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Checkup Medical Column for Nov 11

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

STATINS SAVE LIVES: STUDY

Increasing the intensity of cholesterol-cutting statins can help save the lives of heart disease patients from all age groups, research has shown.

High-intensity use of statins, either by prescribing the most potent drugs or larger doses of less powerful ones, was found to increase survival by nine per cent.

A similar benefit was seen in both younger patients and those aged 75 to 85.

Statins are very widely used to reduce high levels of blood cholesterol, which is known to contribute to the stiffening and narrowing of arteries.

Researchers analysed the medical records of more than 500,000 patients, with an average age of 69, from the US Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

All had been diagnosed with conditions marked by fatty deposits on the walls of major arteries, including those supplying the heart and brain with blood.

Of the total, 30 per cent were receiving high-intensity, 46 per cent moderate-intensity, and 6.7 per cent low-intensity statin therapy.

The overall results, published in the journal Jama Cardiology, showed that patients on high-intensity statins were nine per cent more likely to be alive at the end of the year than those receiving moderate-intensity treatments.

The same survival benefit was seen in patients over the age of 75, a group little studied in clinical trials.

Lead author Dr Fatima Rodriguez, from Stanford University in the US, says the results show that high-intensity statins confer a survival advantage for patients with cardiovascular disease, including older adults.

SOFT DRINKS LINKED TO DIABETES RISK

Regular intake of sugary beverages, but not diet soda, is associated with prediabetes and insulin resistance, according to a new US study.

In fact people who consumed roughly one can of soft drink per day over a 14-year period had a 46 per cent higher risk of prediabetes compared to low or non-consumers of the sugary drinks.

The epidemiological study, led by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University, found higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake was also associated with increased insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

No associations between diet soda consumption and risk of prediabetes or increased insulin resistance were found.

However, the research team notes that previous studies on associations between diet soda and risk of type 2 diabetes have produced mixed results, and further studies are needed to reveal the long-term health impact of artificially sweetened drinks.

The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

"Although our study cannot establish causality, our results suggest that high sugar-sweetened beverage intake increases the chances of developing early warning signs for type 2 diabetes," said senior author Nicola McKeown.

TARGETING CHICKENS TO REDUCE FOOD POISONING

Australian scientists are working on a way to eradicate a bacteria in chickens that's responsible for more than a million cases of food poisoning in each year.

More than four million Australians suffer from food poisoning each year, with the Campylobacter pathogen responsible for over a quarter of these cases.

There are many sources of Campylobacter, with a key one being raw chicken meat.

With the help of a $1 million government grant, molecular biologists Dr Tamsyn Crowley and Dr Sarah Shigdar from Deakin Unversity will investigate new ways using nanotechnology to suppress the growth of Campylobacter in chickens prior to processing.

Dr Crowley says they're confident they can find a solution over the next three years.

"Poor food handling in the kitchen is the major cause of food poisoning, but if we can reduce the amount of harmful bacteria on the chicken in the first place, we could make a big difference to the number of food poisoning cases each year related to the consumption of chicken meat," she said.

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