Sugary soft drinks increase risk of developing gout, says study
Compiled by Dr Christine White SUGARY soft drinks could be harming more than our waistlines. In the British Medical Journal this week, a new study has found that men who drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks are more likely to develop gout — an extremely painful joint disease caused by excess uric acid in the blood. The usual dietary advice for gout sufferers is to restrict intake of meat and alcohol, but the authors suggest that soft drinks should now be added to the list. The study involved 46,393 men aged 40 years and over with no history of gout. At the start of the study, and then every two years, participants completed a dietary survey and were given a medical examination. Over the following 12 years, there were 755 cases of gout. The risk of developing the disease was 85 per cent higher among men who consumed two or more servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month. Diet soft drinks were not associated with an increased risk of gout. BMJ 2008;doi:10.1136/bmj.39449.819271.BE (Choi HK, et al) FOLATE— a form of vitamin B found in green leafy vegetables and often added to breakfast cereals and bread — may be just as important for the elderly as it is for developing babies. New research in the Journalof Neurology,NeurosurgeryandPsychiatry has shown that folate deficiency may triple the risk of dementia in older people. Researchers recruited 518 people aged over 65. At the beginning and end of the two-year study, blood samples were tested for levels of folate and other nutrients, and participants were assessed for signs of dementia. At the start of the study, 3.5 per cent of participants were folate deficient, and all were free from dementia. Over the next two years, 45 people developed the disease. Those who were folatedeficient at the start of the study were nearly 3.5 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal levels. The findings suggest that folate supplements could help to protect the brains of elderly people with poor nutrition. JNeurolNeurosurgPsychiatry 2008;doi:10.1136/jnnp.2007.131482 (Kim JM, et al) EMPLOYERS are required to train their employees in how to handle heavy loads, but a new study in the BritishMedicalJournal has found that such training does nothing to prevent back injuries. Researchers examined the results of 11 separate studies, involving a total of 18,492 people. Eight studies were conducted with health workers who handled patients, and three studies involved baggage handlers or postal workers. Each of the studies had one group that received standard training in lifting and moving heavy loads. Those in the control groups either received no training, minimal training or physical exercise, or were given a belt to support their back while lifting. Compared to the control treatments, standard training had no effect on the incidence of back pain in workers. The authors conclude that more research is needed to discover how stresses at work can lead to back pain, and to develop new methods of back injury prevention. BMJ 2008;doi:10.1136/bmj.39463.418380.BE (Martimo KP, et al) DRUGS could soon be delivered painlessly through the skin, with scientists developing a new type of patch covered with tiny needles. In the ProceedingsoftheNationalAcademyof Sciences this week, they claim that the ‘‘ microneedle’’ patch could be used to deliver drugs and vaccines that cannot normally cross the skin’s tough outer layer. Reducing the need for standard injections would not only please needle-phobic patients, but also decrease the risk of transmitting infectious diseases, say the authors. They used the microneedle patches to painlessly punch a grid of 50 microscopic holes in the skin of six volunteers. A gel containing the anti-addiction drug naltrexone was then applied to the same area of skin. Over the next 72 hours, blood levels of the drug were as high as that seen with oral delivery, but using a lower dose and with fewer side effects. Three control patients who received the gel without the microneedle patch had no naltrexone in their blood. ProcNatlAcadSciUSA 2008;105:2058-2063 (Wermeling DP, et al) PARENTING lessons do not improve toddler behaviour, according to a new Australian study in the BritishMedicalJournal . Led by doctor Harriet Hiscock from the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, the research team designed a parenting program that aimed to prevent child behaviour problems, such as defiance and aggression, as well as improve parenting and maternal mental health. A total of 733 mothers of eightmonth-old infants participated in the study and were randomly assigned to receive either the program (three sessions at ages eight to 15 months) or usual care from their local maternal and child health centre. By age 24 months, parents on the program were less likely to report abusive parenting and unreasonable expectations of their child, but there was no improvement in maternal distress or toddler behaviour. Further studies are needed to assess whether such programs can improve behaviour in later childhood. BMJ 2008;doi:10.1136/bmj.39451.609676.AE (Hiscock H, et al) BLOOD pressure drugs known as calcium channel blockers could also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, concludes a study in the latest issue of Neurology . The study involved 7374 men and women aged over 40. Half of the group had Parkinson’s disease and the other half did not. Those who were currently longterm users of calcium channel blockers to treat high blood pressure had a 23 per cent lower risk of Parkinson’s disease compared to nonusers. There was no such effect among people taking other blood pressure drugs such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers. According to these findings, discovering how calcium channel blockers protect against Parkinson’s disease could lead to new treatments. Neurology 2008;doi:10.1212/01.wnl. 0000303818.38960.44 (Becker C, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Lifting: Training programs are not working