The Week That Wasn't: 'Extreme Grooming,' Blinding Junk Food, Alzheimer's Diet

Ellie Kincaid


September 06, 2019

You may have recently seen news articles about extreme grooming of pubic hair not being linked to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a teen who went blind from eating only junk food, and a hybrid Mediterranean-keto diet's effects on the gut microbiome of patients with Alzheimer's. Here's why you didn't see them on Medscape Medical News.

"Extreme Grooming" Not Linked to STIs

Back in 2016, a study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, made headlines with the finding that self-reported STIs were more common among people who reported "extreme grooming" — removing all pubic hair more than 11 times in 1 year — in a survey of more than 7500 Americans. Researchers at the Ohio State University, in Columbus, this week say otherwise. In their study of nearly 250 women who sought STI testing and completed questionnaires, they found no association between extreme grooming — defined as removing all pubic hair at least weekly in the past year or at least six times in the past 30 days — and chlamydia or gonorrhea infections.

It's great to see researchers and journals publishing and media outlets covering negative trials. And this study has some advantages over previous ones, such as confirming STIs with a test rather than relying on participant reports. But the sample size is relatively small, which the authors note "led to the imprecision evident in the wide confidence intervals for measures of association." This study, published in PLOS One, is unlikely to be the last word on the matter, so we stayed out of this round of back-and-forth to avoid giving Medscape readers the whiplash that comes from reporting on every single conflicting study on a given topic.

Teen Loses Sight From Junk Food Diet

Doctors affiliated with the Bristol Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine the case of a boy who gradually lost his sight because of his nutritionally poor diet of fries, potato chips, white bread, and processed meats. The case report describes the boy as a "fussy eater" who had vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Over the course of a few years, his vision worsened until he became blind by age 17. The doctors diagnosed him as having nutritional optic neuropathy and expect that most of his vision impairment will be permanent.

The reason stories like this boy's are published as case reports and not clinical trials is the same as one reason they're so titillating: They are rare. We didn't think it was imperative for Medscape readers to know about something they're unlikely to see in clinic, sensational as it may be.

Diet Changes Alzheimer's Gut Microbiome Signature

With drug after drug targeting amyloid in Alzheimer disease failing to show any benefit in large clinical trials, scientists are looking for other options to help patients, such as diet. A new study from Wake Forest University researchers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, examined the gut microbiota of people with mild cognitive impairment before and after they adopted two different diets.

The article, published in EBioMedicine, says the study was double-blind, and the participants had a registered dietician plan their meals to fit either a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet or the American Heart Association diet for 6 weeks, followed by a 6-week washout period, followed by another 6 weeks during which the participants followed the other diet plan. They checked in weekly for an assessment of their adherence to the diet.

The researchers reported finding "several unique microbial signatures" in gut microbiota of the 11 study participants with mild cognitive impairment compared with the six cognitively normal participants and that the Mediterranean-keto diet "can modulate the gut microbiome and metabolites in association with improved AD biomarkers in CSF."

We didn't cover this very small pilot study because we would want to see evidence from a much larger, longer trial in people who have Alzheimer's (not just mild cognitive impairment) before reporting on a supposed relationship between the gut microbiome and Alzheimer's that could be modified through diet. Just because there isn't yet a drug for the disease doesn't mean interventions without strong evidence are worth our readers' attention.

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