The Telangana Science Journal
March 2001


Hazards of Smoking
    Women and Smoking
     Wrinkles and Smoking
    Heart Disease and Smoking
    Smoker and Spouse
Hazards of Eating Too Much
Women and Folic acid
Three In Four Americans are Out of Shape

Hazards of Smoking

Christopher Columbus first saw tobacco in the New World when natives on San Salvador Island gave him gifts that included tobacco in 1492.  King Philip II of Spain had sent physician Francisco Fernandes to Mexico to discover what agricultural products the Mexicans were growing and using.  He brought smoking of tobacco to Spain in 1558 and it is everywehre in the world now.

Women and Smoking:
"You've Come a Long Way, Baby!"  Cigerette ads declared in 60s. Smoking-related illness among women and teen-age girls is a full-blown epidemic now.  Unfortunately, more and more teen-age girls are falling prey to the killer habit due to increased tobacco industry marketing, concludes Surgeon General David Satcher in a report released March 27th. Smoking is the nation's leading cause of preventable death, claiming more than 400,000 lives a year. Smoking has killed nearly 3 million women since the surgeon general last investigated female smoking in 1980. It can cut short a woman's life by an average of 14 years. Lung cancer is smoking's top harm. Once rare among women, it's now the top female cancer killer, claiming 27,000 more lives each year than does the dreaded breast cancer.  Smoking also causes numerous other cancers, heart disease and other lung diseases in male and female smokers alike. But women face some unique additional risks, the nation's top doctor stressed: dangerous blood clots among users of birth control pills; menstrual irregularities and earlier menopause; infertility; bone-thinning osteoporosis; cervical cancer. That's in addition to the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, which include low-birth-weight babies, stillbirths, miscarriages.

Wrinkles and Smoking:
The link between smoking and wrinkles has been known for years, but scientists haven’t worked out exactly how cigarettes age the skin.  In a study, scientists from St. John’s Institute of Dermatology in London found that the gene, one implicated in wrinkles from sunbathing, was highly active in smokers and silent in nonsmokers. The report in the Lancet medical journal suggests smoking switches on a gene involved in destroying collagen, the structural protein that gives skin its elasticity.  It indicates that something in cigarettes is injuring skin in a similar way to sun, or at least through the same pathways,” said Dr. James Leyden, a professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Heart Disease and Smoking:
"Smoking is the single most important avoidable cause of heart disease in adults, and this is showing that it applies at an early age as well," says Dr. Willett, who is also the chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. Even if their cholesterol levels are low, teen-agers and young adults who smoke have three times the level of plaques in a major artery as those who don't smoke, according to a new study that further confirms the early onset of signs of heart disease.  The study, published in the March 20 issue of Circulation, also found that young obese males have twice the level of plaques in the right coronary artery as males of normal weight. Plaques are thickened areas of the arterial walls that eventually can block the vessel.

Cigarette smoking seems to have an acute effect that may increase the risk of a heart attack following each cigarette smoked, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

Smoker and Spouse:
Women who live with smokers absorb five to six times more chemicals linked to lung cancer than do women who live with non-smokers, a study shows. In research published on March 7th in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, scientists said that an analysis of chemicals in the urine of women who live with smokers demonstrates for the first time that tobacco smoke carcinogens, chemicals that cause cancer, are absorbed by non-smokers from second-hand smoke.  Women who lived with smokers had similarly elevated levels of nicotine and cotinine, a metabolic product of nicotine.  Other studies have shown that environmental tobacco smoke increases the risk of lung cancer for non-smokers who work where cigarette and cigar smoking is common, such as bars or taverns. Additionally, studies have shown that children living in the homes of smokers have a higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory problems.

Hazards of Eating Too Much
Eating less and exercising more may reduce risk of breast cancer. A research pointer in March BMJ, suggests that there is an important link between the risk of breast cancer and nutritional status, through its influence on concentrations of ovarian hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) produced during the menstrual cycle. These findings are consistent with the view that the level of breast cancer is much higher among women in industrialised countries (where food is virtually unlimited) than among women in countries with more traditional lifestyles.

Women and Folic acid
Women of reproductive age need to take at least 400 micrograms of the B-vitamin folic acid daily. This amount will reduce the risk of having a baby with certain birth defects such as spina bifida or other related neural tube defects (NTDs).  A state health department survey  in Michigan, found that most of these women did not take a folic acid supplement or multivitamin on a regular basis, and were unaware of why folic acid consumption is important to them. Women who did not take a multivitamin on a regular basis were more likely to be young, obese, consumed inadequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, and were at a lower education level.

Three In Four Americans are Out of Shape
One in four U.S. adults exercised enough in the 1990s.  Only 25.4 percent of adults met government recommendations for physical activity in 1998 - virtually unchanged from the beginning of the decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Almost 30 percent reported no physical activity at all.  The CDC recommends a half-hour of moderate exercise, like walking, five times a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, three times a week. Inactivity can lead to obesity, which is closely tied to diabetes. Diabetes kills 180,000 Americans a year, and the disease is rising sharply.

Soy protein is “complete,” meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids found in animal protein.  For the first time, researchers report that whether a person’s cholesterol levels are high or normal, those who add soy to their diets may see an increase in levels of “good” cholesterol in their blood. Results of the study are presented at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.  “There is increasing evidence that consumption of soy protein in place of animal protein lowers blood cholesterol levels and may provide other cardiovascular benefits,” according to the Nutrition Committee’s statement. The association recommends that consumers with high cholesterol consider eating three or more servings daily of products that provide 10 grams of soy protein per serving to reduce their total and LDL cholesterol levels.

Sreenivasarao Vpeachedu, March 31, 2001

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