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Could a Daily Vitamin Curb Smog’s Health Effects?

Small study suggests vitamin B might help, but reducing pollution levels remains the priority

There’s a lot of evidence to show that breathing in dirty air can harm your heart. But a small new study suggests that daily vitamin B supplements might counteract that effect.

While two hours of exposure to concentrated air pollution had a negative effect on heart rate and levels of illness-fighting white blood cells, “these effects are nearly reversed with four-week B-vitamin supplementation,” according to study co-author Dr. Andrea Baccarelli. He’s chair of environmental health sciences at Columbia University in New York City.

One lung health expert was cautiously optimistic about the findings.

“It is interesting that pretreating with B vitamins may prevent some of the deleterious effects of exposure to this pollution,” said Dr. Alan Mensch, senior vice president of medical affairs at Northwell Heath’s Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y.
“It must be kept in mind, however, that since this study only included 10 healthy patients, it might not be applicable to an entire population,” he added. Plus, preventing air pollution in the first place “takes precedent over developing methods to prevent its deleterious effects,” he said.

The new research involved 10 healthy nonsmokers, aged 18 to 60, who took a placebo for four weeks before being exposed to fine-particulate air pollution for two hours.

The “fine particulates” – microscopic specks – were 2.5 micrometers in diameter, the researchers said.

Inhalable particles that are “2.5 micrometers or smaller are potentially the most dangerous form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep in the lungs and adjacent bloodstream,” Mensch explained. Once inhaled, “they can travel to various organs throughout the body,” he added, causing inflammation and ill effects on cardiovascular health.

“Populations exposed to high particulate-associated air pollution have increased heart attacks, lung cancer, DNA mutations, and premature births and deaths,” Mensch said.

Overall, fine-particle pollution contributes to 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide each year, mainly through harm to the cardiovascular system. This type of air pollution is believed to be the most common trigger for heart attack, the study authors noted.

But could a simple daily vitamin supplement help curb this smog-linked damage?

To find out, Baccarelli’s group gave the 10 participants vitamin B supplements for four weeks before again exposing them to the fine-particle air pollution for another two hours.

This time, the vitamin B supplements were linked to a near-reversal of the negative effects of the pollution on the volunteers’ cardiovascular and immune systems, the researchers said. This included healthy changes in each person’s heart rate and their white blood cell levels.

Baccarelli stressed that preventing pollution should always be the first measure in safeguarding people’s health, however.

“Pollution regulation remains the backbone of public health protection against its cardiovascular health effects,” he said in a university news release. “Studies like ours cannot diminish — nor be used to underemphasize — the urgent need to lower air pollution levels to — at a minimum — meet the air-quality standards set forth in the United States and other countries.”

Another lung expert agreed that the vitamin supplements could help blunt the health effects of dirty air.

The new study is “evidence that vitamin B provides benefits against the development of atherosclerosis in healthy adults who are exposed to air pollution,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

While it remains unclear just how the supplement works in this regard, “this finding recommends vitamin B, which is of course safe and has no side effects, as a buffer against coronary artery disease,” Horovitz said.

The study was published online recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

 
By Robert Preidt       HealthDay Reporter       FRIDAY, April 14, 2017
Sources: Alan Mensch, M.D., senior vice president of medical affairs,  Northwell Health’s Plainview and Syosset Hospitals, N.Y.;  Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Columbia University, news release, April 12, 2017        WebMD News from HealthDay  
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Trees May Save a Life Each Year in Big Cities

By Amy Norton   HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) — Parks and tree-lined streets may give city dwellers more than shade. They may also save some lives, a new study from the U.S. Forest Service suggests.

Researchers estimate that across 10 U.S. cities, “urban forests” prevent an average of one death per year, by helping to clear the air of fine particulate matter — tiny particles released when fossil fuels are burned. Car exhaust, wood burning and industrial sources such as power plants all contribute.

Those fine particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, and they are a particular concern when it comes to people’s health, said David Nowak, a Forest Service researcher who led the study.

The particles are thought to cause inflammation in the blood vessels and airways, which can be dangerous for people with existing heart or lung disease.

The new findings, reported in the July issue of the journal Environmental Pollution, suggest that trees play a role in protecting urban dwellers from the health effects of air pollution.

But, Nowak said, it’s not just a simple matter of “let’s plant more trees.”

This study shows a “large-scale” correlation between tree coverage and human health. But researchers still have to figure out the nitty-gritty, Nowak said. “How do we best design to protect people from [fine particle pollution]? What configuration of plants do we need? What species of tree?” he said.

And all of that, Nowak added, has to be figured out at the local and regional levels.

Trees, he noted, do a lot more than clear fine particles from the air. They have many beneficial effects — including reducing other air pollutants such as ozone, and keeping the temperature down during the summer. But certain other effects are not so good for human health: Trees release pollen, for example, which can exacerbate allergies and asthma.


“We need to make smart decisions about what we should plant, where we should plant and when we should plant, in order to improve people’s quality of life,” Nowak said.

The findings are based on daily air-quality data from 10 U.S. cities, along with information on the cities’ tree coverage. To gauge how trees might be affecting city residents’ health, Nowak’s team used a computer program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that estimates the health impact of changes in air quality.

Overall, Atlanta was number one when it came to the amount of fine particle pollution removed by trees, at 64.5 metric tons — owing to the city’s relatively dense urban forest.

But as far as lives saved, New York City came in on top, with an average of eight lives saved per year. That, Nowak said, was partly due to the city’s large population, but also to the “moderately high” removal of fine particles from the air — thanks to trees.

No one is claiming that trees are the answer to air pollution, though.

Trees may be a smaller-scale way to give people extra protection from pollution, said Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy for the American Lung Association.

“But they’re not going to be the solution,” Nolen said.

The “big tools,” she said, are measures to reduce emissions from power plants, cars and other sources of pollutants.

One of those wide-scale measures got extra attention this week. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a controversial decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed a major EPA air-quality policy — dubbed the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Washington Post reported.

The regulation would have cut emissions from coal-fired power plants across more than half of U.S. states. Last August, the D.C. Circuit Court said the EPA had overstepped its authority in issuing the rule.

“We’re very pleased the Supreme Court will review this,” Nolen said.

As for trees, she said they are a worthy pollution-fighting measure to keep studying — including whether strategic planting along roadways might be beneficial.

source: Health.com


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5 Surprising Things That Can Make You Gain Weight

by Fiora Stevens on March 21, 2013

Losing weight or even staying at your current healthy weight can be hard. But you might unintentionally be making it harder for yourself! Read on for five surprising things that are likely disrupting your weight loss effort and even causing you to gain more weight.

#1 Not Getting Enough Sleep
A 2010 review of medical literature related to sleep deprivation and weight gain noted a number of studies that have linked too little or too much sleep with an increased risk of obesity.

The reasons for this relationship are many, but they range from metabolic disruption to increased insulin sensitivity to increased appetite due to the production of hormones like leptin and ghrelin.

#2 Being Stressed Out
Juggling a three-foot-long to-do list with work responsibilities, family life, social activities, and trying to remember to pay the bills on time can take a huge toll on your health overall. Notably, being stressed tends to trigger the production of the hormones leptin and cortisol, which promote abdominal weight gain as well as hunger and food cravings.

#3 Your Choice of Friends
A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals had a 57% greater chance of becoming obese if they had a friend who became obese in a similar time frame.

While follow-up studies have called the causality of this relationship into question, it is useful to think about the activities and attitudes that friend groups share. For example, if you’re friends with people who enjoy going to the gym, you’ll probably be more likely to do so. But if your friends prefer to watch the game with beers and chips, you’ll probably indulge in that lifestyle instead.


#4 Not Eating Enough
Many diets proclaim calorie restriction to be the alpha and omega of weight loss. And to an extent, this is certainly true: in general, you lose weight when your body uses more calories in a day than it takes in through food.

However, tipping the balance too far towards calorie restriction means that your body will try to compensate for the lack of calorie intake by slowing down your whole metabolism (speed at which you burn calories).

#5 Breathing Polluted Air
If you’ve ever had the misfortune to breathe in smoggy air, you’ll know it does terrible things to your lungs and respiratory system as a whole. But breathing polluted air can also have an effect on your metabolism. Fine particulate pollution, in particular, has been studied in mice, and the results may inspire you to invest in a high-quality air purifier!

Researchers have found that mice who were chronically exposed to fine particulate air pollution developed insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, inflammation and oxidative stress, and changes to the very cellular structures that help your body turn food into usable energy.

Is your weight loss effort being stymied by any of these five factors?

Sources:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21873646
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/5-surprising-reasons-you-are-gaining-weight
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmsa066082
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2010/270832/


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Life-saving kits for Zambian children hitch a ride

$7 million granted to test health innovations in poor countries 

CBC News      Posted: Nov 22, 2012
Health innovators in Canada will use their new $100,000 federal grants to deliver life-saving and inexpensive medications to children living in developing countries.
Grand Challenges Canada announced 68 grants worth $7 million in total on Thursday so researchers worldwide and in Canada can test their prevention and treatment ideas.
Nearly half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to simple hydration salts and zinc tablets for diarrhea, a leading cause of death after pneumonia, in children under the age of five in the developing world, according to the World Health Organization.
One of the grants was awarded to a project distributing anti-diarrheal kits — a plastic container of medicines, soap and information that fits into the empty spaces between crated bottles of pop.
“What we’re trying to do is basically piggyback on the Coca Cola supply chain to get these kits into those rural areas where access is most limited,” said Rohit Ramchandani, a Canadian working as a public health adviser to ColaLife, a non-profit group.
The pilot project is underway in Zambia.
Other overseas projects include a trading system in Kenya that exchanges seed and fertilizer for proof of child vaccination, and a $100 kitchen renovation to reduce indoor pollution from burning biomass fuel. The smoke is associated with placental problems and low birth-weights in developing countries.
The anti-diarrhea kit contains medicines
 including oral rehydration salts and zinc
that are packaged to fit in cola distribution crates
for widespread delivery in developing countries.
 (ColaLife/Grand Challenges Canada)
“This is probably the largest pipeline of innovation in global health from the developing world itself,” said Dr. Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “What we’ve learned in supporting this is even very poor countries can be very rich in good ideas that can have results.”
Included among the 17 projects based in Canada:
  • Dr. Christian Kastrup in Vancouver will mimic rocket technology to propel nanoparticles into the bloodstream and stop maternal bleeding, a major cause of death in the developing world.
  • Dr. Robin Evans in Vancouver is developing a burn survival kit. The innovation is being tested in Uganda where often burns are untreated or mistreated. The kit will include a low-cost silver nanotubule dressing so that the treatment is affordable.
  • Dr. Julianne Gibbs-Davis of Edmonton is creating a unique approach to diagnosing TB. It involves extracting DNA from the infected person’s TB bacteria and does not require the usual temperature changes that are expensive and difficult to implement in low-resource settings.
  • Dr. Leyla Soleymani in Hamilton, Ont., is also tackling the rising incidence in developing countries of multi-drug resistant TB with a hand-held, solar rechargeable, inexpensive diagnostic device to rapidly assess patients at the bedside.
  • Dr. Cheng Lu in Toronto has a unique idea for tackling clinic and hospital infections: a coating that can be sprayed or wiped on surfaces. Once applied, the long-lasting anti-bacterial components are activated by sunlight or artificial light, making it easy to use and effective.
  • Dr. Karen Yeates of Kingston, Ont., will employ cellphones to improve cervical cancer screening and detection. It is being tested in remote areas of Tanzania.
  • Dr. Marion Roche in Ottawa will use social marketing to rejuvenate interest in taking zinc to control childhood diarrhea.
  • Dr. Philippe Archambault in Montreal will use virtual reality to assist rehabilitation of stroke victims suffering from hand or arm immobilization.
  • Dr. Hanna Kienzler’s in Montreal is testing a new approach to treating trauma in the developing world. The innovation, called “Defeating the Giant with a Slingshot,” blocks memory of trauma and will be tested on victims of torture in Nepal.
  • Dr. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle is developing an instrument to detect HIV infection in fewer than five minutes, leading to earlier treatment.
  • Dr. Patricia Livingston’s project in Halifax will improve emergency services with a specific focus on crisis management for mothers delivering babies. The project is being tested in Rwanda.
Grand Challenges Canada is an independent, non-profit organization funded by the federal government.

With files from the CBC’s Pauline Dakin

source: CBC


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Ozone Can Harm the Heart in as Little as Two Hours

A new study shows just how quickly exposure to air pollution can trigger dangerous changes in the heart, even in otherwise healthy young people.


Healthy, young volunteers with no history of heart disease showed unfavorable changes in their heart function after just two hours of exercising while being exposed to ozone, report researchers in the journal Circulation. The changes included surges in markers of inflammation, as well as drops in levels of enzymes that break down clots in the blood vessels — alterations that may explain the link between exposure to air pollution and heart risk.

The study is among the first to document the physiological changes caused by exposure to ozone, a major pollutant formed when volatile organic compounds from industrial waste or car exhaust reacts with sunlight. Previous studies have linked exposure to ozone to heart problems, but had not quantified the precise effect of the pollutant on biological markers of heart and lung function.

In the study, 23 young participants participated in two hours of intermittent exercise in a lab while being exposed first to “clean” air, and then to air containing 0.3 parts per million of ozone, which is higher than the amount found in average U.S. cities but about the peak level calculated for heavily polluted cities like Beijing, China and Mexico City. (However, the level is equivalent to the amount of ozone someone in an average American city would be exposed to over the course of seven to eight hours.) Scientists then compared readings on various biological markers of heart and lung function between the two sessions, to get a sense of ozone’s impact. Under the ozone conditions, the participants experienced a nearly 99% jump in levels of interleukin-8, an marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. They also showed a 42% drop in plasminogen levels, which lowers the body’s ability to break up blood clots.


The study recorded the participants’ readings for only 24 hours after the experiment, and the changes were temporary and reversible: once the volunteers stopped breathing the heavy concentration of ozone, their measurements returned to normal levels.

JAREK SZYMANSKI / GETTY IMAGES
But the results show that ozone can have potentially harmful, and even deadly effects on the heart, say the authors. “This study provides a plausible explanation for the link between acute ozone exposure and death,” Robert Devlin, a senior scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

“The results complement what are suspicions are, and help us to apply what we know about pollution risk to populations we think are at especially high risk,” says Dr. Tracy Stevens, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and a spokesperson with the American Heart Association. The findings highlight the dangers of pollution to people who might already have unstable plaques in their heart vessels, she says, since ozone can trigger a surge in inflammatory markers that drive these plaques to rupture, causing a heart attack.


While Stevens says the risks of pollution in aggravating inflammation are known, having data that quantifies the risk as the current study does may help more people to appreciate and address ways to reduce inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease avoid going out on high-ozone days, and lower their risk of exposure to heavily polluted air, including cigarette smoke.

source: Time.com