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Adding folic acid to flour significantly reduces congenital malformations

This release is also available in French.

Quebec City, July 12, 2007 – Dr. Philippe De Wals of Université Laval’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine today publishes a study clearly indicating that the addition of folic acid to flours has led to a 46% drop in the incidence of congenital neural tube deformation (mainly anencephaly and spina bifida) in Canada. Such deformations either result in the child’s death or in major health problems, including physical and learning disabilities. Dr. De Wals’s work as head of a team of a dozen Canadian researchers appears today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The neural tube is the basis of the embryo’s nervous system. Poor development of the neural tube, which is sometimes due to a lack of folic acid, can result in major health problems. Folic acid is found in green vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and meat. However, even a balanced diet won’t supply enough folic acid for a pregnant mother and the child she is carrying. Before1998, Canadian medical authorities were already recommending that women in their child-bearing years consume vitamin supplements containing folic acid. “Canada decided to add folic acid to all flour produced in the country because formation of the neural tube in embryos is particularly intense during the first four weeks of pregnancy, which is before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. Since half of Canadian pregnancies are unplanned and the human body can’t store folic acid, it is better to integrate folic acid into the food chain than to focus exclusively on taking vitamin supplements,” stated Dr. De Wals. Health Canada still recommends taking folic acid supplements to women in their child-bearing years.

Researchers Dr. Philippe De Wals and Fassiatou Tairou of Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine compared the incidence of neural tube deformations before and after the introduction of folic acid–enriched flours for over 2 million births in Canada. Between 1993 and 1997, the incidence was 1.58 per 1,000 births. Between 2000 and 2002, the rate dropped 46% to 0.86. The biggest improvement occurred in the parts of Canada that had the highest rates of neural tube deformation before 1998—Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. In Québec, the drop was also pronounced, but closer to the Canadian average.

Currently, only Canada, the United States, and Chile require that folic acid be added to flour. The effectiveness of this practice, as demonstrated by Dr. De Wals’s team, could encourage other countries to follow suit. Every year, approximately 200,000 cases of spina bifida and anencephaly occur worldwide. Adding folic acid to food could reduce that number by half.

Contact: Martin Guay
martin.guay@dap.ulaval.ca
418-656-3952
Université Laval

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July 12, 2007 Posted by | Alberta, Baltimore, Barcelona, Bethesda, Bone Diseases, Calgary, Chile, Folic Acid, Global, Global Health Vision, Global News, Health Canada, Irvine, Italy, Japan, Medical Journals, Neurology, New England Journal of Medicine, Newfoundland, News, News Australia, News Canada, News Israel, News Italy, News Jerusalem, News Switzerland, News UK, News US, News USA, Nova Scotia, Nutritional Anthropology, Osaka, Ottawa, Pennsylvania, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Research, Research Australia, RSS, RSS Feed, Slovakia, Spain, Spina Bifida, Toronto, Université Laval, Virginia, WASHINGTON, Washington DC, Washington DC City Feed, World News | 1 Comment

New Risk Factors Discovered for Alzheimer’s Disease

Pittsburgh, Pa. – July 06, 2007 – A recent study in Journal of Neuroimaging suggests that cognitively normal adults exhibiting atrophy of their temporal lobe or damage to blood vessels in the brain are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Older adults showing signs of both conditions were seven-times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers.

“Alzheimer’s disease, a highly debilitating and ultimately fatal neurological disease, is already associated with other risk factors such as poor cognitive scores, education or health conditions,” says study author Caterina Rosano. “This study, because it focused on healthy, cognitively normal adults, shows that there other risk factors we need to consider.”

MRI images of participants’ brains were examined to identify poor brain circulation, damaged blood vessels and/or atrophy of the medial temporal lobe. Subjects showing any one or a combination of these symptoms were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the following years.

“Similarly to heart disease, brain blood vessel damage is more likely to occur in patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes,” says Rosano. “Since we know that prevention of these conditions can lower risk of heart attack and stroke, it is likely that it would also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.”

This study is published in Journal of Neuroimaging. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact medicalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Dr. Caterina Rosano is a physician neuroepidemiologist and assistant professor of epidemiology with the Center for Aging and Population Health at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently developing a model to predict the incidence of cognitive and physical functional limitations in older adults. She can be reached for questions at rosanoc@edc.pitt.edu .

Journal of Neuroimaging addresses the full spectrum of human nervous system disease including stroke, neoplasia, degenerative and demyelinating disease, epilepsy, infectious disease, toxic-metabolic disease, psychoses, dementias, heredo-familial disease and trauma. Each issue offers original clinical articles, case reports, articles on advances in experimental research, technology updates, and neuroimaging CPCs. For more information, please visit http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/jon.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the merger between Blackwell Publishing Ltd. and John Wiley & Sons, Inc.’s Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,250 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit http://www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

Media Contact Sean Wagner
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July 6, 2007 Posted by | Alberta, Alzheimers, Baltimore, Barcelona, Bethesda, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Calgary, Global, Global Health Vision, Global News, Heart Disease, Irvine, Japan, Medical Journals, Neurology, News, News Australia, News Canada, News Israel, News Jerusalem, News UK, News US, News USA, Osaka, Research, Research Australia, Slovakia, Spain, Stroke, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia, WASHINGTON, Washington DC, World News | Leave a comment

Autism theory put to the test with new technology

Contact: Don McSwiney
don.mcswiney@ucalgary.ca
403-220-7652
University of Calgary

University of Calgary researcher hopes to advance understanding of autism by studying ancient human searching behavior
Next time you lose your car keys and enlist the family to help you search, try a little experiment. After your spouse searches an area, go and look in the same place. It will likely feel strange, even irritating to both of you – and that’s because you may be fighting an ancient, hard-wired, human behaviour pattern.

The behavioural phenomenon is called ‘inhibition of return’ and for our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors it made a lot of sense. As Dr. Tim Welsh explains, “This behaviour likely developed through evolution to increase search efficiency. Returning to search an area that someone else has already searched doesn’t make a lot of sense from a survival point of view because they’ve either found the food and eaten it, or there’s no food there.”

Inhibition of return has been well-documented over the years, but Welsh is interested in measuring exactly how the actions of another individual affect our own, and whether people with autism react differently than the rest of the population. To test this Welsh, a professor in the Faculties of Kinesiology and Medicine, came up with a unique and elegant experiment that uses some cutting-edge technology.

In Welsh’s set-up, two subjects sit across from each other wearing, liquid crystal goggles. They are told to reach for a lighted target in front of them.

Welsh’s previous work has shown that if we see someone else touching an area, we are much slower to move there, but Welsh wanted to see how much of another person’s actions we need to be aware of, to affect our own. Welsh’s crystal goggles become opaque allowing the subject to see only a fraction of the other person’s movement.

He discovered that as social beings, we are so sensitive to another’s actions that just the suggestion of a movement was enough to trigger the inhibition of return effect.

So what happens when the individual doesn’t really recognize, or can’t recognize the actions of another individual” Sadly this is often the case for people with autism, a complex neurological, developmental disability that affects over 50,000 Canadians. A current theory of autism is that individuals with the disorder have a problem with their mirror neuron system.

“In normal individuals if you see someone throwing a ball, your mind will ‘mirror’ those actions to make it seem as if you are throwing it yourself,” Welsh explains. “The theory is that a person with autism may not be able to mirror the actions of other individuals. So in our experimental set-up you would expect them to be unaffected by the actions of another person and this is exactly what we have found to this point.”

Welsh believes his research will advance our understanding of autism and the mirror neuron system – perhaps leading to more effective intervention and treatment of a condition that seems to be growing at an alarming rate. “What I think is very interesting,” says Welsh, “is that the same experimental set-up can effectively be used to test two theories, and in many ways the two groups we are working with – a typically-developing population and an autistic population – provide a control for the other group. I’m very excited about this research.”

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Dr. Welsh is currently looking for people between the ages of 14 and 25 to participate in his experiments. He is looking for with people autism and people from the typically-developing population.

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June 27, 2007 Posted by | Alberta, Autism, Baltimore, Barcelona, Bethesda, Calgary, Global, Global Health Vision, Global News, Neurology, News, News Australia, News Canada, News Israel, News Jerusalem, News UK, News US, Research, Spain, University of Calgary, Virginia, WASHINGTON, Washington DC, World News | Leave a comment

Coenzyme Q10 does not improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms

Contact: Alexander Storch
Alexander.Storch@neuro.med.tu-dresden.de
JAMA and Archives Journals

Small doses of the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 appear to increase blood levels of this naturally occurring compound in patients with Parkinson’s disease, but does not improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms, according to an article posted online today that will appear in the July 2007 print issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by tremors and difficulty with walking or other movements. The biological mechanisms underlying the condition are not fully understood, but researchers suspect a malfunction of the mitochondria, parts of the cells that help convert food to energy, according to background information in the article. Coenzyme (CoQ10), an antioxidant sold as a dietary supplement, is also involved in mitochondrial processes. “Because of these functions, CoQ10 has attracted attention concerning neuroprotective actions in neurodegenerative disorders linked to mitochondrial defects or oxidative [oxygen-related] stress, such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease,” the authors write. Previous studies indicate that high doses of CoQ10 (1,200 milligrams) may slow the deterioration associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Alexander Storch, M.D., of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial of a 300-milligram dose of CoQ10 in 131 patients with Parkinson’s disease who did not have changes in motor functions and were on stable treatment for their condition. Those assigned to the treatment group took 100 milligrams of CoQ10 three times daily for three months, followed by a two-month “washout” period. The researchers assessed Parkinson’s disease symptoms before treatment began, each month during treatment and again after the washout period. Blood tests were performed at the beginning of the study, after three months of treatment and after the washout period.

A total of 106 patients completed the full three months of the study—55 in the CoQ10 group and 51 in the placebo group. The compound was well tolerated overall, and the percentage of patients who experienced adverse effects—including viral infection, diarrhea and hearing loss—did not differ between the two groups. Blood levels of CoQ10 increased in the treatment group from an average of 0.99 milligrams per liter to an average of 4.46 milligrams per liter after three months.

“Although we demonstrated a significant increase in plasma levels of CoQ10 toward levels observed with high doses of standard CoQ10 formulations in Parkinson’s disease and other disorders, our study failed to show improvement of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and did not meet its primary or secondary end points,” which were changes on scales that measured Parkinson’s disease symptoms and their effects on physical and mental functioning, the authors write. “Our study further demonstrated that 300 milligrams per day of nanoparticular CoQ10 is safe and well tolerated in patients with Parkinson’s disease already taking various antiparkinsonian medications.”

“Since we did not find symptomatic effects of CoQ10 in Parkinson’s disease, our study does not support the hypothesis that restoring the impaired energy metabolism of the diseased dopaminergic neurons leads to symptomatic benefits in Parkinson’s disease,” the authors conclude. “Future studies will need to explore the protective effects of CoQ10 at the highest effective dose (equivalent to about 2,400 milligrams per day of a standard formulation) over a long treatment period and in a large cohort of patients both sufficient to clearly define the protective potential of this compound in Parkinson’s disease.”

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(Arch Neurol. 2007;64:(doi:10.1001/archneur.64.7.nct60005). Available pre-embargo to the media at http://www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor’s Note: This study was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Parkinson-Vereinigung eV (German Parkinson Association), Neuss, Germany, and MSE Pharmazeutika GmbH, Bad Homburg, Germany. The co-enzyme Q10 and matching placebo were formulated and packaged without charge by MSE Pharmazeutika. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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May 15, 2007 Posted by | Global, Global Health Vision, Global News, JAMA, Neurology, News, News Australia, News Canada, News UK, News US, Parkinson's | Leave a comment