Review Category : Health

Could Hair Plucking Cure Baldness?

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Millions of dollars are spent each year on hair restoration products, but preliminary research involving mice finds that plucking existing hair may induce new hairs to grow.

Researchers at USC discovered when they plucked 200 hairs from mice in a very specific pattern and density, they could induce up to 1,200 new hairs to grow.

In a report published in the journal Cell, the researchers describe the phenomenon as “quorum sensing.” They say the follicles from the plucked hairs release chemical distress signals to their hairy neighbors. When the signal reaches a certain level, it communicates to all of the surrounding hair follicles that it’s time to re-grow hair.

Scientific observers not involved in the study note that the results of the mouse study may not carry over to humans.

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Shoppers Look for the ‘Low Salt’ Label

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When it comes to buying low sodium foods, seeing the words “low salt” or “low sodium” on the front of an item appears to have more of an impact on consumers than the product’s nutrition label.

According to the results of a survey of 3,729 adults published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, 58 percent of respondents reported buying food items that were labeled “low sodium” on the front, but only 47 percent of those surveyed actually read the nutrition label looking at the sodium content.

The study suggests that front labels may be a more effective way for food companies to reach consumers with messages about the health of their foods.

The study also found about a third of Americans say they specifically buy foods labeled “low” or “reduced salt or sodium” when they’re grocery shopping.

Study author Jessica Lee Levings of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention says food manufacturers “can meet this demand [for low sodium foods] by producing food items that are lower in sodium and including this information on the front of their packages.”

Medical observers not involved in the study note that because the survey was conducted by mail, it contains a response bias since only some choose to respond. The observers also note there may be an underrepresentation of socioeconomic and minority groups in the survey, and those are the people who have been shown to have the most problems with nutrition labels.

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Sharing iPads May Have an Impact on Test Scores

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Conventional wisdom would suggest that kindergarteners who have to share iPads in a classroom would do poorer on standardized tests than classmates who have their own individual devices, but a new study suggests otherwise.

Researchers at Northwestern University compared the standardized test scores of kindergarteners at several Midwestern schools in the fall, prior to any iPad use, with spring scores after the devices were implemented.

The researchers found that over the course of a school year, kindergarteners at schools that had only enough iPads for students to share scored 32 points better than students with their own iPads and 27 points better than students with no iPads.

“Shared iPad students significantly outperformed both the 1:1 and non-iPad condition, suggesting it’s the collaborative learning around the technology that made the difference, not just the collaboration in and of itself,” says researcher Courtney Blackwell.

The study suggests that sharing devices rather than each student having his or her own may be a more effective and less expensive way of introducing technology into the classroom.

Experts not involved in the study caution that the survey was a quasi-experiment that did not include a control group and involved a small sample size with a population that was minimally diverse, mostly children of financially stable Caucasians.

The findings will be presented in May at the International Communication Association Conference.

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Bret Michaels Talks Health Scares and Tax Day Fun

John Paul Filo/CBS(LOS ANGELES) — Bret Michaels is beloved by his fans and it’s in no way a one-sided relationship.

So, when the rock legend, 52, revealed this past November that he had been hospitalized six times in two weeks, he gave his millions of adoring fans quite a scare. But the fact was that part of the reason he was in the hospital and needed surgery was his devotion to them and his music.

Michaels had two stents put in his body late last year and decided he felt good enough to take the stage the very next day because he didn’t want to cancel any shows.

“I have said grace of God, good medical attention, a true grit attitude, and good family and great fans have gotten me through a lot of stuff,” he told ABC News. “I feel blessed to be on the good side of the dirt! Forget about just being diabetic, but the brain hemorrhage, then heart surgery and last year, the kidney thing.”

Michaels admits he doesn’t take lightly that he knew he had a foot-long stent in his kidney and that last year, there’s no way he should have played the concert just hours after his operation. But the “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” legend said he chose to give it a try.

“It did not pan out great,” he candidly said of his multiple times to the hospital, eventually having to stay off his feet and away from the stage. “I’ve learned…I’m not going to do that again. I’m not in any way trying to make light of it…but sometimes my passion is my blessing and my curse.”

But Michaels, who just came out with a new summer song “Girls on Bars,” was diagnosed and has been dealing with Type 1 diabetes since he was just 6 years old and said he uses this affliction as “a blessing rather than a curse.”

“I feel good and you will never see me loathing around in self pity,” he said. “That’s just not who I am.”

Michaels wishes he could say he’s “calmed down” a bit since last year’s scare, but he’s just so passionate about music and the fans.

“I have no death wish, I have a life wish,” he stressed. “But I’m learning as I go and just give it a little more time is what I’m learning. The day after an operation on your kidney, don’t go play a concert.”

He continued, “Three generations at this point of my career of great fans and I’m thankful.”

Michaels spoke to ABC News as part of his collaboration with Hard Rock Cafe for “Sing For Your Supper,” where guests get a free burger if they get up on stage and sing at the resorts around the country on Tax Day, which is Wednesday. Michaels will actually perform and sing for his burger, as well, at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, California.

“Last year I had a chance to do this in New York and we had such a great time. This is just about a lot of fun with really good food,” he said. “Tax day is a roll of the dice for everybody!”

This event just extends the rocker’s affiliation with the Hard Rock, especially when it comes to important causes.

“Another one is Pink October with them and My Life Rocks Foundation…I’ve done it for five years in a row and we raise a boat load of money for breast cancer,” he said. “The people [at Hard Rock], they are just good people, they give a lot to charity.”

Expect Michaels to sing his classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “we’re just going to have a great time.”

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How Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller Lost 100 Pounds in 100 Days

ABC/Ronda Churchill(NEW YORK) — After high blood pressure landed Penn Jillette in the hospital some time back, he knew it was time for a change.

The famed magician and illusionist from Penn & Teller dropped from 330 pounds down to 225 by eating healthier and cutting down his intake.

“My doctor said I needed to get my weight down, and if I brought it down 30 or 40 pounds, it would be a little easier to control. And then he said something in passing that completely blew my mind: he said, ‘If you got down to 230, you probably wouldn’t need any of the meds,’ ” he told People magazine.

So, that’s just what he did.

How master illusionist @PennJillette lost 105 pounds — without magic!

— People magazine (@people) April 9, 2015

From the end of the year until now, Jillette, 60, has been eating just 1,000 calories a day and dropped almost a pound a day. Now, after reaching his goal weight in March, he maintains by avoiding processed grains and added sugar, among other things. Jillette eats mostly salads and greens, along with brown rice.

“I could probably have a steak or a doughnut every couple of weeks, but I just haven’t felt like it,” he added.

He didn’t work out while losing all the weight, but now weight lifts, take tricycle rides and does a “scientific 7-minute workout.” He trains every other day.

The one downside is new clothes. He went from a 44 waist to a 34.

“It’s really expensive because the suits on the Penn & Teller show cost a s*** ton, and so we had to get all new suits,” he said.

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Mississippi Health Officials Warn About Increasing Cases of ‘Spice’ Hospitalization

Spotmatik/iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Miss.) – Health officials in Mississippi are warning about an increase of emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to the use of the synthetic drug “spice.”

Since April 2, there have been 97 cases reported to the Mississippi Poison Control Center, health officials said in a news release on Friday.

More than 20 counties throughout the state have reported emergency room admissions from the synthetic drug, which is designed to mimic the effects of marijuana.

According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs, there is no safe amount of “spice” consumption.

“Spice is an unregulated drug. We are seeing people become extremely ill with even the tiniest amount of use,” Dobbs said in a release. “There is absolutely no safe level of inhalation. This is an incredibly dangerous drug and needs to be taken very seriously.”

The effects from using the synthetic drug are unpredictable and adverse outcomes are common, according to health officials, even leading to death in some cases.

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Girl With High-Risk Leukemia Saved With Stem Cells From Umbilical Cord Donation

Courtesy Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service(MAPLE VALLEY, Wash.) — A Washington girl is celebrating being cancer-free after she was diagnosed with high-risk leukemia at just 9 years old. When doctors failed to find a traditional bone marrow or stem cell donor for transplant, they turned to stem cells taken from donated umbilical cords to try and save her life.

Jenna Gibson, now 12, kept catching colds and feeling sick when her mother took her to her pediatrician, who was immediately concerned.

“I’ll never forget these words,” recalled Gibson. “Our doctor knew her and…she turned around and looked at Jenna and said, ‘You don’t look well.”

After a battery of tests and blood work, Gibson said Jenna’s pediatrician told them to go straight to the Emergency Room at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Jenna was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and almost immediately put into chemotherapy.

“You don’t go home with this type of leukemia, it doesn’t work that way,” said Gibson. “The chemo they use on the body takes away your immune system.”

For over a month Jenna had to stay at the hospital with the family hoping that tests after her first treatment would show that the medication was working. But a month after she arrived, doctors told the family that Jenna had enough cancer cells remaining to make her high risk. She would need a bone marrow transplant to survive.

Gibson said the family was terrified because Jenna was adopted and there was little chance a sibling or family member could help her with a transplant.

“We knew her siblings would not be an option [which] is incredibly scary,” said Gibson. Gibson said they then learned match rates for minorities was also low, causing more complications for Jenna, who was born in Guatemala.

“Then to find out she was high-risk we were defeated even more,” said Gibson.

After weeks of searching with no luck, the medical staff at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center decided to try using stem cells taken from donated umbilical cords. While not as frequent an option, using stem cells from cord blood has become more popular in recent years.

Dr. Colleen Delany, director of the Cord Blood Transplant Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said it’s easier to treat children with cord blood because they are smaller and do not need as many stem cells and that it can be easier to find a donor because there aren’t as many markers that must be matched for a successful transplant.

“Cord blood is so naïve and uneducated it’s more tolerant to be in a new environment,” said Delany. “We can find a donor for nearly everyone to find a transplant.”

Delany and her team were able to find a cord blood match for Jenna that was a 6/6 match, when the search failed to find a traditional bone marrow donor.

“What blows me away is that cord blood went into the garbage…every day it is happening thousands and thousands of times, there is a woman out there somewhere who said donate it,” said Gibson. “It saved our daughter’s life.”

Jenna had to undergo radiation and three total rounds of chemotherapy before undergoing the transplant. Her immune system was purposely weakened so the new stem cells can restart her immune system from scratch.

“Her body is as vulnerable as it can possibly can be,” before the transplant, said Gibson. “Until the new cells can grow in her body a cold could be terminal.”

Delany said in earlier cases of cord blood transfusions patients, especially adults, took much longer to regrow their immune system. As a result, patients could have fatal complications even after their transplant as their immune system is weakened.

However in recent years Delany’s team have been able to give people transplants from two cord donors at the same time which has helped lower the amount of time it takes to regrow an protective immunity. She said at Fred Hutchinson the statistical outcomes for both traditional bone marrow transplants and cord blood transplants have been the same.

A second benefit of cord blood is that recipients tend to have less graft vs. host issues, where the body rejects the newly injected cells.

“[Cord blood has] been ultimately protected. It’s been inside the protection of the mother,” said Delany. “The immune system that comes with those bags of cells it hasn’t had to fight anything.”

Jenna had her transplant about three months after being diagnosed. While she did have some issues graft vs. host, it was minor compared to other leukemia patients.

“She was singing and dancing every single day after[the transplant] she did amazing,” said Gibson.

Gibson said she was so thankful that the cord blood was an option. Unlike a living donor, the medical team could just plan a day for transplant without having to coordinate for a donor. Additionally they did not have to continuously search for a bone marrow donor, meaning they didn’t have to keep treating Jenna to keep the cancer at bay.

“The fact that it was sitting there waiting for us,” said Gibson. “If you’re waiting for a donor then the cancer keeps growing.”

Now at 12, Jenna has been cancer-free for nearly two years. Gibson said the girl still has issues from her cancer and treatment including hormonal therapy to help her grow and extra screening since she will be at high risk for certain cancers.

“She’ll have the battle marks forever,” said Gibson. “I call them her victory marks [and tell her] ‘You beat this.'”

Delany said she hopes Jenna’s story will give hope to people who have been told they cannot get a transplant and encourage other women to donate cord blood–taken from umbilical cord and placenta after surgery–to public banks that are available for transplant.

“The most important thing to realize is we can find a donor for nearly everyone,” said Delany of the cord blood program.

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WHO Says C-Sections on the Rise, But Shouldn’t Happen Unless Medically Necessary

Courtesy Stephanie Dulli(NEW YORK) — Stephanie Dulli knew she needed a cesarean section shortly after learning that her unborn son was in a “jackknifed” position under her ribs, with his feet up over his head.

Even though it deviated from her birth plan, she made peace with the idea in a hurry after her husband asked the obstetrician what would have happened in “pioneer days” before c-sections were an option.

“The OB said they would have died in childbirth,” said Dulli, a mother of three in Washington, D.C. “I’m pretty grateful C-sections exist.”

Cesarean sections save lives, but the World Health Organization says they shouldn’t be performed unless they’re medically necessary. They’re necessary when the baby is in distress or in an abnormal position, or when the mother’s labor has become prolonged, the organization said, adding that c-sections should generally only happen in about 10 or 15 percent of births.

When c-sections are performed in about 10 percent of births, maternal and newborn deaths decrease, according to WHO. But when they occur in more than 10 percent of births, there’s no change in the mortality rates. Yet, C-section rates continue to rise in wealthy countries, WHO said.
In the United States, 32.7 percent of births are c-sections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Due to their increased cost, high rates of unnecessary cesarean sections can pull resources away from other services in overloaded and weak health systems,” WHO said in a news release Friday.

Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said there are many factors that contribute to deciding to perform a c-section.

“A lot of people in the United States view labor as a minefield of disaster waiting to happen,” she said, adding that not everyone feels this way, but it includes patients and their doctors.

“Over the decades, cesareans have gotten safer. It’s safer now than it was in the 1940s,” thanks to better anesthesia, techniques, antibiotics and blood banking, she said. “That’s part of why I think we see it as a benign thing.”

She said some women fear complications from vaginal child birth such as incontinence and stretched organs, and believes moms are more likely to ask for c-sections on the East Coast than they do where she is in Ohio.

Greenfield said the health complications are about even between c-sections and vaginal births — if you only have one child. The risks increase with each sequential c-section because of scar tissue and other potential issues that can arise. But the risks decrease with each sequential vaginal birth, she said.

Sometimes, doctors will opt to do a c-section because patients often sue if they think a c-section hasn’t been done soon enough, but patients will rarely sue over an unnecessary c-section.

“If you were only looking at malpractice liability, you’re always better off having a lower threshold,” Greenfield. said.

Private practice obstetricians also do perform c-sections before they’re absolutely necessary labor is lasting longer than they expect, in part because of compassion, but also because they have other patients or need to go home to dinner and don’t have someone else available to step in.

Denise Schipani, a mother of two, said that she’s not sure she needed her c-section and wishes the doctors had let her wait to deliver vaginally. She labored for two days and felt too overwhelmed to make her own decision.

“I feel like after the first one, after my first son, I felt like I missed out on something powerful and personal,” Schipani said. “I felt like I was kind of lost in this long, painful hell of a day and a half then had surgery.”

She said if she could do it again, she would have asked for a midwife or a doula to stay with her and advocate on her behalf.

No matter what, Greenfield said people shouldn’t shame each other for choosing not to deliver vaginally.

“My feeling about it is women have the right to make decisions about their bodies,” Greenfield said. “Life is short, and everyone is just struggling to do their best.”

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‘Conversion Therapy’ Viewed as ‘Quackery’ by Gay Man Who Lived It

Courtesy of Mordechai Levovitz (NEW YORK) — Mordechai Levovitz, who says he underwent “conversion therapy” as a child, is “very glad” the White House and President Obama expressed support for a national petition asking to ban “LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.”

The petition asked the Obama administration to “enact Leelah’s Law to ban all LGBTQ+ conversion therapy” after 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by stepping in front of a tractor-trailer in December. Her suicide note was found on Tumblr, where she said she was taken to “very biased” Christian therapists after trying to come out as transgender to her mom, Carla Alcorn, who declined to comment to ABC News.

“I think that it’s really important and very encouraging to hear the leader of our free nation to take a stand against harming children,” Levovitz, 35, told ABC News Friday.

Levovitz, who said he is gay and an Orthodox Jew, works with other LGBTQ youth, many of whom have undergone or are in conversion therapy, through his New York-based organization Jewish Queer Youth. But he’s “still dealing with the trauma” of feeling “abnormal” and “ashamed,” he said.

“It’s hard to get rid of this negative messaging that’s sunk [in] with me that something is wrong with me,” Levovitz said. The American Psychological Association (APA) applauded the Obama administration’s support to ban conversion therapy in a press release Thursday.

“So-called reparative therapies are aimed at ‘fixing’ something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy,” APA’s president Dr. Barry S. Anton said. “There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client. APA has and will continue to call on mental health professionals to work to reduce misunderstanding about and prejudice toward gay and transgender people.”

Levovitz was 4 and living in Boston when his parents sent him to a therapist who tried to convert him because they were concerned he was going around telling people he “wanted to be a girl,” he said.

He loved playing with Barbies, his favorite color was pink and he liked everything that girls liked to do, Levovitz added.

The therapist, whom Levovitz declined to name, blamed his femininity on the Oedipus complex.

“He tried to get me to go to football and baseball games with my dad, but I clearly had no interest,” Levovitz said. “He tried to convince me how wonderful it was to be a boy and how I should stop limping my wrist and fluttering my eyes.”

When Levovitz later moved to New York City at age 11 in 1991, his parents took him to other therapists, who all latched onto the idea he was gay because of “a distant relationship” with his father, he said.

The American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, and said these kinds of “therapies” are “based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.”

The American Psychiatric Association’s latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which defines the standards of the field, does not include homosexuality.

Although Levovitz’s knowledge of conversion therapy are mostly within the Orthodox Jewish community, some experts say people likely to undergo this therapy come from numerous backgrounds.

“Although there’s no good sample data out there, based on my experience most people who undergo this kind of therapy are evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Mormons and other religious or conservative communities,” Clinton Anderson told ABC News Friday.

Anderson, who directs the APA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office, said, “This is because these are the communities with generally negative attitudes to non-heterosexual identities,” he said.

Anderson added that many of these communities have their own networks of providers through which people receive referrals.

Proponents of so-called conversion therapy take a dim view on efforts to curtail it, whether locally or in Washington. “This is very consistent with the Obama Administration,” said Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, a volunteer organization that encourages conservative participation in public policy. “They constantly undermine traditional family values and freedom of speech.

“I support the freedom of speech, and I think on a voluntary basis, any person seeking this kind of counselor should be able to do so. This isn’t about the therapy itself, whether it actually works or not. It’s about if a person chooses to seek such therapy, they should have the right to do so.”

Christopher Doyle, a licensed professional therapist who directs the International Healing Foundation in Bowie, Maryland, said he believes the term “conversion therapy” is a misnomer.

“Youth that seek therapy for unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity conflicts believe there are specific causes for their attractions, such as sexual abuse, and this therapy helps them resolve those causes and the desires that are a consequence,” he said.

“Counselors are not converting gay youth; they’re actually affirming their clients’ desires to live a heterosexual life.”

In Levovitz’s case, he said he doesn’t think his therapists were homophobic, but just wanted to take advantage of vulnerable people and families. “My parents paid thousands for them, and on what?” he asked.

But Levovitz doesn’t want people to judge his parents, he said, adding he believes they had the best of intentions and loved him. Levovitz’s parents declined to comment to ABC News.

Today, Levovitz works with over 800 kids at his nonprofit Jewish Queer Youth. He says that over time, he has seen the climate of acceptance improve for LGBTQ youth in his community. He estimates that 10 years ago, at least 60 percent of the kids in his program, which provides support and community building programs, had undergone some form of conversion or reparative therapy. Today, he thinks the number has gone down to about 30 percent, but he’s still concerned, he said.

“It’s quackery,” he said. “Every week there are kids who come to my organization traumatized and broken because their families sent them to therapists to try to change them and make them straight.”

And because conversion therapy isn’t sound science, therapy sessions vary greatly, he said.

Levovitz said he hopes Obama and the White House’s statement will help promote “work to engage religious people of good will on how to better deal with sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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Allergy Season 2015: Jury Still Out on So-Called Pollen Vortex

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Spring has finally sprung in many places after a record-breaking winter, but you might be reaching for tissues more often than usual this year amid worries about a “pollen vortex.”

Some allergists say a harsher winter means an especially bad allergy season, but the jury’s still out on whether the science backs that up.

Manhattan allergist Dr. Cliff Bassett said “pollen vortex” isn’t exactly a scientific term, but he believes that wet winters lead to more pollen, and therefore, worse allergy seasons.

“Whenever you have a fall and winter with a lot of precipitation like we had in received in most places, the soil is moist,” said Bassett, explaining that this makes the plants and their root systems “very happy” and causes them to produce more pollen in the spring and summer.

On top of that, a late spring also results in what Bassett calls a “pollen tsunami” as a variety of pollen kicks in all at once.

“May is the new April, June is the new May,” he said. “Allergy misery is just around the corner.”

And the carbon dioxide in big cities tells the plants to produce three or four times more pollen, Bassett said, adding that it’s sticky, and adheres to eyeballs, causing itchy watery eyes.

A “pollen vortex” was thought to succeed the “polar vortex” of 2014, but a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology last fall declared that it didn’t happen. In Ontario, Canada, pollen counts were actually lower than they’d been in 12 years, the researchers concluded.

“Our results showed the reported pollen burst failed to materialize last spring,” lead author aerobiologist James Anderson said in a statement. “Specifically, pollen levels of maple, juniper, birch, ash, mulberry and walnut were as much as four to five times lower than the average. The other tree pollen counts were within normal range.”

In Atlanta, they were lower than they’d been in 2013, but there were more high-pollen days, according ACAAI.

No matter what, Bassett suggested that people with allergies begin using their allergy nasal sprays before their symptoms begin to appear. He said in many cases this can reduce the amount of allergy medications patients will need to take overall. He also suggested learning what you’re allergic to, and checking pollen indexes to prepare for bad allergy days by exercising indoors, for instance.

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