Acupuncture Associates

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December 2005


Children admitted to hospital with viral wheezing (background episodic wheeze triggered by viral colds) do not benefit from oral steroids, according to a new study. Children admitted to the Leicester Children’s Asthma Centre with serious wheezing were randomised to receive either placebo or prednisolone. There was no significant difference in the two groups for subsequent levels of respiratory symptoms or hospitalisation. (Lancet 2003; 362: 1433-38).



Allen Roses, a GlaxoSmithKline senior executive, told a scientific conference in London that most prescription medicines don’t work for most people. He is quoted as saying that more than 90% of drugs only work in 30-50% of people. He was speaking about the potential advantages that genetically targeted drugs would have over “one-drug-fits-all” medicines. Dr. Roses is reported as saying that drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work in fewer than one in three patients, and those for cancer are only effective in a quarter of patients. Drugs for migraines, osteoporosis, and arthritis work in about half of all patients. The British National Health Service drugs bill has increased by nearly 50% in the last three years, rising by £2.3 billion a year to an annual cost to the taxpayer of £7.2 billion. (The Independent, December 8th, 2003).



In a study of the medical records of 289 patients in an urban primary care clinic during four 1-month periods, a total of 433 physical symptoms were recorded. Of these, only 52% were explicable in terms of a medical diagnosis. A further 10% were ascribed psychiatric cause, leaving around 38% unexplained. At a one-year follow-up, around a quarter of all reported symptoms persisted, especially in the case of headache and back pain. (Psychosomatics 44:471-478, December 2003).



A recent study of data from 7.45 million patients discharged from 994 acute-care hospitals across 28 US states in the year 2000, has estimated that more than 32,000 deaths and more than $9 billion in extra costs each year are attributable to medical accidents. Postoperative sepsis was responsible for the greatest number, followed by postoperative reopening of surgical incisions and infections incurred whilst in hospital. ( JAMA 2003;290: 1868-74).



Two dietary factors may be implicated in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) according to new research. The first is fructose, which is found in honey and a variety of fruits; e.g. grapes, dates, nuts, apple and pear juice etc.). Of 80 patients with IBS, 30 were found to be fructose intolerant. 14 of these, who learnt and then maintained a fructose-free diet, experienced a significant reduction in symptoms one year later. 12 who were taught the diet but did not maintain it, experienced no improvement. In a second study, it was found that patients with IBS or dyspepsia reported eating more monosaturated fats than people without such symptoms, suggesting a possible link. (American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting, 2003).



The risk of schizophrenia is higher in children of older men. The records of over 50,000 Swedish army conscripts revealed that the risk of developing schizophrenia increased by 30% for every 10-year increase in paternal age. (Br J Psychiatry 2003 183: 405-408).



Broccoli is rich in antioxidant chemicals but it appears that different cooking methods have a dramatic effect on whether they remain in cooked broccoli. Microwaving resulted in the loss of 97% of flavonoids, 74% of sinapic acid derivatives and 87% of caffeoyl-quinic acid derivatives. Boiling resulted in a loss of 66% of flavonoids, and high pressure boiling in the loss of 47% of caffeoyl-quinic acid derivatives. Steaming however, had minimal effects, in terms of loss, on both flavonoid and hydroxycinnamoyl derivative contents. The same researchers also found that broccoli heads lose 50-80% of their vital nutrient content between harvest and point of sale. (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 83, issue 14, pages: 1511-1516). Researchers from Finland have reported that blanching vegetables prior to freezing them results in a loss of about 30% of their antioxidant content. Freezing in itself also causes a small loss of antioxidants. (J Agric Food Chem, Vol. 51,May 7, 2003, pp. 3029-34).



The traditional treatment known as hejama (cupping) is officially banned in Egypt and doctors who use it face being called before the disciplinary council of Egypt’s Doctors’ Syndicate and even having their license to practice suspended. One practitioner has had his clinic closed and his equipment confiscated. Despite official disapproval, the treatment is popular in Egypt, especially among the poor. (Reuters)



Erectile dysfunction is associated with a 3.5 times higher risk of heart attack, according to the findings from a 20- year study of more than 2,000 American men. The researchers propose that patients reporting erectile dysfunction should therefore always be assessed for cardiovascular risk. (American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2003).




A new study has emphasised the importance of establishing fitness while still young. Analysis of data from the long-term CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study which began in 1985 when participants were aged 18-30 has found that those who were the least fit originally (based on a treadmill test) were twice as likely as those who were fittest to have developed diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome by the years 2000-2001. Those who had improved their fitness when retested 7 years after the study began were found to have somewhat lowered their risk.(JAMA. 2003;290:3092-3100).



Patients with acute lower back pain (less than 90 days duration) who were taught back-strengthening exercises and coping mechanisms for negative emotions such as depression and frustration, reported less disability and fear of movement and reinjury, better mental functioning, and greater physical activity than similar patients receiving standard medical care. All participants were low-income adults living in inner cities. (Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:2632-2638).



Suffering from stress prior to receiving surgery can result in greater post-surgical pain, slower wound healing and more prolonged recovery, according to a New Zealand study. 47 adults undergoing hernial repair filled in questionnaires about their stress levels in the 4 weeks prior to surgery and gave blood samples. Those who were stressed also had lower levels of interleukin-1 and MMP-9 enzyme, both of which are involved in wound healing. (Psychosom Med 2003 65: 865-869).



A telephone questionnaire of nearly 19,000 people in five European countries found that 7.6% of respondees experienced morning headaches (1.3% daily, 4.4% often and 1.9% sometimes). Headaches were more common in women and in the 45-64 years age group. The morning headaches were most significantly associated with anxiety and depression, and also with sleep-related breathing disorders, hypertension, musculoskeletal diseases, use of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medication and heavy alcohol consumption. (Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:97-102.)



A New Zealand study into 571 car crashes (where one or more occupants was admitted to hospital or died) found that silver cars were 50% less likely to be involved in crashes than white cars – previously identified in studies to be themselves less likely to be involved in crashes. Brown cars presented a significantly greater risk, and the risk was also greater with black and green cars. The risk for yellow, grey, red and blue cars was about the same as white cars. Allowance was made in the analysis for factors such as age of driver, sex, educational level, ethnicity, alcohol consumption (in previous six hours), use of recreational drugs, seat-belt use, average time spent driving each week, vehicle speed, vehicle age, engine size, registration, warrant of fitness and vehicle insurance, driving licence status, road type, weather, and prevalent light conditions (day, night, twilight). (BMJ 2003;327:1455-1456).



Arsenic in groundwater and its accumulation in plants and animals is serious and widespread in large parts of West Bengal, India and adjoining areas of Bangladesh. Drinking arsenic-contaminated well water has caused the rapid spread of skin diseases and liver damage. Although chemical treatment can remove arsenic contamination, such efforts to provide safe drinking water have not been widely implemented. New research however, has shown that two homoeopathic preparations, Arsenicum Album-30 and Arsenicum Album-200, showed a considerable effect in ameliorated arsenic induced toxicity in mice compared to controls.



In around one third of all United Kingdom households, there is at least one adult who suffers chronic pain, and in a quarter of these it rises to two adults. The cost of treating back pain and sciatica alone is around £6.3 billion a year. These figures were presented at a conference on the role of complementary medicine in pain management, organised by the Prince of Wales’s Foundation, which called for primary healthcare practitioners to consider complementary therapies in managing pain, particularly if conventional treatment was unsatisfactory, if there were substantial adverse side effects to the traditional treatment, or if the patient requested it. 49% of primary care practices were providing access to complementary medicine in 2001, a rise of 9% since 1995. (BMJ 2003;327:1368). Meanwhile a survey by the US Duke University Medical Center, has estimated that health-care expenses associated with back pain in the USA in 1998 amounted to over $90 billion a year, of which $26 billion went on treatment. 25.9 million Americans reported back pain in that year. $90 billion represents 1% of the US gross domestic product.