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Alcohol use may lower MS risk, study finds

People who drink alcoholic beverages have a lower risk of developing a number of autoimmune diseases than do nondrinkers, but past research has produced inconsistent findings on the impact of alcohol consumption on multiple sclerosis, which is also an autoimmune disorder. In a new study, however, researchers in Sweden found that drinkers were less likely than teetotalers to develop MS.

The study looked at two different groups of Swedes ranging from ages 16 to 70. The first group consisted of 745 men and women with multiple sclerosis, while the second group included nearly 6,000 men and women with the disease. Each group included healthy “controls” matched by age, sex, and place of residence.

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Both men and women who reported drinking alcohol over their lifetime were found to be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis compared with non-drinkers. Even those at genetic risk for the disease who reported drinking alcohol had lower odds of getting the disease.

Drinking alcohol also lessened the effect of smoking, which has previously been linked with the development of MS.

BOTTOM LINE: Drinking alcohol may lower a person’s chance of getting multiple sclerosis.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on responses from the participants about their drinking habits, which may not always be accurate. The results may not apply to people who live in other countries.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Neurology, online Jan. 6

40 percent of children with autism get alternative therapies

Many parents of children with autism are likely to use complementary and alternative medicine therapies to treat the disorder, a new study from the UC Davis MIND Institute found.

Researchers looked at 600 children living in Northern California between ages 2 and 5, nearly 500 of whom were diagnosed with autism, while the remainder were diagnosed with developmental delay. Forty percent of children with autism underwent some kind of alternative therapy for their disorder, compared with 30 percent of the children with developmental delay. The most common alternative therapy was a change in diet, such as adopting a gluten-free, casein-free diet to combat gastrointestinal problems, which occur in many children with autism.

Four percent of the children were treated with potentially unsafe therapies such as vitamin B-12 injections and chelation therapy.

Parents of those who used alternative therapies had on average higher levels of education and income compared with those whose children did not undergo alternative treatments. The parents used these alternative methods in conjunction with conventional therapies, not as a substitute and not because of a lack of conventional therapies in their area.

BOTTOM LINE: Many parents of children with autism use complementary and alternative medicine therapies to treat the disorder.

CAUTIONS: The study looked at children in one area of the country, so the findings may not apply to a wider group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, online Jan. 11

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