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While the US news media were focused on healthcare reform and making health insurance available to more Americans, numerous important advances in the treatment and understanding of common health conditions simply did not make the headlines.

Healthcare Advances That Didn't Make the Headlines

Here is a roundup of the top medical breakthroughs of 2010, beginning with the advances in the understanding of human biology that can help all of us make sensible health choices.

A new understanding of environmental cues for sleep and wakefulness

 Insomnia is a key health problem for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and in December of 2010 University of North Carolina scientists announced advances in understanding the relationship between light and sleep. Scientists have known for about 15 years that as little as a millisecond of exposure to blue light, which can be seen even when the eyelids are shut, can turn off the processes that make the sleep hormone melatonin in the brain. What they have not known until this year is that a complex protein called cryptochrome restarts them. Now scientists have a way to develop medications for insomnia that don't lead to sedation and drowsiness the next day. In the meantime, sleep-deprived people may find that something as simple as using a yellow night light, or a sleep mask, may make a huge difference in how well they sleep.

A proprietary plant extract known as Longevinex is even better than red wine for protecting the heart

Researchers have also known since the 1990's that red wine catechins containing resveratrol protect the heart. The problem with making a resveratrol supplement was that enormous amounts of red wine yield only small amounts of resveratrol, so scientists turned to the Chinese herb polygonum, also known as knotweed, to make the over-the-counter cure. In December 2010 a research team publishing findings in the research journal PloS ONE reported that Longinex does a better job of protecting the heart during heart attack even than pure resveratrol. Neither supplement stops a heart attack, both protect the heart from damage when oxygen supplies or low, Longevinex much more than resveratrol, at least in studies with laboratory animals.

Eating your veggies can protect your kidneys

One of the most dangerous effects of chronic disease is accumulation of the mineral phosphorous to toxic levels. In a report of research completed in 2010 that will be published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology in 2011, medical researchers explain that kidney failure patients who eat additional servings of vegetables and fewer servings of meat have fewer complications from their disease.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Mukherjee S, Ray D, Lekli I, Bak I, Tosaki A, Das DK. Effects of Longevinex (modified resveratrol) on cardioprotection and its mechanisms of action. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Nov, 88(11):1017-25.
  • Photo by shutterstock.com

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