Medical news briefs


Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 10:27 a.m.

FRUIT BIOTECHNOLOGY

Strawberries could be a fountain of vitamin C

People who favor large doses of vitamin C to fight colds (a la Linus Pauling) may one day be able to get all the C they need from, say, a cup of fruit cocktail. Researchers at two Spanish universities have isolated a gene in strawberries that plays an important role in the production of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid.

The gene, named GalUR, is responsible for production of an enzyme that helps convert galacturonic acid, which is found in cell walls, to ascorbic acid. The report, in Nature Biotechnology, suggests that it is feasible to increase vitamin C levels in other plants by incorporating this gene.

- The New York Times

GASTROINTESTINAL ILLS

Filtering water might halve cases of cholera

WASHINGTON - Forcing water through a simple filter made from the cloth of old saris can reduce cholera cases by about half, a study of villages in Bangladesh where cholera is a major health problem shows.

Researchers suggest the sari filters also may reduce other gastrointestinal illnesses.

The study, appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared the effect of filtering pond or river water through a modern nylon mesh and through old, much-washed sari cloth and found the sari solution was best.

- The Associated Press

SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

Researchers link gender and self-handicapping

Psychologists have long noted that when some people confront a challenge, such as students facing a big exam, they resort to a perilous strategy: They refuse to study and instead watch a movie, go to a bar or do almost anything but hit the books.

Researchers call it self-handicapping. If the student does poorly on the exam, he can explain it away by saying that after all, he didn't prepare for it. If he does well, he can crow that he is extraordinarily talented.

Now, in research published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington say they have figured why men are more likely to go down this risky road than women.

When groups of men and women were presented with case-studies of self-handicapping, women were more likely to see through the game, whether the self-handicapper was a man or a woman, and to question the person's ulterior motives. Besides, the researchers noted, ''women have little respect for individuals who lack motivation and fail to put forth effort in important performance settings.''

Men, on the other hand, were less likely ''to ascribe negative motivations'' to such individuals.

- The Washington Post

EARLIER STUDIES EXPANDED

Use of psychiatric drugs surges for U.S. children

CHICAGO - The number of U.S. children and adolescents on Ritalin, antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs surged between 1987 and 1996, a trend some experts say is continuing.

The study did not determine whether the youngsters were properly diagnosed and treated. Some experts have warned that American children are being overmedicated. But others say not all youngsters who really need treatment are getting it.

The study expands on previously published data on preschoolers and includes findings on young people through age 20.

University of Maryland researcher Julie Magno Zito and colleagues reviewed data on nearly 900,000 patients enrolled in Medicaid programs in two states and a health maintenance organization in the Northwest. By 1996, about 6 percent of all participants had prescriptions for psychiatric drugs.

Psychiatric drug use tripled in the HMO patients and in those in a Medicaid program in the Midwest. It doubled in the second Medicaid program, in a mid-Atlantic state.

- The Associated Press

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