Archive for March, 2008

Gulf War illness traced to Chemicals

Monday, March 10th, 2008

A review conducted by researchers by the University of California, San Diego, has found a strong connection between exposure to specific chemicals and the Gulf War illness experienced by veterans. The symptoms are mood-cognition problems, fatigue and musculoskeletal symptoms. To be precise, this includes muscle and joint pain, memory problems, rashes, sleep issues and breathing trouble. Veterans of the Persian Gulf War have elevated rates of chronic multi-symptom health problems compared to those who were never deployed in the military or those who were deployed in other areas.

Up to one third of veterans were exposed to pesticides, nerve agents and other chemical exposures. “Convergent evidence now strongly links a class of chemicals — acetylcholinesterase inhibitors — to illness in Gulf War veterans,” Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, said.

To protect against exposure to nerve agents, veterans were given pills known as carbamate pyridostigmine bromide which contained acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which is an enzyme that regulates the vital neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Unfortunately, this backfired and the studies show that those who took the pill have worsened symptoms than those who did not.

“Across studies, significant positive relationships of acetylcholinesterase -related exposures to illness in GWV outnumber significant negative relationships more than chance would predict,” wrote Golomb. “The studies show a high consistency, with most showing a significant (typically strong) positive association. Few non-significant findings are present and virtually no inverse associations.”

Furthermore, it has been regrettable to note that some people have genetic variants that make them more vulnerable to such chemicals, and when exposed, these people are in more jeopardy of illness. “There is evidence that genetics have something to do with how a body handles exposure to these chemicals,” said Golomb. “Some people are genetically less able to withstand these toxins and evidence shows that these individuals have higher chance of suffering the effects of exposure.”

Depressing news on Anti Depressants

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

It has been found in American medical research studies that the most prescribed drug in the country, antidepressants, aren’t that entirely effective. According to researchers, they work as well as sugar pills and those who do improve are thought to only get better because of the placebo effect. “When you have samples of lower levels of depression, the benefits were very modest and even disappeared,” said Blair T. Johnsons, Professor of Psychology at the University of Connecticut. “My theory is that human beings are very suggestible creatures. The patient who takes these drugs then might, in believing they feel better, start to act in a way that actually makes them feel better. Consequently you have almost as big an effect for placebo as you do for drugs.”

This has created a debate on what are the most appropriate and successful therapies for depression and has questioned whether or not clinical trials are actually successful in determining their effectiveness. Drugs are given almost freely in America compared to other western countries where a series of tests and other treatments are approached to help combat depression before the pills are recommended. Over 30 million prescriptions of antidepressants are filled out each year around the world yet it’s not recommended as the first resort to combat depression. Psychotherapy is one of the most effective ways to fight depression however accessing therapists and finding the time for sessions is difficult in this modern world.

Britain has done its share of research and has concluded the same result as The University of Connecticut in America – antidepressants are as successful as placebos and make only a small difference in serious depression. “Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe anti-depressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed to provide a benefit,” said lead researcher Professor Irving Kirsch of the University of Hull in Britain.