HEALTH & FITNESS


Allergy tests: how laboratories play with human health
Dr Shakuntala Lavasa

Allergy-related disorders are increasing worldwide, and the immunological basis as etiology is increasingly being recognised in cases of many diseases. Diagnostic modalities are undergoing a sea change for the benefit of patients, and at the same time the interest of the medical fraternity is distancing the doctor from the patient.
The clinical acumen, the basis of good medical practice, is being forgotten.“

Take calcium, lose weight
Sachin Kalra
It is important to have calcium in your diet. Not only does this mineral aid in bone formation, it also plays a role in muscle and heart contraction, blood clotting and nerve transmission. Even more exciting is that recent studies suggest that calcium may help in weight loss.

EYESIGHT
Watery eyes are treatable
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev
Tears are necessary for the normal lubrication of the eye. They nourish the eye and protect the eye as well. They wash away particles and foreign bodies if they enter the eye.

Health Notes
A mango a day may keep diabetes at bay

SYDNEY: Australian researchers suggest that compounds isolated from mangoes may be helpful in protecting the body against metabolic disorders like diabetes and high cholesterol.


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Allergy tests: how laboratories play with human health
Dr Shakuntala Lavasa

Allergy-related disorders are increasing worldwide, and the immunological basis as etiology is increasingly being recognised in cases of many diseases.

Diagnostic modalities are undergoing a sea change for the benefit of patients, and at the same time the interest of the medical fraternity is distancing the doctor from the patient.

The clinical acumen, the basis of good medical practice, is being forgotten. The patient is not seen, and diagnostic tools are applied on his body samples through remote control to obtain a diagnosis which is bound to be wrong besides being unethical, hampering the treatment and putting science into disrepute.

“Find out your allergy by giving blood here. Why go for the crucifying tests?” is one of the many slogans touted by the laboratories in headlines and advertisements which in itself is an unethical practice. In India, unfortunately, allergy tests are thoroughly being misused not only in small towns but also in cities of medical excellence.

In ill-equipped laboratories screaming banners and posters proclaim the blood test to be the ultimate investigation for allergic diseases.

A direct referral to the laboratory for blood tests for allergen estimation without any detailed history taking, examination and investigation by the allergy specialist is termed as “remote practice of allergy” and has been condemned by the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. In India, however, the authorities concerned have not issued any condemnations or guidelines, leaving the doors open for quackery and unethical practices by unscrupulous elements.

In allergy diagnosis the specialty qualified doctor has the main role to play and not the laboratory. Detailed history taking, with specific knowledge of geographical, aerobiological, meteorological and occupational factors as `well as the minute details of the environment indoor of a workplace and home, personal and eating habits, etc, are very crucial for diagnostic work-up. A keen investigator capable of analysing these for planning further tests is the most important person in allergy tests.

Skin tests have been used worldwide for several decades. The technique has been further simplified by the introduction of new equipment known as Multi-test Applicator which helps avoid many injections. This simplification is to a patient’s advantage, but skin tests have always remained the workhorse for determining the allergen.

The antibody IGE was discovered in 1966. Total Ig E, which is being tested in blood by many laboratories, is a nonspecific test. It can be abnormal in many diseases, including the common parasitic infestations. Thus, it serves no purpose and is a waste of money and resources.

The SIgE (specific Ig E) is of value in specific situations only in expert hands provided it is tested in blood and other body secretions and is combined with a detailed history and physical examination — skin tests, challenge tests, etc — but never in isolation.

Several studies have proved low sensitivity, reliability and specificity of this test if used as a laboratory tool in isolation.

It is very unfortunate that blood tests are being touted by laboratories as an alternative to even a visit to the doctor. This is unethical and worth condemnation.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based allergy specialist and peadiatrician.

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Take calcium, lose weight
Sachin Kalra

It is important to have calcium in your diet. Not only does this mineral aid in bone formation, it also plays a role in muscle and heart contraction, blood clotting and nerve transmission. Even more exciting is that recent studies suggest that calcium may help in weight loss.

Calcium could be the key nutrient needed to help you lose weight. New research suggests that calcium can help adjust your body’s fat-burning machinery as it is said to change the efficiency of weight loss, by favouring fat burning rather than fat storing.

Another study found that a high intake of calcium may hinder weight and fat regain. And that dairy source of calcium (low fat variety) is more effective in weight and fat loss than fortified calcium food and supplements.

This is important news because many people slash milk products from their diets to lose weight. It is not only a mistake for your bones, blood pressure and overall health, it may also make weight loss more difficult.

A possible rationale for the relationship between body weight and calcium is the effect calcium has on the body’s energy metabolism.

If your calcium levels are consistently low, the elevated levels of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D may trick your body into thinking that you are starving. As a result, you may store more energy in the form of fat and gain more weight.

And why does diary calcium work so well? It is believed that other nutrients found in milk products act in synergy with calcium to reduce fat more efficiently. And the proteins derived from milk, in particular, are known to create feelings of satiety and fullness and decrease food intake.

Boosting calcium to about 1,600 mg per day allows the body to store less fat and use fat for energy more readily. Aim for three servings of low-fat dairy foods a day. A serving equals one cup of milk or yoghurt. If dairy products don’t agree with you, other calcium-rich foods include fish such as canned sardines and mackerel, white bread (white flour is fortified with calcium), green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, nuts, seeds, beans, dried fruit and oranges. Fortunately, many of these foods also tend to be low in calories and so can easily be incorporated into a slimming diet.

If you are unable to meet your needs with these foods, try calcium-fortified products like cereals and juices, or consider taking a calcium supplement. The bottom line is that increasing calcium intake is a boon to those who want to not only lose weight but to lose fat, improve body composition and keep that fat and weight from coming back.

The writer is a lifestyle and weight-management consultant

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EYESIGHT
Watery eyes are treatable
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev

Tears are necessary for the normal lubrication of the eye. They nourish the eye and protect the eye as well. They wash away particles and foreign bodies if they enter the eye.

Eyes water for lots of different reasons besides crying. Anything that irritates the eye can bring on tears because the eye will try to wash it out. So, when something gets stuck in like an eyelash, tears are sure to come!

Whenever you sit for any pooja-havan, you may have noticed your eyes tearing up. Also while cutting the onion, all of you must have noticed water rolling down your eyes. This is a response of the eyes to any irritant. Things that can dry out your eyes like cold air or wind will make eyes water, too. Increased tearing sometimes accompanies yawning, vomiting, laughing and eye-strain.

Excessive tear production or improper drainage of the tear duct results in watery eyes. The common causes of watery eyes are.

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Corneal infections/ ulcer
  • Environmental irritants
  • Block in the tear duct
  • Foreign bodies entering the eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Misdirected lashes
  • Laxity of lower lids

Inward-growing eyelashes and foreign bodies entering the eye cause mechanical irritation leading to watery eyes.

Environmental irritants can be dust, various gases which cause allergic reaction and reflex watering of the eyes.

Oddly enough, one of the most common causes of excess tearing is dry eyes. Drying causes the eyes to become uncomfortable which causes reflex watering.

An infection or blockage of the tear-duct can also cause excessive watering of the eyes when tears do not drain normally through the nose. The blockage is a common problem in elderly patients when the tear-ducts narrow or get blocked easily.

The same condition may be present in new-born babies as well. The tear-ducts at times don’t open up at birth and can cause watery eyes in the babies. They may open up by 9-12 months of age, relieving the watering problem.

The infection in the tear drainage path also causes watery eyes. The proper management of the acute or chronic infection is important to avoid watering.

With aging, the lids become lax and lose the contact with the eyeball. They lead to pooling of tears in the lower lid and watering. This problem is aggravated if one wipes the eye frequently in a downward direction. Surgical repair can correct this problem.

The management of a watery eye includes:

1. Wear protective glasses

2. Avoid the known irritants

3. Treat any allergy or infection on time

4. Surgical management of blocked tear-ducts

Excess tearing may be associated with medical emergencies of the eye. However, parse tearing alone is not an acute emergency. Tearing is definitely a source of inconvenience or annoyance but can be treated more often that not. Seek an expert medical advice to ascertain the cause of watering and get treated accordingly.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi. Email: msachdev@bol.net.in

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Health Notes
A mango a day may keep diabetes at bay

SYDNEY: Australian researchers suggest that compounds isolated from mangoes may be helpful in protecting the body against metabolic disorders like diabetes and high cholesterol.

While presenting the preliminary results of their study at the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress in Melbourne last week, they said that some mango components act on the same pathways that diabetes and cholesterol drugs target.

Ashley Wilkinson, a PhD Student at University of Queensland, says that they are conducting studies to analyse how individual components of the luscious summer favourite affect human cells. She says that their aim is to find unique ingredients in mangoes and other tropical fruit like paw paws. — ANI

Fish oils, vitamins, herbs helpful in depression

NEW YORK: Diet and nutrition may play a key role in helping people fight depression, Australian researchers report.

A number of nutrients, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, St John’s Wort and several B vitamins, have the potential to influence mood by increasing the absorption of chemical messengers in the brain, Dr Dianne Volker of the University of Sydney in Chippendale and Jade Ng of Goodman Fielder Commercian in North Ryde, New South Wales note in the journal Nutrition and Dietetics.

There is a wealth of epidemiological, experimental and circumstantial evidence to suggest that fish and the oils they contain, in particular omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, are protective against depression, Volker and Ng write. They point out that the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 may also be important, given that the latter can prevent the body from absorbing the former. — Reuters

Alcohol-related disorders: threat to teen-smokers

Washington: US researchers have suggested that adolescent smokers are at greater risk of developing alcohol-use disorders (AUDs) than their non-smoker counterparts.

“Smoking and alcohol — separately or together — account for more than 20 per cent of deaths in the United States. Cigarettes and alcohol are also known to be “gateway” drugs, that is, the overwhelming majority of illegal drug- users begin their use with one or both of these legal drugs,” said Richard A. Grucza, an epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine. — ANI

Gene sequence to help diagnose dyslexia

London: Scientists from Edinburgh University claim to have identified the gene sequence that determines a person’s ability to work with letters and numbers.

The findings of the 20-year study conducted by them suggest that those likely to suffer from extreme forms of dyslexia can be identified before they are born, and given extra care to help deal with the condition.

Dr Timothy Bates, one of the co-authors of the study, says that they have unveiled a combination of 13 genes that presumably affects a person’s ability to work with letters and numbers. — ANI

Anaemia often develops in type-2 diabetics

NEW YORK: In patients with type 2 diabetes, a decrease in hemoglobin (Hb) is insidious and occurs predominantly in older people with chronic kidney disease and damaged large blood vessels, research suggests.

“The early identification of anemia may be achieved by annual or biannual screening in these high-risk groups,” Dr Merlin C. Thomas from the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, told Reuters Health.

Anaemia occurs when there is a drop in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, because of a deficiency in red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying component, hemoglobin — Reuters

Cholesterol and Parkinson’s in women

NEW YORK: Women with higher levels of total cholesterol appear to be at decreased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a report by researchers in the Netherlands.

Exactly why this association is not seen in men is unclear, but it may relate to a stronger association in women between levels of cholesterol and coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant that has shown promise against Parkinson’s disease in animal studies and clinical trials.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from the Rotterdam Study, including 2654 men and 3811 women at least 55 years of age. The average follow-up period was 9.4 years. — Reuters

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