Sunday, March 28, 2010

Alcohol Intake Associated with Unhealthy Diet

Toronto Sun

People who drink alcohol are more likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories by munching on foods that are high in fat and sugar, a new study says.

Researchers followed more than 15,000 adults in the U.S. and found that increased alcohol consumption is associated with decreased diet quality.

"Heavy drinking and dietary factors have independently been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other chronic health problems," said Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "This finding raises questions about whether the combination of alcohol misuse and poor diet might interact to further increase health risks."

The researchers found men who drink more alcohol consume fewer whole grains and drink less milk.

The study, conducted by the NIAAA, the National Cancer Institute and the U.S.

Department of Agriculture, appears in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The researchers analyzed data from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing survey of cross-sectional samples of the U.S. population.

Although the study noted a correlation between drinking and poor diet habits, it didn't determine why that's the case.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Combination Treatment May Help Depressed Alcoholics

Business Week

Taking antidepressant plus naltrexone improves odds of not drinking, researchers say

Combined treatment with the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline) and the alcoholism drug naltrexone improves the likelihood that people with both major depression and alcohol dependence will be able to stop drinking, U.S. researchers report.

Their 14-week study of 170 patients found that 54 percent of those who received the combined alcohol treatment were able to stop drinking, compared with 21 to 28 percent for patients who received a placebo, Zoloft only, or naltrexone only.

The patients who received the combined treatment also went for a longer period of time before they started drinking again -- 61 days compared with 15 days for patients in the other groups.

The findings may prove an important advance in the treatment of patients with alcohol dependence and depression, said the University of Pennsylvania researchers, and should be of interest for programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

"When depression and alcohol dependence occur together, each condition has a negative influence on the outcome of the other, so not only does this pairing of illnesses affect a lot of patients, it also makes the individual disorders worse," study author Helen Pettinati said in a news release. "Combining sertraline and naltrexone could be a practical approach for these patients because both have (U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration) approval."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alcoholics' Relapses Better Understood

Business Week
Brain mechanism could be key, and an existing drug might help, scientists say

U.S. scientists say they've learned new details about molecular mechanisms associated with alcohol addiction treatment and relapse. The findings could lead to new treatments for alcoholism.

The University of California, San Francisco researchers gave lab rats free access to alcohol or sugar for nearly two months, followed by a few weeks of abstinence. The rats who had consumed alcohol, but not those that had consumed sugar, showed increased electrical activity in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens (NAcb) core, which plays a role in motivation and goal-directed behaviors.

This increased activity in the NAcb core after abstinence resulted from the inhibition of small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (SK). These findings can help explain why alcoholics often relapse, even after treatment programs such as alcoholics anonymous have helped them quit.

Futher tests showed that drug-induced activation of SK channels resulted in greater inhibition of NAcb activity in the alcohol-abstinent rats and significantly reduced their desire for alcohol. This type of effect did not occur with sugar-abstinent rats.

The results indicate that decreased SK currents and increased activity in the NAcb core play a critical role in alcoholics' relapse after quitting drinking, said the researchers.

The study appears in the March issue of the journal Neuron.

"Our findings are particularly exciting because the FDA-approved drug chlorzoxazone, which has been used for more than 30 years as a muscle relaxant, can activate SK channels," senior author Dr. Antonello Bonci said in a UCSF news release. "Although SK channels are not the only target of this drug and it can present a variety of clinical side effects, it provides an unexpected and very exciting opportunity to design human clinical trials to examine whether chlorzoxazone, or other SK activators, reduce excessive or pathological alcohol drinking."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tigers' Cabrera 'Comfortable' in His Recovery

The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. -- One word, "serenity," is irresistible when you observe Miguel Cabrera at work during these early days of camp, or more tellingly, hear him speak.

"Serenity" is a word Cabrera would view as accurate.

"I'm comfortable with what I do right now," he said this morning, a few minutes before joining his teammates for a 9:30 workout.

Today's Cabrera is vastly different than the one who could sometimes be uncomfortably aloof during earlier years. He smiles easily now. When he converses, he is engaged with the other party. He listens.

He clearly is at peace six months after his life was beginning to careen dangerously. Immediately after a trouble end to his 2009 season, Cabrera confronted alcohol abuse and a general recklessness that had created even deeper concern for him than it had for the Tigers and their baseball community.

"I don't want to hide what I do," he said of his decision to spend much of the offseason in the company of his doctor as they addressed problems that appear to have involved various layers of physical and psychological challenges. "I want to be a man and say I make a mistake.

"It's a part of life to be a man. I don't try to hide."

Cabrera, of course, had an 0.26 blood-alcohol level when police took him into custody the morning of Oct. 3 following a domestic incident at his Birmingham home. The trouble occurred on the final weekend of the regular season, a critical juncture for a team that missed the playoffs by one game.

Although details were not revealed until Cabrera spoke in January, he decided immediately to consult a doctor with whom he worked rigorously during an offseason that appears to have been transformative.

"I don't think he's different, I think he's matured," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said this morning. "He looks absolutely tremendous."

Cabrera has not had a drink since last October. He says he does not miss it, not at all, and that when he is at dinner or with friends he drinks water, or perhaps apple juice or orange juice.

"I knew what I was doing was bad, and I had to say this is not right for my life, for my work, for my family," he said. "The first thing you've got to think about is yourself.

"When you've got a problem, you need some help. You can't find the problem by yourself. You find the problem and fix it."

Cabrera insisted his difficulties were not a clinical case of alcoholism. He has not required any recent attention from his doctor. He does not go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"It's not that bad," he said, smiling, as if to reinforce thoughts that everything was under control.

And anyone observing him at Tigertown during spring training's first week would be persuaded to agree.