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Month: January 2018

Adding Folic Acid to Corn Masa Flour May Prevent Birth Defects

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If you’re a Latina who’s expecting a baby, your diet may be missing a key ingredient believed to help prevent certain kinds of birth defects.
That ingredient? Folic acid, which has long been used to fortify, or strengthen, certain enriched grains.
However, as CAPT Richardae Araojo, director of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Minority Health notes, “Hispanic women may not benefit from folic acid-enriched cereal grain products because these products are often not a staple in their diet.”
This could be a reason why Latinas represent the highest percentage of U.S. women giving birth to children with neural tube defects (NTDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). NTDs are birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord, such as anen­cephaly AND spina bifida.
In 2016, FDA moved to help protect these women AND their children by approving the addition of folic acid to corn masa flour, an ingredient in foods including tortillas, tacos, tortilla chips & tamales. Foods made from this flour are staple foods of Mexican AND some Central & South American diets.
When consumed by pregnant women before & during pregnancy, folic acid—a B vitamin—may help to prevent neural tube defects.
Corn masa flour, sometimes called masa—Spanish for dough—is produced by cooking corn in alkali (a substance that has a bitter taste & then forms a salt when mixed with an acid), then grinding it.
An Important Preventive Step
In 1998, in response to a recommendation by CDC & the U.S. Public…

Dose Matters: FDA's Guidance on Children's X-rays

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Most people have had an X-ray taken at some time during their lives — perhaps checking for a possible broken bone or during a visit to the dentist. X-ray exams provide important information to physicians about how to treat their patients. However, X-rays use ionizing radiation, & these imaging exams must be carefully & judiciously used on pediatric patients.
While the level of risk from the radiation associated with X-rays is small, especially when compared with the benefits of an accurate diagnosis, health care professionals must be especially sensitive to their appropriate use in children. Pediatric patients generally require less radiation than adults to obtain a quality image from an X-ray exam, so doctors must take extra care to “child size” the radiation dose.
FDA’s Role
The FDA’s Center for Devices & Radiological Health (CDRH) regulates medical imaging devices. Among its responsibilities is keeping consumers and health care professionals informed about the importance of minimizing unnecessary radiation exposure during medical procedures.
The level of ionizing radiation from X-ray imaging is generally very low, but can contribute to an increased risk of cancer. Because children have longer expected lifetimes ahead of them for potential effects to appear & the risk for cancer is not fully understood, it’s important to use the lowest radiation dose necessary to provide a diagnostic exam.
The FDA is committed to protecting the health of children by providing guidance to manufacturers & users of imaging devices to help lower the exposure to radiation from X-ray exams….

Focus on NLM Scientists: Dr. Kira Makarova Makes Her Mark

Kira Makarova, PhD, could have easily coasted through college & her career.
But she didn’t.
She took advantage of opportunities & overcame setbacks along the way.
As a staff scientist at NLM’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Makarova is making her mark in the scientific worldwide by supporting computational biologists all over the globe.
A Good Fit for the Ever Curious
Makarova would be the first to tell you she had support from her parents, her school, & the system in which she grew up to pursue her scientific passions.
She grew up surrounded by people who encouraged her & in a place where science is revered.
Kira Makarova, PhD

Makarova was raised in Narva, Estonia, when it was part of the Soviet Union. Her parents, especially her mother, encouraged their daughter, but they didn’t push her.
“If I’d had Bs or Cs in school, she would have said, ‘It’s fine. No problem,’” said Makarova. “My mother gave me absolute freedom.”
But her biology teacher, Gertruda Sedova, wasn’t so laid back.
Her teaching style, which involved asking a lot of questions, suited Makarova.
“She gave us biology books AND we discussed them,” recalls Makarova. “This was very interesting to me, because in biology you never basically know the answer. You have to make hypotheses. This helped us develop scientific thinking.”
Studying biology—a subject with more questions than answers—was a good fit for the ever-curious Makarova.
In addition, the school system was organized to inspire students like Makarova.
The Olympics
“There was a biology competition throughout the whole country that started in school, then the republic,…

4 Tips to Quit Smoking

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If you’re thinking about quitting or have tried to quit in the past without success, the FDA’s new smoking cessation education campaign at EveryTryCounts.gov offers support.

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What are your New Year’s resolutions? If you smoke, maybe this will be the year that you decide you want to quit. & you may not be alone: Nearly 70 percent of current adult smokers say they want to stop.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved many products that can help. In fact, data has shown that using an FDA-approved cessation medicine can double your chance of quitting successfully. Plus, every time you put out a cigarette is a new chance to try quitting again, according to a new FDA campaign called “Every Try Counts.”
So here’s some advice to consider if you want to stop smoking.
1. Know your reasons for quitting.
For some people it’s their health. Other people want to quit for lifestyle or financial reasons, like being able to smell & taste food better, or having more money to spend on stuff besides cigarettes. Whatever motivates you, get clear on it when you decide to quit. And consider making a list so that you can read it when you get the urge to smoke, advises the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
If you’re health conscious, you may want to remember that cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable disease AND death in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths every year. If you quit, not only will…

What’s in? What’s out?

As a new year begins, NLM in Focus takes a light-hearted look back at 2017 AND forward to 2018.
How’d we do with our predictions? What do you think will be in or out in the new year?
Comment below.
What’s IN for 2018 & OUT with 2017

IN for 2018

OUT with 2017

All of Us
Me, myself, & I'm
Personalized medicine
Standardized treatments
Empowered patients
Passive patients
Patient communities
Isolated patients
Lab test information on MedlinePlus
Confusion about lab tests, such as the hemoglobin A1 test
Care between the care
Limited health care encounters
The Good & the Bad—cholesterol (on MedlinePlus in English & Spanish).
Less understanding about coronary artery disease
Citizen science
Ivory towers
Data sharing
Data hoarding
Biomedical literature + data
Standalone literature
Data visualization
Data tables
Datasets in PubMed Central
Where can I will will will upload my data?
Claims data for research
Claims data for payment
Data on FHIR
Data at rest
Interoperability
Data silos
Communities of genes
Genes in isolation
Preprints
Waiting for publication
The Cloud
Endless racks of servers
R
Perl
Hackathons
What the heck?!
Standardization
Incompatibility
Pfishing (Beware!)
Spam
New MeSH headings for academic success, popular culture, & more.
Who are you kidding? MeSH terms never go out of style!
Musings from the Mezzanine
Memos from the mezzanine
Space planning
Solar eclipse
BioArt
Bare walls
Collaboratories
Conference rooms
MedlinePlus for all
NIH Elder Health
Open science
Closed minds
Strategic plan
Planning meetings
One NLM
Organizational silos

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