Medical News Notes – July 13, 2010

Posted Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 by Allen B. Ury

medicalnews1.JPGStarting school later boosts student performance.  New cell-based cancer treatment.  The dangers of cola-drinking.  These and other stories from the world of health and medicine in this week’s Medical News Notes.

Later School Start Times Boost Student Performance, Health

Delaying the start of the school day by as little as a half hour can produce a major improvement in student performance, health and overall well-being. This is the conclusion of a recent study by sleep expert Dr. Judy Owens of Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Long Island. Owens measured what happened when a local private school shifted its start time from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Owens observed that starting classes just 30 minutes later allowed teenagers to get the sleep they need to remain alert, motivated, perform better in class, and avoid tardiness and sick days. Depression, a major problem for many teenagers, was also significantly reduced. Owens’ study is just one of many recent investigations into sleep deprivation among teenagers, whose “body clocks” tend to be quite different from those of the adults who schedule class times.

Brain Chemical May Help to Literally ‘Burn Off’ Fat

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified an enzyme, called P13 kinase, that may play a key role in how the body deals with excess calories. Working with mice, the UT scientists discovered that P13 causes the brain to trigger a rise in body temperature that literally “burns off” calories after a rich meal. The scientists hope their research will lead to a way for people to regulate their weight without forcing them to eat less or exercise more.

Panamanian Company Receives Patent for DNA-Based Cancer Therapies

Ten years after inventing a way to use a cancer patient’s own cells to fight malignancies, Panama City-based biotech company Medistern, Inc., has received a U.S. patent for its process. Medistern’s procedure involving taking a patient’s own cells, manipulating their DNA, and then injecting them back to the patient’s body to fight runaway cancer cells. The treatment, which has shown considerable success over the last decade, avoids chemotherapy and radiation and thus has few, if any, side effects.

3 Amazing New Discoveries about Water

Although water is one of the most common and essential elements of life, scientists continue to make discoveries about its effects on the human body. Recently, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center conducted a series of experiments that revealed water has a strong impact on the sympathetic nervous system that can, 1) Raise blood pressure in people whose BP is lower than normal, 2) Help prevent fainting during blood donations and, 3) Lead to long-term weight loss. Water does not appear to affect blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults, and the projected weight loss is five pounds per year for people who drink three 16-ounce glasses of H20 daily.

Cola Drinks Dangerous to Women’s Bone Health

A small study from the Water Reed Army Medical Center has confirmed what several other recent studies have also concluded: Women who drink cola drinks — whether regular or diet — have lower bone mineral density and increased fracture rates compared to non-cola drinkers. In the study, women who drank 24 ounces of diet cola daily excreted significantly more calcium and phosphorous than women who drank 24 ounces of water. This and similar studies should be a wake-up call for women to cut down cola consumption and/or take calcium supplements to ward off potentially fatal bone fractures in later years.

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