Dateline: FINLAND —

Metabolic syndrome, sometimes called "syndrome X," consists of a spectrum of health problems usually associated with overweight or obese individuals.

Finnish researchers, in a study done at the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, recently completed one of the few studies that evaluates the links between the metabolic syndrome and general mortality rates.

Scientists examined age and gender breakdowns of patients with metabolic syndrome and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality rates in nondiabetic European men and women. Approximately 6,000 men and 5,300 women between ages 30 and 89 were examined twice over a median period of about nine years.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of metabolic syndrome in nondiabetic European men was about 15 percent.

People with metabolic syndrome have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as death from various causes.

Depression Linked to Vascular Problems Later in Life
THE NETHERLANDS — Depression later in life has been associated with vascular problems, according to a study conducted by the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Several previous studies had demonstrated that people with brain tissue damage caused by a lack of circulation were more likely to have depressive symptoms and that depression was often related to the development of ischemic heart disease.

The Erasmus study involved more than 4,000 men and women 60 years of age and older with some form of atherosclerosis.

Researchers found that patients with more severe extracoronary atherosclerosis had a higher prevalence of depressive disorders that were diagnosed by psychiatric interviews. Although the association between vascular abnormalities and depression is clear, the cross-sectional nature of the study means that no concrete cause can be proven.

(Source: Archives of General Psychiatry, 2004;61:369-376.)

Size of Tumor May Not Be Related to Pain
UNITED KINGDOM — Severe and disabling headaches are commonly associated with pituitary tumors, but the relation between the amount of pain and the size of the tumor is unclear. To determine whether there is a relationship, researchers in England studied 63 patients with pituitary tumors.

Clinical headache scores, pituitary tumor volume, and the extent of cavernous sinus invasion for each patient were obtained and analyzed.

Headaches were reported in 70 percent of patients. No positive correlation was found between the clinical headache score and pituitary volume, nor was there one for cavernous sinus invasion and headache.

Researchers concluded that headaches caused by pituitary tumors might not be a result of the tumor's structure. Family history of headache and the impact of the tumor on the endocrine system may also play a part.

(Source: Levy M. J., et al. Correspondence: Peter J. Goadsby, Institute of Neurology, London, England.)

Macular Degeneration Could Be Slowed with Lutein
UNITED KINGDOM — A new study published in Experimental Eye Research (July 2004) supports mounting evidence that it may be possible to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by adding extra amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin to the diet. Certain evidence also shows that benefits of supplementation may also extend to those who already have early stages of the disease, known as age-related maculopathy (ARM).

Lutein and zeaxanthin from the diet are deposited as a layer known as the macular pigment (MP) in a tiny part of the retina called the macula. There are strong indications from previous studies that the macular pigment may give they eye built-in protection. People with a I higher density MP are at a lower risk of AMD, the degenerative disease that is the leading cause of j blindness in Western societies.

Dr. Ian Murray and his group from the Department of Optometry and Neuroscience at the University of Manchester evaluated the effects of a supplement of lutein esters over a period of 18 to 20 weeks. Patients were given 20 milligrams of natural lutein esters daily.

Macular pigment density and levels of lutein in blood plasma were measured at regular intervals throughout the study. Both increased significantly, and to the same extent in the controls and in the ARM patients, indicating that the macula can accumulate lutein, not only in healthy eyes but also in those with early stages of AMD.

Low Levels of Selenium May Cause Problems in Pregnant Women
UNITED KINGDOM — To gain a better understanding of the reasons behind a healthy pregnancy, scientists have often used different kinds of animal tests and models to speculate on results. However, new research is beginning to show that the best way to study pregnancies is to examine the pregnant women themselves.

One such study found that women with low levels of the mineral selenium were four times more likely to develop preeclampsia, a condition in which blood pressure is dangerously high during pregnancy.

Researchers at the University of Surrey examined the nail clippings of 53 patients with preeclampsia and 53 without. The found that that the low selenium levels in the clippings were also associated with premature delivery.

Selenium is found in whole grains, fortified cereal, and Brazil nuts. Preeclampsia occurs in 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies in the general population but is rare among vegans, those who eat no animal foods at all.

(Source: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2003; 189:1343-1349).

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