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.

 

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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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