May Health News

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May 18, 2014

1.  Type 2 Diabetes:  Two Meals or Six Meals?

As a type 2 diabetic, haven’t your physicians often advised you to eat multiple small meals instead of 3 big meals to better regulate your sugar level?  That has been how I counsel my diabetic patients.  Well, you might have heard of a recent study from researchers in Prague showing that fewer large meals might be more effective in lowering your blood sugar and leading to a larger amount of weight loss. 

In this study, reported in the journal of Diabetologia, researchers from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague divided 54 type 2 diabetic patients into two groups, feeding them two large meals or six small meals a day over 12 weeks.  Those with two large meals have only breakfast and lunch while those with six meals a day eat throughout the day.  The diet in both groups averaged about 1700 calories a day.

Results showed that those who had two large meals daily lost, on average, 3 more pounds and 1.5 inches more from their waistlines than those who consumed six meals a day. 

Although the results seemed promising, the researchers concluded that a larger study over a longer period is needed before major changes should be made in the management of type 2 diabetes. 

You probably would agree with me that it is not easy to skip dinner, and it is hard to believe how these patients did not get any “hypoglycemic” effects with the long period between lunch and the following day’s breakfast.  These researchers stated, however, that smaller meals might not satisfy your hunger, while the two large meals, assuming the patients ate until they got full for lunch, did not cause hunger in the evening.  Wouldn’t it be more convenient to have two big meals a day instead of eating six times daily?  We will have to wait for more studies!

2.  Binge Drinking and the Effect on the Immune System

Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than 5 drinks in males and 4 drinks in females in about 2 hours, resulting in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than 0.08 g/dL.  A study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) showed a single binge drinking episode can result in more endotoxins released from bacteria in the gut and affect the immune system.  The body can produce more immune cells which would lead to inflammation and tissue destruction.

The researchers found, even in a single binge drinking episode, a higher endotoxin level in the blood and more bacterial DNA, showing how these bacteria can leak from the gut into blood stream.  They also found a higher level of BAC and endotoxins in women than men.

The lesson to learn?  It’s never wise to drink too much alcohol, especially binge drinking, which can impair your ability to drive and affect cognitive function.  Your drinking habit can harm more than just your gut and immune system.  Recently, in our area, a woman engineer was sentenced to six months of jail for driving under the influence of alcohol.  She drank half a bottle of wine during a party.  This woman couldn’t stand up straight when caught by the police.  She somehow got lost on the way home to Northern Virginia from Washington, D.C., and her car somehow landed on the C&O Canal path (a popular National Park where people walk, bike, or hike) and eventually crashed into a cyclist on the pathway.  Many others had to jump off the path as her car was approaching them.  The poor cyclist had multiple injuries and remains in rehab. 

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3.  Cancer Cure from…the Measles Vaccine?

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the U.S., with over 24,000 new cases and over 11,000 deaths just this year. With so many new cases and so many with poor outcomes, scientists, patients and families are always looking for new breakthroughs.  Some exciting and provocative research was published this week.  Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reported that they injected a huge dose of the measles vaccine (specially engineered) into the bloodstream of two patients who were suffering from incurable, late stage, widespread myeloma.  One patient saw “some improvement” in soft tissue lesions while the other patient’s myeloma went into total remission with her multiple, widespread tumors eliminated!  The researchers noted that this experimental treatment now needs to be tested in a larger group of patients (called a phase 2 clinical trial) but they are extremely excited about the “huge milestone” passed from the first human results and the potential for this treatment to be used successfully in myeloma as well as other cancers such as ovarian, brain, head and neck and mesothelioma.   

Russell, S. et. al., Mayo Clinic Proceedings (online), May 14, 2014

4.  Lunesta Dose Alert from the FDA

Are you one of the many, many Americans who have trouble sleeping?  Not everyone with sleep difficulties takes a prescription medication but last year in the U.S., 55 million prescriptions for sleep aids were dispensed.  Lunesta (eszopiclone) is one of the medications approved for treating insomnia in adults.  Three million doses of Lunesta were prescribed in the U.S. in 2013.  The FDA announced a few days ago that the recommended starting dose of Lunesta needs to be cut in half, from 2 mg to 1 mg.  The changed recommendation resulted from recently published research demonstrating that next-day activities requiring full alertness (including driving, memory and coordination) was impaired in some patients who started on the 2mg dose. Concerning was the fact that many of these patients felt wide awake and were unaware they were impaired.  According to the FDA, the dose can later be increased to 2 mg or even 3 mg if necessary.  This isn’t the first time the FDA has decreased its recommended doses for sleeping aids.  You may recall that in January, 2013, the agency recommended that doses of Ambien and other sleeping medications containing Zolpidem be cut in half for women.  The bottom line?  If you begin to use any sleeping aid medication, be very careful with the day activities requiring full alertness and consider having others (like a family member) observe you for a week or two as you may feel fully alert yet be impaired in some way. (May 15, 2014)
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA  

Note to the readers: Enjoy the photo posted above the health news.  It’s a Tulip Poplar flower.   Our area is full of poplar trees and they flower only in May!