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November 22, 2017 (New Delhi)
A new study has shown that little weight gain during pregnancy may be beneficial for the child, for shorter women who are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies.
Gaining about 490 grams of weight every week during pregnancy reduces the risk of delivering a low birth weight baby in short-statured women by almost 63 per cent, the study says.
Short-statured women generally have a higher chance of delivering a low birth weight baby, which is a leading cause of death and illness in neonates. In addition, low birth weight babies are at higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome when they become adults.
The long and short of the study
UNICEF estimates that 20 million babies are born with low weight every year in the world and that India accounts for nearly 8 million or one third of this global burden.
For the purposes of this study, doctors enrolled 1,254 pregnant women in the age range of 17 to 40 years from amongst those visiting the antenatal clinic at the St John's Medical College in Bangalore for routine checkup. After recording their height, they were categorized into two groups. Those below a height of 152cm were classified as 'short-statured' and those above as 'non-short'. During the course of their pregnancy, their weight was recorded every week using a well-calibrated digital balance. When they delivered, the doctors noted the height and weight of their baby.
Ganining weight during pregnancy
This data was analysed and it was found that improving weight during pregnancy in short-statured women may be beneficial for the birth weight of the offspring. The researchers found that putting on weight in the third trimester, between 6 to 9 months of pregnancy, in particular, had a significant impact. The number of low birth weight deliveries dropped from 22-10 per cent in the short-statured group as against from 11-6 per cent in the non-short group.
Short-statured women are thought to be more likely to deliver weak babies due to insufficient nutrition reserves that reduce their availability to the growing fetus. Also, they are thought to be prone to deliver small sized babies as they have a short pelvic and uterine volume.
" Poor nutrition of the mother is thought to be an important reason for having a low birth weight baby. But, we do not know how effective nutritional supplementation during pregnancy would improve birth weight. In this backdrop, this study is important ", Ramesh Agarwal, Professor in Department of Pediatrics of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, who is not connected to the study, told India Science Wire.
The study is a collaborative effort of St John's Medical College in Bangalore, and the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital. The research team included Nirupama Shivakumar, Pratibha Dwarkanath, Ronald Bosch, Christopher Duggan, Anura V Kurpad, and Tinku Thomas. They did the study over 12 years. The study has been published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
November 14, 2017(New Delhi)
Shift from infectious diseases spurred by unhealthy diets, pollution, high blood pressure
The 'India State Level Disease Burden' report, prepared as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016, and published in Lancet, has found that every State in India has a higher burden from non-communicable diseases and injuries than from infectious diseases. The study used multiple data sources to map State-level disease burden from 333 disease conditions and injuries, and 83 risk factors for each State from 1990 to 2016. It was released by Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu here on Tuesday.
" The contribution of non-communicable diseases to health loss - fuelled by unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, and blood sugar - has doubled in India over the past two decades. Air pollution and tobacco smoking continue to be major contributors to health loss. However, the extent of these risk factors varies considerably across the States of India," said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, one of the partners of the India State-level Disease Burden Initiative (ISDBI).
The estimates are based on analysis of all identifiable epidemiological data from India over 25 years. The report, which provides the first comprehensive set of state-level disease burden data, risk factors estimates, and trends for each state in India, is expected to inform health planning with a view toward reducing health inequalities among States.
Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, director-general ICMR and Secretary, Health Research, Government of India, who closely guided the work of the ISDBI, said: " The effort was to produce an open-access, public good knowledge base, which has the potential of making fundamental and long-term contributions to improving health in every state of the country, through provision of the best possible composite trends of disease burden and risk factors for policy makers to utilise in their decision making."
November 14, 2017
A simple colour-changing test to detect fluoride in drinking water could help prevent skeletal fluorosis, the crippling bone disease, in developing countries like India, says a study.
While low amounts of fluoride are beneficial for healthy teeth, high levels of fluoride can weaken bones, leading to skeletal fluorosis. This disease causes crippling deformities of the spine and joints, especially in children whose skeletons are still forming.
"Whilst a small amount of fluoride is good for your teeth and prevents tooth decay, high levels are toxic and can cause crippling deformities that are irreversible," said lead researcher Simon Lewis from University of Bath in Britain.
When water passes over certain minerals, it can dissolve fluoride, which results in elevated levels of fluoride in drinking water sources in parts of India, China, East Africa, and North America.<>Levels of fluoride in drinking water are routinely monitored and controlled at treatment works in developed countries.
However in areas of the world where there is no piped water system or treatment works, people rely on drawing untreated water from wells, which can often be contaminated with higher than recommended levels of fluoride.
The amounts of fluoride in the groundwater can vary due to weather events, with levels fluctuating hugely when there is a lot of rain.
The new research published in the journal Chemical Communications details a simple colour-changing test that detects high levels of fluoride quickly and selectively.
"Most water quality monitoring systems need a lab and power supply and a trained operator to work them. What we've developed is a molecule that simply changes colour in a few minutes which can tell you whether the level of fluoride is too high," Lewis said.
"This technology is in the very early stages, but we'd like to develop this technology into test strips, similar to litmus paper, that allow people without any scientific training to perform a test that is low cost, rapid and robust," Lewis added.
November 12, 2017(Almora)
A two-day science and technology outreach programme concluded in Gangolihaat in Pithoragarh district on Sunday. Over 100 students from 20 inter-colleges of Bageshwar and Pithoragarh districts participated in the programme attended by eminent scientists and professors of Uttarakhand. The programme also included college dropouts with a keen interest in science and technology.
The outreach programme was held in association with Uttarakhand Science Education & Research Centre (USERC) at the campus of Himalayan Gram Vikas Samiti in Gangolihaat.
The programme included in-depth lectures on biotechnology, artificial intelligence, water supply problem and solutions, cloud technology among others.
While a lecture by B D Lakhchaura, retired professor from G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, delved on genetics and the importance of cell in structures of human and plant biology, Ashutosh Bhatt of Birla Institute of Applied Sciences, Bhimtal, delivered a lecture on cloud technology and its role in globalization.
R S Rana, a scientist at USERC, informed the students about the various initiatives USERC is taking to help science reach remote corners of the hill state. Director of USERC Durgesh Pant took a class over Skype informing the students about various virtual courses of science including audio tutorial books, e-repository etc.
Padma Bhushan awardee and eminent geologist Professor Khadg Singh Waldia said that mathematics lies at the core of technology and that it was crucial for students to take up research in science and technology.
The science outreach programme happens twice a year and delivers science lectures to students.
Nov 12, 2017 (Jaipur)
About 50 million people suffer from diabetes in India, sometimes referred to as 'diabetes capital of the world'. Now, research on animals has shown the condition could be treated with what is called 'very low calorie diet' (VLCD). In a study published online on November 9 in the journal 'Cell Metabolism', researchers led by scientists from Yale University found VLCD can rapidly reverse type 2 diabetes in animal models.
News website Science Daily reported that if these findings are confirmed in people, it could pave the way for a new method of treating this chronic condition.
It is estimated that one in three Americans will suffer from type 2 diabetes by 2050. "Reports indicate that the disease goes into remission in many patients who undergo bariatric weight-loss surgery, which significantly restricts caloric intake prior to clinically significant weight loss. The Yale-led team's study focused on understanding the mechanisms by which caloric restriction rapidly reverses type 2 diabetes," Science Daily reported.
The team studied VLCD, consisting of one-quarter the normal intake, on a rodent model with type 2 diabetes. Researchers tracked metabolic processes that contribute to the increased glucose production by the liver and performed a comprehensive set of analyses of key metabolic fluxes within the liver that could cause insulin resistance and increased rates of glucose production, the two processes that result in increased blood-sugar concentrations.
Researchers found three major mechanisms that explain VLCD's dramatic effect of rapidly lowering blood glucose concentrations in diabetic animals. "In the liver, VLCD lowers glucose production by: 1) decreasing the conversion of lactate and amino acids into glucose; 2) decreasing the rate of liver glycogen conversion to glucose; and 3) decreasing fat content, which in turn improves the liver's response to insulin. These positive effects of the VLCD were observed in just three days," Science Daily reported.
The next step will be for scientists to estimate whether the results can be replicated in type 2 diabetic patients undergoing either bariatric surgery or consuming very low calorie diets. Research in this direction has already begun.
Nov 9, 2017 (New Delhi)
People who consume around 375 to 500 gm of fruits, vegetables, and dal per day are at a reduced risk of death by nearly 23 per cent, a new study published in The Lancet has found.
While World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 800 gm or 5-9 servings of fruit or vegetables per day, and the new study has shown that it takes just half - that is, 375 gm to get the desired health benefits. This is important for people living in countries who cannot afford a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Potatoes and other tubers were not included and fruit juices were not considered as fruits while calculating the intake. Legumes included beans, black beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas.
The researchers attribute beneficial effects of consuming fruits and vegetables to presence of antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids, and fibre in them, which reduces bad cholesterol, improves insulin response, lowers the blood pressure, prevents fat deposition in blood vessels, and improves cellular function in the body.
"Although there is a popular belief that fruits and vegetables are healthy, there was no long-term study data to support this and hence our findings are new and significant," said Dr V Mohan of the Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialties Centre in Chennai, who contributed to the study.
The decade-long research was done in 18 countries with 135,335 participants aged 35 to 70 years. Healthy individuals with no reported diseases and complications were enrolled for the study. They were given questionnaires to record daily diet, lifestyle habits such as smoking, physical activity and alcohol intake, and their socioeconomic status inlcuding education, income, and employment.
At the end of the study, researchers recorded the number of deaths, cases of cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, and stroke. Then the data was analysed to see if consuming higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dal is related to the number of deaths and adverse outcomes on health. "We found that regular consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes protected people from cardiovascular disease and death", Dr Mohan told India Science Wire.
"This study does not distinguish between cooked vegetables and raw ones, although it is common knowledge that cooking destroys some of the vitamins and minerals, hence as far as possible we should use raw vegetables like tomato, cucumber, carrot and green leafy vegetables which can be consumed raw", pointed out Dr Mohan.
According to Estefania Toledo, professor at the Department of Nutrition of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA, who is not connected to the study, "increased consumption of fruits and vegetables should be at the expense of reducing other foods and drinks, such as sugar sweetened beverages, red and processed meat, saturated and trans fat, refined cereals, and sugar rich desserts". She added that consuming more plant-based foods helps replace detrimental foods, which benefits the overall dietary pattern.
Sanket Deshpande - a final year engineering student at BITS Pilani, Goa - has not taken a single vacation in four years. Instead, Sanket and four other engineering students at the engineering institute spent their time in building a near space micro satellite named 'Apeiro' with the aim to study space weather and radiation patterns. The satellite is set to be launched in mid December.The project began with an idea that Sanket had in mind while he was in his first year back in 2014. "A lot of my seniors had worked on space weather and had highlighted the need to study radiations in space in the past. After reading about the existing work, I came across the idea of studying radiations in space. With commercial flying booming fast, cosmic radiation can have a severe impact on the health of commercial pilots. In order to warn pilots about weather conditions and risks around a particular flying zone, one needs to have a detailed data about the same," Sanket said.
Four other students - Lucky Kapoor, Shivangi Kamat, Pankaj Tiple,Vibhav Joshi and Aishwarya Pravin - soon joined Sanket.
"We spoke to several senior scientists at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Bhaba Atomic Research Centre. The biggest challenge was to get a launching facility. But thankfully, TIFR offered to launch the satellite at their ballooning facility in Hyderabad at no cost," said Aishwarya Pravin, a Project Apeiro member.
The payload will be launched from TIFR's ballooning facility in Hyderabad in the last week of December.The satellite would float at the altitude of 22kms after which it can be tracked and the data on space radiation can be obtained.
Satyanarayana Bheesette,Scientific Officer TIFR said that he was impressed with the project which he said 'inspired a lot of people' at the institute. "It was almost two years ago that I was approached by these students. I guided them to convert the ideas into actual pieces of detectors, instrumentation and electronics and solve their integration problems. It was high commendable that they could work on this project, while giving their best to their highly demanding academic requirements. Now the payload is fully ready and passed all the stringent tests, and it will be flown soon aboard a balloon by the National Balloon Facility of TIFR? he added
November 10, 2017(Panaji)
Of the 5,200 reasearch institutes worldwide, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) India, is the only one in India to find a place in the top 100 of this list, said Union minister for science and technology, Harsh Vardhan at the national institute of oceanography (NIO), Dona Paula on Thursday.
CSIR is among the world's largest publicly funded national research and development organizations. Vardhan said that CSIR is 75th this year compared to 91st last year, according to the international Scimago ranking.
"Additionally, there are 1,200 government-funded institutes in the world. We are 9th on the list. The international rate of growth for India in the science and technology sector is 13.5%. This shows that we are improving," he said.
The minster added that India will be a clean energy nation by 2022. Referring to the coal issue in Vasco he said, "Goa has to fulfill its responsibility in that direction. Things cannot be changed overnight but the Prime Minister is very clear in making India a clean energy nation. We have set up very powerful leadership example at the international level in terms of strengthening mission and innovation movement."
He added that scientists must start a module along the lines of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The minister urged that Indian scientists working overseas be seen as brain-gain instead of brain-drain. "The scientists do not work outside India without the government's knowledge. If they do, it is usually because they are part of the official collaboration between that country and India. Similarly, scientists from other countries can also come work in India. We are talking about brain-gain here." he added.
November 8, 2017
"Coal India's New App "Grahak Sadak Koyla Vitaran App" for the benefit of customers lifting coal through road mode.
This app is a step towards transparency in the system of loading programme and despatch.
The app also helps in logistics planning for lifting of coal in tune with the loading programmes.
The app provides date-wise, truck-wise quantity of coal delivered against the Sale Orders.
Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Railways & Coal has launched 'Grahak Sadak Koyla Vitaran App' benefitting customers of Coal India Limited (CIL) lifting coal through road mode.
The customer friendly app, launched recently in Kolkata on CIL's Foundation Day, helps achieve transparency in despatch operations, as a tool to monitor, whether the despatches are made on the fair principle of 'First in First Out' and keeps track of all the activities from issuance of Sale Order to physical delivery of coal by road.
The main benefits of the App for the customers, against the Sale Orders issued, include easy accessibility of the information at the click of the button, apart from transparency in the system of loading programme and despatch. The app also helps in logistics planning for lifting of coal in tune with the loading programmes. It further helps in improved planning of procurement, production and stock management by the customers.
The main features of the app are that it provides date-wise, truck-wise quantity of coal delivered against the Sale Orders and information related to Scheme-wise, Colliery-wise, Grade-wise, customer-wise details of Sale Orders issued during a period.
In terms of loading it provides allotment verses lifting status in details from different sources truck by truck and summary of the despatch.
Coal India is addressing its customer needs in a big way and made 'ease of doing business' a major consumer commitment. The launching of the app is also one of the initiatives of CIL towards achieving the much cherished goal of 'Digital India' and transparency.
It may be recalled that CIL in a move to rush more coal to power stations, coal supplies to plants located in shorter distances have been offered through road mode from available pithead stock. As a result, power plants located within 50 Kms to 60 Kms from the mines may take as much coal from the nearest mines as they can.
During 2016-17 despatch of coal through road mode had been about 140 Million Tonnes (MTs) out of the total despatch of 542 MTs by CIL accounting for 26%. The impetus given in the current fiscal has improved movement of coal through road considerably. As of end of October 2017 the movement of coal through road mode at a little over 93 MTs accounted for 29% of the total coal despatch of 317 MTs.The road despatch during the current fiscal till October 2017 went up by 12 MTs compared to same period last fiscal.