November 2005 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the  Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

Feed your muscles prior to, after any workout routine

Before hitting the pavement for an early morning run or workout, stop and take a minute to eat a banana, or drink a glass of fruit juice or skim milk.

Eating before and after physical activity is crucial, says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Eating 30 to 60 minutes before exercise delays fatigue and results in a more effective workout. It's equally important to refuel the body after exercise.

"The muscles need an immediate carbohydrate source to perform at their best. Exercising on an empty stomach will require the body to make energy from stored muscle protein, thus breaking down muscle," Ms. Sandon says. "Decreased muscle mass results in a decreased metabolism, which is what we are typically trying to increase with exercise."

Eat something high in carbohydrates and moderate in proteins 60 to 90 minutes following exercise, adds Ms. Sandon. These nutrients provide calories, as well as repair muscle tissue broken down by exercise.

Media Contact: Donna Hansard

Citrus drinks may challenge cranberry juice's urinary health reputation

Many people believe that drinking cranberry juice helps prevent urinary tract infection, catheter obstruction and urinary stones.

But a study with 24 patients at UT Southwestern Medical Center has found that cranberry juice has a mixed effect on a person's propensity for urinary stone formation. Patients in the study published recently in the Journal of Urology drank one liter of cranberry juice daily.

"Our study suggests that consuming the quantities of cranberry juice used in our study does increase the risk of calcium oxalate stone formation as judged by stone risk factors in the urine,'' says Dr. Margaret Pearle, professor of urology and internal medicine. "But no studies have been done looking at the long-term effect of large quantities of cranberry juice on actual stone formation, the real test.''

So, has Dr. Pearle sworn off cranberry juice? "I would not go so far as to discourage cranberry juice consumption,'' Dr. Pearle says. "I would only say that consuming large quantities of cranberry juice may not be advisable because of the negative impact on urinary stone risk factors. More benefit would be obtained from orange juice or lemonade."

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

'Spider bite' look-alikes may be drug-resistant bacterium

A drug-resistant bug may be emerging among pregnant women, but with vigilance on the part of the care providers it can be treated easily, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

The bacterium is Staphylococcus aureus - a strain of it is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, so is called MRSA for methicillin-resistant S. aureus. MRSA has been seen before in hospitalized patients, but is now appearing in the general population, the researchers say.

The researchers studied 57 pregnant women with MRSA. The symptoms were inflammations and abscesses of the skin and soft tissues; some women reported "spider bites." Sixty-three percent of them had to be hospitalized. The infections were cleared up using antibiotics to which MRSA is not resistant.

The researchers recommended that pregnant women showing red, hot areas of skin or abscesses should have tissue cultures performed to test for MRSA.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

With dietary care, it's OK to go nuts

Americans, it seems, are going nuts over nuts. The tasty morsels are showing up everywhere - toasted walnuts on salads, pecan-crusted fish, and macadamia nut oil in the latest diet. Is it wise to add nuts to your diet? Although fat- and calorie-laden, nuts provide healthy, cholesterol-lowering fats, vitamin E and fiber.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, warns that although including nuts frequently can be a healthy move, they should be substituted for other foods. "Adding rather than substituting nuts can tip the energy balance in favor of weight gain," she says.

For example, replace some of the chicken in chicken salad with pecans and celery for a delightfully crunchy texture; or substitute an afternoon candy bar with trail mix that includes nuts; and instead of a ham sandwich, build a brown bag lunch around fruit, yogurt and nuts.

Several nuts are especially heart-healthy.

English walnuts contain primarily polyunsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid. Our bodies convert a small amount of alpha-linolenic acid to the longer chain fatty acids found in fish oils. Research suggests walnuts have cardiovascular benefits.

Pecans, peanuts and macadamia nuts, however, are high in monounsaturated fats that can lower your low-density lipoproteins, or "bad" cholesterol.

Almonds and pistachios are among the lowest in fat and calories, while macadamia nuts have the most fat and calories per ounce.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Non-fusion solution alleviating disc degeneration woes

A device, made of plastic and metal, is changing the way surgeons treat disc degeneration. Instead of removing the damaged disc and fusing the bones, orthopedic surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center are using innovative technology that helps the spine retain its natural form of movement.

"Fusion limits motion of the spine, takes a long time to heal and causes strain on the other parts of the spine. Non-fusion helps retain the natural movement of the spine and takes less time to heal," says Dr. Kevin Gill, professor of orthopaedic surgery.

The artificial disc consists of one disc of medical grade plastic sandwiched between two medical grade cobalt chromium alloy plates. The plates each contain teeth that settle into the spinal bone. The plastic disc acts as a cushion as the metal plates move with the spine. The artificial disc may last 30 or 40 years, Dr. Gill says.

Similar devices have been widely used in Europe for almost 20 years.

"This has been slow to catch on in the United States because insurance companies weren't quite sure how to handle it. They had never had to pay for non-fusion technology," Dr. Gill says. "But, now we're doing one or two surgeries a month. We expect that to increase soon to one or two a week."

Media Contact: Connie Piloto


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