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Stressed newborns feel more pain, but don’t cry: Study

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London, Dec 4 : When newborn babies are under stress, their brains show a heightened response to pain, but the baby is unlikely to show it by crying, a new study has found.

The findings showed that stress leads to an apparent disconnect between the baby’s brain activity and his/her behaviour.

Stressed babies might appear not to respond to pain, as their brain is still processing it. As a result, the caregivers are likely to underestimate the baby’s pain experience.

Thus, it is imperative to identify different ways to understand babies who are stressed, the researchers suggested.

“When newborn babies experience a painful procedure, there is a reasonably well coordinated increase in their brain activity and their behavioural responses, such as crying and grimacing,” said Laura Jones from the University College London.

“Babies who are stressed have a larger response in the brain following a painful procedure. But, for these babies, this greater brain activity is no longer matched by their behaviour,” Jones added.

For the study, reported in the journal Current Biology, the team enrolled healthy, newborn infant boys and girls from the postnatal ward and special care baby unit and measured the babies’ stress levels based on salivary levels of cortisol stress hormone and heartbeat patterns, both before and after a clinically necessary heel lance.

At the same time, they measured the babies’ pain response using EEG brain activity and facial expression.

The data showed that babies with higher levels of background stress showed a bigger brain reaction to the heel lance procedure. However, that heightened activity in the brain didn’t correspond to a change in the babies’ behaviour.

The study offer yet another reason to treat and care for babies in ways that minimise both pain and stress, Jones said.

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Vitamin B3 may help treat acute kidney injury

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New York, Aug 21: Oral intake of vitamin B3 could potentially help prevent acute kidney injury that affects 30-40 percent of all hospitalised adults in the low-income countries, suggests a study, led by a researcher of Indian-origin.

Acute kidney injury, an often fatal condition without a specific treatment, causes a build-up of waste products in the blood and an imbalance of fluids throughout the body.

The findings showed that levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) — the end result of vitamin B3 after it is ingested — declines in cases of acute kidney injury.

“We were able to detect a drop in NAD+ in the urine of high-risk patients who were either in an intensive care unit or undergoing a major surgery and found that oral vitamin B3 could safely elevate NAD+ in high-risk patients,” said principal investigator Samir M. Parikh, nephrologist and associate professor at Harvard University.

“These findings are very early, but the results suggest that we could one day have a non-invasive test for NAD+ status and perhaps even treat acute kidney injury by boosting NAD+ levels,” he added.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team examined the metabolic changes associated with acute kidney injury in a mouse model. A urine screen revealed high levels of quinolinate.

They then created a mouse model with reduced QRPT — an enzyme responsible for converting quinolinate to NAD+ — but no kidney injury.

The genetically altered rodents mimicked the pattern of acute kidney injury; decreased NAD+, increased urinary quinolinate and increased susceptibility to kidney injury. The experiments were the first to establish QRPT as a mediator of renal stress resistance.

In subsequent human studies, the team found high urinary quinolinate in patients undergoing major surgery at risk for acute kidney injury and confirmed this metabolite pattern in a separate study of 329 intensive care unit patients also at risk for acute kidney injury.

The team then gave large doses of oral vitamin B3 to 41 cardiac surgery patients enrolled in a Phase 1 pilot study and found that augmenting vitamin B3 levels may be safe and potentially beneficial to patients.

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Milk at breakfast can help manage diabetes risk

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Toronto, Aug 20: If you are diabetic, then consuming milk at breakfast can help lower blood glucose level throughout the day, suggests a study.

The findings showed that milk consumed with a high-carbohydrate breakfast reduced blood glucose even after lunch, and high-protein milk had a greater effect.

Milk with an increased proportion of whey protein had a modest effect on pre-lunch blood glucose, achieving a greater decrease than that provided by regular milk.

The high-protein treatment also reduced appetite after the second meal compared with the low-protein equivalent.

“Metabolic diseases are on the rise globally, with type-2 diabetes and obesity as leading concerns in human health,” said Professor Douglas Goff, from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

“Thus, there is impetus to develop dietary strategies for the risk reduction and management of obesity and diabetes to empower consumers to improve their personal health,” he added.

For the study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, the team included over 100 persons to examine the effects of increasing protein concentration and increasing the proportion of whey protein in milk consumed with a high-carbohydrate breakfast cereal on blood glucose, feelings of satiety, and food consumption later in the day.

Although the team only found a modest difference in food consumption at the lunch meal when increasing whey protein at breakfast, they found that milk consumed with breakfast cereal reduced postprandial blood glucose concentration compared with water, and high dairy protein concentration reduced postprandial blood glucose concentration compared with normal dairy protein concentration.

“This study confirms the importance of milk at breakfast time to aid in the slower digestion of carbohydrate and to help maintain lower blood sugar levels. Nutritionists have always stressed the importance of a healthy breakfast, and this study should encourage consumers to include milk,” Goff said.

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How mushrooms can aid in diabetes treatment

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New York, Aug 17: Eating white button mushrooms daily can act as a prebiotic by improving microbial community in the gut, which could then improve the regulation of glucose in the liver, a finding that could one day pave way for new diabetes treatments, say researchers.

In the study, feeding white button mushrooms to mice changed the composition of gut microbes — microbiota — to produce more short chain fatty acids, specifically propionate from succinate, according to Margherita T. Cantorna, Professor at Pennsylvania State University in the US.

Previous research has shown that succinate and propionate can change the expression of genes needed to manage glucose production, she said.

“Managing glucose better has implications for diabetes, as well as other metabolic diseases,” Cantorna noted.

The study, reported in the Journal of Functional Foods, used two types of mice who were fed about a daily serving size of the mushrooms. One group had microbiota, the other were germ-free.

Consuming the mushrooms set off a chain reaction among the gut bacteria, expanding the population of Prevotella — a bacteria that produces propionate and succinate.

These acids can change the expression of genes that are key to the pathway between the brain and the gut that helps manage the production of glucose, or gluconeogenesis.

The mushrooms, in this case, serve as a prebiotic, which is a substance that feeds beneficial bacteria that are already existing in the gut. Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are introduced into the digestive system.

Beyond the possible beneficial benefits of mushrooms as a prebiotic, Cantorna said that this study also shows more evidence that there is a tight connection between diet and microbiota.

“It’s pretty clear that almost any change you make to the diet, changes the microbiota,” Cantorna added.

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