The most widely prescribed drug for treating multiple sclerosis has little or no effect on a patient's progression to disability, a study found. The medicine, interferon beta, does help reduce the development of brain lesions and limit the frequency of relapses, but until now there have been few well-controlled long-term studies demonstrating its effectiveness at preventing the onset of irreversible disability.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia collected data on 868 patients treated with interferon beta, comparing them with 1,788 patients who never took the drug. They found that those who took interferon beta were no less likely to suffer long-term disability than those who took none. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that damages the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve cells. The disorder is chronic and incurable, and its outcome is variable and hard to predict.


In addition to its other benefits, a low-fat diet may also reduce menopausal hot flashes and night sweats, research has found.

Scientists studied 17,473 menopausal women who were not on hormone therapy. Forty percent were assigned to a low-fat dietary plan with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The rest ate their customary diets. All participants recorded night sweats and hot flashes with details about the severity. Overall, women in the diet group were 14 percent more likely to eliminate these symptoms in the first year than those not on the diet, a difference that persisted after controlling for initial weight, smoking, ethnicity and other factors. The study led by Candyce Kroenke, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., was posted online in the journal Menopause.


As many as 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol, despite warnings from health care professionals that imbibing can cause problems for their fetus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 51.5 percent of non-pregnant women age 18 to 44 said they had used alcohol in the past 30 days. Among pregnant women of that age, 7.6 percent said they had used alcohol in the previous month, and 1.4 percent described themselves as binge drinkers -- defined as four or more drinks at a time. The analysis covered data from 2006 to 2010.

The surgeon general has advised women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant to abstain from alcohol use.