New implant helps stroke patients walk

Also: Updates on benefits of fiber; earlier lung cancer detection

Fiber may pack some hidden health benefits

Most people know that a diet high in fiber helps keep a person “regular.” Now, Australian researchers have uncovered a surprising benefit of this often-undervalued dietary component. They have found that eating the right amount of fiber from breads, cereals, and fruits can help us avoid disease and disability into old age.

Using data compiled from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which included more than 1,600 adults aged 50 years and older, the researchers explored the relationship between carbohydrate nutrition and healthy aging. They found that out of all the factors they examined, which included a person’s total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load and sugar intake, it was the fiber that made the biggest difference to what the researchers termed “successful aging.”

Successful aging was defined as including an absence of disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory symptoms, and chronic diseases including cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke.

“Out of all the variables that we looked at, fiber intake, which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, had the strongest influence,” said lead author Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, PhD, who is with the Institute’s Centre for Vision Research. “Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, dementia, depression and functional disability.”

She said this the first study to look at the relationship between carbohydrate intake and healthy aging, and the results are significant enough to warrant further investigation.

Helping stroke patients walk again

A surgically implanted neuroprosthesis, which is programmed to stimulate coordinated activity of hip, knee and ankle muscles, is now offering the hope to substantially improve walking speed and distance in patients with limited mobility after a stroke. Investigators are now reporting in The American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation on an implanted stimulation system for multi-joint control that they believe is a promising intervention to provide assistance to stroke survivors during daily walking.

Nathaniel Makowski, PhD, and colleagues of the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center report their experience with an implanted neuroprosthesis in a 64-year-old man with impaired motion and sensation of his left leg and foot after a stroke. After thorough evaluation, he underwent surgery to place an implanted pulse generator and intramuscular stimulating electrodes in seven muscles of the hip, knee and ankle.

The scientists then created a customized electrical stimulation program to activate the muscles, with the goal of restoring a more natural gait pattern. The patient went through extensive training in the researchers’ laboratory for several months after neuroprosthesis placement. In a ‘before-and-after’ study design, the patient showed significant gains in walking speed and distance.

The researchers emphasize that large-scale studies will be needed to demonstrate the wider applicability of a neuroprosthesis for multi-joint control. However, if the benefits are confirmed, this implanted system could help some stroke patients.

Improving lung cancer survival rates

A new British study is suggesting that patients with a high risk of developing lung cancer can be identified with early stage disease and have up to a 73 percent chance of surviving for five years or more. The UK Lung Cancer Screening trial (UKLS) was conducted at the University of Liverpool and was a randomized controlled trial of lung cancer screening versus usual care in 4,055 individuals that used a population-based questionnaire to identify high-risk individuals. The screening involved low dose computed tomography (LDCT).

The main reasons why lung cancer outcomes are so poor are because approximately 70 percent of patients are not diagnosed until the disease is too advanced. In the United States, the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (LDCT) was shown to reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent. The UKLS screening trial suggests that the screening intervention could be cost effective. However, this needs to be confirmed in future studies.

“The UKLS trial has successfully demonstrated that we have a way to screen for lung cancer in high risk individuals,” said John Field, who is a Clinical Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Liverpool and the chief investigator of the UKLS trial. “However, as UKLS was a pilot trial, researchers are currently awaiting the outcome of the Dutch CT screening trial, which will potentially provide mortality data to argue for implementation of a national lung cancer screening program.”

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast 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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