Washing Dishes by Hand Linked to Fewer Allergies

What You Need to Know: Washing dishes by hand, rather than in a dishwasher, may help prevent allergies in children, a new Swedish study has found. In addition, the study suggests that consuming fermented or farm-bought food could decrease the likelihood of allergies further.

The Evidence: The study analyzed questionnaire responses about daily household practices from families of 1029 children aged 7 to 8 years. The children in the study hailed from two Swedish cities: Kiruna in the north and Mölndal on the southwest coast. The questionnaire was from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, used to estimate the prevalence of asthma, nasal allergies, and eczema.

The researchers theorized that the bacteria left over on dishware and utensils from hand-washing, a “less-efficient dishwashing method,” helped the subjects build tolerance to allergens.”Low hygiene standards and increased microbial exposure are common denominators often seen in low allergy-risk settings,” the authors noted.

  • Twenty-three percent of children from families who washed dishes by hand had a history of eczema compared with 38% from families who mainly used dishwashers.
  • Only 1.7% of children in hand-washing families had asthma compared with 7.3% in families with dishwashers.
  • The difference was smaller for nasal allergies: 10.3% in hand-washing households vs 12.9% in dishwasher households.
  • Eating fermented (probiotic-rich) food such as sauerkraut and fermented cucumber and buying food from farms did not, on their own, make a significant difference in allergies. But when combined with hand-dishwashing, these practices coincided with an overall reduction in allergies, the researchers found.
  • Forty-six percent of children suffered from allergic diseases in families that used machine dishwashing, did not buy food directly from farms, and did not eat fermented food. Comparatively, only 19% of children from families that hand-washed dishes and practiced at least one of the other two protective behaviors experienced allergies.

An accompanying editorial by Laurence E. Cheng, MD, PhD, and Michael D. Cabana, MD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco, stated that the research, although interesting, “has definite limits,” leaving many unanswered questions. For instance, why would the effects of contact with residual microbes on utensils be more powerful than actually ingesting fermented or farm-bought food? Analyzing the amount and make-up of microbes on utensils after hand-washing and less-than-sanitary storage techniques could prove illuminating, the editorialists advise.

“Much more clinical, translational and basic studies are needed to elucidate the role of different lifestyle choices…and microbial exposures,” they state, “and how those microbial exposures may modulate allergic disease and potentially lead to a primary prevention strategy.”

My Take: We need more investigation into the link between immunity and household practices. Unfortunately, the study the questionnaire did not ask how long the families had been practicing their current method of dishwashing. In addition, hand-washing may coincide with other lifestyle factors, such as living in close quarters, that can play a role in immunity. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

References: Pediatrics. Published online February 23, 2015; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/840268

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Increased Stroke Risk

What You Need to Know: Low vitamin D levels are linked to an increased risk for severe stroke and poor health in stroke survivors.

The Evidence: The study included 96 stroke patients who were treated at a U.S. hospital between 2013 and 2014. All had experienced an ischemic stroke.

  • People with low blood levels of vitamin D — less than 30 ng/mL — had about two times larger areas of dead tissue resulting from obstruction of the blood supply than those with normal vitamin D levels.
  • The researchers also found that for each 10 ng/mL reduction in vitamin D level, the odds of a healthy recovery in the 3 months after stroke fell by about half, regardless of age or initial stroke severity.

“It’s too early to draw firm conclusions from our small study,” senior author Nils Henninger, MD, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said in an American Stroke Association news release. “However, the results do provide the impetus for further rigorous investigations into the association of vitamin D status and stroke severity. If our findings are replicated, the next logical step may be to test whether supplementation can protect patients at high risk for stroke.”

My Take: Low vitamin D levels have been associated with a myriad of diseases, ranging from Breast and colon cancer to heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, poor bone health, diabetes, macular degeneration, stroke, and other medical problems. Whether you can change your risk by raising your vitamin D levels remains unknown. I try to get a bit of sun, but not enough to cause a burn. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Henninger N et al. Abstract W MP62. Presented at: International Stroke Conference 2015; Feb. 11-13, 2015; Nashville, TN.

Napping Countered Detrimental Effects of Short-Term Sleep Deprivation in Men

What You Need to Know: Two 30-minute naps relieved stress and bolstered the immune system of men who slept only 2 hours the night before, according to results of a small study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“Our data suggest a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” Brice Faraut, PhD, study researcher from the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in Paris, said in a press release. “This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels.”

The Evidence: In the randomized, crossover study, 11 healthy, nonsmoking young men (age range, 25 to 32 years, BMI, 19 to 25) were strictly controlled in a laboratory environment in terms of sleep-wake status, light environment and caloric intake, and were monitored continuously via polysomnography.

Dr. Faraut and colleagues examined neuroendocrine and immune biomarkers of a night of sleep restricted to 2 hours, which was followed by a day without naps or with 30-minute morning and afternoon naps. Patients then underwent an ad libitum recovery night of sleep following the sleep-restricted night from 20:00 to when they woke up. Main study outcome measures were salivary interleukin-6 (IL-6) and urinary catecholamines, which were evaluated throughout the daytime study periods.

  • The afternoon (16:00 to 19:00) after the sleep-restricted night, researchers found a 2.5-fold increase in norepinephrine levels compared with the same period during the control day (P=.03). These changes, however, were not observed after a 30-minute nap in the morning and afternoon (P=.88).
  • Similarly, differences in interleukin-6 levels were comparable between those who napped after sleep deprivation and the control group (P=.51).
  • In addition, levels of afternoon epinephrine and dopamine were increased during the recovery day for patients who did not nap, which was not the case for those who did. There was also an association between the recovery night of those who napped and a reduced amount of slow-wave sleep compared with those who did not nap.

“Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover,” Dr. Faraut said. “The findings support the development of practical strategies for addressing chronically sleep-deprived populations, such as night and shift workers.”

My Take: Yes, in the short-term, but…  I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

 Reference: Faraut B et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;doi:10.1210/jc.2014-2566.

Cancer Risk Linked to DNA ‘Wormholes’

What You Need to Know: Single-letter genetic variations within parts of the genome once dismissed as ‘junk DNA’ can increase cancer risk through wormhole-like effects on far-off genes. Researchers found that DNA sequences within ‘gene deserts’ — so called because they are completely devoid of genes — can regulate gene activity elsewhere by forming DNA loops across relatively large distances.

The study, led by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, helps solve a mystery about how genetic variations in parts of the genome that don’t appear to be doing very much can increase cancer risk.

  • Researchers developed a new technique to study the looping interactions and discovered that single-letter DNA variations linked to the development of bowel cancer were found in regions of the genome involved in DNA looping.
  • Their study, published today in Nature Communications, is the first to look comprehensively at these DNA interactions specifically in bowel cancer cells, and has implications for the study of other complex genetic diseases.
  • The researchers developed a technique called Capture Hi-C to investigate long-range physical interactions between stretches of DNA — allowing them to look at how specific areas of chromosomes interact physically in more detail than ever before. Previous techniques used to investigate long-range DNA interactions were not sensitive enough to produce definitive results.

The researchers assessed 14 regions of DNA that contain single-letter variations previously linked to bowel cancer risk. They detected significant long-range interactions for all 14 regions, confirming their role in gene regulation. These interactions are important because they can control how genes behave, and alterations in gene behaviour can lead to cancer — in fact most genetic variations that have been linked to cancer risk are not in genes themselves, but in the areas of the genome that regulate them.

Study leader Professor Richard Houlston, Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Our new technique shows that genetic variations are able to increase cancer risk through long-range looping interactions with cancer-causing genes elsewhere in the genome. It is sometimes described as analogous to a wormhole, where distortions in space and time could in theory bring together distant parts of the universe. Understanding how long-range genetic regulation works is crucial to understanding how cancer develops — and could be important in finding new ways to treat the disease in the future.”

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “A lot of the genetic variants already linked to cancer occur in gene deserts — often very long and quite mysterious DNA sequences that don’t actually contain ‘genes’, but which are involved in causing cancer in ways we do not yet fully understand.

“DNA looping is notoriously difficult to study but this research has taken an important step to understanding what genetic variations in DNA deserts might do to drive the development of bowel cancer.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Cancer Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Roland Jäger, Gabriele Migliorini, Marc Henrion, Radhika Kandaswamy, Helen E. Speedy, Andreas Heindl, Nicola Whiffin, Maria J. Carnicer, Laura Broome, Nicola Dryden, Takashi Nagano, Stefan Schoenfelder, Martin Enge, Yinyin Yuan, Jussi Taipale, Peter Fraser, Olivia Fletcher, Richard S. Houlston. Capture Hi-C identifies the chromatin interactome of colorectal cancer risk loci. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6178 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7178

Cite This Page:

Institute of Cancer Research. “Cancer risk linked to DNA ‘wormholes’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150219090349.htm>.

Pistachios and Diabetes

What You Need to Know: A rndomized clinical trial demonstrates that a pistachio-rich det can significantly reduce fasting glucose (sugar), insulin, and insulin resistance in pre-diabetic individuals.

Summary Points

  • Two ounces of pistacio nuts per day for 4 months in prediabetic individuals significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance compared to a control group.
  • No significant differences were found in lipid profiles between the pistachio-rich diet and control groups.

Who was studied? The study included 54 Spanish adults with prediabetes.

How was the study done? Participants were divided into two groups. Both groups followed a normal healthy diet for 2 weeks. Then, for the next 4 months, one group followed a diet that included 2 ounces of pistachio nuts per day, and the other group followed a similar diet without pistachio nuts. All participants then ate a normal diet for another 2 weeks. Finally, for another 4-month period, the two groups crossed over, eating the opposite diet from the one they had followed during the first 4-month period. Researchers collected health information and laboratory test results at 1) the start of the study, 2) after the first 2 weeks of the normal diet, and then 3) every month throughout the study.

What did the researchers find? Glucose and insulin levels and other signs of insulin resistance were lower after participants followed the diet with pistachio nuts than after they followed the diet without nuts. Several other measures linked to diabetes and heart disease risk also improved after the pistachio nut diet. In addition, participants had higher levels of glucagona hormone produced by the alpha cells in the pancreas. It raises blood glucose. An injectable form of glucagon, available by prescription, may be used to treat severe hypoglycemia.

What were the limitations of the study? This study focused on people with prediabetes, so its results may not apply to healthy people or to those individuals with diabetes.

What are the implications of the study? Eating a handful of pistachio nuts per day as part of a healthy diet may help people with prediabetes improve their condition and avoid diabetes and other diseases. Because nuts are high in calories, people who are concerned about weight gain should adjust other parts of their diet so they can add nuts without boosting their total daily calories.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Diabetes Care 2014;37:3098-3105.

For Many Women, Hot Flashes Continue 7 Years After Menopause

What You Need to Know: More than half of women experience menopause-relatedhot flashes and night sweats for 7 years or more.

The Evidence: Nancy Avis, PhD, a professor of social sciences and health policy at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and colleagues collected data on 1,449 women who took part in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) from February 1996 through April 2013. All reported having frequent hot flashes and night sweats for at least 6 days in the past 2 weeks.

  • The researchers found that, on average, these symptoms lasted for 7.4 years, but in general, the earlier symptoms started, the longer they continued.
  • Those who had hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms before menopause suffered longest — 11.8 years was the midpoint for that group.
  • Women who underwent early menopause suffered symptoms for roughly 9.4 years.
  • Women whose hot flashes and night sweats started after menopause reported symptoms for 3.4 years on average.
  • Race and ethnicity seemed to have some bearing on symptom duration. Black women reported the longest duration of symptoms — 10.1 years. Japanese and Chinese women suffered the shortest length of time — 4.8 and 5.4 years, respectively. Among white women, 6.5 years was the midpoint, and among Hispanic women, it was 8.9 years.

My Take: Women today have more options for managing the symptoms of menopause. Continued research in this area holds promise for further advances that will guide future care of women experiencing hot flashes. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References:

  1. Avis NE et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8063.
  2. Richard-Davis G, Manson J. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8099.