Higher levels of iron in pregnant women may lead to an increased risk of gestational diabetes, a new study has warned.

The study by researchers from US National Institutes of Health (NIH) also raises questions about routine recommendations on iron supplementation in pregnancy.

Iron is regarded as a double-edged sword in living systems, as both its deficiency and excess can be harmful, researchers said.

While many guidelines recommend screening and treatment only as necessary for iron deficiency, several other groups such as the World Health Organisation (WHO recommend routine iron supplementation among pregnant women.

Emerging evidence has pointed to a possible link between higher iron stores and abnormal blood sugar control (including type 2 diabetes) in non-pregnant individuals.
Researchers did a case-control study of 107 gestational diabetes (GDM) cases and 214 controls (matched on age, gestational week of blood collection and race/ethnicity).

They looked at several biomarkers of iron status, including plasma hepcidin, ferritin, and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), and these data were used to calculate the sTfR:ferritin ratio, which captures both cellular iron need and availability of body iron stores.

These markers were longitudinally measured or calculated four times during pregnancy, twice before GDM diagnosis (gestational weeks 10-14 and 15-26), and twice afterwards (gestational weeks 23-31 and 33-39).

GDM diagnosis was ascertained from medical records based on oral glucose tolerance test results.

Statistical modelling was then used to calculate the odds ratio of GDM with iron status, accounting for factors such as demographics, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), and other major risk factors.

Researchers found that for both hepcidin and ferritin, in the second trimester of pregnancy, those in the top 25 per cent of levels of these markers had around a 2.5 times increased subsequent risk of developing GDM compared with those in the bottom 25 per cent.

Similar findings were observed for ferritin levels in the first trimester. Describing the findings as biologically plausible, researchers offer various potential explanations.

Iron may play a role in the development of GDM through several potential mechanisms. As a strong pro-oxidant, free iron can promote several cellular reactions that generate reactive oxygen species and increase the level of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress induced from excess iron accumulation can cause damage to and death of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin and consequently, contribute to impaired insulin synthesis and secretion.The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

More than half of India's area is "vulnerable" to earthquakes and several of its cities are at "high risk", a catastrophe risk management firm said today and advised "closing" these gaps. Speaking ahead of three-day Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction beginning tomorrow, the firm, in a statement, said that high quality and high resolution risk models are a "key" first step in helping drive the expansion of catastrophe insurance. "More than half of India by area is vulnerable to earthquakes and almost forty cities are particularly at risk. The rapid expansion in population and development in India is moving too fast to ensure adequate standards of protection," Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer of the firm RMS, said, according to a statement. Muir-Wood noted that India has the highest number of people exposed to flood risk of any country worldwide, and the fastest increase in flood risk from development and climate change. He said the widespread damage from earthquake to ordinary buildings as seen in Nepal, after massive quake hit the Himalayan country last year, "could equally be the outcome in many cities in India." Referring to events such as 2001 Gujarat earthquake, 2005 Mumbai floods and inundation in Chennai last year, Muir-Wood added, "...the protection gap in India must be closed." Courtesy – Deccan Herald
Thursday, 03 November 2016 16:53

Smoking may harm HIV patients more than the virus

Written by

Smoking cigarettes may shorten the lifespan of people living with HIV more than the deadly virus itself, scientists including one of Indian origin have found.

The study suggests that making smoking cessation a priority and finding effective ways to help people with HIV quit can significantly improve their lifespan.

"Now that HIV-specific medicines are so effective against the virus itself, we also need to add other interventions that could improve and extend the lives of people with HIV," said Krishna P Reddy, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Smoking is especially dangerous for people living with HIV, putting them at high risk for heart disease, cancer, serious lung diseases and other infections.

Researchers used a computer simulation of HIV disease and treatment to project the life expectancy of people living with HIV based on their smoking status.

For men and women with HIV who adhere well to HIV medicines, the study found that smoking reduces life expectancy by about twice as much as HIV.

The study also accounts for higher rates of non-adherence to HIV drug regimens and lower retention in care, making the latest findings especially relevant for health care providers and patients in this country.

Even when accounting for typical rates of treatment non-adherence and missed follow-up care, the study found that for men with HIV, the life expectancy loss associated with smoking was similar to that from HIV.

"It is well-known that smoking is bad for health, but we demonstrate in this study just how bad it is," Reddy said.

"We actually quantify the risk, and I think providing those numbers to patients can help put their own risks from smoking in perspective," he said.

"A person with HIV who consistently takes HIV medicines but smokes is much more likely to die of a smoking-related disease than of HIV itself," he added.

For example, men and women entering care for HIV at age 40 who continued to smoke lost 6.7 and 6.3 years of life expectancy, respectively, compared with people with HIV who never smoked, according to the modelling study.

If they quit smoking at age 40, they regained 5.7 and 4.6 years of life expectancy, respectively.

"We show that even people who have been smoking till age 60 but quit at age 60 have a substantial increase in their life expectancy compared to those who continue to smoke," Reddy said.

The findings suggest that smoking cessation should be a major focus of health providers who care for people living with HIV and incorporated into existing care programs and treatment guidelines, researchers said.

The study was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Thursday, 03 November 2016 16:51

Lack of sleep may make you eat more calories

Written by

Sleep deprivation may make you munch on more calories the following day, potentially leading to weight gain and obesity, a new study has found.

The study found that sleep-deprived people consumed an average of 385 kilocalories per day extra, which is equivalent to the calories of about four and a half slices of bread.

The study, led by researchers at King's College London, combined the results of 11 studies with a total of 172 participants.

The analysis included studies that compared a partial sleep restriction intervention with an unrestricted sleep control and measured the individuals' energy intake over the next 24 hours.

They found partial sleep deprivation did not have a significant effect on how much energy people expended in the subsequent 24 hours. Therefore, participants had a net energy gain of 385 calories per day.

The researchers also found there was a small shift in what sleep deprived people ate - they had higher fat and lower protein intakes, but no change in carbohydrate intake.

"The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure and this study adds to accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to this imbalance," said Gerda Pot, from King's College London.

"So there may be some truth in the saying 'early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wise'," Pot said.

"This study found that partial sleep deprivation resulted in a large net increased energy intake of 385 kcal per day," she said.

"If long-term sleep deprivation continues to result in an increased calorie intake of this magnitude, it may contribute to weight gain," she added.

"Our results highlight sleep as a potential third factor, in addition to diet and exercise, to target weight gain more effectively," Haya Al Khatib, PhD candidate at King's College London.

The study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

On the eve of World Stroke Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) today said that over 11 million strokes occur every year in South-East Asia Region which includes India, and underlined the need for governments to have a well-prepared health system in place to save lives and prevent lifelong disabilities.

"In low-and middle-income countries, which include those of the WHO South-East Asia Region, over 11 million strokes occur every year. "This causes four million deaths annually, and leaves approximately 30 per cent of survivors seriously disabled. For the 70 per cent of survivors who recover, the likelihood of suffering further strokes is greatly increased," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

WHO's South-East Asia Region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

A 'brain stroke' or a 'brain attack' is condition when the brain is deprived of blood and the oxygen it carries, or when bleeding inundates surrounding tissue and causes the brain to swell leading to its effective operation becoming compromised. Both incidents can cause lasting vision problems, seizures, fatigue, loss of speech, memory loss, and paralysis among other adverse effects, WHO said.

"On World Stroke Day, we need to spread awareness on stroke prevention, understand the symptoms and when to seek immediate care, and have a well-prepared health system to save lives and prevent lifelong disability," Singh said.

People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes or a high blood-sugar level are vulnerable to brain stroke and so are people who are obese, smoke or consume alcohol in large volumes and are physically inactive.

"Our health systems must be in a position to act decisively," Singh said. A diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in salt should be consumed and doing so will decrease fatty deposits in the arteries that can cause blockages, as well as diminish the prospect of burst vessels that high blood pressure brings.

WHO said that blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels should be checked regularly, with associated conditions managed in consultation with a health care provider. "These simple but effective habits can help prevent brain stroke and other noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes," Singh said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Global wildlife populations could decline by two-thirds by 2020, a new report said today as it placed India fifth in terms of capacity to produce renewable resources and absorb spillover wastes like carbon dioxide.

The report said food production to meet demands of growing human population was the "primary" factor responsible for the destruction of habitats and over-exploitation of wildlife.

It said despite the low personal carbon footprint of Indians, it is a "challenge" when aggregated by population size and predicted that the equation will be further affected as wealth grows.

"Global wildlife populations could decline by an average of 67 per cent between 1970-2020 as a result of human activities. Global populations of birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data.

"This places the world on a trajectory of a potential two-thirds decline within a span of the half-century ending in 2020," WWF's Living Planet Report 2016 said while highlighting the magnitude of human impact on the planet and the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled.

The report said just as human demand on nature varies among countries, nature's biocapacity--ecosystem's capacity to produce resources such as food, fibre and renewable raw materials and absorb spillover wastes like carbon dioxide--is unevenly distributed.

"Brazil, China, US, Russia and India account for nearly half of the planet's total biocapacity. These few countries function as global biocapacity hubs as they are among the primary exporters of resources to the other countries.

"This results in great pressure on ecosystems in these countries, undoubtedly contributing to habitat loss. This is an example where pressure is driven by consumption activities in other, distant countries," it said.

The 2016 report noted that food production is primarily responsible for the destruction of habitats and over- exploitation of wildlife.

"At present, agriculture occupies about one-third of the Earth's total land area and accounts for almost 70 per cent of water use. India ranks fifth in terms of biocapacity...India's carbon footprint currently makes up 53 per cent of the country's overall ecological footprint," the report said.

The report, which tracks over 14,000 vertebrate populations of over 3,700 species from 1970 to 2012, provides additional evidence that the planet is entering a completely unchartered territory in history in which humanity is shaping changes on Earth, including "a possible sixth mass extinction".

The top threats to species are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and over- exploitation of wildlife, the report said.

"Our consumption patterns and the way we look at our natural world are constantly shaping the future of our planet... The power to build a resilient planet for future generations lies in our understanding of how we are moving into this new epoch that scientists are calling 'Anthropocene' and adopting sustainable practices that decrease humanity's impact on the planet.

"We need to come together as a global community and address the threats to biodiversity to protect our environment as well as our economic and social structures," said Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India.

In 2020, commitments made under the Paris Climate deal will kick in and the first environmental actions under the globe's new sustainable development plan are due that year.
"Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate...Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans.

"Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us," said Marco Lambertini, International Director General, WWF.

The report recognizes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an "essential" guide to decision-making that can ensure that the environment is valued alongside economic and social interests.

Quoting factsheets about India based on reference material sources from public domains, it said 41 per cent of mammals, 7 per cent of birds, 46 per cent of reptiles, 57 per cent of amphibians and 70 per cent of freshwater fish of India's wildlife is threatened with extinction while four of the 386 species of mammals evaluated are already extinct.

Although India aims for 33 per cent forest cover, it currently has only 21.3 per cent of forest and tree cover which makes it one of the countries with the lowest per capita availability of forests in the world, according to the factsheets.

Though India has about 4 per cent of the world's freshwater resources, ranking it among the top ten water rich countries, it is still designated a "water stressed region". 70 per cent of its surface water is polluted and 60 per cent of groundwater sources are expected to be in a critical state within the next decade.

According to the reference material, it is estimated that by 2020, food grain requirement will be almost 30-50 per cent more than the demand in 2000 and India could also see a 10-40 per cent loss in crop production by 2080-2100 due to global warming.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Friday, 28 October 2016 15:02

Our brains get 'slacker' as we age: study

Written by

It is not just our skin that starts to lose its youthful firmness and elasticity as we age, but our brain too gets 'slacker', a new study has found.

Researchers from Newcastle University in the UK collaborated with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro to investigate the way the human brain folds and how this 'cortical folding' changes with age.

Linking the change in brain folding to the tension on the cerebral cortex - the outer layer of neural tissue in our brains - the team found that as we age, the tension on the cortex appears to decrease.

This effect was more pronounced in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

The research sheds light on the underlying mechanisms which affect brain folding and could be used in the future to help diagnose brain diseases.

"One of the key features of a mammalian brain is the grooves and folds all over the surface – a bit like a walnut - but until now no-one has been able to measure this folding in a consistent way," said lead author Dr Yujiang Wang of Newcastle University.

"By mapping the brain folding of over 1,000 people, we have shown that our brains fold according to a simple universal law. We also show that a parameter of the law, which is interpreted as the tension on the inside of the cortex, decreases with age.

"In Alzheimer's disease, this effect is observed at an earlier age and is more pronounced. The next step will be to see if there is a way to use the changes in folding as an early indicator of disease," said Wang.

The expansion of the cerebral cortex is the most obvious feature of mammalian brain evolution and is generally accompanied by increasing degrees of folding of the cortical surface.

In the average adult brain, for example, if the cortex of one side - or hemisphere - was unfolded and flattened out it would have a surface area of about 100,000 square millimetre, roughly one and a half times the size of a piece of A4 paper.

Previous research has shown that folding of the cortex across mammalian species follows a universal law - that is, regardless of size and shape, they all fold in the same way.

However, until now there has been no systematic study demonstrating that the same law holds within a species.

"Our study has shown that we can use this same law to study changes in the human brain," said Wang.

"From this, we identified a parameter that decreases with age, which we interpret as changing the tension on the cortical surface. It would be similar to the skin. As we age, the tension drops and the skin starts to slacken.

"It has long been known that the size and thickness of the cortex changes with age but the existence of a general law for folding shows us how to combine these quantities into a single measure of folding that can then be compared between genders, age groups and disease states," said Wang.

The study was published in the journal PNAS.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Monday, 24 October 2016 17:23

Counting on fingers may make kids smarter: Study

Written by

Parents, take note! Counting on fingers may make your kids smarter, suggests a new study which found that children who have better perception of their hands tend to be more skilled at math.

Finger perception - the ability to distinguish, name, or recognise the fingers - is associated with math skill and even when people are not manually ticking off numbers, areas of the brain associated with fingers are still activated, researchers said.

In order to analyse how the mind works while performing arithmetic, Ilaria Berteletti from Gallaudet University in the US and colleagues scanned the brains of 39 children between ages eight and 13 while they mentally subtracted and multiplied single-digit numbers.

The scans showed two regions of the brain associated with fingers - the somatosensory area, which responds to sensations such as pressure, pain or heat and the motor area, which controls movement.

Both were active during subtraction, even though the children did not use their fingers to arrive at the answers. There was no similar brain activity during multiplication, which the researchers interpreted as a reflection of how children learn to subtract versus how they learn to multiply, 'The Wall Street Journal' reported.

"You probably learned subtraction using your fingers. Multiplication was probably presented verbally and with rote memorisation. For us, it is evidence that the two types of operations rely on different networks," Berteletti said.

Researchers are not sure whether finger recognition can make children better at math or using fingers for math improves recognition. However, they are sure that children who have better finger perception tend to be more skilled at mathematics.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Children living in big cities such as Delhi, are likely to grow susceptible to allergic ailments, more than adults, due to urban pollution, especially air, health experts said.

"Infants and children living in metro cities are inhaling polluted air and therefore their resistance power to allergic ailments are lowered at a very young age, making them more susceptible to contract various allergies when they grow up, compared to adults, Director (Acting) of the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute (VPCI), S N Gaur, told PTI.

According to Gaur, between 20-30 per cent of the population in the country suffers from some form of allergic ailments.

Studies suggest that the prevalence of asthma has been on the rise in developing countries in the past one decade. Also, studies from several centres have reported that the prevalence of asthma in children in India ranged from 2.3-11.9 per cent, while in adults it ranged from 0.96-11.03 per cent," according to VPCI.

The city-based institute has organised a four-day national conference, hosted by Indian College of Allergy, Asthma & Applied Immunology (ICAAI), to discus the clinical and laboratory aspects of allergy, asthma and immunology.

The event is specially aimed towards analysing the impact of the number of offending agents like air pollution, allergens and change in lifestyle in India and South Asia.

According to experts, it is estimated that over 20 per cent of the world's population suffers from allergic diseases such as allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis, atopic eczema and anaphylaxis.

Asthma is a worldwide problem, with estimated 300 million affected individuals and global prevalence which ranges from 1-18 per cent in different geographical regions.

"The most common allergic ailment, in my career as a doctor, I have diagnosed is allergic rhinitis," Union minister Harsh Vardhan said, at the inauguration of the conference last evening.

Air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, according to WHO.

According to a recent WHO report, a few Indian cities, including Delhi, Patna and Gwalior were identified as among the severely polluted cities in the world. Experts say global warming and pollution are among the major factors responsible for causing allergic ailments.

Jaspal Singh Sandhu, Secretary UGC and a doctor himself, said, "Given Delhi's air condition, rising allergy cases are not surprising. In the city, if you ask me, one of the places having the purest air is JNU campus. Allergy incidences have been on the rise, and they should not be ignored."

Food habits and smoking, both direct and passive, are also among the factors leading to allergic reactions.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Babies should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents during the first year of their lives, but on a separate crib or bassinet, to decrease the risks of sudden sleep-related deaths, US experts say.

The new recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics draws on new research that supports skin-to-skin care for newborn infants; addresses the use of bedside and in-bed sleepers; and adds to recommendations on how to create a safe sleep environment.

"Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous," said lead author Rachel Moon, from the University of Virginia.

About 3,500 infants die annually in the US from sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); ill-defined deaths; and accidental suffocation and strangulation.

The number of infant deaths initially decreased in the 1990s after a national safe sleep campaign, but has plateaued in recent years.

According to the new recommendations, babies should be put on their back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys, should not be used. The crib should be bare, experts said.

The baby should share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns one, but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 per cent, researchers said.
Skin-to-skin care is recommended, regardless of feeding or delivery method, immediately following birth for at least an hour as soon as the mother is medically stable and awake, they said.

Breastfeeding is also recommended as adding protection against SIDS. After feeding, experts encourage parents to move babies to their separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents' bedroom.

"If you are feeding your baby and think that there's even the slightest possibility that you may fall asleep, feed your baby on your bed, rather than a sofa or cushioned chair," said Lori Feldman-Winter, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report.

"As soon as you wake up, be sure to move the baby to his or her own bed," Feldman-Winter. "There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant's breathing or cause overheating," she said.

While infants are at heightened risk for SIDS between the ages one and four months, new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are four months and older. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Page 5 of 16