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Key genes linked to why pain perception varies among different people

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released April 20, 2014 that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26-May 3, 2014.

Key genes linked to why some people perceive more pain than others.
Anne Hart, photography.

"Our study is quite significant because it provides an objective way to understand pain and why different individuals have different pain tolerance levels. Identifying whether a person has these four genes could help doctors better understand a patient's perception of pain," said study author Tobore Onojjighofia, MD, MPH, according to the April 20, 2014 news release, "Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes." Onojjighofia is with Proove Biosciences and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers evaluated 2,721 people diagnosed with chronic pain for certain genes. Participants were taking prescription opioid pain medications. The genes involved were COMT, DRD2, DRD1 and OPRK1.

The participants also rated their perception of pain on a scale from zero to 10

People who rated their pain as zero were not included in the study. Low pain perception was defined as a score of one, two or three. Moderate pain perception was a score of four, five or six. And high pain perception was a score of seven, eight, nine or 10.

Nine percent of the participants had low pain perception, 46 percent had moderate pain perception and 45 percent had high pain perception. The researchers found that the DRD1 gene variant was 33 percent more prevalent in the low pain group than in the high pain group.

Pain perception varies among different people

Among people with a moderate pain perception, the COMT and OPRK variants were 25 percent and 19 percent more often found than in those with a high pain perception. The DRD2 variant was 25 percent more common among those with a high pain perception compared to people with moderate pain.

"Chronic pain can affect every other part of life," said Onojjighofia, according to the news release. "Finding genes that may be play a role in pain perception could provide a target for developing new therapies and help physicians better understand their patients' perceptions of pain." Maybe that's why some people fear dentists and doctors more than others. Proove Biosciences, Inc. supported the study. Learn more about chronic pain at the website.

A survey showed cardiologists are aware of life-saving diets, yet failing to recommend them

In another study back in 2006, researchers explained that wider use of vegetarian diets would result in fewer surgeries and deaths from heart disease. Studies show patients transition easily to new diet, according to a February 21, 2006 news release, "New survey shows cardiologists aware of life-saving diet, yet failing to recommend it." Have diets really changed for older adults nowadays? And how many doctors are not recommending diets to reverse soft plaque clogging arteries? You may wish to check out what's happening lately with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Also see, "Sample Recipes - Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease."

If you look back only to 2006, then a pilot survey of cardiologists revealed that most know about the life-saving potential of a truly low-fat vegetarian diet for heart patients, but fail to recommend the diet in the mistaken belief that patients will not comply. And in recent times, other physicians want people to follow a higher-fat Mediterranean diet. But the diet needs to be tailored to how the individual reacts to the diet as far as what shows up on tests and physical exams. Please don't feet your cat or kitten a vegan diet.

Some older adults are feeling depressed not knowing what diets to follow for their individual metabolic and genetic responses to various foods. Published studies actually show that patients transition fairly easily to a low-fat diet that contains no animal products, and most rate this diet as "good" or "extremely good." If cardiologists' knowledge of the acceptability of the vegetarian diet were equal to their familiarity with its efficacy, the result would be improved patient care and fewer deaths.

The omnivorous diet isn't customized to the individual much of the time

Instead, most cardiologists responding to the survey recommend the standard omnivorous low-fat (up to 30 percent of calories from fat) diet, which recently made headlines for its role in the Women's Health Initiative study. Omnivorous low-fat diets have not proven effective for treating or preventing heart disease. To experience dramatic improvement, heart patients must consume a diet that contains less than 15 percent of calories from fat and that excludes saturated fat from animal products. About six percent of the population can eat almost any food safe to eat and survive beyond the century mark. But what about the rest of society?

"Patients hospitalized with life-threatening cardiac conditions should be advised by their doctor that they could head off another heart attack by switching to a low-fat vegetarian diet," says report co-author Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D., according to the February 21, 2006 news release, "New survey shows cardiologists aware of life-saving diet, yet failing to recommend it." Lanou is (at the time of the news release) a senior nutrition scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina."

Dietary changes reinforced by a doctor's recommendation will make it even easier for patients to make simple changes that could add years to their lives." The lead author of the report is Keith Rafal, M.D., M.P.H., (at the time of the news release) medical director of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island.

Ninety-one percent of responding cardiologists were either "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with the research supporting very low-fat cardiac diets, the survey found

In 1990, cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D., changed cardiac care forever with the publication in the Lancet of a study showing arrest and even reversal of heart disease with a very low-fat vegetarian diet. Other researchers have published similar findings.

The simplicity of a vegetarian diet that excludes animal products appeals to people busy with work and family, and many familiar recipes are easy to adapt. At least four studies published in peer-reviewed journals show that patients give the low-fat vegetarian diet a high rating in terms of acceptability. In current times, there are numerous vegan and low-fat diets such as Dr Esselstyn's diet. See, "Q&A with Dr. Esselstyn - Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." And see, "Dr. Esselstyn discusses a recent study on olive oil and nuts." Or for recipes, check out, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, "Sample Recipes - Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." See, "Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MD - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine."

Twenty-eight years ago, while chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Breast Cancer Task Force, general surgeon Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., grew disappointed in the way he and his colleagues were treating cancer and heart disease. Relying on pills and surgical procedures despite their side effects and risks, Dr. Esselstyn says he and his peers were doing “nothing to prevent disease in the next unsuspecting victim.”

This was particularly frustrating given that research studies had already suggested an obvious culprit. The fatty American diet was, in all likelihood, responsible for heart disease and many Western cancers, which are infrequently seen in parts of the world where much less fat is consumed, according to the "21 Day Vegan Kickstart" website. Learn more about Dr. Esselstyn here.

Older adults and sadness

Another noteworthy news of recent research include, "Internet use can help ward off depression among elderly." It's estimated that as many as 10 million older Americans suffer from depression, often brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation. And there's also the news release, "Internet use may cut retirees' depression," about a new study, "Internet Use and Depression Among Retired Older Adults in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis," published online since March 26, 2014 in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences. You may wish to check out the abstract of that study.

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. In the study, "Internet Use and Depression Among Retired Older Adults in the United States: A Longitudinal Analysis," the authors report that Internet use reduced the probability of a depressed state by 33 percent among their study sample.

On another note, you might check out the recent news release, "Our relationship with God changes when faced with potential romantic rejection." Spring holiday season is a time when many people in the world think about their relationships with God. New research explores a little-understood role of God in people's lives: helping them cope with the threat of romantic rejection. In this way, God stands in for other relationships in our lives when times are tough.

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