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Our top stories from December 2016 

Women's Health News  - Four of our top stories 

Gene limits desire to drink alcohol

In a largest study, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers and colleagues in Europe have identified a gene variant that seems to reduce an individual’s desire to drink alcohol.

The study revealed a previously unrecognised liver-brain pathway which regulates alcohol consumption in humans. Researchers hope this gene variant could one day be targeted therapeutically to suppress consumption in problem drinkers.

The international study examined DNA samples from more than 105,000 light and heavy social drinkers (non-addicted). The researchers also collected information on weekly drinking habits. They found that variants of the β-Klotho gene were related to the amount of alcohol people consumed.

One variant, which was found in 40 percent of participants, was associated with significantly lower weekly alcohol consumption.

The researchers also genetically engineered mice unable to express the β-Klotho in their brains, and found that they preferred alcohol to water, indicating that the gene helps to control alcohol intake.

Read More....

Interactive 3D embryo atlas reveals human development in detail

The development of the human embryo has been revealed in unprecedented detail in an interactive three-dimensional atlas built by a team of scientists in Netherlands.

It offers an unparalleled glimpse into the first eight weeks of human development.

“Everyone thinks we already know this, but I believe we know more about the moon than about our own development,” said Bernadette de Bakker, of the University of Amsterdam and he added “many textbook depictions of embryo development are based on observations made many decades ago, and often contain details inferred from studies on mouse or chick embryos.”

The new resource will offer researchers the chance to explore the intricate changes occurring in the first weeks of life from a series of human specimens, aiding vital research. “It is important to understand normal human embryology to clarify how inborn defects and congenital malformations occur,” said de Bakker.




Quitting smoking at any age reduces mortality

A new study in people aged over 70 found that quitting smoking at any age is associated with reduced mortality. According to the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine , people aged 70 or older currently smoking were more than three times more likely to die than those who had never smoked, while former smokers were less likely to die the sooner they quit.

Most studies on smoking and mortality have focused on middle aged populations and little evidence existed of the benefit of quitting in elderly people.

Investigators reviewed data for more than 160,000 individuals aged 70 and over.

According the researchers, the data show that age at smoking initiation and cessation are important predictors of mortality in U.S. adults aged 70 years and older. Younger age at initiation was associated with increased risk of mortality, highlighting the importance of youth and early-adult smoking on lifetime mortality risk, even among people who live to age 70 years. 

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Consumption of cows milk is in decline


An average person consumes about 144 pints (81 litres) of cow’s milk a year.

Americans drink 37% less milk than they did in the 70s. In the UK, dairy consumption has fallen by a third in the past 20 years.

Milk is increasingly getting a bad press with many articles referring to lactose intolerance.

Lactose is the sugar found in milk and dairy products and it needs the enzyme lactase to break it down. Without enough lactase, the lactose is broken down by bacteria in the small bowel, causing bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and nausea.

Around 70% of us don’t continue producing lactase after we have finished breast or formula feeding. Genetically, babies need milk, adults not so much. Northern Europeans, who thousands of years ago got into cattle farming, have adapted to cow’s milk and have a genetic mutation so that only 2-15% have a degree of lactase deficiency. This rises to 23% in central Europeans and 95% in Asian populations.

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Features  - Two of our top features 

Breaking menstrual taboo - women should not be banished

Chhaupadi is a social tradition for Hindu women in the western part of Nepal, which prohibits them from participating in normal family activities during menstruation, as they are considered “impure”. The women are kept out of their homes to live in a makeshift hut or cattle shed. This lasts from 10 to 11 days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between 4 and 7 days each month. Childbirth also results in a ten to eleven-day confinement.

Since 2007, at least eight women have died in Achham while practising chaupadi. Chaupadi has been outlawed since a 2005 Supreme Court decision, but there is currently no mechanism to prosecute anyone who adheres to the tradition.

During this time, women are forbidden to touch men or even to enter the courtyard of their own homes. They are banned from eating milk, yoghurt, butter, meat, and other foods. 

Read more....
Woman with Down's syndrome starts successful cookie company

One of our inspiring stories - 

After countless job rejections 26-year-old Collette Divitto, a woman with Down syndrome from Boston, decided to take matters into her hands and started her own cookie business.

Collette’s company started in her own kitchen, where she perfected her own recipes and now she hopes to grow the business enough to begin hiring other workers with disabilities.

Collette purchased a website herself, learned how to invoice her customers and soon people were putting in orders online. Collette already had more than 25,000 cookie orders all across the USA.

Her cookie company “Collettey’s Cookies” took off when her profile was presented by CBS and her story uploaded to the CBS Facebook page has been viewed more than eight million times.

Read More....

Discussion of the day - Lets get talking

Is a man ever too old to have a child?

Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones rocker, became a father for the eighth time at the age of 73. The mother of his son is Melanie Hamrick, a 29-year-old ballerina. Jagger, who is already a great-grandfather, has children with five different women and has five grandchildren. His oldest child is 46-year-old Karis Hunt and his youngest (before the birth of the eighth child) Lucas who is 17.

In June, another member of the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, 68 welcomed twin baby girls.

Most of the media congratulated the rock stars, but this is not usually the case when an older woman decides to have a child. Older women usually get harsh criticism for deciding to have a baby late in life. Do you think that a man is never too old to have a child, but there is a strict age limit when a woman is concerned?



Would you like to know the sequence of your genome?

The first human genome was sequenced in 2003.  In 2007, James Watson, one of the team who discovered the structure of DNA, had his genome sequenced at a cost of $1 million.  Currently a genome can be sequenced in a few weeks for under $1000, less than the cost of a chest X-ray.

But is there any benefit of having our genome sequenced?  In relation to the post on precision medicine, it may soon be a huge medical advantage to have your genome sequenced.

And with the advances in non invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), it is likely that very soon most children will be born knowing the sequence of their DNA.

Would you like to know?  Would  you pay to have your genome sequenced or would you agree to do it if it was free on the health service?

Should we be allowed to do research on human embryos past 14 days?

There are three questions here – should we be allowed to research on human embryos at all?  And if so, should there be a time limit?  How long should the time limit be?

In 1984 the Warnock committee recommended that human embryo research should only be allowed up until day 14 post fertilisation (picture: Mary Warnock).  Until recently we have not been able to culture human embryos past day 7 or 8.  But this summer a group in Cambridge lead by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz reported that they could culture human embryos up to day 13.  So the debate has reopened – should we extend the 14 day rule set in 1984?

The Progress Educational Trust (PET) made this the topic of a conference on Wednesday and we were privileged to have Baroness Mary Warnock open the meeting.  She is not sure what scientific questions we could answer if we cultured past day 14 and so she would like to know this before extending the time.


Did you compromise on your career for your family?

For men that want a family it is easy – the majority of them will not alter their careers at all.  But for working women there are four options; give up work totally, go part time in the same job, part time in a lower paid job or stay full time.

Recent European data from the IPPR (Who is the breadwinner in Europe) says that the proportion of women who are the breadwinners has increased; in the UK it is a third of working mothers – 2 million women.  But it seems most of these women are in low paid jobs.  This is not the same in the Netherlands where female breadwinners are represented evenly across all income brackets.

The top six countries that have the highest proportion of working mothers are Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Portugal, Croatia and Ireland.  In Latvia, women are the main breadwinner in almost 50% of households.

In the UK. the Office for National Statistics report that just one in ten women stay at home.

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