Life & Fitness

Overweight and obesity are increasing among children, adolescents and women.

India can take actions such as taxation of foods high on sugar, fat and salt and front-of-the pack labelling to tackle rising obesity in the population, according to teh annual report of Niti Aayog. The government think-tank is reviewing the evidence available to understand the actions India can take to tackle rising obesity in the population, the annual report 2021-22 stated.

The Aayog in the report mentioned that the incidences of overweight and obesity are increasing among children, adolescents and women in India.

“A national consultation on the prevention of maternal, adolescent and childhood obesity was organised under the Chairmanship of Member (Health), Niti Aayog, on June 24, 2021, to discuss policy options to tackle the issue. “Niti Aayog, in collaboration with IEG and PHFI, is reviewing the evidence available to understand the actions India can take, such as front-of-pack labelling, marketing and advertising of HFSS foods and taxation of foods high in fats, sugar and salt, ” it said.
Non-branded namkeens, bhujias, vegetable chips and snack foods attract 5 per cent GST while for branded and packaged items, the GST rate is 12 per cent.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) 2019-20, the percentage of obese women increased to 24 per cent from 20.6 per cent in 2015-16, while the percentage for men rose to 22.9 per cent from 18.4 per cent four years earlier. The government think tank in its annual report also said that an expert committee under Niti Aayog member V K Saraswat to study the technological and commercial viability of the hyperloop system held four meetings so far and sub-committees were constituted.

The sub-committees suggested that hyperloop system be permitted to be built, owned and operated by the private sector and the government act as a facilitator by providing certification, permissions, tax benefits and land (if possible), etc,” it said. The report said a blueprint will be prepared to develop indigenously built hyperloop technology.

According to the annual report, the sub-committees also said that the government will not invest its fund and private players will take the full business risks. Hyperloop is a technology proposed by inventor and businessman Elon Musk, who is behind the electric car company Tesla and the commercial space transport company SpaceX.

The Virgin Hyperloop test run was conducted on November 9, 2020, on a 500-metre track in Las Vegas in the US with a pod, as the hyperloop vehicles are called, travelling with passengers, including an Indian, inside an enclosed tube at more than 100 mph or 161 kmph.

The Virgin Hyperloop is among a handful of companies that are currently trying to build such a system for passenger travel.
Maharashtra has approved the Virgin Hyperloop-DP World Consortium as the original project proponent for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project.

Avian Flu Outbreak in the U.S.: What to Know Right Now

Chickens seen on a farm.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The United States confirmed its first case of avian flu in January after a wild South Carolina duck tested positive for the virus.
  • Experts found the H5N1 Eurasian strain, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus type. The same strain had caused a wave of bird flu outbreaks across Europe and Asia.
  • U.S. bird flu cases continue to rise as the H5N1 strain makes its way across the States.
  • While current evidence suggests H5N1 to be low risk to people, experts say human transmission may cause severe symptoms.

As COVID-19 cases appear to be waning in the United States, experts are cautiously watching the rise of bird flu cases in multiple states.

In January, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) detected the first U.S. bird flu case after a hunted wild bird tested positive for the virus in Colleton County, South Carolina.

Experts reported that it was the H5N1 strain, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI) — the same strain responsible for fatal poultry outbreaks across Europe and Asia in late 2021.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, wild birds usually transmit the flu to each other through direct contact. While wild birds will show no signs of illness if they contract the flu, bird flu can be fatal to poultry.

There are currently no human cases of this avian flu in the United States, but it could still have an impact.

Reported outbreaks across the States

In recent weeks following earlier detection, federal officials identified new cases among wild bird populations in Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, as well as poultry operations in Kentucky and Virginia.

Some backyard flocks in different states including Maine and New York also had the flu.

The USDA confirmed these cases after farm officials euthanized 29,000 turkeys in southern Indiana, in what was the nation’s first confirmed case of H5N1 in commercial poultry operations since 2020.

Federal and state officials are taking steps with poultry farmers to increase biosecurity and prevent new cases. However, this raises concerns about why the bird flu is rising across the States.

“We are not sure how this bird flu strain entered the United States. It could have been imported several times, setting up focal areas of infection in different states,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Now within the U.S., the concern is that this bird flu could spread more widely, transmitted by migrating wild birds that can mingle with domestic flocks of chickens, ducks, and turkeys.”

Experts say the bird flu is an infectious disease, particularly within different bird populations.

“It is influenza season and not a surprise that some flocks are infected with influenza. It may have spread to other areas but has not yet been tested or identified,” said Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“Indiana borders Kentucky, so one might hypothesize that regional spread is possible, but this does not explain why in Virginia,” Fichtenbaum added.

However, Fichtenbaum recommends further surveillance monitoring to accurately determine the spread’s cause.

Drugmakers Sanofi and GSK to seek authorization for Covid vaccinevaccine

Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Wednesday they will seek regulatory approval for a new Covid-19 vaccine after human trials showed it provided a high level of protection against the disease.

Late-stage trials found that two doses of the vaccine were about 58 percent effective in preventing infection and 75 percent effective in preventing moderate to severe disease, the companies said in a statement. A separate study on the vaccine’s use as a booster showed that it “induced a significant increase in neutralizing antibodies,” they said.

Full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic

“The evolving epidemiology of Covid-19 demonstrates the need for a variety of vaccines,” Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said in a statement.

The Sanofi-GSK vaccine uses “a well-established approach that has been applied widely to prevent infection with other viruses including pandemic flu,″ he said. “We are confident that this vaccine can play an important role as we continue to address this pandemic and prepare for the post-pandemic period.”

The drugmakers said they plan to seek regulatory approval from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, which regulates drugs in the European Union.

Hypoxia may build multigenerational resilience against dementia

An intriguing new study finds that, in mice, repetitive exposure to hypoxia may protect against dementia. Manu Prats/Stocksy

Vascular dementia is the secondTrusted Source leading cause of dementia following Alzheimer’s. It occurs due to the interruption of blood and oxygen supply to the brain, which damages the blood vessels.

Low oxygen levels elsewhere in the body can also disrupt other critical organs and their functions. For instance, reduced blood supply to the heart can lead to cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Because low oxygen levels in the body can cause life threatening conditions, it seems paradoxical to deprive a tissue or organ of oxygen to confer benefits. However, a group of researchers is examining some potential benefits of exposure to low oxygen levels, also known as hypoxia.

The scientists recently carried out a study to address two hypotheses:

That hypoxia will reduce the deficits in a mouse model of vascular cognitive impairment and dementia.
That succeeding generations will inherit this “dementia-resilient phenotype.”
The results of the study appear in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s AssociationTrusted Source.

Epigenetics explored
Although the genetic code we are born with remains constant throughout our lives, the way in which this code can be read, or translated, can change. This is called epigenetics. Our environment and behaviors can influence not what the DNA code “says,” but whether or not a gene is turned “on” or “off.”

For instance, methylationTrusted Source is one form of epigenetic change. Certain behaviors may cause sections of DNA to become methylated, meaning a methyl group is added to the DNA.

Once a gene is methylated, it is less likely to be expressed. So, although the gene is still present and functional, it is effectively switched off or dialed down.

Importantly, these epigenetic changes can pass from generation to generation without altering the genetic code.

In the current study, scientists put the experimental animals through repetitive hypoxic conditioning (RHC)Trusted Source. The animals in the RHC condition experienced low levels of oxygen — similar to being at a high altitude — for 1 hour every other day over a 2-month period.

After this conditioning, the researchers subjected the mice to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion, which induces vascular dementia.

They assessed changes in memory and other brain functions 3 and 4 months later, respectively.

The research revealed that induced memory and brain function deficits caused by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion were reversed in the animals that had experienced RHC.

Similarly, the offspring of RHC-treated parents also showed strong resilience to dementia without experiencing RHC.

The authors write: “[N]either mice treated directly with 2 months of RHC or their adult offspring showed changes in white matter myelin density, neurocognitive function, or synaptic plasticity.”

First Woman ‘Cured’ of HIV Through Stem Cell Treatments: What We Know

Two people working in a lab.
New scientific breakthroughs may change HIV treatment for people with aggressive cancers like leukemia. Luis Velasco/Stocksy United
  • A woman living with HIV in the United States may be the first female and third person to have been “cured” of HIV through stem cell transplants.
  • After receiving the treatments, the woman’s HIV reached a state of remission.
  • If her remission continues and she is deemed officially “cured” of HIV, she will be just the third individual to be effectively cured of HIV through stem cell treatments.
  • Though experts say this is a breakthrough, it isn’t a sign of a new approach to treating the virus that is applicable or ethical to adopt for the greater population of people living with HIV.

A research team out of UCLA recently made a big announcement in the HIV field: the first case of a woman living with HIV in the United States whose HIV reached a state of remission after receiving cutting-edge stem cell transplants.

If her remission continues and she is deemed officially “cured” of HIV, she will be just the third individual to effectively be cured of HIV through stem cell treatments, according to a press release from UCLA.

To put this all into context, experts say this news pinpoints a very specific circumstance. Isolated examples like this one signify a method for tackling HIV that only applies to people with aggressive cancers like leukemia.

This isn’t a sign of a new approach to treating the virus that is applicable or ethical to adopt for the greater population of people living with HIV.

What it does do, however, is paint a more comprehensive picture of where we are in our 21st-century push to better understand, treat, and hopefully find a cure for HIV, now in the fifth decade of the global HIV epidemic.

The use of umbilical cord blood cells

The researchers behind this announcement presented their oral abstract at CROI 2022, or Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, on Feb. 15.

Through their findings, they revealed that the woman in question — the so-called “New York patient” — received a brand-new combination of specialized stem cell transplants that were administered to treat her acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

She has been in remission for this form of leukemia, which occurs in your bone marrow and blood, for 4 1/2 years, and the researchers said she has shown no evidence of an “HIV rebound” in the 14 months since her antiretroviral treatment regimen for the virus ceased.

The case is significant because she would join just two other people — both men — if her remission persists and she is declared “cured” of HIV.

She also would be the first person living with HIV to achieve remission as a result of receiving umbilical cord blood cells that possess a mutation that is protective against HIV-1, known as CCR5-delta32/32 homozygous, combined alongside adult stem cells from a half-matched — called haploidentical — related donor.

Before this case, the other two individuals who were effectively cured of their HIV through stem cell treatments, both received adult donor cells, one from blood stem cells and the other from bone marrow cells, which possessed this protective mutation. Neither received transplants from umbilical cord blood cells.

This woman’s identity is also significant. Not only is she the first female to achieve this HIV remission status through stem cell transplantations but she is of mixed-race ancestry.

It was hard to find the right donor matches for her, given that the genetic abnormality that enables HIV resistance is mostly found in people who have ancestry from northern Europe. The medical team behind this procedure beat the odds and found the needed HIV-resistant abnormality in the umbilical cord blood of an infant donor.

Dr. Ronald G. Collman, director of the Penn Center for AIDS Research in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was not affiliated with this case, told Healthline that stem cell transplants can be pretty dangerous and “everybody agrees that stem cell transplants for HIV cure is not a way forward unless the person needs it” for a very specific reason.

That being said, the fact that this was shown in a woman — and especially a mixed-race woman — is important given that she is part of “an understudied population.” It’s also important that a greater understanding and assessment of people who share her identities “is included in the cure agenda.”

Collman also explained that the use of umbilical cord blood cells stands out in this case. These are cells that are “potentially, readily available.”

Any person who has a child who wants to donate cord blood cells can do so.

He said the innovative approach of combining the cord blood cells in concert with the adult stem cells was novel and sheds light on the inherent “value of cord blood stem cells” for other procedures moving forward.

Dr. Hyman Scott, MPH, the clinical research medical director at Bridge HIV and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCSF, who was also unaffiliated with this procedure, told Healthline that there is a high level of complexity tied to cases like this one.

In the case of this individual and the others who came before her who were also being treated for leukemia, they have to be “tightly” matched with appropriate donors to avoid what is known as graft vs. host disease, a possibly dangerous condition in which the “stem cells attack the body of the person they are going into,” Scott explained.

“So, it’s really difficult to find an adequate match for people, and it is hard for some to find matches in time,” he added. “This case used cord blood, and the haplo-type cord transplant meant she didn’t need to have as close of a match as in other cases using [other types of stem cells].”

Two Drug Manufacturers Seek Approval of New COVID-19 Vaccine

Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Wednesday that they will seek authorization for a new COVID-19 vaccine after clinical trials showed a high level of protection, according to The Associated Press.

Late-stage trials found that two doses of the vaccine were about 58% effective at preventing infection, 75% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease, and 100% effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalization, the companies said.

In addition, a separate study that used the vaccine as a booster shot showed that it “induced a significant increase in neutralizing antibodies” among people who had previously received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, they said.

“The evolving epidemiology of COVID-19 demonstrates the need for a variety of vaccines,” Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said in a statement.

The Sanofi-GSK vaccine “uses a well-established approach that has been applied widely to prevent infection with other viruses, including pandemic flu,” he said. “We are confident that this vaccine can play an important role as we continue to address this pandemic and prepare for the post-pandemic period.”

The companies said they plan to seek regulatory approval from both the FDA and European Medicines Agency for the adjuvanted protein-based vaccine, which can be stored at refrigerator temperatures. The vaccine could be used as an initial two-dose series or a booster shot.

Sanofi and GSK had planned for the vaccine to be ready last year, the AP reported., However, early clinical trials showed that the shot didn’t produce a robust immune response in ages 60 and older because it didn’t contain enough of the material that prompts the body to create antibodies.

With an updated vaccine, late-stage clinical trials included 10,000 adults in the U.S., Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The companies didn’t provide a breakdown of vaccine effectiveness for different age groups, the AP reported. Full results will be published later this year.

If authorized, the shot could bolster pandemic efforts around the world, the AP reported. Sanofi and GSK have signed agreements to supply millions of doses to the U.S., Canada, European Union and developing countries.

How does the brain keep track of things moving around us? A new piece of the puzzle

These new findings resolve long-standing puzzles about hippocampal function and open up many new avenues to develop early diagnosis and treatment for memory disorders, says Mayank R. Mehta, PhD, head of the W. M. Keck Center for Neurophysics at UCLA and a professor in the departments of physics, neurology, and electrical and computer engineering at UCLA.

“For example,” he said, “it allows scientists to study cognitive deficits such as a subject’s memory of events around them — the most common deficit in Alzheimer’s.”

The study, published in Nature, was conducted by scientists from the W. M. Keck Center for Neurophysics at UCLA, including lead authors Chinmay Purandare, PhD, and Shonali Dhingra, PhD.

A VR experiment

Using a modified virtual reality maze for rats developed to probe the hippocampus’s memory function, researchers created a single bar of light on the VR screen that moved all around the rat — “as if a person was walking around you while you’re seated,” Dr. Mehta explained. Previous studies had found that such simple stimuli did not trigger the hippocampus. UCLA researchers, hypothesizing that the reason for that was the size of the stimuli, made the size of the bar large from the rat’s perspective.

By measuring neural signals, they found a majority of neurons in the rat’s hippocampus responded to the bar of light, logging its exact position, the direction in which it was moving, and even its distance and angular degree from the rat. The neurons also encoded identifying characteristics of the bar of light, such as its color and texture.

The results overturn the idea that the hippocampus requires movement in space to create a spatial map. The neural response “is quite similar to activity patterns in the visual cortices,” Dr. Mehta said. “That makes sense since the visual cortex is a major source of input to the hippocampus.”

The team plans to continue using the VR system for experiments into understanding the neural activity of patients, including those with memory deficits such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Discovery of protective RNA mechanism informs pursuit to develop anti-viral drugs

In the long-term battle between a herpesvirus and its human host, a University of Massachusetts virologist and her team of students have identified some human RNA able to resist the viral takeover — and the mechanism by which that occurs.

This discovery, described in a paper published Feb. 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents an important step in the effort to develop anti-viral drugs to fight off infections.

“This paper is about trying to understand the mechanism that makes these RNA escape degradation,” says senior author Mandy Muller, assistant professor of microbiology. “The next step is to figure out if we can manipulate this to our advantage.”

In the Muller Lab, student researchers work with Muller studying how Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) hides for years inside the human body before seeking to gain control over human gene expression to complete the viral infection. At that point, people with a weakened immune system may develop Kaposi sarcoma cancer lesions in the mouth, skin or other organs.

The researchers use genome-wide sequencing, post-transcriptional sequencing and molecular biology to examine how the human cell or the virus knows how to prevent degradation.

“Viruses are very smart, that’s what I love to say,” Muller says. “They have lots of strategies to stick around, and they don’t do a lot of damage for a very long time, because that’s one way to hide from the immune system.

“But then, at some point — many, many years later — they reactivate. The way they do this is by triggering a massive RNA degradation event where the virus will wipe out the mRNA from the cell. That means the human system can no longer express the proteins that it needs to express, and that means also that a lot of resources are suddenly available for the virus.”

How and why some RNA are able to escape the viral degradation are questions Muller’s team — including lead author and graduate student Daniel Macveigh-Fierro and co-authors and undergraduates Angelina Cicerchia, Ashley Cadorette and Vasudha Sharma — has been investigating.

“We show that RNA that escape have a chemical tag on them — a post-transcriptional modification — that makes them different from the others,” Muller explains. “By having this tag, M6A, they can recruit proteins that protect them from degradation.”

Muller has been studying KSHV since she was an undergraduate in her native France, and her mission continues.

“We know you need this protein to protect the RNA from degradation, but we still don’t know how that physically stops the degradation, so that’s what we’re going to look at now,” she says.

Ultimately, understanding the mechanisms and pathways involved in KSHV infection may lead to the development of RNA therapeutics to treat viral diseases.

ADHD Medication Side Effects

If you’re an adult with ADHD, medications can help a lot. They can help your focus and have a feeling of control.

But for many people, these perks come with a price — side effects. Most of the time, they’re mild and fade after a few weeks or months of treatment. But that’s not true for everyone.

Here’s a look at possible side effects and tips to relieve them.

Side Effects of Stimulant Medications

Most people treat their ADHD with stimulant medicines, but some take non-stimulants.

Both types have similar side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headaches
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Moodiness
  • Tics
  • Trouble sleeping

Tips to Reduce the Side Effects of ADHD Medications

There are simple things you can do to make taking these medications less of a problem.

  • Dizziness. Sometimes, dizzy spells can be a sign that you’re taking too much medication. Check with your doctor. They might also want to check your blood pressure.
  • Dry mouth. Drink plenty of fluids, and use lozenges to keep your mouth moist.
  • Headaches. You might get them after you take your medication on an empty stomach, or if you’re dehydrated. Sometimes they come on as the medicine wears off. Your doctor may be able to help by tweaking when you take your drug.
  • Loss of appetite. Some drugs can make you not want to eat much. But don’t skip meals. That can lead to low blood sugar, and that may make it harder to focus. Instead, eat several small meals a day, rather than three bigger ones. Eat dinner later in the evening, after the effects of your medication have worn off. You may feel hungry then. Sometimes the worse appetite leads to weight loss. It’s usually just a small amount, but tell your doctor if you think you’re losing too much weight.
  • Moodiness. Some people find that their medications make them tense and cranky. Like most ADHD drug side effects, this may fade in time. If your moodiness is bothering you, ask your doctor about adjusting the dose or changing your medication.
  • Nausea. Take your medicine with food to lower your odds of feeling queasy. If you’re supposed to take it in the morning and you’re not a breakfast person, you may want to find something you can eat anyway.
  • Tics are repeated movements or sounds that you make without meaning to. ADHD medications don’t cause tics, but they can sometimes bring out underlying ones — maybe tics you had in childhood will come back. Usually these fade over time, but talk to your doctor if they don’t go away.
  • Trouble sleeping. Some ADHD medications can rev you up and make it hard to fall asleep. Take your medication earlier in the day, so it wears off well before bedtime. If you’re on a long-acting stimulant, you could ask your doctor about trying a short-acting one, where the effects will fade more quickly. Limit or avoid caffeine, too. Turn off your TV, computers, and phones an hour or so before going to bed, and take time to relax.

Simple Daily Activities Older Women Can Do to Improve Their Health Heart

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
Experts say exercise is one way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In a new study, researchers say older women don’t necessarily have to do daily intense exercise to improve their heart health.
They say daily activities such as gardening, housework, and stretching for 4 hours a day can reduce the risk of heart disease.
It’s well-known that exercise is good for cardiovascular health.

That’s particularly important information for women. They tend to have higher deathsTrusted Source from cardiovascular disease more often than men. Cardiovascular disease, in fact, is still the leading causeTrusted Source of death for women in the United States.

However, you don’t need to run a mile or head to the gym every day to reap the benefits.

For older women, being up and about for routine tasks — cleaning, gardening, and stretching — for at least 4 hours can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A new studyTrusted Source published in the the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at how daily movement affects heart health in older women in the United States.

Scientists measured the physical activity of more than 5,400 women in the United States between the ages of 63 and 97 without heart disease at the start of the study.