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Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jun 1;67(11):2253-2254.
▪ The developing brain may be more resilient than previously was thought, shows a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in JAMA. Follow-up data were obtained on 296 infants born weighing 600 to 1,250 g (1 lb, 5 oz to 2 lb, 12 oz) and evaluated at 36, 54, 72, and 96 months of corrected age. On average, their scores on a picture vocabulary test jumped about 10 points between the ages of 36 and 96 months, compared with normative data indicating a 4.5-point jump in median scores in children tested over time. Verbal and full-scale IQ scores showed similar increases. Higher scores were associated with increasing age, residence in a two-parent household, and higher levels of maternal education.
▪ The world needs more new drugs, according to an editorial published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery and reported in BMJ. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved only 15 new drugs last year, compared with an annual average of 31 over the previous five years. The reason? Not surprisingly, financial considerations are said to influence the development of drugs. Companies are committing their financial resources to the marketing of existing products rather than the development of new ones.
▪ Folic acid supplements taken during pregnancy are not linked to multiple births, according to results of a study published in The Lancet. The records of 242,015 women enrolled in a population-based cohort study in China were assessed for folic acid intake before or during early pregnancy and the occurrence of multiple births among them. More than 99 percent of the women had single births. The rate of multiple births was 0.59 percent among women who took any folic acid supplement and 0.65 percent among women who did not take any such supplements.
▪ Can we lessen the financial “ouch” of osteoarthritis treatment? Of 1,000 adults surveyed by Harris Interactive for the Alliance for Aging Research, 86 percent said they would be concerned about the cost of managing osteoarthritis and 68 percent said that choosing a cost-effective treatment would be difficult without a physician's guidance. Most of those surveyed said they would be willing to talk with their physician about the cost of different osteoarthritis medications if they had the information to initiate a discussion. The Alliance for Aging Research has launched a new campaign, Making $ense of Arthritis, to help senior citizens discuss cost-effective treatments with their physicians.
▪ The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned consumers about the risk of permanent eye injury, including blindness, from wearing decorative contact lenses that are sold without a prescription. As reported in the FDA Consumer, the lenses are marketed as fashion accessories for changing eye color. The FDA has received reports of serious eye injuries, including infections and corneal damage in persons who purchased decorative contact lenses in retail stores, such as beauty salons and video stores. Most of the injuries have involved teenagers and are related to decorative lenses that are marketed without FDA authorization.
▪ G-U-M spells … heartburn relief? Chewing a stick of gum may provide temporary relief of heartburn, says a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Chewing gum stimulates swallowing, as well as the secretion of alkaline saliva. Swallowing clears acid from the esophagus, while alkaline saliva neutralizes the acid remaining in the esophagus after swallowing.
▪ “Good” grains! Consuming whole grains may reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a Finnish study of 2,286 men and 2,030 women (40 to 69 years of age) that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study suggests that cereal fiber intake is responsible for the reduced risk. Alternatively, the risk reduction may be due to other elements in whole-grain products.
▪ Diagnoses of erectile dysfunction have doubled since the introduction of sildenafil in the United Kingdom, according to a study published in BMJ. The study also showed that ischemic heart disease has decreased among men with erectile dysfunction. The researchers note that contraindications and precautions for the use of sildenafil may be responsible for the change in clinical characteristics of men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. However, they caution that physicians should remain concerned about the possibility of undiagnosed ischemic heart disease in these patients.
▪ Asthma attacks may be triggered by thunderstorms, shows a study published in Chest. Researchers examined records from the emergency department at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario over about five years and compared the pattern of asthma attacks with daily data on weather, airborne allergens, and pollution. Hospital visits for asthma problems increased by 15 percent on days with thunderstorms. The reason may be that air concentrations of fungal spores double on thunderstorm days.
▪ Want to blow out 90 birthday candles? Watch your weight while you are young. According to research findings reported by Reuters, older adults who were not overweight at age 21 and were physically active in late adulthood are more likely to live to see their 90th birthday. The study followed more than 10,000 older adults (average baseline age: 75 years) for more than 20 years. Of these study participants, 3,636 lived to age 90. Participants with a higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to die before age 90 than those with a lower BMI. The study also found that adults who exercise at least 30 minutes every day are 24 to 31 percent less likely to die before age 90 than their less active peers.
▪ Blame it on the genes. Inheriting a variation in a single gene can determine whether a person will be a wimp or a stoic when it comes to handling pain, shows a study published in Science. The jaw muscles of 29 healthy young adults were injected with saline to simulate temporomandibular joint syndrome. People who were homozygous for the valine allele (val158) of the catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene withstood greater saline doses and showed more painkilling endorphin activity on positron emission tomography scans of the brain than those who were homozygous for the methionine allele (met158) of the COMT gene. The COMT gene regulates dopamine, and too much dopamine can reduce endorphin content.
▪ A kiss is just a kiss, unless it triggers an allergic reaction to food. According to a case report published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a 20-year-old woman with a clinical history of multiple urticarial reactions to crustaceans presented to the emergency department with an anaphylactic reaction. Her symptoms developed immediately after she kissed her boyfriend, who had eaten a shrimp dinner less than one hour before the smooch.
Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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