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Casual Marijuana Use Linked With Brain Abnormalities
Casual Marijuana Use Linked With Brain Abnormalities
April 17, 2014

A small study of casual marijuana smokers has turned up evidence of changes in the brain, a possible sign of trouble ahead, researchers say.

The young adults who volunteered for the study were not dependent on pot, nor did they show any marijuana-related problems.

"What we think we are seeing here is a very early indication of what becomes a problem later on with prolonged use," things like lack of focus and impaired judgment, said Dr. Hans Breiter, a study author.

Longer-term studies will be needed to see if such brain changes cause any symptoms over time, said Breiter, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Previous studies have shown mixed results in looking for brain changes from marijuana use, perhaps because of differences in the techniques used, he and others noted in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Neurosciences.

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Obesity Linked to Increased Odds of Losing Baby
Obesity Linked to Increased Odds of Losing Baby
April 17, 2014

Women who are overweight or obese when they get pregnant may be at increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, researchers say.

The danger is greatest for severely obese women, who appear to have about double or triple the risk of losing their baby, although that risk is still small, the study authors noted.

The findings, based on a review of previously published studies, underscore the need for women who plan pregnancy to try to maintain a healthy weight, the researchers suggested.

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Scientists grow human body parts in lab
Scientists grow human body parts in lab
April 10, 2014

In a north London hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in the laboratory in a bold attempt to make body parts using stem cells.

It is among several labs around the world, including in the U.S., that are working on the futuristic idea of growing custom-made organs in the lab.

While only a handful of patients have received the British lab-made organs so far- including tear ducts, blood vessels and windpipes - researchers hope they will soon be able to transplant more types of body parts into patients, including what would be the world's first nose made partly from stem cells.

"It's like making a cake," said Alexander Seifalian at University College London, the scientist leading the effort. "We just use a different kind of oven."

During a recent visit to his lab, Seifalian showed off a sophisticated machine used to make molds from a polymer material for various organs.

Last year, he and his team made a nose for a British man who lost his to cancer. Scientists added a salt and sugar solution to the mold of the nose to mimic the somewhat sponge-like texture of the real thing. Stem cells were taken from the patient's fat and grown in the lab for two weeks before being used to cover the nose scaffold. Later, the nose was implanted into the man's forearm so that skin would grow to cover it.

Seifalian said he and his team are waiting for approval from regulatory authorities to transfer the nose onto the patient's face but couldn't say when that might happen

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Coffee Linked With Lower Liver Cancer Risk
Coffee Linked With Lower Liver Cancer Risk
April 10, 2014

Your daily coffee habit could protect you from developing the most common kind of liver cancer, a new study suggests.

And the more coffee you drink a day, the lower the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, according to researchers from the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"Now we can add HCC [hepatocellular carcinoma] to the list of medical ailments, such as Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, that may be prevented by coffee intake," study researcher V. Wendy Setiawan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the university, said in a statement. "Daily coffee consumption should be encouraged in individuals who are at high risk for HCC."

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be considered preliminary.

The study included 179,890 men and women of varying races, including Japanese Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Caucasians. Researchers followed them for up to 18 years and kept track of their coffee consumption and other lifestyle factors.

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CDC salt guidelines too low for good health
CDC salt guidelines too low for good health
April 3, 2014

Don't toss out your salt shaker just yet: A new analysis from Denmark finds current recommended salt guidelines may be too low.

The new research indicates that Americans consume a healthy amount of salt, even though daily averages exceed recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"For most people, there is no reason to change their dietary habits concerning salt, as most people eat what appears to be the safest amount," said review author Dr. Niels Graudal, a senior consultant at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

For the study, published April 2 in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers analyzed 25 prior studies. They found that low levels of salt consumption may be linked with a greater risk of death.

The study actually shows that both too much salt and too little are harmful, said Graudal.

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Morning sunshine may help you stay slim
Morning sunshine may help you stay slim
April 3, 2014

Spending time in the bright morning light may help you slim down, new research suggests.

The small study found that people exposed to more light earlier, rather than later, in the day tended to be leaner than their peers.

"We were very interested in looking at the relationship between lighting and how that may be affecting your weight," explained study senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the sleep disorders center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"This is an early study, but we did indeed see a fairly robust association between the amount of light and the timing of light, and weight," noted Zee. However, she was quick to point out that the study only found an association between early light exposure and lower weight, not a cause-and-effect link.

The study included 54 adults. Twenty-six were male, and the average age was 31. A special monitoring device -- worn on the wrist -- measured light exposure, sleep mid-point and duration of sleep for seven days.

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