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Health Highlights: May 4, 2011

Researchers Claim Advance on Blood Test for Alzheimer's Two-Thirds of Dieters Pack the Pounds Back On: Survey Scientists Turn Bad Fat Into Good Fat: Rat Study

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Researchers Claim Advance on Blood Test for Alzheimer's

Canadian researchers are reporting preliminary progress on a blood test that one day might be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, the Toronto Sun reported.

In a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the researchers said the blood test is based on a brain hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

When the researchers used a chemical process called oxidation on blood samples from people without Alzheimer's, they were able to produce DHEA. But they could not produce DHEA when they did the same process on the blood of Alzheimer's patients, the Sun reported.

"Until now, there has been no definitive diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's, other than post-mortem analysis of brain tissue," Dr. Vassilios Papadopoulos, director of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, said in a news release issued Wednesday.

"Our clinical study shows that a non-invasive blood test, based on a biochemical process, may be successfully used to diagnose Alzheimer's at an early stage and differentiate it from other types of dementia."


Two-Thirds of Dieters Pack the Pounds Back On: Survey

Forty-five percent of Americans -- 103 million people -- were able to lose weight during the past year. The bad news: two-thirds of those dieters weren't able to keep the weight off, a new survey found.

The survey, by the Calorie Control Council, identified the following obstacles to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight: not enough exercise (69 percent), a slowing metabolism (62 percent), and too much snacking (52 percent).

As for some explanations for overeating, women often cited emotional reasons (50 percent), while men said they tended to overeat at mealtimes (44 percent), the survey said.

The Calorie Control Council is a trade organization that represents makers of low-calorie foods and beverages.


Scientists Turn Bad Fat Into Good Fat: Rat Study

U.S. scientists who found a way to turn rats' bad fat into good fat believe the same thing can be done in humans.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine team found that modifying the expression of an appetite-stimulating protein called NPY in the brain reduced rats' calorie intake and transformed their white fat into brown fat, which burns off calories and weight, BBC News reported.

The study appears in the journal Cell Metabolism.

"If we could get the human body to turn bad fat into good fat that burns calories instead of storing them, we could add a serious new tool to tackle the obesity epidemic," said study author Dr. Shen Bi, BBC News reported.

"Only future research will tell us if that is possible," Bi added.

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