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Paris has one of highest rates of psychosis, new study finds

Paris and southeast London have the highest rate of people reporting psychotic episodes, according to a new international study that compared rates of the mental disorder in six countries.

Paris has one of highest rates of psychosis, new study finds
Photo: AFP

A total of 17 areas in Britain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Brazil were covered in the report in the Journal of the American Medical

Association (JAMA) Psychiatry.

Researchers described the study as the largest international comparison of psychotic disorders to date, and the first major analysis of its kind in more than 25 years.

A previous study in 1992 that spanned eight diverse settings in rural and urban India, Japan, Europe and North America found that the rates of
schizophrenic disorders were “surprisingly similar.”

But the latest study found that rates of psychosis can be close to eight times higher in some regions compared to others, with the lowest incidence seen in the area around Santiago, Spain, and the highest in inner-city Paris and Southeast London.

“It's well-established that psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, are highly heritable, but genetics don't tell the whole story,” said lead author James Kirkbride, professor of psychiatry at University College London.

“Our findings suggest that environmental factors can also play a big role.”

The study was based on people aged 18-64 who contacted mental health services after a suspected first psychotic episode.

A total of 2,774 cases were analyzed.

Population density was not a factor in the psychotic rate, nor could differences be explained by age, sex or ethnic composition.

Rather, researchers found higher rates in younger men, among racial and ethnic minorities, and that “the strongest area-level predictor of high rates of psychotic disorders was a low rate of owner-occupied housing,” said the report.

The findings suggest “social deprivation” may be at play, said co-author Hannah Jongsma, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“People in areas that are socially deprived may have more social stresses, which could predict psychosis incidence, as suggested by other studies,” Jongsma said.

“An alternative explanation could be that owner-occupied housing is an indicator of social stability and cohesiveness, relating to stronger support networks.”

According to an accompanying editorial in JAMA, the study, like the 1992 one before it, “raises more questions than it answers.”

“We hope that it will spur further international efforts to explore how variation in sociocultural environments might be associated with psychosis incidence.”

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Is drinking red wine really good for your health?

US researchers may have found a flaw with the "French Paradox," or the notion that people who drink red wine can somehow avoid the pitfalls of a high-fat diet.

Is drinking red wine really good for your health?
Is the "French paradox" all a myth? Does drinking red wine have any health benefits? Photo: Jakob Montrasio/AFP

A study out Monday found that resveratrol – one of the highly touted antioxidants in red wine – did not help people live longer.

Nor did it help people avoid cancer or heart disease, according to the research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.

"This study suggests that dietary resveratrol from Western diets in community-dwelling older adults does not have a substantial influence on inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or longevity," said the research, led by Richard Semba of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Research on animals has suggested resveratrol, a polyphenol also found in some Asiatic plant roots as well as peanuts and berries, may wield beneficial health effects.

Although not proven in human studies, those findings have contributed to a $30 million per year market for resveratrol supplements in the United States alone, researchers said.

The latest study was based on measures of resveratrol levels in the urine of nearly 800 people in two small villages in Tuscany, Italy.

Researchers measured their urine for signs of resveratrol, to see if the amounts they were getting through their diet would contribute to improved health.

The subjects were 65 or older when they joined the study in 1998.

In the nine years that followed, 34 percent of those in the study died, and researchers could find no correlation between early death and resveratrol levels.

Nor could they find any significant links between resveratrol levels and the development of cancer or heart disease.

"These data are consistent with other studies that found that the method of alcohol consumption had no effect on outcome or if there is a benefit to red wine it does not appear to be mediated by resveratrol specifically," said Blase Carabello, chair of cardiology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel

Indeed, some previous research in humans has suggested that resveratrol may not be the cure-all some have hoped, including studies that have shown no impact on blood pressure, metabolism or lipid levels

"Of course the only way to be certain would be through a randomized trial but the current data lend little support for performing such a trial," added Carabello, who was not involved in the study.

According to Robert Graham, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, the "French Paradox" is still a mystery.

"This study is a great example of how difficult it is to examine the role of 'the magic bullet' for health and longevity, in this case resveratrol," said Graham, who was not part of the research.

"As the authors mentioned in their study, studying resveratrol in humans is challenging given different rates of metabolism, utilization and excretion among different people," he added.

"The recipe for a longer, healthier life is still being developed."

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