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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Research Roundup: 4/2/13

12:01 PM Posted by Tiffany Taft , , , , , , ,
It's been a while since I did a review of some of the more interesting research studies that have been published in the past few months.  This week we focus on how our ancient brain may affect obesity, using text messaging with HIV patients, what IBD patients believe about diet, and what therapy with parent-caregivers actually may help with.  On with the show...

What do IBD patients believe about diet and their disease?  A study published in the January edition of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases found that 58% of participants believed that what they ate could cause a relapse, and 16% thought that diet could be a cause of IBD.  The majority of people (2 in 3) modified their diet, especially when experiencing symptoms, and half said that IBD had caused eating to be less enjoyable.  Foods that are most likely to be avoided are fruits and vegetables, spicy food, dairy, and high fat foods.  Diet changes had a substantial impact on their social life, including not eating out or having to prepare special meals at home.  If you're living with IBD, do you agree that diet has an impact on your disease?  How do you keep it from affecting your social life?

Arch enemy of the IBD-er?
Can text messaging help HIV patients remember to take medication?  A study published in the March edition of the journal Health Psychology found that using text messaging to remind people living with HIV to take their medication was not only well received by participants, but also dramatically increased treatment adherence, decreased viral load, and increased CD4 counts from baseline to 3-month follow-up.  93% reported that they always read the messages, 76% liked the messages, and 39% said that the messages were very helpful. The text messages were designed to provide positive reinforcement, support, and increased attention to the importance of taking medication as it is prescribed.  More evidence on how technology can improve patient care.  But we continue to walk a fine line...

How does the obesity pandemic relate to our ancient ancestors?  A review in the February-March edition of the journal American Psychologist discusses the relationship between modern eating behavior and our ancient ancestors, and how this may be contributing to the obesity pandemic.  The authors suggest that our brains became wired for immediate rewards from eating very tasty foods back in our hunter-gatherer days as a means of survival.  These reward centers in our brain are so powerful that they often override other parts of our brain that try to control over-eating behaviors.  In today's modern society where food is plentiful and easy to get, this primitive brain function doesn't work the way it was designed. Research has also found that the reward circuitry in the brains of people who are obese becomes hyperactive and this over-activity remains even after they lose weight, making it very difficult to sustain weight loss.  To lose weight and keep it off takes considerable cognitive restraint, which is a strongly genetic trait that some people simply are not born with.  This may be one reason why weight loss strategies that only emphasize diet are largely unsuccessful in the long term.

What does psychotherapy with parents of children with chronic illness help with?  An August 2012 Cochrane Review of published research studies evaluating if psychotherapy with parent-caregivers of children with chronic medical illness is helpful found that psychological treatments with these parents can improve outcomes for their children.  Therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), with parents resulted in reduced symptoms in children with chronic medical conditions.  This may be related to improvement in the parents' problem-solving skills and mental well-being, highlighting the importance of caregivers taking good care of themselves (see Steph's blog on that here).

That's all from the research front this week.  If there are any topics you'd like us to cover in the future, please drop us a line.

Dr. T.