Childhood depression may increase risk of heart disease by teen years

January 30, 2014

Science Daily/University of South Florida (USF Health)

Children with depression are more likely to be obese, smoke and be inactive, and can show the effects of heart disease as early as their teen years, according to a newly published.

 

The research, by Rottenberg and his colleagues at Washington University and the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that depression may increase the risk of heart problems later in life. The researchers also observed higher rates of heart disease in the parents of adolescents that had been depressed as children. The research is published online in Psychosomatic Medicineand will be included in the medical journal's February 2014 issue.

 

"Given that the parents in this sample were relatively young, we were quite surprised to find that the parents of the affected adolescents were reporting a history of heart attacks and other serious events," Rottenberg explained.

 

Cardiologists and mental health professionals have long known a link exists between depression and heart disease. Depressed adults are more likely to suffer a heart attack, and if they do have a heart attack, it's more likely to be fatal.

 

However it was unclear when the association between clinical depression and cardiac risk develops, or how early in life the association can be detected. These findings suggest improved prevention and treatment of childhood depression could reduce adult cardiovascular disease.

 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women- accounting for one in every four deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

During the study, Rottenberg and his colleagues followed up on Hungarian children who had participated in a 2004 study of the genetics of depression. The researchers compared heart disease risk factors -- such as smoking, obesity, physical activity level, and parental history -- across three categories of adolescents.

 

The investigators surveyed more than 200 children with a history of clinical depression, as well as about 200 of their siblings who have never suffered from depression. They also gathered information from more than 150 unrelated children of the same age and gender with no history of depression.

 

Rottenberg plans to conduct additional research in order to understand why depression early in life may put people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Further studies planned with the Hungarian group will also examine whether any early warning signs of heart disease are present as these adolescents move into young adulthood.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140130164454.htm

Uncorrected farsightedness linked to literacy deficits in preschoolers

January 27, 2016

Science Daily/NIH, National Eye Institute (NEI)

A study funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, has shown that uncorrected farsightedness (hyperopia) in preschool children is associated with significantly worse performance on a test of early literacy.

https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/01/160127054415_1_540x360.jpg

Moderate hyperopia, if not treated, may affect reading ability and grade school readiness among preschoolers.

Credit: Joe Balintfy, NEI

 

The results of the Vision in Preschoolers-Hyperopia in Preschoolers (VIP-HIP) study, which compared 4- and 5-year-old children with uncorrected hyperopia to children with normal vision, found that children with moderate hyperopia (3 to 6 diopters) did significantly worse on the Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) than their normal-vision peers. A diopter is the lens power needed to correct vision to normal. The higher the diopter, the worse the hyperopia.

 

"This study suggests that an untreated vision problem in preschool, in this case one that makes it harder for children to see things up-close, can create literacy deficits that affect grade school readiness," said Maryann Redford, D.D.S., M.P.H, a program director in Collaborative Clinical Research at NEI.

 

In most children with hyperopia, the condition is mild and has little impact on vision. A small number of preschool children have high hyperopia (more than 6 diopters) that is corrected with eyeglasses. It's estimated that 4-14 percent have moderate hyperopia, which often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

 

"Prior studies have linked uncorrected hyperopia and reading ability in school-age children," said Marjean Taylor Kulp, O.D., M.S., distinguished professor in the College of Optometry at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. "But large-scale investigations looking at reading readiness skills hadn't been conducted in preschool children. This study was necessary to determine whether or not, at this age, there was a link between the two."

 

The VIP-HIP study is a follow-up to the NEI-funded multi-center initiative called the Vision in Preschoolers (VIP) study, which established the most effective tests for preschool vision screening and showed that well-trained non-professionals were able to effectively screen children.

 

In the current analysis, researchers examined 492 children, aged 4-5 years old, and divided them into two equal-size groups: those with moderate hyperopia and those with normal vision. Participation in the study included an eye examination to determine eligibility. An educational assessor unaware of the child's visual status administered the TOPEL.

 

The results revealed significantly worse performance on the TOPEL among children with uncorrected moderate hyperopia, especially those who also had reduced near visual function (including clarity of binocular vision and depth perception). Performance was most affected in the print knowledge domain of the test, which assesses the ability to identify letters and written words.

 

"These differences are meaningful because formal learning for many children begins in the preschool years," said Dr. Kulp. "In addition, other research exploring the long-term effect of early deficits in literacy has shown them to be associated with future problems in learning to read and write. This makes early detection of these problems important."

 

"Preschool children with moderate hyperopia and decreased near vision may benefit from referral for assessment of early literacy skills," said Elise Ciner, O.D., professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, and co-investigator of the study. "Educational interventions for children with early deficits can lead to greater educational achievement in later years."

 

Further research is needed to determine whether correction of moderate hyperopia with glasses can prevent the development of deficits in early literacy skills.

 

The study included three participating clinical centers: The Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus, led by Dr. Kulp; Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, led by Dr. Ciner; and New England College of Optometry in Boston, led by Bruce Moore, O.D. A Data Coordinating Center at the University of Pennsylvania was led by Maureen Maguire, Ph.D.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160127054415.htm

Texting at night affects teens' sleep, academic performance

Researcher finds that instant messaging in the dark makes a difference compared to having the lights on

January 26, 2016

Science Daily/Rutgers University

A new study is the first of its kind to link nighttime instant messaging habits of American teenagers to sleep health and school performance. Media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children ages 8 to 18 use electronic devices approximately seven-and-a-half hours daily.

https://images.sciencedaily.com/2016/01/160126162227_1_540x360.jpg

Research has found that students who turned off their devices or who messaged for less than 30 minutes after lights out performed significantly better in school than those who messaged for more than 30 minutes after lights out.

Credit: © theartofphoto / Fotolia

 

The study, published in the Journal of Child Neurology, is the first of its kind to link nighttime instant messaging habits of American teenagers to sleep health and school performance.

 

"We need to be aware that teenagers are using electronic devices excessively and have a unique physiology," says study author Xue Ming, professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "They tend to go to sleep late and get up late. When we go against that natural rhythm, students become less efficient."

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that media use among children of all ages is increasing exponentially; studies have found that children ages 8 to 18 use electronic devices approximately seven-and-a-half hours daily.

 

Ming's research is part of a small but growing body of evidence on the negative effects of electronics on sleep and school performance. But few studies, Ming says, have focused specifically on instant messaging.

 

"During the last few years I have noticed an increased use of smartphones by my patients with sleep problems," Ming says. "I wanted to isolate how messaging alone - especially after the lights are out - contributes to sleep-related problems and academic performance."

 

To conduct her study, Ming distributed surveys to three New Jersey high schools - a suburban and an urban public school and a private school - and evaluated the 1,537 responses contrasting grades, sexes, messaging duration and whether the texting occurred before or after lights out.

 

She found that students who turned off their devices or who messaged for less than 30 minutes after lights out performed significantly better in school than those who messaged for more than 30 minutes after lights out.

 

Students who texted longer in the dark also slept fewer hours and were sleepier during the day than those who stopped messaging when they went to bed. Texting before lights out did not affect academic performance, the study found.

 

Although females reported more messaging overall and more daytime sleepiness, they had better academic performance than males. "I attribute this to the fact that the girls texted primarily before turning off the light," Ming says.

 

The effects of "blue light" emitted from smartphones and tablets are intensified when viewed in a dark room, Ming says. This short wavelength light can have a strong impact on daytime sleepiness symptoms since it can delay melatonin release, making it more difficult to fall asleep - even when seen through closed eyelids.

 

"When we turn the lights off, it should be to make a gradual transition from wakefulness to sleep," Ming says. "If a person keeps getting text messages with alerts and light emission, that also can disrupt his circadian rhythm. Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the period during sleep most important to learning, memory consolidation and social adjustment in adolescents. When falling asleep is delayed but rising time is not, REM sleep will be cut short, which can affect learning and memory."

 

Ming notes some benefits to early-evening media use, such as facilitating collaboration for school projects, providing resources for tutoring, increasing school readiness and possibly offering emotional support systems.

 

She suggests that educators recognize the sleep needs of teenagers and incorporate sleep education in their curriculum. "Sleep is not a luxury; it's a biological necessity. Adolescents are not receiving the optimal amount of sleep; they should be getting 8-and-a-half hours a night," says Ming. "Sleep deprivation is a strong argument in favor of later start times for high schools - like 9 a.m."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160126162227.htm

Social media use in young adults linked to sleep disturbance

January 26, 2016

Science Daily/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Young adults who spend a lot of time on social media during the day or check it frequently throughout the week are more likely to suffer sleep disturbance than their peers who use social media less, according to new research.

 

Published online and scheduled for the April issue of the journal Preventive Medicine, the study indicates that physicians should consider asking young adult patients about social media habits when assessing sleep issues. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

 

"This is one of the first pieces of evidence that social media use really can impact your sleep," said lead author Jessica C. Levenson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Pitt's Department of Psychiatry. "And it uniquely examines the association between social media use and sleep among young adults who are, arguably, the first generation to grow up with social media."

 

In 2014, Dr. Levenson and her colleagues sampled 1,788 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32, using questionnaires to determine social media use and an established measurement system to assess sleep disturbances.

 

The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

 

On average, the participants used social media a total of 61 minutes per day and visited various social media accounts 30 times per week. The assessment showed that nearly 30 percent of the participants had high levels of sleep disturbance.

 

The participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had three times the likelihood of sleep disturbances, compared with those who checked least frequently. And participants who spent the most total time on social media throughout the day had twice the risk of sleep disturbance, compared to peers who spent less time on social media.

 

"This may indicate that frequency of social media visits is a better predictor of sleep difficulty than overall time spent on social media," Dr. Levenson explained. "If this is the case, then interventions that counter obsessive 'checking' behavior may be most effective."

 

Senior author Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt's Schools of the Health Sciences, emphasized that more study is needed, particularly to determine whether social media use contributes to sleep disturbance, whether sleep disturbance contributes to social media use -- or both.

 

For example, social media may disturb sleep if it is:

 

·      Displacing sleep, such as when a user stays up late posting photos on Instagram.

·      Promoting emotional, cognitive or physiological arousal, such as when engaging in a contentious discussion on Facebook.

·      Disrupting circadian rhythms through the bright light emitted by the devices used to access social media accounts.

·      Alternatively, young adults who have difficulty sleeping may subsequently use social media as a pleasurable way to pass the time when they can't fall asleep or return to sleep.

 

"It also may be that both of these hypotheses are true," said Dr. Primack, also director of Pitt's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. "Difficulty sleeping may lead to increased use of social media, which may in turn lead to more problems sleeping. This cycle may be particularly problematic with social media because many forms involve interactive screen time that is stimulating and rewarding and, therefore, potentially detrimental to sleep."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160126110759.htm

Group learning makes children better decision-makers

January 19, 2016

Science Daily/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Children who participate in group learning develop better decision-making skills than children who study the same curriculum via teacher-led discussions, suggests a new study. More than 760 fifth-grade students were involved in the study, which compared the efficacy of collaborative group work with conventional direct instruction at promoting students' ability to make reasoned decisions and apply those skills in a novel task.

 

More than 760 fifth-grade students were involved in the study, which compared the efficacy of collaborative group work with conventional direct instruction at promoting students' ability to make reasoned decisions and apply those skills in a novel task.

 

The students studied a six-week curriculum in which they explored whether a community should hire professional hunters to kill a pack of wolves that was causing many residents concern. Students examined various perspectives on the issue, including the potential impact on the ecosystem, the local economy and public policy.

 

The curriculum's purpose was not to lead students to a predetermined best answer but to raise their awareness about making responsible and reasoned decisions, said Xin Zhang, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Illinois and the lead author on the paper.

 

After completing the wolf curriculum, the students wrote two individual essays: one that explained their personal decision on what should be done about the wolf pack, and another about their decision on an unrelated moral dilemma between two friends, presented in the story "The Pinewood Derby."

 

In the story, a boy named Jack has an unpopular friend named Thomas who wins a pinewood derby competition but later confesses to Jack that he violated the rules by enlisting his older brother's help in building his car. After reading the story, the students were asked to write an essay about whether Jack should reveal his friend's dishonesty.

 

Children who had worked in collaborative groups on the wolf project were better prepared to take on the role of decision-maker about Jack's moral dilemma with his friend Thomas, the researchers found.

 

These children were more proficient at three key aspects of decision-making: recognizing more than one side of a dilemma, considering a range of reasons to support differing viewpoints, and weighing the costs and benefits associated with different decisions, according to the researchers.

 

These children appealed to a significantly greater number of moral principles and practical considerations when drawing conclusions about the action Jack should take, the researchers found.

 

By contrast, students who studied the wolf curriculum in teacher-led discussions were no better at making a decision on Jack's dilemma than children in the control groups who had not been exposed to the wolf project, according to the study.

 

"Collaborative group work positions students as active decision-makers, whereas direct instruction places them in a passive role, following the reasoning of their teacher," Zhang said. "We further theorize that the essential difference between collaborative group work and direct instruction is that students learn about the 'self as agent and others as (the) audience,''' a hypothesis explored in another paper by Zhang's co-authors, Richard C. Anderson, director of the Center for the Study of Reading, and graduate student Joshua A. Morris, both of the U. of I.

 

The researchers found girls were significantly better than boys at recognizing Jack's predicament and were more likely to weigh reasons when considering opposing viewpoints, but suggested that these gender differences could be related to girls' better writing ability.

 

Because the moral dilemma with the two boys had little in common with the wolf exercise, students' reasoning on whether Jack should tell on his friend Thomas provided strong evidence as to which children were competent decision-makers and were able to apply those skills in an unrelated situation, the researchers wrote.

 

The children in the study were from eight public schools that serve predominantly low-income families and were well below the national average in academic attainment, as measured by reading comprehension, according to the study.

 

While the Common Core standards emphasize development of reasoning and critical-thinking skills, the standards' perpetuation of a test-driven accountability system and teacher-directed learning environment compromises children's development of these higher-order skills. This can be especially detrimental in schools with large enrollments of minority and low-income populations, which may devote the majority of instructional time to arithmetic exercises and simple reading strategies, the researchers wrote.

 

"If children are to become thoughtful decision-makers, they need more time in the school day for collaborative group work that involves active reasoning about significant issues," Zhang said. "Promoting active reasoning is one key to cultivating disadvantaged students' development of intellective competence and academic ability."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160119153500.htm

Adolescents stress more with poor sleep

January 14, 2016

Science Daily/University of Alabama at Birmingham

A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham indicates that adolescents who experience sleep problems and longer sleep duration are more reactive to stress, which could contribute to academic, behavioral and health issues.

 

Existing studies show that nearly 70 percent of U.S. adolescents do not receive sufficient sleep. It is also known that insufficient sleep and sleep problems contribute to cognitive problems and poor physical health over time, possibly because of disruptions in a key part of the neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress and regulates many body processes -- the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or the HPA axis.

 

The relationship between sleep and the HPA axis has been studied in both children and adults; but little is known about this link during adolescence, which is a key period of time, as both sleep and the HPA axis are undergoing significant developmental changes related to puberty.

 

Sylvie Mrug, a psychology professor in UAB's College of Arts and Sciences, and her colleagues from UAB and Arizona State University sought to further explore the relationship between sleep and reactivity to stress, specifically as it relates to HPA-axis activity, in adolescents.

 

The researchers examined two dimensions of sleep -- sleep duration and sleep problems from the perspectives of adolescents and their parents, as well as cortisol levels before and after social stress. The team also looked at how the results varied based on gender.

 

"We chose to look at sleep patterns in urban African-American adolescents, due to information we understood from earlier research in the field," Mrug said. "This particular population is more likely to experience insufficient sleep, and their functioning is more negatively affected by lower sleep quality, so we knew that finding results for this demographic could be especially important."

 

Eighty-four adolescents with an average age of approximately 13 took part in the study. During their visit to the research lab, participating adolescents were given the children's version of a common stress test, called the Trier Social Stress Test, to measure their physiological responses to stress. This test involves speaking and computing mental math problems in front of an audience. Saliva samples were taken from each participant in order to test cortisol levels before and after the stress test.

 

Participants then reported on their bed times and wake times and any sleep problems, such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness and general sleep quality, during a regular week. Parents of the adolescents were asked to report on their children's sleep as well.

 

The adolescents most commonly reported the following sleep problems: the need for multiple reminders to get up in the morning, not having a good night's sleep, feeling tired or sleepy during the day, and not being satisfied with their sleep.

 

The researchers looked at the cortisol levels of the adolescent participants. Cortisol release during and after the stressful lab test was higher for adolescents who reported more sleep problems and longer sleep duration, and whose parents reported longer sleep duration.

 

"The result of higher cortisol levels in adolescents experiencing sleep problems was exactly what we expected to see," Mrug said. "We were, however, surprised that longer sleep duration predicted a stronger cortisol response, because previous studies linked shorter sleep duration with higher cortisol levels. Generally, less sleep is related to poor outcomes, not the other way around. In this case, this unexpected result could be explained by considering that longer sleep duration does not necessarily reflect higher-quality sleep, but instead may serve as another indicator of sleep problems, at least among urban adolescents."

 

The effects of sleep problems on greater cortisol release during stress were stronger in females than in males, suggesting that adolescent girls may be more sensitive to disrupted and poor quality sleep.

 

"Overall, the results of our study confirm what we originally hypothesized -- that sleep problems induce greater response to stress in adolescents," Mrug said. "It's important that we know this, because the enhanced and prolonged activation of the HPA axis in response to stress could contribute to more health problems. The urban African-American youth whom we studied may be particularly negatively affected by poor sleep because they are more likely to experience uncontrollable stress related to community and school violence. We want to do all that we can to understand ways we can help ensure better cognitive, emotional and physical health outcomes for these adolescents."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114164001.htm

Half of pregnant women who have hypertension and snore unknowingly have a sleep disorder

June 2, 2014

Science Daily/University of Michigan Health System

A substantial proportion of hypertensive pregnant women have obstructive sleep apnea, and many may not be aware. We know that habitual snoring is linked with poor pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child, including increased risk of C-sections and smaller babies," says the lead author. “Our findings show that a substantial proportion of hypertensive pregnant women have obstructive sleep apnea and that habitual snoring may be one of the most telling signs to identify this risk early in order to improve health outcomes.”

 

"We know that habitual snoring is linked with poor pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child, including increased risk of C-sections and smaller babies," says lead author Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., M.S., associate professor at U-M's Sleep Disorders Center in the Department of Neurology and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical School.

 

"Our findings show that a substantial proportion of hypertensive pregnant women have obstructive sleep apnea and that habitual snoring may be one of the most telling signs to identify this risk early in order to improve health outcomes."

 

Habitual snoring – snoring three or more nights a week – is the hallmark symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which has been shown to increase in frequency during pregnancy. and affects up to one-third of women by the third trimester.

 

O'Brien's previous studies have found that snoring during pregnancy may influence delivery and baby's health, with a higher risk for C-sections and delivering smaller babies. Women who begin snoring during pregnancy are also at a strong risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia, O'Brien's research has shown.

 

"Hypertensive pregnant women who report snoring should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea since sleep apnea can be treated during pregnancy," says O'Brien, who is also a member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

 

"Prompt recognition, evaluation, and management will not only improve health benefits for both moms and babies but may also help cut the high healthcare expenses of operative deliveries, taking care of babies who are admitted to the NICU and other associated health risks."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140602102009.htm

 

Zinc deficiency before conception disrupts fetal development

May 29, 2014

Science Daily/Penn State

Female mice deprived of dietary zinc for a relatively short time before conception experienced fertility and pregnancy problems more than mice that ingested zinc during the same times, according to researchers.

 

Zinc deficiency caused a high incidence of pregnancy loss, and embryos from the zinc-deficient diet group were an average of 38 percent smaller than those from the control group. Preconception zinc deficiency also caused approximately half of embryos to exhibit delayed or aberrant development.

 

Going without zinc prior to ovulation had marked effects on the mice's reproductive functions. Zinc deficiency caused a high incidence of pregnancy loss, and embryos from the zinc-deficient diet group were an average of 38 percent smaller than those from the control group. Preconception zinc deficiency also caused approximately half of embryos to exhibit delayed or aberrant development.

 

Defects in placenta development are a major cause of delayed embryo/fetal development because the developing embryos do not get enough nutrients to support normal growth. In the zinc-deficient group, the fetal side of the placenta was much less developed. Consistent with delayed development of the placenta, expression of key placental genes was sharply curtailed in mice with zinc-deficient diets.

 

Collectively, the findings provide evidence for the importance of preconception zinc in promoting optimal fertility and embryo, fetal and placenta development, explained Francisco Diaz, assistant professor of reproductive biology.

 

"The mineral zinc acts as a catalytic, structural and signaling factor in the regulation of a diverse array of cellular pathways involving hundreds of enzymes and proteins," he said. "Given these wide-ranging roles, it is not surprising that insufficient zinc during pregnancy causes developmental defects in many species. We have known that for a long time.

 

"However, the role of zinc during the preconception period in promoting later development during pregnancy is not clearly understood."

 

Diaz noted that this research and follow-up studies may result in a recommendation for women intending to get pregnant to make a special effort to eat foods containing zinc in the weeks prior to ovulation, or even to take zinc supplements. Foods containing higher levels of zinc include meats, seafood and milk. Fruits and vegetables contain lower amounts of the mineral.

 

"It looks like zinc is similar to folic acid, which is one of the few nutrients that are prescribed before a woman becomes pregnant, because it is needed preconception to ensure the quality of the egg," Diaz said. Zinc is very similar in that it is needed before conception -- so giving multivitamins or supplements to a woman after she has found out that she's pregnant doesn't really address the issue."

 

"It is certainly important during pregnancy, but if the egg development is already compromised, it may not help that aspect of development. I think our work suggests that you need zinc preconception, just like you need folic acid."

 

A woman's requirement for zinc is not large -- unlike for calcium or iron -- but there is a fairly rapid turnover of zinc in the body, so humans need a steady supply, Diaz pointed out.

"Actually, our mice become zinc deficient rather quickly," he said. "Animal studies have shown that some tissues can become zinc deficient within a few days."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529092816.htm

 

Flame retardants during pregnancy as bad as lead? Exposure linked to lower IQs in kids

May 28, 2014

Science Daily/Simon Fraser University

A new study involving Simon Fraser University researchers has found that prenatal exposure to flame retardants can be significantly linked to lower IQs and greater hyperactivity in five-year old children

 

Prenatal exposure to flame retardants can be significantly linked to lower IQs and greater hyperactivity in five-year old children. The researchers found that a 10-fold increase in PBDE concentrations in early pregnancy, when the fetal brain is developing, was associated with a 4.5 IQ decrement, which is comparable with the impact of environmental lead exposure. PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants in furniture, carpet padding, car seats and other consumer products over the past three decades.

 

PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants in furniture, carpet padding, car seats and other consumer products over the past three decades. While most items containing PBDEs were removed voluntarily from the market a decade ago, some are still in commerce and others persist in the environment and human bodies. Nearly all homes and offices still contain some PBDEs.

 

"The results from this and other observational human studies support efforts to reduce Penta-BDE exposures, especially for pregnant women and young children," says Lanphear. "Unfortunately, brominated flame retardants are persistent and North Americans are likely exposed to higher PBDE levels than people from other parts of the world. Because of this it is likely to take decades for the PBDE levels in our population to be reduced to current European or Asian levels."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140528105258.htm

Poor diet before pregnancy linked with preterm birth

May 23, 2014

Science Daily/University of Adelaide

For the first time, researchers have confirmed that women who eat a poor diet before they become pregnant are around 50% more likely to have a preterm birth than those on a healthy diet. The study shows that women who consistently ate a diet high in protein and fruit prior to becoming pregnant were less likely to have a preterm birth, while those who consistently ate high fat and sugar foods, and take-out food were about 50% more likely to have a preterm birth.

 

It's the first study of its kind to assess women's diet prior to conception and its association with outcomes at birth.

 

The results, published in The Journal of Nutrition, show that women who consistently ate a diet high in protein and fruit prior to becoming pregnant were less likely to have a preterm birth, while those who consistently ate high fat and sugar foods and takeaway were about 50% more likely to have a preterm birth.

 

"Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant disease and death and occurs in approximately one in 10 pregnancies globally. Anything we can do to better understand the conditions that lead to preterm birth will be important in helping to improve survival and long-term health outcomes for children," says the lead author of the paper, Dr Jessica Grieger, Posdoctoral Research Fellow with the Robinson Research Institute, based at the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

 

"In our study, women who ate protein-rich foods including lean meats, fish and chicken, as well as fruit, whole grains and vegetables, had significantly lower risk of preterm birth.

 

"On the other hand, women who consumed mainly discretionary foods, such as takeaway, potato chips, cakes, biscuits, and other foods high in saturated fat and sugar were more likely to have babies born preterm," Dr Grieger says.

 

"It is important to consume a healthy diet before as well as during pregnancy to support the best outcomes for the mum and baby," Dr Grieger says.

 

"Diet is an important risk factor that can be modified. It is never too late to make a positive change. We hope our work will help promote a healthy diet before and during pregnancy. This will help to reduce the number of neonatal deaths and improve the overall health of children," she says.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140523145127.htm

High cholesterol levels linked to lower fertility

May 20, 2014

Science Daily/NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

High cholesterol levels may impair fertility in couples trying to achieve a pregnancy, according to a study. Couples in which each partner had a high cholesterol level took the longest time to reach pregnancy.

 

Moreover, couples in which the woman had a high cholesterol level and the man did not also took longer to achieve pregnancy when compared to couples in which both partners had cholesterol levels in the acceptable range.

 

"We've long known that high cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease," said the study's first author, Enrique Schisterman, Ph.D., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the institute that led the study.

 

"In addition to safeguarding their health, our results suggest that couples wishing to achieve pregnancy could improve their chances by first ensuring that their cholesterol levels are in an acceptable range."

 

The researchers found that on average, those couples in which the female did not become pregnant during the study duration had the highest free cholesterol levels. In general, high free cholesterol levels were correlated with longer times to pregnancy and lower fecundability odds ratios.

 

Couples in which the female had a high cholesterol level and the male did not also took longer to achieve pregnancy when compared to couples in which both partners had cholesterol levels in the acceptable range. In their analysis, the study authors accounted for potential racial differences, as well as differences by age, body mass index, and education.

 

"From our data, it would appear that high cholesterol levels not only increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, but also reduce couples' chances of pregnancy," Dr. Schisterman said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520133212.htm

 

Pregnant women respond to music with stronger physiological changes in blood pressure

May 20, 2014

Science Daily/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Pregnant women, compared to their non-pregnant counterparts, rate music as more intensely pleasant and unpleasant, associated with greater changes in blood pressure, a study has demonstrated. Music appears to have an especially strong influence on pregnant women, a fact that may relate to a prenatal conditioning of the fetus to music.

 

Music can be soothing or stirring, it can make us dance or make us sad. Blood pressure, heartbeat, respiration and even body temperature -- music affects the body in a variety of ways. It triggers especially powerful physical reactions in pregnant women.

 

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have discovered that pregnant women compared to their non-pregnant counterparts rate music as more intensely pleasant and unpleasant, associated with greater changes in blood pressure. Music appears to have an especially strong influence on pregnant women, a fact that may relate to a prenatal conditioning of the fetus to music.

 

According to the results, music is a very special stimulus for pregnant women, to which they react strongly. "Every acoustic manipulation of music affects blood pressure in pregnant women far more intensely than in non-pregnant women," says Fritz. Why music has such a strong physiological influence on pregnant woman is still unknown.

 

Originally, the scientists suspected the hormone estrogen to play a mayor part in this process, because it has an influence on the brain's reward system, which is responsible for the pleasant sensations experienced while listening to music. However, non-pregnant women showed constant physiological responses throughout the contraceptive cycle, which made them subject to fluctuations in estrogen levels.

 

"Either estrogen levels are generally too low in non-pregnant women, or other physiological changes during pregnancy are responsible for this effect," explains Fritz.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520123513.htm

Mothers' sleep, late in pregnancy, affects offspring's weight gain as adults

May 16, 2014

Science Daily/University of Chicago Medical Center

Poor-quality sleep during the third trimester of pregnancy can increase the odds of weight gain and metabolic abnormalities in offspring once they reach adulthood. The effects, caused by epigenetic modifications, impose lasting consequences on the next generation.

 

The researchers linked the excess weight and changes in metabolism to epigenetic modifications that reduce expression of the gene for adiponectin -- a hormone that helps regulate several metabolic processes, including glucose regulation. Lower levels of adiponectin correlate with increased body fat and reduced activity.

 

"Disrupted sleep is a common problem during the final trimester of a pregnancy," said study director, sleep specialist David Gozal, MD, the Herbert T Abelson professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago. "For some women, sleep fragmentation, especially sleep apnea, can be profound. We wanted to devise a system that enabled us to measure the potential impact of fragmented sleep on the fetus, which is uniquely susceptible so early in life."

 

Adiponectin is usually a "beneficial hormone," Gozal said. "It can reduce cholesterol, make you more sensitive to insulin, protect your heart." As adiponectin levels in adults go up, body-fat percentage tends to go down. Expression of the adiponectin gene was reduced in the offspring of sleep-fragmented mothers, especially in their visceral fat cells.

 

A closer look revealed epigenetic changes, such as methylation and histone modification, which shut down selected genes, often in response to environmental stresses.

 

"We found that the offspring of sleep-deprived mothers had largely inactivated AdipoQ, the adiponectin gene," Gozal said. "Such changes may affect other genes as well; we haven't studied all the potential targets yet. Even so, this is the first example of a perturbation during pregnancy that translates into a genetic risk, in midlife, for the next generation."

 

"This is kind of scary," he added. "Will this generation, the sons of sleep-deprived mice, who are already at increased risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, transmit this inherited risk, perhaps compounded by new stresses, to their offspring?"

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140516092305.htm

Yoga can help keep expectant mothers stress free: First evidence found

April 30, 2014

Science Daily/Manchester University

The effects of yoga on pregnant women has been studied, with results showing that it can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression. Stress during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight and increased developmental and behavioral problems in the child as a toddler and adolescent, as well as later mental health problems in the mother. A high level of anxiety during pregnancy is linked with postnatal depression which in turn is associated with increased risk of developing depression later in life.

 

Dr Newham added: "There is a growing body of evidence that maternal antenatal anxiety may increase the risk of pre-term delivery and the likelihood of giving birth to a low birth weight child. If we can reduce these risk factors, and perhaps reduce the rate of post-natal mood disorders in mothers and negative health outcomes in their offspring, then that can only be a good thing."

 

Professor Aplin said: "The results confirm what many who take part in yoga have suspected for a long time. There is also evidence yoga can reduce the need for pain relief during birth and the likelihood for delivery by emergency caesarean section.

 

"Perhaps we should be looking at providing yoga classes on the NHS. It would be relatively cheap to implement, could help mothers and their children be healthier, as well as reducing the costs of longer term health care."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430192543.htm

Women who gain too much or too little weight during pregnancy at risk for having an overweight child

April 14, 2014

Science Daily/Kaiser Permanente

Gaining both too much or too little weight during pregnancy appears to increase the risk of having an overweight or obese child, according to a study. In one of the largest studies to examine current Institute of Medicine recommendations regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 4,145 racially diverse females who had completed a health survey between 2007 and 2009 and subsequently had a baby.

 

In one of the largest studies to examine current Institute of Medicine recommendations regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 4,145 racially diverse female members of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California who had completed a health survey between 2007 and 2009 and subsequently had a baby.

 

Researchers reviewed the medical records of those children between ages 2 and 5 years old and found that:

 

·      Among all women who gained more than the recommended weight during pregnancy, 20.4 percent of their children were overweight or obese, compared with 19.5 percent in women who gained less than recommended weight and 14.5 percent in women who gained weight within the guidelines.

 

·      Women with a normal Body Mass Index measurement before pregnancy who gained less than the recommended amount were 63 percent more likely to have a child who became overweight or obese.

 

·      Women with a normal BMI before pregnancy with weight gain above recommendations were 80 percent more likely to have an overweight or obese child.

 

"The stronger association we found among normal weight women who gained too much or too little weight during pregnancy suggests that perhaps weight gain in pregnancy may have an impact on the child that is independent of genetic factors," said senior investigator Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

 

"Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure," said the study's lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. "This could potentially have long-term effects on the child's subsequent growth and weight."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140414092115.htm

Service members diagnosed with chronic insomnia may face increased risk of type II diabetes, high blood pressure

November 4, 2014

Science Daily/Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC)

Service members diagnosed with chronic insomnia had a two times higher risk of developing hypertension and type II diabetes than military personnel who had not been diagnosed with the condition, according to a newly released health surveillance report of a study of the associations between these diseases.

 

Insomnia is a common complaint among service members due to career-related stress factors, such as frequent deployments with demanding military operations, varying work shifts, and the challenges of maintaining relationships with their spouses and families.

 

"This type of analysis has military relevance because it supports the notion that adequate sleep among our service members is important not only for accident prevention and work performance, but also for additional long-term health benefits," said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Paul E. Lewis, the author of the study and a preventive medicine resident at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

 

The association of chronic insomnia with hypertension was seen both in service members younger than 30 years of age and in those aged 30 years or older, with adjusted hazard ratios of 2.32 and 1.94, respectively. By gender, chronic insomnia had a stronger association with hypertension in men (adjusted hazard ratio of 2.17) than in women (adjusted hazard ratio of 1.59).

 

The adjusted hazard ratio was also greater for white, non-Hispanics (ratio of 2.26) than for black, non-Hispanics (ratio of 1.72). Both obese subjects and non-obese subjects had significantly increased risks of hypertension related to insomnia, with adjusted hazard ratios of 2.09 and 1.86, respectively.

 

Previous studies on this topic have provided conflicting results, with some demonstrating a strong association and others finding minimal to no association. There are several reasons why the findings of this study may not be directly comparable to studies in civilian populations. Military members are generally younger and have less co-morbidity than their civilian counterparts.

 

This analysis employed a longitudinal study design that allowed for follow-up of individuals over time, whereas many previous study designs did not allow evaluation between an exposure to a risk factor and a subsequent outcome. The average follow-up time was 3.09 years in the insomnia cohort and 3.42 years in the control cohort. These differences in methodology might partially explain the observed increased risks of hypertension and diabetes associated with chronic insomnia in this study but not seen in some other studies.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104111156.htm

Coenzyme Q10 helps veterans battle Gulf War illness symptoms

November 3, 2014

Science Daily/University of California, San Diego Health Sciences

A high quality brand of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) -- a compound commonly sold as a dietary supplement -- provides health benefits to persons suffering from Gulf War illness symptoms, researchers report.

 

In a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of Neural Computation, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that a high quality brand of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) -- a compound commonly sold as a dietary supplement -- provides health benefits to persons suffering from Gulf War illness symptoms.

 

Forty-six United States Gulf War veterans participated in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Each veteran had been diagnosed with Gulf War illness.

 

"Gulf War illness is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, signature illnesses of later deployments, which are caused by psychological and mechanical injury, respectively," said Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and principal investigator on the study. "Evidence instead links Gulf War illness to chemical exposures, such as pesticides or pills given to soldiers to protect them from possible nerve agents. These chemicals can damage mitochondria, which generate the energy our cells need to do their jobs. When these powerhouses of the cells are disrupted, it can produce symptoms compatible with those seen in Gulf War illness."

 

The connection to chemical and toxin exposures is fortified by evidence of mitochondrial problems in affected veterans, said Golomb, as well as evidence showing those veterans who became ill are significantly more likely than others to harbor genetic variants that render their enzymes less effective at detoxifying these chemicals.

 

CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant made by the body to support basic cell functions, including directly assisting mitochondrial energy production. Over a course of three and a half months, the veterans in the study received a pill form of either CoQ10 or a placebo. Researchers found 80 percent of those who received 100mg of CoQ10 had improvement in physical function. The degree of improvement correlated to the degree in which CoQ10 levels in the blood increased.

 

The researchers reported that Gulf War illness symptoms like headaches, fatigue with exertion, irritability, recall problems and muscle pain also improved.

 

"The statistical significance of these benefits, despite the small sample size, underscores the large magnitude of the effects," Golomb said. "Mounting evidence suggests findings in Gulf War illness are relevant to toxin-induced health problems in the civilian sector, so what we learn by studying health challenges of these veterans, will likely benefit others."

Golomb and colleagues are seeking additional funding to test a more complete "mitochondrial cocktail," which combines CoQ10 with additional nutrients that support cell energy and reduce oxidative damage to cells.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103121020.htm

Fish intake associated with boost to antidepressant response

Science Daily/European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP)

Up to half of patients who suffer from major depression do not respond to treatment with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Now a group of researchers has carried out a study that shows that increasing fatty fish intake appears to increase the response rate in patients who do not respond to antidepressants.

 

According to lead researcher, Roel Mocking (Amsterdam): "We were looking for biological alterations that could explain depression and antidepressant non-response, so we combined two apparently unrelated measures: metabolism of fatty acids and stress hormone regulation. Interestingly, we saw that depressed patients had an altered metabolism of fatty acids, and that this changed metabolism was regulated in a different way by stress hormones."

 

The researchers were looking at the relationship between depression and fatty acids, and various hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. They took 70 patients with depression and compared them to 51 healthy controls, by measuring their fatty acid levels and cortisol levels. They then gave the depressed patients 20mg of an SSRI daily for 6 weeks, and in those who did not respond to the SSRIs the dose was gradually increased up to 50mg/day. Fatty acid and cortisol levels were measured during the trial.

 

They found that the MDD patients who didn't respond to the SSRI also tended to have abnormal fatty acid metabolism, so they checked the dietary habits of all those taking part in the trial. Fatty fish is rich in fatty acids, such as the well-known Omega-3 DHA. So the researchers looked at the amount of fatty fish in the diet of all involved in the trial. They categorised the patients into 4 groups, according to their fatty fish intake, and they found that those who took the least fish tended to respond badly to anti-depressants, whereas those who had most fish in the diet responded best to anti-depressants. Those who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75% chance of responding to antidepressants, whereas those who never ate fatty fish had only a 23% chance of responding to antidepressants.

 

Roel Mocking continued: "This means that the alterations in fatty acid metabolism (and their relationship with stress hormone regulation) were associated with future antidepressant response. Importantly, this association was associated with eating fatty fish, which is an important dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. These findings suggest that measures of fatty acid metabolism, and their association with stress hormone regulation, might be of use in the clinic as an early indicator of future antidepressant response. Moreover, fatty acid metabolism could be influenced by eating fish, which may be a way to improve antidepressant response rates."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020090142.htm

Common anesthetic procedure dramatically improves well being of veterans with PTSD

October 11, 2014

Science Daily/American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

A single application of a common anesthetic procedure could be the answer to alleviating anxiety, depression and psychological pain in those suffering from chronic, extreme post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

In a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2014 annual meeting, researchers followed 12 patients with PTSD who had undergone a simple anesthetic procedure called a stellate ganglion block (SGB). This common procedure involves injecting a small amount of local anesthesia into the base of the neck. SGB is traditionally used to treat a variety of conditions, from pain syndromes to sleep disorders.

 

"While it doesn't cure the problem, we found that SGB appears to be a fast-acting and effective long-term treatment for chronic, extreme PTSD in veterans," said Michael T. Alkire, M.D., staff anesthesiologist at the Long Beach VA Healthcare System in California. "These improvements far outlasted what we would expect from SGB, which is usually used as a temporary nerve block and typically lasts three to five hours."

 

In the study, the patients each were given one SGB and followed closely with structured interviews and other psychological tests for six months after treatment. The positive effects of the SGB were evident often within minutes and resulted in significant improvement of scores for the Clinician Administered PTSD Score, or CAPS, the test used to measure the severity of PTSD.

 

Symptoms improved over time, and after one month, CAPS scores registered normal to mild PTSD levels for most of the patients. Positive effects were still seen at three months, but began fading and were generally gone by six months. Overall, 75 percent of the participants reported significant improvement of their PTSD symptoms after the SGB.

 

Data from the study further suggested that SGB might also be an effective initial treatment for depression and anxiety disorders.

 

"Further work is needed to identify which patients might respond best to this treatment as well as understand the mechanisms involved that produce such a rapid, dramatic and long-term change in psychological health for some patients," said Dr. Alkire, who also is a professor of anesthesiology at the University of California-Irvine.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141011172042.htm

 

Marijuana use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries

October 2, 2014

Science Daily/Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed)

A survey of patients with traumatic brain injuries found those who had used marijuana were more likely to survive than those who had not used the illicit substance. The findings suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said.

 

The findings, published in the October edition of The American Surgeon, suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said. The study included 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries and underwent a urine test for the presence of THC in their system. The researchers found 82 of the patients had THC in their system. Of those, only 2.4% died. Of the remaining patients who didn't have THC in their system, 11.5% died.

 

"Previous studies conducted by other researchers had found certain compounds in marijuana helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma," said David Plurad, MD, an LA BioMed researcher and the study's lead author. "This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury."

 

The researchers noted that the timing of their study was "pertinent" because of current efforts to decriminalize marijuana and other research that has shown THC can increase appetite, reduce ocular pressure, decrease muscle spasms, relieve pain and alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease. But they noted that their study has some significant limitations.

 

"While most -- but not all -- the deaths in the study can be attributed to the traumatic brain injury itself, it appears that both groups were similarly injured," Dr. Plurad said. "The similarities in the injuries between the two groups led to the conclusion that testing positive for THC in the system is associated with a decreased mortality in adult patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123722.htm

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