In Brief

August 07, 2008


Pill given to mice delivers benefits of daily exercise

Scientists have discovered what could be the ultimate workout for couch potatoes: exercise in a pill.

In experiments on mice that did no exercise, the chemical compound, known as AICAR, enabled them to run 44 percent farther on a treadmill than those that did not receive the drug. The drug, according to the researchers, changed the physical composition of muscle, essentially transforming the tissue from sugar-burning fast-twitch fibers to fat-burning slow-twitch ones - the same change that occurs in distance runners and cyclists through training.

According to the study, published in the journal Cell, the researchers said the drug's fat-burning ability could also help reduce weight, ward off diabetes and prevent heart disease - the benefits of daily aerobic activity without the perspiration.

It is unknown if the drug has any benefit for athletes who work out - or any human for that matter, because the research has so far only involved mice.

Los Angeles Times


Sleep apnea boosts death risk in apparently healthy people, study finds

Sleep apnea, brief disruptions of breathing during the night that affect as many as 12 million Americans, increases the risk of death four- to sixfold, according to two new recent studies.

Results from the studies "remove any reasonable doubt that sleep apnea is a fatal disease," said epidemiologist Nathaniel S. Marshall of the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Australia, lead author of one of the two papers published in the journal Sleep. The findings "hint" that treatment of the condition can lower the risk of death, but "studies are still needed to test that question," said Michael J. Twery, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, which sponsored one of the studies.

Researchers had previously demonstrated an increased risk of death associated with sleep apnea in people with other health problems, but this is the first time a similar risk has been demonstrated in apparently healthy people, Twery added.

Los Angeles Times


Don't treat Alzheimer's patients like they are children, researchers say

Researchers from Kansas have offered a rare glimpse into the interior world of Alzheimer's patients with a new study presented at a major international conference in Chicago. The study, while small, is highly suggestive: Key findings indicate that patients - even those who may seem deeply disoriented or cognitively impaired - dislike being patronized or treated as if they are children.

This suggests that a sense of adult identity remains intact in people with dementia, even when individuals aren't able to remember how old they are, where they are, what day it is or which family members are alive and present. How people experience Alzheimer's disease, especially in its latter stages, is a mystery because those with the illness lose the ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

In the Kansas study, researchers tried to get around this hurdle by videotaping 20 elderly men and women living in three nursing homes during the course of a day as aides helped them bathe, brush their teeth, dress, eat and take their medicines, among other activities.

Researchers then analyzed the tapes, assessing how the manner in which staff interacted with patients influenced patients' behavior and the quality of care.

They discovered that when nursing aides communicated in a kind of baby talk for seniors - using a high-pitched sing-song tone, comments like "good girl," diminutives like "honey" and language that assumed a state of dependency ("Are we ready for our bath?") - Alzheimer's patients were twice as likely to resist their efforts to help.

Chicago Tribune

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