Review Category : Health

Possible Link Between Eye Color and Alcoholism Risk Revealed in New Study

malyugin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There’s a new potential clue in the ongoing effort to understand the genetic links to alcoholism: eye color.

People with lighter eye colors appear to be more likely to develop alcoholism, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

The study, published this week, examined genetic samples from 1,263 people with alcohol dependency and found that those with lighter eyes, especially blue eyes, appeared to develop alcoholism at a higher rate.

“This suggests an intriguing possibility — that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis,” Arvis Sulovari, study author and a doctoral student in cellular, molecular and biomedical sciences at the University of Vermont, said in a statement.

Neither Sulovari or lead author Dawei Li, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Vermont, said they think there will be one genetic silver bullet to stop alcoholism. But knowing more about the genetics involved could mean that someday doctors might be able to identify from specific genes which people are most at risk for certain disorders, including alcoholism, by looking at their eye color or hair color.

“That would be the our long-term [goal], that it could be applied to the clinic,” Li told ABC News on Thursday. “For me as a scientist, there is still a long way to go.”

Li said more research was needed to confirm these early findings.

“These are complex disorders,” Li also said in a statement. “There are many genes, and there are many environmental triggers.”

Jehannine Austin, a psychiatric disorders expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors, said the study was intriguing but that more work needed to be done.

“What we know about alcoholism is that it’s a complex disorder,” Austin told ABC News. “It’s one of the conditions that we know arises form combined effects of genetic variations acting together with our experiences.”

However, Austin said knowing more about possible genetic links could mean in the future people can better understand their risk factor. Austin said people probably do not need to worry if they have blue eyes. However, she said if they also have a family history, they can meet with a genetic counselor to talk about risks of developing alcoholism.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why Mass Killings May Be Contagious, New Study Examines

Moxe/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study is examining whether a single mass killing can be “contagious” — and therefore lead to other violent incidents.

Researchers from Arizona State University examined data from mass shootings and looked for “clusters” of shootings that would indicate they didn’t occur at the same time by chance.

Sherry Tower, lead author of the study and research professor in the Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University, said she was inspired to start the study after she was nearly involved in a school shooting.

“In January of 2014 I was due to have a meeting with a group of researchers at Purdue University,” she said in a statement. “That morning there was a tragic campus shooting and stabbing incident that left one student dead.”

While she managed to avoid the deadly event, she remembered that there had already been three other school shootings that week.

“It seemed like an usually high number to me,” she told ABC News. “I wondered if they were coming in clusters or if it was a statistical fluke. We decided we would take a look into it.”

Tower said a model formerly used to predict aftershocks was successfully found to predict gang violence, finding that one violent incident lead to another. She said she wanted to see if the same was true for mass killings. Mass killings involve the murder of four or more people by any means.

Tower and her team decided to go through data on mass killings complied by the Brady Foundation and USA Today since there is no federal database on mass killings. They found that the probability of a mass killing or school shooting increased between 20 to 30 percent for an average of 13 days.

Towers said for every three mass killings one more was incited due to “contagion.” For school shootings, every three events appeared to incite one additional event.

Towers suggested that it’s possible that the intense media attention these events could lead to other vulnerable individuals getting the idea to carry out a similar action.

“It occurred to us that mass killings and school shootings that attract attention in the national news media can potentially do the same thing, but at a larger scale,” Towers said in a statement.

Ervin Straub, psychology professor and founding director of doctorate program in Psychology of Peace and Violence at University of Massachusetts Amherst, said he wasn’t surprised by the study’s finding.

“I think the idea that one can do this comes up in people’s [consciousness,]” Straub said of those who might be inspired to commit similar violence. “That motivation might be activated by the example of others.”

He said in past cases certain violent acts were nonexistent until someone made the first move.

“We know for example when the first airplane was hijacked…a wave of hijacking happened,” said Straub. “There was a curve that showed it started from nowhere and it went up and up.”

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Georgia Dentist Office Defends ‘Papoose’ Restraint After Parent Complaint

Fuse/Thinkstock(CARROLTON, Ga.) — A Georgia dentistry practice that’s under fire for using a restraint device on a child is defending its use of the so-called papoose board, saying every parent signs a consent form and is allowed to stay with the child during a procedure.

“[The] guideline is, if the child is moving a lot or crying or kicking, we get the parents and take parent to the back and tell them what’s going on,” Office Manager Felicia Evans of Smiles R Us in Carrolton, Georgia, told ABC News Thursday.

James Crow and his mother, Evelyn Crow, told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that they were horrified to find his 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth in the device when she went to have a tooth pulled. Evelyn Crow told the station she and her son heard Elizabeth shouting before finding her in the exam room strapped to the restraint device.

“I couldn’t see my kid in the body bag just strapped down to the bed; I couldn’t handle it,” James Crow told WSB-TV.

“This little girl was frightened, I had to carry her out, she was shaking so bad,” Evelyn Crow told WSB-TV.

But the dentistry practice says the boards are only used with parental consent and that parents are welcome to stay with the child during any procedure.

Evans, the office manager, said dentists in the office use the papoose board, which restrains a child’s arms and legs, if excessive movement interferes with treatment or risks injury.

Evans said the consent form is read to parents and they can stay with the child if the papoose board is used. She said she was unaware of any legal complaints being filed regarding the restraints.

Calls to both James and Evelyn Crow for further comment were not immediately answered.

Dr. Mary Hayes, a spokeswoman for the American Dentistry Association, said the papoose board is designed to keep children safe during their visit to the dentist.

“When it’s often used, it’s trying to prevent movement which is going to interfere with a treatment,” Hayes said. “In the emergency room when the child needs suturing, [protective] stabilization is used quite a bit.”

Hayes said it’s important to keep parents informed and get consent for the procedure to foster a sense of trust and communication between the dentist and the family.

Also, according to guidelines posted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dentists should be wary of using restraints for “protective” stabilization because “the use of protective stabilization has the potential to produce serious consequences, such as physical or psychological harm, loss of dignity, and violation of a patient’s rights.”

If restraints are used, however, the AAPD recommends that “informed consent must be obtained and documented in the patient’s record prior to use of protective stabilization.”

Papoose boards have been the subject of controversy in the past, with some medical experts questioning their use. Dr. Joel Weaver, a dentist and former editor-in-chief of Anesthesia Progress, has questioned why such restraints are still used, calling them a “brutal, archaic practice.”

“We now must start the process to improve anesthetic availability in dentistry for the sake of our children and grandchildren, so there will be no need for physical restraint to have a cavity filled,” Weaver wrote in a 2010 article.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t Fooling Your Brain

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — They may fool your tongue, but they’re not fooling your brain. Artificial sweeteners, that is. And it could mean they’re not as beneficial to losing weight as we may think.

A new study published in the journal Neuron finds although some common “no-calorie” artificial sweeteners may do a fine job of tricking the taste buds into thinking we’re eating real sugar, your brain isn’t so easily fooled. That’s because real sugar elicits a specific chemical response that tells the brain “Hey, you’ve just had some sugar.” That makes the brain happy, and the sugar craving goes away.

Artificial sweeteners, however, don’t trigger that same chemical response in the brain, which researchers at the University of Michigan confirmed by feeding fruit flies real sugar and artificial sweeteners, both, and observing their reactions.

What’s it mean? While your taste buds may be satisfied by artificial sweeteners, your brain isn’t. And if your brain still craves sugar, you could wind up eating those real-sugar treats after all, no matter how many artificially sweetened snacks you’re already scarfed down.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Do Blue Eyes Mean a Greater Chance of Alcoholism?

iStock/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, Vt.) — Go ahead, have another drink — unless you’ve got blue eyes. Then you might want to switch to soda, according to a new study that claims people with lighter-colored eyes have a greater chance of becoming alcoholics.

As reported by Science Daily, researchers at the University of Vermont found Americans of European descent who had eyes that were blue, green, gray or brown in the center had a greater degree of alcohol dependency that people with brown eyes. Blue-eyed people had the highest incidence of alcoholism of all eye colors.

As for why that is, the researchers don’t yet know, but say that just as genetics determine eye color, the study shows eye color may signal that a person has a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse — something the study’s authors suggest can be useful at the clinical level in diagnosing and treating alcoholism.

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Nick Jonas Chides CrossFit over Diabetes Tweet

Image Group LA/ABC(NEW YORK) — Singer Nick Jonas is taking on CrossFit after the company’s tweet about diabetes and an iconic sugary drink.

In a tweet on Monday, the extreme fitness company wrote: “Pour some out for your dead homies.” The comment was posted next to an image of a Coca-Cola bottle and the words “Open Diabetes” and with the hashtags #CrossFit #sugarkills. The tweet was signed by CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman.

The “Jealous” singer responded on Twitter to take Glassman to task, writing: “This is not cool. Please know and understand the difference between type one and type diabetes before making ignorant comments. Sensitivity to all diseases, and proper education on the cause and day to day battle is important.”

Jonas, 22, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13.

Formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ medical contributor and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist. The cause appears to be unknown, although the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

In Type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas stops producing enough of the essential hormone. Contributing factors in this form of the disease appear to include being overweight and inactive, also according to Ashton.

CrossFit didn’t appear the least bit chastened by Jonas’ rebuke and by the rebuff from others who joined in to express their displeasure. In fact, the company has continued to tweet about the issue.

It responded to Jonas this way: “Anyone can get T2 diabetes, even those with T1. Stop assuming we don’t grasp the difference and help us raise awareness.”

And when another critic wrote: “Not sure @CocaCola appreciates your trademark infringement that insults 29 million U.S. families,” the company responded: “If insulting the sensitive can save some of the 1/3 of Americans who will get T2 diabetes, so be it.”

Glassman, CrossFit’s CEO, issued a statement to ABC News in response to Jonas’ tweet.

“This is about the scourge of Type 2 diabetes and it’s underlying causes. His sponsor, Coca-Cola, is a significant contributor to the diabetes epidemic both with product and ‘marketing’ spend,” the statement read in part.

The rest of Glassman’s statement was so aggressive, it was not suitable to print.

Coca-Cola told ABC News that Jonas is not a paid spokesman for the company. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman also responded directly to Glassman, saying that, like him, “we recognize the importance of physical activity and moderation.”

“We promote choice and thoughtful consumption, and through our work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation we’re working to reduce overall beverage calories,” the spokeswoman told ABC News. “We know these actions will make a real and measurable difference.”

A representative for Jonas also confirms the singer is not affiliated with Coca-Cola.

“Nick has never had a deal or a sponsorship with Coca Cola,” Jonas’ representative told ABC News. “This is a company desperate for publicity, but it’s bizarre that they’d try to achieve it behind such a thoughtless tweet.”

Jonas has been an advocate for awareness around Type 1 diabetes since his diagnosis and is currently a spokesperson for Dexcom, the glucose monitoring system he uses.

The singer testified about the disease in a 2009 hearing on Capitol Hill.

“It has not been easy but diabetes technology has really helped me be able to manage my diabetes,” Jonas told lawmakers.

Ashton says the conversation sparked by CrossFit’s tweet is an important one to have.

“I think or hope the intention was to motivate people to live a healthier lifestyle but, in reality, it came out as blaming people who are living with a chronic and potentially very serious illness,” she said.

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Your Body: Where Do Teens Get Their Health Information?

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

I get questions from teenagers every day — and not just in my own house from my own teenage children, but from my teenage patients.

I’ll get a text, a Tweet, a Facebook message — even an Instagram message. But where do most teens get their health information?

Today, they can look up anything they want on the Internet. New findings show that teens are also looking up answers to the questions they have about their health, like reducing anxiety or stress, losing weight and improving sleep.

Now, this doesn’t mean that parents, doctors and coaches are totally out of the picture. Most teen surveys say they still turn to these trusted figures.

So remember mom and dad: Even though your teens may find their help tips on screens, they will still look to you for guidance.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Where Do Teens Get Their Health Information?

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

I get questions from teenagers every day — and not just in my own house from my own teenage children, but from my teenage patients.

I’ll get a text, a Tweet, a Facebook message — even an Instagram message. But where do most teens get their health information?

Today, they can look up anything they want on the Internet. New findings show that teens are also looking up answers to the questions they have about their health, like reducing anxiety or stress, losing weight and improving sleep.

Now, this doesn’t mean that parents, doctors and coaches are totally out of the picture. Most teen surveys say they still turn to these trusted figures.

So remember mom and dad: Even though your teens may find their help tips on screens, they will still look to you for guidance.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why Female Prison Employees May Risk Having Sexual Relationships with Inmates

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As allegations emerged about the potential relationship between two escaped convicted felons and a prison employee, one former female corrections officer is providing an insider perspective on forbidden love behind bars.

According to Robin Kay Miller, 53, a corrections officer for nearly 20 years until she retired in 2005, sex between officers and inmates has always been an issue in prison. Miller is writing a book about her experience working in the prison system.

“Inmates are con artists,” she said. “They know how to play the game and they know how to manipulate.”

Joyce Mitchell, a 51-year-old prison tailor shop worker, was arrested last month on charges that she helped convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt escape from a maximum security prison in upstate New York. She has pleaded not guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.

Officials also investigated Mitchell for a suspected relationship with Sweat during the past year, but no action was taken against her at the time.

Prison officials were investigating whether she may have been having sex with other inmates. Mitchell’s lawyer said she consistently denied the allegation.

Former inmate Erik Jensen, who worked at the prison tailor shop with Matt, Sweat and employee Joyce Mitchell three years ago, said Sweat paid Mitchell a lot of attention.

“We had a joke,” Jensen said. “It was like, that was his boo, that was his girl… she would bring him like barbeque chicken, spareribs, things that were cooked on her home grill.”

Miller, who did not work at the prison where Matt and Sweat escaped from, the Clinton Correctional Facility, said in her experience usually male inmates will target the female officers.

“They look for the weak. They look for insecurity,” she said. “They look if they’re beautiful, body parts, the unintelligent, the not so bright, and then they look for the hustler, hustler females, and then they look for the promiscuous females.”

“The inmate would throw the compliments you know, ‘Baby you look good today, oh your hair looks nice,’” Miller continued. “Men know there are things that women like to hear.”

According to federal government reports, sexual relationships between inmates and prison employees are fairly common. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report in January 2014 reviewing data collected on sexual victimization in prisons from 2009 to 2011, in which they found that almost half – 48 percent — of substantiated incidents of sexual victimization involved guards and inmates, while the other 52 percent involved only inmates.

Gender appeared to play some kind of role in the nature of the banned relationships, as 84 percent of the relationships that female staffers had with inmates “appeared to be willing,” whereas only 37 percent of the relationships between male guards and inmates qualified as such, according to the report.

Although the inmates are supposed to be monitored 24/7, Miller said, that it’s “very easy” for a female corrections officer to have sex with an inmate inside a prison.

“You have blind spots,” she said. “They’re taking them in the officers’ bathroom… or you have female officers that have steady posts like sanitation or where they can take the inmate out of the housing area.”

A string of recent cases of prison misconduct have focused on female officers and workers inside the prison system having relationships with inmates.

Aside from the case of Sweat and Mitchell, there was a second case in June of a female prison employee’s alleged sexual relationship with an inmate having a connection with a North Carolina jailbreak.

Earlier this year in Oregon, two jail staffers, Brett Robinson and Jill Curry, admitted to sneaking an inmate out for sex. Both are now behind bars after being charged with custodial sexual misconduct.

In 2013, a Baltimore inmate and notorious gang leader was accused of having sexual relations with multiple female officers and impregnating four of them. That same year in New York, prison guard Nancy Gonzalez was arrested – and later sentenced to a year and a day – for sexual abuse after getting pregnant by an inmate she was guarding who was doing time for killing a police officer.

Not to mention that the number of female corrections officers in male prison facilitates has gone up in recent years – up from 24 percent to 40 percent between 2001 and 2007, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Miller said some female corrections officers are willing to risk their jobs for the sake of having the relationship with an inmate because they like the attention and they get emotionally attached.

“Them dealing with an inmate in jail is no different than them dealing with a man in the street,” Miller said. “Female corrections officers, we’re on that job basically eight to 16 hours a day doing overtime. Every day. That’s basically our second home and if they don’t have anybody at home or their man is not treating them right and then they come to work and this man is full of compliments and just telling them that he loves and them and he gone suck them in. Once you get sucked in, you not thinking it’s wrong.”

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Study: Surgery May Beat Diet and Exercise for Diabetes

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Recent research has pointed to the effectiveness of weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass and laparoscopic banding in treating diabetes. Now, a new study suggests that these surgical approaches may even be more effective at eliminating the disease than the tried-and-true methods of lifestyle intervention — in other words, diet and exercise.

Researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in which they assigned obese patients with type 2 diabetes to either get gastric bypass with lifestyle intervention for two years, laparoscopic banding with a similar period of lifestyle intervention, or lifestyle intervention alone.

They found that among those who received the surgical interventions, a significant portion were free of diabetes after three years. None of those who got the lifestyle interventions alone, however, achieved this feat.

This study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery, was the first of its kind to study the effects of surgical interventions of weight loss for up to three years.

It is worth noting that in order to be eligible for weight loss surgery, a patient must either have a body mass index (BMI) over 40, have a BMI from 35-40 with other weight-related conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure, or have a BMI from 30-34.9 with severe weight-related conditions. This means that not all patients would qualify for these surgical interventions.

Also, previous studies have shown that patients whose diabetes has been eliminated after bariatric surgery can potentially relapse by the five-year follow-up mark.

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