Health Updates 9 May 2012

  • Ask women about partner violence, panel says: “Doctors should screen all of their female patients for signs of partner violence, whether face-to-face or through a waiting room questionnaire, a new report suggests.  The review of the current evidence on screening for partner abuse, from researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, is the first step toward new recommendations on screening from the government-sponsored United States Preventive Services Task Force.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to three in 10 US women have experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by a partner.  Other studies suggest as many as half of women will experience psychological aggression from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.  In the new analysis, researchers found the possible harms of screening — such as women feeling uncomfortable or depressed — are small, and the potential  benefits include catching cases of past or current partner violence and referring women for help.  ‘By even asking a few questions, it sends a message to patients that this is something they can talk about with their doctor,’ Dr. Heidi Nelson, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health.  There’s still more that can be learned, for example, about the right questions to ask and the right setting to ask them in to get to the heart of any abuse.  But bringing up the  topic may be what’s most important…”.   Perhaps the most important thing to discuss is a safety plan, especially during pregnancy, when they might not be able to leave their partner.  (MedlinePlus)
  • Could eating fast increase diabetes risk“Eating too quickly may raise your risk of diabetes, a small preliminary study suggests.  Researchers from Lithuania compared 234 people with type 2 diabetes and 468 people without the disease and found that those who gobble down their food were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes than those who take their time while eating.  Study participants with diabetes also were more likely to have a higher body-mass index (a measurement of body fat based on height and weight), and to have much lower levels of education than those without diabetes, the researchers said….’The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing globally and becoming a world pandemic,’ study leader Lina Radzeviciene, of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, said….’It appears to involve interaction between susceptible genetic backgrounds and environmental factors.  It’s important to identify modifiable risk factors that may help people reduce their chances of developing the disease’.”  Note that this is preliminary data and the conclusions have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. (HealthDay)
  • Psychiatry manual drafters back down on diagnoses: “In a rare step, doctors on a panel revising psychiatry’s influential diagnostic manual have backed away from two controversial proposals that would have expanded the number of people identified as having psychotic or depressive disorders.  The doctors dropped two diagnoses that they ultimately concluded were not supported by the evidence: ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome,’ proposed to identify people at risk of developing psychosis, and ‘mixed anxiety depressive disorder,’ a hybrid of the two mood problems.  They also tweaked their proposed definition of depression to allay fears that the normal sadness people experience after the loss of a loved one, a job or a marriage would not be mistaken for a mental disorder.  But the panel, appointed by the American Psychiatric Association to complete the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or D.S.M., did not retreat from another widely criticized proposal, to streamline the definition of autism.  Predictions by some experts that the new definition will sharply reduce the number of people given a diagnosis are off base, panel members said, citing evidence from a newly completed study….’At long last, DSM 5 is correcting itself and has rejected its worst proposals,’ said Dr. Allen Frances, a former task force chairman and professor emeritus at Duke University who has been one of the most prominent critics. ‘But a great deal more certainly needs to be accomplished.  Most important are the elimination of other dangerous new diagnoses and the rewriting of all the many unreliable criteria sets’.  The criticism of ‘mixed anxiety depressive disorder’ was that it would unnecessarily tag millions of moderately neurotic people with a psychiatric label….The primary concern with ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’ was that it would lead to unwarranted drug treatment of youngsters.” (NY Times)
  • Zinc may shorten common cold but side effects common: “A new review of past studies suggests that taking zinc may cut the time adults have to suffer a common cold, but the alternative treatment will likely come with unpleasant side effects.  The benefits of zinc also appear to be modest, and don’t extend to children.  But they could add up to considering there are about 62 million cases of the common cold in the United States every year that result in 22 million missed days of work, according to the US National Institutes of Health.”  When zinc-takers were studied by age, it was found that in adults, zinc shortened the common cold by a little more than two and a half days compared to the placebo, but it made little difference in children.  “Peoples’ cold symptoms also seemed to clear up faster if they took a higher dosage of zinc compared to those who took the least….the authors cannot say why zinc stops the rhinovirus, a frequent cause of the common cold, from reproducing….Side effects were more common in people taking zinc, however.  They were 64 percent more likely to experience nausea and 65 percent more likely to detect an unpleasant taste…..’Until further evidence becomes available,’ [researchers concluded] ‘there is only a weak rationale for physicians to recommend zinc for the treatment of the common cold….for healthy adults….it’s probably an individual decision and it’s something they can talk to their physician about’.” (Reuters Health)

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