News, views and insights on maintaining a healthy edge.
Flip-Flopping in the Classroom The back-to-school season always holds some surprises for educators, kids and parents. This year, many noticed a rise in foot pain among returning students. The popularity of cheap, stylish flip-flops has more than a little to do with this, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Right into the mid-teens, kids have new bone growing in their heels. Flip-flops offer no support or cushioning for this part of the foot, and summer-long repetitive stress can manifest itself in pain and injuries once students switch back to traditional school footwear. If your child is experiencing pain, it’s important to explore an immediate remedy—stretching exercises, ice massage, anti-inflammatory medications, and custom or over-the-counter shoe inserts are certainly worth exploring. Obviously, if the pain worsens or persists, a visit to the podiatrist is called for.
Follow-Up on NYC Soda Ban New York’s short-lived soda ban spurred a slew of studies on the actual impact of obesity-focused legislation. A recent article published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics suggests that strategies such as taxing sugary beverages would not reduce obesity, because consumers would simply switch to un-taxed options. Public health advocates have posited that higher prices would deter unhealthy food purchases. But according to research economists, that simply isn’t the case. In New York, a court ruled that the Board of Health exceeded its authority in instituting the ban, which was pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Among the criticisms of an “obesity tax” is that it would target lower-income consumers who tend to buy more high-calorie foods and beverages, and thus would be a regressive tax. Even so, the search for a “social solution” will continue; more than a third of U.S. adults, and one in six children, are technically obese. The medical costs associated with obesity are between $125 and $150 billion a year.
Drug Wonder Downunder A pair of Australian medical researchers have been recognized for their breakthrough work with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a condition caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene on the X chromosome—which means it mostly affects boys. DMD patients are wheelchair-dependent by age 12 and often don’t survive past their early 20s. The researchers have developed a drug that works by skipping over the faulty part of the gene, producing a functional version of the protein dystrophin. This protein stabilizes the muscle fiber during muscle contraction. Without dystrophin, muscle fibers are replaced by scar tissue. In clinical trials, boys on the drugs have been walking up hills, operating pedal cars and whistling after 90 weeks. “It is extremely exciting to see that genetic testing is finally coming to the forefront of clinical medicine,” says Dr. Kevin Lukenda, Chairman of TRMC’s Family Medicine Department. “For years, this information was limited to research and academia. With a simple swab of a patient’s saliva in my office, we can detect over 30 possible genetic mutations within an individual’s DNA. This is the future of early diagnoses and treatment in clinical medicine.”
Kevin Lukenda, DO Chairman, Family Medicine 908.925.9309
You Snooze, You Lose Don’t lose sleep over junk food purchases. Seriously, don’t. A new study shows that lack of sleep can lead people to buy more food—and more high-calorie items— when they shop. Researchers gave 14 normal-weight men a budget of $50 and instructed them to purchase as much as they could out of a possible 40 food items, which included 20 high-calorie and 20 low-calorie foods. They conducted this exercise after a night of sleep deprivation and again after a good night’s sleep. They bought 18 percent more food— and 9 percent more calories—after a night of sleep deprivation. “Another recent study showed that the pleasure centers of the brain were activated more when sleep-deprived people looked at pictures of junk food,” adds Dr. Vipin Garg, Director of the Trinitas Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center. “Lack of sleep can prevent the brain from making an intelligent decision regarding healthy food choices. Getting enough quality sleep can help weight control by allowing people to make proper nutritional decisions and also provide energy to exercise to achieve better overall health.” There are plans in the works for follow-up studies to see how sleep deprivation affects other buying decisions.
Vipin Garg, MD Director, Trinitas Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center 908.994.8880
Word of Mouth Unreliable Where Strokes are Concerned So what’s the deal with the “Crooked Tongue” story making the rounds on social media? According to countless emails and Facebook postings, a woman who was suffering from a stroke but didn’t exhibit the typical symptoms was diagnosed by an alert ER physician who asked her to stick out her tongue. When she did so, and her tongue presented to one side rather than straight out, he was able to correctly diagnose the stroke and save his patient’s life. Is the “crooked tongue” technique a reliable way to diagnose stroke? According to Dr. John D’Angelo, Chairman of Trinitas Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department, the story has all the earmarks of an urban legend. “I can find no reference to this suggestion from any reliable source, such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the American Heart Association or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,” he says. “Lingual deviation can indicate a host of issues that are typically associated with a tumor or other type of lesion. So a crooked tongue is a sign that something is wrong, but it’s not a reliable sign you are having a stroke.” The T in the American Stroke Assoc
iation’s STR test—which stands for Smile, Talk & Raise both arms—may have erroneously morphed into tongue. “Cranial nerves 9 and 12, the glossopharyngeal and hypoglossal nerves respectively, are associated with the tongue,” Dr. D’Angelo explains. “CN IX receives sensory information from the 1/3 posterior portion of the tongue—the taste buds. CN XII controls the muscles of the tongue. In neuroa
natomy and neurology, we learn that the tongue points to the affected side of the brain. CN XII is located on either side of the medulla oblongata, which is not a typical locale for a stroke.”
John D’Angelo, DO Chariman, Emergency Medicine 908.994.5273
New Hormone Promises Diabetes Breakthrough Harvard researchers have discovered a hormone called Betatrophin, which holds promise for a more effective treatment of Type 2 Diabetes, which currently affects more than 25 million Americans. In the Harvard study, Belatrophin caused mice to produce insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells at up to 30 times the normal rate. The new cells produce insulin only when called upon by the body. This offers the potential for natural regulation of insulin, as well as a reduction in the complications associated with diabetes. There is hope that this treatment may also have an impact on juvenile diabetes. It could eventually mean that instead of taking insulin injections three times a day, you might take an injection of this hormone once a week or once a month or—in the best case—maybe even once a year, explains Doug Melton, one of the researchers. “This new hormone offers optimism for researchers lo
oking to discover a cure for diabetes,” says Dr. Ari Eckman, who heads up the Trinitas Division of Endocrinolo
gy, Diabetes & Metabolism. “It should be noted, however, that this hormone was seen in a mouse model—whether or not this translates to humans is yet to be determined. It is obviously way too early to speculate
if this will work in humans, but certainly this may one day be a novel approach to managing diabetes.”
Ari Eckman, MD Chief of Endocrinology and Metabolism 908.994.5187
Be Mindful About Smoking Take a long, slow deep breath…close your eyes….relax…and get rid of that cigarette! According to the University of Oregon’s Department of Psychology, learning meditation techniques makes it easier for smokers to taper off. Mindful Meditation—a technique that encourages people to relax, focus on the current moment and “go with the flow” of thoughts and sensation—has already been shown to have a positive impact on cold and flu, hot flashes and irritable bowel syndrome. In the Oregon study, 60 people received five hours of either relaxation training or Mindful Meditation training. Among the smokers in the study, there was no difference in the amount the relaxation group smoked. However, the smokers in the meditation group had cut back by 60 percent. Researchers admit that the smoking findings are surprising, and caution that the study was very small. Also, the participants were all college students. On the other hand, none of the subjects were told they were taking part in a smoking study. And the Oregon study found that the brains of the smokers who learned meditation techniques were more active in an area linked to self-control. More work in this area is warranted.