Archives for category: Autoimmune Diseases

From Harvard Gazette:

Exposure in the womb to bisphenol A (BPA) — a chemical used to make plastic containers and other consumer goods — is associated with behavior and emotional problems in young girls, according to a study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

BPA is found in many consumer products, including canned food linings, polycarbonate plastics, dental sealants, and some receipts made from thermal paper. Most people living in industrialized nations are exposed to BPA. BPA has been shown to interfere with normal development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in people. In a 2009 study, HSPH researchers showed that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA.

In this study, published Oct. 24 in an advance online edition of Pediatrics, lead author Joe Braun, research fellow in environmental health at HSPH, and his colleagues found that gestational BPA exposure was associated with more behavioral problems at age 3, especially in girls.

The researchers collected data from 244 mothers and their 3-year-old children in the Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment Study, conducted in the Cincinnati area. Mothers provided three urine samples during pregnancy and at birth that were tested for BPA; their children were tested each year from ages 1 to 3. When the children were 3 years old, the mothers completed surveys about their children’s behavior.

“None of the children had clinically abnormal behavior, but some children had more behavior problems than others. Thus, we examined the relationship between the mom’s and children’s BPA concentrations and the different behaviors,” Braun said.

BPA was detected in more than 85 percent of the urine samples from the mothers and more than 96 percent of the children’s urine samples. The researchers found that maternal BPA concentrations were similar between the first sample and birth. The children’s BPA levels decreased from ages 1 to 3, but were higher and more variable than that of their mothers.

After adjusting for possible contributing factors, increasing gestational BPA concentrations were associated with more hyperactive, aggressive, anxious, and depressed behavior, and poorer emotional control and inhibition in the girls. This relationship was not seen in the boys.

The study confirms two prior studies showing that exposure to BPA in the womb impacts child behavior, but is the first to show that in utero exposures are more important than exposures during childhood, Braun said.

“Gestational, but not childhood BPA exposures, may impact neurobehavioral function, and girls appear to be more sensitive to BPA than boys,” he said.

Although more research is needed to fully understand the health effects of BPA exposure, clinicians can advise those concerned to reduce their BPA exposure by avoiding canned and packaged foods, thermal paper sales receipts, and polycarbonate bottles with the number 7 recycling symbol, the authors wrote.

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From Environmental Health News:

Cumulative risk assessment posits that multiple agents work together to induce disease and that multiple stressors therefore must be considered in order to gain a true understanding of why adverse health effects occur.  Now a small but growing number of scientists are pushing the envelope by investigating whether chronic psychological stress might be one of those factors, enhancing a child’s vulnerability to certain chemical exposures and contributing to effects that later show up as asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and other problems. These researchers are also starting to identify biomarkers that may shed light on the mechanisms by which psychological stress acts on a child’s developing immune system and brain to modify or enhance the response to certain pollution exposures such as
traffic-related air pollutants and lead.

“We really don’t know how broadly such interactions may occur across chemicals. They are much more likely to occur when the chemical itself acts directly upon stress systems,” says Deborah Cory-Slechta, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry.

“We know some chemicals that interact with stress, such as lead exposure, but we don’t know which others do.”

Observations of links between stress and disease date back to at least the twelfth century, when the philosopher Maimonides cited emotional upset as a factor in asthma. But proving such links poses a significant challenge, says Malcolm P. Cutchin, a professor at the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Much has been hypothesized about the linkages, but we are just now beginning to tease out relationships and understand the processes,” Cutchin says. As researchers have learned more about techniques that can identify chemical and stress exposures in the human body, they have begun to apply techniques to estimate how people respond to stress and how that response, if it goes awry, can facilitate the development of diseases.

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From Washington Post:

Nearly 10 percent of the world’s adults have diabetes, and the prevalence of the disease is rising rapidly. As in the United States and other wealthy nations, increased obesity and inactivity are the primary cause in such developing countries as India and in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

That’s the sobering conclusion of a study published Saturday in the journal Lancet that traces trends in diabetes and average blood sugar readings in about 200 countries and regions over the past three decades.The study’s findings predict a huge burden of medical costs and physical disability ahead in this century, as the disease increases a person’s risk of heart attack, kidney failure, blindness and some infections.“This study confirms the suspicion of many that diabetes has become a global epidemic,” said Frank Hu, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health who was not involved in the research.

“It has the potential to overwhelm the health systems of many countries, especially developing countries.”Worldwide, the prevalence of diabetes in men older than 25 rose from 8.3 percent in 1980 to 9.8 percent in 2008. For women older than 25, it increased from 7.5 percent to 9.2 percent.“This is likely to be one of the defining features of global health in the coming decades,” said Majid Ezzati, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at Imperial College London, who headed the study. “There’s simply the magnitude of the problem. And then there’s the fact that unlike high blood pressure and high cholesterol, we don’t really have good treatments for diabetes.”There are two types of diabetes, a metabolic ailment in which the body is unable to rapidly or adequately move sugar out of the bloodstream and into tissues after a meal. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that comes on in childhood and requires that a person take insulin shots to survive. Type 2 accounts for 90 percent of cases and generally comes on after age 25. It is controlled by insulin, pills and, in some cases, weight loss and exercise.

The disease is most common in the islands of the South Pacific — Oceania — where an explosion of severe obesity, coupled with a genetic proclivity for diabetes, has driven diabetes prevalence to 25 percent in men and 32 percent in women in some places. The Gulf States also have very high rates, with Saudi Arabia ranking No. 3, Jordan No. 8 and Kuwait No. 10 in diabetes among men in 2008.

Among high-income countries, the United States had the steepest rise over the past three decades for men and the second-steepest rise for women (behind Spain). In 2008, 12.6 percent of American men and 9.1 percent of women had the disease.

China and India, however, are the nations that will be most responsible for what happens over the next several decades. Together, they account for 40 percent of people with diabetes today. In contrast, 10 percent of the world’s total live in the United States and Russia.

Barry M. Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina who has done research in China, said the increase in diabetes there has just begun. That’s because diabetes lags behind inactivity and obesity, both of which have increased during China’s economic boom.

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From Associated Press:

Nearly two-thirds of deaths in the world are caused by noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart and lung disease which are rapidly increasing at a cost to the global economy of trillions of dollars, according to U.N. estimates and preliminary results of a new study.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report circulated Monday that while the international community has focused on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the four main noncommunicable diseases “have emerged relatively unnoticed in the developing world and are now becoming a global epidemic.”

According to the report, 36 million people died from noncommunicable diseases in 2008, representing 63 percent of the 57 million global deaths that year. Nearly 80 percent of deaths from these diseases were in the developing world, and 9 million deaths were of men and women under the age of 60, it said.

In 2030, the report said, these diseases are projected to claim the lives of 52 million people.

Ban said the rapidly increasing magnitude of noncommunicable diseases is fueled by rising risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, obesity and harmful alcohol use — and is driven in part by an aging population, the negative impact of urbanization, and the globalization of trade and marketing.

At a press conference Monday to preview a U.N. summit in September that will spotlight the need to tackle these diseases, John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said that by 2030 noncommunicable diseases are expected to cause five times as many deaths as communicable diseases worldwide.

“No health problem in the history of the world has ever gone so hidden, misunderstood and under-recorded,” Seffrin said.

Seffrin said “it is the poorest people that suffer the most” because they can’t afford early detection and quality care and must deal with overburdened and poorly equipped health care systems.

He called for urgent action to start solving “what will be the 21st century’s greatest health challenge, namely noncommunicable diseases.”

Professor David Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health, who is leading a project to estimate the global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases, said preliminary results indicate that the substantial economic burden caused by these diseases today “will evolve into a staggering economic burden over the next two decades” that could have a huge impact on economic development and fighting poverty.

The project, which is sponsored by the World Economic Forum, is estimating the global costs of newly diagnosed cancer cases at “more than $300 billion in 2010” and of “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on the order of $400 billion in 2010,” he said.

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From Environmental Health News:

After his first child was born, black and blue marks started showing up on Stanley Finger’s body. Jolted awake most nights by his crying infant, Finger would stumble half asleep toward her room, bumping into walls and furniture in the dark. “My wife and I would joke about it,” says Finger, a chemical engineer from Bluffton, South Carolina. But during a routine checkup, Finger learned his easy bruising was caused by a precipitous drop in blood platelets. The body relies on these cell fragments for clotting, and Finger’s platelet count had dropped to nearly a third its normal value. After ruling out cancer and other illnesses, Finger’s doctor eventually arrived at a diagnosis:  .

ITP is an autoimmune disease, a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues. When Finger was diagnosed in 1974, autoimmune illnesses weren’t yet perceived as the public health menaces they’re often seen as today. But according to Fred Miller, director of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, autoimmune diseases are now recognized as among the leading causes of death among young and middle-aged women in the United States.

What’s more, prevalence rates for some of these illnesses are rising for what Miller says must largely be environmental reasons. “Our gene sequences aren’t changing fast enough to account for the increases,” Miller

says. “Yet our environment is—we’ve got 80,000 chemicals approved for use in commerce, but we know very little about their immune effects. Our lifestyles are also different than they were a few decades ago, and we’re eating more processed food.” Should prevalence rates for heart disease and cancer continue their decline, Miller says, autoimmune diseases could become some of the costliest and most burdensome illnesses in the United States.

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From livingecho:

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Staff Scientist Sarah Janssen is interviewed by Ken Spector of LivingECHO.com about BPA (Bisphenol A) in plastics. – Warning – linked to asthma, cancer – Part 1 is above, and Part 2, below.

From IATPvideo:

Dr. John Peterson Myers, CEO of Environmental Health Sciences and co-author of Our Stolen Future, talks about environmental chemicals and public health.

A new study published online by the Annals of Medicine reports a significant increase in people with celiac disease — particularly in the elderly.  The results were a surprise to researchers.   According to the study’s abstract: “During a 15-year period [celiac disease] prevalence increased 2-fold in the CLUE cohort and 5-fold overall in the US since 1974. The CLUE study demonstrated that this increase was due to an increasing number of subjects that lost the immunological tolerance to gluten in their adulthood.”

Of course, that raises the important question:  why did so many subject lose their immunological tolerance to gluten?

Here is what the study’s lead author had to say:

NPR:

“It may be the environment that has made this change over time.  Grains now are more refined and therefore have more gluten. It could also be the quantity of grains that we eat. It could be the composition of the bacteria that live in our intestines that can trick our immune system differently now than the past. These are all obvious — but not solid — guesses.”

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“We’re in the midst of an autoimmunity epidemic, and celiac disease is not an exception. . . .”

Los Angeles Times :

What causes late onset of celiac disease isn’t known. People must have a genetic predisposition to it, but scientists aren’t sure why gluten intolerance would develop after so many trouble-free years.

Fasano said environmental factors may trigger changes in the immune system that could activate anti-gluten gene. But identifying those factors won’t be easy.

“What has changed in the environment in the last 30 years?” Fasano said. “We have more antibiotics, more vaccinations, bioengineered foods, chemicals we haven’t been exposed to, and pollutants that haven’t been around in the concentrations we have now.”

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