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By Compiled by SUSAN ASCHOFF
Published May 25, 2004

BARE-CHESTED, SUPERMUSCLED men in TV images and ads leave an average guy feeling depressed and unhappy with his masculinity; that can lead to steroid abuse and extreme exercising, researchers at the University of Central Florida report. UCF psychology professor Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and graduate student Daniel Agliata wanted to examine how "a culture of masculinity" affects the well-being of men. They found that the presentation of impossible body types begins with action figure toys and continues through movie heroes and video game characters. Nearly 160 UCF students were divided into two groups to watch an episode of Family Feud with Richard Dawson. But each group saw different commercials: One watched ads featuring muscular, bare-chested men and the other saw ads for financial and telephone companies, mostly with older men in business suits. Students who saw the "muscle" ads reported feeling more depressed and less satisfied about their bodies. Further study is needed, the researchers say, with the goal to help men develop realistic expectations about their appearance.

OF 1-MILLION or so clinical trials over the past 50 years, only about half were reported; thousands were terminated or never published. Yet findings from unpublished tests of potential new drugs and treatments can be informative for patients seeking answers. A public database at http://clinicaltrials.gov contains information on almost 10,000 trials, the result of legislation passed seven years ago to improve patient access. The database is run by the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, and includes both federally and privately funded studies. Other information about trial results and ongoing studies can be found at www.cochrane.us and www.trialscentral.org.

SPEAKING OF STUDIES, not a day goes by without the media announcing some new medical finding. When evaluating the significance of those reports, look first at the size and length of the study, experts advise. Here are some definitions which may help: Clinical trials use human volunteers vs. only lab work. Interventional trials determine whether experimental treatments or new ones are safe and effective. Observational trials survey or observe large groups of people in natural settings and are less reliable than controlled trials. Controlled trials are studies in which a comparison group (called a control) is set up as part of the experiment and does not receive the drug being tested. The gold standard of studies is a randomized controlled trial, often referred to as RCT, because participants are randomly selected for one of several treatments, with one treatment and/or group designated as the control group. Even better is when that study is double blind, meaning neither the patients nor the researchers know who's getting what treatment or drug, thus lowering the chance that personal expectations will shade results.

EACH YEAR about 700,000 people have a stroke, most of them for the first time. Yet less than 42 percent of Americans know even one of the five warning signs, says the American Stroke Association. Those symptoms are:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

Sudden confusion or trouble speaking.

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of coordination.

Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

For more information, visit www.strokeassociation.org or phone toll-free 1-888-478-7653.

- Staff writer SUSAN ASCHOFF and Times wires

[Last modified May 25, 2004, 07:44:06]


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