Health News Updates 25 September 2012

  • Eunuchs lived longer than other men: study Castrated men — sometimes called eunuchs — in the old Korean dynasty lived much longer than other men, according to a new study.  The findings suggest that male sex hormones such as testosterone may be one reason men tend to have shorter life spans than women, the researchers said.  The study was published Sept. 25 in the journal Current Biology.  The researchers studied genealogy records of noble members of the Imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1910.  The eunuchs lost their testicles in accidents – usually after being bitten by dogs — or underwent intentional castration to gain early access to the palace, according to a journal news release.  Eunuchs lived 14 to 19 years longer than other men.  Of the 81 eunuchs included in the study, three lived to be 100 or older.  The incidence of centenarians among the eunuchs was at least 130 times greater than in developed countries, according to Kyung-Jin Min of Inha University and Cheol-Koo Lee of Korea University.  They said the extended life spans of eunuchs can’t be explained simply by the benefits of life in the palace, because they spent as much time outside the palace as in it.  And although the study showed an association between being castrated and a longer life span, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. (HealthDay)
  • CDC studying anti-smoking ad outcome: “The CDC is trying to find out how well a $54 million campaign of emotional ads to scare smokers into quitting worked, researchers said.  During the 3 months that the ads aired on TV, radio and social media, calls to a national quit line more than doubled and hits on the smoking cessation website tripled…Whether the boosted short-term response will translate to a lower smoking prevalence remains to be seen, and the CDC is watching closely.  It has sponsored an ongoing longitudinal study of 5,000 adult smokers and 2,000 adult nonsmokers who completed online surveys a month before the campaign launched and immediately after it ended.  The stars of the ads were former smokers who were now living with the consequences of smoking – particularly the stoma, which turns voices robotic.  ‘Emotive personal testimonials and narratives are powerful strategies for reaching and influencing the broad population of smokers,’ the researchers wrote.  ‘Emotionally laden stories show the risks of tobacco use in a far more potent way than abstract information can’.  The idea was to ‘increase smokers’ sense of personal vulnerability to serious disease and increase their sense of urgency for quitting,’ they wrote.  In the survey, respondents were asked questions about their awareness of the campaign, as well as their attitudes toward smoking cessation and secondhand smoke exposure.  Nonsmokers were also asked if they had encouraged friends or family members to quit.  Survey results are expected by the end of the year, the researchers wrote….CDC said it will run another 3-month campaign in the first quarter of 2013.” (Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today)
  • Doctors to parents: No Trampolines “Trampolines may be hazardous to your child’s health, pediatricians warn.  The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its earlier cautions about home trampoline use in a new report, published online Sept. 24 in the journal Pediatrics.  ‘The very forces that make trampoline use fun for many children also lead to unique injury mechanisms and patterns of injury,’ wrote the report authors.  ‘Pediatricians should only endorse use of trampolines as part of a structured training program with appropriate coaching supervision and safety measures in place.’  Rates of trampoline-related injuries have decreased since 2004, but accidents still happen and many have serious consequences, they added.  Almost 98,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred in the United States in 2009, which resulted in 3,100 hospitalizations, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.  Children appear to be injured more often than older jumpers.  Fractures and dislocation accounted for nearly half the injuries treated in kids aged 5 and younger, according to the academy, a professional association of pediatricians.  Common injuries in all age groups include sprains, strains and bruises.  Falling off the trampoline – which accounts for up to 39 percent of all injuries — often has serious consequences.  Likewise, doing somersaults and flips can lead to permanent head and spinal injury, the authors warned….three-quarters of trampoline-related injuries take place when more than one person is on the mat, and many accidents occur when an adult is watching….’Although injury rates in children associated with trampoline use have been declining since 2004, the chance of sustaining a severe injury still remains exceedingly high, even with adult supervision,’ said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  ‘The use of padding with trampolines do not, in reality, safeguard against the high number of injuries on the mat, and may lead to a false sense of added protection’.”  If families want to continue to encourage trampoline use, experts recommend that only a single jumper be present on the mat at a time, and flips and somersaults should not be permitted in a recreational environment. (
  • Really?: Always consume carbs before surgery “Loading up on carbohydrates before running a race is a well-established practice.  But carbo-loading before surgery?  To many people, it might sound counterintuitive.  Hospitals traditionally ask patients to avoid solid food for a minimum of six hours before surgery, and liquids for at least two hours.  The primary reason is to prevent vomiting while the patient is under anesthesia.  But studies have found that after surgery, the body is in a stressed metabolic state, prompting it to dip into stores of fat, carbohydrates and protein for fuel and to repair tissue.  Being in a depleted state as the body is trying to heal, some researchers have found, may prolong recovery and raise the risk of complications.  So what happens if, just before the two-hour period without liquids, the patient stocks up on carbs? In one study conducted by surgeons in England, 36 patients about to undergo colorectal surgery were randomly assigned to one of three regimens.  Some went on the traditional fast.  Others were given water, as a control.  And the rest were told to drink a solution containing a starch derivative called maltodextrin.  After surgery, the patients in the carb group needed shorted stays in the hospital, roughly 7.5 days on average, compared with those in the fasting group, who required about 10 days.  Carbo-loading patients also had a quicker return of normal gut function after surgery and had smaller reductions in muscle strength.  Other studies have shown similar results for recovery and have also found that having a drink containing carbohydrates up to two hours before surgery appears safe.  The bottom line: Liquid carbohydrates up to two hours before surgery may aid recover, but more research is needed.“(Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)

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