Originally created 07/23/98

Health capsules



Men in denial

Call it happy-go-lucky confidence or pure, unspoken terror: Only 60 percent of adult males have had a basic physical exam in the last year, compared to 76 percent of women, a recent survey shows.

Even worse, 10 percent of the nation's tough guys haven't had a physical in more than 10 years, or "since the Reagan administration," says Mike Lafavore, editor of Men's Health magazine.

Conducted for the magazine and CNN, the national survey of 1,017 adults age 18 and older focused on how often men see doctors and on their interest in nutrition, family history, prevention, stress, and sun and skin care.

Power of suggestion

Any benefits from the newest antidepressant drugs may be all in your head. Researchers who analyzed 19 studies of antidepressants, including Prozac-type drugs, found that the psychological boost from taking a pill, rather than changes in brain chemistry, could account for the improvements in patients, New Scientist magazine reports. Unlike pharmaceutical companies, which say the drugs are 40 percent more effective than chemically inactive placebos, the researchers found the drugs were only 25 percent better.

Head and heartaches

People who have clogged arteries should not take certain migraine medications, Dutch researchers report. Studies of arteries in the lab show that many of the medications cause contractions of the arteries, some of them lasting for up to 90 minutes. The researchers tested several drugs, including ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, methysergide, and newer drugs such as sumatriptan, naratriptan, zolmitriptan and rizatriptan.

Caution diabetics

Diabetics who undergo intensive treatment with insulin can often become obese, increasing their risk of developing heart disease, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Inside your brain

Technology being pioneered at a Toronto hospital could revolutionize brain surgery by cutting operating time in half and reducing hospital stays by 90 percent. Using state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging, Image-Guided Minimally Invasive Therapy can pinpoint a tumor's location during an operation.

The living Bible

A chromosome test has confirmed the strict father-to-son inheritance of the priestly status in Jewish tradition, Oxford University scientists report in the journal Nature. After the Exodus from Egypt, males of the tribe of Levi were given special religious responsibilities and descendants of Moses' brother Aaron formed a priestly caste called the Cohanim. Tests show latter-day Cohanim are genetically similar.

Nicotine in the genes

Nicotine's power depends partly on genetics. Studies of twins long ago convinced scientists that heredity influences who smokes and who can easily quit. Now researchers have found specific genes that affect smoking behavior. Last month in the British journal Nature, Canadian scientists described variations in a gene coding for a liver enzyme that chews up nicotine. The forms of the gene people have can sway whether and how much they smoke, reported Rachel Tyndale, a pharmacologist at the University of Toronto, and her colleagues.

People who break down nicotine more slowly are less likely to smoke regularly, and if they do, they tend to smoke fewer cigarettes, the Canadian researchers found.

Sweet honey

Dark honey not only tastes different than lighter honey, but it also has higher nutritional value, researchers at the University of Illinois have found.

A honey's color is related to the nectar ingested by the bees that produce it, and the Illinois researchers contend that bees that frequent the Illinois buckwheat flower provide honey that packs a more healthful punch than others.

The researchers were led by May Berenbaum, an entomologist known as a host of popular film festivals organized on bug themes. They analyzed 19 samples of honey derived from 14 flower sources with an eye toward the level of antioxidants in each sample. Vitamins E and C are two well-known antioxidants.

Honey from the Illinois buckwheat flower packed 20 times as much antioxidant punch as its counterpart made from California sage. Clover-based honey was in the middle of the pack in antioxidant value.