HEALTH & FITNESS

Genetic revolution: hope for those suffering from common illnesses
Steve Connor
A groundbreaking study into the genetic basis of disease has opened the door to new ways of understanding and treating common illnesses affecting millions of people — from manic depression to heart disease.

Low- carbohydrate diet is risky
Dr Ravinder Chadha
Obesity generally occurs due to poor eating habits or lack of exercises or a combination of both. It poses a greater threat to health. Growing awareness about all-round fitness has had its impact as far as diet and exercises are concerned.

Low calorie density diet can promote healthy weight loss
Washington:
Penn State researchers have revealed that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.

Health Notes

  • High intake of milk may reduce cancer risks by 60 per cent

  • Malaria parasite can trigger severe lymphatic cancer

  • Super fruit fly may harbour hope for human longevity

  • Implanted hearing device good for the profoundly deaf

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Genetic revolution: hope for those suffering from common illnesses
Steve Connor

A groundbreaking study into the genetic basis of disease has opened the door to new ways of understanding and treating common illnesses affecting millions of people — from manic depression to heart disease.

Scientists have announced the first results of the biggest and most comprehensive investigation into the genes behind seven medical disorders, using a revolutionary approach for analysing vast tracts of the human genome.

The findings have been described as an unprecedented tour de force for British science involving 50 research groups and 200 scientists who pioneered the approach of studying common diseases by analysing the DNA of thousands of 
people.

The two-year, £9m study took DNA samples from 17,000 people across the UK and built up a database handling 10 billion items of genetic information. It will lead to a new understanding of illnesses as varied as high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and rheumatoid arthritis. Initial findings from the study identified a dozen genes or tiny "point mutations" in the human genome that appear to increase the risk of someone developing a particular disorder during his or her lifetime.

One unexpected result was finding the first genetic link between type 1 diabetes and a bowel condition called Crohn's disease both were associated with a gene known as PTPN2.

Scientists involved in the study said the research promised to open the way to an era of "personalised" medicine in which doctors routinely analyse the DNA of patients to find out which drugs their genes are best suited for rather than the existing approach of "one size fits all".

In addition, the methodology of the study could ultimately tease apart the role of nature and nurture in the creation of a person's psyche, making it possible to understand why some people are prone to developing mental illness such as manic depression or schizophrenia.

"Many of the most common diseases are very complex, part of 'nature' and 'nurture', with genes interacting with our environment and lifestyles," said Professor Peter Donnelly of Oxford University, the leader of the scientific consortium behind the study.

"By identifying the genes underlying these conditions, our study should enable scientists to understand better how disease occurs, which people are most at risk and, in time, to produce more effective, more personalised treatments.

"The new approach works well and reliably. Our understanding of the genetics of common diseases will change enormously over the coming years. I think we are just scratching the surface."

The study, published in the journal Nature, came out of the mammoth effort during the 1990s to decode the entire three billion "letters" of the human genome. It was co-ordinated by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, the world's biggest medical research charity.

Treatable ilnesses

Bipolar disorder: Also known as manic depression, it affects 100 million people around the world

Coronary heart disease: The most frequent cause of death in Britain, with 100,000 victims every year. By 2020, it will be the biggest killer in the world

Hypertension: High blood pressure affects 16 million people in Britain. It can lead to stroke, heart disease and kidney failure

Rheumatoid arthritis: Nearly 400,000 people in Britain are afflicted with this auto-immune disease of the joints

Type 1 diabetes: Diabetic condition in which sufferers have to inject insulin. Affects 350,000 people in UK

Type 2 diabetes: Almost 2 million Britons are affected by this late-onset disease, which is linked with the growing obesity epidemic

Crohn's disease: Up to 60,000 people are affected by this debilitating bowel condition which can cause distress and pain for a lifetime

— The Independent

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Low- carbohydrate diet is risky
Dr Ravinder Chadha

Obesity generally occurs due to poor eating habits or lack of exercises or a combination of both. It poses a greater threat to health. Growing awareness about all-round fitness has had its impact as far as diet and exercises are concerned.

Low carbohydrate diets have become popular as an easy solution to lose weight. Unfortunately, human body utilises carbohydrate as it is the primary source of energy. Low carbohydrate diets can cause several health concerns over a period of time.

When carbohydrates are not available, muscles metabolise fatty acids and amino acids as the secondary line of energy source. As these are not effective sources, strength and endurance drop drastically. Carbohydrates, when they comprise 50 per cent of total calories, enhance strength and muscle endurance.

Any diet that leads to the intake of calories less than required daily over long periods of time results in a loss of lean muscle tissue and decreases metabolism. All low-carbohydrate diets are focused solely on weight loss. The loss of muscle lowers the resting metabolic rate which could prove to be the major cause for rebound weight gain. The loss of fat, indeed, comes at a high cost vis-a-vis the loss of lean muscle. The following examples illustrate the adverse effects of low-carbohydrate diets in various medical conditions:

The risk of heart disease increases on low-carbohydrate, low fibre diets. These diets promote excessive amounts of animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat. Low carbohydrate, low-fibre diets reduce the absorption and elimination of digestive bile in the intestines. Digestive bile is produced in the liver from cholesterol. A decrease in digestive bile production raises blood serum cholesterol levels which increases the risk of heart disease.

Osteoporosis is the reduction of bone density due to the loss of calcium over long periods of time. Poor intestinal health due to low-fibre diets cause inadequate absorption of calcium in the intestines leading to poor bone formation.

Insoluble fibre is vital in the formation of stools and decreases the time process of waste elimination. Low-carbohydrate diets are too low in insoluble fibre, causing increased risk of constipation. Therefore, one should use whole grains, oats, beans, fruits and vegetables which are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre.

Being overweight, the real problem is too much body fat as compared to muscle mass. Ideally, the goal should be to lose fat without losing muscle or sacrificing an individual’s health in the process. Low carbohydrate diets do provide initial weight loss but at the expense of the loss of muscle and reduction in matabolism which is vital for the maintenance of sound health and fitness. It is important that diet prescription with the aim of losing weight should be done on an individual basis.

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Low calorie density diet can promote healthy weight loss

Washington: Penn State researchers have revealed that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.

Foods that are high in water and low in fat — such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products — are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite.

“Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows people to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories,” said Dr. Julia A. Ello-Martin, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral dissertation in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State. “Such diets are known to reduce the intake of calories in the short term, but their role in promoting weight loss over the long term was not clear,” said Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, who directed the study and who holds the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State. — ANI

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Health Notes

High intake of milk may reduce cancer risks by 60 per cent

Washington: According to a new study, increasing intake of calcium and vitamin D could reduce the risk for cancer in women by at least 60 per cent.

The four-year clinical trial included more than 1000 women over the age of 55 in one of three supplement groups: calcium plus vitamin D, calcium only and placebo. The researchers found that the risk of developing cancer was 60 per cent lower for those who took calcium and vitamin D and 47 per cent lower for those taking calcium alone, compared to the placebo. — ANI

Malaria parasite can trigger severe lymphatic cancer

London: Boffins have found that a cancer of the lymphatic system, Burkitt’s lymphoma, can be initiated by CIDR1, a protein produced by a malaria 
parasite.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers, including Arnaud Chene and Qijun Chen, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Burkitt’s lymphoma severely affects a large number of children in equatorial Africa causing terrible suffering. In the disease immune cells turn cancerous and tumours build up in the lymph nodes, which often results in the swelling of the tongue and bulging of cheeks, making it difficult for patients to eat. — ANI

Super fruit fly may harbour hope for human longevity

Washington: Researchers at USC and Caltech have spectacularly slowed aging in fruit flies with a new technique that shows general promise in pharmaceutical development.

In a triumph for pests, scientists have found out how to make the fruit fly live longer. But the development may still have something for humans. As reported online in Nature Chemical Biology, the discovery that a single protein can slow down aging holds implications for humans’ prolonged existence and for the treatment of some of the world’s most dreaded diseases. — ANI

Implanted hearing device good for the profoundly deaf

Washington: Boffins have found the possibility of implanting a hearing aid directly in the auditory nerve, which might help profoundly deaf people.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers, including John C. Middlebrooks and Russell L. Snyder, at the University of Michigan.

As part of the study, researchers used cats bred for laboratory and measured brain processing of auditory signals in normal conditions. They then compared deaf animals’ brain responses to sounds using cochlear implants and then the direct auditory nerve implants. — ANI

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