Vision and dementia


Roundup: Certain Visual Problems Can Be Early Sign of Alzheimer’s; CDC Urges More Testing for ‘Forever Chemicals’; and More News

Researchers Find That Certain Visual Impairments Can Be Early Sign of Alzheimer's

Certain visual problems, known as posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), occur in up to 10 percent of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. A team of international researchers, led by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has undertaken the first large-scale study confirming that PCA symptoms occur early in Alzheimer's patients, even a few years before cognitive issues come to light.

The study, published this month in the Lancet Neurology, includes data from more than 1,000 patients at 36 sites in 16 countries.

Patients with PCA struggle with judging distances, distinguishing between moving and stationary objects and completing tasks like writing and retrieving a dropped item  -- despite a normal eye exam, said co-first author Marianne Chapleau, Ph.D., of the UCSF Department of Neurology, the Memory and Aging Center and the Weill Institute for Neurosciences.

Most patients with PCA have normal cognition early on. However, by the time of their first diagnostic visit, an average 3.8 years after PCA symptom onset -- "mild or moderate dementia was apparent with deficits identified in memory, executive function, behavior, and speech and language," the researchers stated.

According to the researchers, here’s the breakdown at the time of cognitive diagnosis among the patients who experienced PCA years earlier: 61 percent demonstrated “constructional dyspraxia,” an inability to copy or construct basic diagrams or figures; 49 percent had a “space perception deficit,” difficulties identifying the location of something they saw; and 48 percent had “simultanagnosia,” an inability to visually perceive more than one object at a time. Additionally, 47 percent faced new challenges with basic math calculations and 43% with reading.

“We need more awareness of PCA so that it can be flagged by clinicians,” said Dr. Chapleau, in a statement. “Most patients see their optometrist when they start experiencing visual symptoms and may be referred to an ophthalmologist who may also fail to recognize PCA."

CDC Urges More Blood Testing for ‘Forever Chemicals’ to Help Determine Extent of Community Exposures

Nearly all people in the United States have "measurable amounts of PFAS in their blood," states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), referring to the formal acronym for "forever chemicals" or “per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances.”

In new guidance, the CDC is urging physicians to consider more blood testing for PFAS for the purpose of helping community leaders and public health officials to better understand the extent of PFAS contamination and contribute to solutions that would reduce future exposures.

The CDC stipulates that  PFAS blood testing results "do not provide information for treatment or predict future health problems." Moreover, "no approved medical treatments are available to reduce PFAS in the body," the CDC says.

PFAS represent a class of thousands of man-made chemicals that have been around since the 1940s. These chemicals don’t break down and can lead to widespread contamination. PFAS are used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. These coatings can be in a range of products, including clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire.

Ingestion of contaminated food and water is a main route of PFAS exposure, the CDC states.

PFAS are found in water, air, fish, and soil at locations across the nation and the globe, states the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scientific studies have shown that exposure to some PFAS in the environment may be linked to harmful health effects in humans and animals, the EPA states. The agency states that it is working with researchers and other partners across the nation to "better and more efficiently detect and measure PFAS in our air, water, soil, and fish and wildlife."

Exposure to PFAS during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of obesity in children, according to a federally funded study last year by Brown University researchers.

This link has been indicated in previous studies, but data has been inconclusive. The new study, which was funded by the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "involves a much broader data set with research sites across the country," said lead author Yun “Jamie” Liu, a postdoctoral research associate in epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health, in a statement.

“The findings were based on eight research cohorts located in different parts of the U.S. as well as with different demographics,”  Liu said. “This makes our study findings more generalizable to the population as a whole.”

Researchers: Weight Gain in Children Linked to Regular Consumption of ‘100% Fruit Juice’

Concerns among dieticians and other healthcare professionals have targeted frequent consumption of “100 percent fruit juice” and its link to weight gain. Drinking a glass or more of 100% fruit juice each day was linked to a small increase in weight in children, according to a new analysis of 42 prior studies by researchers from Toronto and Boston.

The researchers found an association between daily drinking of fruit juice and a body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.03 in children. In adults, such an association was inconclusive because adult weight gainis likely mediated in part by energy,” the study states.

The study concludes: “There is a need for high-quality RCTs (randomized clinical trials) in both children and adults that explore the effect of juice consumption on body weight at different levels of intake and different types of juice. Our findings are in support of public health guidance to limit consumption of 100% fruit juice to prevent overweight and obesity.”

The naturally occurring sugars found in whole fruits are considered healthy when eaten as opposed to drinking the juice. That’s because whole fruits are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and other important nutrients. Even so-called “100% fruit juices” contain very little fiber. The high sugar and low fiber combination of juice means that it can spike blood sugar levels and increase appetite. Over time, this combination can lead to weight gain.

According to guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Intake of juice should be limited to 4 ounces daily for toddlers ages 1-3. For children age 4-6, fruit juice should be restricted to 4 to 6 ounces daily; and for children ages 7-18, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces daily. Toddlers should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable "sippy cups" that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day, the AAP states. 

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