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Health Capsules: March 7

Low iodine may interfere with pregnancy

Women who are trying to become pregnant perhaps shouldn’t worry about limiting salt in their diets, according to new research from the National Institutes of Health. The study showed that women with moderate to severe iodine deficiency – a surprisingly common condition among Americans –  may take longer to achieve a pregnancy than those with normal levels.

Iodine, a mineral essential to regulating the body’s metabolism, can only be obtained from food sources. In addition to iodized table salt, iodine can be found in dairy products, seafood, meats, eggs, and some breads. Along with its essential health functions in adults, iodine helps regulate bone growth and brain development in children; severe iodine deficiency has long been known to cause intellectual and developmental delays in infants.

The NIH researchers analyzed data collected from American couples participating in the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment [LIFE] study from 2005-2009, who were attempting to become pregnant. Of the 467 women whose iodine levels were tested, the level was sufficient in 260 [55.7 percent], mildly deficient in 102 [21.8 percent], moderately deficient in 97 [20.8 percent] and severely deficient in eight [1.7 percent]). The researchers found that women who had moderate to severe iodine deficiency had a 46 percent lower chance of becoming pregnant each month, compared to women who had sufficient iodine concentrations.

“Our findings suggest that women who are thinking of becoming pregnant may need more iodine,” said James L. Mills, M.D., who led the study. “Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy, and the fetus depends on this mineral to make thyroid hormone and to ensure normal brain development.”

Women who are concerned they may not be getting enough iodine may wish to consult their physicians before making dietary changes or taking supplements, the authors suggested. The study results were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

MU’s nuclear reactor is key factor behind new cancer drug 

A new cancer drug called Lutathera, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat certain tumors of the gastrointestinal tract and pancreas, would not be available without the University of Missouri’s Research Reactor [MURR]. More than 15 years ago, MU scientists identified promising anticancer properties of the radioisotope lutetium-177 [Lu-177], upon which Lutathera is based. MURR is the only U.S. supplier of Lu-177 for use in the drug, which was developed by Advanced Accelerator Applications, S.A., a Novartis company.

“Research and discoveries made at MURR and across campus will continue to improve the health and lives of citizens of Missouri, the nation and the world,” said Mark McIntosh, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and economic development at MU. “Being the nation’s sole supplier for the active ingredient in a commercially approved cancer therapy such as Lutathera is a pride point for MU and a responsibility the MURR team takes very seriously.”

The reactor has played an important role in research at MU for more than 50 years. Scientists from across the university’s departments use the 10-megawatt facility – which is also the most powerful university-based research reactor in the U.S –  to not only provide radioisotopes like Lu-177 for clinical settings but also to date artifacts and to improve medical diagnostic tools, among other uses.

Millennials who work at home are primarily responsible for a significant decrease in U.S. energy consumption.

Millennials powering lower nationwide energy use

Literally by driving less than previous generations, millennials are driving energy savings of close to 2 trillion BTUs of power consumed per year in the U.S., approximately 1.8 percent of the national total, a recent analysis found.  Factors such as the rapid rise in online shopping and employees working from home are behind the overall decline in energy consumption, which has more than offset an increase in residential energy demand.

The analysis, which was published recently in the journal Joule, was based on a decade of data from American Time Use Surveys conducted between 2003 and 2012. The surveys are administered each year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to track how advances in information technology are changing the lifestyles of Americans, particularly those under age 65. The data showed that, on average, Americans spent an extra eight days at home in 2012 compared to 2003, one less day traveling, and one week less in non-residential buildings. The greatest change was seen in people ages 18-24, who spent 70 percent more time at home compared to the general population. People over 65 were the only group to spend more time outside their homes in 2012 compared to 2003.

“We did expect to see a net energy decrease, but we had no idea of the magnitude,” said the study’s first author, Ashok Sekar, an expert in consumer energy use and policy at the University of Texas at Austin. “This work raises awareness of the connection between lifestyle and energy … Now that we know people are spending more time at home, more focus could be put on improving residential energy efficiency.”

On the calendar

Free health screenings for adults are available during two upcoming events:  Wednesday, March 14 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B; and Friday, March 16 from 9-11 a.m. at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon, in Room A. Screening tests include lung function and blood pressure checks, cholesterol lipid panel and glucose testing, body composition analysis and BMI measurement. Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. Registration is required by visiting www.bjcstcharlescounty.org/events.

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A Staying Home Alone course is offered on Tuesday, March 20 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. This parent-child program helps determine a child’s readiness – physically, mentally, socially and emotionally – to stay home by themselves, and prepares them for this experience. Parent and child workbooks are included in the fee of $25 per family. Registration is required by calling (636) 344-5437.

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