Friday, March 26, 2010

Strengthening Eyelashes

Published: February 17, 2010
From the New York Times

ABOUT a year ago, a prescription eye-drop formula for glaucoma made beauty history by repackaging itself as an eyelash serum. Now long, thick lashes can be obtained with a prescription to Latisse (about $120 a month). Allergan, the maker of Latisse, has exclusive rights to bimatoprost, the Food and Drug Administration-approved ingredient behind lash growth, but that hasn’t stopped other makers of eyelash serums from claiming that their products also may strengthen eyelashes. This month, a new drugstore version, Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum by L’Oréal Paris, which includes centella asiatica, a plant extract, and arginine, an amino acid found in keratin, made its debut for $14.95.

Karen Grant, an analyst at NPD, a market research company, estimated that sales of lash enhancing products in department stores tripled in dollar volume last year when offerings by Lancôme ($39) and the niche brands Tarte ($65), Fusion Beauty ($89) and Cargo ($35) were introduced. Other companies include Jan Marini Skin Research, which offers a conditioner with a peptide complex ($160 a tube). RapidLash and Neulash, available for $49.95 and $150 a tube respectively, feature isopropyl cloprostenate, a prostaglandin analogue like bimatoprost.

However, "not every prostaglandin analogue is created equal," said Dr. Amy Wechsler, a New York dermatologist. Prostaglandin analogues are synthetic hormones that attach to natural prostaglandin receptors in the body. Dr. Wechsler compared the varying efficacy of all prostaglandin analogues in strengthening lashes to the claims that all vitamin A analogues (retinol, retinyl palmitate and retin-A) have equal effects in improving skin conditions, which they don’t, she said. (Dr. Wechsler is not involved in the promotion of any eyelash product, although she will promote Juvederm XC, Allergan’s dermal filler, next week.)

Robert Trow, chief executive of Rocasuba/RapidLash, stands behind his prostaglandin analogue, but he’s also enthusiastic about other ingredients in his product, like pumpkin-seed and licorice extracts and biotin. RapidLash is effective, he wrote in an e-mail message, due to “the synergistic combination of state-of-the-art peptides and vitamins."

Confused? Just remember you can still fake it — and get instant results — with a $5 tube of mascara.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Study sheds light on 'teenage night owl syndrome'

Students are going to sleep later and may be underperforming in class because they're not getting enough bright light in the morning, researchers say. Better school lighting may help.

By Thomas H. Maugh II from the L.A. Times
February 17, 2010

Riding in school buses in the early morning, then sitting in poorly lighted classrooms are the main reasons students have trouble getting to sleep at night, according to new research.

Teenagers, like everyone else, need bright lights in the morning, particularly in the blue wavelengths, to synchronize their inner, circadian rhythms with nature's cycles of day and night.

If they are deprived of blue light during the morning, they go to sleep an average of six minutes later each night, until their bodies are completely out of sync with the school day, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reported Tuesday in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters.

The finding was made by fitting a group of students with goggles that blocked blue light and discovering that their circadian rhythms were significantly affected.

"These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly underperforming on standardized tests," said lead author Mariana G. Figueiro, a sleep researcher at the institute's Lighting Research Center. "We are starting to call this the 'teenage night owl syndrome.' "

"This is a nice little preliminary study" that definitely needs to be replicated, said sleep researcher Mary A. Carskadon of Brown University, who was not involved in the research. "I think the big take-home message probably is that better lighting in the schools is a good idea."

Parents and teachers have been complaining loudly in recent years that teens stay up too late at night, then fall asleep in class the next morning and do poorly in school. The new findings provide a possible explanation for the problem.

At the root of the research is the circadian rhythm, the body's natural sleep and waking cycle. Even though the Earth makes a full rotation in 24 hours, the body's circadian cycle is about 24 hours and six minutes long. The cycle is mediated by a chemical called melatonin. The body starts to produce it about two hours before it is time to fall asleep and, in the absence of light, melatonin is released about six minutes later each day.

That is why people in dark rooms, caves or other locations with no external time cues will fall asleep about six minutes later each day, so that their sleep-wake cycles slowly drift in and out of alignment with the outside world.

In the study, Figueiro and Mark Rea, director of the Lighting Research Center, studied 11 students at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, N.C., which was designed so that a lot of sunlight reaches classrooms.

On a Friday night, the researchers measured what time the 11 students' bodies began releasing melatonin. On Monday morning, the students were sent to school with orange goggles that blocked most blue light from their eyes to mimic the conditions found in many -- if not most -- schools.

By the end of the week, the students were releasing melatonin 30 minutes later in the evening -- an average of six minutes per day -- and going to sleep correspondingly later.

"This is our first field study," Figueiro said. "We would like to replicate it in larger studies. Also for longer periods of time. We would also like to determine if you can see an impact on performance."

If the findings are replicated, a variety of solutions are available. Ideally, new schools would be built to allow more natural sunlight into the classrooms. Students could also be exposed to more sunlight outside.

Incandescent lights should never be used in classrooms because "they are heavy on yellow and red, and the circadian system is not tuned to those colors," Figueiro said. "You want incandescent light sources in the evening."

Some fluorescent lights are also not very good. Most that are currently used produce orange or reddish light, but it is now possible to buy bulbs that emit more blue.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk

But these sweet findings aren't conclusive, researchers say
By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Just in time for Valentine's Day comes word that eating dark chocolate appears to lower your risk of stroke or lessen the likelihood of death after a stroke.

But the findings, based on a review of existing research, aren't conclusive, and they don't prove that chocolate is good for your heart. And dietitians say too much chocolate can be harmful.

Still, two of the three studies analyzed in the review provide yet another suggestion that health benefits lurk in chocolate, dark chocolate in particular, said review co-author Dr. Gustavo Saposnik.

If choosing among white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate, "I'd definitely go with the dark chocolate," said Saposnik, director of the Stroke Research Unit at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

The review authors, who found three studies on chocolate consumption and stroke between 2001 and 2009, are scheduled to report their findings at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Toronto in April.

One study found no significant association between chocolate consumption and risk of stroke or death from stroke. But another found that the stroke rate was 22 percent lower in people who ate chocolate once a week, and a third reported that death from stroke was 46 percent lower in those who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week.

The health benefit may come from antioxidants called flavonoids that are present in chocolate, Saposnik said. Antioxidants are thought to prevent cell damage.

In years past, "the message was that chocolate consumption might be associated with higher LDL [bad] cholesterol or perhaps higher incidence of cardiovascular disease," he said. "Today, we know that all chocolates are not the same."

So, should you and your sweetheart add dark chocolate to your diet? "I'm not sure we can provide any recommendation at this time," Saposnik said.

For one thing, it's possible that some factor other than chocolate could be helping lower the risk of stroke. Those who eat more chocolate could be wealthier and have better access to health care, for instance, or go to the gym more often.

Saposnik said more studies will help clarify the association between chocolate and stroke risk.

For now, said registered dietitian Katie Clark, "caution should be taken not to promote chocolate as a health food," even though it's fine in moderation.

Chocolate is a major source of saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol and boosts heart disease risk, said Clark, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California at San Francisco.

But Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who studies nutrition, said chocolate does have its benefits. "Several studies indicate that even a little chocolate can help reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow through the arteries. Both are good for heart health," he said. "It's nice to know that chocolate isn't bad for you, assuming you eat modest amounts and don't become overweight by overeating it."