Acupuncture May Help Depression



A new study finds acupuncture to be highly effective in treating depression.


 

ACUPUNCTURE MAY HELP DEPRESSION

At least 1 in 10 Americans have been afflicted with major depression at some point in their lives, and some studies suggest that as many as 1 in 5 Americans have experienced significant depression before.  At any given time, an estimated 7 percent of adults in the United States are suffering from major depression.  (For reasons that are not entirely clear, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with major depression.)  In view its very high incidence, it is not surprising that major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people between the ages of 15 and 44.

There are a variety of potentially effective therapies available for depression including, primarily, cognitive therapy (i.e., meeting with a therapist for counseling) and antidepressant medications.  However, in view of the limited coverage made available for cognitive therapy by health insurers, there has been an increasing reliance upon antidepressant medications in the U.S. for many years.  While many of these medications can significantly reduce the signs and symptoms of major depression, they are often associated with significant side effects, and as many as half of all patients with severe chronic depression will fail to respond to most such medications.

A newly published prospective randomized controlled study from England suggests that acupuncture may be as effective as cognitive therapy and antidepressant medications as a treatment for depression.  This study appears in the online journal PLOS Medicine.

In this study, 755 patients with documented chronic major depression were randomized to one of three different treatment groups: acupuncture, cognitive therapy (counseling), and “usual care alone.”  (The latter group, which also included the use of antidepressant medications, served as the “control group” for this clinical study.)  All patient volunteers were subsequently reassessed with validated diagnostic tests throughout the 12-month course of this clinical study.

On average, the patient volunteers who participated in this clinical trial underwent 10 acupuncture sessions and 9 counseling sessions.  Compared to “usual care,” there was a statistically significant decrease in depression-associated symptoms in both the acupuncture and the counseling groups at 3 months and at 6 months after the start of this clinical study (by 12 months, however, the patients in the “usual care” group had improved to a level comparable to the acupuncture and counseling groups).  To summarize, acupuncture and counseling were each found to be highly effective in reducing the severity of depression-associated symptoms in patients with moderate-to-severe depression, and both were actually found to be more effective than the “usual care” (including antidepressant medications) received by the control group of patient volunteers at 3 months and at 6 months. 

This small study suggests a potential role for acupuncture in the treatment of major depression, and should stimulate additional research in this, and other, non-pharmacologic therapies for depression, particularly given the minimal risks associated with acupuncture in otherwise healthy patients.  However, if you are already taking antidepressant medications, and you are interested in trying acupuncture as a treatment for depression, please do not stop taking your medications without your doctor’s approval, as doing so could result in a worsening of your depression!

 

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Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Treatment of Stomach Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Management of Metastatic Cancer of the Liver on Sharecare

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Dr. Wascher Discusses Thyroid Cancer on health2fit.com

 

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Protein Critical for Long-Term Memory Identified

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Study Confirms that Men Really Do Have Trouble Reading the Thoughts of Women

Deadly new Bird Flu Strain Cases Continue to Rise

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Increasing Dietary Potassium & Decreasing Salt Intake Reduces Stroke Risk

A New Explanation for the Link Between Red Meat & Cardiovascular Disease

Deadly New Bird Flu Identified in China

Infection Risk: Keeping an Eye on Your Dentist

Couple Loses 500 Pounds in Two Years

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Eating While Distracted Increases Calorie Intake

Resistant Bacteria are on the Rise

High Levels of Stress Linked to an Increase in Heart Disease Risk

Small Snacks Cut Hunger as Well as Big Snacks

Poor Sleep May Increase the Risk of Heart Failure

Ancient Mummies Found to Have Heart Disease by CT Scan

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Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

 


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According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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High Fat Diet Decreases Metabolism and Increases Anger and Hostility



A new study finds that saturated fat decreases metabolism and physical activity, and increases anger and hostility.


 

HIGH FAT DIET DECREASES METABOLISM AND INCREASES ANGER AND HOSTILITY

As I have written about extensively in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, a diet low in saturated fat and meat products, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been linked to a decreased risk of cancer (and cardiovascular disease) when compared to the traditional Western diet, which is rich in saturated fat and meat. Now, a new study has linked a Mediterranean-type diet, low in saturated fat, to other potential health benefits, including greater levels of physical activity, a higher metabolic rate, and, somewhat surprisingly, less angry and hostile moods. This study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In this prospective randomized clinical study, 32 young adults were separated into two groups. The first group used cooking oils high in saturated fat, while the second group used cooking oils low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat. After three weeks, both groups were “crossed over,” and had their cooking oils switched for an additional three weeks. (This clinical study’s “crossover” design is a powerful means of eliminating potential biases that can lead to false conclusions.) Another important aspect of this study was that all food consumed by the study’s volunteer research subjects was provided (and controlled) by the researchers. Moreover, the food provided to both groups of study volunteers was the same, and only the cooking oil differed between the two study groups.

All research volunteers were continuously assessed with regards to physical activity levels and resting metabolic rates (“resting energy expenditure”). Due to the observed differences in physical activity levels between the two groups of volunteers, the researchers also subjected study volunteers to a validated mood assessment questionnaire, to see if differences in mood might account for the significantly different levels of physical activity between the two groups of research volunteers.

The results of this intriguing prospective randomized clinical study were quite interesting. Firstly, continuous measurements of physical activity showed that the monounsaturated oil (Mediterranean-like diet) group was 12 percent more active, physically, than the saturated fat group (Western-type diet). Secondly, the resting metabolic rate of the monounsaturated oil group was almost 5 percent higher than that of the saturated fat cooking oil group, suggesting that the young adults who were consuming primarily monounsaturated fat were burning more calories at rest than the group that was using saturated fat. Finally, the monounsaturated fat group scored significantly lower on the anger-hostility scale of the mood assessment questionnaire than the volunteers who were using cooking oil containing saturated fat.

To summarize, this innovative prospective clinical research study found that a Mediterranean-like diet, low in saturated fat, was associated with increased levels of physical activity, a higher resting metabolism rate, and less anger and hostility, when compared to a Western-like diet that was rich in saturated fat. These findings add further evidence to the data that I extensively discuss in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, showing that a Mediterranean diet low in saturated fat and meat products, and high in unsaturated oils, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetable, fish, and poultry, is an important strategy for good health.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

Join Dr. Wascher on Facebook

Additional Links for Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS

Profile of Dr. Wascher by Oncology Times

Bio of Dr. Wascher at Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Dr. Wascher Discusses Predictions of Decreased Cancer Risk on azfamily.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Environmental Risk Factors for Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer on talkabouthealth.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention Strategies on LIVESTRONG

Dr. Wascher Discusses Cancer Prevention on Newsmax

Dr. Wascher Answers Questions About Cancer Risk & Cancer Prevention on The Doctors Radio Show

Dr. Wascher Discusses Lymphedema After Breast Surgery on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Chronic Pain After Mastectomy for Breast Cancer on cancerlynx.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Cancer on cancersupportivecare.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Exercise in Cancer Prevention on Open Salon

Dr. Wascher Discusses Aspirin as a Potential Preventive Agent for Pancreatic Cancer on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on eHealth Forum

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Role of Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Breast Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Treatment of Stomach Cancer on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses the Management of Metastatic Cancer of the Liver on Sharecare

Dr. Wascher Discusses Obesity & Cancer Risk on hopenavigators.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer Risk on interactmd.com

Dr. Wascher Discusses Thyroid Cancer on health2fit.com

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Deadly New Bird Flu Identified in China

Infection Risk: Keeping an Eye on Your Dentist

Couple Loses 500 Pounds in Two Years

Coffee May Reduce Crash Risk for Long-Distance Drivers

Tiny Implant Tells Your Smart Phone When You Are Having A Heart Attack

Transplanted Kidney Causes Death Due to Rabies

Eating While Distracted Increases Calorie Intake

Resistant Bacteria are on the Rise

High Levels of Stress Linked to an Increase in Heart Disease Risk

Small Snacks Cut Hunger as Well as Big Snacks

Poor Sleep May Increase the Risk of Heart Failure

Deep Brain Stimulation May Help Patients with Anorexia Nervosa

Ancient Mummies Found to Have Heart Disease by CT Scan

Physically Fit Kids Do Better on Math & Reading Tests

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Evades the Immune System

Possible Link Between BPA and Asthma

Toddler May Have Been Cured of HIV (AIDS) Virus

Baby Boomers Appear Less Healthy Than Their Parents

The Biology of Love in the Brain

Millennials May be the Most Stressed-Out Generation

Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 


 


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.8 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Psychiatric Illnesses May Involve Changes in Only Two Genes



A new study shows that changes in only two genes may account for most psychiatric illnesses.


 

PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESSES MAY INVOLVE CHANGES IN ONLY TWO GENES

As most regular readers of Weekly Health Update know, I rarely discuss psychiatric research studies here, as most behavioral studies are based upon lower level research methodologies, and many of these studies also take inadequate safeguards, in my view, to eliminate inherent biases. However, every now and then, a psychiatric study comes along that catches my attention, and merits further discussion.

Currently, psychiatric diagnoses are based upon clinical symptoms that are organized into diagnostic groups contained in the “bible” of Psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM.” Because specific psychiatric diagnoses are based almost entirely on the subjective observation of signs and symptoms of mental illness, rather than objective test results, there is enormous potential for misdiagnosis. Moreover, many psychiatric diagnoses are associated with overlapping clusters of symptoms, which further increases the likelihood of misdiagnosis (and inappropriate treatment).

A new research study, which appears in the current issue of the journal The Lancet, strongly suggests that several common mental health disorders long thought to be unrelated to each other may, in fact, share a common biological basis, at least in some patients. The striking findings of this novel genetic study may dramatically change the way that psychiatrists diagnose and manage patients with psychiatric illnesses.

In this landmark study, 33,332 patients with psychiatric illnesses and 27,888 healthy control subjects underwent sequencing of their entire complement of DNA (“genome”), looking for genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). (These common variations in the individual “letters” of our genetic code are responsible for many of the differences that exist among us, including hair color, eye color, and other variations, or traits, that can be readily observed.) The researchers then used very complex genetic analysis tools to search for SNPs that appeared to be linked, specifically, to the diagnosis of 5 different psychiatric illnesses in this large population of research subjects.

The results of this landmark study go a long way towards explaining the inaccuracies and inconsistencies commonly associated with the clinical diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses based upon DSM diagnostic criteria. Another very important result of this study is that it provides a potential explanation for the actual genetic and biological basis for at least some cases of common psychiatric illnesses.

Based upon the enormous amount of genetic information collected in this study, SNPs at four specific genetic sites were found to be strongly associated with the following 5 common psychiatric illnesses: autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (depression), and schizophrenia. What was especially fascinating was the finding that genetic variations at these four sites involved just two genes, both of which are associated with calcium channels that act like microscopic gates that allow calcium to move into or out of cells.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this study’s findings. For perhaps the first time, there is now genetic and biological data linking the 5 most common major psychiatric illnesses to specific locations in just two genes, which argues against the current clinical view that each of these illnesses are completely unrelated to each other. Indeed, the finding that variations in only two genes may account for these 5 common psychiatric illnesses is hugely significant, as is the finding that these two genes, which are involved in the construction of calcium channels, may play a fundamental role in the development of these seemingly unrelated illnesses.

The findings of this pivotal study will, hopefully, help psychiatrists to move away from the current subjective, and often arbitrary, methods of clinically diagnosing and treating psychiatric illnesses, and move towards making diagnoses based upon objective gene-based (“molecular”) and biological findings. Moreover, reaching a clearer understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying these common psychiatric illnesses may also lead to innovative new treatment options for patients with mental health illnesses.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Physically Fit Kids Do Better on Math & Reading Tests

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Evades the Immune System

Possible Link Between BPA and Asthma

Toddler May Have Been Cured of HIV (AIDS) Virus

Baby Boomers Appear Less Healthy Than Their Parents

The Biology of Love in the Brain

Millennials May be the Most Stressed-Out Generation

Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Britain

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.6 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Folic Acid Supplements Reduce Autism Risk



A new study finds that taking folic acid supplements during early pregnancy can reduce the risk of autism by 39 percent.


 

 

FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENTS REDUCE AUTISM RISK

For reasons that remain unclear at this time, the number of children diagnosed with autism has skyrocketed in recent years.  While many cases of autism appear to be linked to specific genetic abnormalities that can be inherited, or to other factors that are strongly associated with autism, in the majority of cases, no specific causes are apparent. 

One important focus of autism research is in the area of the “prenatal environment,” which is to say, the environment that the developing fetus experiences prior to delivery.  For example, maternal infections with certain viruses during pregnancy have been linked with autism.  In other cases, maternal exposure to specific environmental toxins during pregnancy has also been associated with an increased risk of autism.  Due to growing evidence that the fetal environment during pregnancy may play an important role in the risk of developing autism, there has also been an interest in looking at nutritional factors that may play a role in either the prevention or development of autism during pregnancy. 

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) has previously been shown to play an important role in the development of the brain and spinal cord during early fetal development.  For example, devastating abnormalities in brain and spinal cord development, collectively referred to as neural tube defects, have been specifically linked to inadequate folic acid intake during early pregnancy.  Because folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy reduces the incidence of neural tube defects by almost 50 percent, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated folic acid supplementation of all food products derived from grains and cereals in the United States.  Now, a newly published clinical research study suggests that folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy may also significantly reduce the risk of autism.  This study appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In this landmark study, more than 85,000 children born in Norway between 2002 and 2008 took part in the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.  These children were closely followed in this study, until March 31, 2012.  The use (or nonuse) of folic acid supplements by the mothers of these children, before and during pregnancy, was then assessed.  The incidence of autism in this very large group of children was then correlated with their mothers’ use (or nonuse) of folic acid during early pregnancy.    

The findings of this study were rather dramatic.  At the end of this study’s observation period, 270 children had been formally diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder, including 114 children with autistic disorder (autism), 56 with Asperger’s syndrome, and 100 with Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  Although the risk of Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder did not appear to vary with respect to folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy, the use of folic acid supplements prior to and during pregnancy was associated with a 39 percent decrease in the risk of autistic disorder (autism), when compared to the children of mothers who did not take folic acids supplements.  (The authors of this study also noted that the statistical power of this study was not strong enough to detect a subtle impact of folic acid supplementation on the risk of Asperger’s syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and so a potential mildly beneficial effect of folic acid on the incidence of these two autistic spectrum disorders cannot be ruled out at this time.)

Therefore, the findings of this large prospective clinical research study indicate that the incidence of autism can be significantly reduced by folic acid supplementation just prior to pregnancy, and during pregnancy, just as the incidence of neural tube defects has been reduced using this same strategy.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Baby Boomers Appear Less Healthy Than Their Parents

The Biology of Love in the Brain

Millennials May be the Most Stressed-Out Generation

Even Modest Alcohol Intake Raises Cancer Risk

Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Britain

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Tamoxifen for 10 Years (Instead of 5 Years) Significantly Improves Breast Cancer Survival Rate

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.5 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Fitness in Middle Age Lowers Dementia Risk



A new study finds that being physically fit in middle age may protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.


 

 

FITNESS IN MIDDLE AGE LOWERS DEMENTIA RISK

The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are predicted to rise significantly as our population continues to age.  At the present time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia.

While the primary cause (or causes) of Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear at this time, it is clear that advancing age, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels all appear to be linked with this debilitating and irreversible form of dementia.  At the same time, it is also well known that regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated high cholesterol levels.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine, strongly suggests that being physically fit during mid-life may also help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.

In this study, 19,458 middle-aged adults were assessed for their level of physical fitness between 1971 and 2009.  After an average of 25 years of follow-up, 1,659 of these research volunteers went on to be diagnosed with dementia. When researchers correlated levels of physical fitness during mid-life with the incidence of dementia later in life, they found that higher levels of physical fitness in middle age appeared to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.  In fact, the research volunteers with the highest levels of physical fitness during their middle age years were 36 percent less likely to develop dementia during the course of this study, when compared with volunteers who were at the lowest levels of physical fitness during mid-life.

In addition to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, the findings of this newly published clinical study strongly suggest that regular exercise during middle age is also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of developing dementia later in life.  In view of the many health benefits associated with regular exercise, if you are not currently getting 3 to 4 hours of at least moderate exercise per week, then please see your physician and a personal trainer, and begin your own personal exercise program!


Links to Other Breaking Health News

Horse Meat Scandal Rocks Britain

Why Do Boys Receive Lower Grades than Girls?

Negative Emotions and Feelings Can Damage Your Health

Canker Sore Drug Cures Obesity (At Least in Mice…)

How Technology is Changing the Practice of Medicine

New Salt Intake Guidelines for Children

High Levels of Distress in Childhood May Increase Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.5 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Fish Oil Improves Memory, Reduces Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk Factors



Fish Oil Improves Memory, Reduces Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk Factors


 

 

 

FISH OIL IMPROVES MEMORY, REDUCES DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE RISK FACTORS

Fish oil, which is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, can play an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health.  There is also research data available to suggest that regular supplements of fish oil may improve brain function, including memory, in older patients.  Now, a recently published research paper, which appears in the Nutrition Journal, provides strong evidence that fish oil supplements can indeed improve cognitive function, while simultaneously reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In this study, 40 healthy middle-aged and elderly research volunteers underwent initial evaluation, including blood tests and cognitive function testing.  In this “placebo-controlled crossover” study, the volunteers were randomly divided into two groups.  One group received 3 grams of fish oil per day, while the other group received a placebo (sugar) pill.  After 5 weeks, the two groups of research volunteers were retested, and were then switched, or “crossed over,” with respect to the fish oil supplements and placebo pills.  After 5 additional weeks, the research volunteers were all once again retested.

Retesting of these research volunteers showed a significant improvement in memory function after taking fish oil for 5 weeks (when compared to the volunteers who were taking placebo pills).  Moreover, fish oil supplementation was also associated with a lower level of fat (triglycerides) in the blood, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and a decrease in the level of the inflammatory protein TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha).

Taken together, the findings of this clinical study identified several apparent health benefits associated with daily fish oil supplements in middle-aged and elderly research volunteers, including improved memory function and improvements in multiple known risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

 

Links to Other Breaking Health News

Flu Now in All 50 States, but New Cases Are Leveling Off

Quitting Tobacco by Age 40 Restores a Normal Lifespan in Smokers

Cancer Death Rates Continue to Fall

Self-Help Books Improve Depression

Marines Try Mindfulness and Meditation to Reduce PTSD

Dying Nurse Volunteers Herself to Teach Nursing Students about the Dying

Regular Walks Cut Stroke Risk

Falling Asleep While Driving More Common than Previously Thought

Growing Immune Cells to Fight Cancer

Celebrity Health Fads Debunked

Thousands of Surgery Mistakes Are Still Happening Each Year

New Graphic Antismoking Ads Debut in England

Kids with Food Allergies May Become Targets of Bullies

Obesity Among Young Children May Be Declining

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Satisfaction with Life May Actually Increase with Age

Brain Changes in the Elderly May Increase Susceptibility to Being Scammed

“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.4 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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American Surgeons in Crisis: Implications for Healthcare






 

A new study finds that more than half of surgeons are experiencing work-home conflicts that threaten their personal and professional wellbeing.


 

AMERICAN SURGEONS IN CRISIS:  IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTHCARE

As I have discussed in previous columns (The Silent Epidemic of Surgeon Burnout and DepressionEpidemic of Alcohol Abuse Among Surgeons), there are quiet and evolving, and disturbing, developments within the community of American surgeons, and these developments may portend of significant potential future problems for surgeons, and for patients who require surgical care.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of Surgery, further suggests that the epidemic of surgeon burnout and depression is indeed real, and has serious potential implications for both surgeons and their patients.

In this study, 7,197 active surgeons were surveyed, electronically, by the American College of Surgeons, using questions from validated surveys that assess for career burnout, depression, quality of life, alcohol use, and other measures of satisfaction with both personal and professional life attributes.

When asked if they had experienced any significant conflicts between their “work lives” and their “home lives” within the previous three weeks, an astounding 53 percent of the queried surgeons replied, “Yes.”  Thus, more than half of all surgeons who participated in this confidential survey reported substantial and distressing conflicts between their professional lives and their home lives within the preceding three weeks.

When the study’s authors analyzed the personal and professional factors that were most closely associated with “work-home conflicts,” and with both personal and professional dissatisfaction, a clearer picture emerged.  For example, the number of hours worked per week, having children, the surgeon’s gender, and the type of surgical practice were all closely linked with work-home conflicts, and with lower levels of personal and professional satisfaction.  For example, surgeons who practiced at Veterans Administration hospitals were 91 percent more likely to report work-home conflicts when compared to surgeons in private practice, while surgeons who practiced at an academic medical center were 19 percent more likely to report such conflicts when compared to private practice surgeons.  Not surprisingly, having children at home was associated with a 65 percent greater likelihood of work-home conflict when compared to surgeons without children at home.  Working more hours per week and being younger were also factors associated with a higher likelihood of work-home conflict, as was being a female surgeon (i.e., when compared to male surgeons).  Surgeon specialty was also significantly linked to work-home conflicts and overall lower satisfaction levels, with broadly practicing general surgeons being twice as likely to report work-home conflicts as surgeons in other specialties (e.g., breast surgeons, heart surgeons, neurosurgeons, and other subspecialist surgeons).

The high level of work-home conflicts identified among surgeons is an issue of great concern to all of us, as such conflicts were significantly associated with career burnout, exhaustion, decreased quality of life, depression, relationship difficulties, alcohol abuse, and overall career dissatisfaction by scientifically validated surveys.  Surgeons reporting recent work-home conflicts were also substantially less likely to recommend surgery as a career option to their children.

In addition to higher levels of burnout, depression, alcohol abuse, relationship difficulties, and career dissatisfaction, surgeons who reported recent work-home conflicts were also 77 percent more likely to be planning to reduce their clinical work hours, and71 percent more likely to be planning to leave their surgical practices for reasons other than planned retirement.

At a time when the demand for some types of surgical care is already outstripping the supply of experienced, competent surgeons in many areas of the country, the findings of this study are cause for considerable concern.  For example, looking into the near future, our population is aging, and many acute and chronic diseases that require surgical treatment are more common in elderly patients.  Therefore, there is real concern that an increasingly burned-out surgeon workforce, and a declining interest in the more challenging surgical specialties (like general surgery) by today’s medical students, will someday soon leave the United States with an inadequate number of experienced surgeons to meet our nation’s healthcare needs.

All of the above noted adverse factors within the American surgeon community, once again, raise the concern that adequate levels of surgical care may not be available in the not too distant future if significant changes in surgical training and surgical practice are not considered and implemented, particularly in the workhorse specialty of general surgery.  The surgical community has been, admittedly, slow to appreciate or embrace generational changes in perceptions about work-life balance, and has only grudgingly (and recently) acquiesced to external pressures to treat its surgeons-in-training in a more considerate and supportive manner, compared to the conditions that surgery interns and residents toiled under during my era of training, as well as previous generations of surgical trainees.  (When I was a surgical intern, in the late 1980s, there were no limitations on the number of hours that interns and residents were expected to work in the hospital, including the number of nights spent on call for emergencies within the hospital, and it was not uncommon for us to spend 100 to 120 hours inside the hospital each and every week.)  Regardless of how more senior surgeons feel about it, it must be acknowledged that the current generation of medical students and young surgeons, both male and female, are much more concerned about work-life balance, and overall quality of life issues, than was typical for my generation of surgeons.

On a brighter note, the American College of Surgeons’ sponsorship of this research study, and others like it, suggests that the older generation of surgeons who currently serve as senior leaders and mentors for young surgeons and surgical trainees may, finally, be coming to grips with the rather dramatic shift in attitudes and priorities among their young charges. Hopefully, it is not too late to make meaningful structural changes in surgical training and surgical practice conditions before there are widespread adverse public health consequences to the ongoing crisis among the community of surgeons in the United States….

 

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 





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Chronic Anxiety and Depression Significantly Increase the Risk of Early Death




 

A large new study suggests that chronic anxiety and depression are associated with a higher risk of premature death than was previously appreciated.


 

 

CHRONIC ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE RISK OF EARLY DEATH

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, most previous research studies have suggested only rather weak links between chronic stress and cancer risk, although there is some data linking chronic depression with breast cancer risk.  However, in view of the increasing number of people around the world who are currently experiencing chronic anxiety and depression during these economically and geopolitically troubled times, the findings of a new public health study that psychological distress significantly increases the risk of premature death from serious illnesses, including cancer, is concerning.  This new study appears in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

Altogether, 68,222 adults in Great Britain were followed for an average of more than 8 years within the prospectively conducted Health Survey for England study.  All of these study participants were clinically free of serious physical illness when they first joined this very large public health study.  All of the participants in this study were assessed for psychological stress using a validated assessment questionnaire, which was administered in their homes by research staff.  Subsequently, the incidence of serious physical illnesses during the course of this study was then correlated with the degree of measured psychological distress.  The rather dramatic findings of this large prospective public health study illustrate the magnitude of the impact of chronic, severe stress on our bodies, including the risk of premature death due to stress-associated physical illnesses.

After adjusting for preexisting serious physical illnesses, lifestyle-associated risk factors for serious illnesses, and socioeconomic factors known to be linked to chronic, serious illnesses, this study still identified a highly significant increase in the risk of premature death associated with the extent of psychological distress among volunteers in this very large study.  When the “psychological distress score” was compared with death rates, having a score of 1 to 3 (compared to a score of “0,” which reflects no evidence of psychological distress) was associated with a 20 percent increase in the risk of premature death.  A psychological stress score of 4 to 6 was associated with a 43 percent increase in the risk of early death, while a distress score of 7 to 12 was associated with a whopping 94 percent increase in the risk of premature death when compared to study volunteers who were without evidence of any significant psychological distress!

Upon further analysis, death due to cardiovascular disease and other non-cancer causes increased significantly, and proportionally, with each increase in the psychological distress score.  Cancer-associated deaths also increased with rising psychological distress scores, although this association was only observed among volunteers with significantly elevated distress scores.  However, for non-cancer causes of death, the risk of premature death was significantly elevated with evenmild increases in psychological distress.

The potential impact of this study’s findings are highly significant, as they not only reveal a “dose-dependent” relationship between stress levels and the risk of premature death from serious physical illnesses, but the sheer magnitude of the impact of high levels of chronic anxiety and depression on the risk of premature death is much higher, potentially, than has been observed in previous and much smaller studies.

Although this study was not designed to identify the biological mechanisms whereby prolonged periods of increased psychological distress lead to early death, numerous prior studies have shown that chronic depression and anxiety can directly activate an inflammatory response in humans which, in turn, is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, infection, and cancer, as well as other chronic, serious illnesses.  It is also well known that chronic anxiety and chronic depression increase the likelihood of unhealthy behaviors that have also been linked to serious, chronic illnesses, including smoking, excess alcohol or other drug intake, unhealthy diets, and lack of exercise, in addition to other unhealthy behaviors.  What is especially unique about this new study (other than its sheer size), however, is that the researchers were able to identify and adjust for preexisting unhealthy behaviors among the study’s volunteers when they analyzed the study’s data, which increases the likelihood that the adverse effects of chronic anxiety and depression on the risk of premature death observed in this research study are actually a direct result of psychological distress rather than unhealthy lifestyle choices.

If you are experiencing high levels of chronic stress, and if you are frequently anxious or depressed, then please seek help from your personal physician or a mental health professional.  If you are thinking of harming yourself, or someone else, then please seek immediate help.  These are very trying times for many people, and the ongoing worldwide challenges that have provoked such high levels of stress do not appear likely to disappear any time soon.  Knowing that so many other people around the world are also feeling worried and chronically stressed can make each of us feel less alone in our distress.  However, sometimes the awareness that others are experiencing similar levels of distress is, by itself, not enough to ease our anxiety or depression.  So, if you are struggling with anxiety or depression, and especially if you are feeling alone and isolated at the same time, then please seek the help and support of others.  In the vast majority of cases, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness will eventually pass when you get help and support during dark times in your life.


 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 




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Depression After Childhood Abuse May Be Linked To A Specific Gene







 

A new study suggests that a variant of a recently discovered gene may double the risk of lifelong depression after childhood abuse.


 

 

CHRONIC DEPRESSION AFTER CHILDHOOD ABUSE MAY BE LINKED TO A NEW GENE

The age-old debate about “nature versus nurture” has become increasingly complicated as we continue to learn more about the impact of individual genes on our risk for various illnesses.  While it has become widely accepted that specific genetic patterns may predispose some of us to a very high risk of certain physical illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, the potential linkage between specific genes and the risk of mental illness has been less clear.  At the same time, however, it has long been known that some mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, tend to run in families, which suggests that there may be at least some genetic component to these illnesses.

Over the past 5 years, fundamental new research has begun to suggest that certain genes may indeed be associated with an increased risk of specific mental illnesses.  However, most mental health experts believe that having a specific form of a gene linked to mental illness does not, by itself, mean that an affected individual faces a 100 percent risk of developing a mental illness.  Getting back to that “nature versus nurture” debate once again, it appears that having a genetic variant associated with a specific mental health illness probably predisposes an affected person to develop that particular mental health disorder, but does not guarantee that this will happen.  More specifically, an individual person’s experiences and environment during early life (i.e., the “nurture”) appear to have a significant impact on whether or not genes associated with an increased risk of mental illness (i.e., the “nature”) will actually lead to the development of mental illness.

Now, a newly published clinical study provides strong evidence that a specific form of a single gene can significantly increase the likelihood of major depression in adults following physical abuse during childhood, while another variant of this same gene appears to decrease the risk of chronic depression in similarly abused adults.  This intriguing research study appears in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

This new research study was inspired by previous research with laboratory animals that identified a network of neurons in the brain that use chemicals called endocannabinoids to communicate with each other.  (If the word “endocannabinoid” sounds vaguely familiar, it is because these naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain also have counterparts in the plant world, most notably in cannabis, or marijuana, plants!)  Previous research has also suggested that the endocannabinoid system in the brain may play an important role in adaptation to stress, including the moderation of our mood following stressful events.

In this new study, two groups of patient-volunteers were included.  The first group consisted of 1,041 young adult female twins in the United States, while the second group consisted of 1,428 Australian adults known to be addicted to heroin. (An additional 506 Australian volunteers without heroin addiction participated in this study as the control group for the heroin-addicted volunteers.)  The presence of depression, and in particular, depression with anhedonia (a term that indicates the inability to enjoy experiences that most of us find pleasurable), was assessed among all of these patient-volunteers.  The absence or presence of a history of physical abuse, by a parent or caregiver, during childhood was also evaluated.  Testing of the gene which codes for the human endocannabinoid receptor in the brain was performed on all of these research volunteers, as well.

The findings of this study were highly significant.  Not surprisingly, the study volunteers who reported having experienced significant childhood physical abuse had a much higher incidence of depression when compared to those volunteers who did not experience physical abuse as children.  Among the volunteers who had experienced significant physical abuse during childhood, a single, specific variant of the endocannabinoid receptor gene appeared to be highly protective against anhedonic depression when compared to volunteers who possessed the more common variant of this gene.  Specifically, only 29 percent of abused volunteers with this less common variant of the endocannabinoid receptor gene experienced anhedonic symptoms, while 57 percent of the previously abused volunteers with the most common form of this same gene were found to have symptoms of anhedonic depression.

The findings of this study strongly suggest that certain naturally occurring variants of specific genes may either increase or decrease the risk of mental illness (and in the case of this clinical study, major depression with anhedonia) following stressful experiences earlier in life.  Not only do this study’s findings suggest a method of screening patients who might be at significantly increased risk for major depression following stressful events in their early lives, but the linkage of a specific gene within the brain’s endocannabinoid system with depression following traumatic childhood experiences may someday allow for a more effective treatment for post-traumatic major depression, using medications targeted at the specific genetic variation that leads to this increased risk of depression following childhood trauma.


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

 

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 











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Epidemic of Alcohol Abuse Among Surgeons





A new study indicates that chronic alcohol abuse among surgeons is far more common than among the general population.


 

 

EPIDEMIC OF ALCOHOL ABUSE AMONG SURGEONS

In a previous column (Surgeon Performance and Alcohol), I reviewed a clinical research study that revealed just how significantly alcohol intake degrades surgical skills among surgeons, even well into the day following alcohol intake.  In another recent column, I examined a study that revealed a disturbingly high rate of burnout and depression among American surgeons (Surgeon Burnout and Depression).  This week, I will present a newly published clinical study that, once again, raises serious concerns about the health and wellbeing of many surgeons in the United States.

In a study that appears in the current issue of the Archives of Surgery, more than 7,000 surgeons in the United States agreed to participate in a confidential assessment of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence among members of the American College of Surgeons.  Validated surveys and tests were administered to these surgeon-volunteers, and the resulting data was analyzed.

Based upon the results of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, 15 percent of the responding surgeons, overall, were identified as meeting the criteria for either chronic alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.  Further evaluation of the data collected in this study revealed that 14 percent of the participating male surgeons met the criteria for chronic abuse of alcohol or alcohol dependency, while 26 percent of the corresponding female surgeons met these same worrisome criteria.  Moreover, surgeons who reported having committed a major medical or surgical error within the previous 3 months were 45 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, or to be dependent upon alcohol, when compared to surgeons who did not report any recent errors.  Similarly, surgeons who reported feeling burned out in their professional lives were 25 percent more likely to be problem drinkers when compared to surgeons who did not report professional burnout.  Finally, surgeons who reported symptoms consistent with depression were nearly 50 percent more likely to abuse alcohol than surgeons who did not report feeling depressed.

Interestingly, surgeons were less likely to have alcohol abuse and dependency problems if they were older, male, or had children.  (Approximately 11 percent of adult males in the general population are thought to have chronic alcohol abuse problems, while only about 5 percent of adult females in the general population appear to abuse alcohol on a regular basis.)

The findings of this study, once again, indicate a disturbingly high rate of substance abuse among American surgeons; and this is the first study to show that female surgeons, unlike women in the general population, are twice as likely as their male counterparts to regularly abuse alcohol.  Taken together with previous studies showing very high rates of depression and career burnout among surgeons in the United States, the findings of this latest study are rather worrisome.  (Previous studies have also linked an increased likelihood of medical and surgical errors to surgeons who are depressed, and who abuse alcohol and other drugs.)

I should also note that only 29 percent of the surgeons who were contacted agreed to participate in this confidential study.  Because this participation rate is much lower than what is typically seen in most survey-based research studies, it raises the important question as to whether or not the rate of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency might actually be considerably higher among surgeons, in general, than what is reflected in this study.  Indeed, most statistics experts believe that a very common reason for nonparticipation in survey-based studies is a reluctance to divulge negative information about oneself.  Moreover, even people who elect to participate in survey-based studies often “fudge” their responses in ways that tend to underestimate their bad habits and other self-perceived shortcomings.  Therefore, it is entirely possible that the incidence of chronic alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency among surgeons may be even higher than what was reported in this study….

 

As I have observed in previous columns, surgeons who abuse alcohol, or other drugs, are more likely to be associated with medical errors and worse patient outcomes.  However, the stigma of reporting oneself as having an alcohol, or other drug, problem is so great in the medical profession that impaired surgeons (as with other physicians) are generally extremely reluctant to admit that they have an alcohol or drug problem.  Most medical boards still require physicians to indicate whether or not they have a history of drug or alcohol abuse on licensure applications, and the medical profession, in general, still seems to be in a state of denial regarding the unusually high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among physicians when compared to the general public.  It also goes without saying that the potential consequences of being operated upon by an impaired surgeon can be catastrophic to both patients and their loved ones, and, therefore, the still prevailing “head in the sand” approach to identifying, and rehabilitating, impaired physicians would not appear to serve the public interest very well, in my view.

 

While the vast majority of surgeons are passionately devoted to providing the best possible care to their patients, and would therefore not engage in personal behaviors that might potentially endanger their patients, it is becoming increasingly clear that a sizable percentage of surgeons in the United States are seriously impaired by burnout, depression and other mental health illnesses, and by alcohol and drug abuse.  Therefore, a better system of screening out surgical trainees who are predisposed to these serious health problems should be considered, while, at the same time, medical authorities at the state and federal levels should make it easier, and less threatening, for currently impaired physicians and surgeons to reach out for help without fearing that they will be punished or professionally sanctioned as a result.  I, therefore, applaud the American College of Surgeons for sponsoring and publishing this important study as a preliminary step forward in this direction.


 

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Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


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