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Miscarriage May Harm Surviving Twin

May 08, 2000|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

Researchers have long known that miscarriages are more likely to occur among women carrying twins than among those carrying single babies. New British research indicates, moreover, that the death of one twin in the womb can lead to mental impairment of the survivor.

Dr. Peter Pharoah and his colleagues at the University of Liverpool surveyed all registered twin births in England and Wales between 1993 and 1995, identifying those in which one twin was miscarried. They then sought out the infants' physicians and determined if the survivors had any disabilities.

They reported in Saturday's Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com) that, among the 241 survivors of same-sex pairs for which information was available, 23 had cerebral palsy and 28 had other mental impairment. Among the 102 pairs in which the twins were of different sexes, three had cerebral palsy and 12 had other mental impairment. Cerebral palsy normally occurs in two to three of every 1,000 live births.

An Easy Way to Prevent Iron Deficiency Anemia

Salt, fortified with iodine to prevent mental disabilities, may soon be fortified with iron as well to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Nutritional experts have long hoped to do so, but have been prevented because iron's interactions with the iodine lead to degradation of the additives, giving the salt unusual color and taste.

But researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a technique to coat the iodine with a sugar derivative called dextrin, using a process similar to that used in coating cold tablets. The coating prevents the iron and iodine from interacting. Field tests in Ghana and India have shown that the inexpensive new salt has a long shelf life and high consumer acceptability, leaders of the Micronutrient Initiative said Thursday (http://www.micronutrient.org). "We can double fortify salt with iron and iodine for approximately 15 cents per person per year," said Dr. M.G. Venkatesh Mannar, executive director of the initiative, which is headquartered in Ottawa.

Nearly 2 billion people worldwide, including 50% of children younger than 5 in poor countries, suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Low levels of iron in childhood can impede intellectual development, and 250,000 women die in childbirth each year because of problems associated with anemia.

The doubly fortified salt will become available in many countries next year. The group is now working on ways to fortify salt with vitamin A as well.

Over-Hydrating Could Endanger Marathoners

Drinking too much water while running a marathon can be fatal, according to researchers from UC San Francisco.

The problems caused by excess water consumption can be easily treated by administering saline solution (salt water) intravenously, but physicians often mistake the symptoms for a heart attack and provide the wrong therapy, the team reports in Tuesday's Archives of Internal Medicine (http://archinte.ama-assn.org).

Runners need to rehydrate themselves during a marathon, but the problem is the loss of salt from sweating. When the concentration of salt in the bloodstream becomes too low--a problem exacerbated by drinking too much water--the body attempts to raise salt concentrations by releasing water into the brain or the lungs, said Dr. Allen Arieff. Either can be fatal. The team studied seven marathoners who developed symptoms during races. Six survived after they were given infusions of salt water, but one died.

Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, confusion and puffiness of the skin, which can be mistaken for a heart attack by emergency-room physicians. The condition can be aggravated by ibuprofen, which can make the body retain even more water. Women are at greater risk than men, Arieff said.

Addictive Tendency May Lower Parkinson's Risk

Smoking cigarettes has previously been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson's disease, and experts have assumed that something in tobacco smoke is protective. New evidence showing a similar link to alcohol and coffee consumption, however, suggests that it is the propensity for addiction that protects against the disorder and not any chemical that is consumed.

According to this theory, smokers smoke, alcoholics drink to excess and caffeine lovers overindulge because their brains have high levels of dopamine, a brain chemical implicated in so-called novelty-seeking behavior and addiction. People with lower levels of brain dopamine are not as likely to become addicted, but they may be more likely to develop Parkinson's disease, which results from a drastic reduction of dopamine in the brain.

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