WEEDING OUT ALLERGY CAUSES
Gardeners who suffer allergies may find some relief by using eye drops and plantings that are less likely to cause them misery, experts advise. While airborne pollen can infiltrate from miles away, allergy-proofing the garden can help minimize the risks, says Thomas Leo Ogren, author of Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping. Ogren has rated more than 5,000 plants on a scale of 1 to 10, from least allergenic -- such as a periwinkle or red maple tree -- to most -- such as a staminate pepper tree or Chinese elm. "Allergy rates are rising at an epidemic pace," Ogren said, noting 38 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies, compared to only 10 percent 25 years ago. While an allergy-free garden can help, it is not a cure-all, said Dr. Mark Livezey, allergist with Allergy and Asthma Consultants in Atlanta. Eye drops, such as Novartis Ophthalmics' Zaditor, may reduce red, watery, itchy eyes, he said.
THE SKINNY ON FAT
In a search for a solution to the growing U.S. problem of obesity and overweight, researchers may have come up with a potential answer: finding a way to stop the body from making fat. Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco found a group of genes for an enzyme called DGAT, which is essential for producing triglycerides, the major component of fat. Mice that lack one of the DGAT enzymes, DGAT-1, are leaner than -- and twice as active as -- mice with normal amounts. And no matter how much fat they eat, they don't get fat. Apparently, these mice are more sensitive to leptin, the hormone that tells the brain when the body should quit eating and start expending energy. They also are more sensitive to insulin, and therefore potentially less likely to develop diabetes, the scientists reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. "The mice can eat normal amounts of food and still lose weight, because they just end up burning off the calories," said lead study author Dr. Hubert Chen. A drug that inhibits DGAT1 might provide treatment for obesity in humans, he said.
DISPELING THE MYTHS OF LABOR
Many moms-to-be are misinformed about how their baby will come into the world, a survey shows. The Ohio State University study of 102 pregnant women found two out of three think walking can induce labor, and nearly half expect to speed up delivery by having sex. In reality, the only thing a woman with a normal pregnancy can do is to wait, said Jonathan Schaffir, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and author of the study published in the journal Birth. "For healthy pregnancies, Mother Nature is the best obstetrician," he said. The questionnaire listed such folk beliefs about hastening labor as: frequent walking; having sex; heavy exercising; using a laxative; stimulating the nipples; eating spicy foods; being frightened; starving; having an enema, and drinking herbal tea. More than three-fourths of the women said they got their information from friends and relatives; 15 percent, from books and pamphlets, and, surprisingly, 12 percent, from physicians or nurses, Schaffir said.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Athletes should take extra care to protect a great asset -- their eyes, researchers say, noting that elite sports men and women have superior hand-eye coordination. "This shows up very early, by age four or five," said Jim Brown, executive editor of the Georgia Tech Sports Medicine & Performance Newsletter and author of Sports Talent: How to Identify and Develop Outstanding Athletes. "These athletes seem to pick up and track objects earlier than other people," Brown said. Fortunately, there is increasing emphasis on safeguarding eyesight, with many colleges annually screening their athletes' vision, he said. In addition, "there is increasing awareness that wearing protective eyewear --- and the right kind of glasses, goggles or lenses -- is important for athletes," Brown said. "We're trying to get the message to kids and athletes." Dust and grit on the playing field and long hours traveling on planes and staying in hotel rooms also can cause eye problems, such as dryness and irritation, which can be relieved with artificial tear products, he said.
(EDITORS: For more information about GARDENING, call 908-234-9900; about FAT, call 415-695-3833; about LABOR, call 614-292-8457; about EYES, call 770-493-9664.)