Blood Test to Identify Depression?

In what could prove to be a incredible find, researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have devised a simple blood test that can diagnose major depression in teenagers.  Lead investigator Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university said,

“’Right now depression is treated with a blunt instrument. It’s like treating type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes exactly the same way. We need to do better for these kids. This is the first significant step for us to understand which treatment will be most effective for an individual patient.”

As she explained, ”Without an objective diagnosis, it’s very difficult to make that assessment. The early diagnosis and specific classification of early major depression could lead to a larger repertoire of more effective treatments and enhanced individualized care.”

The new test not only identifies depression, but it can also identity subtypes of depression.  It shows differences between teens with major depression and those who have major depression with an anxiety disorder.

Untreated teen depression can have debilitating consequences.  Untreated teens experiencing depression can turn to substance abuse, social maladjustment, suicide and illness.

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The study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry looked at 14 teenagers who had major depression but had not been treated and at 14 non-depressed teens. They were all patients of Doctor Kathleen Pajer, a co-first author of the study and those of her colleagues at the Research Institute of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

When looking at 26 genetic blood markers, Prof. Redei’s lab testing was able to isolate 11 markers that were different for depressed and non-depressed teens.  In addition, 18 of the 26 markers were able to differentiate between those with major depression and those who also had an anxiety disorder.

Professor Redei is hoping that her work, and future diagnostic tools, will help to take away the stigma of mental illness.  As she said,

“Everybody, including parents, are wary of treatment, and there remains a social stigma around depression, which in the peer-pressured world of teenagers is even more devastating. Once you can objectively diagnose depression as you would hypertension or diabetes, the stigma will likely disappear.”

Red Wine May Help Control Weight Gain

The health benefits of red wine have long been recognized by the scientific world. Compounds found in the beverage are believed to provide protection against heart and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reduce the risk of several cancers. Now, research suggests it may help control obesity, too.

Though exercise is certainly imperative for both weight control and general health, a substance called piceatannol was found to hinder the growth of fat cells in the body. According to Purdue University in Indiana, this red wine compound limits insulin activity that results in the growth and maturity of fat cells.

Dr. Kee-Hong Kim, lead researcher, explained: “In the presence of piceatannol you can see delay or complete inhibition of young fat cells.

Piceatannol alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis- the process in which young fat cells become mature fat cells.”
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He added that in order for the discovery to have an impact on society, the scientists need to “work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect.”

Other red wine compounds, such as resveratrol, have similar effects on the body’s health. Resveratrol is sometimes sold as an agent to combat disease, as well as to prevent heart conditions and cancers. Both compounds can be found in blueberries, grapes and passion fruit as well as red wine.

Tree Nuts Have Slimming Effect, Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Though many avoid nuts because of their high fat content, recent studies have found that they may in fact have a slimming effect.

The research involved 13,292 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999-2004. It found that people who consumed more than one quarter of an ounce of tree nuts every day were found to be significantly thinner, and with lower risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers,” revealed lead researcher Carol O’Neil. “The mean weight, BMI, and waist circumference were 4.19 pounds, 0.9kg/m2 and 0.83 inches lower in the consumers than non-consumers, respectively.”

In addition, nut consumption is associated with high levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol, health blood pressure, and healthy blood sugar levels. Now, experts recommend a daily intake of 1.5 ounces of tree nuts per day. These nuts include almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias and hazelnuts.

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O’Neil said: “Tree nuts should be an integral part of a healthy diet and encouraged by health professionals- especially registered dieticians.”

O’Neil is not the only expert to appreciate the results. Maureen Ternus of the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation said of the research: “In light of these new data and the fact that the FDA has issues a qualified health claim for nuts and heart disease with a recommended intake of 1.5 ounces of nuts per day, we need to educate people about the importance of including tree nuts in the diet.”


Beer Belly May Not Be Due to Beer, Says New Study

A scientific team from Germany has made a discover that will, undoubtedly, shock many.  That beer belly that everyone blames on beer – may not actually be caused by those fatty drinks.

Following nearly 20,000 people for four years and watching their weight and hip and waist measurements, they have concluded that drinking beer is not the main cause of beer belly, but rather it might be a contributing factor to overall bulk.

As they wrote in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study

“does not support the common belief of a site-specific effect of beer on the abdomen, the beer belly. Beer consumption seems to be rather associated with an increase in overall body fatness.”

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The scientists hailed from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Fulda University of Applied Sciences and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.  Their methodical work, that included categorizing the women into four areas from “no beer” to “moderate drinkers” and the men into five categories from “no beer” to “heavy drinkers,” concluded that beer consumption did lead to a thicker waist line. It did not, however, account for the actual beer belly.

Bilingualism May Help to Prevent Dementia

For those considering teaching their children a second language – it just got even more intriguing to do so then it already was.  Researchers from York University recently discovered through their research published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that being bilingual increases cognitive ability – and also makes the brain more resilient in later life.

This finding may point the way to protections against dementia.  The lead of the study, Dr. Ellen Bialystok, said,

“Previous studies have established that bilingualism has a beneficial effect on cognitive development in children. In our paper, we reviewed recent studies using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effects of bilingualism on cognition in adults.”

When monitoring those who speak two languages, they found that a bi-lingual person uses brain regions that help with general attention and with cognitive control.  This skill creates “mental flexibility.”

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In addition, they found that those who are bilingual improve their “cognitive reserve” and that this reserve can actually help to push back the onset of symptoms in people who have dementia.

As Dr. Bialystok said,

“Our conclusion is that lifelong experience in managing attention to two languages reorganizes specific brain networks, creating a more effective basis for executive control and sustaining better cognitive performance throughout the lifespan. It should not be surprising that intense and sustained experience leaves its mark on our minds and brains, and it is now clear that the bilingual brain has been uniquely shaped by experience.”

HIT Workouts: An All-Inclusive Exercise in 4 Minutes Flat

The general belief is that the best amount of exercise to get in a week is 150 hours. Many would claim that this suggestion is in the fact what keeps them overweight or unhealthy, since finding even an hour or two of free time during the day is no small feat.

An amazing solution to this issue is the HIT workout, or High Intensity Training. This miracle worker helps the body lower blood sugar levels, release fatty acids, and improves both aerobic and anaerobic aptitudes within minutes.

This 3-4 minute form of exercise is not new. One HIT routine was developed in the nineties by Dr. Tabata of the National Institute of Fitness and Sports. He dictated a workout that merely included eight 20-second bursts of high activity with a 10-second pause between each one. In total, such a workout would take less than four minutes.

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HIT workouts consist of exercises like squats, pushups, sit ups, lunges, ‘the plank’, crunches and dips. Done in quick succession, these drills will leave the body aching, shaking, sore and continuously burning calories. The body will continue to burn fat and strengthen muscles long after you shower and continue with your day.

The benefits of the HIT workouts are endless. They are short and do not require equipment, can be done as many times a week as possible, burn fat and strengthen the muscles, circulatory system and respiratory system, alleviate stress, boost your mood and focus and improve sleep. There is no excuse; finding a total of four minutes every week is no chore.