- A Fungus May Be Triggering Crohn’s Disease
- Morning Sickness May Be a Good Thing, Actually
- Happy People Make Their Spouses Healthier
- How Gut Bacteria May Predict Belly Fat
Posted: 26 Sep 2016 08:25 AM PDT
Crohn’s disease is a serious condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys portions of the intestines, causing pain, bleeding, diarrhea, fevers, and more—for reasons that are far from clear.
Now, new research published recently in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, suggests that a fungus may play a role in triggering this inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects as many as 700,000 Americans. Crohn’s can happen at any age, even during childhood, although it’s most often diagnosed in teens or young adults.
An international research team found a link between a fungus, called Candida tropicalis, and Crohn’s disease in humans. (Previously, fungi have only been linked to the disease in mice.)
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“Our study adds significant new information to understanding why some people develop Crohn’s disease,” the study’s senior author, Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, said in a news release. The findings could lead to new treatments, said Ghannoum, a professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
In the study, the researchers analyzed fecal samples from nine families in France and Belgium. They included 20 Crohn’s patients and 28 close relatives who did not have the disease. They also examined samples from 21 Crohn’s-free individuals from four families living in same region.
Normal human intestines contain hundreds of bacteria and fungi species (known as the microbiome), which help digest food and protect against disease-causing germs. The researchers found an association between two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, and the fungus, C. tropicalis. Levels of these three were higher in family members with the disease, suggesting that they interact in the intestines. Further lab testing suggests that the bacterial-fungal trio forms a thin, slimy film. When that “biofilm” clings to a portion of the intestines, it may cause inflammation that results in Crohn’s disease symptoms, the news release noted.
“We know that intestinal microbial agents have a key role in causing IBD, but only a limited number of the enormously complex bacteria, viruses, and fungi have been identified and their functions are largely unknown,” said Caren Heller, MD, chief scientific officer of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, in a statement. “This study suggests that not only do viruses and bacteria play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases in some patients but fungi may as well.”
Researchers also found that the gut profiles of Crohn’s patients and their healthy relatives were distinctly different from those of unrelated healthy people. But that may simply reflect the shared diet and environment of family members, authors noted.
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“More studies of additional patients and among different cohorts must be conducted in order to validate these findings and their importance in development of future treatments and cures of IBD,” Dr. Heller’s statement said.
A number of factors have been linked to a higher risk of Crohn’s, including bacteria, genes, smoking, and exposure to antibiotics early in life.
Posted: 26 Sep 2016 08:00 AM PDT
Many women feel queasy in the early days of pregnancy, and while unpleasant, nausea and vomiting are a common symptom of being pregnant.
Still, to learn more about it, Stefanie Hinkle, staff scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, and her colleagues decided to study a group of women from before they became pregnant and follow them for 36 weeks to better understand how nausea symptoms correlate with pregnancy loss. All of the women had already experienced at least one miscarriage and were actively trying to get pregnant. During the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, nearly 800 of them became pregnant; about a quarter of those pregnancies, confirmed by a hormone test, resulted in loss.
When Hinkle and her team analyzed daily reports about nausea and vomiting symptoms, they found that women who reported nausea were less likely to miscarry by the eighth week compared to women who didn’t report the symptom. “We hypothesize that there is a more direct biological link going on between nausea and vomiting and pregnancy loss, although our data can’t inform exactly what that is,” says Hinkle.
“It’s a hard time the first time you get pregnant, and then you throw on feeling sick and exhausted,” Hinkle says. “This should provide some solace and reassurance to women experiencing these symptoms that they have a healthy pregnancy.”
However, it’s important to note that the study wasn’t designed to determine cause and effect, and if a woman who is expecting doesn’t experience morning sickness, that doesn’t mean she will miscarry. Every pregnancy is different, and these symptoms vary considerably from woman to woman, and even from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same woman, Hinkle says.
Posted: 26 Sep 2016 07:00 AM PDT
People who are happier are usually also healthier—and not just because they’re happy about being healthy. When humans feel good, they’re more likely to be active and less likely to attempt to cheer themselves up with cheeseburgers, ice cream and a two-day Game of Thrones marathon.
But a new study suggests that people whose spouses are happier are probably also in better shape, even independently of their own happiness. In fact, the study’s data suggests that people with a happy partner are 34% more likely to be healthy than those married to a downer.
The study, out of Michigan State university looked at about 2,000 older married heterosexual couples in the Health and Retirement Study over six years, from 2006 to 2012 and found that those who reported a happier spouse also reported feeling better overall.
“Participants with happy partners were significantly more likely to report better health, experience less physical impairment, and to exercise more frequently than participants with unhappy partners,” says the study, “even accounting for the impact of their own happiness and other life circumstances.”
The authors propose a couple of reasons why a happy person might improve the health of their lover. First, a happy spouse is a better caretaker; he or she is more likely to have the emotional energy to look after a significant other, making sure they’re O.K., have taken their medications and are looked after when they’re ill.
Secondly, people with a positive outlook are more likely to be playing the long game; they eat better, they exercise, they sleep regularly, they make plans and avoid doing self-destructive things because they feel good about the future. And they bring their companions along for the ride. “Happy people drag their spouses out of bed to go exercise, and they encourage them to eat healthier,” says Bill Chopik an associate psychology professor at MSU, and lead author of the study.
And thirdly, happy spouses make life easier for their partners because their partners aren’t stressed by the fact that their closest companion is always in a bad mood, and they’re not exhausted and stressed by efforts to jolly them along or not upset them.
The study adjusted for gender, wealth and educational attainment and also for people who were desperately ill or whose partners were, which would obviously have a big impact on happiness.
Surprisingly, there was no difference in these outcomes between husbands and wives. “There’s a sense that women’s manage their husbands’ health, but it appears that the amount your spouse’s happiness affects your health doesn’t vary across gender,” says Chopik.
One of the ways the researchers think this works is that the happy soul becomes a proxy for their partner, so the gloomy individual behaves as a non-gloomy person would. “It’s compensatory,” says Chopik. “Another person’s happiness is filling you up, so you do these healthy things.”
It’s hard to know what moral to draw from the study—apart from try to marry a happy person—since the stress of trying to figure out how to improve your spouse’s mood may well undo all the beneficial effects of having a happy spouse. Chopik has a workaround. “Relationship satisfaction between couples is one of the largest predictors of happiness,” he says. So instead of trying to figure out what’s up with him or her, he suggests working out what’s up with the two of you.
The study looked at four health indices: self-reported health, physical impairment, exercise and chronic conditions. The only thing that wasn’t improved by a cheerful life partner was the chronic conditions. Hey, love can’t fix everything.
Posted: 25 Sep 2016 04:01 PM PDT
Researchers are hard at work trying to uncover the biological secrets hidden in the microbiome, and for good reason: the trillions of bacteria that live in and on us play a role in illness and health, and scientists are getting a better idea of why. The bugs we live with have been linked to everything from acne to asthma to cholesterol levels.
In recent years, scientists have also found that certain bugs in the gut, which contribute to digestion and immune function, are linked with overweight and obesity.(Even more astounding: animal studies found that transplanting feces from obese mice into normal weight mice made them heavier. The opposite was also true.) In humans studies, researchers have found that more diverse communities of bacteria are linked to having a normal weight, while fewer types of bugs were connected to overweight and obesity, though those results were a little uneven.
Part of the problem, says Michelle Beaumont, a research associate at the department of twin research at Kings College, is that while BMI measures weight, it can’t tell whether that weight is from lean muscle or fat tissue. So for a new study published Sunday in the journal Genome Biology, she and her colleagues decided to investigate more closely exactly how the microbiomes affects body fat, rather than just weight.
They analyzed stool samples from more than 1,300 twins as well as analyses of X-ray-based measurements of body fat throughout the body. The measurement was able to distinguish between visceral fat, which tends to embed within organs and can raise the risk of heart disease and metabolic conditions like diabetes, from so-called sub-cutaneous fat, which likes just underneath the skin and is considered to be less metabolically active.
They found that the more diverse their microbiomes, the less likely they were to be obese. But even more importantly, Beaumont and her team found that the less diverse the microbiomes, the more likely the people were to have more visceral fat.
“The key thing we found in our work is that the associations with the microbiome are much stronger with visceral fat than with any other measure of obesity,” says Beaumont. “And because visceral fat has a lot of implications for heart disease and metabolic diseases, maybe studies should start looking at the actual measurement of fat rather than measures that are as broad as BMI.”
While the study establishes a link between gut bugs and visceral fat, it’s not clear yet whether changing the makeup of the microbiome will have an effect on weight. Other studies have found that fecal transplants can control rates of infection with C. difficile, a common bacteria found in hospitals, but using gut bugs, either by transplanting feces or by using probiotics, to alter weight hasn’t been studied in enough detail yet in people to justify acting on results like Beaumont’s. But they are an important first step in learning more about the factors that contribute to obesity, and finding new ways to control them.
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