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Colloidal Silver Solves Water Pollution Problems

By Thuria Ghaleb

Yemen suffers from a chronic and serious water shortage, forcing people to use water regardless of the pollution in it. However, simple pottery water filters impregnated with colloidal silver could be used to reduce the health hazards from water pollution, according to a study discussed in a workshop held on Saturday, June 21 at the Mövenpick Hotel in Sana’a.

The workshop was conducted by the Integrated Water Resources Management Project (IWRM) supported by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to discuss the study, which aims to measure the health, economic and social impacts of such pottery water filters over a six month period, starting from January 2008, in four villages in Amran governorate (Zafin in Thula district, Al-Ma’amar and Bait Al-Saeedi in Jabal Eyal Yazeed district, and al-Makna’a in al-Sawd district). 

Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Planning and International Cooperation, showed his enthusiasm as the executive manager of the Social Fund for Development (SFD) to technically support private companies who want to produce pottery water filters impregnated with colloidal silver. 

Al-Arhabi said that these household filters help to protect people living in rural areas from hazards and diseases resulting from water pollution. “Yemen faces many problems in supplying its people, especially those in rural areas, with safe and clean drinking water. Such simple techniques can help the government to solve this problem in some areas suffering from water scarcity.”    

The four villages were chosen depending on their remoteness from the provincial capital, less than 50 kilometers from Amran. All of them had just water harvesting tanks as their single source of drinking water. About 200 households across the four villages are recorded as beneficiaries from the study.   

From the very beginning, people in the four villages have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the pottery water filter in terms of water taste, speed of filtering and the amount of filtered water. The study boasts a 98 percent satisfaction rate. 

The study also found that the proportion of people in the chosen villages with normal health standards improved from 15 percent in the first month of using the filter to 63 percent after three months. 

The child diarrhea rate reduced from 64 percent before using the filter to 14 percent after one month and 13 percent after three months of using it, the study found. Adult diarrhea rates reduced from 25 percent before to 0 percent after using the filter for just one month. However, three months later the rate again increased to 17 percent. All quote results relating to diarrhea are based on highly variable statistical indicators.

After suffering high rates of fecal microbes polluting drinking water sources used by the four villages before the use of pottery filter, now the home water filter houses have become free of pollution just one month after using the filter. It also remained free of pollution even three months later as shown by the laboratory examinations for filtered water.  

It is also found that household spending on diarrhea cure reduced from 53 percent before to 7 percent after one month, and 9 percent after three months of using the water filter though the average cost to cure diarrhea before using the filter was YR 10,000 per family per month. 

The study was conducted by Khaled al-Muaeyad, co-professor of Public Health and Micro-organisms at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Sana’a University; Bilqis Zabarah, assistant professor of Chemistry and Physics at the Water and Environment Center in Sana’a University.   

The study finally recommended speeding up the provision of the pottery filter on a commercial scale to other Yemeni rural areas which suffer similar water scarcity and pollution issues.  

In 2007 GTZ-IWRM of the Yemeni-German Water Sector Program improved Yemeni pottery to enable the production of high temperature ceramics using a gas fired kiln.

Potters for Peace (PFP) in Nicaragua has developed a “ready to use” ceramic filter which eliminates almost 100 percent of all bacteria in water. Since then, PFP has helped to set up production sites in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ghana, El Salvador, the Darfur region of Sudan and Myanmar, Burma and recently in Yemen. 

The PFP filter is simple in design, easy for families to use, and performs exceptionally well in laboratory tests. Research underway at the University of North Carolina indicates that with small additions of iron oxide, the filter can effectively remove viruses as well. 

With proper cleaning, maintenance and monitoring, this filter technology can provide potable water for rural families that draw their water from surface-influenced, contaminated sources such as springs, rivers, wells, or standing surface water.

GTZ-IWRM therefore promotes the production and distribution of this filter to be used in rural areas where access to safe drinking water is very difficult and where water networks are not available yet. Using these filters also enables them to promote the rainwater harvesting concept as a possible source for drinking water. GTZ-IWRM is working on this subject because drinking water supply in Yemen mostly relies on scarcer groundwater resources. If we want to implement a sustainable water management concept IWRM also has to focus on domestic water supply. They strongly believe that most rural household could be safely supplied out of an integrated rain water harvesting concept which is supported by all partners. 

The rate of filtration is determined by the mixture of combustible material, sawdust or rice husks, which are added to the clay before firing. The fired, treated filter is then placed in a plastic or ceramic receptacle with a lid and faucet. Filter units are sold to NGO’s at a wholesale price of about YR 4,000 with a basic plastic receptacle and faucet, and more expensive clay receptacles are available. A replacement filter costs about YR 2,500 for private individuals, but the price may differ.      

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Native Essence Herb Company Sues FTC

TAOS, N.M.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For the first time, the Federal Trade Commission is being sued over the use of history.

A New Mexico herb company says the First Amendment gives it the right to tell customers the historical use of herbs in treating serious diseases. The FTC says this violates its guidelines.

Now the issue is headed to court. Native Essence Herb Company, and its owners Mark and Marianne Hershiser, has sued to strike down the FTC's guidelines.

The lawsuit was filed by Houston attorney Richard A. Jaffe, Esq., a leading health care attorney and the author of "Galileo's Lawyer," an insider's look into the battles between the government and the complementary medicine field.

"Herb sellers should be able to tell consumers that an herb has a long historical use to treat a disease," says Jaffe. "The FTC's prohibition of this kind of truthful information is unreasonable and unconstitutional."

The lawsuit asks the federal court to declare the FTC's guidelines on "historical use claims" for herbal remedies a violation of the First Amendment.

Company owner Hershiser wants to post this historical use information on his website, much of which is taken from federal government websites, and he wants the courts to allow him that right.

"This is a precedent-setting case," Jaffe says. "The issue has never been litigated; it not only affects the Hershisers, but all companies which sell herbal products."

In April 2008, the FTC told the New Mexico herb company that its website contained false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims, including claims that some of the listed herbs have been used for hundreds or thousands of years by Native Americans and other cultures. The FTC received no consumer complaints, yet it threatened to file an injunction action against the company.

Native Essence removed that information about their products from their website. However, the company owners decided not to settle with the FTC, but file suit to overturn the FTC's advertising guidelines and seek a judicial ruling allowing sellers of herbal remedies to provide consumers with information found on government websites and other recognized legitimate sources.



Laughter, The Best Medicine

So That Is What Service Means! Now We Understand!

I have often been confused when I heard the term “Service” used in reference to various government agencies and even some other private companies.
Internal Revenue “Service”
            U.S. Postal “Service”
            Telephone/Cell Phone “Service”
            Cable T.V. “Service”
            Civil “Service”
            Public “Service”
            Customer “Service”
Although there are many good people working in “Service” industries, very often I have wondered just what was meant by the term “Service”. In today’s world just to get “Service” can be an ordeal with an endless maze of “menus” and being put on hold.
However, today, I overheard two ranchers here in Utopia talking and one of them said he had hired another rancher’s bull to “Service” some of his cows.  
Almost immediately, it all came into perspective. I now understand what “Service” means, especially when attached to a government agency.

I hope you are NOW as enlightened as I am…

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Kaille in Virginia

Thank YOU! I will tell you, if it weren't for angels like YOU we have found along the way, I don't know where we would be today.

The Best Years In Life

75 Percent of the U.S. Population Will be Overweight by 2015

by Tony Isaacs

A research team at John Hopkins University has examined 20 different published studies and national surveys about weight and eating behavior. Their conclusion is far from encouraging. 

Americans across all age groups, genders and races are getting fatter, and if the trend continues, 75 percent of U.S. adults will be overweight by the year 2015. Obesity is definitely becoming the norm.

They also found that an astounding 80 percent of African American women over the age of 40 are currently overweight, with 50 percent falling in the obese category, putting them at great risk for heart disease, diabetes and various cancers.

Obesity has long since reached epidemic proportions and it continues to grow despite an avalanche of new diets, weight loss drugs and decades of low-fat. low-carb and no-fat foods.  Blame has been placed everywhere from sedentary lifestyles to overeating to emotional problems to even the recent contention that merely having fat friend will make you fat.

No doubt lack of exercise, over-eating and emotional problems all contribute to obesity. I personally think that what we consume and what we fail to consume contributes to obesity as much or more than how much we consume.

Our bodies, like all of nature, are synergistic systems.  Maintaining proper weight and proper health depends on proper nutrition as well as proper lifestyle.  Our immune systems – our natural first line of defense against illness and disease – and every organ, every organized system of cells, all depend on timely elimination of waste and toxins and a constant supply of proper nutrients in order to keep all of them healthy and working together to keep us healthy.

Unfortunately, our fast food micro-waved food and highly processed foods off the grocers shelve plus the minimal vegetables and fruits we do eat that come from our depleted and contaminated soils do not give us anywhere near the nutrition our bodies need.  Consider the fact, for example, that a bowl of spinach had 8 times as much nutrition when our grandmother ate it than it does now – for those of us who even eat one of the healthiest of dark green vegetables.

So what does this have to do with obesity?  Simply this: I believe that our bodies instinctively know the amount and kinds of nutrition we need and they send signals to us when we do not get the proper nutrition we need – much like we see dogs and other animals eating grass when they instinctively know that they need extra vitamins and missing nutrients.  I am convinced that a major cause of obesity comes from the fact that we continue to eat because our bodies are craving vital nutrition that is missing in the food we are eating.

But when our bodies signal us that we need more vitamins and minerals, we only recognize the craving and we attempt to satisfy it by eating more food.  Instead of eating healthy foods and supplementing vitamins and minerals, we attempt to satisfy our cravings by eating more of the same nutrition-poor junk that created the problem in the first place.  And so we just grow bigger and bigger. And even more sedentary, because lack of proper nutrition equates to lack of having the proper energy we need to become more active.  It is a cycle that feeds on itself.

Low fat foods are not the answer.  Just look at what has happened during the same period that we have seen an ever increasing amount of low-fat and no-fat foods brought into our diet:

During this same time period, we also saw an explosion in convenience and fast foods, junk foods, microwavable foods, over-processed foods on our grocer’s shelves and produce from increasingly depleted soils – all of which failed to prove the nutrition we needed and that our bodies instinctively craved.

Neither is the secret to beating obesity always a simple matter of burning more calories than you consume.  Or, as some would say, "just don't eat so much".  How simple that sounds, and in many instances it may well be good advice; however, many overweight people actually eat very little yet at best only avoid adding still more weight.  Regardless of how few calories one consumes, if those calories do not consistently have a healthy amount of essential nutrients you will not have the metabolism of a healthy body and that will likely make it more difficult to burn off more calories than you consume.  And as for "stop eating so much" that is easier said than done.  In many instances it is good advice, but hard to do when your body is not getting the nutrition it craves and letting you know about it!

I firmly believe that a sensible diet with supplementation of natural and plant derived vitamins and minerals is a key to obtaining and maintaining proper weight and proper health.  And of course, proper exercise – .even if you have to begin very modestly.  Every little bit helps.  Park a few spaces further away from the office or from the entrance to the grocery market (and please don't take one of those exercise robbing electric carts to ferry you to and through the store and back!).  Even small amounts of daily activity make one more healthy physically and mentally, making it easier to make progress and obtain goals.

Speaking of sensible diets, here is the one I use:

Fast one day a week and consume nothing besides your vitamins and mineral supplements except for fruits, fruit juice, water or juiced vegetables and fruits.  I alternate – one week on the fasting day I might have nothing but watermelon.  Watermelon is a great cleanser and detox and also helps dissolve and pass any kidney stones that might be forming.

The next week it might be all dark grapes (WITH seeds).  Another great detox and cleanser (just wait to see what comes out before the day is through!) and it has the benefit of being a great destroyer of cancerous cells which we all have in abundance.  The next week maybe just juiced veggies and fruits.  The next maybe just water.

On the other six days of the week, divide your meals into 6 small ones of healthy food items (plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, small amounts of lean meat, etc.)  Think of these six as breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and evening snack.  Before each one consume a tall glass of water.  Consume another glass of water with each one.  You will lose weight during the day of fasting – perhaps two to three pounds and perhaps another two to three pounds during the week if you add in some exercise and avoid things like candy, sweets and sodas.

After the day of fasting you will find your stomach shrunken and will be able to keep it that way with the smaller divided meals.  And the water helps keep you full.  A healthy substitute for a two or three of the glasses of water would be unsweetened tea – or tea sweetened with Stevia or Lo Han (I drink a mix of unsweetened green and black tea).  Once or twice a week, you may "indulge" in a small sweet or maybe one soda.  But only once or twice.

And each day, be sure to take a good vitamin and mineral supplement.  I take a multi-vitamin, a supplement with calcium, magnesium and zinc, vitamin D, and a plant derived mineral product that contains 75 different trace elements.

It works for me and others I know.  Hopefully it will work for some of you as well.

Which brings us to emotional support.  Instead of falling prey to the recent idea of fat friends making you fat, I say use your weight-challenged friends to support and help each other lose weight.  This is what this forum is all about.

Live long, live healthy, live happy!

Featured Articles

McDonald’s Weight Loss

WASHINGTON, June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Health experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) weighed in today on a weight-loss story in the headlines, warning that the "McDonald's Diet" adopted by one man is little more than a crash diet, not the kind of behavior change that results in safe, permanent weight loss.
Chris Coleson, a 42-year old Quinton, Virginia man who shed 80 pounds in six months by eating most of his meals at McDonalds, has attracted much media attention. Last December, at 278 pounds, the 5-foot-8 Coleson started eating two meals a day at the fast food chain (he skips breakfast.)  Coleson spurned burgers and fries for salads and wraps and now weighs 199 pounds.

According to AICR Nutritionist Sarah Wally, RD, "We applaud Mr. Coleson's resolve, and his recognition that it was time to take action. Being overweight increases risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, and a recent AICR Expert Report concluded that excess body fat is a major cause of many cancers as well."

But Wally was less enthusiastic about Coleson's chosen method.  "Mr. Coleson's weight loss was the result of extreme calorie deprivation. His reported daily intake – between 1200 and 1400 calories – was far below his body's needs.

"Rapid weight loss like Mr. Colson experienced is inevitable when calorie intake is cut so drastically, regardless of what – or where – you are eating. But it doesn't lead to sustainable, long-term weight loss and it can be dangerous," Wally said.

The chain offers wraps and salads, which can be healthful options – but which ones you choose, and how many extras you add, can drive up the calorie count quickly.  

For example, a McDonald's Asian salad with grilled chicken and low-fat vinaigrette is roughly 340 calories. That same salad with crispy (read: fried) chicken and regular dressing contains 580 calories and provides more than half of the recommended fat intake for the entire day.

The bottom line: Mr. Coleson's experience doesn't make McDonald's a haven for dieters.  While some of the chain's offerings can fit into a healthful diet, the majority of menu options are calorie-dense choices that have been shown to promote weight gain.

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Weight Loss By Slowing Down

June 22, 2008
It has nothing to do with eliminating food groups, taking pills, buying a book, keeping a journal, signing up, paying a fee, or weighing in. You don’t have to exercise for it to work (although that always helps, of course).

You already know how to do it. You just need to be reminded—as I was this week in two different ways. Here it is:

Slow down.

Yep, as we rush through our ever more overscheduled lives, we tend to eat quickly and mindlessly. And as many studies have shown, when you do that, you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your stomach and alert you that you’re full and satisfied. So you eat more than you need or even want, and the pounds pile up.

As a longtime health editor, I know this, of course. But after two recent reminders, I realized I wasn’t practicing it, so I’m going to adopt a slower pace. Here’s why. When I was in Minnesota on a family trip last week, I got to meet my gorgeous new nine-week-old nephew, John Robert IV.

During lunch at a casual restaurant, little John started getting a bit fussy. I told his mom and dad to eat and I’d take him for a while. He loves to be flung over your shoulder and walked around. So I got up after two bites of my gigantic sandwich and made a few circuits of the restaurant with the baby. A few minutes later, I returned and took another bite, then walked again for another 10 minutes or so. When I finally got back to the table and handed off the baby to his mom, I realized I was no longer hungry at all and didn’t even want my fries or the rest of that sandwich. I’m quite sure, however, that I would have snarfed it all down in one sitting if I hadn’t gotten up. We decided that’s how so many new moms lose the baby weight: no time to eat!

My second reminder of this phenomenon was Friday evening at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Resto, which makes the best hamburgers on the isle of Manhattan. (It’s on 29th between Park and Lex, if you have ever a chance to go.) Now, I don’t eat much red meat, but I do occasionally indulge in Resto’s incredibly juicy and flavorful burger made from short ribs and hanger steak. It’s a modest size, as this is a Belgian-American spot, served with impeccable frites and small salad. I could easily eat it all every time.

But I was with my friend Steve, who had throat surgery that now requires him to eat much more slowly than most people. So I matched his pace, taking tiny bites, really savoring each one, and catching up on his life in between. Sure enough, when I stopped and assessed the situation a little past halfway through, I realized I was full and feeling good. I pushed the plate away and vowed to remember the technique.

“Mindful eating” is the new buzzword for this. And it does work, according to studies that have been done since the 1970s, when we all started getting too busy to sit down and relax with our families at mealtimes. Now, granted, it works best when you really want to eat less. We all have moments of weakness, when only massive doses of chocolate or chips or ice cream will comfort what ails us, and no amount of mindfulness will slow us down. That’s emotional eating, not appetite.

But most of the time, slowing down—and I mean really slowing down so it take 30 minutes or more to finish a meal—can significantly reduce your caloric intake. I could give you dozens of other diet tips, from reducing processed foods and sugars to eating more fiber to getting more sleep and exercise. But taking your time may be the strongest weight-control weapon you have.

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Vitamin D Treats Heart Disease

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2008) — Strong bones, a healthy immune system, protection against some types of cancer: Recent studies suggest there’s yet another item for the expanding list of Vitamin D benefits. Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” keeps the heart, the body’s long-distance runner, fit for life’s demands.

University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., thinks it’s apt to call vitamin D “the heart tranquilizer.”

In studies in rats, Simpson and his team report the first concrete evidence that treatment with activated vitamin D can protect against heart failure. Their results appear in the July issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.

In the study, treatments with activated vitamin D prevented heart muscle cells from growing bigger – the condition, called hypertrophy, in which the heart becomes enlarged and overworked in people with heart failure. The treatments prevented heart muscle cells from the over-stimulation and increased contractions associated with the progression of heart failure.

About 5.3 million Americans have heart failure, a progressive, disabling condition in which the heart becomes enlarged as it is forced to work harder and harder, making it a challenge even to perform normal daily activities. Many people with heart disease or poorly controlled high blood pressure go on to experience a form of heart failure called congestive heart failure, in which the heart’s inability to pump blood around the body causes weakness and fluid build-up in lungs and limbs. Many people with heart failure, who tend to be older, have been found to be deficient in vitamin D.

“Heart failure will progress despite the best medications,” says Simpson, a professor of pharmacology at the U-M Medical School. “We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart."

The U-M researchers wanted to show whether a form of vitamin D could have beneficial effects on hearts that have developed or are at risk of developing heart failure. They used a breed of laboratory rats predisposed to develop human-like heart failure.

The researchers measured the effects of activated Vitamin D (1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, a form called calcitriol) in rats given a normal diet or a high-salt diet, compared to control group rats given either of the same two diets, but no vitamin D treatment. The rats on the high-salt diet were likely to develop heart failure within months.

The rats on the high-salt diet, comparable to the fast food that many humans feast on, quickly revealed the difference vitamin D could make.

“From these animals, we have obtained exciting and very important results,” Simpson says.

After 13 weeks, the researchers found that the heart failure-prone rats on the high-salt diet that were given the calcitriol treatment had significantly lower levels of several key indicators of heart failure than the untreated high-salt diet rats in the study. The treated rats had lower heart weight. Also, the left ventricles of the treated rats’ hearts were smaller and their hearts worked less for each beat while blood pressure was maintained, indicating that their heart function did not deteriorate as it did in the untreated rats. Decreased heart weight, meaning that enlargement was not occurring, also showed up in the treated rats fed a normal diet, compared to their untreated counterparts.

Simpson and his colleagues have explored vitamin D’s effects on heart muscle and the cardiovascular system for more than 20 years. In 1987, when Simpson showed the link between vitamin D and heart health, the idea seemed far-fetched and research funding was scarce. Now, a number of studies worldwide attest to the vitamin D-heart health link (see citations below).

The new heart insights add to the growing awareness that widespread vitamin D deficiency—thought to affect one-third to one-half of U.S. adults middle-aged and older—may be putting people at greater risk of many common diseases. Pharmaceutical companies are developing anti-cancer drugs using vitamin D analogs, which are synthetic compounds that produce vitamin D’s effects. There’s also increasing interest in using vitamin D or its analogs to treat autoimmune disorders.

In more than a dozen types of tissues and cells in the body, activated vitamin D acts as a powerful hormone, regulating expression of essential genes and rapidly activating already expressed enzymes and proteins. In the heart, Simpson’s team has revealed precisely how activated vitamin D connects with specific vitamin D receptors and produces its calming, protective effects. Those results appeared in the February issue of Endocrinology.

Sunlight causes the skin to make activated vitamin D. People also get vitamin D from certain foods and vitamin D supplements. Taking vitamin D supplements and for many people, getting sun exposure in safe ways, are certainly good options for people who want to keep their hearts healthy. But people with heart failure or at risk of heart failure will likely need a drug made of a compound or analog of vitamin D that will more powerfully produce vitamin D’s effects in the heart if they are to see improvement in their symptoms, Simpson says.

Vitamin D analogs already are on the market for some conditions. One present drawback of these compounds is that they tend to increase blood calcium to undesirable levels. Simpson’s lab is conducting studies of a specific analog which may be less toxic, so efforts to develop a vitamin D-based drug to treat heart failure are moving a step closer to initial trials in people.

In addition to Simpson, other U-M authors include Peter Mancuso, Ph.D., of the U-M Department of Environmental Health Sciences; Ayesha Rahman, Ph.D., Stephen D. Hershey, M.D., Loredana Dandu and Karl A. Nibbelink, M.D. of the Department of Pharmacology in the U-M Medical School.

Funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health.

Patents related to this research have been applied for by the U-M Office of Technology Transfer.

Featured Articles

Low Testosterone May Equal Early Death

ScienceDaily (June 21, 2008) — Men may not live as long if they have low testosterone, regardless of their age, according to a new study.

The new study, from Germany, adds to the scientific evidence linking deficiency of this sex hormone with increased death from all causes over time–so-called "all-cause mortality."

The results should serve as a warning for men with low testosterone to have a healthier lifestyle, including weight control, regular exercise and a healthy diet, said lead author Robin Haring, a PhD student from Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald, Institute for Community Medicine.

"It is very possible that lifestyle determines levels of testosterone," he said.

In the study, Haring and co-workers looked at death from any cause in nearly 2,000 men aged 20 to 79 years who were living in northeast Germany and who participated in the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP). Follow-up averaged 7 years. At the beginning of the study, 5 percent of these men had low blood testosterone levels, defined as the lower end of the normal range for young adult men. The men with low testosterone were older, more obese, and had a greater prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure, compared with men who had higher testosterone levels, Haring said.

Men with low testosterone levels had more than 2.5 times greater risk of dying during the next 10 years compared to men with higher testosterone, the study found. This difference was not explained by age, smoking, alcohol intake, level of physical activity, or increased waist circumference (a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease), Haring said.

In cause-specific death analyses, low testosterone predicted increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and cancer but not death of any other single cause.

DPC Biermann, Bad Nauheim, Germany, provided the testosterone reagent, and Novo Nordisc provided partial funding for this analysis.

Detailed results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

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Mom’s Diet During Pregnancy- A Trigger For Childhood Obesity

ScienceDaily (June 22, 2008) — The notion that you are what you eat may go back even farther – to your mother, said a Baylor College of Medicine researcher in a report that appears in the current issue of the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology.

"We want to understand the mechanisms behind the current epidemic of childhood obesity," said Dr. Kjersti M. Aagaard-Tillery, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BCM. "What efforts can we take in pregnancy to affect this problem? Is it that the mom is obese or is exposure to a high fat diet the problem?"

A consortium of researchers from BCM, the University of Utah Health Sciences in Salt Lake and the Oregon National Primate Research Center teamed up to study what happens to the offspring of non-human primate mothers fed a diet consisting of 35 percent fat. When compared to those who ate a 13 percent fat diet, the offspring of these animals had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (comparable to that found in obese human youngsters). In fact, their triglycerides (one form of fat measured in blood) were three times higher than those of the normal offspring.

In some cases, the mothers on the high fat diet did not become obese themselves but their offspring suffered the same ill effects as those of moms who did become obese.

At a molecular level, Aagaard and her collaborators found modifications in the DNA backbone – the histones – of the offspring of the mothers who ate a high fat diet. This is called an epigenetic change, which means that while it does not affect the DNA code per se, it still affects the way that the genes are regulated and the degree to which they are expressed (the so-called "histone code").

"We found that there were genes that were differentially regulated in the livers of the offspring whose mothers had a high fat diet, and that these changes were associated with histone alterations," she said. "The genes affected were not always those associated with obesity."

She is now trying to find out why these gene changes exist and how they might affect the animals later in life. She is interested in looking at whether they are the direct result of permanent modifications in the histones in both the liver and brain, and whether they further relate to specific changes in the chemical modifications (or methylation) of the regulatory regions of genes.

Others who took part in this work include Kevin Grove and Jacalyn Bishop of the Oregon Health Science University, Oregon National Primate Research Center and Xingrao Ke, Qi Fu, Robert McKnight, and Robert H. Lane of the University of Utah Health Sciences in Salt Lake.

Funding for this work came from the 2007 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovators Award to Aagaard, the National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.