Home News Health News HEALTH NEWS: Vitamins Reduce Risk of ASD; Zinc Inhibits Cancer; Cholesterol Drugs Boost Diabetes Risk

HEALTH NEWS: Vitamins Reduce Risk of ASD; Zinc Inhibits Cancer; Cholesterol Drugs Boost Diabetes Risk

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A new study has found that taking multivitamins during early pregnancy may reduce the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. (ASD includes a range of conditions that affect social interaction, communication, interests, and behaviour. Research indicates that it may develop in the womb and that maternal diet during pregnancy could have an influence. But results from previous studies have been inconsistent.)

An international research team set out to assess whether nutrient supplementation during pregnancy is associated with reduced risk of ASD, with and without intellectual disability. The team analyzed over a quarter-million mother-child pairs in which the children were four to 15 years of age by 2011. After adjusting for potential influencing factors in both mothers and children, the researchers found that multivitamin use, with or without additional iron or folic acid, was associated with a lower likelihood of child ASD with intellectual disability, compared to mothers who did not use folic acid, iron, and multivitamins. There was no consistent evidence that either iron or folic acid use were associated with a reduced risk of ASD. (This type of study doesn’t, however, prove cause-and-effect.) The study was published online October 4, 2017 by the British Medical Journal, and is available now at http://tinyurl.com/y7kmf5uc Free of charge.


New research suggests a way that zinc apparently halts the growth of esophageal cancer cells, potentially paving the way for new prevention and treatment methods. (Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of human cancer deaths around the world. The average five-year survival rate for the disease is less than 20%. Earlier work suggested zinc inhibits this cancer, but without an understanding of the mechanism, this protection cannot be verified.)

Scientists set out to uncover why zinc appears to have the ability to prevent cancer in the esophagus by looking at the effect of zinc supplementation on cells. The results showed that zinc selectively halts the growth of cancer cells, but not normal esophageal epithelial cells, a finding that could now lead to new ways of treating, and even preventing, esophageal cancer. Pinpointing the mechanism revealed that zinc impedes overactive calcium signals in cancer cells, signals which are absent in normal cells, and thus zinc selectively inhibits cancer cell growth.

The researchers stressed that an insufficient amount of zinc can also lead to the development of other, non-cancer diseases. Zinc is available in supplements and is present in foods such as spinach, flax seeds, beef, pumpkin seeds, and seafood such as shrimp and oysters.

This study was posted online ahead of eventual publication in the FASEB Journal. The full report can be viewed now at http://tinyurl.com/y8kkxvdj for a fee.


A new study has found that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins can raise the risk of developing Type II diabetes by 30% in some vulnerable people. For the study, obese people were given standard advice on healthy eating and exercise. They were then randomly divided into three groups that randomly assigned to an intensive lifestyle program, or treatment with metformin, or a placebo drug.

Their blood fats and blood pressure were measured annually, and blood glucose was measured twice a year, at which time any new statin prescriptions were recorded. At the beginning of the trial fewer than 4% of volunteers were taking statin drugs, but usage gradually increased so that by the end of the 10-year study period, about a third of patients were taking them. Analysis showed that, regardless of what group the participants had been assigned to, taking a statin was associated with a 30% higher risk of Type II diabetes, compared to those who had not been prescribed these drugs.

The most commonly prescribed statins were simvastatin and atorvastatin. The likelihood of being prescribed a statin drug rose substantially after a diagnosis of diabetes. There was no difference in increased diabetes risk between weaker statins such lovastatin or fluvastatin and stronger statins such as simvastatin or rouvastatin. The results did not differ whether cholesterol decreased or not. The researchers theorize that statins contribute to the development of diabetes by impairing the production of insulin, the hormone that lowers blood glucose. The study author suggested that statins may “uncover” diabetes in individuals already at high risk. This study was published in the October 2017 issue of BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. The study can be read online now at http://tinyurl.com/y9hh2ch5 free of charge.


A new study reports that women who are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) can cut their infections in half by drinking an additional three pints (48 ounces) of water a day. (Up to 60% of women will have a UTI in their lifetime. Doctors have often recommended that women at risk for UTIs increase their fluid intake, but this advice has never undergone a prospective trial before. Women are more likely to get UTIs than men, in part because the urethra is shorter, meaning it is easier for bacteria to travel from the rectum and vagina to the bladder.)

The study included 140 healthy premenopausal women who had at least three UTIs in the last year and reported low daily fluid intake. Half of the women who served as the control group continued their usual daily fluid intake, while the other half were told to drink 1.5 litres of water a day (about three 16-ounce glasses) in addition to their usual daily fluid intake. After one year, women in the control group had 3.1 UTIs on average, while those in the water group had 1.6 UTIs on average, a 48% reduction. As a result, the water group required 47% fewer rounds of antibiotics. (Reducing the use of antibiotics helps decrease the risk of antibiotic resistance.) Water does not need to be consumed by itself: the water in other beverages still counts. Drinking more fluids increases the rate of flushing of bacteria from the bladder and also reduces the concentration of bacteria that enter the bladder from the vagina. This reduces the opportunities for bacteria to attach to cells that line the urinary tract, which is necessary to cause an infection. This study was presented October 8, 2017 at the IDWeek 2017 conference in San Diego.


New evidence suggests that people with low levels of calcium in their blood may be at greater risk of sudden cardiac arrest or SCA. (SCA, one of the leading causes of death, occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, usually due to a malfunction in electrical activity which causes a deadly, irregular heartbeat. It kills 90% of people who experience it, many of whom have no history of heart disease. Calcium is best known for its role in bone health, and researchers have linked high calcium levels to greater risk of heart attack. These new and surprising findings may pave the way for new diagnostic and treatment strategies for SCA.)

Researchers gathered data from 267 people who experienced SCA as well as 445 healthy controls. The blood calcium levels of each patient had been measured in the 90 days before their cardiac arrest. The results revealed that SCA risk was more than tripled (increased 2.3-fold) for participants with the lowest blood calcium levels (under 8.95 mg per deciliter), compared with those who had the highest blood calcium levels (9.55 mg per deciliter). The team noted that the link between blood calcium levels and SCA risk should be investigated in future research. This study was published in the October 2017 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The full study can be read at http://tinyurl.com/y97qv3ap for a fee.

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