colic

Removing allergens from breast milk may ease distress.

* THE QUESTION Just what causes the crying and fussing of a colicky baby remains a bit of a mystery. In breast-fed infants, might changing their mothers' diet -- by eliminating foods that cause allergic reactions in some people -- alleviate the babies' discomfort?

* THIS STUDY randomly assigned the mothers of 107 colicky infants, who were about 6 weeks old, either to exclude certain foods (cow's milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy and fish) or to include these foods in their diet. Both groups avoided food preservatives, coloring and additives, and all infants were breast-fed exclusively. After one week, 74 percent of the mothers on the low-allergen diet (vs. 37 percent of the others) reported that their babies' crying and fussing time had decreased more than 25 percent from before the diets changed. Over a 48-hour period at the end of the study, babies in the low-allergen group cried and fussed about three hours less than the other babies.

* WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Mothers of babies with colic. From 20 to 30 percent of all newborns develop colic during their first few months.

* CAVEATS The study may not have been long enough to ensure that breast milk contained no traces of the foods eliminated from the diets. Whether other foods or health factors may have contributed to the babies' distress was not determined.

* FIND THIS STUDY November issue of Pediatrics; abstract available online at www.pediatrics.org.

* LEARN MORE ABOUT colic at www.familydoctor.org and www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia.html.

hypertension

Sodas appear to affect blood pressure more than coffee.

* THE QUESTION With coffeehouses and soda machines aplenty, consumption of these drinks is widespread in the United States. So, too, is the number of people with high blood pressure. Might the two be connected?

* THIS STUDY reviewed information on the caffeinated beverage consumption of 155,594 women with normal blood pressure readings. During a 12-year period, 21 percent of them were diagnosed with hypertension. Coffee-drinkers were no more likely to have developed high blood pressure than were women who drank no coffee; in some instances, those who drank several cups a day were slightly less likely. However, those who drank caffeinated sodas (regular or diet) were more likely to have hypertension, with the risk growing as consumption increased: from about 15 percent added risk for one soda a day to more than 60 percent for those who drank four or more daily.

* WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Women, especially those who drink sodas frequently.

* CAVEATS Most of the women in the study were white; whether the findings apply to other races, or to men, is unclear. Further study would be needed to determine whether some compound other than caffeine that is present in sodas is responsible for the increased risk of hypertension.

* FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association; abstract available online at www.jama.com.

* LEARN MORE ABOUT high blood pressure at www.americanheart.org and www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health.

stroke

Thermal therapy seems to help recovery from paralysis.

* THE QUESTION After a stroke has robbed someone of the full use of an arm, regaining feeling and movement through therapy can be costly, complicated and a long time in coming. Might recovery be stimulated by applying alternating hot packs and cold packs -- a treatment often used in orthopedic rehabilitation and simple enough to be done at home?

* THIS STUDY involved 46 people who had had a stroke within the past month that resulted in arm paralysis. They were randomly assigned to standard rehabilitation therapy or to standard therapy plus thermal stimulation sessions five days a week. During the sessions, a hot pack (at 167 degrees) wrapped in towels was placed on a person's hand and wrist 10 times for 15 seconds each time, separated by 30 seconds of no heat; the procedure then was repeated with cold packs (at 32 degrees). Participants were encouraged to move their hand away from the packs if they felt uncomfortable. After six weeks, those who had gotten thermal stimulation showed greater recovery on standardized scales, which rate such things as return of sensation in the hand and the ability to flex the wrist and grasp objects. Muscle tone did not differ between groups.

* WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Anyone whose arm has been paralyzed by a stroke -- one of the most common disabilities that occur after a stroke.

* CAVEATS The study began with a small number of participants and became smaller after 37 percent dropped out, although for reasons unrelated to the therapy. The study did not determine the optimal treatment intensity for thermal stimulation.

* FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 3 online edition of Stroke; abstract available at http://stroke.ahajournals.org (click "Stroke ASAP").

* LEARN MORE ABOUT rehabilitation after a stroke at www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders (search for "post-stroke rehab") and www.aota.org.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.