Gene That Predicts Happiness in Women Discovered

Happiness Genes in WomenA new study has found a gene that appears to make women happy, but it doesn’t work for men. The finding may help explain why women are often happier than men, the research team said.

Scientists at the University of South Florida (USF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute reported that the low-expression form of the gene monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is associated with higher self-reported happiness in women. No such association was found in men.

The findings appear online in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

"This is the first happiness gene for women," said lead author Henian Chen, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, USF College of Public Health.

"I was surprised by the result, because low expression of MAOA has been related to some negative outcomes like alcoholism, aggressiveness and antisocial behavior," said Chen, who directs the Biostatistics Core at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. "It’s even called the warrior gene by some scientists, but, at least for women, our study points to a brighter side of this gene."

Full story of happiness genes at Science Daily

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Can pro-anorexia websites help heal some eating disorders?

Pro-Anorexia Web Site to Help DisorderWebsites and blogs that support anorexia — known as pro-ana sites — have been widely banned online by sites like Pinterest, Yahoo and Tumblr.

For anyone who’s ever visited a pro-ana site, the reason is clear: the content exchanged in these online communities is often shocking. They use images of emaciated models and celebrities as "thinspiration" for vulnerable girls, and include frank discussions of the best methods for achieving extreme weight loss.

Anorexia is the most deadly of all psychiatric disorders, and pro-ana websites can be especially distressing to family members and friends of those who are suffering from it.

But it is precisely because anorexia is so devastating — and so stigmatized — that such websites may be a boon to some of those who visit them. Like similar groups for addicted people who are not ready to give up drugs, they can provide a rare source of nonjudgmental support for people with eating disorders.

According to Daphna Yeshua-Katz, a doctoral student at Indiana University, who co-authored a new study on pro-ana sites appearing in the journal Health Communication, a close look at these sites reveals certain benefits: behind the exhortations to achieve bodily perfection or to glorify an often-fatal psychiatric illness, there are communities of people, mainly women, who understand each others’ demons.

Full story of pro-anorexia Web sites at CNN Health

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Limiting TV Time: An Effective Strategy for Preventing Weight Gain in Children

Limit TV Time Prevents Children Weight GainReducing television viewing may be an effective strategy to prevent excess weight gain among adolescents, according to a new study released in the September/October 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Findings were based on a one-year community-based randomized trial that enrolled 153 adults and 72 adolescents from the same households. During that year, researchers from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Center conducted six face-to-face group meetings, sent monthly newsletters, and set-up 12 home-based activities. In addition, each household agreed to allow researchers to attach a "TV Allowance" to all televisions in the household for the one-year study period. Television viewing hours, diet, and physical activity levels were measured before and after the intervention.

A clear association was observed among adolescents between reduction in TV hours and decreased weight gain over one year. The TV hours’ impact on weight gain was not significant for adults. These findings suggest that television viewing is a risk for excess weight gain among adolescents. The implication is that parents who limit their adolescents’ television viewing may help their adolescent maintain a healthy body weight. According to national survey data [NHANES] 2003-2006, about 31% of US children and adolescents are overweight or obese, therefore finding the causes for weight gain in this population is growing increasingly important.

Full story of TV time and weight gain at Science Daily

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Fighting loneliness and disease with meditation

Fighting Loneliness With MeditationAnyone who sees meditation as a hippy-dippy endeavor has found his or her view increasingly challenged by science in recent years.

Meditation and other contemplative practices are continuing to claim their place at the table of mainstream medicine.

This is true for a slew of reasons: chief among them, the recognition that hordes of us are stressed out, that stress wreaks havoc upon our bodies and that the practice of meditation has significant and measurable stress-reduction properties.

In a recent study led by J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, mindfulness-based meditation continues to reveal itself as a therapeutic powerhouse, with far-reaching influence on both psychological and physical health.

The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, extends the benefits of mindfulness-based meditation into previously uncharted territories: helping to reduce loneliness and the risk of disease in older adults.

Full story of meditating loneliness at CNN Health

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Older fathers may be linked to child autism

Older Fathers Linked to Child AutismThe Empowered Patient is a regular feature from CNN Senior Medical News Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that helps put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to health care.

Women aren’t the only ones whose biological clocks are ticking: A new study on the genetics of autism finds the sperm of older men may be to blame for many cases of the disorder.

The study, done by researchers in Iceland, indicates that as many as 20-30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be linked to the father’s advanced age.  Unlike findings on disorders such as Down Syndrome, this study found that the age of the mother made no difference.

“This is really a paradigm shift,” said Dr. Jamie Grifo, program director of the New York University Fertility Center.

Traditionally, women have borne the brunt of concerns about having a healthy child as they age, while many men have assumed their sperm were no different at 80 than at 20.

Full story of fathers linked to child autism at CNN Health

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