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By John Schieszer
Medical Minutes 

Promising news about coffee, lasers, arthritis

Medical Minutes


October 1, 2017

Laser zaps gum disease

Dentistry is getting a little bit less invasive and less painful. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a minimally invasive laser, a tiny laser fiber about the thickness of three human hairs, to treat gum disease. The laser helps regenerate bone and tissue.

It eliminates the traditional treatment of periodontal surgery, a highly invasive and often painful procedure. This less invasive technique means minimal post-operative discomfort requiring no opioid level prescriptions and faster recovery and healing time. Dentists firing up their lasers for this treatment report that most patients are able to drive themselves home and return to their regular daily activities immediately following the procedure.

The LANAP protocol using the PerioLase MVP-7 was developed by Millennium Dental Technologies. It is the only laser-based gum disease treatment with the proven ability to regenerate all three periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament and cementum lost to disease, according to the company. It reports that more than 2,200 dentists are now offering this preferred treatment to their patients.

Most people avoid the dentist because of the fear of pain, but this new laser may help change that. Over 80 percent of U.S. adults suffer from some degree of gum disease and only 3 percent will accept treatment. Gum disease is linked to systemic diseases including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.

Coffee may help combat diabetes

In recent years, researchers have identified substances in coffee that could help quash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, scientists report that a previously untested compound in coffee appears to improve cell function and insulin sensitivity in laboratory mice. The finding could spur the development of new drugs to treat or even prevent diabetes.

Some studies suggest that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that afflicts nearly 30 million Americans. Initially, scientists suspected that caffeine was responsible for this effect. But later findings discounted this possibility, suggesting that other substances in coffee may have a more important role.

In a previous laboratory study, Fredrik Brustad Mellbye, Søren Gregersen and colleagues found that a compound in coffee called cafestol increased insulin secretion in pancreatic cells when they were exposed to glucose. Cafestol also increased glucose uptake in muscle cells just as effectively as a commonly prescribed diabetes medicine. In a new study published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers wanted to see if cafestol would help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in mice.

The researchers divided mice that are prone to develop type 2 diabetes into three groups. Two of the groups were fed differing doses of cafestol. After 10 weeks, both sets of cafestol-fed mice had lower blood glucose levels and improved insulin secretory capacity compared to a control group, which was not given the compound. Cafestol also didn’t result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a possible side effect of some diabetes medications. The researchers conclude that daily consumption of cafestol can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in these mice, and that it is a good candidate for drug development to treat or prevent the disease in humans.

Arthritis and exercise

Older adults who suffer from arthritis need to keep moving to be functionally independent. However, a new study has found that performing even a third of the recommended activity is beneficial.

Federal guidelines suggest achieving 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to prevent premature death and serious illness. However, only one in 10 older American adults with arthritis in their knees meet these guidelines. Northwestern University researchers wanted to determine a less overwhelming activity goal to get this population up and moving, and 45 minutes per week was that magic number.

Approximately one third of participants improved or had high function after two years. But those participants who achieved this minimum of 45 minutes of moderate activity per week, such as brisk walking, were 80 percent more likely to improve or sustain high future function over two years compared with those doing less. This finding was true for both men and women.

“Even a little activity is better than none,” said study author Dr. Dorothy Dunlop, who is a professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “For those older people suffering from arthritis who are minimally active, a 45-minute minimum might feel more realistic.”

She said the federal guidelines are very important because the more you do, the better you’ll feel and the greater the health benefits you’ll receive. However, Dr. Dunlop said even achieving a less rigorous goal will promote the ability to function and may be a feasible starting point for older adults dealing with joint discomfort.

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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