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U.S. Vaccine Court Announced Its Decision About a Possible Relationship Between Autism and Childhood Vaccines; Simple Brain Scan Could Predict If You Are Likely to Get Alzheimer's; Scientists Are One Step Closer to Understanding the Rhinovirus; Your Facial Expressions: Do They Tell Who You Love or Betray Your Feelings?

Aired February 14, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to HOUSE CALL -- the show that helps you live longer and stronger.

Some new research out this week shows a simple brain scan could predict whether you are likely to get Alzheimer's.

Also, we're in the midst of cold season and the culprit is often something known as the rhinovirus. Scientists are one step closer to understanding it.

And your facial expressions -- do they tell the tale about who you love or might they betray your true feelings? We've got that all straight ahead.

But, first, breaking news this week as the U.S. vaccine court announces its long awaited decision about the possible relationship between one type of childhood vaccine and autism.

And here's the story: the court looked at whether the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine along with the mercury preservative thimerosal could be linked to autism, and also, whether the MMR vaccine could play a role in autism alone.


GUPTA (voice-over): The court rejected the vaccine autism claimed by Michelle Cedillo's parents, that the MMR vaccine and the mercury-containing thimerosal caused their child's autism. Michelle was one of the three test cases considered by the court claiming the vaccine autism link. Michelle is 14-years-old. She can't walk without help. She receives nourishment from a feeding tube and needs constant monitoring for seizures.

Her mother Theresa says her daughter became sick after receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine at 15 months of age. MMR vaccines never contained the mercury preservative thimerosal, but when Michelle was a toddler many other childhood vaccines did.

THERESA CEDILLO, MICHELLE'S MOTHER: You think you're dealing with something that is going to come and go, and then you get your child back.

GUPTA: The ruling in the Cedillo's case which was written by a tax lawyer appointed to the court as special master, concluded, "The Cedillos have not demonstrated either that thimerosal-containing vaccines can harm infant immune systems in general, or that such vaccines did harm Michelle's immune system." Bottom line, they concluded the vaccine did not cause Michelle's autism.

Dr. Paul Offit is a director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He's also author of, "Autism's False Prophets." He says cases like Michelle's are unfortunate coincidences.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: About 20 percent of children with autism will regress between often the 1st and 2nd birthday. So, statistically, it has to happen where some children will get a vaccine, they had been fine. They get the vaccine, then they're not fine anymore.

GUPTA: Even before the court's ruling, the medical establishment had passed judgment on the vaccine autism claim. More than a dozen large studies in prestigious medical publications like the "New England Journal of Medicine" finding no link between vaccines and autism.

With their suit, Teresa and Mike Cedillo say they were simply hoping to receive an award big enough to take care of Michelle when they're gone.


GUPTA: Other news making the headlines. The owner of the company implicated on the salmonella outbreak refused to answer questions before Congress this week and repeatedly invoked his right not to incriminate himself. E-mails obtained by House subcommittee found that Stewart Parnell ordered contaminated products shipped because he was worried about losing money. Unbelievable.

Also, taking a multivitamin doesn't lower the risks of various cancers among older women, that's according to a large scale study on multivitamin use. Researchers looked at more than 161,000 women aged 50 to 79. Now, more than 41 percent of these women use multivitamins. The current analysis adds to a growing body of disappointing evidence surrounding dietary supplements and their ability to lower cancer risks.

Also, researchers at Northwestern University found people with a specific variation in their dopamine transporter gene -- you don't need to remember that name -- but they are 25 percent more likely to make risky stock investments. The genetic variation can cause people to feel a rush of pleasure in their brains when they take risks, including financial ones.

We are at the peak of cold season as we mentioned. If you're nursing sniffles and a sore throat, you know how unpleasant the cold can be. But now, maybe some hope. New research helps us really figure out this culprit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA (voice-over): You're looking at the human re rhinovirus, you probably know it as the common cold. For decades, scientists have tried to find a cure to this illness that infects billions of people worldwide every year.

DR. STEPHEN LIGGETT, UNIV. OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: If we step back and look at the public health costs in terms of suffering and dollars, this is not a small player. We calculated somewhere between $60 billion and $100 billion in costs, including unnecessary antibiotics, loss of work and school days.

GUPTA: The problem is the common cold is pretty complex, made up of at least 99 different viral strains, it can cause different symptoms in different people. But now, after three years of using the latest in DNA technology, researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they've taken the first step in treating the common cold -- by mapping its entire genome.

LIGGETT: At least now, we have an understanding of which virus one might have.

GUPTA: By assembling the results into what they call a family tree, scientists can see how the virus strains are related and, more importantly, what their differences are. So what does this all mean for you and me? Well, plenty. By putting the genome puzzle pieces together, researchers say drug companies may be able to develop new treatments that could weaken the virus before it can spreads.

LIGGETT: Our mindset right now is to consider more along the antiviral drug treatment rather than vaccine, but always keep an open mind to the new technologies of vaccine development.

GUPTA: Investigators are so optimistic about their findings, they predict a development of new drugs within the next two to five years. They hope one day soon -- this and this -- will be a thing of the past.


GUPTA: Still ahead: Expressions of love. What do smiles, head tilt, hand gestures say about relationships and monogamy?

Plus -- a brain scan. What answers might it give researchers and patients when it comes to Alzheimer's?


GUPTA: We're back on HOUSE CALL.

Interesting study out this week that I wanted to tell you about, looking into the issues of Alzheimer's disease. Big question for a lot of people -- if you're having memory lapses early on in life that are pretty significant but not enough to impact your daily life, what is the likelihood that you're going to go on to develop Alzheimer's? We don't know the answer to that but researchers may be one step closer to figuring it out. I want to -- I want to tell you what they were talking about here by showing you these images. First of all, this is a brain of someone with Alzheimer's disease. Again, they have memory problems so profound it's hard for them to conduct their activities of daily life. This is the front of the brain; this is the back of the brain.

These dark blue areas are where cells have started to die. These aqua blue areas are where cells have definitely died. That is known as atrophy. That is a significant problem.

Now, there's also something known as mild cognitive impairment. That means, again, you're having memory lapses but they're not interfering with your way of daily life yet. These scans over here represent two groups of people. They both have very similar symptoms, these memory lapses.

But take a look at this scan over here. You're seeing significant atrophy. You're seeing the atrophy over here as well. And it's very similar to what we saw with the Alzheimer's brain. Even though these two -- they have very different symptom, Alzheimer's versus just occasional memory lapses. Thirty percent of the people who have scanned like this went on to develop Alzheimer's within a year, according to this small study.

Now, take a look at this scan over here. These are people that have the exact same symptoms, just mild cognitive problems, but they don't have nearly as much atrophy. Only 8 percent of the people in this group went on to develop Alzheimer's over a year.

Now again, this is just based on a study. No one is saying go out and get these special MRI scans yet to figure out if you're likely to develop Alzheimer's. But this is going to be a fertile area of research for doctors trying to figure out who are these people that are going to go on to develop Alzheimer's, and more importantly, what you can do about it. I found this fascinating. We're going to have much more on this in the months and years to come.

More HOUSE CALL after the break.



GUPTA (voice-over): In the anatomy of a smile, some scientists can unlock the hidden essence of a grin. After a controversial and contested loss ...

AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I offer my concession.

GUPTA: ... Al Gore was still smiling. But it wasn't easy.

VOICE OF DACHER KELTNER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY: In this particular smile, what you see is a lot of tightness in lips -- evidence of the (INAUDIBLE) pulling the lip corners a bit sideways. A little bit stronger feeling of tension.


GUPTA: A movie stars Broadway debut.

KELTNER: This is a really different smile for her. Typically, Julia Roberts has one of the great open mouth smiles of all times. Here she's pressing her lips together and tightening the lower corners of the lips, but is seeming a bit more modest.

GUPTA: And who hasn't wondered what this woman is thinking?

KELTNER: So, why is this smile so mysterious? The eyes have some of the signs of real happiness, the pouching of the lower eyelid, the narrowing of the eye.

Yet the smile itself is subtle. And, in fact, there's a very, very slight lip crest which is a different muscle movement which suggests that she's inhibiting something. That's the great mystery of this painting. What is she inhibiting? That is the grist in the mill for our historians, but it's a wonderful smile.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. It's Valentine's Day weekend -- as you know by now -- and many of you out there may be looking for love. But did you know our facial expressions can reveal a lot about what we're thinking even if we're not saying a word? Including who we desire and who we love.

So, Doctor Keltner, who you just saw in the opening piece, joins us now. He's the author of a new book called, "Born to be Good" and expert on human expressions as well.

Doctor, thanks so much. Welcome to HOUSE CALL.

KELTNER: It's great to be here, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Well, this is the perfect weekend to talk about this. And, you know, one thing I found fascinating, I want to ask you right off the top, is, how many different sorts of expressions can our face project? I mean, do we know what they all mean?

KELTNER: Well, what we know is that we can communicate about 15 different emotions with different facial muscle movements.

GUPTA: I thought it would be more than that. That's interesting.

You know, you're sitting around, you're talking to somebody, you feel like you know them. But sometimes, their facial expression can actually tell the tale. And sometimes, it's different than what they're saying. Is that something you researched?

KELTNER: Yes, absolutely. You know, the facial muscles are an old part of our nervous system and they are revealing our emotions unconsciously all the time. So, we learn quite a bit about looking at the face. GUPTA: So, it can be somewhat reflex almost, you're saying, your facial expressions may betray you as well as be a tell tale sign.

KELTNER: Absolutely.

GUPTA: Now, one thing I thought was interesting as well is that you found the association between the expressions of love and the release of a chemical oxytocin. What does that mean, first of all, and what does it mean in terms of devotion and in terms of trust?

KELTNER: Well, oxytocin is this amazing chemical that floats through your blood and your brain. And what it does as any midwife will tell you is that it helps with uterine contractions during childbirth. But there's an amazing new science that's showing that oxytocin is associated with monogamy in rodents. You give humans a blast of oxytocin and in an economic game and they give away a lot of money to strangers.

And then, in our research, what we did is we linked up oxytocin release to a non-verbal expression of romantic love. It's really the love drug if you will.

GUPTA: So, not to over-read this. Let me take it one step further. So, if someone is showing an expression of love, the person who is -- in terms of their facial expression -- the person who is receiving that is more likely to release this chemical which makes them feel monogamous, makes them fell more trusting and more devoted.

KELTNER: Absolutely. So, what we found is that when people show very warm smile and when they tilt their head and when they show that universal greeting gesture, those three displays are really a sign of love. And when we show those displays of love, we have oxytocin released in ourselves ...

GUPTA: It's fascinating.

KELTNER: ... and other people as well.

GUPTA: Look, let's have a little bit of fun here. And you could follow along at home as well with this. Because we want to put up some images of what we're talking about here, I think we have four images and these are straight from your book, Dacher. So, the four images are all of a model, I guess, you had give these various facial expressions.

First of all, at home, maybe you can guess this. But try and guess which one of these four images actually represents an expression of love as opposed to an expression of desire. Think about that at home. And, Dacher, why don't you talk us through that. Which of these -- what can we learn from these various images?

KELTNER: Well, in the bottom right, what we have is a photograph of those three signs of love. And when we study the romantic conversations of young couples, if the romantic partner is just for a second or two tilt their head and they show these open-handed gestures and smiles, they feel love, they've talked about marriage, they're interested in long relationship.

Now, in contrast, if they show the expressions in the other photograph, in the other three panels, if they bite their lips or pucker their lips or lick their lips, they're more interested in short-term passion.


GUPTA: You know, I guess you would guess that a little bit. It's interesting to look at that bottom right image. It's almost a little bit matronly as well, I found, as sort of that open expression. But the fascinating stuff, nonetheless. It may be something for people to think about particularly this weekend.

Doctor Keltner, thanks so much for joining us.

KELTNER: Thanks a lot, Sanjay.

GUPTA: I enjoyed it. Appreciate it.

Straight ahead: laid off, losing insurance -- learn some creative ways to get what you need. Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And we're back with HOUSE CALL.

In January, more than half a million people lost their jobs. One of the first things the newly unemployed need to figure out is what to do about health insurance. So, in this week's "Empowered Patient," senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has some tips on ways to get the cure that you need if you find yourself in this situation.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, a very difficult situation.


COHEN: Millions of people are in it and this is the time to have some ingenuity, because there are programs out there to help you but you have to know where to find them. So, you know what, we put all the links together that you need in this week's "Empowered Patient."

So, let's take a look at some of the tips we have for finding new insurance when you've lost your own. First of all, what you want to do is in the meantime while you're looking for insurance, you can seek out prescription assistance programs. There are many of them. And they can be quite helpful.

Also, there are programs to help you for your specific disease -- if you have heart disease or breast cancer or whatever, there are programs specifically to help you. Also, we have a link to a list of free clinics. And here's something you might consider, get a part- time job.

I mean, Sanjay, it may not be your career aspirations necessarily to be a barista at Starbucks, but part-time employees at Starbucks get health benefits.

GUPTA: Right.

COHEN: And we have a list of all the other places that will give you health benefits as a part-timer.

GUPTA: So, these are some things you can do along the way. But what -- how do you go about finding a new policy?

COHEN: OK. There are a couple of hints. First of all, if you are a relatively healthy person, you can try just going online and finding a -- what's called a private insurance policy, one that you don't get to your employer, and has that.

If you have a preexisting condition, it maybe tough to find affordable insurance. So, if your state has a high-risk pool, which is a place where people go who have preexisting conditions, you can look there and we have the links that you need for those.

Also, if you have children, definitely look into SCHIP. Some people think, "Oh, no, I have too many assets or I have a, you know, a job where I earn a little bit of money. Well, you still may be able to qualify for SCHIP. It's not -- the requirements aren't stringent as Medicaid.

GUPTA: Now, one thing I noticed, you haven't mentioned this COBRA. And that's -- if you lost your job, you get to keep your insurance for a while. You haven't talked about that.

COHEN: I haven't talked about that, you know why? Because so many people told me that they did not find it useful. What it is is that, as Sanjay said, you stay with your employer's health care but you're paying the premiums and it can get very expensive. In fact, a Commonwealth Fund study found only 9 percent of people who are offered COBRA, take it, because it is so expensive.

Now, we have a list of COBRA's how-tos in my column, if you want it, try to pursuit it, because it is helpful for some people. But for others, it's just too expensive.

GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth. I think we'll be talking about topics like these for some time to come.

COHEN: I think so. Sadly, yes.

GUPTA: All right, thanks, Elizabeth, so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

GUPTA: Be sure to read the full list of Elizabeth's tips on mistakes you don't want to make if you lose your job. Visit the Web site:

So, here's a question: Do you get flushed, maybe even sneeze after a glass of wine? I'll tell why. That's coming up after the break. Stay with HOUSE CALL. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: And we're back with HOUSE CALL.

You know, every week, we take questions from you. And this week, we're going to combine two of my favorite segments "Ask the Doctor" and "Fit Nation."

Let's jump right in. Sydney from Wayne, Indiana, asked this, "I heard having a potbelly is the worst type of fat to have. Any truth to that?"

Well, yes, Sydney, it's absolutely true. In fact, the fat around the middle section is the worst kind fat specifically for heart health. Now, the reason, it appears to be that it's more biologically active which can cause calcium buildup in your arteries.

In fact, studies have shown the extra inches you add to your stomach or your abdominal area may be worse than the overall number you see on the scale. They call it the waist-to-hip ratio. You want to make sure your waist measures smaller than your hip and thighs. Remember, losing just 10 percent of your belly weight can help to lower your risk of developing heart-related diseases.

Now, our next question comes from Lisa in Massachusetts. She asks this, a common question we get. "Can you have an allergy to alcohol?"

Well, Lisa, some people are more sensitive to alcohol than others. But this does not mean you necessarily have an allergy. Now, you might be allergic to the ingredients in the alcoholic beverage. There are things like wheat, sulfur dioxide, many preservatives that you might be allergic to.

Also, substances in alcohol like sulfates and wine can cause allergic-like symptom, such as flushing, such as rashes, even sneezing. Now, you can also have alcohol intolerance, that can cause headaches, rapid heart beat, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal pain, nasal congestion, warm, red, itchy skin. Some of you experienced this before.

If you have any of these reactions, it's best to avoid alcohol altogether. Of course, consult with your doctor.

Up next: Is your valentine getting some chocolate this weekend? That's a popular gift. Let me tell you about the health benefits as well. Some good news on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And finally this weekend, a box of chocolates maybe a sweet way to say I love you. But as Judy Fortin tells us, as we get older, chocolate can affect our health in very different ways.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valentine's week is a busy time for James Chalifoux, owner of Lexington chocolate here at Atlanta. He knows one thing -- people love chocolate, not only for its taste but for its health benefits.

JAMES CHALIFOUX, LEXINGTON CHOCOLATE: Antioxidants is that's what they're looking for. So, they're always like, where's more dark chocolate?

FORTIN: Recent studies have shown that certain chocolates can be good for us, especially as we age. But which of these confections have the most benefit and when?

KATHERINE TALLMADGE, NUTRITIONIST, AMERICAN DIABETIC ASSOCIATION: I think a lot of people are confused about chocolate. They are not sure what to believe. Is it good for me? Is it not?

FORTIN: When we get into our 30s, our metabolism begins to slowdown. So, we need to start watching our sugars. An average chocolate bar has anywhere from 19 to 35 grams of sugar, that's a lot. Eating too much chocolate, especially milk chocolate, can lead to tooth decay, obesity, even diabetes as you age.

And as we get into our 40s and 50s, doctors say we should be thinking about antioxidants. Those are the substances in food that oxidize cells and help prevent damage to the heart, arteries and other tissues. Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate is chock full of them. They're called flavanols and can provide health benefits.

TALLMADGE: Relaxing blood vessels, reducing blood clotting, improving blood flow.

FORTIN: But watch what you're buying. The more processed the dark chocolate, the fewer health benefits.

TALLMADGE: The amount of flavanols decreases with every processing step.

FORTIN: The best source of pure, dark chocolate, dark cocoa powder. Mix it with sugar to make hot cocoa or use baker's dark chocolate in recipes, and look at the labels. So the sweets you give your sweetie will be good for the heart as well as the sweet tooth.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, Judy, thanks.

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. If you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast, Remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching.

More news on CNN starts right now.