Research about allergies, hip resurfacing, more

The truth about spring allergies

Every year we hear about how it may be the worse allergy season in years. But how true is it and are allergies a big problem than ever before? It turns out that several factors determine the severity of allergy season, such as weather patterns. While allergies are on the rise, affecting more and more Americans every year, each spring isn’t necessarily worse than the last, according to allergist Dr. Michael Foggs, who is the president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

According to ACAAI, 23.6 million Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in the last year. The prevalence of allergies is surging upward, with as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children having at least one allergy.

“With more people being affected by seasonal allergies, it may seem like every year is the worst yet for sufferers,” said Dr. Foggs. “But in reality, there might just be more people complaining about symptoms.”

There are several theories about why more people are being diagnosed with allergies. Recent studies have shown pollen levels gradually increase every year. Part of the reason for this is due to the changing climate. The warmer temperatures and mild winters cause plants to begin producing and releasing pollen earlier, making the spring allergy season longer.

Experts also say that rain can promote plant and pollen growth, while wind accompanying rainfall can stir pollen and mold into the air, heightening symptoms. The climate is not only responsible for making the allergy season longer and symptoms more bothersome, but may also be partially to blame for the rise in allergy sufferers.

Strawberries may pack important nutritional punch

A new Spanish study by researchers in Granada has found that strawberries can significantly help lower cholesterol levels. The researchers conducted an interesting study: They had a team of healthy adults eat half a kilo of strawberries a day for a month to see whether it altered their blood parameters in any way. At the end of the study, they found that levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced significantly.

Researchers at the Universities of Salamanca teamed up with researchers from the Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM, Italy) and set up an experiment in which they added 500 grams of strawberries to the daily diets of 23 healthy volunteers over a month. They took blood samples at the start of the study and then again at 4 weeks.

They found that the total amount of cholesterol dropped on average by about 9 percent and the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, dropped by approximately 14 percent. The researchers also found that triglyceride levels dropped by about 21 percent. The high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol, remained unchanged. All parameters returned to their initial values 15 days after the strawberries were discontinued.

“This is the first time a study has been published that supports the protective role of the bioactive compounds in strawberries in tackling recognized markers and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” said study investigator Maurizio Battino, who is a researcher at UNIVPM. The researcher admits that there is still no direct evidence about which compounds of this fruit are behind their beneficial effects, but all the signs and epidemiological studies point towards anthocyanins, which give strawberries their red color, according to Battino.

Hip resurfacing may be an option for some

If you are discussing a hip replacement with your doctor, you may want to ask about hip resurfacing. A new study is suggesting that hip resurfacing may be a better option for some patients, particularly those who are young and active. Hip resurfacing preserves more of a patient’s thigh bone than a traditional total hip replacement. The resurfacing implant also tends to be made completely of metal. Plastic and metal are often used in total hip replacement surgery.

Researchers conducted a study with 806 active patients aged 60 and younger who had hip replacement or hip resurfacing surgery. They found that a year after treatment those who had the resurfacing procedure reported that they were less likely to limp, experience thigh pain or perceive a discrepancy in the length of their legs. Those who had resurfacing surgery also were more likely to return to the activities that were the most important to them.

“Hip resurfacing wasn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration until 2006,” said study investigator Dr. Robert Barrack, who is with Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. “The implants cost a bit more, the procedure is technically more challenging for the surgeon, and there potentially are some complications unique to the procedure, such as allergy or tissue reaction to metal particles, but these are very uncommon in properly implanted, FDA-approved devices.”

In this study, more than 70 percent of hip resurfacing patients reported that they hadn’t limped in the past 30 days compared with about 50 percent of patients who had total hip replacements.

Previous studies in Europe, Canada and Australia have suggested hip resurfacing allowed patients to be more active with fewer limitations, but other studies have recommended against resurfacing, particularly in women and men of small stature.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

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