dr Ralph Holme, Action on Hearing Loss Head of Biomedical Research, added that congenital rubella syndrome could have social consequences too: ‘It is really important that people take up the MMR vaccine, which offers protection against rubella.
    'Although not life-threatening, hearing loss has significant personal and social costs and can lead to high levels of social isolation, with research also showing people with severe and profound levels of deafness being four times more likely to be unemployed than the general population.'

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