health and wellness

Ouch! Obesity and Pain Sensitivity

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Many of us have been asked the question, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it hurt?” It is an industry standard that helps medical professionals to evaluate and gauge the severity of a patient’s condition. While pain tolerance varies from individual to individual, a study suggests that those with an unhealthy diet may have an increased sensitivity to pain.

The study analyzed the relationship between diet, body fat, and pain. Professor Charles Emery, the study’s author, says, “The Body Mass Index, dietary habits, and pain sensitivity are evidently interrelated. In particular, persons with a higher BMI who mainly consume low-fiber foods appear to be at risk of suffering from pain more frequently.”

The BMI of approximately 100 adult participants was calculated. On average, the BMI exceeded 30 which registers within the obese range on the current scale. Next, researchers examined the diets of the participants. Those who ate anti-inflammatory and therefore healthier foods scored a high number of points in the “health-eating index.” A healthier, anti-inflammatory diet includes foods that contain more antioxidants and fewer saturated fatty acids. Lastly, participants were asked to answer questions that rated their pain sensitivity.

Researchers found that pain sensitivity increased as a participant’s body mass index increased. It became clearer that dietary habits helped to explain the relationship between a person’s BMI and pain. The researchers suspect this is because the blood parameters of inflammation trigger cytokines protein, which depend on diet. Additionally, being overweight or obese can trigger chronic inflammatory reactions in the body, which increase a person’s sensitivity to pain.

Participants were screened for arthritis to rule that out as an explanation for their pain sensitivity as well. Professor Emery states, “Choosing healthy or unhealthy foods could be a relevant factor in the relationship between understanding body fat and pain.”

If you are experiencing pain on a regular basis, or you’re worried about a recent incident where you were in pain, it is important to let your doctor know. While diet or weight could be an explanation, it is important to rule out any severe conditions too. Contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss your symptoms and get started on feeling your best.




Vitamin C Supplementation Improves Lifestyle for Overweight, Obese

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Obesity is an epidemic in the United States and with it comes a range of troubling health conditions and diseases. The causes and treatment of obesity vary from person to person, but the quality of life for those who are obese is often diminished. While doctors and researchers continue to develop methods for treating obese adults and get them on a path to health and wellness, a new study offers a simple option: vitamin C supplements.

Authors of a small study recently concluded that, “Vitamin C supplementation represents an effective lifestyle strategy for reducing the blood vessel constriction that is increased in overweight and obese adults.” The study focused on a protein called endothelin-1, which constricts small blood vessels. The protein becomes more active in overweight and obese people and because of high endothelin-1 activity, small vessels are more prone to constricting and become less responsive to the blood flow demand. This effectively increases a person’s risk of vascular disease.

Research has already shown that exercise reduces endothelin-1 activity, but researchers were looking for ways to supplement exercise for improved blood vessel function. Vitamin C has previously been reported to improve blood vessel function and lower endothelin-1 activity. Caitlin Dow led the study to determine the effectiveness of Vitamin-C. The study focused on 35 sedentary, overweight/obese adults over a three-month period. The participants either completed 3 months of supplementation or aerobic exercise training. Researchers measured forearm blood flow and responses to intra-arterial infusion of endothelin-1 before and after each intervention. The results showed that “daily supplementation of Vitamin C at a time-release dose of 500mg daily reduced endothelin-1-mediated vessel constriction as much as walking did.”

Vitamin C has also been shown to help people who are extremely fit and under heavy physical stress—like marathon runners—reduce their chances of getting a cold. Getting the proper balance of vitamins at any fitness level is important, but patients who are overweight or obese should not depend solely on vitamins. Finding healthy habits to adopt is an important part of the path to a healthier, happier quality of life. If you are looking for ways to improve your health, or have questions about your routine, call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to find the healthy habits that fit your needs today!






Runner’s High : Still Legal in All 50 States

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Avid runners often report a euphoric “boost” during their workout that gives them the motivation to keep on running. Where the actual ‘runner’s high’ comes from though, may be surprising for those on the go. A study reports in Cell Metabolism that the emotional pick-me-up is modulated in part by the satiety hormone leptin.

In the study, mice with reduced leptin signaling in the brain ran twice as many miles on a running wheel compared to normal mice. The research suggests that declining leptin levels send a “hunger signal” to the brain’s pleasure center to generate the rewarding effects of running via the runner’s high. The study’s author, Stephanie Fulton explains, “based on these findings, we think that a fall in leptin levels increases motivation for physical activity as a means to enhance exploration and the pursuit of food. Our study also suggests that people with lower fat-adjusted leptin levels, such as high-performance marathon runners, could potentially be more susceptible to the rewarding effects of running and thus possibly more inclined to exercise.”

What is leptin you ask? It’s a fat cell-derived hormones that tells the brain when the body has enough fuel and energy. Low leptin levels have been associated with exercise addiction, fast marathon times, and training status in humans and greater running speed and duration in mice. To test the impact of leptin, Fulton and her team used genetically engineered mice that lacked a leptin-sensitive protein called STAT3, which monitors the leptin signal specifically in neurons that release the reward chemical dopamine. Normal mice ran 6 kilometers a day on a running wheel but the STAT3-deficient mice ran an impressive 11 kilometers per day. The STAT3-deficient mice also spent more time in the running-side of the chamber than the normal mice.

In addition to explaining a “runner’s high” the research has clinical implications for anorexia. Previous research showed that leptin signaling in the brain’s reward center inhibits wheel running in a rat model of anorexia-induced hyperactivity. Individuals with anorexia have low fat-adjusted leptin levels, associated with increased restlessness and hyperactivity.

Fulton and her team plan to test running rewards associated with food seeking behavior and also which neural pathways downstream of dopamine neurons contribute to the runner’s high. This could develop new ways to enhance stamina and increase the probability of success while foraging and hunting. While leptin is not the only metabolic signal controlling the rewarding effects of running, the research allows scientists to determine the precise role of dopamine, opioid, and endogenous cannabinoid signals to impact physical activity and its rewards.

In the meantime, physical fitness can provide tangible results to your health. From weight management to improved cardiovascular health, a little run can do a lot more than give you a “buzz.” If running isn’t for you though, and you’re worried about physical fitness, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss potential ways for you to feel and look your best.


Stinging for a Cure? Wasp Venom’s Anticancer Properties

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Anyone who has tried to enjoy the summer weather knows that wasps can be a menace to fun. If you’ve ever been stung, you know just how unpleasant these small winged creatures can be, especially if you are allergic. However, sometimes help comes from the most unexpected places and wasp venom might be the next great frontier in cancer research.

Researchers have shown how wasp venom from the Brazilian social wasp Polybia paulista contains the antimicrobial peptide Polybia-MP1, which has been shown to inhibit multiple forms of cancerous cells like prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and multidrug-resistant leukemic cells. While researchers discovered the use of MP1, they had yet to discover how it kills cancer cells until now.

The new study from Biophysical Journal reveals how MP1 is able to kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unscathed. MP1 attacks lipids on the surface of cancer cells and creates holes that allow important cell molecules to leak out. One of the study’s authors, Paul Beales, explained how, “Cancer therapies that attack the lipid composition of the cell membrane would be an entirely new class of anticancer drugs. This could be useful in developing new combination therapies where multiple drugs are used simultaneously to treat a cancer by attacking different parts of the cancer cells at the same time.”

The reason behind MP1’s special effectiveness could be how cancer cell membranes differ from normal, healthy cell membranes. MP1 creates pores large enough for critical molecules to easily escape cancer cells. Going forward, the researchers plan to experiment with a different MP1 amino acid sequences to investigate how MP1’s structure relates to its function and potentially boost its anticancer properties for therapeutic purposes.

While exciting and promising advances are in progress for Cancer treatment, there are still options available now for patients struggling with a cure. If you or someone you love is battling cancer, and you’re looking for information or help, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today to discuss finding the best options available today.





Brain Cell Burnout explains Parkinson’s disease

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that typically strikes as individuals age. It arises from the death of brain cells in a few areas of the brain, like the substantia nigra. The brain cells affected by Parkinson’s disease release dopamine, the chemical messenger that helps to regulate emotional responses, movement, and other functions. As the disease progresses, the levels of dopamine produced in the brain decrease and symptoms like tremors, slowness, stiffness, and impaired balance, gradually worsen, making it difficult to walk, talk, live independently, and have a normal life.

A new study published in the journal Current Biology explains Parkinson’s as a, “result of an energy crisis in brain cells that have unusually high energy needs in order to control movement. The crisis causes the cells to overheat and burn themselves out.” The study’s lead researcher, Louis-Éric Trudeau is a professor in pharmacology and neurosciences, who has spent the last 17 years studying the part of the brain that causes Parkinson’s disease, as well as schizophrenia and addiction. Trudeau says, “like a motor constantly running at high speed, thee neurons need to produce an incredible amount of energy to function. They appear to exhaust themselves and die prematurely.” Trudeau hopes that the study’s findings will produce better ways to represent Parkinson’s in animal models and develop new treatments. So far, it has been incredibly difficult for researchers to reproduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in mice, even with human genes.

The study’s team is already pursuing a way to create drugs that help brain cells reduce their energy consumption and be energy efficient to reduce the damage they accumulate over time. The team has investigated why mitochondria inside cells in the areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s work so hard and overheat. They have since discovered that, “the cells in these brain areas have very complex structures with lots of branches and sites where the chemical messengers are released, and suggest it is this complexity that demands high levels of energy.” Trudeau supports the idea that, “these complex neurons force their mitochondria to work at burnout rates to meet their energy demands, which would explain their accelerated deterioration.” He explains, “to use the analogy of a motor, a car that overheats will burn significantly more fuel, and, not surprisingly, end up at the garage more often.”

The fact that Parkinson’s affects older populations presents some complications, since as we age, the complexity of these cells may also make them particularly vulnerable. Trudeau notes that, “as life expectancy increases, so does the challenge to find treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s since from an evolutionary standpoint, some of our neurons are perhaps just not programmed to last 80, 90, or 100 years, as we are seeing more and more. It’s to be expected that certain parts of our body are less able to withstand the effects of time.”

Researchers and scientists like Trudeau are still optimistic though, that because Parkinson’s disease only affects a limited part of the brain, effective treatments will be found sooner rather than later. In the meantime, if you or someone you love is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and your family is looking for ways to manage their symptoms and learn about available options, call your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today.


Biomarker Detects Early Breast Cancer

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A new study from Case Western Reserve University shows how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect the early signs of breast cancer recurrence and fast-growing tumors. The MRI approach detects micromestastases, which are breakaway tumor cells that have the potential to develop into dangerous secondary breast cancer tumors elsewhere in the body.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering could offer an improved way to detect early recurrence of breast cancer in men and women. Lead researcher Zheng-Rong Lu explained, “We showed with this technique that we can detect very tiny tumors of just a few hundred cells. Our imaging technology has the potential to differentiate aggressive tumors from low-risk tumors. These are two things that potentially can make a big impact on clinical practice and also management of cancer.”

A third of patients diagnosed with breast cancer eventually develop metastases in distant organs, with a higher risk of death. Breast cancer has a high rate of metastasis to bone, lung, liver, lymph nodes, and the brain. The MRI results are important because early-stage cancers are the most responsive to drug treatments, and therefore the sooner treatment can begin, the higher chance of survival.

Doctors currently use MRI to detect breast cancer, but the new developments by Lu and his team make the technique significantly more effective. They used a biochemical approach combined with MRI to detect molecular changes that signal micrometastases. They combination of MRI imaging with a special chemical contrast solution allowed the researchers to collect images depicting metastases. Lu added that, “The recurrence rate of some forms of breast cancer and the consequence of metastatic cancer make these efforts urgent and important. We think this targeted approach holds great promise for earlier imaging of high-risk cancers in the clinic. It could become useful as a non-invasive way to assess breast cancer treatment progress.”

As scientists and researchers continue to make progress in how doctors find, diagnose, and treat breast cancer, there are still a plethora of options for patients today. If you have any questions about breast cancer, feel free to contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today. We are here to answer your questions and help you feel your best!




10 Health Effects of Chronic Alcohol Consumption

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Drinking too much too often is harmful to your health. While that may not come as a surprise to most people, the ways excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your health are not necessarily well known. While the volume of alcohol consumed combined with your genetics, sex, body mass, and general state of health will influence how your health responds to heavy drinking, the impact is never positive.

When you drink more alcohol than your body can metabolize, the excess builds up in your bloodstream and your heart circulates the blood alcohol throughout the body. Even a one-time binge-drinking episode can significantly impair your body, cause damage, or even death. Over time, that excessive drinking can lead to chronic diseases and other extremely serious health problems.

Excessive alcohol is also the fourth leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. The definition of heavy drinking is consuming eight drinks or more per week for women, and fifteen or more for men. On an occasion basis, drinking three or more drinks for a woman and four or more for men is considered heavy drinking. Binge drinking is five or more for men and four or more for a woman. Additionally, alcohol is consistently associated with episodes of violent crime and 4 percent of the global burden of disease is attributed to alcohol.

The health risks associated with chronic heavy drinking include liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers and gastrointestinal problems, immune system dysfunction, brain damage, malnourishment, vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Another health risk commonly associated with excessive drinking is accidents and injuries—from drunk driving to stumbling into objects—the opportunities to hurt yourself while under the influence of alcohol are numerous.

While the occasional and minimal consumption of wine, beer, or a cocktail is not going to fundamentally harm you in the long run, it is important to monitor your intake. If you are worried that you or someone in your family might be drinking excessively, contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey today. There are numerous ways to reduce alcohol consumption for a healthier you.


Trying to Get Fit? Wearable Devices are a Game Changer

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Our team at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey advocates diet and exercise as part of a healthy regiment for any person. The combination of nutritious food and fitness can keep your body in shape and healthier, resulting in a happier you overall. But for those of you who are looking for ways to boost your health at home, new technology like apps and wearable devices could be just the thing to keep you on track.

As wearable devices like the Apple Watch and health tracking apps become the norm in our everyday lives, here are some ways to embrace the new technology in your routine. Of course, wearable devices are only a facilitator of better health and fitness. To guarantee your overall wellbeing, make sure you raise any concerns with a doctor before starting your fitness journey.

Some of these wearable devices cater to ultra athletes who are already in really excellent shape. For example, the Timex Sport by Ironman. The Timex Sport is able to track times, fitness, speed, and distance.

Another interesting wearable device is the TICKR Heart Rate Monitor by Wahoo Fitness. The TICKR uses Blue Tooth to connect with your phone and measure heart rate. The memory analytics assesses your fitness over time. There are also accompanying programs that have workouts you can follow.

Other devices, like the FitBit Surge, come with an array of abilities like heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and estimated calories burned during a workout. For runners, the TomTom Runner Cardio GPS helps you track your run and stay on course. The GPS option allows you to find your way home in case you ever get lost.

The combination of tracking and logging enables individuals to really monitor their fitness. No matter what level of athlete you are, or your preferred fitness routine, logging and monitoring your progress can help you see a real difference. If you are just beginning your fitness journey and have questions or concerns, feel free to contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey. Our team can help make sure you get started on the right foot and help you find the best fitness options for you! For more suggestions on wearable devices, follow the link at the bottom of this article.