Medical Notes 19-04

Medical Notes this week…

A drinkable cocktail of designer molecules is showing promise in stopping the development of dementia. A study in the journal Cell Reports finds that a cocktail based on an old antibiotic can keep amyloid beta peptides from binding to prion proteins—one of the first steps in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say the cocktail has also repaired synapses in the brains of rats… restoring memories. Scientists will now start testing the cocktail for toxicity.

If you’re using sugar substitutes as part of a weight loss resolution, a new study says “don’t bother.” In fact, the study in the journal BMJ finds there’s no compelling evidence that sugar substitutes help regulate any important health variable. Blood sugar levels and the risk of heart disease or cancer did not benefit from the use of saccharin, aspartame, or other artificial sweeteners. People who used plain old sugar ended up pretty much in the same place health-wise.

And finally… shaming people for what they do isn’t right… even though new research suggests that it can get people who engage in dangerous activities to quit. A study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs shows that smokers are more likely to quit if they’re told that their peers disapprove of smoking. However, experts warn that shaming people leads others to think that the bad effects of a bad habit are all their fault… and they deserve what they get.

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Medical Notes 19-03

Medical Notes this week…

Folate, or vitamin b-9, is an essential nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folic acid is often added to bread, flour, cereal, and pasta to help eliminate deficiencies. Now new research shows supplementation is more important than we thought, because once somebody is short on folate, the damage can’t be fixed. The study in the journal PNAS shows that folate deficiency triggers errors in chromosomes that are passed on as the cell divides. Once those changes occur, they’re permanent.

If you’ve ever fibbed to your doctor, you’re not alone. In fact, a study in the journal JAMA Network Open finds that between 60 and 80 percent of people are less than forthcoming to their doctors about things that could affect their health. People apparently want to avoid being judged or lectured by doctors… or sometimes, they’re simply too embarrassed to tell the truth.

Various forms of dementia are increasing… and now scientists have found that a single specific mutation in one gene can cause one of them. “Frontotemporal dementia” accounts for about 20 percent of all early-onset forms of the disease…. which can affect people as young as their 40’s. A study in the journal Translational Psychiatry has tracked down a single mutation as the cause… and researchers say the finding could be important for both treatment and in research on Alzheimer’s disease.

And finally… a new study shows that forcing kids to apologize usually backfires. The study in the journal Merrill-Palmer Quarterly finds that children who receive an insincere apology dislike the apologizing kid even more than they did before. Transgressors feel worse, too… and don’t learn to have empathy for their victim.

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Medical Notes 19-02


Medical Notes this week…

It’s well known that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is rising… but the speed of the increase is stunning researchers. A study in the journal Lancet Neurology finds that the number of people with dementia around the world has more than doubled since 1990. Researchers estimate that within about 30 years… more than 100 million people will be affected with dementia.

Air pollution is bad for your health… but researchers haven’t been able to quantify just how bad until now. A Danish study in the journal Environment International used advanced models to simulate the effects of pollution on large populations. It shows that cutting city pollution to the level found in the country could increase the lifespan of the average urban dweller by one full year.

And finally… it doesn’t take long to believe your own lies. And the older you are, the less time it takes. A study in the journal Brain and Cognition used EEG’s to monitor brain activity of people purposely telling lies… then telling the truth to the same questions 45 minutes later. Researchers found that people over 60 are much more likely than young people to accept as the truth a lie they had told less than an hour earlier. Apparently, scientists say, telling a lie scrambles the memory so people ultimately accept it as what really happened.

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Medical Notes 18-42

Medical Notes this week…

Doctors have known that periodontal disease is connected to heart disease…but now there’s evidence that gum disease may kickstart Alzheimer’s disease as well. A study in the journal PLOS One shows that long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria results in inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons, at least in mice. Scientists also found periodontal bacteria DNA in the brains of mice who were infected. Researchers admit the results surprised them.

Nearly half of Americans spend most of the workday sitting… and some people have installed treadmill desks to keep moving while they work. Treadmill desks usually have a pace of only one or two miles per hours, but a new study says “not so fast.” The study in the journal PLOS One finds that people using treadmill desks have a less efficient working memory… although other types of thinking are the same whether sitting, standing, or walking.

And finally… scientists in India have uncovered a major public health threat—taking selfies. A study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care shows that worldwide, more than 250 people have died while taking selfies since 2012. The problem, researchers say, is that people go too far seeking a perfect shot… and end up drowning, falling off a cliff, or being hit by a train.

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Medical Notes 18-40

Medical Notes this week…

Researchers have found another way they might be able to identify Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. A study in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology shows that an eye exam using already-available technology can reveal thinning in the retina of the eye… which is strongly correlated with early Alzheimer’s. Scientists used the technique to study 30 patients in their mid 70’s, none of whom had Alzheimer’s symptoms. Seventeen of them had thinning in the retina, indicating they may have early Alzheimer’s. Pet scans and other tests then indicated the eye test was right.

About 10 percent of people in the U.S. experience sleepless nights as a result of restless legs syndrome at one time or another. But now researchers say they’ve identified how the painful syndrome is triggered. A study in the journal Sleep Medicine shows that the area of the brain controlling leg movement seems to be in a constant state of readiness… as if the conscious brain is asking for the legs to move. Scientists hope the finding may lead to better ways to treat the condition.

And finally… wrinkles are usually a telltale sign of aging, but they might be a sign of something else as well–heart disease risk. A new study from French researchers suggests that deep forehead wrinkles—more than are typical for a person’s age—could be an easy, low-cost way to identify people with atherosclerosis. The study finds that over a 20-year period, people with deep wrinkles were nearly 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than people with a smooth forehead.

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18-38 Segment 1: Lewy Body Dementia

RHJ 18-38A wordpress

The second most common form of dementia is virtually unknown to most people. However, Lewy body dementia affects 1.4 million Americans, with symptoms commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Additional symptoms such as hallucinations and uncontrollable shaking make diagnosis and caregiving more difficult, and treatments for Alzheimer’s or psychosis can often be harmful. Experts discuss.


  • Candy Schulman, daughter of woman who died with Lewy body dementia
  • Dr. James Leverenz, Director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and Chair, Scientific Advisory Council, Lewy Body Dementia Association

Links for more information:

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Medical Notes 18-22


Medical Notes this week…

Scientists have long sought the genetic connections to depression, and a major new study has found several dozen of them. The study in the journal Nature Genetics has identified 44 genomic variants associated with depression…30 of them totally new discoveries. Researchers say the more of these variants a person has, the more likely they are to have depression. Many of the genes are also linked to other disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obesity, and sleep disorders. Scientists call the study a “game changer.”

Every day when the sun sets, about 20 percent of Alzheimer’s patients suffer increased anxiety, disorientation, irritation and aggression. But now scientists have located the brain pathway causing “sundown syndrome,” at least in mice, and have developed a way to shut it down. They say the circadian rhythm disorder in humans is very similar and they hope to use the protein tool they’ve developed to stop the disorder in mice in the same way.

And finally, when someone loses a spouse, they’re more than 40 percent more likely to die in the next six months. And now researchers have figured out at least part of the reason. A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology shows that in the first three months of becoming a widow or widower, levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines rise significantly in the bloodstream while heart rate variability goes down. Both are connected with cardiac events and could help explain why it really is possible to die of a broken heart.

And that’s Medical Notes this week.

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