Birth control and depression

Use of hormonal birth control has been linked with an increased risk of depression, especially in adolescents, according to a Danish study analysing health registry data and published in JAMA Psychiatry. Øjvind Lidegaard, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and co-authors used registry data in Denmark for a study population of more than 1 million women and adolescent girls (aged 15–34 years). They were followed up from 2000 through 2013, with an average follow-up of 6.4 years. During the follow-up, 55% of the women and adolescents were current or recent users of hormonal contraception. There were 133 178 first prescriptions for antidepressants and 23 077 first diagnoses of depression during the follow-up. Compared with non-users, women who used combined oral contraceptives had 1.23 times higher relative risk of a first use of an antidepressant, and the risk for women taking progestin-only pills was 1.34-fold. The estimated risks for depression diagnoses were similar or lower. The risk for women varied among different types of hormonal contraception. Some of the highest risk rates were among adolescent girls, who had 1.8 times higher risk of first use of an antidepressant when using combined oral contraceptives, and 2.2 times higher risk with progestin-only pills. Adolescent girls who used non-oral products had about 3 times higher risk for first use of an antidepressant. Estimated risks for first diagnoses of depression were similar or lower.

Optimal diet to boost life-extending hormone

New research published in Cell Metabolism suggests that a low protein, high carbohydrate diet may be most effective for stimulating a hormone with life-extending and obesity-fighting benefits. A little-known hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) – the so-called “fountain of youth” hormone – is produced primarily in the liver. Previous studies have shown that FGF21 plays a role in curbing appetite, moderating metabolism, improving the immune system and extending lifespan. It is also currently being used as a therapeutic target for diabetes, though little is known about how this hormone is triggered and released in the body. Now researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre have found that diets high in carbohydrate and low in protein are the best for boosting levels of FGF21 in mice. Researchers fed 858 mice one of 25 diets that varied in protein, carbohydrate, fat and energy content. These diets ranged from 5–60% protein and 5–75% carbohydrate and fat. Using the geometric framework, the researchers then mapped these macronutrient variables to investigate how nutritional balance affected FGF21 levels. The study also revealed that when high carbohydrate diets increased FGF21 levels, the mice compensated for the excess by burning more energy. Conversely in a starvation state, FGF21 promoted energy conservation. “FGF21 has been shown to be elevated in really paradoxical conditions: in starvation and obesity, in cases of both insulin resistance and insensitivity and when there’s a high and a low intake of food,” said co-author Professor Stephen Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre. “It appears that FGF21 is really switched on by a low protein intake, and its metabolic effects vary on whether it’s coupled with high energy or low energy.”

Computing kidney donor matches

A new DNA-based scoring system could help improve predictions of long term success of kidney transplants, which researchers hope will minimise the gap between organ supply and demand. Kidney donors and recipients are often matched by detecting differences in DNA sequences at a few specific locations: the fewer the differences, the better the chances of better kidney function after transplant. But 40–50% of kidney transplants still fail within 10 years. Researchers in the United States have developed a computational method which looks for genetic differences across a large number of genes, which they hope will lead to better matching of donors and recipients. To investigate broader genetic impact on kidney transplants, researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, collected DNA data for a large number of genes from 53 pairs of kidney donors and recipients. The investigators developed a computational method that assigned a score to each donor and recipient pair based on mismatches in their DNA sequences. After transplantation surgery, the researchers followed each donor and recipient pair for several years to see how well their mismatch score predicted kidney function. They found that the score significantly predicted the ability of the transplanted kidneys to properly filter blood. The study was published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Restricting alcohol trading hours substantially reduces violence

Restricting alcohol trading hours can substantially reduce the rates of violence, and relaxing trading hours has the opposite effect, according to the first systematic review of alcohol trading hours and violence in more than 5 years. The review, published in the Sax Institute’s Public Health Research and Practice journal, analyses 21 separate studies on trading hours and alcohol-related harm from Australia and across the developed world. “From reviewing the evidence, the message is clear − the more you restrict alcohol trading hours, the more you reduce violence,” said lead author Claire Wilkinson from Melbourne’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University. “The findings of this systematic review are strong enough for us to recommend governments to make restrictions on late trading hours for bars and hotels, a central plank in any strategy to reduce late-night violence. We analysed 21 Australian and international studies for this review, and the weight of evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of restricting alcohol trading hours in combating violence. A study from Newcastle for example, found a 37% reduction in assaults in the city between 10 pm and 6 am following the introduction of trading restrictions in 2008. In Sydney, assaults were down between 26–32%, following the New South Wales Government’s ‘last drinks’ and ‘lockout’ laws introduced in 2014. Evidence from abroad was also compelling. One Norwegian study found that each 1-hour reduction in trading hours was associated with a 16% drop in recorded assaults, and a Dutch study found a 34% increase in alcohol-related ambulance attendances following the extension of trading hours in two entertainment precincts in Amsterdam.”



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Screening for sarcopenia is something I will add to my older patients' management plans
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One thought on “Research news in brief

  1. Jenny Bradford says:

    Let’s not forget about younger women, some of whom have never done exercise, dropped out of hight school sport early, and find themselves overweight or obese in their early twenties. These women need to be encouraged to start regular weight-bearing exercise now, before they develop the consequences of sarcopenia and obesity.
    Many women who have never exercised find it very difficult to start exercise once they are older and have a medical problem, often because the habit of exercise was not ingrained when they were teenagers.

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