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Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(10):1671

The biologic contributions of bulimia nervosa may all be in the recovering bulimic’s head. Literally. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates that the brains of patients who have recovered from bulimia nervosa show persistent changes. Positron emission tomography (PET) brain images of women who recovered from bulimia at least one year ago were compared with PET images of volunteers who never had an eating disorder. The images from the recovered bulimics showed that they did not have a normal age-related decline in serotonin binding, but they did have a reduction of serotonin binding in their orbital frontal cortex that the healthy women did not have.

A survey at the University of Pennsylvania found that more whites than blacks miss more days of work or quit their jobs because of lower back pain (LBP). Differences in culture, the availability of treatment for LBP or some combination of the two could be the cause for the survey results. Fifty-two percent of whites have stopped working at some time because of LBP compared with 34 percent of blacks, according to a survey of 221 patients.

An “icon” has been developed by scientists to turn cancer into its own worst enemy. A molecule called icon kills cancerous tumors by destroying the blood vessels that feed them. According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the molecule causes cancer to duplicate the icon, which spreads through the body and attacks other cancers. In laboratory tests on mice, the process eliminated human melanoma and prostate cancers. Human trials are scheduled to begin next year.

“Good health and marriage, good health and marriage…” Being a bachelor may be great for your little black book, but it doesn’t keep the doctor away. According to a study presented at a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, married men eat a healthier diet than bachelors. Analyzing the eating habits of 29,728 male health professionals between the ages of 40 and 75, researchers found that married men eat more vegetables and less fried food, and also are more likely to follow a smoking cessation program.

Many common herbal supplements don’t mix well with surgery, according to a study published in JAMA. Herbal supplements taken before surgery can cause excessive bleeding, heart instability or a reduction in blood glucose levels. Patients are advised to stop using herbal products two to three weeks before surgery.

“A pack a day won’t keep the dentist away.” Aside from being bad for the lungs, passive smoke may damage your teeth. Data from a national sampling of 3,500 children aged four to 11 years showed an association between passive smoke exposure and cavities. The results, published in Family Practice News, show that passive smoke exposure is associated with a 70 percent increase in the risk of cavities. It is thought that exposure to passive smoke may also result in poor tooth formation. Nicotine has been shown to increase the growth of Streptococcus mutans in vitro.

Here’s some food for thought: Your eating habits may affect the outcome of your pregnancy. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who skip meals or snacks during the day are slightly more likely to deliver preterm or after premature rupture of the membranes. Women who go for prolonged periods of time without food cause psychologic stress on their bodies that can lead to hypoglycemia and possibly trigger preterm delivery.

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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