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Anchor lead: Can a simple intervention reduce a common
infection in newborns? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Bacteria known by the shorthand ‘staph’ can cause serious
and sometimes life-threatening infections in newborn babies, especially those
in the neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. Now a new study by Aaron Milstone,
a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, shows
that simply applying an antibiotic ointment to the nasal cavities and using an
antibacterial hand wipe in parents helps.

Milstone: The first finding was that many babies got the
bacteria from their parents and not from the healthcare environment. More than
half in fact, and we found that the intervention was very effective at reducing
the chances that babies were going to get it from their parents, more than
fifty percent, so there was a fifty percent reduction in those babies that got
the bacteria from their parents when the parents were treated.  :24

Milstone notes that treating parents had no negative side
effects. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: If you choose to fast there are many ways to
do so, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Studies on fasting have utilized different patterns, such as
eating only 600 calories two days per week and consuming a normal diet on other
days, but Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins and author
of a recent paper on the benefits of fasting, says in creating a schedule
simplicity is best.

Mattson: Fast for at least 16 hours a day or a couple days a
week eat only one meal. It takes two to four weeks to adapt, and it might be
good to do it with a spouse or a friend or a coworker.  :11

Fasting with a partner may help you persist, Mattson says,
and don’t be surprised by the social cost of doing so.

Mattson: One of the downsides from a social standpoint is
obvious: you have a breakfast meeting with someone and then you don’t eat
breakfast and they’re eating bacon and eggs and you’re drinking tea.   :10

Mattson notes that our societal conventions may be a
challenge at first but there’s no evidence that three meals a day and snacks
are anyone’s most healthful choice. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: If you choose to fast, should you also
exercise? Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you’ve chosen a fasting regimen to improve your health,
should you also exercise? Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns
Hopkins and author of a recent paper on fasting, says the answer is a
resounding yes.

Mattson: If you work out in the fasting state you get an
additive effect of the beneficial effects of the fasting and the exercise,
insulin sensitivity, fat loss- makes a lot of sense, right? You’re already
using fats and then now you’re exercising when you don’t have any glucose in
your liver.  :18

Mattson says benefits begin on a cellular level.

Mattson: In response to the fasting and exercise the cells
upregulate mechanisms that clear out molecules that are damaged by free
radicals, and then when you eat and rest the cells can grow.   :11

Mattson notes that the benefits of fasting have been shown
in cancer, neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. At Johns Hopkins, I’m
Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: How can fasting be good for us? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Voluntarily restricting food intake allows our metabolism to use stored fat as an energy source, with a recent review paper by Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, finding multiple benefits. And Mattson says there is a biological basis for why it may be a healthy choice.

Mattson: Animals in the wild, including our human ancestors, before the agricultural revolution and before there was food constantly available, lived in environments where food was sparse and they didn’t wake up in the morning and have food waiting for them. They had to spend a lot of energy as well as mental effort to figure out where the food is and how to acquire it. As far as we can tell from modern day hunter gatherers we’re geared genetically to go extended time periods without food and be able to function well.   :32

Mattson says people can tailor their own fasting strategies to suit their needs. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Restricting food intake so your body experiences fasting may help your health, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Fasting involves having your body use stored fat as an energy source, with a recent review paper by Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, finding that even in the absence of dieting, such a practice results in weight loss. Mattson says it also has a number of other positive effects.

Mattson: Those changes we think based on a lot of data from animals and some data particularly from overweight humans which has been many many studies of intermittent fasting. There are many things that happen that protect organs against the chronic diseases that plague our modern society.  Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, and even things like inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers.  :28

Mattson notes that definitive studies, where fasting’s benefits are evaluated prospectively and over long periods of time, haven’t yet been done in people, and these are clearly needed to firmly establish the benefits of the practice. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Periodic fasting may be the best way to lose fat, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Avoiding eating for intervals may help your body use stored fat as an energy source, a review paper by Mark Mattson, a neurosciences researcher at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, shows. Mattson describes what’s needed to induce your body to mobilize fat.

Mattson: Intermittent fasting involves eating patterns with time periods sufficient to cause depletion of liver energy stores and utilization of fat. So if someone is eating three meals a day plus snacks and they’re not getting vigorous exercise then every time they eat they replenish their liver energy stores and they may never tap into the fat. Beyond just using fat there’s a lot that goes on in the body and brain when this metabolic switch occurs.  :30

Mattson says a number of models exist for adopting such a strategy, so fitting one to your own preferences is possible. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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Anchor lead: Do dog bacteria account for a reduced risk for schizophrenia? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Having a dog very early in life can reduce the risk for developing schizophrenia by about 40%, a study by Robert Yolken and colleagues at Johns Hopkins shows. Yolken says two factors he’d really like to measure are the dog’s impact on a person’s resident bacteria, known as the microbiome, as well as effects on the immune system.

Yolken: One of the data would be that the dog contributes to the microbiome of the children or somehow stimulates the immune system, and therefore this provides a protective effect. The microbiome hypothesis is probably closer to what we’re seeing than the hygiene hypothesis involving allergy and exposures because we did not see a protective effect of cats. We think the difference probably has to do with the microbiome. The dog microbiome is quite different from the cat microbiome. Cats are carnivores, dogs are omnivores, and there are many studies suggesting different microbiomes, that is the bacteria are different. :30

Yolken says for now, he would not counsel parents to acquire a dog to protect their child from schizophrenia. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.