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Walnuts can keep age-related health issues at bay

07/04/2016

People have long lauded the health benefits of eating walnuts, but now a new study has found that consuming them on a daily basis can help keep age-related health issues at bay. This week, at a health conference in San Diego, the initial findings of the two-year Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study were presented. Involving some 707 healthy adults - who were split into two groups - the clinical trial saw one group eating walnuts for 15% of their daily calorific intake, while the other group ate none. After a year, both groups were found to have gained a similar amount of weight and have similar levels of triglycerides and HDL (otherwise known as 'good' cholesterol). However, the walnut-eating group experienced significant LDL (or 'bad') cholesterol reductions. Dr Emilio Ros, the director of the Lipid clinic, Endocrinology & Nutrition Service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, which carried out the research in conjunction with Loma Linda University, said: "Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of ageing adults. "It’s encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population." The researchers now want to see whether walnuts have a positive impact on other age-related health issues, such as macular degeneration and cognitive decline.

April is testicular cancer awareness month

05/04/2016

April is testicular cancer awareness month, so there really is no better time to talk about two of a man's most important assets than right now. Testicular cancer is actually quite different to other cancers in that it is particularly common in younger people, affecting men aged between 15 and 35. This year alone in the US, the American Cancer Society estimates that 8,720 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and just over 4% (380) of these individuals will die as a result. Advice from medical professionals is simple: men should check themselves for anything abnormal every month. The most common symptom is a painless lump the testicle, but other symptoms can include discomfort; a dull ache; and or an unusually heavy feeling in the scrotum. Of course, if you're not quite sure whether a lump is normal or not, consult your medical professional as soon as possible. And it really is important that men check on a regular basis because the good news is that the rate of survival for testicular cancer - if the disease is found early - is around 95%. Did you know that a man's testicles can create upwards of 200 million sperm every single day? That's why men should take the time to look after these amazing organs.

Fruit Juices and Healthy smoothies have 'unacceptably high' levels of sugar

31/03/2016

Many parents try to prevent their kids from consuming too many soft drinks and opt instead for 'healthy' smoothies and natural fruit juices. But new research published in the online journal BMJ Open, shows that many of these so-called healthy options can contain as much as 13mg/100ml of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2.5 tsps in a 3.5oz serving - roughly two-thirds of a child's recommended daily intake. In fact, the research paper goes so far as to describe the sugar levels found in some natural juices, smoothies and fruit drinks as "unacceptably high". The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 3-4 tsps of sugar per day for children and 5 tsps for teenagers. It's a similar story in the UK, where NHS guidelines state no more than 4 tsps for children (aged 4-6) and 5 tsps at age 7-1o. However, according to Yale Health, the average American consumes a whopping 22 tsps of added sugar every single day. For teenagers, this figure is even higher at 34 tsps. Is it any surprise, though, when you consider that a single can of soda contains around 10 tsps alone. The researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and London in the UK found that 40% of the 203 products they analysed contained more than 4 tsps of sugar; made up largely of "free" sugars - those added by the drink producer and not occurring naturally. However, when quizzed about his team's findings, Dr. Simon Capewell's advice was that people shouldn't reduce their fruit intake. "No. Fruit is very good for the health. Vegetables likewise. Indeed, we would recommend unlimited fruit and vegetables," he said. The team does recommend consuming fruit whole, though, and not just in juice form.

Study: American heart attack victims now younger and fatter

29/03/2016

A new study has revealed that heart attack victims in the United States are becoming younger and fatter. Over the past two decades alone, the average age of people suffering the deadliest heart attacks has fallen from 64 to 60, and obesity has been implicated in 40% of the most severe, according to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. In addition, heart attack sufferers nowadays are more likely to be smokers and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), compared to 20 years ago. It's a reality that is raising alarm bells. "Lifestyle changes to reduce weight, eat right, exercise and quit smoking are critical for prevention of heart attack," said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, an an interventional cardiologist in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kapadia added that the responsibility for making these lifestyle changes should be shared between the patient and their medical doctor, and the issue discussed at routine checkups. The study focused on analysing heart disease risk factors among more than 3,900 patients; all of whom had been treated for an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). One of the most severe types of heart attack, STEMIs often result in disability or death and occur when the heart's main artery is completely blocked by plaque. The results of the study are scheduled to be presented on April 4 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago.

Cancer scans offer safer alternative to surgery

24/03/2016

A new study suggests that hundreds of thousands of cancer patients could be spared from risky surgery if scanners rather than scalpels are used to check tumours. At present, head and neck tumours are treated using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, once treatment has finished, surgery is required to visually check whether the growth has disappeared. This involves an operation that can take up to three hours and sees patients needing at least a week in hospital to recover. Furthermore, the operation can leave patients disfigured and/or risk nerve damage, which can lead to movement problems in the arms. A study of 564 patients, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 80% of patients could be spared surgery by undergoing cancer scans instead. Even more intriguing is the fact that survival rates remained the same. Using a radioactive dye, which is picked up by rapidly-dividing cancer cells, Positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) can see if cancer in the head or neck is still active following treatment. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Hisham Mehanna, from the University of Birmingham, said: "We can now use this new technology to save patients having a debilitating operation and identify those that need the operation rather than give it to everybody." The scanning approach is also good news for the NHS as it saves around £1,492 per patient.

Alcohol linked to breast cancer-causing gene

22/03/2016

Every year, tens of thousands of breast cancer cases diagnosed in the US and Europe are linked to alcohol consumption. Moreover, alcohol has also frequently been linked to an increased risk of cancer recurrence in women with early-stage breast cancer. But now a new study has found that a direct link exists between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene. Researchers from the University of Houston in Texas, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin, say that despite breast cancer being one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women and alcohol consumption already identified as a modifiable risk factor, 50% of women with the disease still drink some alcoholic beverages. Lin's team discovered that alcohol promotes the expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF. Furthermore, it mimic and enhances the effects of estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Finally, the team also found that alcohol weakened the ability of cancer drug tamoxifen to suppress cancer cell growth. "Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the US and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF," said Lin. The team's findings were published in the journal PLOS One.

Study: Cold turkey best way to quit smoking

17/03/2016

Mention the words 'cold turkey' to anyone who's trying to give up smoking and they'll likely tell you that a gradual approach, which includes nicotine patches, gum and/or mouth spray, is the best way to go. But a new study has now added support to the camp that believes quitting smoking is more successful if you stop altogether (cold turkey) and don't try doing it gradually over a period of time. For the research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, 700 long-term heavy smokers in England - who wanted to kick the habit - were split into two groups. Half were told to pick a day when they would give up smoking entirely and the other half were told to quit smoking gradually. The researchers found that after six months, the 15.5% of the gradual-cessation group had managed to abstain from cigarettes, compared to 22% of the cold turkey group. Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether." Advice from the NHS says that people who want to give up smoking should pick a convenient date to quit and stick to it. Furthermore, the NHS says that sticking to the "not a drag" rule can also really help.

Drug Combination Found to Eradicate Breast Cancer Tumours in Just 11 Days

15/03/2016

A new breast cancer combination drug treatment, which eradicated tumours in just 11 days, has been hailed as "staggering" by doctors, after it was recently reported at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Amsterdam. Furthermore, experts say that the new two-pronged technique could mean that thousands of women do not need to undergo gruelling chemotherapy going forward. The drugs were tested on 257 women across 23 hospitals in the UK and target a specific weakness found in one-in-10 breast cancers. And despite the team behind the study not expecting such striking results, many experts are lauding the results as a potential stepping stone towards the development of a tailored cure for cancer. Specifically, the research team wanted to investigate how drugs could affect a tumour from the time it was discovered to the operation to remove it. In some cases (approximately 11%), when they went to operate, there was no sign at all that any tumour had even existed. In others, the tumours were found to have significantly shrunk. The drugs used were Tyverb and Herceptin, which both target a protein - known as HER2 - that fuels breast tumour growth in some women. Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, the UK's largest breast cancer charity, said: "We hope this particularly impressive combination trial will serve as a stepping stone to an era of more personalised treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer."

Scientists Use Stem Cells to Successfully Cure Cataracts

10/03/2016

Cataracts account for more than half of all cases of blindness across the world. But now scientists have shown that a person's own stem cells can be used to regrow a 'living lens' in their eye. Published in the journal Nature, the research has been described as 'remarkable' by experts and is being lauded as one of the finest achievements in regenerative medicine. Surgeons successfully reversed blindness in 12 children born with congenital cataracts by activating stem cells in the eye to grow a new lens, negating the need for an implanted one. Within just three months, a clear, cataract-free lens had developed in all of the patients' eyes. "The success of this work represents a new approach in how new human tissue or organ can be regenerated and human disease can be treated, and may have a broad impact on regenerative therapies by harnessing the regenerative power of our own body," said Dr Kang Zhang, one of the researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in Stem Cell Science at King's College London, said: "This is one of the finest achievements in the field of regenerative medicine until now." The hope now is that the technique can be used to develop a way of treating older patients who are suffering with poor sight because of age-related cataracts. Cataract surgery is the most common procedure carried out in England, with around 300,000 patients operated on every single year.

Study: Drinking More Water Reduces Sugar, Sodium and Fat Intake

08/03/2016

When you consider that two-thirds of our bodies are comprised of water, it makes sense that drinking enough of it each day is extremely important for our health. But a new study has now discovered that we can control our weight, and reduce our sugar, sodium and saturated fat intake by simply drinking more plain water. Led by Prof. Ruopeng An, from the University of Illinois, the study used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2012 information to analyse how water intake affected the health of some 18,300 adults living in the US. The researchers found that people who increased their water consumption - even by just one to three cups daily - lowered their total energy intake by 68-205 calories and their sodium intake by 78-235g a day. Furthermore, they consumed 5-18g less sugar and 7-21g less cholesterol. Professor An said: "This finding indicates that it might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups without profound concerns about message and strategy customisation." The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.  So if you're trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, it might be as simple as drinking more water on a day-to-day basis.

New study finds being happy can break your heart

03/03/2016

A new study from Switzerland suggests that chest pains and breathlessness caused by emotional stress do not only occur as a result of being angry, fearful or grief stricken and also happen when we are happy. It's a discovery that has led many to question the "broken heart syndrome" moniker that is often associated with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Characterised by shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, takotsubo cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart's left ventricle changes shape and can sometimes be fatal. The Swiss research, which was conducted by the University Hospital Zurich, found that while three-quarters of cases are caused by stress, around one in 20 is caused by joy. Luckily, the condition is normally only temporary and people tend to be generally fine afterwards. The study of 1,750 individuals found that takotsubo cardiomyopathy was caused by an array of different occasions, including a birthday party; a son's wedding; becoming a grandmother; meeting a friend after 50 years and winning a casino jackpot. Dr Jelena Ghadri, who was involved in the study, said: "We have shown that the triggers for takotsubo syndrome can be more varied than previously thought. "A takotsubo syndrome patient is no longer the classic 'broken-hearted' patient, and the disease can be preceded by positive emotions too." Don't worry too much though. The medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Prof Peter Weissberg, said: "Takotsubo syndrome is a rare event" and in only a very few cases is it triggered by a sudden happiness.

Survey: wellbeing improves as people approach 70

01/03/2016

According to a new survey, people are generally happier in their 60s as they approach the end of their seventh decade, despite many of them having at least one chronic disease. Researchers at University College London, on behalf of the Medical Research Council in the UK, followed more than 3,000 Britons since birth and monitored their health and wellbeing over the years. They found that a person's average wellbeing improved as they approached the age of 70, even though many of them were suffering from diseases such as arthritis, diabetes or hypertension. For the study, participants were asked how confident, cheerful, relaxed and useful they felt while still in their early 60s. They were then asked again aged 68 to 69. Dr Mai Stafford, programme leader at the Medical Research Council's unit for lifelong health and ageing, said that people's wellbeing definitely improved as they neared the end of their 60s, but the reasons were still unclear. She said: "We found that one in five experienced a substantial increase in wellbeing in later life, although we also found a smaller group who experienced a substantial decline. "The benefit of using a cohort study like this is that we can look at how individuals change over time. "We hope this will allow us to pinpoint which common experiences may be linked to an improvement in wellbeing in later life." So while many of us will be anxious about growing older, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel as we approach 70.

Gum Disease Found to be Associated with Kidney Disease Deaths

23/02/2016

A new study has uncovered further evidence that a close link exists between oral health and chronic diseases; specifically that patients with chronic kidney disease and severe gum disease have a greater risk of death than those with healthy gums. Led by the University of Birmingham in the UK, the study, the results of which were published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that oral health definitely isn’t just about teeth, again highlighting the importance of good oral hygiene. Iain Chapple, senior author of the study and a professor in periodontology, said: "The mouth is the doorway to the body, rather than a separate organ, and is the access point for bacteria to enter the bloodstream via the gums." For the research, Chapple and his colleagues analysed data from some 13,734 individuals in the US, of which 6% were found to have chronic kidney disease. The team then assessed the link between severe gum disease and mortality in people with chronic kidney disease. They found that over 10 years, the risk of death for people with chronic kidney disease was increased by 9% if they also had periodontitis (severe gum disease). Professor Chapple said that the most worrying fact is that people with periodontitis often don’t know they have it. A little bit of blood when they brush their teeth is often dismissed as normal, but if they don’t have it checked out further they could be risking problems in the rest of their bodies.

Flu Vaccine May Protect Against Common Heart Condition

16/02/2016

Flu vaccinations may do a lot more than just reduce your flu risk, if the findings of a new study in Taiwan are anything to go by. That’s because the researchers responsible say that a flu shot can also protect people from a common heart rhythm disorder, which significantly increases the risk of stroke. The study of around 57,000 people in Taiwan found a significant association between the flu and atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib); a condition that causes a person’s heart to be faster and more irregular. Research has shown in the past that AF increases a person’s risk of stroke by five times. During the study, the researchers discovered that people who had not had a flu shot and got the flu had an 18% greater risk of developing AF than those who did not have the flu. Published in the Heart Rhythm journal, the findings of the research showed that a person’s risk of developing AF was consistently lower when they had received a flu jab. Dr. Tze-Fan Chao and Dr. Su-Jung Chen, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, who lead the research, said: "Influenza vaccination should be encouraged for patients, especially those who have a high risk of atrial fibrillation, to try to prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation and subsequent stroke. However, a further prospective study is necessary to confirm our findings.”  

Exciting News from France Surgery

16/02/2016

January is just over and we’ve already got two big pieces of news to tell you about. Last year, France Surgery was bought by DMI Ortho Diffusion, another company based in Toulouse. DMI Ortho Diffusion is a very successful business which was founded in 2009 and specialises in the sale of orthopaedic products, such as prostheses. It also provides medical consultancy services in the form of advice and guidance for patients. France Surgery will continue to operate under the same name and nothing about any of the services we provide will change. In fact, rest assured that the services we provided will only continue to get better as we grow under our new owner. In addition to having a new owner, France Surgery will also be opening an office in London. Medical France, as it will be known, will enable us to strengthen our existing relationships with patients in the UK, as well as allowing our clients to benefit from a more intimate experience with us right from the start of their medical journeys. We’ll announce more about our London connection in due course and provide contact details when our UK branch is fully operational. In the meantime, you can contact us, as always, via our website: http://www.france-surgery.com  

Eating Fish Good for Brain Health, says Study

11/02/2016

People could reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by eating at least one serving of seafood per week, according to new study, which set out to further explore the link between seafood, fatty acids, mercury and dementia. The role of Omega-3 fatty acids in combatting Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia has been lauded by many people for quite some time now. But many sceptics questioned whether the mercury found in fish could cancel out its benefits for protecting against dementia. For the study, researchers surveyed a group of older adults living in the Chicago area. They quizzed them about their diets and, in a subset of almost 300 who died between 2004 and 2013, they carried out brain autopsies to check the levels of mercury present and see if any neurological damage had occurred as a result. The researchers found that while higher levels of mercury were seen in participants who reported eating seafood regularly, they did not appear to have suffered neurological damage as a result. In fact, those participants were found to be less likely to have hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Martha Clare Morris, director of nutrition and nutritional epidemiology at Rush University Medical Centre, who is the lead author of the study, said: "Our hypothesis was that seafood consumption would be associated with less neuropathology, but that if there were higher levels of mercury in the brain, that would work against that. But we didn't find that at all.” The only catch is that the study only observed this benefit among the participants who carried the APOE-4 gene, which is associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, it is possible that eating seafood regularly could also benefit individuals who do not carry the gene. This particular study, however, wasn’t large enough to detect if that is indeed the case.  

Sorry Sun Worshippers, NICE says No Safe Way to Suntan

09/02/2016

It’s one of the telltale signs that someone’s recently been on holiday, but according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, there is no safe or healthy way to get a suntan from sunlight. NICE also said that having an existing tan provides little protection against harmful UV rays and advises adults to use at least 6-8 teaspoons of factor 15 sun cream per application. Many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D and NICE says that these can be build up through exposure to sunlight. However, the benefits of increased levels of vitamin D need to be weighed up against the risks associated with skin cancer. The NICE guidelines specifically state that babies and children; people with fair skin or hair; people with lots of moles or freckles; and people with a family history of skin cancer should take extra care in the sun. Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at NICE, said: "How much time we should spend in the sun depends on a number of factors including geographical location, time of day and year, weather conditions and natural skin colour. "People with lighter skin, people who work outside and those of us who enjoy holidays in sunny countries all have a higher risk of experiencing skin damage and developing skin cancer. "On the other hand, people who cover up for cultural reasons, are housebound or otherwise confined indoors for long periods of time are all at higher risk of low vitamin D levels." The full NICE guidelines can be found on the organisation’s website here.

PARTNERS

09/02/2016

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Toulouse Onco Week: February 3-5 2016

02/02/2016

This month, the capital of France’s southern Midi-Pyrénées region, Toulouse, will host the Toulouse Onco Week (TOW) – a three day event dedicated to the fight against cancer. Toulouse Onco Week will be held on the 3rd, 4th and 5th February under the high patronage of the President of France, Mr. François Hollande. One of TOW’s biggest highlights will be the inauguration of the first international meeting of the Cancer Research Centre of Toulouse. This focal point will see sixteen international oncology experts (researchers and clinicians) come together with two Nobel Prize winning professors - Pr. Jules Hoffmann and Pr. Gerd Binnig – to advance oncology research and therapeutic care development. A series of one-to-one meetings, technology presentations, public sessions and charity events will round off what is going to be one of the most important occasions in the oncology calendar this year. More information about Toulouse Onco Week can be found on the official website. France Surgery will be supporting the event and we hope you will be too…  

Cervical Health Awareness Month

27/01/2016

The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, which is why we have decided to do a short piece on the disease. According to American Cancer Society research, cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer death in the United States for women. However, thanks to increased awareness and regular screening campaigns, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped by more than 50% over the past 30 years. But despite all the good work that’s been done so far to combat the disease, some 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the US alone last year and over 4,000 women died because of the disease, which suggests that there is possibly more that could still be done to tackle this particular form of cancer. Cervical cancer is most common in women under the age of 50, yet very rarely occurs in women under the age of 20. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause almost all cases of cervical cancer and 40% of these HPVs can be transmitted during sexual intercourse. Two specific types – HPV-16 and HPV-18 – are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases globally. Other risks factors for cervical cancer include: having a family history of the disease; a weakened immune system; long-term mental stress; and smoking. Taking contraceptive pills has also been found to increase a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. The importance of regular cervical cancer screening is highlighted by the fact that the disease presents very few symptoms in its early stages. Only when it becomes invasive do more noticeable symptoms start to occur, such as abnormal bleeding between periods and after sexual intercourse; heavy or prolonged periods; unusual vaginal discharge; and/or pain during sex. Official guidance from the US Preventative Services Task Force (UPSTF) says that women aged between 21 and 65 years old should undergo a Pap test every three years. So if you’re a woman you haven’t had a Pap test within the last three years, you should make an appointment with your appropriate medical physician as soon as possible.       Photo via: http://www.cancerbox.org/cervical-cancer

Cancer Stem Cell Treatment Gives Renewed Hope to MS Patients

21/01/2016

Doctors in the UK say that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who have received a treatment that is usually used for treating cancer are showing “remarkable” improvements. Some 20 MS patients have now received bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells and in some cases the treatment has enabled people who were paralysed to walk once more. Prof Basil Sharrack, of Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement." MS is a neurological condition for which there is no known cure and affects around 100,000 people in the UK alone. It causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The treatment, which is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), attempts to destroy the faulty immune system with chemotherapy before a new immune system is built using the patient’s own stem cells. The cells are so young that they haven’t yet developed the flaws which cause MS. Prof John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS." One patient who received the treatment said that MS had completely changed his entire life. He went from running marathons one day to losing the sensation in his entire body the next. The new treatment, however, has allowed him to stand unaided once more. "It's been incredible. I was in a dire place, but now I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk,” Steven Storey said.

Study: Mental Health Conditions Common Before Bariatric Surgery, but Fall Afterwards

20/01/2016

Patients who are seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery commonly suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression and binge eating disorders. However, following successful bariatric surgery, the rates of these conditions fall, according to a study published in JAMA. Bariatric surgery is a highly accepted method of promoting weight loss in obese individuals and can also serve to reduce their risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. Dr. Aaron J. Dawes, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, led a research team which wanted to discover how common mental health conditions were in people seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery. The findings of their research show that 23% of bariatric surgery patients were affected by a current mental health disorder, with depression (19%); a binge-eating disorder (17%); and anxiety (12%) the most common. Following surgery, a fall in the rate of depression was observed. Of the 27 studies analysed by the research team, seven revealed an 8-74% drop in the rate of depression after surgery, while six reflected a 40-70% reduction in the rate of depressive symptoms. The report authors noted: "Previous reviews have suggested that self-esteem, mental image, cognitive function, temperament, support networks and socioeconomic stability play major roles in determining outcomes after bariatric surgery." They suggest incorporating these factors into future studies, which would help form part of "an optimal strategy for evaluating patients' mental health prior to bariatric surgery."   Photo via: Bassett Healthcare Network 

New UK Guidelines Say Reduce Alcohol Consumption

13/01/2016

  The UK Department of Health has published new guidelines regarding the consumption of alcohol and they make for sobering reading if you’re fond of a regular daily tipple. According to the tough new guidelines, which are based on the findings of worldwide research, any amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cancer and, as a result, men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That’s roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven glasses of wine. The advice for pregnant women is simple: no alcohol at all until after baby has been born. Furthermore, if people drink, they should do so moderately over three or more days and have some days that are totally alcohol-free. The guidelines also state that people shouldn’t “save up” their units and drink them all over a short space of time, like a weekend. Heavy drinking sessions, it says, increase the risk of accidents and injury. Talking about the revised guidelines, Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said: "Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week, it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low." The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK says that alcohol contributes to over 60 medical conditions, including some cancers, stroke and heart disease. It is thought that approximately one in 20 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK are linked to a person’s alcohol consumption.

Colistin-Resistant Bacteria Discovered in the UK

05/01/2016

When all other antibiotics fail, doctors resort to colistin. This important drug has been somewhat of a safety net in medicine over the years, but that could all be about to change now that bacteria that can resist it have been found in the UK. It’s a discovery that adds further weight to the warning from scientists that we are on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era, especially as similar resistance was found in China just last month. Doctors in the UK thought they had around three years before colistin-resistant bacteria spread from China to the UK, but checks carried out by Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have now confirmed similar resistance on three farms and even in some human infections. Public Health England analysed all of the 24,000 bacteria samples it keeps on record and found that 15 of them, including some Salmonella and E. coli samples, were resistant to colistin. In separate tests, the Animal and Plant Health Agency found that colistin-resistant bacteria on three pig farms in the UK. While the discoveries actually aren’t that surprising, especially for scientists, they do highlight how very real the threat of untreatable infections is. The biggest concern is that the resistance to colistin will now find its way into other superbugs, which could make treating them virtually impossible. Professor Alan Johnson, from Public Health England, said: "Our assessment is that the public health risk posed by this gene is currently considered very low, but is subject to ongoing review as more information becomes available. "The organisms identified can be killed by cooking your food properly and all the bacteria we identified with this gene were responsive to other antibiotics, called carbapenems. "We will monitor this closely, and will provide any further public advice as needed."

Study finds most cancers caused by environmental factors, not bad luck

18/12/2015

Is whether you’ll get cancer predominantly determined by bad luck, or do environmental factors play a significant part also? That’s the question that a new study by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, the results of which were published in the journal Nature, set out to answer. The team used four approaches to conclude that only 10-30% of cancers are simply down to “luck” and that environmental factors have an overwhelming affect. Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control. This can be caused by natural factors, but the team discovered that extrinsic factors, such as smoking and being exposed to UV radiation, play a bigger part than many people think. Experts have said that the team’s analysis is “pretty convincing” and highlights the relative importance of extrinsic factors. Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease." While a person who smokes is not necessarily guaranteed to get cancer, by doing so they are stacking the odds against them. An element of chance will always be involved, but people can reduce their own risk by eliminating some of these extrinsic factors from their lives.      

Helping Others Can Reduce the Impact of Stress, says Study

15/12/2015

We will all encounter stress at some time in our lives and the natural tendency for many people is to reach out to friends and family for help during those times. However, it turns out that when life gets a bit too much for us, we’d be better off lending a helping hand than reaching out for help. That’s because a new study has shown that helping other people can reduce the impact that stress has on our lives, with something as simple as holding a door open for someone else holding the potential to give your mood a boost. Dr Emily Ansell, of the Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut who led the research, said: “Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves. “The holiday season can be a very stressful time, so think about giving directions, asking someone if they need help, or holding that elevator door over the next month. It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better.” For the research, 77 adults aged between 18 and 44 were asked to conduct daily assessments over a 14-day period and list any stressful events they encountered. Alongside this daily assessment the study group was asked to rate their mental health for that particular day, including any emotions they had felt and any helpful tasks they had performed. The results, which were published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, revealed that helping other people boosted the study participant’s daily wellbeing. And the more times the participant helped someone else, the better they felt. So the next time you’re feeling stressed, why not try giving someone a helping hand. It might just make you feel better.  

Being Unhappy or Stressed Does Not Cause Ill Health, Mortality

11/12/2015

People have long thought that being unhappy could be bad for your health – especially your heart – but a new decade-long study has revealed that previous research may have confused cause and effect. The study, which was led by Dr. Bette Liu of the University of South Wales in Australia and published in The Lancet, found that unhappiness is not a direct cause of ill health and increased mortality. Known as the UK’s Million Women Study, the research team analysed 719, 671 women who had a median age of 59 to discover whether happiness detrimental changes in stress hormones or the immune system resulted in a higher risk of death. One of the research team’s conclusions was that previous studies had failed to deal with reverse causality, in other words, that people who are ill tend to not be happy. For the research, female participants were asked to regularly rate their health, stress levels and happiness. The bottom line was that whether people were “never”, “usually” or “mostly” happy had no bearing on their odds of dying during the course of the study. Dr Liu said: "Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill. "We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women." The research did find, however, that light smokers were twice as likely to die during the study period and regular smokers three times. Reinforcing the reality that smoking is seriously bad for your health. Unhappiness, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily seem to be.  

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

09/12/2015

According to the US-based Arthritis Foundation, arthritis affects more than 50 million people in the United States alone, which means that one in five American adults have some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis today. But while osteoarthritis is the most common form of the disease and, therefore, the one that most people have heard of, rheumatoid arthritis should definitely not be overlooked or underestimated. Estimated to affect around 1.5 million Americans, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease of the joints, which usually strikes after the age of 40 and affects three times more women than men. It’s classified as an autoimmune condition and people with the disease experience pain and inflammation as their bodies mistake the lining of their joints as foreign objects and attack them. While research has shown that smokers and people with a family history of the disease are more prone to developing it, the exact cause remains unknown, as is the case with many autoimmune conditions. The small joints in a person’s hands and feet are usually the first to be hit and the linings become inflamed and eventually the joint is eroded away. This is in contrast to osteoarthritis where the cartilage that covers the end of a bone is worn away due to wear and tear. Common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include deformed joints and loss of function; numbness and tingling in hands and feet caused by nerve pain and a low red blood cell count. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also one of the complications that can arise from rheumatoid arthritis and surgery is often the only way to cure it.

Obese People Can Preserve Their Knee Cartilage by Losing Weight, says Study

02/12/2015

A new study presented at the recent Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting in Chicago, Illinois reveals that knee cartilage degeneration is significantly slowed in obese patients who lose a substantial amount of weight. Over 500 overweight patients were assessed for the study, which used an MRI scanner to measure the progression of knee cartilage degeneration, allowing the researchers to investigate the impact that different amounts of weight loss can have. The researchers discovered that patients who lost more than 10% of their body weight had slower knee cartilage degeneration, also known as osteoarthritis. The knee is one of the most common parts of the body to be struck by osteoarthritis and patients often need to have their entire knee replaced if the disease progresses too far. Study leader Dr. Alexandra Gersing, from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), said that while the effects of osteoarthritis cannot be reversed without surgery, “obese patients who lose weight can slow down the progression of cartilage degeneration in the knee.” The study was conducted over a four year period and involved over 500 overweight and obese patients. The researchers are now planning to conduct a further study, which will investigate how diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity, also affects cartilage degeneration. For the time being, however, overweight and obese individuals can slow their cartilage degeneration by losing weight. And while that’s not always as easy as it sounds, weight loss surgery is sometimes an option for obese patients to consider.      

Study: Yoga has Potential to Boost Quality of Life for Prostate Cancer Patients

26/11/2015

Here at France Surgery, we’re all about promoting health and wellbeing. Eating right, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy mind, by practising yoga or meditating, for example, are all things we encourage our patients and worldwide followers to do. But now a new study has found that yoga, in particular, could benefit male prostate cancer patients who are undergoing radiation therapy. More often than not, male prostate cancer patients experience a range of side effects while receiving radiation therapy, including fatigue, urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction and a general decline in their overall quality of life. The new study, however, despite being small, showed found that men who attended a 75-minute yoga class twice a week experienced a stable quality of life throughout. Furthermore, their side effects also remained stable over the same period. In a press release, Dr. Neha Vapiwala, an associate professor in the radiation oncology department of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said: "Data have consistently shown declines in these important measures among prostate cancer patients undergoing cancer therapy without any structured fitness interventions, so the stable scores seen with our yoga program are really good news." The researchers suggest that regular yoga strengthens pelvic floor muscles and increases blood flow, which could have a positive impact on erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. Moreover, the satisfaction and general happiness that patients get from participating in a group fitness activity further boost their quality of life. With nearly 240,000 American men each year diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, which funded the study, research such as this has the ability to vastly improve the quality of life of male prostate cancer patients going forward.

Most Extensive Face Transplant Ever Performed on Injured Firefighter

24/11/2015

Until earlier this week, many people won’t have heard of Patrick Hardison. That’s because for the last 14 years he’s stayed out of the limelight since being badly burned in a house fire which he attended as a volunteer firefighter. But now Patrick Hardison has undergone the most comprehensive and extensive face transplant ever, covering almost his entire skull and much of his neck. Not only has Patrick received a new face, but it’s also thought that he’ll regain his normal vision and even, one day, be able to drive again. Patrick will still need to undergo physical therapy at the New York hospital where he underwent his surgery, but he’s planning on returning home to Senatobia, Mississippi, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Since the first face transplant was performed in France back in 2005, more than two dozen have been carried out worldwide. Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the surgical team that did Patrick’s transplant, said that in the future "a casual observer will not notice anything that is odd" in his new face. Even Patrick himself is noticing that other people aren’t noticing his face anymore. "I used to get stared at all the time, but now I'm just an average guy," he said. Patrick will spend the rest of his life on medication to ensure that his body doesn’t reject the new face he’s been given.

The Health Benefits of Honey

17/11/2015

Honey is one of the sweetest and most natural food products there is. It’s made by bees through a process of regurgitation and evaporation, then stored as a primary food source in wax honeycombs within the beehive. This is usually from where it is harvested for human consumption. But whether you’re a huge fan of honey, or will happily pass it up, there’s no denying the strong association it has long held with health benefits. First up, there’s the fact that many health experts believe that consuming honey instead of sugar results in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which in turn helps to regulate your hunger levels. Honey is also recommended as a natural cough remedy by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the American Academy of Paediatrics. In fact, a 2007 study by Penn State College of Medicine found that honey consumption led to reduced night time coughing and improved sleep quality for children suffering with upper respiratory tract infections. If you suffer with heartburn, you may already know about honey’s effectiveness as a treatment. Experts believe its viscose nature enable it to coat the upper gastroesophageal tract, preventing stomach acid from rising. Lastly, there are honey’s antibacterial properties. It contains the protein defensin-1, which can actually kill bacteria. Furthermore, unpasteurised, raw honey can actually be used as a topical agent on open wounds because of its antibacterial qualities, but should never be used in place of a topical solution prescribed by a doctor.

A Warped Sense of Humour Could Predict Dementia

12/11/2015

A sudden change in a person’s sense of humour, especially when they become increasingly perceptive to dark or twisted humour, could be an early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study. The results of the study, which was conducted by researchers at University College London, were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and show that a person’s sense of humour can be a good indicator of their mental health. Friend and family of the study subjects were asked to rate their friend or relative’s reaction to different kinds of comedy. Slapstick comedy, such as Mr. Bean, satirical comedy, such as Yes Minister and absurdist comedy, such as Monty Python, were all used for the study, as well as “inappropriate humour”. Dr Camilla Clark, who headed up the team responsible for the research, recruited 48 patients who had previously been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The team found that dementia patients had a preference for slapstick humour, when compared against 21 healthy people of similar age. Almost all of the patients’ friends and family said they had noticed a change in the patient’s humour over the nine years prior to them being diagnosed. Most notable were preferences for dark humour and inappropriate laughing at tragic events. “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself,” said Dr Clark. Dr Simon Ridley, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said changes in behaviour should be investigated by an individual’s GP. “While memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships", he said.  

Hearing Aid Usage Linked to Slower Mental Decline, says French Study

10/11/2015

A French study, which followed thousands of seniors over a period of 25 years, has found that hearing aids may slow mental decline in hard-of-hearing elderly individuals. Previous studies have shown a link between hearing loss and steeper cognitive decline in later years, but only now has that relationship been tracked over such a long period. Helene Amieva, lead author of the study, said: "With a large sample size and 25 years of follow-up of participants, this study clearly confirms that hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline in older adults. Using hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elders presenting with hearing loss." Amieva, who is a researcher at the University of Bordeaux here in France, said that around 30% of people over 65 years old experience some degree of hearing loss. That percentage rises significantly to almost 90% for people aged 85 and older. The individuals who participated in the study were recruited back in 1989-1990 and were observed while living at home, rather than institutional settings. Over the 25-year period, the participants answered 12 questionnaires in total, as well as undergoing psychological examinations to better assess their cognitive skills. Participants who had hearing loss were more likely to score lower on the mental health screenings and experience greater cognitive decline over the 25-year period. However, those who used hearing aids suffered from the same rate of cognitive decline as those with no hearing loss, according to the study. "These results underline the importance of addressing the problem of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of hearing loss in elderly adults," Amieva told Reuters Health.  

‘Brain Training’ Good for Older People, says Study

05/11/2015

Older people benefit from playing online games that test their memory and reasoning skills, also known as ‘brain training’, according to a large-scale study. The six month experiment, which was conducted by researchers at King’s College London, involved almost 7,000 individuals aged 50 and over and was launched by the BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory. None of the volunteers who participated in the study had reported any memory or cognition problems and they were recruited from the general population as part of a collaboration between the BBC, the Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer’s Society. The researchers found that mental exercises, such as those undertaken during brain training, helped with everyday skills like cooking and shopping. A baseline was taken by testing the study subjects on a series of medically recognised cognitive tests. The group was then split into two, with one subgroup asked to play online brain training games whenever they wanted for up to 10 minutes at a time. The medically recognised cognitive tests were then redone at three and six months to see if the group which had been playing the online games displayed any detectable differences over the other group. After six months, the group that had been playing the brain games showed broader cognitive skills than those who hadn’t. Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society said: "Online brain training is rapidly growing into a multi-million pound industry and studies like this are vital to help us understand what these games can and cannot do. “While this study wasn't long enough to test whether the brain training package can prevent cognitive decline or dementia, we're excited to see that it can have a positive impact on how well older people perform essential everyday tasks." Bigger, longer studies will now commence to dig deeper into this study’s findings.  

French Region Named One of the Best Places in the World to Visit in 2016

29/10/2015

Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book publisher in the world, has named a region in central France as one of the best in the entire world to visit. In the 2016 edition of its highly-respected “Best in Travel” guide, Lonely Planet said that the Auvergne region in central France offered “life-changing experiences”. Comprising the four départments of Allier, Puy de Dome, Cantal and Haute Loire, the Auvergne region is one of the most rural and mountainous in France, but it also boasts several spa towns, as well historic churches and castles. The dark and imposing Notre-Dame cathedral, draped in gargoyles, is a sight not to be missed. Often overlooked because of its peaceful façade, the Auvergne region, often referred to as France’s rustic heart, is now appealing to French travellers in search of an escape from the tourist-clogged rivieras. Nature lovers will find themselves in paradise on the Auvergne, as its peaks and plains are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including mountain goats, whistling marmots and birds of prey. The Massif Central is even associated with wolf sightings. Foodies will also be in their element on the Auvergne, with a plethora of local flavours on offer, including truffade - one of the region’s most famous dishes consisting of mouth-watering goose fat-glazed potatoes and cheese which are made into a kind of thick pancake. Discover more about the 6th best place in the world to travel on the Lonely Planet website now.   Photo credit: Telegraph

WHO: Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer

27/10/2015

People have talked about the possible negative effects of processed meat for a long time and numerous studies linking high consumption of red and processed meats with higher risk of colorectal cancer have even influenced public health recommendations in some countries. But now a report compiled on behalf of the World Health Organisation by a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries around the world has concluded that there is an association with eating processed meats and colorectal cancer risks. The findings, published recently in The Lancet Oncology, said that 50g of processed meat a day, which is equivalent to less than two slices of bacon, increased a person’s chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Furthermore, the study said that red meats were “probably carcinogenic, but there was limited evidence to comment further. However, despite these findings, the WHO also emphasised that there are still health benefits associated with eating meat. Cancer Research UK’s advice is that people should cut down on their consumption of red and processed meats, rather than give them up completely. In fact, the organisation said that the occasional bacon sandwich would do little harm. Processed meat is meat that has had its shelf life extended or its taste changed by means of smoking, curing, or adding preservatives or salt. Bacon, sausages, hotdogs, corned beef, salami, ham, beef jerky and other canned meats are all considered “processed”. Chemicals used during the processing of the meats are thought to be carcinogenic catalysts, as is high-temperature cooking such as on a barbecue. Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said: “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”    

Medical Tourism in France to be Stimulated by French Government

15/10/2015

The French health and foreign ministries will work together to promote medical tourism across the country and open up the world-class French healthcare system to foreigners by cutting the red tape that has so often got in the way in the past. To inject some much-needed funds into the French economy, the government wants to attract high-end clientele who speak English and want concierge services as well as competitively-priced, high quality medical care, according to the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ). It comes off the back of a government report that highlighted the attraction of France as a medical tourism destination due to its reputation as one of the world’s best tourist destinations and its excellent healthcare facilities. The report estimates that medical tourism could provide the country with a €2 billion economic boost by 2020 and create some 30,000 employment opportunities in the process. A medical tourism taskforce has been created and tasked with making serious progress on the country’s medical tourism ambitions by the end of this year. François Madelmont, head of consultancy SPH Conseil and coordinator of the new medical tourism task force, said: “It is a cultural revolution. Many hospitals are eager to be on the list and to take in more foreign patients. Some already do it discretely, others advertise and make it part of their strategy.” France Surgery is also mentioned in the IMTJ piece and our co-founder Carine Hilaire is quoted as saying: “Foreigners see the French system as an excellent but very exclusive club."  

Regular Exercise Reduces Symptoms of Asthma

09/10/2015

The benefits of exercising regularly are well-known and abundant, but now new research suggests that it may also help relieve symptoms of asthma in adults. The study, which was published in MJ Open Respiratory Research, focused on the physical activity levels of 643 adults diagnosed as having asthma. It found that those who exercised the recommended amount each day (30 minutes) were almost 2.5 times more likely to have their asthma symptoms under good control, compared to those who did zero exercise. Furthermore, the exercise does not necessarily need to be strenuous, according to lead author Simon Bacon, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. "Just 30 minutes a day of walking, riding a bike, doing yoga - anything active, really - can result in significant reduction of asthma symptoms,” he said. Asthma cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled and the individual can enjoy a good quality of life if it is effectively managed and it seems exercise is now a key factor for that management. World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show that there are around 235 million people in the world who have asthma. Conventional advice was that asthma sufferers should try and avoid exercise as it can trigger attacks. But Professor Bacon says this can be avoided if the right measures are taken: "The issue of exercise-induced bronchospasm is real - but if you use your reliever medication, blue puffer, before you exercise, and then take the time to cool down afterwards, you should be okay. Even if you have asthma, there's no good reason not to get out there and exercise,” he said.

Study Finds Mediterranean Diet Best for a Healthy Gut

06/10/2015

  The benefits of following a Mediterranean diet have long been advocated by the people who live there, but now new research suggests that it may be true as the region’s food and drink regimen may boost levels of beneficial fatty acids. Produced by bacteria when fibre from dietary plant matter is fermented in the intestine, these so-called “short-chain fatty acids” (SCFAs) are believed to afford a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory disease, according to the research which was recently published in the journal Gut. “We provide here tangible evidence of the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” wrote the team headed up by Danilo Ercolini, a professor of microbiology at the University of Naples in Italy. The study, which focused on the dietary habits of 153 Italian adults, found higher levels of SCFAs in individuals who were vegans, vegetarians and those who followed a Mediterranean diet, including plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes. While levels of SCFAs can vary naturally according to a person’s age and gender, the findings of the study definitely suggest that a high-fibre diet also boosts them. “The take-away message from this study is to head to your local farmers market, let the produce fill your plate and only use animal-based proteins as condiments,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

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