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Walking 'not enough to get fit'

From an article of the same title on

A team from Canada's University of Alberta compared a 10,000-step exercise programme with a more traditional fitness regime of moderate intensity. Researchers found improvements in fitness levels were significantly higher in the second group. They told an American College of Sports Medicine meeting that gentle exercise was not enough to get fit... "You've got to do more than light exercise and move towards the inclusion of regular moderate activity, and don't be shy to interject an occasional period of time at the vigorous level."


Older dads and the risk of autism

From The Week, September 22, 2006 p. 21:

The epidemic of autism may be the result of men fathering children later in life, says a new study of more than 130,000 children. The number of kids with autism-a brain disorder that makes it difficult to relate to people and the outside world-has jumped tenfold in the last two decades, now affecting one in every 166 American children. Many parents blame the mercury once used as a preservative in infant vaccinations, though several studies have found no link between vaccinations and autism. But now, says New Scientist, an extensive new Israeli study has come up with a solid reason for the disorder's prevalence: older fathers. A research team that included scientists from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that a new dad between 30 and 39 was 1.6 times more likely to have an autistic child than a man of 29 or younger. Children conceived by dads between 40 and 49 were 5.75 times as likely to develop the disorder. This suggests that as men age, their sperm is more prone to developing warped genetic material. The age of the mother did not appear to have a large effect. The study, said University of Illinois autism researcher Dr. Edwin Cook, may go a long way to explaining the recent surge in autism. "It's a strong effect in a carefully designed study," Cook said.


Does ultrasound harm babies?

From The Week, August 25, 2006, p 21:

The ultrasound scans that doctors use on pregnant women may cause fetal brain damage, says a new study. Researchers at Yale Medical School performed the recommended two 30-minute ultrasound sessions on mice whose pregnancies were at a crucial stage of brain development. They found that after the ultrasound, the development of neural cells in the babies' brains was slightly impaired. The heat from the vibrating ultrasound waves appears to be the cause of the damage. In theory, researchers said, fetal neural damage could lead to such disorders as retardation, autism, and schizophrenia. But lead researcher Pasko Rakic said that ultrasound may affect tiny mice brains more than human brains, and cautioned pregnant women not to avoid ultrasound tests "for appropriate diagnostic and medical purposes." He did say, though, that women should avoid unnecessary ultrasound scans.


Persistent Vegetative States

From an article by Ian Sample in The Guardian titled "For first time, doctors communicate with patient in persistent vegetative state":

A 23-year-old woman who has been in a vegetative state since suffering devastating brain damage in a traffic accident has stunned doctors by performing mental tasks for them. Brain scans revealed that the woman, who has shown no outward signs of awareness since the accident in July last year, could understand people talking to her and was able to imagine playing tennis or walking around her home when asked to by doctors. The discovery has astounded neuroscientists who believe it could have dramatic implications for life and death decisions over other patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS)... "This is extremely important. It's the difference between life and death. From cases in the UK and the US, we know that end-of-life decisions are of course extremely important and this will definitely change the way we deal with these patients. When you have signs of consciousness, you cannot decide to stop hydration and nutrition," said Steven Laureys, a neurologist at the University of Liege and co-author of the study which appears in the journal Science today... Persistent vegetative state was first described in 1972 by Scottish and American neurologists and only came to medical attention because of extraordinary advances in keeping severely brain-damaged patients alive for longer. Neurologically, the condition is a slight improvement on a coma. Patients diagnosed as PVS show no signs of consciousness or awareness, but unlike those in a coma, have periods of sleep and wakefulness and periodically open their eyes. The condition is a source of huge controversy in medical and legal fields, largely because of the difficulty in proving a patient is unaware and the extreme difficulty in predicting whether a patient will ever recover. Adults typically have a 50% chance of recovering from a persistent vegetative state within the first six months, but after a year, the chances of recovery drop dramatically. Those who recover after longer periods usually experience serious disabilities. The mysterious condition continues to confound scientists. In May, a team of British and South African doctors announced they had given sleeping pills to a PVS patient to help calm restless movements at night. The patient woke up 15 minutes later and was able to speak and even tell jokes. Doctors have kept the patient on the pills, and believe it works by acting on part of the brain that had been shut down in response to the patient's original trauma.

More infant deaths with elective C-sections

From a Reuters article of the same title (sub-titled "Procedure has three times higher mortality rate than babies born vaginally") on

A new study has found a higher risk of infant deaths among infants born by Caesarean section to mothers who have no medical need for the procedure. While C-sections have saved the lives of "countless" women and babies, and the risk of infant death is still very low, it is crucial to determine the reasons for the higher infant mortality seen with C-section, because the rates of this surgery are becoming increasingly common, Dr. Marian F. MacDorman of the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control in Hyattsville, Maryland and colleagues conclude. Rates of Caesarean have risen steadily in the U.S., from 14.6 percent of all first-time births in 1996, to 20.6 percent in 2004, MacDorman's group notes in the September issue of Birth.



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