3 Cups of Coffee Safe for Pregnant Women’s

LONDON - Drinking reasonable amounts of caffeine in pregnancy does not lead to early births or underweight babies, Danish scientists said on Friday. Up to three cups of coffee a day does not seem to have any harmful effect on the baby or the pregnancy.

Previous studies that looked at the impact of reasonable caffeine consumption during pregnancy have created mixed results. Some showed no dissimilarity while others suggested too much caffeine could lower standard birth weight by 100-200 grams (3.5-7 ounces).

“In our study we found no effect from caffeine,” said Dr Bodil Hammer Bech, of the Institute of Public Health in Aarhus, Denmark.

Unlike further research projects in which women that had given birth were asked how much coffee they drank while pregnant, the Danish scientist’s monitored 1,207 pregnant coffee fans who were randomly chosen to drink either a caffeinated or decaffeinated brew during the second half of the pregnancy.

The women did not know which group they were in.

“We had two groups and we truly found no dissimilarity between the average birth weight for reasonable intake of caffeine -- about three cups,” said Bech, whose findings are reported online by the British Medical Journal.

“The difference in the weight of the babies among the two groups was 20 grams (0.7 ounce) and there was no disparity in the gestational age.”

In the caffeinated group, 4.2 percent of babies were born premature compared to 5.2 percent in women consumption decaffeinated coffee. The number of newborns who were small for their gestational age was nearly the same in both groups.

Bech said women who drink a lot of coffee typically smoke and drink more alcohol than other women’s, which might influence birth weight.

But because the women were randomized in the study, the other aspects that may have a consequence on the baby and the pregnancy were equal in the two groups.

In an earlier study, Bech and her team showed that too much coffee consumption, eight cups or more, could raise the risk of stillbirth.

“About three cups of coffee a day is OK but women with a higher drinking sshould be careful,” said Bech.


Calcium is Important for Breast-feeding Moms

Women who breast-feed may need to be watchful about getting enough calcium to keep their teeth and gums healthy, new animal research suggests.

In experimentations with rats, researchers found that lactating rodents were mainly susceptible to the effects of low calcium intake on the bones that hold up the teeth. Such bone-density loss can speed the succession of any existing gum disease.

Though the findings come from animals, they do suggest it's significant for breast-feeding mothers to embrace enough calcium in their diets, lead researcher Dr. Kanako Shoji told Reuters Health.

Shoji and colleagues at Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry in Japan report the findings in the Journal of Periodontology.

Calcium requirements increase

During breast-feeding, a woman's calcium load go up to meet her growing baby's needs, the researchers point out. In addition, certain hormonal transforms during breast-feeding may contribute to bone-density loss.

So adequate calcium intake - from foods like milk, cheese and fortified cereals and juice - may become particularly important. The suggested calcium intake for women ages 19 to 50, breast-feeding or not, is 1,000 milligrams a day.

If a woman doesn't find adequate calcium from food, Shoji noted, supplements are an option.


Trans Fats may Increase Infertility Risk

NEW YORK - Women who desire to get pregnant may want to stay away from fast food french fries not just to stay away from putting on some extra pounds, a new study shows.

More trans fats a woman consumes, the more likely she is to be infertile, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues found.

Trans fats are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods, packaged snacks and other sources, and are known to raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes. "Even for someone who's not trying to get pregnant, it is a very good suggestion to stay away from them," Chavarro told Reuters Health.

Trans fats can interfere with the action of a cell receptor concerned in inflammation, insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, Chavarro and his team note in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Drugs that trigger the receptor have been revealed to recover fertility in women with a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome.

To examine how trans fat consumption may affect fertility, the researchers analyzed data from 18,555 healthy women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. All were married and trying to get pregnant between 1991 and 1999.

For each 2 percent boost in the amount of calories a woman got from trans fats as an alternative of carbohydrates, the researchers found, her risk of infertility increased by 73 percent. The risk rose by 79 percent for every 2 percent of energy in trans fats if they replaced omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. And for every 2 percent of calories derived from trans fats instead of monounsaturated fats, the risk of infertility more than doubled.

For a woman eating 1,800 calories a day, 2 percent of energy intake in trans fats equals 4 grams, Chavarro noted. "It's not very hard to get 4 grams of trans fatty acids every day," he said. "It's really a small quantity of trans fatty acids that we observe having a noteworthy effect on infertility."

The Food and Drug Administration now needs manufacturers to state on their label if a food has a half gram of trans fat per serving or more, Chavarro noted, but foods with less than a half gram are tolerable to claim that they have zero grams of trans fat. To cut trans fats out of the diet completely, he added, people should sstay away from all foods that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients.


Dental X-rays: New way to Detect Bone-thinning Disease

NEW YORK - A computer program that analyzes routine dental X-rays could offer an easy, cheap way to detect the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, new study suggests.

British researchers establish that a software program they developed was capable to spot signs of declining bone density in dental X-rays of the lower jaw — a latent indication of osteoporosis.

The findings, they report, propose that regular dental X-rays could give an inexpensive way to provide wide screening of older adults for osteoporosis. Those with signs of bone thinning in the jaw could be referred for more expensive osteoporosis testing.

In the U.S., the Preventive Services Task Force advises that all women age 65 or older be screened for osteoporosis — the “gold standard” for screening is a relatively costly test called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Medicare will pay for this test each two years.

In the United Kingdom, the national health system at this time has no program for osteoporosis screening.

That means a lot of people with the disease — the majority often older women — won’t know they have it until they endure a fracture, said Dr. Hugh Devlin of the University of Manchester, the lead author on the new study.

The study conclusion, published online in the journal Bone, are based on bone X-rays of 652 European women 45 to 70. All of the women underwent DXA, as well as panoramic dental X-rays, which show the whole jaw.

The DXA tests establish osteoporosis in the hip or spine in 140 women. Study of dental X-rays picked up more than half of these cases, the researchers found.

More effort is needed ahead of dental X-rays become part of osteoporosis screening, Devlin said. “We want to find out the approach of patients and doctors to this new role of dentists identifying patients they suspect of being at high risk of osteoporosis,” he noted.

The next step, according to Devlin, will be for an X-ray gear company to take to the idea and put together the software into its products.


Womb Transplants Might Become Reality

Existing organ donor networks appear able to provide human wombs, or uteruses, for transplantation as a possible approach to treating infertility, researchers report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore of New York Downtown Hospital and colleagues came to this conclusion after participating in a local organ donor network recovery team for over 6 months.

Approximately 1,800 heart-beating, but brain-dead, organ donors were identified through an existing donor network. The removal of several organs took place in about 150 of the donors and 9 had specifically permission to donate their uterus.

The uterus was detached without complications in eight donors. Tissue testing suggested that the organs were, in fact, fit for transplantation.

The researchers point out that the transplant of organs that are not needed to preserve life raises ethical issues. So far, the only human uterine transplant that has been performed was “controversial and unsuccessful.”

However, they note that surgical techniques have enhanced and the successful retrieval of a functional human uterus brings the possibility of such transplants closer.

“Our hope,” the team concludes, “is to eventually reinstate reproductive function through transplantation of a human uterus.”


Herbal Supplements No Help?

PHILADELPHIA - A well known herbal treatment named black cohosh is practically ineffective at relieving hot flashes and night sweats in women going through menopause, a study found.

The findings were bad news for women looking for alternatives to estrogen-progestin hormone supplements, which have been connected to breast cancer and heart problems.

The yearlong study of 351 women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats found that those given black cohosh got about the same amount of relief as those who took a placebo. And those groups saw nothing close to the development in women on hormones.

“It’s disappointing news,” said Katherine Newton, an epidemiologist who helped pilot the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “It would be nice to offer something safe and effective.”

The study was conducted at Seattle-based Group Health, a health plan, and was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Black cohosh - a herb that is a member of the buttercup family and is usually given to ease menopause symptoms — is available in pill or liquid type and is sold over the counter in many health food stores and over the Internet.
It is among a host of supplements including soy, wild yam, red clover and St. John’s wort that have been tried for relief of hot flashes and night sweats, but studies almost universally have found supplement don’t work.

Certain antidepressants have proved effective, and one company, Depomed Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., plans to seek the Food and Drug Administration’s approval to sell an anti-seizure drug, gabapentin, for release of hot flashes.

In the newest study, some participants were given black cohosh, while others received hormone supplements, a placebo or a botanical treatment that included black cohosh, alfalfa, licorice and ginseng.

Women taking the herbal treatments saw hot flashes reduced by only about half an episode per day match up to with those taking the placebo, the study found. Those who got hormone therapy reduced their hot flashes by about four episodes per day when compared with the placebo.


Women Going off Menopause Hormones

SAN ANTONIO – The news that a big drop in breast cancer cases might be due to millions of women going off menopause hormones may lead even more of them to dump the pills.

But doctors concern that women with strict menopausal symptoms will overreact to the risks and refuse themselves the benefits of hormones.

"There are some women who really require treatment. ... I worry that they will be talked out of it," said Dr. JoAnn Manson, a women's health expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Hormone use plummeted following a 2002 study found that it raised the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other troubles. Before that, the pills were thought to avoid many of those conditions, and doctors prescribed them as little fountains of youth.

Researchers reported that the rate of breast cancer in the United States dropped over 7 percent in 2003, the year following that landmark study. The reaction against hormones is measured the leading details for the decline.

Some women are still with hormone therapy "because their doctors genuinely believe that it prevents some diseases," said Dr. Isaac Schiff of Massachusetts General Hospital, who headed a panel for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that recommended in 2004 that doctors not refuse to give the treatment from women who really need it.

But that's not as many women as you might think, Manson said.

About 2 million women begin menopause each year in the United States, but only about one-fourth have moderate to severe symptoms lasting longer than four years, said Manson, whose new book, "Hot Flashes, Hormones & Your Health," includes a flowchart to help women make a decision whether to use hormones, which type and for how long.

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