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HomeNewsMedical
Published: Monday, 5/21/2012

Latest medical finds: 5-21

Omega-3 may also help fight Alzheimer’s

A new study has found that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, plentiful in fish and nuts, is associated with lower blood levels of beta-amyloid protein, a possible indication of increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain are known to increase the risk for mental decline, and blood levels of the protein might reflect levels of its deposits in the brain. Researchers studied 1,219 mentally healthy people older than 65, recording their diet over 1½ years and testing their blood for beta-amyloid and for vitamins and other nutrients. The study appeared online last week in Neurology.

None of the nutrients was associated with reduced beta-amyloid levels except for omega-3 fatty acid. After controlling for age, education, ethnicity, alcohol intake, and apolipoprotein E genotype (a genetic marker for dementia risk), the scientists found that higher levels of omega-3 intake were associated with significantly lower beta-amyloid blood levels.

The subjects got their omega-3 mainly from fish, poultry, margarine, and nuts, but Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, the senior author, was unwilling to offer diet advice.

“The aim of this study is to try and confirm or disprove mechanisms by which omega-3 may affect brain function,” he said. “But it is not intended to derive public health recommendations.”

Dr. Scarmeas is an associate professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University.

Fewer young women complete HPV vaccine

The vaccine against human papillomavirus is highly effective in preventing cervical cancer, but researchers report that the percentage of young women completing the required three vaccinations is low and dropping.

Scientists studied records of 271,976 girls and women who received an initial HPV vaccination from 2006 to 2009. Ideally, the three shots should be given to 11 and 12-year-old girls within a six-month window. Catch-up shots are advised up to age 26.

The rate at which the young women completed the series within a year dropped to less than 22 percent in 2009 from more than 50 percent in 2006. There was an increase in completion only among the 2 percent of women older than 27 who received the shots off-label, to 24 percent in 2009 from 15 percent in 2006. Those who received the vaccination from a clinic were less likely to complete the series, compared with those who received the shots from a pediatrician. Those who got the vaccinations from a gynecologist were most likely to get all three shots.

Getting one shot is not enough, according to the senior author, Dr. Abbey B. Berenson, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

“All the data is based on three injections,” she said. “Getting one shot does not protect, based on the data we have now.”

The report appears online in the journal Cancer.

Aspirin prevents blood clots in patients

People with congestive heart failure are often treated with warfarin to prevent blood clots, but a large randomized double-blinded trial has found that aspirin works just as well.

Researchers recruited 2,305 patients with heart failure and normal heart rhythm. Half were given regimens of warfarin and dummy aspirin, the other half aspirin and dummy warfarin. The scientists followed them for up to six years, tracking incidents of stroke, hemorrhage, and death. The study was published online in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Overall, there was no significant difference between the two drugs. Patients who took warfarin were significantly less likely to have a stroke, but that advantage was canceled out by an increased likelihood of gastrointestinal bleeding and other hemorrhages. There were no significant differences in heart attacks or hospitalizations for heart failure.

“The advantage is that aspirin is easier to take,” said Dr. Shunichi Homma, the lead author and a professor of medicine at Columbia University. “Warfarin requires a blood test every month, and because of its tendency to cause bleeding, it causes people to restrict activities.

“Now we are trying to figure out if there is a subset of patients for whom warfarin is better,” he added.



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