Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Health Bulletin

Published:Wednesday | December 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

(1) Eating more green vegetables may aid heart health, reduce risk of obesity, diabetes

Three new studies reveal that a chemical called nitrate - found in green vegetables, including spinach, lettuce and celery - may aid heart health and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes.

The three studies were conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton, both in the United Kingdom.

In the first study, co-led by Dr Andrew Murray from the University of Cambridge and published in The FASEB Journal, researchers found that eating more vegetables rich in nitrate may reduce production of a hormone made by the liver and kidneys, called erythropoietin. This hormone regulates the number of red blood cells in the body.

The team explains that at high altitudes or in cardiovascular diseases, the body is subject to a shortage of oxygen. In order to get more oxygen around the body, erythropoietin increases its production of blood cells.

However, high numbers of blood cells can cause the blood to become too thick. This means that the body's organs and tissues may be starved of oxygen because the blood is unable to flow through small blood vessels to get to them.

But the findings from the team indicate that eating more nitrate-rich vegetables could thin the blood by lowering the number of red blood cells produced, which could have important implications for health.

In addition, the researchers note that their findings could lead to the discovery of better ways to deliver oxygen to cells, which may help the recovery of patients in intensive care units.

Dr. Murray led the second study, which was recently published in The Journal of Physiology. In this research, the team exposed rats to high altitudes in order to trigger increased production of red blood cells.

They found that rats fed a diet with nitrate - the equivalent to humans adding slightly more green vegetables to their diets - were better protected against an array of heart and circulatory conditions than rats fed a nitrate-free diet.

This is because nitrate increases production of a compound that widens the blood vessels, according to the researchers, improving blood flow. What is more, the researchers found that nitrate protects proteins in heart cells that are crucial for heart health.

"Nitrate supplementation may thus be of benefit to individuals exposed to hypobaric hypoxia at altitude or in patients with diseases characterised by tissue hypoxia and energetic impairment, such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or in the critically ill," the team says.

In the third study - published in the journal Diabetes and led by Lee Roberts from the University of Cambridge - the team found that nitrate subjects "bad" white fat cells to a process called "browning", which converts them into beige cells.

The researchers explain that beige cells are similar to "good" brown fat cells, which burn fat in order to generate heat. Increased levels of brown fat have been associated with reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, therefore the team hypothesises that incorporating nitrate into the diet could protect against these conditions.

(2) Health care workers being trained by Cuban experts in Ebola preparedness and response activities

Over 150 health-care workers are now being trained by two Cuban experts over the next few weeks, as part of Jamaica's Ebola preparedness, response and management activities. The training will cover epidemiology, patient management, safety, infection control, use of personal protective equipment, risks associated with Ebola and isolation. The training began on December 1 and there will be four training sessions conducted, each over a three-day period.

Among the participants being trained are doctors and nurses from the public and private health sector, representatives from the University Hospital of the West Indies and the School of Public Health, University of Technology. These persons along with the 30 Cuban workers who arrived in the island in November will be a part of the team of health staff in preparation for any possibility of Ebola reaching Jamaica.

The training being done by the Cubans is part of an agreement reached during a Mission to Cuba in October led by Minister of Health, Dr. Fenton Ferguson.

The two Cubans who are experts in the field of microbiology and epidemiology, arrived in Jamaica on November 29 from the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana.

Cuba has also agreed to deploy doctors and nurses to assist in the response if Jamaica experiences an outbreak of Ebola.

(3) Male smokers can lose Y chromosomes

Male smokers are reportedly three times more likely than non-smoking men to lose their Y chromosomes, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Researchers at Sweden's Uppsala University reportedly found that Y chromosomes, which are crucial for sex determination and sperm production, disappear from blood cells of those consistently smoking than those of men who have never smoked or of men who have quit smoking, according to Reuters.

The results of the study reportedly explain why smoking has greater health risks and a great risk factor for cancer among men than women.

"There is a correlation between a common and avoidable risk factor, that is smoking, and the most common human mutation - loss of the Y chromosome," stated Jan Dumanski, an Uppsala professor who worked on the study.

She continued, "This may in part explain why men in general have a shorter life span than women and why smoking is more dangerous for men."

Those who are looking to quit smoking are in luck, according to the study. Y chromosomes reportedly return to the blood cells of men who quit smoking, the study found.

"These results indicate that smoking can cause loss of the Y chromosome and that this process might be reversible," stated lead study author Lars Forsberg in a press release. "This discovery could be very persuasive for motivating smokers to quit."

(4) Jamaicans urged to be vigilant in destroying mosquito breeding sites in light of recent rainfall

Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson is urging citizens to be even more vigilant in looking for and destroying mosquito breeding sites in their environment in light of the recent rainfall which affected the island. Dr Ferguson says this is necessary to limit the spread of vector borne diseases, including chikungunya.

"Mosquitoes can breed in anything that collects water. The recent rainfall has created even more opportunity for containers to collect water and become mosquito breeding sites. Persons should also ensure that they cover containers used to store water. Uncovered drums and water tanks have been found to be the main breeding sites for mosquitoes," he explained.

Chikungunya is spread by the Aedes aegypti, which is mainly a day biting mosquito that will almost always be found in and around areas where people live, work and play. The mosquito breeds in water that settles in containers around homes, schools, churches, workplaces and playgrounds. Persons are urged to get rid of old tyres and other containers in which water can settle, punch holes in tins before disposing, and properly cover large drums, barrels and tanks holding water.

Dr Ferguson is also urging individuals and communities to ensure consistent clean up of their environment to reduce the possibility of spread of vector borne and other diseases.

"We should continue the clean up thrust that was started as a result of the chikungunya outbreak and ensure that we consistently keep our environment clean. Individual responsibility in this regard is the only way that we will be able to reduce the vectors that spread diseases and therefore the impact on the population," Dr Ferguson said.

Chikungunya may become a source of chronic pain. Individuals who are experiencing a relapse, that is, a return of symptoms including joint pains, can take stronger pain medication.

Infants and the elderly are at greater risk for more severe symptoms. There are some diseases that may increase the risk for severe symptoms such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.