Essential multi-vitamins


  • Health
  • Wednesday, 14 Jul 2004

High-dose multivitamins that cost US$15 (RM57) annually can be a cost-effective way to delay the progression of HIV into AIDS, and also delay the initiation of expensive antiretroviral therapy, according to researchers. 

A study sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health of 1,078 HIV-positive pregnant women in Tanzania showed that high doses of vitamin B complex and vitamins C and E were more effective than placebos or vitamin A in delaying the onset and controlling symptoms. 

The research, conducted from 1995 to 2003 when antiretroviral drugs were not available to most women in Tanzania, showed a 50% reduction in the risk of progression to AIDS in those who took multivitamins, compared with those who didn’t.  

About 7% of the women who took multivitamins progressed to AIDS, compared with 12% in the placebo group.  

About 19% of the women who took multivitamins died, compared with 25% in the placebo group.  

The effect was strongest in the first two years.  

Vitamin A, which evidence had indicated might be beneficial, did not seem to help. 

The lead author, Wafaie Fawzi, an associate professor of international nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said she hoped the study would encourage health programs to use vitamins B, C, and E in treatment programmes in the developing world. – LAT-WP 

Keeping mosquitoes away 

NOW found in sunscreens, wipes and a variety of sprays and sticks, DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a way to prevent bites from mosquitoes that may be carrying the West Nile virus. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the CDC have concluded that the chemical is not toxic for humans when used as directed. 

“All the studies say that this is still safe to use,” said Laurene Mascola, chief of the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program in Los Angeles County, California. But some parents – and health experts – have their doubts about the chemical.  

The US Army developed DEET in 1946 to ward off ticks and mosquitoes for its soldiers, and the chemical became available to the public in 1957.  

Studies have found DEET to be the longest-lasting mosquito repellent on the market. But the chemical is also capable of dissolving watch crystals and eyeglass frames, and the Environmental Protection Agency has linked it to a few seizures and deaths over the years. 

“We don't know that these are safe for our children neurologically,” said Nevin, a family doctor in Toronto. Even public-health officials who recommend DEET say dousing frequently with the chemical is probably not smart. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting application to once a day for children. 

Since 1960, between 14 and 46 cases of seizures have been associated with DEET contact, sometimes by children ingesting the chemical. Between 50 million and 80 million Americans use DEET every year. 

Studies at Duke University Medical Center in 2001 indicated that long-term use of DEET, in combination with other chemicals, killed neurons in rats’ brains. 

The CDC and EPA recommend taking precautions when using DEET repellents. For instance, the chemical shouldn’t be sprayed on open wounds, should be washed off as soon as possible and shouldn’t be applied to children’s hands (which can find their way into mouths).  

Nor should parents use DEET on children younger than two months. But Mascola says children are at a relatively low risk of being infected with West Nile virus. The median age of the 57 people diagnosed nationwide with West Nile this year, through June 29, is 53.  

Consumers who want protection against mosquitoes but would prefer a natural alternative should know that those repellents may need to be applied more frequently. 

A 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that natural insect repellents did not last as long as DEET.  

Soybean-oil-based repellents, for example, protected against mosquitoes for an average of 94 minutes. Other botanicals, including citronella, lasted less than 20 minutes. A repellent with 23.8% DEET would keep mosquitoes at bay for an average of five hours. 

Higher concentrations of DEET generally mean longer protection from mosquitoes, but for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying repellent containing less than 30% percent DEET.  

“More is not necessarily better when it comes to DEET,” said Daniel Sudakin, an assistant professor of toxicology at Oregon State University.  

“I think that based on the available scientific data, insect repellents containing DEET are safe and effective when used according to labeling instructions,” he said. – LAT-WP  

Poor parenting 

MORE evidence linking family dysfunction to conduct behaviour problems in children, and eventually adolescent delinquency, comes from a new study.  

Specifically, the findings show a link between childhood firesetting behaviour and marital violence and paternal abuse of animals and alcohol.  

The study also ties cruelty to animals by children to marital violence and harsh parenting. – Reuters 

Dementia risk 

THE likelihood of developing dementia is high after stroke, according to the results of a study published in the medical journal Neurology.  

The study also found that the characteristics of post-stroke dementia appear to shift. In the first years after stroke it seems to be an Alzheimer-type disease, then changes to a vascular dementia type in later years. – Reuters 

Short-term boost 

A SHORT burst of stress appears to help the body fight off infections, but chronic stress may produce the opposite effect, according to a new report. After reviewing 300 studies that investigated the link between stress and immunity, researchers found that short-term stress appears to rev up the immune system, while chronic stress produces changes in the body that seem to diminish immune functioning. – Reuters 

Preventing spread of HIV to babies 

JUST one dose of a generic AIDS drug can help prevent the spread of the disease from mother to baby in four out of five cases, a remarkable finding that could have wide impact in the developing world, doctors said. A research team led by Marc Lallemant of the Program for HIV Treatment and Prevention in Chiang Mai, Thailand, found the drug nevirapine was “highly effective” in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the AIDS virus. 

Risky pregnancy 

WOMEN with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot can have successful pregnancies, but overall they have an increased risk for miscarriage and their offspring are at increased risk for birth defects, results of a study indicate.  

In tetralogy of Fallot, major arteries are misconnected to the wrong chambers of the heart. The anomaly is usually corrected surgically in childhood. – Reuters 

More than a tan 

FOR frequent tanners, the tanning bed may offer more than a bronzed skin. The ultraviolet (UV) radiation used in indoor tanning may actually raise their mood and make them feel relaxed, new research suggests.  

“Tanning isn't just about pigment change in the skin,” according to Dr Steven R. Feldman of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who led the study. – Reuters 

Improving heart function 

ADULT stem cells taken from bone marrow can improve heart function in patients who have suffered a heart attack, German researchers said.  

Stem cells are master cells that can develop into specialised cells. They hold the promise of treating a range of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. – Reuters

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