Tag Archive for 'Health'

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Painkillers in Pregnancy Linked to Male Infertility

Study Suggests Even Tylenol During Pregnancy May Affect Male Testes

By Daniel J. DeNoon of WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Common over-the-counter painkillers taken during pregnancy may be to blame for a global rise in male infertility.

Even acetaminophen (Tylenol) may put a developing boy’s future reproductive health at risk, suggest findings from a study of some 2,300 Danish and Finnish women by Henrik Leffers, MD, PhD, of Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues.

The researchers suggest that acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and other NSAID painkillers act as hormonal “endocrine disruptors” and interfere with normal male sexual development. Chemicals in the environment, such as phthalates, act as endocrine disruptors and have in the past been blamed for harmful effects on human sexual development.

“A single [acetaminophen] tablet (500 milligrams) contains more endocrine disruptor potency than the combined exposure to the ten most prevalent of the currently known environmental endocrine disruptors during the whole pregnancy,” Leffers says in a news release.

Despite the strong language, the researchers note that their findings are based on a small number of boys whose testicles were late to descend — a risk factor for poor future semen quality. While they note that more study is needed, they stress the urgency of such studies.

“Although we should be cautious about any over-extrapolation or overstatement … the use of these compounds is, at present, the best suggestion for an exposure that can affect a large proportion of the human population,” Leffers says.

The Leffers study is based on questionnaires from the mothers of 834 Danish boys and 1,463 Finnish boys, and on interviews with the mothers of 491Danish boys (285 of whom also were among those who filled out the questionnaires). All of the boys were examined for signs of undescended testicles (congenital cryptorchidism).

In the end, the researchers identified only 42 boys with signs of undescended testicles. Over 64% of these boys were born to mothers who took painkillers during pregnancy.

Women who took more than one kind of mild painkiller were more than seven times more likely to have a boy with signs of undescended testicles.

It appeared that painkillers taken during the second trimester of pregnancy were particularly risky — increasing risk of congenital cryptorchidism by 2.3-fold.

Nevertheless, these risks are based on very small numbers of affected boys. The vast majority of boys born to women who reported painkiller use did not have any sign of undescended testicles.

Leffers and colleagues will continue to follow up on the boys through sexual maturity.

Leffers’ team also performed rat studies showing that acetaminophen and NSAID painkillers can affect sexual maturation.

The Leffers study appears in the advance online edition of the journal Human Reproduction.

10 quirky facts about kissing

By Laura Schaefer, author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor: The Best and Worst Personal Ads of All Time.

Think you know a thing or two about kissing? You probably do. But the facts below are so off the beaten path, we’ll bet you don’t know them all — and they could come in handy. Not only could they provide some steamy “Did you know…?” small talk, but they’ll help you see all the benefits a satisfying liplock can bring into your life. Happy smooching!

1. Two out of every three couples turn their heads to the right when they kiss.

2. A simple peck uses two muscles; a passionate kiss, on the other hand, uses all 34 muscles in your face. Now that’s a rigorous workout!

3. Like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two lip impressions are alike.

4. Kissing is good for what ails you. Research shows that the act of smooching improves our skin, helps circulation, prevents tooth decay, and can even relieve headaches.

5. The average person spends 336 hours of his or her life kissing.

6. Ever wonder how an “X” came to represent a kiss? Starting in the Middle Ages, people who could not read used an X as a signature. They would kiss this mark as a sign of sincerity. Eventually, the X came to represent the kiss itself.

7. Talk about a rush! Kissing releases the same neurotransmitters in our brains as parachuting, bungee jumping, and running.

8. The average woman kisses 29 men before she gets married.

9. Men who kiss their partners before leaving for work average higher incomes than those who don’t.

10. The longest kiss in movie history was between Jane Wyman and Regis Tommey in the 1941 film, You’re in the Army Now. It lasted 3 minutes and 5 seconds. So if you’ve beaten that record, it’s time to celebrate!

All Pregnant Women Should Get Flu Shot, Say OB-Gyns

This from Frederik Joelving of Reuters Health

Despite landing in the hospital more often if they catch the flu, no more than a quarter of pregnant women in the U.S. get vaccinated against it.

That’s according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has issued a recommendation urging all pregnant women to get the flu shot.

While the recommendation itself isn’t new, the statement, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, adds evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, said Dr. William M. Callaghan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

He said the CDC and several medical associations back the statement, which notes that the shot not only protects the woman, but also her baby.

Flu vaccines aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration for infants younger than six months of age, but babies can get the protective antibodies naturally through breast milk if their mother got the vaccine.

While some flu vaccines contain the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, a study out last week found the compound did not increase the risk of autism, as some have worried. (See Reuters Health story of September 13)

The statement does not recommend against vaccines containing preservative, but notes that thimerosal-free alternatives are available.

It adds that there have been no reports of side effects in pregnant women or their babies, but that women should only get the inactivated vaccine.

Last week, the CDC asked healthcare providers to encourage pregnant women to get flu shots.

This could have a large impact on women’s decision-making, according to data from 2006 and 2007 surveys of pregnant women in Georgia and Rhode Island.

The findings, also published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, show less than one in five women in Georgia had been vaccinated against the seasonal flu. Many of those who hadn’t, said their doctors had never broached the topic.

By contrast, nearly a third of women in Rhode Island had been vaccinated, with encouragement from a healthcare provider increasing the chances more than 50 times.

In its letter to physicians, the CDC said pregnant women were more susceptible to severe illness caused by flu, and accounted for one in 20 deaths from H1N1 influenza (swine flu) in 2009. By comparison, only one in 100 was pregnant in the population.

“We know for certain that there are changes in the immune system that allow the pregnancy to continue,” Callaghan told Reuters Health. “Perhaps the downside is that they also allow the virus to persist.”

The U.S. flu season starts in October and lasts through May.

Source : Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal

Doctors Break Down Which Pregnancy ‘Tips’ Really Matter

 

By Matt Brennan of The Beacon-News

While the lists of pregnancy do’s and don’ts can be extensive, there is one thing women should not lose track of as they go through the process, and that’s enjoying it.

That’s the advice of Dr. Susan Acuna, obstetrician/gynecologist on staff with Central DuPage and Delnor Community hospitals.

Women should remember to enjoy the experience of having a child moving around inside them, she said. While they experience that thrill, there are things they can be doing to keep themselves and the baby healthy.

There is a lot of information out there. It can be overwhelming. Some of the information and ideas have a stronger medical basis than others. It is best to follow the recommendations that have a stronger basis in medicine and science, she said.

“Many women come in and say, ‘I heard I should avoid lunch meat and peanut butter,’” Acuna said. “Those are not based on any factual information.”

The concern about peanuts or peanut butter is that eating them would increase the baby’s chance of picking up the allergies. It’s not based on enough science, she said. With lunch meat, she said to just make sure that it is reasonably fresh.

The most important thing for women to do during pregnancy is to take a prenatal vitamin, Acuna said.

“It’s shown to prevent birth defects,” she said. “That’s an important thing that women may or may not know.”

Provena Mercy Medical Center nutritionist Melissa Gash said that making sure calorie intake is correct for the patient’s height and weight is important.

“You really only need about 300 extra calories a day,” she said. “It’s really minimal what you have to increase.”

To put it in perspective, the extra calories can be achieved with a glass of milk and an apple, she said. The normal recommended weight gain during a pregnancy is about 25 to 30 pounds. Many women gain much more than that, she said.

“They wonder why they can’t lose that weight after the baby’s out,” she said.

Yoga, Pilates and prenatal water aerobics have all increased in popularity recently, said Dr. Natalie Roche of Fox Valley Women and Children’s Health Partners. The exercises can help to alleviate some of the pain associated with pregnancy, she said.

There are some exercises that should be avoided during pregnancy, such as biking, roller skating and jumping on a trampoline, Acuna said.

“I recommend they avoid any activity that would put them at risk of falling,” she said.

Running, biking on a stationary bike and working out on an elliptical machine are all safer forms of exercise, she said.

Gash is on her third pregnancy, she said. She also runs a nutrition seminar for pregnancy at Provena Mercy called “From Pickles to Ice Cream.” Cravings are legitimate, she said. Many pregnant women have them. But, “a lot of women use them as an excuse,” she said.

Morning sickness and nausea are fairly common, especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, she said.

“Sometimes you’re just not going to feel that good those first couple weeks,” she said.

Sex, drugs more common in hyper-texting teens

This article from MIKE STOBBE of AP

Teens who text 120 times a day or more — and there seems to be a lot of them — are more likely to have had sex or used alcohol and drugs than kids who don’t send as many messages, according to provocative new research.

The study’s authors aren’t suggesting that “hyper-texting” leads to sex, drinking or drugs, but say it’s startling to see an apparent link between excessive messaging and that kind of risky behavior.

The study concludes that a significant number of teens are very susceptible to peer pressure and also have permissive or absent parents, said Dr. Scott Frank, the study’s lead author.

“If parents are monitoring their kids’ texting and social networking, they’re probably monitoring other activities as well,” said Frank, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Frank was scheduled to present the study Tuesday at a meeting of the American Public Health Association in Denver.

The study was done at 20 public high schools in the Cleveland area last year, and is based on confidential paper surveys of more than 4,200 students.

It found that about one in five students were hyper-texters and about one in nine are hyper-networkers — those who spend three or more hours a day on Facebook and other social networking websites.

About one in 25 fall into both categories.

Hyper-texting and hyper-networking were more common among girls, minorities, kids whose parents have less education and students from a single-mother household, the study found.

Frank’s study is billed as one of the first studies to look at texting and social networking and whether they are linked to actual sexual intercourse or to other risky behaviors.

“This study demonstrates that it’s a legitimate question to explore,” said Douglas Gentile, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University.

The study found those who text at least 120 times a day are nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to have had sex than their peers who don’t text that much. Hyper-texters were also more likely to have been in a physical fight, binge drink, use illegal drugs or take medication without a prescription.

Compared to the heavy texters, the hyper-networkers were not as likely to have had sex, but more likely to have been involved in other risky behaviors like drinking or fighting.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that about half of children ages 8 to 18 send text messages on a cell phone in a typical day. The texters estimated they average 118 texts per day. That study also found that only 14 percent of kids said their parents set rules limiting texting.

Other studies have tied teen texting to risky or lewd behavior. A Pew Research Center study found that about one-third of 16- and 17-year-olds send texts while driving. And an Associated Press-MTV poll found that about one-quarter of teenagers have “sexted” — shared sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online.

The latest survey did not ask what students texted or what they discussed on social networks.

One suburban Cleveland student said her texts involve non-sexual small talk with friends, homework assignments and student council bake sales.

“I text with my mother about what time I need picked up,” said Tiara Freeman-Sargeant, a 14-year-old Shaker Heights High School freshman. She said she sends and receives about 250 texts a day.

Talking on the phone just isn’t appealing to some teens, said her classmate, Ivanna Storms-Thompson.

“Your arm gets tired, your ear gets sweaty,” said Ivanna, who also doesn’t like the awkward silences.

Like her friend, Ivanna said she mostly gets A’s. Whether kids who text do well in school or behave in a crazy, risky way is coincidental, she said.

“It depends on who you’re talking to and whether they have their priorities straight,” she said.

Online:

Conference: http://www.apha.org/meetings/

Pregnancy Problems Could Be From Antibacterial Agent

Dr. Margaret James, professor and chair of the department of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida, is seen here in a photo taken Oct. 26, 2010. James has found that tricolsan, an ingredient found in some of the most popular brands of antibacterial soaps, toothpaste and other household products, may disrupt an enzyme important during pregnancy. (Jesse S. Jones/University of Florida)

A chemical found in everything from antibacterial soaps and lotions to socks and toothpaste may disrupt an enzyme that plays an important role in pregnancy, University of Florida researchers say.

Thought to be harmless, triclosan gives many soaps and lotions their antibacterial oomph and is found in hundreds of popular products. But a team of UF researchers led by Margaret O. James has discovered that the chemical hinders an enzyme linked to the metabolism of estrogen. The researchers’ findings are reported in the November print issue of the journal Environment International.

In pregnancy, this enzyme, called estrogen sulfotransferase, helps metabolize estrogen and move it through the placenta into the developing fetus. There, the estrogen plays a crucial role in brain development and the regulation of genes.

“We suspect that makes this substance dangerous in pregnancy if enough of the triclosan gets through to the placenta to affect the enzyme,” said James, a professor and chairwoman of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. “We know for sure it is a very potent inhibitor. What we don’t know is the kinds of levels you would have to be exposed to to see a negative effect.

“We know it is a problem, but we don’t know how much of a problem. We need to move forward and do additional studies.”

In pregnancy, the placenta basically serves as a developing baby’s in-womb survival kit. Almost everything the fetus gets from its mother — namely food and oxygen — comes through the placenta. It also creates important hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen.

Aside from the role it plays in the fetus, estrogen also affects how much oxygen the baby gets from the mother, said Charles Wood, a professor and chairman of physiology and functional genomics in the UF College of Medicine and a co-author of the study. All of the oxygen a baby gets from its mother flows through the mother’s uterine artery. Without enough estrogen, this artery can constrict, decreasing blood flow.

“If you don’t make enough estrogen you can, we think, starve the baby of enough oxygen,” Wood said.

Estrogen is also involved in signaling the uterus to contract during labor. But maintaining the right levels of the hormone during pregnancy is a delicate balance, Wood says. Too much estrogen could send the mother’s body into premature labor. Too little could hinder the flow of oxygen. Both instances could affect how the baby’s brain develops.

This is one of the reasons scientists are concerned about the pregnancy-related effects of chemicals such as triclosan.

“Some of these (chemicals) can go and combine with estrogen receptors and mimic estrogen or keep estrogen off its receptors or change the metabolism of estrogen, which is what we are looking at with triclosan,” Wood said.

In April 2010, the Food and Drug Administration decided to take a closer look at triclosan after several studies found links to problems with hormone regulation and other possible negative health effects. Other studies have shown that the chemical, which cannot be broken down by bacteria, stays in the environment long after it is used.

“Triclosan is a material that is present in the environment and everyone has low levels. If you use products with triclosan, you will likely have higher levels,” said Bruce Hammock, a professor of entomology at the University of California-Davis who studies triclosan. “It has some real benefits but it is certainly not risk-free.”

More studies are needed before researchers can conclude what effects triclosan really has on human health, James said.

“The triclosan is incorporated into household products because it inhibits bacterial growth,” James said. “But the bad thing is it has this unexpected side effect of inhibiting this important enzyme in the body. At this point we don’t know if the levels people are exposed to are high enough to cause an adverse effect.”

Source: April Frawley Birdwell, http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-pregnancy-problems-antibacterial-agent.html, Provided by University of Florida

Genetics May Play A Part In A Woman’s Chance For Nausea During Pregnancy

Researchers found that women were more likely to experience a serious form of morning sickness if their mothers or sisters did as well.

Looking specifically at a very severe form of nausea known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the authors found that women with sisters who had HG were 17 times more likely to also develop HG. Women with this condition have unrelenting, excessive nausea and vomiting that puts them at risk of malnutrition, dehydration and significant weight loss.

Study author Dr. Marlena Fejzo of the University of Southern California-Los Angeles told Reuters Health she wasn’t surprised by the findings, since previous research has shown that severe morning sickness is more likely to affect both members of identical twin pairs, hinting at a heritable element.

However, in the new study, she added, “the degree of heredity is very exciting because it suggests genes are involved, and when we find those genes, we may finally understand the cause of severe nausea in pregnancy and be able to make new treatments that are designed to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.”

Most pregnant women – an estimated 75 percent – experience some morning sickness, according to the American Pregnancy Association, but 1 percent suffer the extreme HG form of illness that can require hospitalization.

It’s unclear why some women become nauseous while pregnant and others don’t. Even animals such as dogs and monkeys appear to experience a form of morning sickness, Fejzo noted. “There are even reports of snakes avoiding food during pregnancy,” she said in an e-mail.

To investigate whether severe forms of nausea might have genetic roots, Fejzo and her team reviewed information collected from 207 women who experienced HG during pregnancy and had at least one sister who had also been pregnant. They compared their responses to 110 of the patients’ female friends who had relatively nausea-free pregnancies, serving as controls.

The researchers found that 14 percent of women who experienced HG during pregnancy had sisters who also had HG, versus less than 1 percent of women who did not have HG.

When combining HG with other severe forms of morning sickness – persistent nausea that was not bad enough to require IV fluids or nutrition – a family history also appeared to put women at higher risk. Specifically, 34 percent of women with HG also had an affected sister, versus 8 percent of women who were never diagnosed with HG.

Among 469 women with HG and 216 of their female friends, 33 percent of those with HG had a mother with severe nausea or HG as well, versus only 8 percent of their friends.

“There can be variation in nausea and vomiting from one pregnancy to the next, which suggests that not only genes are involved but also other factors,” Fejzo noted. “For example, some studies suggest a female fetus or carrying multiple fetuses results in more nausea. So I would speculate that the level of nausea in pregnancy is a combination of both genetic factors and non-genetic factors.”

One concern about these findings, noted Dr. Andrej Grjibovski at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, who did not participate in the study, is that women with HG might have been more likely to volunteer to participate in the study if they had relatives who were also affected. And since these women recruited the controls themselves, they “may not be representative of the general population,” he cautioned.

Still, Grjibovski said in an e-mail that he was “not at all” surprised by the findings, since other research has suggested both maternal and paternal genes may play a role in HG. A recent analysis of more than 2 million birth records showed that women whose mothers suffered from a serious type of morning sickness were at triple the risk of the condition themselves.

HG hospitalizes more than 59,000 women every year in the U.S. A recent review of 27 large studies concluded that there is no reliable treatment for nausea in early pregnancy. Still, options include dietary changes (such as eating small meals and avoiding spicy foods), alternative therapies such as acupressure and hypnosis, and some prescription anti-nausea medications.

Fejzo said her team is currently planning a study to compare the genes of 1,000 women with HG to those of 1,000 of their unaffected friends. “With this approach, we should be able to identify the genetic variants that predispose to HG and then hopefully create new, more effective medications that are designed to correct the cause of the disease as opposed to the current medicines which are used to treat the symptoms.”

Source: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, online October 25, 2010.

Drinking More Milk And Less Soda Helps To Build Strong Bones

This article by Elena Conis, at the Los Angeles Times

Want strong bones? Eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D, get plenty of exercise — and maybe steer clear of soda.

In recent decades, as consumption of the beverage has steadily displaced the consumption of others —particularly milk — studies have consistently linked soda consumption with weaker bones. Now scientists are trying to figure out how and why, precisely, drinking soda may affect skeletons.

One theory is that a component in cola may cause bone to deteriorate; another is that people who drink soda simply drink (and eat) fewer nutritious foods.

In the 1990s, several studies suggested soft-drink consumption might be linked to lower bone mass and reduced bone accretion — the process by which bone is built up — in children, especially teens.

In a study of 127 teens that was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 1994, teenage girls who drank carbonated beverages were three times as likely to suffer bone fractures compared with girls who didn’t drink soda. A study by the same author published in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine in 2000 showed the same effect — and an even stronger one for girls who drank cola beverages, who were five times as likely to suffer bone fractures.

Researchers surmised at the time that soda took its toll on bones because children who drank soda did so in place of milk. Soda drinking was also seen as a marker for a generally unhealthful diet lacking items that help foster strong bones.

It does seem to be true that soda drinkers have worse diets overall. In a study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn., for example, among 170 girls followed from age 5 to 15, those who drank soda at age 5 were less likely to drink milk throughout childhood than 5-year-olds who did not drink soda. And they were more likely to consume diets lacking in calcium, fiber, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Such findings are significant because as much as 90% of bone mass is acquired in youth, particularly from age 16 to 25, says Dr. Jeri Nieves, director of bone density testing at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y.

Children who fail to get enough bone-building nutrients and bone-thickening exercise in their youth end up with increased risk of osteoporosis and fracture as they get older, adds Dr. Robert Murray, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

But there is also evidence that drinking sodas — specifically, colas — may take a direct toll on the skeleton, says Dr. Katherine Tucker, professor of health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston.

In a large, well-designed study published by Tucker and colleagues in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006, women enrolled in the ongoing Framingham Osteoporosis Study who drank just three or more colas a week had a 3.7% to 5.4% lower bone mineral density in their hip bones when compared with women who didn’t drink the beverage.

The study also showed what scientists call a dose response: The more soda participants drank, the lower their bone mineral density.

The effect was seen only with colas — non-cola soft drinks, such as ginger ale and orange soda, had no effect on bone density. That finding led Tucker and colleagues to suggest that the phosphoric acid in cola is behind its bone-weakening effects.

Phosphoric acid is added to colas for its tangy flavor. It’s not normally found in the food chain, Tucker says. When ingested, it causes the acidity of the blood to increase; to adjust the blood’s pH, the body draws calcium out of bones and into the bloodstream.

These proposed effects of phosphoric acid on bone are largely theoretical, but they are supported by animal studies and some human research. A Danish study published in the journal Osteoporosis International in 2005 measured the blood levels of bone minerals in a group of men after they consumed a low-calcium diet and 2.5 liters of soda daily for 10 days, and then again after they consumed a normal diet and 2.5 liters of skim milk for 10 days.

During the cola-drinking period, the men had higher blood levels of the bone mineral phosphate, the bone turnover protein osteocalcin and a substance called CTX — results that indicated minerals were being removed from bone, and not replaced, during the soda-drinking period.

Scientists are continuing to test the theory that phosphoric acid in soda harms bones. But even if it turns out that phosphoric acids cause only small or temporary changes in bone composition, these can add up over time, Tucker says.

In the meantime, Nieves suggests, it’s probably wise to limit your intake of soda.

“It’s not like alcohol, where one drink a day is OK,” she says. “Because bone mass is constantly changing throughout life, soda can cause bone loss at any stage.”