Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Right kind of Gut Bacteria prevent Diabetes

Bacteria in the intestine can produce bio chemicals and hormones that could stop diabetes developing, scientists have found. Research groups in Canada and Switzerland have now shown that the influence of the intestinal bacteria extends even deeper inside the body than was previous thought.

They believe it influences the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes at an early age. In children and young people, diabetes is caused by the immune cells of the body damaging the special cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin.

By chance, 30 years ago, before the development of genetic engineering techniques, Japanese investigators noticed that a strain of NOD laboratory mice tended to get diabetes. These mice, also by chance, have many of the same genes that make some humans susceptible to the disease. With the help of the special facilities of the University of Bern and in Canada, these teams have been able to show that the intestinal bacteria, especially in male mice, can produce bio chemicals and hormones that stop diabetes developing.

Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto found that when female mice at high risk of type 1 diabetes were exposed to normal gut bacteria from adult male mice, they were strongly protected against the disease. In this type of mouse strain, more than 85% of females develop autoimmune diabetes due to strong genetic risk factors. In contrast, only 25% of the females developed the disease after they were given normal male gut microbes early in life.

‘Our findings suggest potential strategies for using normal gut bacteria to block progression of insulin dependent diabetes in children who have high genetic risk,’ said Dr. Jayne Danska, senior scientist in genetics and genome biology at the hospital and Professor in the Departments of Immunology and Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.

Diabetes in young people is becoming more and more frequent, and doctors even talk about a diabetes epidemic. This increase in diabetic disease has happened over the last 40 years as our homes and environment have become cleaner and more hygienic. What is not yet known is why some children have high levels of appropriate bacteria and others don’t. The research speculates that this could be due to cleaner homes and a living environment that is too hygienic but that has not been proven.

At the moment, once a child has diabetes, he or she requires lifelong treatment. ‘We hope that our new understanding of how intestinal bacteria may protect susceptible children from developing diabetes, will allow us to start to develop new treatments to stop children getting the disease,’ said Professor Andrew Macpherson from the Clinic for Visceral Surgery and Medicine at the Inselspital and the University of Bern.

(by BARBARA HEWITT on FEBRUARY 6, 2013 as posted on

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Food Ads Targeting Parents Promise Taste, Convenience, but Deliver Poor Nutrition

A majority of food advertisements in magazines targeting parents emphasize products of poor nutritional quality that may contribute to unhealthy weight gain, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Albany and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study is published in the current edition of Public Health Nutrition.
For the study, researchers examined food advertisements directed towards parents in national parenting and family magazines. In 476 food ads, which represented approximately 32 percent of all ads in the magazine sample, snack food ads appeared most frequently (13 percent), followed by dairy products (7 percent). The most frequently used ad message was "taste" (55 percent). Other repeating non-food themes used in ads included "convenience," "fun," and "helping families spend time together." Some ads promoted foods as "healthy" (14 percent) and some made specific health claims (18 percent), such as asserting the product would help lower cholesterol.
The researchers also found that more than half (55.9 percent) of the food products advertised were of poor nutritional quality, based on total fat, saturated fat, sodium, protein, sugar, and fiber content, and that ads for these low-nutrition products were slightly more likely to use such sales themes as "fun" and "no guilt."
“Food ads make up a big component of the advertising in these leading parenting magazines; about one-third of the all of ads were for food products for children or the family,” said Katherine Clegg Smith, PhD, an author of the study and associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society. “This study gives us a better idea about the types of foods marketed to parents in these outlets and what types of messages are used to generate interest in a product," said Clegg Smith. "About one in five ads made a claim that a product could improve health in some way—and these claims were just as likely to be found for the least nutritious foods as for the healthier ones.”
The researchers hope their findings will lead to the development of programs or guidelines for parents to help them make sense of information they see in food ads and understand how to identify and interpret marketing messages for foods for themselves and their family.
“A content analysis of food advertisements appearing in parenting magazines” was written by Jennifer A. Manganello, Katherine Clegg Smith, Katie Sudakow and Amber C. Summers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Private equity pours money into India's primary healthcare

According to recent trends Private equity funds are investing more and more in India's primary healthcare, betting the sick and ailing will stop seeing family doctors in often cramped and dingy quarters and check into modern chains sprouting up all across the country.

The opportunity is vast as India's unorganized primary healthcare system is worth $30 billion and is growing at least 25 percent a year but the challenge will be convincing the sick to give up their trusted family doctors.

While fees at modern clinics range from 150 to 600 rupees for treatment of routine illness, sole general practitioners charge patients anything between 50 and 300 rupees per visit.

However, organized healthcare providers including Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd and Fortis Healthcare Ltd are betting that growing numbers of patients will be willing to pay two or three times more for better-equipped clinics - all under a model that can be replicated fast and offers investors the potential for quick returns.

According to Santanu Chattopadhyay, CEO of NationWide Primary Healthcare Services,"The family doctor concept is slowly phasing out as migrants in cities look out for a brand rather than visiting a general physician next door".

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Iceberg phenomenon of disease

The pattern of disease encountered in a hospital is quite different from that in a community.

In the community/society a far larger proportion of disease (e.g., diabetes, hypertension) is hidden from view  of the general public or physician.

In this context the analogy of an iceberg is widely used to describe the disease pattern in the community.

The concept of the "iceberg phenomenon of disease"gives an idea of the progress of a disease from its sub-clinical stages to overt or apparent disease state.

The submerged portion of the iceberg represents the hidden mass of the disease (e.g., sub­clinical cases, carriers, undiagnosed cases).

The floating tip represents what the physician sees in his practice/chamber/hospital etc.

The remaining Large Hidden part of the iceberg is what constitutes the mass of unrecognized disease in the community.

New Method For Uncovering Side Effects Before A Drug Hits The Market

Side effects are a major reason that drugs are taken off the market and a major reason why patients stop taking their medications, but scientists are now reporting the development of a new way to predict those adverse reactions ahead of time. The report on the method, which could save patients from severe side effects and save drug companies time and money, appears in ACS' Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

Yoshihiro Yamanishi and colleagues explain that drug side effects are a major health problem - the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. - which by some estimates claim 100,000 lives every year. Serious side effects are the main reason why existing drugs must be removed from the market and why pharmaceutical companies halt development of new drugs after investing millions of dollars. Current methods of testing for side effects are costly and inaccurate. That's why the scientists sought to develop a new computer-based approach to predicting possible side effects.

They show the usefulness of their proposed method on simultaneous prediction of 969 side effects of 658 drugs that already are in wide medical use. The method is based on knowledge about chemical and biological information about ingredients in these medications. They also used the approach to identify possible side effects for many uncharacterized molecules. Based on that work, the scientists conclude that the new method could be helpful in uncovering serious side effects early in the development and testing of new drugs, avoiding costly investment in medications unsuitable for marketing.