Study: Eating Meat Raises Risk of Heart Disease

Eating beef, lamb, pork and processed meats spells trouble for your heart, and the more you eat, the worse it gets, new research warns.

The meta-analysis — an overview of data from a large number of studies — included more than 1.4 million people who were followed for 30 years. It found that for each 1.75 ounces of beef, lamb and pork consumed, the risk of heart disease rose 9%, CNN reported.

Processed meats were even worse: For each 1.75 ounces of processed meats such as bacon, ham or sausage consumed, the risk rose 18%, according to the study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

A recommended serving of meat is about 3 ounces, the size of a bar of soap or deck of cards, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Processed meat appears to be worse for coronary heart disease,” study co-author Anika Knüppel, a nutritional epidemiologist in the department of population health at the University of Oxford, in England, told CNN.

“This is in line with what has been found for bowel [colon] cancer, where processed meat has been shown to be associated with higher increase in risk than red meat,” Knüppel added.

The good news from the study is that poultry — such as chicken and turkey — don’t appear to increase the risk of heart disease, CNN reported. Considered lean meats, most types of poultry do not contain the levels of saturated fat as found in red meat, nor the high levels of sodium that are part of processed meats.

Saturated fat contributes to the development of plaque on your artery walls, which can create dangerous blockages. Meanwhile, sodium raises blood pressure, restricting the flow of blood to the heart.

Source: HealthDay

A Better Test to Help Spot Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss in older people, and early detection can bring better treatment. Now, researchers in Australia say their experimental genetic test for glaucoma can identify 15 times more people at high risk for the disease compared to a current genetic test.

“Early diagnosis of glaucoma can lead to vision-saving treatment, and genetic information can potentially give us an edge in making early diagnoses and better treatment decisions,” said lead researcher Owen Siggs in a news release from Flinders University. Siggs is associate professor at the university, as well as the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Darlinghurst, New South Wales.

The new test analyzes blood or saliva samples and may be able to identify people at high risk for glaucoma before they suffer irreversible vision loss, the authors explained in a study published online in JAMA Ophthalmology.

One U.S. eye expert said the new screening method shows promise.

“Chronic open-angle glaucoma is a painless sight-threatening disease that often goes undetected until extensive visual damage has occurred,” explained Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. However, when detected and “treated early, visual loss can be limited,” he added.

“Genetic testing is not currently used to detect glaucoma on a routine basis,” Fromer said, but it “may be a valuable screening adjunct for the identification of many, but not all, patients with glaucoma. This new test has the potential to change the way we identify patients with glaucoma.”

The new study involved more than 2,500 people in Australia with glaucoma, and more than 411,000 with or without glaucoma in the United Kingdom.

The findings show the potential of the new genetic test in glaucoma screening and management, according to study senior author Jamie Craig, a professor and consulting ophthalmologist who runs a glaucoma research program at Flinders University.

“We’re now in a strong position to start testing this in clinical trials,” Craig said in the news release.

Once glaucoma is diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can slow or halt the progression of vision loss, the study authors explained.

The research team members are forming a company to develop an accredited test for use in clinical trials, and recruitment is expected to begin in 2022.

Source: HealthDay

Israeli Research Claims Pfizer Shot Now Only 41% Effective Against Delta Strain

Nathan Jeffay wrote . . . . . . . . .

New data from Israel and the United Kingdom painted a confusing and contradictory picture on Thursday as to the effectiveness of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in fighting off the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

New Health Ministry statistics indicated that, on average, the Pfizer shot — the vaccine given to nearly all Israelis — is now just 39% effective against infection, while being only 41% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID. Previously, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was well over 90% effective against infection.

Meanwhile, a new UK study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine found the same vaccine to be 88% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID — more than twice the rate found in the Israeli data.

Israel’s research agreed, at least, that the shot was highly effective in avoiding serious illness, at 91.4% effectiveness.

Some analysts have warned that the figures on vaccine effectiveness are prone to major inaccuracies because of a range of factors, including questions over whether there is accurate data on infection levels among the non-vaccinated, which is vital for such stats.

The Israeli statistics also appeared to paint a picture of protection that gets weaker as months pass after vaccination, due to fading immunity. People vaccinated in January were said to have just 16% protection against infection now, while in those vaccinated in April, effectiveness was at 75%.

Doctors note that such figures may not only reflect time that has passed since vaccination, but also a bias according to which those who vaccinated early were often people with health conditions and who are more prone to infection, such as the elderly.

Reacting to the Israeli figures on Thursday, epidemiologist Nadav Davidovitch, a Ben-Gurion University professor and leader of Israel’s doctors’ union, told The Times of Israel, “What we see is that the vaccine is less effective in preventing transmission, but it’s easy to overlook that it’s still very effective in preventing hospitalization and severe cases.”

Davidovitch added: “It’s still excellent, very good in preventing severe cases and death, but less so in preventing transmission. And this is why we can’t rely on vaccinations alone, but also need Green Passes, testing, masks, and the like.”

Davidovitch stressed that all figures should be treated as preliminary and with limited relevance given the relatively small numbers of positive patients at the moment. “It’s quite early to comment, as the number of positive people is still quite low,” he said.

He spoke after ministers approved reinstating the Green Pass, limiting attendance at large events to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or who present a valid negative test result.

The renewed restrictions will apply to both indoor and outdoor events with over 100 participants, starting on July 29. The requirement to present proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test from the past 72 hours will only apply to people older than 12. Under that age, there will be no restrictions.

The decision was approved by the so-called coronavirus cabinet, a high-level ministerial forum tasked with leading the government’s pandemic response. It must still be ratified by the government, and is set to be voted on Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting.

Source : The Times of Israel

Supermarket Model to Guide Safer Shopping Amid Pandemic

A Skoltech team has developed a model for assessing infection risks for supermarket customers. The researchers believe that their model will help formulate scientifically backed rules for safe shopping during the pandemic. The paper was published in PLOS One.

The team included professor Maxim Fedorov, who serves as Skoltech’s Vice President for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematical Modeling, and a research group led by professor Nikolai Brilliantov — the Director of the Skoltech Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE).

The composite model presented in the paper incorporates a social forces model that describes customer motions and interactions with other shoppers or obstacles and is known to realistically reproduce waiting lines and congestions in confined spaces, such as stairs, and customers’ behavior during emergency evacuation. The approach is based on calculating several “forces” (see image), each describing a customer’s tendency to maintain a comfortable speed, approach a target, avoid obstacles, etc.

Other components describe the purchasing strategy and retail space layout. Customers are known to behave differently, depending on the place they visit: a small shop, a supermarket, or a cafe. The team used customer behavior scenarios specific to supermarkets and several layouts with varying numbers of intersections and bottleneck widths. Finally, the team proposed a model of infection transmission by virus-containing aerosol droplets.

The researchers used their composite model in multivariate numerical simulations to assess infection risks depending on several factors, such as average customer density, social distancing, behavior scenarios, use of masks, and retail space geometry. It turned out that the infection rate is primarily determined by social distancing, and to a much lesser extent, by the supermarket layout or customer strategy.

Curiously enough, the team discovered that increasing customer density has only a slight positive effect on sales, so filling the store to the limit makes little sense not just epidemiologically but economically, too.

“The functional version of our model, which we have made publicly available, can be used to assess the effects of various factors on the risk of infection. For example, you can optimize a store’s operations in the pandemic environment by controlling customer flow, relocating specific items, and reconfiguring the retail area. Although our selection of layouts did not reveal a noticeable effect of space configuration on infection spread, geometry may be an important factor in other cases,” Alexey Tsukanov, a co-author of the paper, comments.

Source: EurekAlert!

Adding MRI to Screening Can Cut Prostate Cancer Over Diagnosis in Half

Ernie Mundell and Robert Preidt wrote . . . . . . . . .

One of the big issues in prostate cancer care is over diagnosis — men who are treated for low-risk, slow-growing tumors that might be better left monitored and untreated.

Now, research out of Sweden suggests that having patients undergo MRI screening, along with targeted biopsies, could reduce the number of prostate cancer over diagnoses by half.

The new approach can detect just as many clinically significant tumors as current methods, but reduces unnecessary biopsies and the identification of minor low-risk tumors, according to the study presented recently at the European Association of Urology Congress. The findings were published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings show that “modern methods for prostate cancer screening maintain the benefits of screening, while decreasing the harms substantially,” said study co-leader Tobias Nordström. He is associate professor of urology at Danderyd Hospital at the Karolinska Institute.

“This addresses the greatest barrier to the introduction of nationwide screening,” Nordström explained in an institute news release.

One expert in the United States said the research holds real promise.

“For the past 20 years, urologists and researchers have been striving to improve prostate cancer screening to target men with clinically significant prostate cancer and avoid over diagnosis in men with low-risk prostate cancer,” said Dr. Manish Vira, system chief of urology at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The Swedish findings show how the use of highly targeted MRI “has moved our field closer to the goal,” said Vira, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

As the Stockholm team explained, most countries no longer have nationwide prostate-cancer screening programs in place because current methods — PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood testing plus traditional biopsies — often result in over diagnosis and unnecessary biopsies, meaning the risks of screening can outweigh the benefits.

In too many cases, so-called “indolent” prostate tumors grow at such a slow pace that treating them brings harms (such as urinary issues and impotence) that exceed any real risk from the tumor to the patient’s health.

But is there a better way to spot those higher-risk tumors that do need treatment?

In the new study, the Karolinska team tracked outcomes for 12,750 Swedish men between 2018 and 2021. Blood samples were collected from the men for PSA analysis, as well as analysis by the new Stockholm3 test, developed by institute researchers.

Men whose tests revealed elevated PSA levels were then randomly selected to undergo either traditional biopsies or they underwent MRI.

In the MRI group, biopsies were conducted only on suspected tumors identified by MRI.

The new approach can detect just as many clinically significant tumors as current methods, the researchers said, but it reduces unnecessary biopsies and the identification of minor low-risk tumors.

Vira explained that “by incorporating MRI into the prostate cancer screening process, we can better recommend biopsy in those men who are at high risk, and perhaps just as importantly, avoid unnecessary biopsies in men who don’t have prostate cancer or have indolent/insignificant disease.”

Dr. Art R. Rastinehad is associate professor of urology and radiology and vice chair of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He wasn’t involved in the Swedish research, but called it “another great study supporting the use of MRI before a prostate biopsy in men at risk of prostate cancer.”

He pointed out that “prostate cancer was the last solid organ malignancy that was diagnosed without imaging, so we are very excited to continue to use advanced imaging technologies to help our patients.”

The potential benefits to patients are clear, he added.

“It is estimated that up to 51% of patients having their prostate removed may be candidates for a less invasive, outpatient treatment that helps them get back to their normal lives with a lower risk of urinary incontinence and/or erectile dysfunction,” Rastinehad said.

Source: HealthDay