SUPER-SIZE ME: FAST FOOD’S EFFECTS ON YOUR LIVER
Obesity is an
its adverse effects upon the cardiovascular system, joints and other
organs, excess calories can also induce fatty changes in the liver. This condition, referred
to as hepatic steatosis,
if severe enough, can cause liver inflammation and dysfunction similar
chronic cirrhosis. A new study, from
In this study, 12 healthy men and 6 healthy women volunteered to eat at least two fast food meals a day, and to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, for a period of 4 weeks. An equal number of “control” volunteers continued with their regular diets and levels of physical activity. On a weekly basis, all study volunteers underwent testing to measure the level of liver enzymes in the blood that become elevated in the presence of liver inflammation and injury. Additionally, the subjects underwent weekly scans of their livers in order to estimate the extent of fat deposition within their livers.
On average, the volunteers who agreed to be “super-sized” gained nearly 15 pounds over the 4 week duration of this clinical study. Blood levels of ALT, a liver enzyme that rises with injury to the liver, were normal in all study volunteers at the beginning of the study. At the end of the 4 week study, however, 11 of the 18 (61%) “super-sized” volunteers had abnormally elevated levels of ALT in their blood, signaling the presence of inflammatory changes within their livers. When they had their livers scanned for fat content, these heavy eaters had nearly 3 times as much fat in their livers at the end of the study as they did when they entered the study only 4 weeks earlier.
Taken together, this study nicely shows how rapidly the binge-eating of fast food can lead to measurable signs of liver injury and inflammation. The same injurious effects on the liver are often seen in alcoholics, partly due to the great excess of calories associated with high levels of alcohol intake. In fact, the authors of this study, citing the results of their research, suggest that physicians consider overeating as another potential cause of liver inflammation and injury in patients with abnormal ALT levels in the blood, in addition to the usual suspects of alcohol abuse, hepatitis caused by viruses, and liver injury caused by other substances that are known to be toxic to the liver. Based upon the results of this intriguing little clinical study, it would appear that “super-sizing” your diet may potentially lead to rapid and significant harm to your liver.
EXERCISE, WEIGHT &
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE
EXERCISE, WEIGHT &
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE
It is well known that obesity is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and congestive heart failure. There continues to be a great deal of debate, however, regarding the subgroup of people often referred to as the “fit fat.” Some studies have purported to show that overweight people who nonetheless exercise regularly, and who appear to be otherwise healthy, may have approximately the same risk of heart attack, and death due to cardiovascular disease, as their leaner compatriots. Other studies have shown that even vigorous and regular exercise fails to completely erase the added health risks associated with increasing levels of obesity.
new study has
evaluated the effects of physical activity and body weight, in women,
risk of coronary artery disease. This
study was conducted by researchers at the
A total of 948 cases of new CAD were diagnosed in this huge cohort of women during the study (most of these 948 women experienced a heart attack, or required either coronary artery bypass surgery or stenting of their coronary arteries). The researchers then calculated the risk of developing CAD for subgroups of study volunteers, based upon body mass (e.g., normal weight, overweight and obese) and average level of physical activity (physically active women who were not overweight served as the basis for comparison with these other subgroups).
Not surprisingly, the women who were both obese and physically inactive had the greatest risk of developing CAD (more than 2.5 times the risk of the physically active women with a normal body weight). The women who were at the next highest level of risk for CAD were those who were obese but physically active, and those who were overweight but physically inactive. In fact, the risk of CAD was essentially identical in these two subgroups of women (nearly 2 times the risk of CAD, when compared to the active women with a normal body weight). The third highest risk category for CAD was found in women who were overweight but physically active (1.5 times the CAD risk as normal weight women who were active). Next to the physically active women with a normal body weight, the lowest risk category for CAD was observed in the group of women with normal body weight who were physically inactive. In this particular subgroup, the added risk of CAD was a rather modest 1.08 times the risk observed in the physically active women with normal weight.
The results of this study, essentially, confirm the well known increased risk of CAD associated with either increased body mass or physical inactivity. In this study, women with both risk factors had the highest overall incidence of CAD. This study also reveals that increased levels of physical activity do appear to reduce the risk of CAD, but not to the levels observed among women with normal body mass. That is to say that it appears that the increased risk of CAD brought about by being overweight or obese cannot be completely eliminated by increased levels of exercise and physical activity. Previous suggestions that being “fit and fat” can bring the risk of CAD down to levels observed in lean individuals appear not to be correct, based upon this large and very high quality prospective public health study.
Whether or not the findings of this study also apply equally to men as well is unclear. However, based upon other epidemiological studies, it is reasonable to assume that both women and men can reduce their risk of CAD significantly by maintaining their body mass in the normal range and by engaging in regular, frequent and vigorous exercise.
INSTRUMENTS IN THE OPERATING ROOM
INSTRUMENTS IN THE OPERATING ROOM
In most cases,
operating rooms are completely set up before the patient is wheeled in. The OR technicians and
nurses bring all of
the necessary surgical instruments and supplies into the room, and open
so that surgery can begin promptly once the patient is anesthetized. In some cases, delays in
getting the patient
into the operating room, or under anesthesia, may expand the amount of
that sterilized surgical instruments are left exposed to the open air
OR. An innovative
new study from
In this study, 45 sterile trays, used to hold sterilized surgical instruments, were opened within a standard operating room. The exposed surfaces of these trays were then cultured, in standard fashion with sterile swabs, to identify the presence of viable bacteria on them. Serial cultures were obtained, initially upon opening the trays, and then at 30 minute intervals, for a total of 4 hours. The trays were divided into three groups, each with 15 sterile trays. In the first group, the sterile instrument trays were opened and left within a locked OR, and nobody was allowed in except for the person who intermittently swabbed the trays to perform cultures. In the second group, a single person went into and out of the OR every 10 minutes, for 4 hours. Finally, in the third group, all opened sterile instrument trays were initially covered with sterile towels, and were then subsequently uncovered, and nobody was allowed to enter this particular operating room except for the person performing the cultures.
Among the 30 trays left uncovered throughout the experiment, 3 of them (10%) were found to be contaminated with bacteria immediately after they were opened! Of the remaining 27 trays that were left uncovered, a whopping 30% were found to have bacterial contamination after 4 hours of being left open to the air within the operating room (even after only 1 hour of being left open, 15% of these uncovered instrument trays had culture-proven evidence of bacterial contamination). There was no significant difference in the likelihood of bacterial contamination among the uncovered trays in the OR where no entry was allowed versus the OR where one person was permitted to enter and leave the room every 10 minutes. On the other hand, none of the 15 instrument trays that were initially covered immediately upon opening were found to have evidence of bacterial contamination 4 hours after being opened.
To summarize, this study determined that sterile surgical instrument trays were increasingly likely to develop bacterial contamination over time if they were left uncovered after being opened. Light human traffic into and out of the OR did not appear to have any impact on the risk of bacterial contamination of the uncovered instrument trays, however. On the other hand, covering the instrument trays until it was time to actually begin the surgical procedure appeared to eliminate this time-dependent risk of environmental bacterial contamination. The authors concluded, therefore, that sterile surgical instrument trays should be immediately covered until they are ready to be used. (Seems like a good idea to me.)
Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity.
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, a widely published author, and the Director of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
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Copyright 2008. Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS. All rights reserved.
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4-27-08: Stents vs. Bypass Surgery for Coronary Artery Disease; The “DASH” Hypertension Diet & Cardiovascular Disease Prevention; Testosterone Therapy for Women with Decreased Sexual Desire & Function
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2-3-2008: Vitamin D & Cardiovascular Health; Vitamin D & Breast Cancer; Green Tea & Colorectal Cancer
1-27-2008: Colorectal Cancer, Esophageal Cancer & Pancreatic Cancer: Update from the 2008 American Society of Clinical Oncology's Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium
1-20-2008: Testosterone Levels & Risk of Fractures in Elderly Men; Air Pollution & DNA Damage in Sperm; Statins & Trauma Survival in the Elderly
1-12-2008: Statins, Diabetes & Stroke and Obesity; GERD & Esophageal Cancer
1-7-2008: Testosterone Supplements in Elderly Men; Colorectal Cancer-- Reasons for Poor Compliance with Screening Recommendations
12-31-2007: Minority Women, Hormone Replacement Therapy & Breast Cancer; Does Health Insurance Improve Health?
12-23-2007: Is Coffee Safe After a Heart Attack?; Impact of Divorce on the Environment; Hypertension & the Risk of Dementia; Emotional Vitality & the Risk of Heart Disease
12-16-2007: Honey vs. Dextromethorphan vs. No Treatment for Kids with Night-Time Cough, Acupuncture & Hot Flashes in Women with Breast Cancer, Physical Activity & the Risk of Death, Mediterranean Diet & Mortality
12-11-2007: Bias in Medical Research; Carbon Nanotubes & Radiofrequency: A New Weapon Against Cancer?; Childhood Obesity & Risk of Adult Heart Disease
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