Health Tips

By ALEX CUKAN, UPI Health Writer  |  Feb. 21, 2002 at 4:44 AM
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Since nicotine replacement therapy became available as a non-prescription treatment to help Americans stop smoking, 40 percent of adult Americans attempt to quit smoking annually. "In the same period that nicotine replacement therapies, such as the nicotine patch or nicotine gum, became available over the counter, we see more Americans trying to stop smoking," says study author Saul Shiffman, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. "This may mean that the easier accessibility of non-prescription products has positively impacted U.S. public health." According to the U.S. census, 78 percent of the 48 million current adult U.S. smokers report they would like to stop smoking. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.2 million successfully quit permanently. In 1996, 36 percent tried to quit smoking, up from 38 percent in 1993. The history of nicotine replacement products seems to parallel the numbers -- those attempting to quit smoking spiked with the introduction of the nicotine patch in 1993, then declined as prescription-only products reached equilibrium. In 1999, after over-the-counter nicotine products introduced, the amount of those quitting increased. The findings will be presented at the Eighth Annual Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Savannah, Ga., Friday.


Two recent studies suggest new hope for 28 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches. In a controlled study conducted at New York Medical College, in Valhalla, N.Y., a new treatment outperformed Imitrex, the most widely prescribed migraine medication. At the Westchester Medical Center emergency room, 80 percent of patients with extremely severe migraine or tension-type headaches were made comfortable without medication within 40 minutes. This new headache treatment is based on the finding that headache patients have an inflamed tender area above the upper molar teeth. The inflammation creates a local swelling, which exerts pressure on the adjacent maxillary nerve, causing the headache. In patients with unilateral migraine or tension-type headaches, the temperature and tenderness of the area on the symptomatic side was consistently higher and more tender than it was on the opposite side. This is contrary to current theories ascribing the cause to a swelling of the meninges, the outer covering of the brain. In the emergency room and in Imitrex studies, a device called the Intra-Oral Vasoconstriction was used to chill the inflamed area to reduce the swelling, which takes pressure off the nerve to eliminate the headache.


Scientists at Cardiff University, in Wales, have confirmed what thousands of people with arthritis have believed for years -- cod liver oil is effective in treating joint pain and can slow, even reverse, the destruction of joint cartilage. Cartilage is the "gristle" that cushions bones and prevents them from grinding against each other. Omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil work by switching off the aggrecan- and collagen-degrading enzymes that break down joint cartilage. This slows the progress of cartilage destruction that occurs in arthritis, reduces inflammation and thus lessens pain. "Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to cod liver oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the degradative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue," says Professor Bruce Caterson. "Our findings are consistent with advice that taking cod liver oil in early adulthood could prevent the onset of osteoarthritis and would reduce the harmful symptoms associated with the disease."


A study conducted by Cardiff University's School of Psychology, found that high-fiber eaters are less stressed and have a more positive mood. Professor Andrew Smith tested a group of volunteers over a four-week period. Baseline measurements showed that those that regularly consumed a high-fiber diet were less emotionally distressed; had fewer cognitive difficulties; had a more positive mood; had less difficulty falling asleep and had lower depression scores than those people who ate a low-fiber diet. The results show the equivalent of five slices of whole-wheat bread or seven bowls of brown rice was enough to reduce fatigue by 10 percent. "The physical benefits of a high-fiber diet have been widely acknowledged amongst health care professionals for many years. However, this is the first time high-fiber intake has been associated with improved mental health," says Smith. Eight out of ten people do not eat enough fiber, according to the researchers.

(EDITOR: For more information, about SMOKING, call (212) 601-8118; about MIGRAINE, call (914) 725-9560; about ARTHRITIS, call (029) 2087-4499; about FIBER, call (029) 2087-4499.)

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