Health Updates 3 April 2012

  • Too much sitting can kill you, study suggests: “For better health, try standing up more, a new study suggests.  Those who spend 11 or more hours a day sitting are 40 percent more likely to die over the next three years regardless of how physically active they are otherwise, researchers say.  ‘The evidence on the detrimental health effects of prolonged sitting has been building over the last few years,’ said study author Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sidney.  ‘The study stands out because of its large number of participants and the fact that it was one of the first  that was able to look at total sitting time.  Most of the evidence to date had been on the health risks of prolonged television watching.’  The study is published in the March 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.  Average adults spend 90 percent of their leisure time sitting down, van der Ploeg said, and fewer than half meet World Health Organization recommendations of 150 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity each week….Because many people must sit for long hours at their jobs, they should make sure a greater portion of their leisure time is spent standing, walking or engaging in other movement….’Yes, you have to work, but when you go home it’s so important that you don’t go back to sitting in front of the computer or television…after the 8-hour mark, the risks go up exponentially.  It’s really about what you’re doing in your leisure time and making the decision to move’.” (MedlinePlus)
  • New drug might reduce an Alzheimer’s marker: “An experimental drug might lower a marker of Alzheimer’s disease seen in the spinal fluid of patients with mild to moderate disease, a small new study finds.  However, whether this new drug — bapineuzumab — will have a beneficial effect on slowing or stopping the degenerative process of Alzheimer’s isn’t known, the researchers said.  And an Alzheimer’s expert said it’s far too soon to draw conclusions for the preliminary study….For the study, an international team led by Dr. Kaj Blennow,  of the University of Gotthenburg in Sweden, analyzed two trials that included 46 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which has been associated with deposits of beta-amyloid (protein) plaques and fibrous tangles in the brain and abnormal tau protein in the spinal fluid…27 patients were treated with bapineuzumab and 19 with a placebo.  The researchers looked for the effect of the drug on several markers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  The investigators found that compared with the placebo, bapineuzumab reduced levels of phosphorylated tau in spinal fluid, which may mean that it reduced its level in the brain as well, which might also reduce tangles in the brain…”. Other researchers found the work to be interesting, but stressed more studies are needed. (HealthDay)
  • Study says DNA‘s power to predict illness is limited: “If every aspect of a person’s DNA is known, would it be possible to predict the diseases in that person’s future? And could that knowledge be used to forestall the otherwise inevitable?  The answer, according to a new study of twins, is, for the most part, “no”.  While sequencing the entire DNA of individuals is proving fantastically useful in understanding diseases and finding new treatments, it is not a method that will, for the most part, predict a person’s medical future.  So, the new study concludes, it is not going to be possible to say that, for example, Type 2 diabetes will occur with absolute certainty unless a person keeps a normal weight, or that colon cancer is a foregone conclusion without frequent screening and removal of polyps.  Conversely, it will not be possible to tell some people that they can ignore all the advice about, for example, preventing a heart attack because they will never get one…. [Perhaps] the real benefit of studying the human genome…is not to predict people’s medical futures but instead to understand how diseases occur and to use that knowledge to develop better therapies.” (Gina Kolata, NY Times)
  • Europeans are world’s heaviest drinkers: WHO report: “People in Europe drink more alcohol than in any other part of the world, downing the equivalent of 12.5 litres of pure alcohol a year or almost three glasses of wine a day, according to a report by the World Health Organization and the European Commission.  But while the title of world’s heaviest drinkers goes to the European Union as a whole, where consumption is almost double the world average, there are also wide variations in drinking levels between sub-regions, as well as big differences in how frequently, where and when people drink.  In a breakdown of drinking by sub-region, the heaviest drinkers were in central-eastern and eastern Europe – consuming 14.5 litres of pure alcohol per adult per year compared to 12.4 litres in central-western and western Europe, 11.2 litres in southern Europe and 10.4 litres in Nordic countries….The report noted that there are more than 40 alcohol-related illnesses and disorders, including alcohol dependence and harmful alcohol use, liver disease, alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis, alcohol poisoning and fetal alcohol syndrome.  There are also many problems where alcohol can be a contributing factor, such as  injuries and deaths from road crashes as well as illnesses like cancer and heart disease….Worldwide, some 2.5 million people die each year from the harmful use of alcohol, accounting for about 3.8 percent of all deaths, according to previous WHO data.” (NIH/MedlinePlus)

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