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Health Capsules
April 2008
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Allergens in Homes Linked to Asthma

A little housecleaning may help to reduce asthma symptoms in people who have both asthma and allergies.  A national survey found that allergy-triggering substances, called allergens, are quite common in most homes.  Households with asthmatic people are more likely to have higher levels of multiple allergens.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic ailments in the U.S.  It affects more than 22 million people.  Asthma can be triggered by a wide range of allergens.

NIH scientists and their colleagues examined survey results from nearly 2,500 people in 75 locations across the country.  The researchers looked at how allergen levels in homes were related to asthma.  The allergens included those from dog, cat, mouse, cockroach, dust mite and a common indoor fungus.

The research team found that most U.S. households have several types of indoor allergens.  Just over half of homes had at least 6 detectable allergens.  Nearly half had increased levels of 3 or more allergens.

The scientists found that a quarter of the households had at least one person who had been diagnosed with asthma.  Higher levels of at least 4 allergens were found in 23% of the homes of people with asthma, compared with 16% of homes where no asthmatic people lived.

More research is needed to understand the factors that contribute to asthma.  Regular household cleaning, however, is a simple way to help reduce exposure to allergens.  If someone in your family has asthma, you may be able to improve their symptoms by reducing allergen levels in your home.

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Allergens & Irritants

The Complexities of Asthma

  Diet and Metabolic Syndrome

A new study has implicated meat, fried food and, surprisingly, diet soda in the development of metabolic syndrome.  More research is needed to explain these intriguing findings.

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.  Doctors consider someone to have metabolic syndrome when they have 3 or more risk factors.  These include high blood pressure, low HDL (good cholesterol) and diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Although scientists know that diet is linked to metabolic syndrome, they don’t completely understand how.  In this new study, NIH-funded researchers looked at the eating habits of almost 10,000 middle-age adults.

Within 9 years, nearly 2 out of 5 people had developed metabolic syndrome.  Their risk was greater if they ate a Western diet, with lots of refined grains, processed meat, fried foods and red meat. 

The researchers found that hamburgers, hot dogs, processed meats and fried foods were each linked to a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.  In contrast, whole grains, refined grains, nuts, coffee or fruits and vegetables did not appear to be linked to the syndrome.  On the other hand, people who ate more dairy were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

Strikingly, diet soda was strongly associated with an increased risk for metabolic syndrome.  Sweetened drinks like regular soda and fruit drinks, however, weren’t.

These findings aren’t conclusive.  Earlier studies found that whole grains are linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, but this study didn’t.  Certain foods may not in themselves contribute to metabolic syndrome.  Instead, they may serve as markers for other behaviors that do lead to metabolic syndrome.  Scientists hope future research will clarify this picture.

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What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study


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Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse by professional athletes has been all over the news.  Concerns about body image and athletic performance may lead teens, as well as adult men and women, to use steroids.  This site was designed by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to alert the public to the fact that these are dangerous drugs.

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