This Week in Health: Can men contribute to fetal alcohol syndrome?

Men's possible contribution to fetal alcohol syndrome is in the spotlight. Credit: Metro file
Men’s possible contribution to fetal alcohol syndrome is in the spotlight.
Credit: Metro file

Fathers’ alcohol consumption may also affect fetal development

Location of study: U.K.

Study subjects: Male mice

Results: Fathers’ alcohol consumption pre-conception may cause significant fetal abnormalities, like abnormal organ and/or brain development, according to a new study published in Animal Cells and Systems. The cause of fetal alcohol syndrome has often focused on maternal risk factors of exposure to alcohol in-utero.

Significance: Fetal alcohol syndrome often results in children with significant developmental problems such as stunted growth and intellect, nervous system abnormalities and social problems, says the study.

 

Calcium, vitamin C, fish oil drop in use; probiotics rise

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 10,000 supplement users

Results: The use of calcium, vitamin C and fish oil supplements among consumers fell during 2013, while the use of probiotics increased, according to a recent ConsumerLab.com survey. More men using probiotics drove an increase (rising from 30.5 percent to 37.1 percent), making this supplement now almost equally popular among men and women. The shifts may reflect recent news stories regarding the efficacy of supplements.

Significance: “The changes in supplement use seem to reflect research findings that made headlines this past year, as well as a shift in promotional emphasis for some of these supplements,” says Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com. “In the past, probiotics were marketed mainly to women and for irritable bowel syndrome, but are now finding a wider audience due to expanded treatment applications, including antibiotic-related diarrhea, diverticular disease and even anxiety. Meanwhile, too much calcium has been shown to pose increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while high-dose vitamin C appears to increase the risk of kidney stones and cataracts. The benefits of fish oil now seem largely limited to people who don’t eat fish or have high triglycerides.”

 

Patients could benefit from a new meningitis test

Location of study: U.K.

Study subjects: Lab study

Results: A new test for meningitis may help deliver faster and more effective treatments, according to a study published in the journal Chemical Science. The onset of meningitis is often rapid and severe, particularly if caused by a bacterial infection, making a speedy diagnosis paramount for positive patient outcomes. In addition, several types of bacteria cause meningitis and each is sensitive to different antibiotics, often making precise treatment tricky. Researchers were able to pinpoint bacteria type using a spectroscopic imaging technique known as SERS (surface enhanced Raman scattering). The new test would be particularly useful where co-infection of multiple bacteria species is common. Identifying the dominant pathogen present would allow targeted treatment.

Significance: “Meningitis is a hugely virulent and, in some forms, potentially highly dangerous infection,” says lead study author Dr. Karen Faulds, a reader in Strathclyde’s Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry. “The type of antibiotic used to treat it depends on the strain of meningitis, so it is essential to identify this as quickly as possible.”

 

Leading cancer organization sees disparities in cancer patient care

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Data study

Results: Certain minorities are more likely to get cancer and die from it, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Cancers among African-American males result in a 33 percent higher death rate than among white males, and a 16 percent higher rate for African-American females than among white females. The AACR states that disparities are also found in people with low socioeconomic status, particularly the uninsured.

Significance: “Even though great strides have been made in cancer prevention and treatment, more than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with this terrible disease this year, and a disproportionately high burden of cancer will fall on racial and ethnic minorities, low-income and elderly populations and the medically underserved,” says AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti. “The AACR is committed to eliminating cancer health disparities through all means possible.”



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