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This Week in Health: A peanut allergy cure made from cranberries

binge drinking guy at bar booze alcohol overindulging A hangover may not be your only regret after a night of binge drinking.
Credit: Monkey Business

Early menopause may be tied to heart failure


Location of study:Sweden

Study subjects:Over 22,000 postmenopausal women

Results:Heart failure may be more likely for women who experience menopausebetween the ages of 40 and 45. A recent study found postmenopausal women in this age group to have higher rates of heart failure when compared to women who went through menopausebetween the ages of 50 and 54. This risk was even more pronounced in smokers, who typically experience menopause aboutone year earlier than women who don’t smoke. The study found that for every one-year increase in age at menopause, the rate of heart failure was 2 percent lower.

Significance:The link between early menopause and cardiovascular disease isn’t new – prior research has associated early menopause with coronary heart disease andstroke. However, the Swedish study is rare in that it takes a closer look at heart failure. “Most of the studies on menopause and heart disease focus on cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and atherosclerosis,” said Dr. Margery Gass, executivedirector of the North American Menopause Society. Gass was not involved in the study. “By focusing onheart failure, this study contributes important information to the field. It also raises questions about cause and effect.”

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Novel approach to treat peanut allergies


Study subjects:Mice

Location of study:U.S.

Results:Oralimmunotherapyworks by building up a person’s tolerance to food allergens by gradually ingesting them over a period of time. If successful, the body becomes desensitized to problem foods. However, immunotherapy has been associated with adverse effects in some people.Now researchers are developing a new type of flour that could make immunotherapy safer. The new flour powder is made up of compounds called polyphenols derived from cranberries. These polyphenols are bound to peanut proteins, which allowed peanut-allergic lab mice to become desensitized without experiencing any adverse reactions.

Significance:“The danger is severe enough that oral immunotherapy treatment can only be performed under attendance of a physician in the clinic because patients – commonly children – can unpredictably react with severe symptoms, including anaphylactic shock,” said Mary Ann Lila, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University. The next step in the research may be to extend the strategy to other food allergies.


Too much of a good thing is always risky


Location of study:U.S.

Study subjects:11 men and 14 women

Results:Binging on alcohol, even on occasion, may lead to bacteria leakage from the gut. This, in turn, can raise bacterial toxins in the blood, which strains the immune system. For the study, participants were given alcohol until their blood alcohol levels reached at least .08 g/dL. After monitoring their blood, researchers found that even a single alcohol binge was associated with a significant increase in bacterial toxins.

Significance:“We found that a single alcohol binge can elicit an immune response, potentially impacting the health of an otherwise healthy individual,” study leader Dr. Gyongyi Szabo said in a statement. According to researchers, their findings suggest that binge drinking is more dangerous than people may think. Car crashes, injuries, and liver and other organ damage are the most widely recognized side effects of alcohol. This research shines a light on another potential new danger.


Cardiac protein may explain heart failure


Location of study:U.S.

Study subjects: Mice

Results:A newly discovered heart-specific protein may help experts predictheart failure. While there’s currently no cure for the condition, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute have discovered a protein that appears to shield the heart from arrhythmias (irregular electrical impulses that cause an abnormal heartbeat). Arrhythmias can lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death. The protein, called BIN1, sculpts small folds within pockets that are on heart muscle. These folds are critical in that they trap the chemicals that regulate heart rhythm.

Significance:“In most types of heart failure, this protein decreases about 50 percent,” said cardiologist Dr. Robin Shaw, an expert in heart failure and rhythm abnormalities at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. “Our results suggest that one of the reasons that the heart can stop from an arrhythmia is not because of any real structural problem. It’s because the diseased hearts have less of the protein.” The protein could potentially be used as an indicator for heart failure, especially since it can be detected in the bloodstream.

 
 
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