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Health Updates 29 March 2012

  • Really? Ulcers increase the risk of diabetes? “Poor diet, a lack of exercise, excess weight and genetics are the usual risk factors for Type  2 diabetes.  But a new line of research suggests that in some cases, there may be a surprising contributor: the stomach bacterium known as Helicobacter pylori.  People who acquire H. pylori — typically in childhood — are at a greater risk of ulcers and gastric cancer.  But H. pylori also is thought to affect two digestive hormones involved in hunger and satiety.  The belief is that the bacterium increases levels of ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’, which is known to promote weight gain.  At the same time, H. pylori is thought to lower levels of leptin, the ‘satiety’ hormone, which reduces appetite and promotes calorie burning….Scientists studying the link say more research is needed.  But treating H. pylori, they say, may one day be a way to control or prevent Type 2 diabetes in some people.  The bottom line: A bacterium that causes ulcers may also raise the risk of diabetes.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)
  • Can unroasted coffee beans help you shed pounds? “When taken as a supplement, unroasted — or green — coffee-bean extract can help people shed pounds, according to a small preliminary study.  The research, which is being presented this week at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, involved just 16 overweight and obese patients who were given daily doses of green coffee extract in capsule form.  All the patients were instructed to maintain their usual dietary habits, while the study team monitored them for weight loss over a period of nearly six months.  The apparent result:  Daily consumption of a small amount of green coffee extract translated into a nearly 11 percent drop in body weight, on average.”  The study was very small, was not published and has not yet undergone peer review.  A follow-up study involving 60 patients is in the planning stages.  More work is needed to understand the main ingredient in unprocessed, unroasted coffee: chlorogenic acid.  These supplements are not regulated as drugs and are not tested for safety, efficacy or purity, so it’s still a buyer-beware market.  (HealthDay)
  • Alternative medicine may help ease chronic sinusitis: “When used in tandem with standard Western treatments, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure and dietary changes may spell significant relief for patients battling chronic sinusitis, a new pilot study suggests.  The authors say that their study is the first to explore the potential of combining Western medicine with Eastern therapies among these patients, who experience swollen and inflamed sinuses, facial pain, headaches and impaired breathing.  ‘Our study is small, looking at a handful of patients who were not benefiting that well from standard treatment,’ acknowledged study author Dr. Jeffrey Suh, an assistant professor of rhinology and skull base surgery in the department of head and neck surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.  ‘And my take on alternative treatments is that Western medicine is effective for the majority of patients,’ he added.  ‘But for those who don’t get complete relief, adding in a more holistic Eastern approach that includes exercise, improved sleep, a better diet, and acupuncture and self-administered acupressure seems to provide an alternative that can have great benefit’.”  Working with chronic and unrelieved sufferers, all previous Western treatments were continued along with sessions of therapeutic acupuncture and accupressure massage, stress management, regular exercise, and nutritional guidance that tracked traditional Chinese approaches to food consumption.  “The result: the team found that when applied alongside modern medicine, the use of s0-called ‘staples of Eastern medicine’ appeared to be both safe and effective.  After two months, all the patients showed statistically significant gains in terms of quality of life, with a drop in feelings of frustration and restlessness and a boost in their ability to concentrate.  What’s more, patients were found to have less of a problem with runny noses, reduced sneezing and a subsequent reduced need to blow their noses.  Facial pain and pressure also appeared to drop off somewhat.” (Medline Plus)
  • Cheney’s heart makes him a million dollar man: “Keeping former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s heart beating probably will cost at least a million dollars, heart failure experts told MedPage Today. ‘Considering all the procedures and devices and operations Vice President Cheney has gone through, I think it would be fair to call him a ‘million dollar man,’ said Mary Norine Walsh, MD, Medical Director of the Cardiac Transplant Patient Program at St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis and a spokesperson for the American College of Cardiology.  In the more than three decades since he first suffered a heart attack until his heart transplant Saturday, Cheney has run up formidable costs as he progressed from heart disease to heart failure, while putting a very public face on state-of-the-art cardiac treatment.  ‘Dick Cheney has been very open about his heart treatment…and for that reason he has helped inform the nation about heart health issues.  He has been very good for us in that aspect’.  Walsh told MedPage Today that Cheney’s heart transplant — after 20 months waiting for an appropriate organ — is the most expensive item on his personal health bill.  She said it was likely that the procedure itself could cost up to $250,000, but the immediate follow-up care is going to be just as expensive as the initial procedure.” Hospital charges and procedures will add at least an additional $200,000 to his first year of post-transplant costs; another $50,000 could be added for his anti-rejection drugs alone during that year.  These estimates add up to a minimum $500,000 transplant-related bill by the end of year one.  See why prevention is so much better – and cheaper – than cure? (Ed Susman, MedPage Today)
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