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Health Watch

Antioxidants may cut oxidative stress

Supplemental antioxidants in the diet of people who work or play at altitudes of 7,000-10,000 feet may reduce possible severe oxidative stress on the body, according to a study led by E. Wayne Askew, professor and director of the Foods and Nutrition Division in the University of Utah College of Health.

Typical symptoms of the stress include fatigue, muscle soreness, delayed onset muscle aches and increased injury recovery time. It can be greater at higher altitudes because of hard physical work, poor blood oxygenation, increased intensisty of UV light and temperature changes.

A group of Marines were tested at altitude to see if they suffered increased oxidative stress and if antioxidants helped. Some got a placebo, others Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (the antioxidants) or a combination of the three plus selenium and zinc. The increased stress was not controlled by placebo or the single-vitamin supplements, but breath analysis indicated the group receiving the antioxidant mixture had less oxidative stress.

Will ISU study shed light on birth defects?

An Idaho State University professor of anatomy and embryology, Trent Stephens, hopes his Thalidomide study will lead to understanding the causes of some birth defects.

Thalidomide, which was hailed as a wonder drug, a sedative that reportedly could be used without fear of overdose 40 years ago, caused an epidemic of birth defects that mostly affected limbs.

Now the drug is being used to treat the "wet lesions" of leprosy, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, weight loss in tuberculosis, certain cancers and other diseases. Stephens believes the drug may help scientists understand the causes of and possibly treaments for some birth defects.

One in 100 babies are born with some type of defect. Stephens said the long-range goal of his research is to correct birth defects with in-uterine surgery when they are detected in the womb.

"Using ultrasound at about the three-month mark, we would discover if a fetus' limbs were developing abnormally," he said. "We would surgically remove an abnormal part of a limb, apply the proper chemical stimulation and the fetus would grow a normal limb in place of an abnormal one."

New medications can stop migraines

Nasal sprays, pills or injections are providing migraine sufferers options for stopping headaches.

"These newer medications do not prevent migraines but can stop one that is beginning," said Dr. Howard Derman, director of the Headache Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine.

Migraines are characterized by pain on one side of the head, usually over the eye or cheek, nausea or vomiting and sensitivity to light. Most last from two to four hours and mostly affect women.

During the headaches, blood vessels in the brain experience sterile inflammation and spasm. This occurs at the point where nerves from pain centers connect to blood vessels. Researchers believe that a brain chemical, called substance P, regulates the inflammation.

Because the chemical serotonin effects the substance, the newer migraine medications target serotonin.

Reaction times vary, with injections being the quickest. People are used to taking pills, so several drug companies are trying to develop a pill that will work in 30 minutes for most patients.

People with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease should not use these medications.