In The News: February 2010
Got Gout? Drink Milk
Drinking skim milk may help people manage their gout. According to research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, previous studies have indicated that individuals who drink a lot of milk have a lower risk of developing gout. Researchers therefore studied the effects of skim milk on serum uric acid concentrations, which—when at an elevated level—increase the risk of gout. Enlisting 16 healthy male volunteers, researchers studied the effect of drinking soy milk and three different types of skim milk, produced at different times of the milking season from grass-fed cows. Each participant received a single dose of each product in random order. Samples of serum and urine were collected immediately before each participant drank one of the beverages and then hourly over a three-hour period. The regimen was carried out with each participant for each of the four beverages with a week in between each session. The study’s authors found that after drinking soy milk, the serum uric acid increased by about10 percent. In contrast, all skim milks led to a decrease in serum uric acid by approximately 10 percent.
Surgery Not Linked to Cognitive Decline in Older Patients
Although it has been widely assumed that older adults often experience memory loss and other cognitive problems following surgery, a new study has been unable to detect any such connection. The study, conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and reported in Anesthesiology, comprised 575 patients over the age of 50 who were divided into three groups: those who had surgery, those with an illness, and those with neither. After comparing the groups over time, researchers were unable to detect any evidence of long-term cognitive decline, suggesting that if older people physically recover from surgery, they should expect to return to their previous level of cognitive ability as well. "If you need surgery and you’re elderly," said the study’s authors, "whether you decide to have surgery or not should depend on surgical risks and benefits, and not the possibility of cognitive problems."
Increased Dose of Vitamin D Prevents Falls
A review of eight trials that evaluated the effectiveness of vitamin D in fall prevention in people over 65 concluded that vitamin D reduces the risk of falling by 19 to 26 percent. However, vitamin D’s effectiveness was determined to be dose-dependent, and less than 700 international units (IU) per day had no effect, researchers at University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, found. Current daily recommendations for vitamin D are 400 IU for individuals age 51 to 70 and 600 IU for those 70 and older. Authors of the study recommended between 700 and 1,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 (cholecaciferol). The effect of the higher doses was significant within two to five months and independent of age or additional calcium supplementation.
Shock-Wave Therapy for Unhealed Fractures as Effective as Surgery
Non-invasive shock-wave therapy is equally effective as surgery when mending bones that fail to heal. Sparse surrounding vascular tissue and limited blood supply can prevent a bone’s healing, and the complication—called a nonunion—often is difficult to treat. In a study reported in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, investigators analyzed data from 126 patients who had nonunions of the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), or ulna or radius (forearm). Patients were evaluated from 2001 to 2004. One group received surgery to repair fractures; the other group received four shock-wave-therapy sessions at weekly intervals, with 4,000 impulses per session. Researchers found that shock-wave treatment stimulated healing of bone within six months and provided a comparable outcome to surgery even two years after treatment. Shock-wave therapy, the study’s authors concluded, not only helps reduce pain but appears to induce bone regeneration by stimulating growth factors.