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ALTERNATIVES TO ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION
Stan, short for Standard Man, is a new Human Patient Simulator helping medical and nursing students learn how to treat dozens of illnesses without harming patients or animals. Part dummy and part computer, the life-size model is so realistic it can be medicated, ventilated, intubated, and defibrillated. More importantly, it can be brought back to life again so students can practice working through various scenarios they might not otherwise see until an actual emergency arises. Stan can demonstrate about 50 illnesses, accidents, and conditions, including heart failure and internal bleeding. High-tech software can even make him obese, elderly, and, yes, female. For more information, visit www.meti.com or call 941-377-5562.
A life-sized dummy with a computer-generated voice, Simantha is allowing physicians to perfect cardiac procedures such as angio-plasty and stent implantation. The SimSuite program, available through Medical Simulation Corporation of Colorado, will be used by doctors, nurses, and technicians trained in catheter-based cardiovascular treatments. More than a dozen training centers will be operating this year.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Mercury in Fish Linked to Infertility
Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong report that eating fish and shellfish, which often contain high levels of toxic mercury, could be linked to infertility in some men and women. The researchers analyzed mercury levels in 157 infertile couples and 26 fertile couples, finding 35 percent of men and 23 percent of women in the infertile group had abnormally high concentrations of mercury in their blood compared to their fertile counterparts.
Nearly all fish contain some mercury, although larger species that live the longest, such as sharks and swordfish, concentrate the most mercury in their tissues. Mercury can cause permanent damage to the brain, nervous system, and kidneys and is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
Choy CM, Lam CW, Cheung LT, Briton-Jones CM, Cheung LP, Haines CJ. Infertility, blood mercury concentrations and dietary seafood consumption: a case-control study. BJOG. 2002;109:1121-1125.
Doctors Dodge the Diet Talk
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that three-quarters of patients surveyed after doctor’s appointments reported receiving no nutrition advice at all. And those who did get diet counseling had to listen fast: The researchers found that doctors spent an average of less than a minute discussing nutrition with their patients. Dietary advice was most often given to older patients, to those with diabetes or other chronic illnesses, and during wellness visits. The survey included 3,475 patients.
Eaton CB, Goodwin MA, Stange KC. Direct observation of nutrition counseling in community family practice. Am J Prev Med. 2002;23:174-179.
Fruits and Vegetables Build Strong Bones
A new study suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may slow the development of osteoporosis in women. The U.K. Food Standards Agency analyzed the diets of more than 3,000 Scottish women and measured their bone density at the hip and spine, finding a link between fruit and vegetable intake and stronger hip bones before and during menopause. The benefit may come directly from nutrients, from alkaline salts produced during digestion, or from the way in which these salts counteract the acidic effect produced by meats and cheeses, researchers say.
Ongoing at the University of Aberdeen.
A Healthier Heart in Just Three Weeks
As reported in Circulation, as little as three weeks of eating well and exercising can significantly lower a man’s risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. UCLA researchers had 11 obese men eat a diet with less than 10 percent of calories from fat, eating all they liked of whole-meal bread, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. For exercise, they walked on a treadmill 45 to 60 minutes per day. Overall, cholesterol dropped an average of 19 percent, blood pressure 14 percent, free radicals 28 percent, and insulin an impressive 46 percent.
Roberts CK, Vaziri ND, Barnard RJ. Effect of diet and exercise intervention on blood pressure, insulin, oxidative stress, and nitric oxide availability. Circulation. 2002;106:2530-2532.
Teen Dies While Following High-Protein Diet
An apparently healthy Missouri 16-year-old died at school after using a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet she began on her own. Physicians who treated the girl reported finding low potassium and calcium levels, saying that electrolyte imbalances, which caused her heart to stop, were likely due to the diet. Toxicology findings were negative and no other illnesses were found.
Stevens A, Robinson DP, Turpin J, Groshong T, Tobias JD. Sudden cardiac death of an adolescent during dieting. South Med J. 2002;95:1047-1049.
CHIP-ing Away at Cholesterol
More than 400 employees from six worksites in Rockford, Illinois, joined the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP), an eight-week program that entailed watching 15 videos, using text- and workbooks, going on shopping tours, and attending cooking demonstrations. The dietary goal involved a vegan diet, built from largely unrefined grains, legumes, vegetables, and fresh fruits. Walking at least 30 minutes per day was also encouraged. At the conclu- sion of the study, significant reductions in weight, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose were found. The greatest improvements were seen in men. Participants with dangerously high blood pressure and cholesterol levels saw improvements that translated into a 36 to 54 percent reduction in coronary risks.
Aldana SG, Greenlaw R, Diehl HA, Englert H, Jackson R. Impact of the coronary health improvement project (CHIP) on several employee populations. JOEM. 2002;44:831-839.
HRT Does Not Improve Cognition in Elderly Women with Heart Disease
A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine has found that in 517 women with heart disease treated with oral estrogen-progestin for four years, cognitive skills were no better than in the placebo group. In fact, at the end of the trial, 6.0 percent of women in the hormone group and 4.8 percent women in the placebo group were cognitively impaired. Researchers used six standard tests that measured verbal fluency, memory, word list recall, and other functions.
Grady D, Yaffe K, Kristof M, Lin F, Richards C, Barrett-Connor E. Effect of postmenopausal hormone therapy on cognitive function: the heart and estrogen/progestin replacement study. Am J Med. 2002; 113:543-548.
Metabolism Changes after Menopause
A new study from the University of Maryland has found that menopausal women experience significant differences in metabolism, which may cause them to gain weight. Researchers recruited 12 perimenopausal women and 12 postmenopausal women, recording waist-to-hip measurements, analyzing fasting blood profiles, and taking fat biopsies. They found that the enzyme that allows fat to be stored in cells, adipose lipoprotein lipase (AT-LPL), is more active in postmenopausal women compared to perimenopausal women. The women also experienced reduced lipolysis, the mechanism that releases fat from cells. Increased AT-LPL activity in menopausal women may be due to hormonal changes. The good news is that this fat-storing enzyme can be slowed down. It stores less fat when there is less fat in the diet.
Ferrara CM, Lynch NA, Nicklas BJ, Ryan AS, Berman DM. Differences in adipose tissue metabolism between postmenopausal and perimenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:4166-4170.