Review Category : Health

Scientists Break Down Why Flying East Is Worse for Jet Lag

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When it comes to flying, many avid travelers may notice jet-lag symptoms are particularly bad when heading east instead of west. That may seem to be a figment of your imagination, but it’s actually a known phenomenon confirmed by science.

On Tuesday, researchers from the University of Maryland’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics published a new study in the American Institute of Physics’ Chaos Journal aiming to understand why stepping off a flight cross-country from San Francisco to New York can feel so terrible compared to other way around. They managed to create a new kind of model that showed the brain’s “pacemaker” cells have a harder time going eastward than westward.

The sleep/wake cycle, formally known as the body’s circadian rhythm, is controlled by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Researchers in this new study generated a mathematical model that helps describe how cells in this part of the brain respond to a rapid change in time zone. Essentially, when there is a rapid shift in daylight — such as what happens when a traveler is going east, in the opposite direction of the sun — the brain’s “pacemaker” cells cannot instantly establish a rhythm appropriate to the new time zone, causing symptoms of difficulty sleeping at night and daytime fatigue.

In order to better understand this concept, the study’s author, Michelle Girvan, an associate professor of physics at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Physical Science and Technology, used the analogy of cars racing around a circular track when explaining the function of the brain’s “pacemaker” cells.

In this sense, pacemaker cells work similar to a group of cars moving together around a track. The sun acts like a “man with a yellow flag” that essentially regulates the duration of the course.

“In the absence of a controlling influence, say ‘a man with a yellow flag,’ the group of cells completes the circuit within a period of time that may not correspond exactly to one day,” Girvan explained in a statement. When going the opposite direction of the sun, this impact on the circadian rhythm can mean even worse jet-lag symptoms.

Girvan said that the research could help lead to new approaches to help “combat circadian rhythm disruptions due to rapid cross-time-zone travel, shift work, or blindness.”

Dr. Beth Marlow, a neurologist and director of the sleep division at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the study results could potentially be used to help develop new therapies for those with sleep disruptions.

“If we can understand and model what those cells are doing, it will give us really strong insights in how we can design either new drugs or behavioral strategies … to try and help people,” she told ABC News Tuesday.

Marlow pointed out that people who work night shifts or who travel long distances for work could particularly benefit from the research. She added that even teenagers, who are biologically programmed to go to bed later and sleep later, and older people, who tend to go to bed earlier, may benefit from this kind of research designed at uncovering circadian rhythms.

“People are looking more and more into what it means when you’re not sleeping well,” she said, pointing out studies have shown increased risks for cancer, obesity and diabetes in people who don’t get enough sleep. “It wreaks havoc with your system when you’re off sync.”

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Study: Could Thumb-Sucking and Nail-Biting Help Keep Allergies at Bay?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Kid’s got allergies? Thumb sucking might do the trick.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics states that children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails are less likely to have allergic-type reactions to a variety of things than children who don’t. Moreover, children who do both have the lowest positive tests on skin-prick tests for allergies.

TIME magazine reports researchers from Canada and New Zealand followed roughly 1,000 people from birth until age 32 and tested them periodically for allergies using a skin-prick test. While testing positive indicated they were allergic, it didn’t necessarily mean that severe reactions to the allergens would occur.

Roughly half of those who didn’t suck their thumb or bite their nails as children tested positive for allergies at age 32. Children who had at least one of the two habits were 40 percent less likely to test positive as adults, and children who did both showed the lowest rates of reactions to the allergens — 31 percent — as adults.

The findings support a hypothesis that states that childhood exposure to bacteria, viruses and allergens can strengthen the immune system. It’s possible that the germs that children ingest from sucking their thumbs or biting their nails sets up certain populations of microbes in the gut that can educate the immune system and get it ready to mount attacks against other, more unfriendly and disease-causing germs.

The data does not, however, suggest that thumb sucking and nail biting are a preventative for allergies.

Dr. Malcolm Sears, a respirologist at McMaster University and one of the co-authors of the study, sums it up: “What we are saying is don’t be quite so afraid of a little bit of dirt.”

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Some Betty Crocker Cake Mixes Recalled over E.coli Fears

General Mills(NEW YORK) — Three kinds of Betty Crocker cake mix sold in both the U.S. and Canada are being voluntarily recalled by General Mills over concerns they could be contaminated with E.coli.

General Mills announced the voluntary recall of the cake mixes Monday as part of a larger recall of various products containing flour that was linked to an E.coli outbreak. The mixes affected are called Betty Crocker Delights Super Moist Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Betty Crocker Delights Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix.

In Canada, a flavor called Betty Crocker Super Moist Rainbow Bit Cake Mix has been recalled as well. More information can be found about the recall of these mixes here.

In all three cake mixes, a General Mills supplier used Gold Medal Wondra flour, a quick-dissolving variety, which has since been recalled.

Three types of flour, all manufactured by General Mills, are involved in the overall recall: Gold Medal Flour, Signature Kitchens Flour, and Gold Medal Wondra Flour. The specific lots recalled can be found at here.

Since last month, General Mills has voluntarily recalled 30 million pounds of flour after an E. coli outbreak was reported in June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flour produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri, is believed to be the source of the contamination, CDC officials said earlier this month. General Mills said that the Food and Drug Administration identified one sample from its recalled flour that tested positive for E. coli O121.

Since the outbreak was first reported, there have been 42 reported cases of E. coli infection and 11 people were hospitalized, according to the CDC. Those infected ranged in age from 1 to 95 with a median age of 18, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of E.coli infection include diarrhea and cramps. In rare cases, the disease can lead to kidney failure.

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Surgeon Who Treated Fatally Wounded Dallas Officers Says ‘It Weighs on My Mind Constantly’ — Doctors from the Parkland Hospital in Dallas recounted in an emotional news conference Monday the painful details of the night they treated seven police officers injured in last week’s shooting. Three of the officers died at the hospital.

Surgeons recalled the chaotic night and the pain of not being able to save officers fatally injured in the line of duty. There were already more than 300 people in the emergency room, according to one hospital officials, and the police officers assigned to the hospital were about to switch shifts when the shooting victims first started to appear, the first in the back of a police car with no advance notice, according to Dan Birbeck, captain of the Parkland Hospital Police Department.

“The officers that had put in their time would not leave,” Birbeck told reporters Monday. “Our main objective was to make sure the facility was safe.”

He pointed out it was initially unclear if there were multiple shooters at large. The hospital officers stayed on duty as the injured Dallas police officers started to arrive.

“This is probably the worst thing I’ve seen come through here. It’s shaken me to the core,” Birbeck said. “One of the toughest things I ever had to do was stand outside the room of those fallen guys.”

Dr. Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon on call at Parkland Hospital, gave a moving account of caring for the officers, including the three men the doctors could not save.

“I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly,” he told reporters. The trauma bay is located within the normal emergency department and while there were enough medical staff to treat the injured, staff members from other divisions started coming to the ER to see how they could help, Williams recalled.

During the time that the injured officers were treated, another 134 patients were admitted to the hospital that night, plus an additional 10 trauma cases unrelated to the shooting. Parkland Hospital was the facility that treated President John F. Kennedy after he was fatally shot in 1963.

Dr. Alex Eastman, also a trauma surgeon and the deputy medical director of Dallas Police Department, was on the scene of the shooting as part of the SWAT team before he returned to the hospital the next morning. He said the hospital is like a family and that everyone has been trying to support one another through the harrowing last few days.

“When I got here on Friday morning, I was pretty ragged out with what we had just been through downtown,” Eastman said. “But I had to come here and see how the family was doing on this end and the first group of people I ran into were trauma nurses. … I could tell they were relieved that I was OK. I was also relieved that they were OK.”

Both Eastman and Williams said they have been working non-stop since Thursday’s shooting and Eastman said he missed his son’s birthday on Saturday due to a police call.

“Nearly everyone in this room that’s not behind a camera called me, texted me, checked on me,” Eastman said during Monday’s news conference, referring to the support he had from other members of the hospital staff.

Williams also talked about how the events of the previous week, including the shooting deaths of unarmed black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana, had already affected him even before the shootings in Dallas.

“This experience has been very personal to me and a turning point in my life,” he said.

“The preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I think the reasons are obvious. I fit that demographic of individuals” shot by police, Williams said.

Williams went on to call for “open discussions” on race relations in the hopes it will bring people together.

“I abhor what has been done to these officer and I grieve with the families,” he said. “I understand the anger and frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem.”

Williams said that at one point he was asked whether the hospital should stop taking trauma cases.

“No, we are Parkland. We don’t shut down,” he recalled replying.

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Dallas Surgeon Delivers Poignant Message About Defending Police, But Also Fearing Them

Photodisc/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — The trauma surgeon who treated seven injured Dallas police officers gave an emotional interview Monday about how his experiences as a black man have complicated the emotional impact of the shooting that killed five police officers.

Dr. Brian Williams, a trauma surgeon in Parkland Medical Center, talked about how he supports law enforcement despite the fact he has feared for his safety while interacting with police officers in the past.

“Talking about the emotional impact — it’s much more complicated for me personally,” Williams said. “It’s not just about the one night, it’s about the racial undertones that affect, impact all of this. It began for me much longer than those cops who came through the door.”

Williams started out speaking during Monday’s news conference about the need for people to come together to stop violence and the deaths. But he also said he understood the fear of dealing with police officers.

“There’s this dichotomy where I am standing with law enforcement. But I also personally feel and understand the angst when you cross the paths of an officer in uniform and you’re fearing for your safety,” Williams said. “I’ve been there and I understand that. But for me that does not condone disrespecting and killing police officers.”

When asked how he handles this with his daughter, he said he makes a point of picking up the tab for officers when he sees Dallas police officers out at a restaurant.

“I want my daughter to see me interacting with police that way so she doesn’t grow up with the same burden I carry when it comes to interacting with law enforcement,” he said.

He said his goal is to have more interactions so that police can understand his perspective of these interactions.

“I also want the Dallas PD to see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you,” Williams said. “That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you.”

Williams called for open conversations on race relations in the wake of the Dallas shooting and the police-involved shooting deaths of two unarmed black men — in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Dan Birbeck, the captain of the Parkland Hospital Police Department, was also at Monday’s news conference and commended Williams for his work to save the officers in the emergency room.

“Not for a second did he think about anything else that was going on,” Birbeck said.

Sitting next to Williams at the news conference was Dr. Alex Eastman, a trauma surgeon who is also a lieutenant at the Dallas Police Department. He said the events of the past week have helped bring him and Williams closer together as friends.

“I’ve watch us all struggle through this,” Eastman said. “Brian and I have had some very long hugs and beginning of some very challenging conversations about how we move forward from here.”

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President Obama Defends Obamacare in Medical Journal

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama took the unusual step of authoring a report in a prestigious medical journal to defend and draw attention to his signature Affordable Care Act. Obama is listed as the sole author of a report published Monday in the Special Communications section in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

Obama detailed progresses from the ACA or Obamacare, the most sweeping health care legislation passed in the U.S. since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.

Using government data, Obama pointed out the legislation has succeeded in its goal of increasing insurance coverage with the uninsured rate dropping by 43 percent from 16 percent in 2010 to 9.1 percent in 2015. Additionally, he pointed out the number of uninsured individuals has declined from 49 million to 29 million during this same period.

He also says that the growth in Medicare spending has slowed since Obamacare took effect.

“Despite this progress, too many Americans still strain to pay for their physician visits and prescriptions, cover their deductibles, or pay their monthly insurance bills; struggle to navigate a complex, sometimes bewildering system; and remain uninsured,” Obama wrote.

As the president prepares to leave office next year he called on policy makers to build on the legislation by reducing prescription drug costs and encouraging competition among insurance plans.

“We need to continue to tackle special interest dollars in politics,” he wrote. “But we also need to reinforce the sense of mission in health care that brought us an affordable polio vaccine and widely available penicillin.”

In editorials about the report, experts said more needed to be done to understand the full effects of Obamacare.

“With an estimated expansion in health insurance of 20 million individuals, President Obama is right to claim credit for the ACA,” Jonathan Skinner of the Department of Economics at Dartmouth and Amitabh Chandra of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University wrote in an accompanying editorial. “But counting up the number of individuals with insurance is not enough to assess if the ACA was a success.”

JAMA’s editor-in-chief, Howard Bauchner, said the president needed to address those who remained uninsured and rising costs.

“Although the president outlines numerous future challenges, such as further expansion of Medicaid, controlling the increase in drug prices, and the need for greater competition in certain health care markets, he does not specifically directly address the 20 million to 25 million individuals who remain uninsured or the increase in health care costs in the private sector,” Bauchner wrote in his editorial.

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Dad Takes On Breastfeeding Shamers in Viral Facebook Video

Lauren Smith(MIAMI) — Bring it, breastfeeding shamers.

A Florida dad recently took on naysayers in a video posted to Facebook that calls attention to the hypocrisy and absurdity of their requests.

The video shows the father of two, Brock Smith, sympathizing with his 9-week-old daughter by attempting to eat his lunch under the cover of a blanket. “I wish I didn’t have to eat with a blanket over my head,” he says, reaching around the table.

“As a dad and a husband … I’ve had enough of this asinine argument,” he captioned the video.

The video, which was then posted to the popular page Breastfeeding Mama Talks, has since been viewed more than 147,000 times.

“We just think it’s ridiculous that people have an issue with something women were created to do,” Smith told ABC News.

“We can’t imagine having to eat underneath a covering,” he added. “The day the video was taken, it was 104 degrees. So for people who do have an issue, put yourself in the baby’s shoes.”

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Mom ‘in Tears’ Over Inspiring Letter Teacher Sent to Her Son with Autism

Courtesy Gail Twist(ST HELENS, England) — One U.K. mom was brought to tears last week after her son’s teacher mailed him an uplifting note following the completion of a standardized test.

“I just didn’t expect it at all,” Gail Twist of St. Helens, United Kingdom, told ABC News Monday. “For someone to take the time to think about it and write that, it shocked me. It just broke me. It’s great when there’s something positive to share about such a wonderful teacher.”

Twist said her son Ben, 11, was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old.

Ben attends the sixth grade at Lansbury Bridge School and Sports College in St. Helens. In second grade, students take stage one of their SATs in various subjects and then measured again in grade six, Twist said.

Lansbury is a school for children with special needs. Ben was the only child in his school to take the SATs this year, his teacher’s assistant Ruth Clarkson confirmed to ABC News Monday.

On July 8, Twist received Ben’s test results from Clarkson. Ben also received a special letter from Clarkson, who commended him on his many strengths and abilities, highlighting that the SATs “only measure a little bit” of who he is as a person and as a student.

Clarkson goes on to list talents Ben possesses, such as his kindness, ability to keep friends and musical talent, among others.

“… These are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man,” Clarkson wrote on behalf of the five teachers in his class. “Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.”

Twist posted the letter onto Twitter July 9, where it has since received more than 2,000 shares.

“All the staffers are just shining examples of what an educators should be,” she said of Ben’s teachers. “They did it because they care and I think that’s just so important.”

“We’re absolutely thrilled that Ben and his family are so happy,” Clarkson told ABC News. “We are very proud of Ben. It’s a letter that I’d send to any young person in year 6 that has worked as heard as Ben has.”

As for Ben’s reaction to the letter, his mother said he thinks it’s “awesome.”

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‘Superbug’ E. Coli Found for Just Second Time in US

Ian Cuming/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — For just the second time in the U.S., researchers have found evidence of an E. coli bacteria that is genetically resistant to a last-resort antibiotic, according to a new report published today in the medical journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The “superbug” has a specific gene that makes it resistant to treatment from colistin, an antibiotic often used by doctors as a last resort for antibiotic-resistant infections, the report states.

In this case, the bacteria was genetically resistant to colisitin, but not to other forms of antibiotics that could be used to kill the E. coli bacteria. However, researchers are concerned that these bacteria could transfer genes to E. coli and other forms of bacteria that are already resistant to all forms of antibiotics except colisitin, leading to the chance of a fully antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. Researchers are especially concerned about the possibility that the gene could be transferred within the family of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae, which includes E. coli. Different bacterial strains in that family of bacteria are already largely resistant to many kind of antibiotics in the U.S.

Researchers found the strain by testing 13,562 E. coli strains collected at hospitals across the globe. They found 19 strains had the gene mcr-1 that makes E.coli resistant to colistin. In a single case, that strain was found in the U.S.

Researchers said the global findings are alarming because it means there may be an increasing likelihood of having outbreaks from E. coli bacteria that totally resistant to antibiotics.

“The fact that the gene has been detected in food livestock and raw meat is also concerning,” said report co-author Mariana Castanheira, director for Molecular and Microbiology at JMI Laboratories.

Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, said the report was alarming, but not surprising for infectious disease experts.

“It’s basically a wake up call,” Esper told ABC News. “It’s only going to be a matter of time where the perfect storm happens…. Next thing you know you throw your hands up and say we’re out of ammunition,” to fight certain infections.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said health experts have been worried for years that there will be a rise in completely drug-resistant bacteria, especially since there have been few antibiotic breakthroughs in recent years.

Schaffner said there are several things that need to happen to minimize the chance of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“[One], we prescribe antibiotics much more prudentially…. No. 2, we have to stop using antibiotics as freely as we do in our food industry,” said Schaffner. “No. 3, we need to energize and create environments so pharmaceutical companies will once again start” developing antibiotics.

Schaffner said many pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to create new antibiotics since they are usually used sparingly, for a limited time, and because the bacteria immediately start to become resistant to them, making them more likely to be useless.

But Schaffner emphasized that more needs to be done to develop new antibiotics since there could be a spike of antibiotic-resistant bacteria outbreaks in the coming years.

“Developing new antibiotics is a long-term commitment and we think in terms of five to 10 years,” he said. “As that Chinese proverb states, ‘the longest journey begins with first steps.’ We ought to make those steps now because we’re going to need those new antibiotics years from now.”

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Your Body: Extended Breast Cancer Treatment

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

Extended treatment for breast cancer could prevent progression, according to researchers.

For patients with hormone receptor positive breast cancer, which accounts for two-thirds of breast cancer cases, the current after treatment includes five years of a daily hormonal pill. That pill serves both to control the cancer and to prevent recurrence.

Researchers from the U.S. and Canada have found that extending the life of that therapy from five years to 10 years helps to prevent progression or recurrence of disease.

The information, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, reveals that recurrence over a five-year period occurred in only 5 percent of patients who took 10 years of pills like Tamoxifen compared to 9 percent of those who received placebo.

This is highly anticipated data, and most cancer specialists anticipate that, in the future, guidelines will change to reflect this.

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