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Oral contraceptives up women’s risk of MS

A new study has revealed that women who take oral contraceptives are at higher risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

However, researchers said that the findings do not mean women should stop using birth control, Fox News reported.

The researchers, who utilised membership data from Kaiser Permanente Southern California, analysed the health records of 305 women aged 14 to 48 who were diagnosed with MS or its precursor, clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), between 2008 and 2011.

The researchers found a 30 percent increased risk of developing MS amongst women who had at least three months of oral contraceptive use, compared to a control group of 3,050 women who did not have MS. The study’s author Dr Kerstin Hellwig, a post-doctoral research fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, said they found that 29.2 percent of women with MS used birth control before their diagnoses, while 23 percent of women in the healthy control group used birth control-
showing an increased risk with higher use
of the drug.

It was found that women who did not currently use an oral contraceptive but had in some time in the three years prior to being diagnosed, was also a slightly higher risk.

Potential drug for treating acute leukemia developed

A team of researchers has developed an experimental treatment that eradicates an acute type of leukemia in mice without any detectable toxic side effects.

The drug by scientists from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center works by blocking two important metabolic pathways that the leukemia cells need to grow and spread.

The study was led by Dr Caius Radu, an associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA, and Dr David Nathanson, an assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology.

Elements of metabolism called biosynthetic pathways allow cells to synthesise chemicals, called nucleotides, that they need to survive. When these nucleotide pathways are blocked by drug molecules, cancer cell growth can be halted, which can trigger cell death.

Radu, Nathanson and their colleagues found that an important nucleotide called deoxycytidine triphosphate (dCTP) is produced by two pathways, the de novo pathway and the nucleoside salvage pathway.

In the study, the experimental treatment was given to mice with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a deadly blood cancer. The treatment eradicated the cancer cells, leaving healthy blood cells alone, and the mice suffered no
discernible side effects.

Why dark chocolate is good for your heart

Researchers suggest that consumption of dark chocolate lowers the augmentation index, a key vascular health predictor, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall

Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. The scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect.

Diederik Esser, PhD, a researcher involved in the work from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition in Wageningen, The Netherlands, said that they provide a more complete picture of the impact of chocolate consumption in vascular health and show that increasing flavanol content has no added beneficial effect on vascular health.

He said that, however, this increased flavanol content clearly affected taste and thereby the motivation to eat these chocolates. So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one. To make this discovery, Esser and colleagues analysed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day.

Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced.  Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health.

During the study, participants were advised to refrain from certain energy dense food products to prevent weight gain. Scientists also evaluated the sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and the regular chocolate and collected the motivation scores of the participants to eat these chocolates during the intervention.

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