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Latest Finds: Hepatitis C death rate creeps past AIDS

Hepatitis C death rate creeps past AIDS

More people in the United States now die from hepatitis C each year than from AIDS, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3.2 million people are currently infected with hepatitis C.

Using data on more than 22 million deaths and their causes, researchers found that hepatitis C death rates increased to almost 5 per 100,000 people in 2007 from fewer than 3 per 100,000 in 1999. During the same period, the HIV death rate declined to a little more than 4 per 100,000 from more than 6 per 100,000.

There were 15,106 deaths due to hepatitis C in 2007, almost 75 percent of them among people ages 45-64. The report appears in The Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. John W. Ward, director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC and an author of the study, said that there was now a treatment that was about 70 percent effective at clearing the virus from the body. But, he said, most infected people are unaware of their condition and do not receive treatment.

“The declines in HIV reflect the accomplishments in building a public health response to the epidemic that improved screening and provided means of access to effective treatment,” he said, adding that having a similar program for hepatitis C would help achieve similar results.

Brainpower tied to omega-3 levels

Low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with smaller brain volume and poorer performance on tests of mental acuity, even in people without apparent dementia, according to a new study.

In the analysis, published online in the journal Neurology, scientists examined 1,575 dementia-free men and women whose average age was 67. The researchers analyzed the fatty acids of the subjects’ red blood cells, a more reliable measurement than a plasma blood test or an estimate based on diet. They used an MRI scan to measure brain volume and white matter hyperintensities, a radiological finding indicative of vascular damage.

People in the lowest one-quarter for omega-3 levels had significantly lower total cerebral brain volume than those in the highest one-quarter, even after adjusting for age, body mass index, smoking, and other factors. They also performed significantly worse on tests of visual memory, executive function, and abstract memory than those in the highest one-quarter. There was no significant association with white matter hyperintensity volume.

Few in the study were taking omega-3 supplements, Tan said. The main reason that some had higher blood levels of omega-3s was that they ate more fatty fish.

Several of the authors have financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

Diet soft drinks linked to heart disease

Some studies have suggested that consumption of diet soft drinks might be associated with Type 2 diabetes and development of the condition known as metabolic syndrome — high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, and other risk factors. Now a 10-year epidemiological study has found a link between diet soft drinks and cardiovascular disease.

The analysis, published online in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, included 2,564 adults over 40 living in New York. Researchers found that diet and regular soft drink consumption were both associated with a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Even after controlling for many of those risks, including diabetes, the researchers found that daily consumption of diet soda was still independently associated with an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and death. e reasons for the association are unclear, the authors said, and the results must be interpreted with caution.

“The message for diet soft drink drinkers is not to be alarmed,” said the lead author, Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami. “What we’ve found is an association, and it might be due to chance or other unmeasured variables.”

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