Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Acupuncture can improve skeletal muscle atrophy

A team of Japanese researchers will reveal study results Monday at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting that show how acupuncture therapy mitigates skeletal muscle loss and holds promise for those seeking improved mobility through muscle rejuvenation.

"It is my hope that this study will demonstrate acupuncture's feasibility with regard to improving health among the elderly and medical patients. Our findings could identify acupuncture as the primary nonpharmacological treatment to prevent skeletal muscle atrophy in the future," says Akiko Onda, an acupuncturist and graduate student at the Waseda University School of Sport Sciences, who has been conducting a series of studies on skeletal muscle atrophy for the past four years. Her presentation will be at 12:25 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, which is part of EB2012.

Loss of skeletal muscle mass has a profound effect on the ability of the elderly and the sick to engage in physical activity. Because skeletal muscle has high plasticity, interventions such as exercise training, improved nutrition and mechanical stimulation are often recommended to prevent atrophy. Unfortunately, these can be challenging goals for those who are already frail or who have severe medical conditions. Onda insists an alternative nonpharmacological intervention is urgently required, and so she and her collaborators in two labs at Waseda University decided to explore how acupuncture affects skeletal muscle at the molecular level.

"The main focus of this study is changes in the mRNA expression levels of muscle-specific atrophic genes such as atrogin-1," Onda says. "Muscle mass and structure are determined by the balance between protein degradation and synthesis."

The team showed that decreases in muscle mass in mice and in the mRNA expression level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1 can be significantly reversed by acupuncture.

In spite of the World Health Organization's endorsement of acupuncture and the widespread use of acupuncture as a treatment for various diseases, acupuncture is still regarded by many as obscure and suspicious, and its underlying molecular mechanisms are almost completely unknown.

"Our results have uncovered one molecular mechanism responsible for the efficacy of acupuncture treatment and clarified its usefulness in preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in mice," Onda said. "We hope to introduce acupuncture as a new strategy for preventing skeletal muscle atrophy in the future. Further investigations into its molecular mechanisms will help to decrease the medical community's suspicion of acupuncture and provide us with a better understanding of how acupuncture treatment prevents skeletal muscle atrophy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Meditation Makes You More Creative


Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition.

This study is a clear indication that the advantages of particular types of meditation extend much further than simply relaxation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we think and how we experience events.

Two ingredients of creativity

The study investigates the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.

* Divergent thinking

Divergent thinking allows many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.

* Convergent thinking

Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular probem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch'. The particpants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, 'long'.

Analysis of meditation techniques

Colzato used creativity tasks that measure convergent and divergent thinking to assess which meditation techiques most influence creative activities. The meditation techniques analysed are Open Monitoring and Focused Attention meditation.

* In Open Monitoring meditation the individual is receptive to all the thoughts and sensations experienced without focusing attention on any particular concept or object.
* In Focused Attention meditation the individual focuses on a particular thought or object.

Different types of meditation have different effects

These findings demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. After an Open Monitoring meditation the participants performed better in divergent thinking, and generated more new ideas than previously, but Focused Attention (FA) meditation produced a different result. FA meditation also had no significant effect on convergent thinking leading to resolving a problem.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Naturopathic care can improve blood sugar, mood in diabetes


Holistic approach added to benefits of usual care in joint Group Health–Bastyr University study

Study link: Adjunctive naturopathic care for type 2 diabetes: patient-reported and clinical outcomes after one year

A new joint study by Group Health Research Institute and Bastyr University Research Institute found that type 2 diabetes patients who received naturopathic care (as an adjunct to conventional care) had lower blood-sugar levels, better eating and exercise habits, improved moods, and a stronger sense of control over their condition than did patients receiving only conventional care.

The findings, published today in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, show that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may have several positive effects on people with type 2 diabetes, which affects nearly 26 million Americans.

“The news is encouraging for those fighting the disease,” said Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH, director of the Center for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Wellness at Bastyr University and its clinic, the Bastyr Center for Natural Health. “Patients involved in the study cited the benefits of trying different approaches to find the best ways to minimize the effects of type 2 diabetes. In many ways, that strategy mirrors our partnership with Group Health in this research study—working together to discover the best possible solutions.”

Forty study participants received counseling on diet, exercise, and glucose monitoring from four naturopathic physicians (NDs) in addition to conventional diabetes care from their medical doctors, including prescription medications. Many of the participants also received stress-management care and dietary supplements. Researchers then compared these 40 participants with 329 patients receiving only conventional diabetes care.

In six months and about four naturopathic treatment visits, participants demonstrated improved self-care, more consistent monitoring of glucose, and improved moods. Hemoglobin A1c rates (a measure of blood-sugar control) were nearly a full percentage point lower for those patients. This compares with a drop of only 0.5 percent over the same time period for 329 clinically similar patients receiving only conventional diabetes care. The encouraging findings from this small observational study will need to be confirmed by a randomized trial with larger numbers of participants, according to Dr. Bradley.

Finding more effective ways of treating type 2 diabetes is important because it is one of the top-10 causes of death in Americans and is costly to treat: $1 out of every $10 spent on health care in the United States is used to fight type 2 diabetes, at a cost of $178 billion every year.