One of the latest scientific findings reported in New Scientist magazine shows that sugar causes premature aging, as if we needed another reason to cut back on sugary snacks and desserts – they provide a quick boost but leave us drained later, and we all know sustained energy is a must in the OR.
A Spoonful of Sugar Helps Your Skin Age Prematurely
A sweet tooth does more than pack on the pounds; it causes your skin to age prematurely, making you look older than you really are. But how much older?
A team led by Diana van Heemst at Leiden University in the Netherlands divided 569 healthy volunteers into three groups according to whether they had low, medium or high concentrations of blood glucose after a meal. They also studied 33 people with diabetes who had even higher blood glucose levels.
Sixty independent assessors were then asked to view pictures of the volunteers and rate how old each looked. The results show that high blood sugar levels made people look older, even when other factors affecting appearance were accounted for, such as actual age, smoking and a history of sunbathing.
The largest gap in perceived age was one year seven months, between the lowest glucose group and the diabetics, from an average of 59.6 years old to 61.2 years. But even among those without diabetes, there was a one-year gap between the lowest and highest glucose groups. Overall, there was a five-month hike in perceived age for every 0.18 gram increase in glucose per litre of blood (Age).
“What’s happening in the body is written in the face,” says David Gunn of Unilever Research in Sharnbrook, UK, who co-led the project.
Supreme Court Grapples Over Patents for Treating Disease
By Chelsea Whyte
The long arm of the law may soon reach your doctor’s office. In a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, a drug company is fighting for a patent that could hold medical knowledge hostage.
Prometheus Laboratories in San Diego, Calif., holds a patent on guidelines for treating gastrointestinal diseases. It is battling the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota over claims that the clinic’s methods of treating these diseases conflict with its patent, which covers dosage adjustments that tell doctors how much medicine should be prescribed based on metabolites in the body.
Although discoveries can be patented in the U.S., this claim over natural body processes goes too far, according to a statement by a group of organizations including the American Medical Association in support of the Mayo Clinic. “Long before the patentee drafted his claims, physicians treating autoimmune disorders recognized the relationship between metabolite levels and therapeutic efficacy of the drugs,” they write.
They say that patenting the “utterly conventional steps” will result in poorer patient care. “Higher priced medical care is an inevitable result,” they add.
Crowded Teeth Are a Sign of Going Soft
By Bob Holmes
Teenagers facing the purgatory of braces to fix their misaligned teeth might be able to blame bread for their predicament.
Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel at the University of Kent, UK, measured the shape of 295 human lower jaws from museum specimens. Those that came from agricultural societies were smaller, on average, than those that came from hunter-gatherer societies, although all carried the same number of teeth. The differences persisted even after she accounted for the effects of climate, geography and random genetic variation (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
The likeliest explanation is that grain-rich agricultural diets tend to be softer and easier to chew than the wild plant and meat-rich diets of hunter-gatherers, so the jaw does not grow so large, says von Cramon-Taubadel.
Our farming ancestors had smaller jaws than hunter-gatherers, which could be why our teeth are often crowded and misaligned.
By Jessica Hamzelou
Bone marrow transplants may beat stem-cell injections as a way of increasing the production of blood cells when tissue is from an unrelated donor.
A potential problem of either treatment — used for diseases like sickle cell anemia — is graft-versus-host disease. This potentially fatal condition occurs when donated blood cells launch an immune attack on the host.
Members of the U.S. Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network monitored 273 people receiving donated stem cells and 278 recipients of bone marrow over two years. They found no difference in survival rates. But while those given stem cells produced blood cells more quickly, they also had graft-versus-host disease more often.
The findings were presented at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting in San Diego in December.
“People tend to favor stem cells because of not having to harvest bone marrow, and quicker engrafting,” says David Marks at the University of Bristol, UK. “We will need to reconsider that choice.”
The transplant results in fewer cases of immune attack than stem cell injections, when tissue comes from an unrelated donor.
Older Brains Lack Quick-Fire Connections
By Helen Thomson
Decision-making takes time when we reach the golden years — but not necessarily because older people have a more cautious outlook on life. It might just reflect a lack of the connections to a brain area needed for speedy responses.
One explanation for the slowdown is that older people are reluctant to commit the errors associated with a swift response. Birte Forstmann at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has another theory.
She asked 12 young people (around 25 years old) and 12 older people (average age 65) to decide whether most of the dots in a cloud were moving to the right or the left. Even when told to respond more quickly, the older participants couldn’t match the speed of the youngsters.
Previous research has shown that increased input from the cortex to a brain area called the striatum allows for faster responses. Brain scans of the volunteers showed that the young people had significantly stronger connections between these two areas. This suggests that the older group might be unable to respond swiftly simply because they cannot make good use of the striatum (Journal of Neuroscience).
(C) 2012. NEW SCIENTIST MAGAZINE