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Past News Items - June 2011

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In the News

Mind-Body Program Spikes Pregnancy Rates in Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization

L-theanine May Improve Attention in Patients With Anxiety

Agency Inaugurates Web Resource on Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Attitudes Shift as More Practitioners Prescribe Nontraditional Medicine

Released: 06/01/11

Mind-Body Program Spikes Pregnancy Rates in Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization

A study published in the June 1 issue of Fertility and Sterility found that women who participated in a mind-body program for stress reduction while undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment had significantly higher pregnancy rates than those who do not (52% vs 20%).

Researchers who performed the study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, contend that stress can reduce probability of conception and note that the process of undergoing IVF can be significantly stressful. Patients in IVF programs report high rates of anxiety and depression, and though mind-body therapies designed to help women reduce stress earlier in the treatment process result in higher pregnancy rates, little was known about the impact of these therapies on women actively undergoing IVF.

To study the effects of mind-body therapies on IVF pregnancy outcomes, the research team recruited women who were about to begin treatment at a Boston IVF program. These women had to meet two criteria to be included: they had to be aged 40 years or younger and have normal hormonal levels. None of the participants had previously participated in a mind-body intervention.

The 143 participants were randomized into a study group that entered the mind-body program or a control group that received no mind-body instruction. All patients underwent IVF treatment and were tracked through two IVF cycles.

In the first cycle, there was no difference in conception rates between the study group and the control group. These results may be due to the fact that only half of the study group had begun the mind-body program and those who had started the program were only a few sessions into it. In the second cycle, the majority of the patients in the study group had participated in at least five sessions, so they were learning skills to cope with stress.

Once the mind-body program was underway, there was a significant increase in pregnancy rates in the treatment group. In fact, 52% of the women participating in the mind-body program became pregnant compared with 20% of the control group participants, a statistically significant difference. Not only did the study support the theory that psychological distress may adversely affect IVF outcome, but also that this distress can be relieved through a mind-body intervention.

L-theanine May Improve Attention in Patients With Anxiety

According to a new study from Japan, daily supplementation with L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, may help people with anxiety disorders focus better on their daily activities. Published online ahead of print in the Journal of Functional Foods, this trial confirmed a dose of 200 mg was optimal to enhance visual attention and increase reaction time response in participants with a high propensity for anxiety.

In recent decades, L-theanine has been used to relieve muscular tension and reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. Various health effects have been associated with L-theanine, including neuroprotective effects and improved attention. Because the amino acid is found in tea leaves in very low concentrations, effective dosage levels (found to be 100-200 mg/day) cannot be delivered via cups of tea. Therefore, researchers performing this study at the University of Shiga Prefecture and Taiyo Kagaku used an L-theanine supplement and administered the 200-mg doses in 100 mL of water.

The research team recruited 18 healthy students from the university and assessed their levels of anxiety using the manifest anxiety scale. The participants were then sorted into two groups based on that assessment: minimal anxiety (control) and high anxiety (treatment). Both groups received the L-theanine and water mixture repeatedly and were assessed 15 to 60 minutes after each ingestion. Participants in the high-anxiety group demonstrated slowed heart rates, improved attention, and quicker reaction times than those in the minimal anxiety group. The control group did not seem to benefit from the supplementation.

Given that conventional antianxiety treatments rely on pharmaceuticals that cause drowsiness, impair concentration, and slow reflexes, the results of this study are sure to open new pathways for alternative treatment of anxiety and, potentially, other mood disorders.

Agency Inaugurates Web Resource on Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

NCCAM’s new online resource designed to give health care providers easy access to evidence-based information on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was unveiled this spring. With this resource, practitioners will be able to learn about various CAM practices and products and therefore become better able to discuss the safety and effectiveness of CAM with patients.

The “Resources for Health Care Providers” portal on the NCCAM website at nccam.nih.gov has been developed to fit the needs of all health care providers, including physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and CAM providers. It provides information on a range of common health practices that lie outside of allopathic medicine: natural products (dietary supplements, herbs, and probiotics), meditation, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage.

This site was created by the agency after a series of focus groups were conducted. Health care providers in those groups identified a need for an evidence-based resource where they could easily access information in order to help answer their patients’ questions about CAM. The new site includes links to relevant clinical practice guidelines and systematic reviews, information about safety and effectiveness of CAM therapies, patient fact sheets, summaries of research studies and scientific literature searches, and continuing education credit programs, as well as NCCAM’s Time to Talk tool kit, which helps practitioners communicate with patients about CAM.

At present, Americans spend almost $34 billion out-of-pocket annually on CAM products and practices. Surveys indicate that nearly 40% of American adults and 12% of American children use some form of CAM. Other surveys show that patients do not regularly discuss these practices with their health care providers. In fact, a recent study of Americans aged 50 years and older found that overall, two-thirds of respondents had not discussed CAM with their health care providers. The implementation of NCCAM’s resource may be the first step in improving those numbers. To access the site, go to http://nccam.nih.gov/health/providers/.

Attitudes Shift as More Practitioners Prescribe Nontraditional Medicine

In the United States, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has increased in popularity such that more than a third of Americans admit to using some form of CAM: dietary supplements, chiropractic, acupuncture, and mind-body therapies like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. Previous research has suggested that mind-body therapies were still considered “fringe” treatments even as they were used by millions of Americans. A study published in a recent issue of Archives of Internal Medicine points to a vital shift of mind-body medicine toward the mainstream.

A research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School found that one in 30 Americans who use some form of mind-body medicine did so as referred by a medical provider. The high referral rate from providers is evidence that more practitioners view mind-body therapies as legitimate treatment strategies.

The study’s authors collected information from more than 23 000 US households from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. They found that nearly 3% of respondents (approximately 6.3 million people) were referred to mind-body treatment by their primary health care providers. These patients tended to be more ill than most patients and therefore used the health care system more often. The researchers surmise that these referrals signify a last resort after conventional therapies have not worked.

Though these data indicate that mind-body therapies have become more mainstream in the health care field, more research is warranted to pinpoint which therapies are most effective for various conditions and how early in treatment they should be introduced to avoid health care costs farther down the road. 


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