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Prebiotic and probiotic supplements may improve depression symptoms; a June 2020 review study shows. Scientists analyzed 7 of the highest quality studies conducted in the last 15 years assessing the effectiveness of single and multi-strain pre- and probiotics in improving depressive symptoms in patients with a clinical diagnosis of depression. Researchers included only those studies that used quantitative measurements to categorize symptoms. BMJ Takeaway: Results of all 7 studies (using a combination of prebiotics alone, probiotics alone, and prebiotics and probiotics together) showed statistically significant improvements in depression symptoms and/or clinically significant improvements in biochemical measurements for depression. While this study sheds light on depressive disorders, it doesn’t tell us whether anxiety disorders would respond similarly. The verdict is still out and more studies are needed. The other important point to keep in mind is that just like with digestive disorders, simply popping a prebiotic/probiotic pill won’t improve your symptoms.…

Fasting plasma blood glucose levels (FPG) at hospital admission independently predicts COVID-19 complications and death in those without diabetes. Scientists looked back at the FPG levels at hospital admission in 605 COVID-19 patients in Wuhan. Those with a FPG of 126 mg/dL or higher were nearly 4 times more likely to experience COVID-19 complications compared to those with a FPG less than 110 mg/dL. Annals of Internal Medicine Takeaway: Because FPG proves to be such a strong, independent predictor of COVID-19 complications and mortality, researchers who conducted the study recommend glycemic testing and control at hospital admission for all COVID-19 patients, even for those who don’t have a previous diabetes diagnosis. Testing and controlling blood sugar can help in assessing COVID-19 severity and mortality risk, as well as improve survival outcomes. Are you concerned about your risk for developing high blood glucose levels and diabetes? If so, a study published…

Scientific evidence links COVID-19 transmission with fecal aerosols. A recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, explored an outbreak in a high-rise apartment building in Guangzhou, China. The outbreak infected 9 individuals living in different units throughout the building. Through patient interviews, throat swabs, and an in-depth environmental investigation, researchers found that transmission most likely occurred in the master bathrooms of the apartments, which were connected through drainage vents. Fecal bio-aerosols most likely leaked, travelling from one apartment to another through the bathroom drainage pipes. Annals of Internal Medicine Takeaway: To prevent future outbreaks of this kind, scientists who conducted the study recommend immediately resolving any leaks that exist within sewage drainage systems. This will prevent bio-aerosols from escaping and becoming a hazard. The findings in this study add to the growing evidence that COVID-19 and other infectious diseases can be spread through wastewater plumbing systems, especially those in…

Stress levels may be a key factor in determining who suffers from severe COVID-19 and could potentially help measure who is at an increased risk of mortality. In a study conducted in London, researchers took the cortisol levels within 48 hours of hospital admittance in suspected COVID patients. Those who did not have COVID became the control group. Of the suspected patients admitted, 403 patients were found to have COVID. After analyzing the results, researchers found that the mean cortisol levels in COVID patients was 619 nmol/L versus 519 nmol/L in non-COVID patients. In addition, in patients with higher cortisol levels, a 43% increase in mortality was observed. Those with cortisol levels greater than 744 nmol/L had a median survival of 15 days versus 36 days in those with cortisol levels less than 744 nmol/L. MedRxIV Takeaway: Researchers noted that stress levels observed in some COVID patients were higher than…

Eating more of your calories during the first half of your day could mean a lower risk of mortality from diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). A recent study found that if those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease make a small adjustment to the amount of food they eat in the second half of the day – moving just 5% of total calorie intake from dinner to breakfast – mortality risk from their disease significantly decreases. Researchers conducted an observational study in approximately 4,700 adults with diabetes and looked at energy and macronutrient intake using a 24-hour dietary recall over 2 back-to-back days. When looking at the relationship between mortality (including mortality from diabetes, CVD, and all causes) and energy consumption throughout the day, the scientists found that those who consumed the highest amount of their calories for dinner were almost twice as likely to die from diabetes and 69% more…

What causes animals (or humans) with identical genetic codes, gut microbes, and germ exposure to survive the same pathogen (and pathogen dosage), while another dies? Could the answer lie in manipulating the body to tolerate disease as opposed to fighting it? This is a theme that has received lots of attention in the last five years, and one worth discussing, especially in the midst of the pandemic. An article published in The Scientist in June 2019 highlighted a series of rodent studies that investigated this phenomenon. One study in particular showed that providing nutrients for the host when pathogens invade the body could help in maximizing host health and survival. Researchers infected a group of mice (all were identical in terms of genetic code, microbial makeup, diet, and environment) with a pathogenic bacterium, Citrobacter rodentium. Exposure was kept constant across all mice, and pathogenic bacteria levels were identical in the gut…

Increased antibiotic use is associated with an increased risk for hospitalization. The study looked at primary care medical records linked to hospital admissions in 1.8 million patients from 2000 to 2016, and analyzed those who had received systemic antibiotics. Infections of interest included urinary tract, ear, and respiratory (those with more serious chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis and chronic lung disease were excluded from the study). The results showed that the more antibiotics a patient was prescribed, the more likely they were to be hospitalized for a subsequent infection in 3 or more months. Those with 9 or more antibiotic prescriptions were 2.26 times more likely to be hospitalized, while those with 5 to 8, 3 or 4, and 2 antibiotic prescriptions were 1.77, 1.33, and 1.23 more likely, respectively. BMC Medicine Takeaway: Researchers who conducted the study claim that the overuse of antibiotics for common infections is “unproven –…

A first study of its kind shows that gut microbes could predict how seriously ill a Covid-19 patient might become. In the hopes to identify why some individuals with COVID-19 fare better than others, researchers created a risk score based on blood biomarkers found in severe COVID-19 patients. Scientists found that these biomarkers are linked closely with a core set of gut microbiome characteristics, as well as with increased inflammatory cytokines. COVID-19 is linked closely to the gut. As the virus enters the body, it binds to ACE2 enzymes, which play a large role in regulating intestinal inflammation and gut microbe make-up. COVID-19 patients who experience GI symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting) also tend to suffer from a more severe state of the disease, so it makes sense that the gut microbiome and disease severity are strongly associated. MedRxiv Takeaway: Scientists who conducted the research concluded that based on the…

A new study looking at a non-invasive blood assay method to detect early colorectal cancer (CRC) could eventually mean the end of regular colonoscopy for CRC screening. The test capitalizes on new, more sensitive methods to detect circulating cells in the blood and looks at three blood markers: circulating gastrointestinal epithelial cells, somatic mutations and methylation of cell-free DNA. Researchers tested the assay in 354 patients who were already scheduled for their regular screening colonoscopy with no previous CRC diagnosis – 14% of patients had experienced symptoms or a positive fecal immunochemical test and 86% were asymptomatic. When compared to findings during colonoscopy, the blood test proved a sensitivity (true positives) of 100% for detecting CRC and 76% for detecting advanced adenomas (pre-cancerous polyps). Takeaway: Colonoscopy has the ability to look for pre-cancerous polyps as well as remove them, but it’s invasive nature and the requirement for sedation make it…

Certain medications could make you more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and could worsen infection. NSAIDs: You may have already heard that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and aspirin used to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation) may aggravate coronavirus infection. Because these drugs may affect the immune response, they can potentially elongate the infection time and increase the possibility of complications. While some studies support this line of thinking, the evidence is minimal and more studies are needed. Experts agree that they know very little about how NSAIDs effect coronavirus infection and are looking further into the association. In the meantime, the recommendation is that patients should use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to reduce pain and fever.  Corticosteroids: Because of their immunosuppressive characteristics, the routine use of corticosteroids is discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These recommendations are in place because corticosteroids dampen the immune system, hypothetically increasing the risk of…