Men's Health: Health Briefs

Talk about irony: The virus that causes oral herpes may someday be used as a treatment for prostate cancer.

Researchers at the New York University school of medicine have developed a genetically modified variation of the herpes virus that can be used successfully to treat tumors.

"In a 34-day animal study, the new virus reduced the growth of tumors by eight times more than older treatment options did," says Ian Mohr, the study author.

More impressive: After just one round of treatment, tumors completely disappeared in 40 percent of cases tested.

Fat vs. Fat

Surprise! The saturated fat in a strip of steak appears to be better for your cholesterol level than the trans fatty acid in a serving of fries.

Researchers in the Netherlands put 29 healthy adults on a two-month-long diet in which 10 percent of calories came from either trans fats or saturated fats.

Compared with the saturated-fat regimen, the trans fat diet led to a 29 percent greater loss of blood-vessel function and a 20 percent greater decrease in levels of HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), says Nicole M. de Roos, the study author.

Brain Freeze

Your job may not be the source of your headaches.

According to research by the New England Center for Headache, more than 50 percent of migraines are caused by changes in the weather.

In the study, 77 men and women recorded the dates and severity of their migraines. Researchers then tracked weather conditions and average temperatures and compared both sets of data.

"We found that 25 percent of migraines occur during periods of low temperatures or low humidity levels," says Dr. Alan Rapoport, the study supervisor.

Frequent migraine sufferers should monitor the weather and take preventive medications at the onset of weather changes.

Fertility Update

A new form of male birth control is currently in development in the United Kingdom.

The implantable rods, which are inserted under the skin of the arm and remain effective for up to three years, contain a hormone that blocks sperm production — without altering the intensity of orgasms.

Improved Chances

Researchers in Virginia have developed a machine that's capable of separating sperm cells based on whether they have an X or a Y chromosome.

Once separated, the sperm samples give couples undergoing fertility treatment up to a 90 percent chance of being able to opt for a daughter and a 72 percent chance of choosing a son. The machine has been used in almost 300 pregnancies.

A Lifesaving Test

Up to half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels, and now doctors may know why.

In a study of 6,000 people, Harvard researchers found that high levels of C-reactive protein — a chemical produced when arteries become inflamed — significantly increase heart-attack risk, even in people with otherwise normal cholesterol levels.

"Drugs called statins can reduce heart-attack risk by up to 40 percent in people with high levels of C-reactive protein," says Dr. Paul Ridker, the study author.

If you're over 40, get a high-sensitivity blood test for C-reactive protein as part of your next physical (older tests are inadequate). The test costs $25 and will tell you if your heart could benefit from medication.

Liquid Smoke

There's a reason bar owners don't mind their places being so smoky.

According to a new study from Texas A&M University, it takes more alcohol to get drunk when you're inhaling cigarette smoke than when you aren't.

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