Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Pets v kids’ eczema.

The impact of owning a dog or a cat has been assessed with relation to young children’s chance of getting eczema. Dogs won the day while cats were to be avoided.

Dr Tolly G Epstein studied 636 children until they were aged 4, giving them allergy tests each year and comparing this against eczema.  

Kids without dogs could develop an allergy to dogs and similarly kids without cats could develop an allergy to cats, as indicated by a skin prick test. Whether these tests were positive or negative also affected the chances of getting eczema.

But owning a dog was generally protective. While 30% of kids without a dog who tested positive for dog allergy developed eczema, only 14% of those with a dog and testing positive actually developed eczema. Similarly, of the kids who tested negative, it was the dog owners who had less chance of getting eczema.

With cats, it went the other way. Owning a cat increased the chance of eczema, both in those who tested positive to cat allergy and those who tested negative.  Children of cat owners were 13 times more likely to develop eczema than those without a cat.

Oddly, the team found that owning a dog protected against cat allergy, suggesting that dog ownership may lead to tolerance of a variety of allergens.


September 30, 2010 Posted by | Child Health, Eczema, Success, Tolly G Epstein | Leave a comment

Influenza fate.

Dr David M Morens and two other experts from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have concluded that the likeliest fate for pandemic H1N1 flu is that it will die out over time, due to high numbers of people with existing immunity.

However, their paper in the  journal mBio makes it clear that they cannot be certain of this as various pathways exist for the strain to alter its composition, in the same manner that seasonal H1N1 influenza does.

Dr Morens calculates that around 20% of the population of the US had some degree of immunity to pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) before the 2009/10 pandemic, due to similarities in prior infections that affect those aged 55 and over. He also calculates that the figure has now risen to nearly 60%.

In the US, over 99% of flu in the 2009/10 season was pandemic H1N1. The current influenza vaccine contains pandemic H1N1 as one of its 3 components, based on World Health Organization recommendations.

Dr Morens finding of residual protection in older people explains why the youngest were hardest hit in the last flu season, and possibly explains why the pandemic of 1918, another H1N1 strain, was a killer of young people rather than the old.

In the US, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending vaccination for everyone over 6 months of age.

In the UK it is now advised that pregnant women should be inoculated, along with those aged over 65.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | David M Morens, H1N1, Health, Influenza, Pregnancy, Success, Vaccine | 1 Comment

Gender v stress.

Prof Mara Mather has found that when stressed, the brains of men and women handle recognition of emotions from another person’s face in completely opposite ways.

To process facial emotions requires activity in the basic visual processing area of the brain (the fusiform face area) and connectivity to interpretation areas. Without stress, this is the same for both men and women.

Add stress, in the form of the cold pressor test, a standard method where your hand is dipped in iced water for a significant length of time. Then look at a photo of an angry face or a fearful face and repeat the brain activity scan.

Men were found to shut down the basic visual processing area and disconnect this from the emotional interpretation areas.

Women did the opposite. They ramped up visual processing activity and increased connectivity to the interpretation areas.

According to Prof Mather “Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support.”

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Brain, Gender, Mara Mather, Psychology, Relationships, Stress, Success | Leave a comment

No to mouthwash claims.

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has told 3 mouthwash makers to stop making health claims that their products prevent gum disease or remove plaque, without support for these claims.

The active ingredient in mouthwash is sodium fluoride, approved by the FDA  to prevent tooth decay. It is not approved for treatment of gum disease or plaque removal and the makers would need to submit new drug applications for such use.

The mouthwashes affected are Listerine Total Care (Johnson and Johnson), CVS Complete Care  and Walgreen Mouth Rinse.

The companies have 15 days to fix labels or produce plans to correct them.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | FDA, Gum disease, Health, Success | Leave a comment

Pine bark fails heart test.

Pine bark extract failed to produce any improvement in cardiac risk profile in a 12 week randomised trial,  compared to a placebo.

Dr Randall Stafford randomly allocated 121 volunteers with high blood pressure to 200 mg/day of pine bark extract or a placebo for 12 weeks.

According to food records at start and end, the pine bark group increased potassium intake by 75 mg/day while the placebo group fell by nearly 300 mg/day.

An increase in potassium is normally linked to a decrease in blood pressure. However, the pine bark group decreased by 1 mm while the placebo group decreased by nearly double this.

The body mass index of the pine bark group increased slightly while the control group BMI decreased slightly, leading to a small but significant difference between the two.

Other markers for cardiovascular risk were the same across both groups.

The researchers noted that “Although a different dosage or formulation might produce different results, our findings argue against recommending this pine bark extract to improve cardiovascular disease risk factors.” The pine bark extract tested was from Toyo Shinyaku of Japan.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | BMI - body mass index, CVD - cardiovascular disease, Health, High blood pressure, Natural healing, Randall Stafford, Success | Leave a comment

Celiac disease research.

Dr Carlo Catassi of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland has found that the incidence of celiac disease a particular set of 3,500 people in the  US has doubled every 15 years since 1974, as the participants get older.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component, involving an intolerance of gluten found in wheat, rye and barley.

This US study mirrors Finnish findings that people can be tolerant for years before developing the disease.

By testing markers in the blood, the US team found 1 in 501 people had celiac disease in 1974, 1 in 219 in 1984, and 1 in 133 in 2003.  Old people were around two and a half times more likely to have it than those younger, indicating an interaction between genetics and the environment.

Interestingly, only 11% of those with blood markers had actually been diagnosed with celiac disease. Classic symptoms are gastrointestinal (bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea), but atypical symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue and depression.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Celiac (coeliac) disease, Diet, Epigenetics, Genetics, Gluten, Health, Success | Leave a comment

Beating insomnia.

Dr Phyllis Zee took a small number of middle-aged, sedentary people suffering from chronic insomnia and showed that aerobic exercise led to significant improvements in sleep and the quality of their life.

The participants’ age averaged 62 and they were all given education on good sleeping practices, while some were also assigned to join an exercise program.

After a build up period, the aerobic exercise consisted of 30-40 minutes 4 times a week at 75% of their maximum heart rate.

Using clinically validated scales, the aerobic exercise group showed statistically significant improvement in sleep quality, time to fall asleep, length of sleep, daytime problems caused by poor sleep, depressive symptoms, daytime sleepiness and overall vitality.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Depression, Exercise, Phyllis Zee, Sleep, Success | 2 Comments

Neighbourhood choice test.

Pretend that you are going to move soon. Rate the desirability of the following two characteristics for your new neighbourhood, from not important at all to very important –
– ease of walkability
– close to outdoor recreation facilities.

Dr Tanya R Berry examined the relationship between a number of reasons for choosing a neighbourhood and weight change in nearly 1,800 Canadians over a period of 6 years, and found some odd results.

Weight and body mass index (BMI) tend to increase with age, so the question was who would gain the most or gain the least.

A number of desires relating to neighbourhood choice made no difference to weight gain, but walkability and close to outdoor recreation did.

Those who rated walkability highly gained less than those who did not care about it.

But those who rated nearness to outdoor recreation highly gained more than those who did not care about this, a finding that the researchers could not explain in this study.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Activity, BMI - body mass index, Success, Tanya R Berry, Walking, Weight management | Leave a comment

Asthma genes.

Dr William Cookson has reported on a genome-wide study in 26,000 people to find the genetic factors involved in asthma.

The research team found a total of 6 genetic areas affecting the risk of asthma. However, the risk increase involved with each of these was small and the locations acted independently of each other.

 This means the factors are unlikely to be of much use in predicting the risk of a particular individual getting asthma, and suggests that personalised treatment based on genetics is unlikely.

However, one particular location was associated strongly with the risk of childhood-onset asthma, which implicates different paths for childhood-onset asthma and adult-onset asthma.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Asthma, Genetics, William Cookson | Leave a comment

The dog diet?

Dr Christopher Owen found that 9 and 10 year-old children who owned a dog were more active and less sedentary than those who didn’t.

Over 2,000 children in 3 major cities in the UK were fitted with accelerometers to measure their activity levels over a period of a week.

Those with a dog were found to be around 4% more active than those without, which in the children’s case equated to about 360 more steps per day (plus increases at all activity levels and a decrease in down-time).

Although the study didn’t test whether getting a dog made kids more active or more active kids got a dog, this issue has been tested in adults. In the case of adults, getting a dog led to increases of activity.

And the increase in activity for adults is much larger, around 25%, equating to an extra 1,700 steps per day for walkies.

The difference in extra steps of adults and 10 year-old suggests the kids extra activity comes from playing with the dog, rather than going walkies with it.

Whether 10 year-old or adult, think thin, think active, get a dog!

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Activity, Child Health, Christopher Owen, Health, Success, Walking, Weight management | Leave a comment