Health Scan: SIDS linked to low serotonin level

Also: Advil could help keep Parkinson's away; Hadassah seeks to reduce risk factors for heart attacks.

March 8, 2010 09:47
3 minute read.
Health Scan: SIDS linked to low serotonin level

health scan 88. (photo credit: )


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Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin is apparently one of the factors involved in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, or crib death), according to researchers at Harvard University in a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and announced ATID, the Israel Foundation for the Study and Prevention of Sudden Infant Death. Serotonin has an important effect on breathing, blood pressure, body temperature and the waking mechanism.

Every year, between 40 and 60 Israeli children under one die of SIDS, although the cause is reached by ruling out other causes, since autopsies of babies are rare.

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The US researchers compared the brain stems of crib-death victims with those of babies who died of known causes and found a 25 percent lower level of serotonin in the SIDS babies. In addition, they discovered 22% less tryptophan hydroxylase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of serotonin. The team also found that serotonin receptors were less effective in the brain stems of 29% to 55% of babies who died of SIDS.

Almost every SIDS baby also had one of the risk factors for crib death, including sleeping on their stomachs, being in an environment of cigarette smoke, sleeping on a soft mattress or being in a too-warm room (over 22ºC). Eighty-eight percent were exposed to two or more risk factors. The Harvard team are continuing to study the theory that a defect in the baby’s brain when in the womb – possibly due to its mother’s exposure to tobacco or alcohol – could be an important factor in SIDS.


An ibuprofen pill a day could keep Parkinson’s disease away, according to new research that will be presented in April to the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd annual meeting in Toronto. The retrospective study involved 136,474 people who did not have Parkinson’s disease at the beginning of the research  were asked about their use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Acamol). After six years, 293 participants had developed Parkinson’s.

The study found users of ibuprofen were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than people who didn’t take ibuprofen. Also, people who took higher amounts were less likely to develop Parkinson’s than people who took smaller amounts of the drug. The results were the same regardless of age, smoking and caffeine intake.


“Ibuprofen was the only NSAID linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Xiang Gao of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Other NSAIDs and analgesics, including aspirin and acetaminophen, did not appear to have any effect on lowering a person’s risk. More research is needed as to how and why ibuprofen appears to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s, but one should of course never start a drug therapy without first consulting one’s physician.


A forum of doctors at Hadassah University Medical Centers in Jerusalem has been set up to help reduce risk factors for heart attacks and encourage physical exercise. The forum will also include health fund community physicians and doctors from other hospitals in the area. It was initiated by Hadassah’s Prof. Ted Weiss, head of the cardiology unit at the university hospital on Mount Scopus. Soon the forum will also include doctors from hospital units and departments that deal with geriatrics, cardiology, diabetes, renal insufficiency, obesity surgery, hypertension, blood lipids and psychiatry.


Knowing about something you are about to undergo reduces anxiety. An educational writer named Deborah Rubin Fields has produced a 29-page, English-language electronic book called Take a Peek Inside: A Child’s Guide to Radiology Exams that is aimed at young children. The $8 volume, which appears in a PDF format, can be ordered via e-mail from

Besides offering the facts, the child-friendly e-book contains jokes, riddles, visual aids, instructive sidebars and an index, and is relevant to those who will undergo an X-ray, ultrasound, a CT or MRI scan. When their parents read it to them or they read the book themselves, young patients will very likely suffer from less stress.

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