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Grand Roundup

Grand Roundup: Top posts of February

Grand Roundup: Top posts of February

The five most-read stories this month on Scope were:

Sticky situation: How sugar affects our health: In this post, a clinical dietician with Stanford Health Care answers questions on the health risks of consuming too much sugar and offers tips on how to cut back.

Math and the brain: Memorization is overrated, says education expert: The research of Jo Boaler, PhD, a Stanford professor of mathematics education, shows that students are better at math when they’ve developed “number sense,” or the ability to use numbers flexibly and understand their logic.

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football: Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD, and his wife, Lucy, won a trip to the Super Bowl by raising money for lung-cancer research and winning the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, sponsored by the Chris Draft Family Foundation. Kalanithi was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013.

Letting go of my secret about Charcot-Marie-Tooth, “the biggest disease no one has heard of”: As part of our Inspire series, a patient with Charcot-Marie-Tooth shares her story of living with – and opening up about – the disease.

Medical student-turned-entrepreneur harnesses Google Glass to improve doctor-patient relationship: Third-year medical student Pelu Tran is the co-founder of a company that helps doctors with patient record-keeping via Google Glass. Tran was recently named to Forbes’ “30-Under-30: Healthcare.”

Our most-shared story of the month: Sticky situation: How sugar affects our health

And still going strong – the most popular post from the past:

The mystery surrounding lung-transplant survival rates: A 2012 article in the San Francisco Chronicle offered a look at the challenges facing lung transplant patients and explored why a significant number don’t live beyond the five-year mark, despite improvements in survival rates.

Immunology, In the News, Nutrition, Pediatrics, Research

Peanut products and babies: Now okay?

Peanut products and babies: Now okay?

peanut butter2 - big

Updated 2-25-15: Allergy expert Sharon Chinthrajah, MD, discussed the study and its implications on KQED’s Forum today:

***

2-24-15: Any parent of young children is likely familiar with the warnings: It’s not okay to give your baby peanut butter, or any other peanut product, before he or she turns one. Don’t do it! These instructions are so imprinted on my brain that I practically did a double-take when I came across headlines about new research suggesting that infants should, indeed, be fed peanut products – in order to prevent the development of peanut allergies.

This isn’t the first time that the benefits of giving allergenic foods to babies have been outlined, but the language surrounding this study has been particularly strong. As the writer of a New York Times blog entry explained, the authors of the study and accompanying editorial “called the results ‘so compelling’ and the rise of peanut allergies ‘so alarming’ that guidelines for how to feed infants at risk of peanut allergies should be revised soon.” He went on to outline the study findings:

In the study, conducted in London, infants 4 to 11 months old who were deemed at high risk of developing a peanut allergy were randomly assigned either to be regularly fed food that contained peanuts or to be denied such food. These feeding patterns continued until the children were 5 years old. Those who consumed the foods that had peanuts in them were far less likely to be allergic to peanuts when they turned 5.

After hearing the news, I reached out to the folks at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford to get their take on the findings. Sharon Chinthrajah, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine, explained that this work is the first randomized controlled study to look at how to prevent peanut allergies. She told me:

We’ve all been waiting for the results of this landmark study to confirm the shift in the paradigm of when to introduce foods into the diet. Early introduction of peanut in the right infants can prevent peanut allergy. Dr. [Gideon Lack, the leader of the study] and colleagues were able to show an 80 percent reduction in peanut allergy in children who started eating peanut early and incorporated it into their regular diet.

Chinthrajah believes the guidelines on babies and peanut products should be revised, “because peanut allergies affect 2 percent of our population in the U.S. and most people do not outgrow this allergy.” But, as other experts have done, she cautions that not everyone should introduce peanuts and other foods into their diet early. “Those who are ‘high-risk’ – who have other allergic conditions such as eczema or other food allergies – should consult with their allergist to see if it would be safe to introduce peanut into their child’s diet,” she advised.

Previously: Taking a bite out of food allergies: Stanford doctors exploring new way to help sufferers, Simultaneous treatment for several food allergies passes safety hurdle, Stanford team shows, Researchers show how DNA-based test could keep peanut allergy at bay, A mom’s perspective on a food allergy trial and Searching for a cure for pediatric food allergies
Photo by Anna

Scope Announcements, Stanford News

100,000 followers for @StanfordMed

100,000 followers for @StanfordMed

Twitter 100K mark - 560v2

Over the weekend, we reached a milestone on Twitter: Our @StanfordMed feed now has 100,000 followers. We’re happy to be followed by so many people (it seems like just yesterday that we were feeling giddy over the 50,000 mark), and we hope you’ll consider following us if you don’t already.

And as a reminder, you can also read about the latest news and developments on the school’s Facebook page, and you can now read Scope stories via Flipboard.

Previously: Introducing the Scope magazine on Flipboard50,000 Twitter followers – and countingFive thousand blog entries – and counting and Introducing the @ScopeMedBlog Twitter feed

Cardiovascular Medicine, Health and Fitness, Public Health, Research, Women's Health

Even moderate exercise appears to provide heart-health benefits to middle-aged women

Even moderate exercise appears to provide heart-health benefits to middle-aged women

woman on bike

It’s no secret that exercise offers a plethora of health benefits; tons of research has established that. But I was still heartened to read about a new study showing that physically active middle-aged women had lower risks of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than did their inactive counterparts. (I read about the work on my phone as I walked home from a barre class last night, which made me feel especially happy about having had just worked out.)

Researchers from University of Oxford looked at data from 1.1 million women in the United Kingdom, who were followed for an average of nine years. From an American Heart Association release:

In the study:

  • Women who performed strenuous physical activity— enough to cause sweating or a faster heart beat — two to three times per week were about 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared to participants who reported little or no activity.
  • Among active women, there was little evidence of further risk reductions with more frequent activity.

Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening, and cycling.

Lead author Miranda Armstrong, MPhil, PhD, commented that “inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly,” but then noted that the results suggest that “to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity.” That’s good news, ladies!

The study appears in the journal Circulation.

Previously: Lack of exercise shown to have largest impact on heart disease risk for women over 30, Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary death, Study shows regular physical activity, even modest amounts, can add years to your life, CDC report shows exercise becoming a popular prescription among doctors and Brisk walking reduces stroke risk among women
Image by Thomas Hawk

Scope Announcements

Scope will return tomorrow

Scope will return tomorrow

Our offices are closed for Presidents’ Day; Scope will resume its regular publication schedule tomorrow.

Research, Science

Love on Scope: A look back

Love on Scope: A look back

heart in sky

Love is in the air. And in honor of the Valentine’s Day holiday, here are some of our favorite love-themed posts of the past.

Love blocks pain, Stanford study shows: According to a 2010 study, intense, passionate feelings of love can block pain in ways similar to painkillers or illicit drugs like cocaine.

Scientist pens love letter to stem cells, calls them “irresistible”: “While you frustrated me to no end, I found you irresistible,” wrote a scientist-turned-blogger about stem cells.

“Love hormone” may mediate wider range of relationships than previously thought: There’s more to oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, than arousal and bonding, said Stanford scientists in 2013.

A study of people’s ability to love: Check out the “love competition” put on by a group of Stanford neuroscientists (with the help of an fMRI machine).

Valentine’s Day advice from “lovestruck scientists”: Looking for some science-based dating tips “that could boost your chances on Valentine’s Day?” This is the post for you.

Photo by Mrs Airwolfhound

Cancer, Stanford News

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football

Paul and Lucy at Super Bowl - smallEarlier this month, football fans across the world watched as the New England Patriots shocked the Seattle Seahawks with a very dramatic last-minute win. While the game itself was a thrill, equally as exciting for two people in the seats at University of Phoenix Stadium was what had gotten them there. Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD, and his wife, Lucy, had won a trip to the big game by raising money for lung-cancer research and winning the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, sponsored by the Chris Draft Family Foundation.

Kalanithi had attended Stanford as an undergrad in the 90s, the same time as did Draft, a former professional football player who later started his foundation and whose wife, Keasha, died of lung cancer in late 2011. Kalanithi received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 2013 and re-connected with Draft not long after.

“The foundation is putting a new face on the disease,” Lucy Kalanithi, MD, a clinical instructor in general medical disciplines at Stanford, told me during a recent conversation. Team Draft, an initiative of the foundation, puts the spotlight on, and brings together, young lung-cancer patients such as Paul Kalanithi, with the aim of getting out the message that anyone can get lung cancer. It’s also working to stop the smoking stigma from negatively impacting research funding for lung cancer.

Paul at Super Bowl - small“Even though Paul and I are both physicians, prior to his diagnosis, neither of us was fully aware of the global toll of lung cancer and the major gap in federal and private funding due to the anti-smoking stigma,” Lucy Kalanithi said. “More people die from lung cancer than from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined: It’s the top cancer killer.”

I asked if her husband had ever experienced the sense of judgment or blame that can come with a lung-cancer diagnosis. “Paul’s never had the experience – common among lung-cancer patients – of being asked, ‘Did you smoke?’ Kalanithi said, noting that her husband was never a smoker. “But everyone with lung cancer is affected by the anti-smoking stigma, because it means that much, much less money goes to lung cancer research compared with other cancers. And survival rates for all cancers are directly related to research funding. When people think of breast cancer, they think of a sympathetic character like a young mom. But when people think of lung cancer, they don’t think of a vibrant young dad like Paul.”

Through the foundation, the Kalanithis connected with other young families affected by lung cancer (“There’s a lot of camaraderie and optimism,” Kalanithi told me), and when they learned of the Super Bowl Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition among lung-cancer survivors, they jumped at the chance to compete. There was an “overwhelming response from Paul’s friends, family and colleagues – including many from Stanford,” Kalanithi said, which led to a call from Draft on New Year’s Day. They had won the challenge, Draft told the couple, and they would be attending not only the Super Bowl but also Taste of the NFL, a fundraiser attended by former NFL players and renowned chefs from around the country, and an exclusive pre-game stadium tour. As icing on the cake: Their (too-cute-for-words) seven-month-old daughter, Cady, would be making the trip with them.

Kalanithis at Super Bowl - smallWhen I asked Kalanithi for a sampling of the moments etched in her mind from the weekend, she offered two: lying on the Super Bowl field and getting a photo taken with her husband and baby daughter forty-eight hours before the game (“It was surreal”) and watching Paul, a huge football fan, “jump up and down” in their incredible seats on the Seahawks’ 50-yard line. (For the record, they were rooting for the Seahawks. And next year, “we hope to see [Stanford alum] Andrew Luck out there.”)

Despite the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Kalanithis’ relationship with Team Draft seemingly extends far beyond the football field. Kalanithi has noted that the foundation has “helped boost our family’s spirits during this challenging time,” and she sounds eager to partner with Draft on other initiatives. “Helping raise awareness and research funds impacts families everywhere, and it gives me hope,” she said.

Previously: Tackling the stigma of lung cancer – and showing the real faces of the disease, A neurosurgeon’s journey from doctor to cancer patient“Stop skipping dessert:” A Stanford neurosurgeon and cancer patient discusses facing terminal illness and A Stanford physician’s take on cancer prognoses – including his own
Photos courtesy of Lucy Kalanithi

Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford News, Videos

C’mon, be heart healthy

C'mon, be heart healthy

Is your heart healthy? Are you at risk for heart disease? In recognition of American Heart Month, Stanford Health Care has launched a campaign to help people find the answers to those questions. The interactive video above, and this Q&A on preventing heart disease, are good places to start.

Previously: Lack of exercise shown to have largest impact on heart disease risk for women over 30, Mysteries of the heart: Stanford Medicine magazine answers cardiovascular questions, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about heart health and cardiovascular research, Either you’re a woman or you know one: Help spread the message of women’s heart health and Why some healthy-looking young adults may still be at risk for heart disease

Grand Roundup

Grand Roundup: Top posts of January

Grand Roundup: Top posts of January

The five most-read stories this month on Scope were:

Eating for good blood: Tips for boosting iron levels and hemoglobin: This entry discusses hemoglobin levels and offers ways to boost levels prior to blood donation.

In human defenses against disease, environment beats heredity, study of twins shows: A Stanford study involving twins shows that our environment, more than our heredity, plays the starring role in determining the state of our immune system.

Screening for diseases doesn’t necessarily save lives, study shows: According to new research led by Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, “screening for diseases that can lead to death typically does not prolong life substantially.”

The art of healing: As part of Scope’s Inspire series, a patient shares how art therapy helped her to express and understand her emotions about living with a chronic disease.

Intel’s Rosalind Hudnell kicks off Dean’s Lecture Series on diversity: Diversity is the initial focus of the newly launched Dean’s Lecture Series, and Rosalind Hudnell, chief diversity officer and global director of education and external relations at Intel, was the featured speaker at the Jan. 23 lecture.

Our most-shared story of the month:

In human defenses against disease, environment beats heredity, study of twins shows

And still going strong – the most popular post from the past:

What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?: Brandon Peters, MD, an adjunct clinical faculty member at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, explains how lack of sleep can negatively affect a person’s well-being in this Huffington Post piece.

Scope Announcements

Introducing the Scope magazine on Flipboard

Introducing the Scope magazine on Flipboard

Are you a Flipboard user? The mobile app allows readers to collect content from the web and view it in a beautiful magazine-style format. We recently created a Scope magazine on Flipboard (it’s essentially an RSS feed, but displayed differently), and you can “flip” through it here. And good news: Even if you’re not a user of the app, you can still view our magazine on the web. Just bookmark it and return often.

Previously: Introducing the @ScopeMedBlog Twitter feed

Stanford Medicine Resources: