Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

A Soda a Day Ups Diabetes Risk by 22 Percent

Consuming one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soft drink a day increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 22 percent, a new study from Europe suggests. The finding is based on an analysis of data collected from more than 28,000 people in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The increased risk of developing diabetes associated with having one sugar-sweetened soft drink a day fell to 18 percent when the researchers took into account people’s total calorie intake and body-mass index, a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. Both total calorie intake and body-mass index are believed to play a role in the link between sugar-sweetened soft drinks and diabetes risk. The fact that diabetes risk fell only slightly when these two factors were taken into account indicates that the effect of sugar-sweetened soft drinks on diabetes goes beyond their impact on body weight.

The study found link between consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and heightened risk of type 2 diabetes. The study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Consumption of pure or diluted fruit juice was not significantly associated with diabetes risk, according to the study. The 22 percent increased risk of diabetes among Europeans who drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks is similar to research showing that North Americans who consume these types of beverages have a 25 percent increased risk of diabetes.


Why Coffee is Good for Your Health

Coffee isn’t just warm and energizing, it may also be extremely good for you. In recent years, scientists have studied the effects of coffee on various aspects of health and their results have been nothing short of amazing. Here’s why coffee may actually be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.

Coffee doesn’t just keep you awake; it may literally make you smarter as well. The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, which is a stimulant and the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Caffeine’s primary mechanism in the brain is blocking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine. By blocking the inhibitory effects of Adenosine, caffeine actually increases neuronal firing in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Controlled trials have examined the effects of caffeine on the brain, demonstrating that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general cognitive function.


Essential Point: Caffeine potently blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, leading to a net stimulant effect. Controlled trials show that caffeine improves both mood and brain function.


There’s a good reason why you will find caffeine in most commercial fat burning supplements. Caffeine, partly due to its stimulant effect on the central nervous system, both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids. Caffeine can also improve athletic performance by several mechanisms, including by mobilizing fatty acids from the fat tissues. In two separate meta-analyses, caffeine was found to increase exercise performance by 11-12% on average.


Essential Point: Caffeine raises the metabolic rate and helps to mobilize fatty acids from the fat tissues. It can also enhance physical performance.


Type II diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease that has reached epidemic proportions, having increased 10-fold in a few decades and now afflicting about 300 million people. This disease is characterized by high blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin. In observational studies, coffee has been repeatedly associated with a lower risk of diabetes. The reduction in risk ranges from 23% all the way up to 67%. A massive review article looked at 18 studies with a total of 457,922 participants. Each additional cup of coffee per day lowered the risk of diabetes by 7%. The more coffee people drank, the lower their risk.


Essential Point: Drinking coffee is associated with a drastically reduced risk of type II diabetes. People who drink several cups per day are the least likely to become diabetic.


Not only can coffee make you smarter in the short term, it may also protect your brain in old age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world and a leading cause of dementia. In prospective studies, coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee may lower the risk of Parkinson’s by 32-60%.


Essential Point: Coffee is associated with a much lower risk of dementia and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


The liver is a remarkable organ that carries out hundreds of vital functions in the body. It is very vulnerable to modern insults such as excess consumption of alcohol and fructose. Cirrhosis is the end stage of liver damage caused by diseases like alcoholism and hepatitis, where liver tissue has been largely replaced by scar tissue. Multiple studies have shown that coffee can lower the risk of cirrhosis by as much as 80%, the strongest effect for those who drank 4 or more cups per day. Coffee may also lower the risk of liver cancer by around 40%.


Essential Point: Coffee appears to be protective against certain liver disorders, lowering the risk of liver cancer by 40% and cirrhosis by as much as 80%.


Many people still seem to think that coffee is unhealthy. This isn’t surprising though, since it is very common for conventional wisdom to be at exact odds with what the actual studies say. In two very large prospective epidemiological studies, drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death by all causes. This effect is particularly profound in type II diabetics, one study showing that coffee drinkers had a 30% lower risk of death during a 20 year period.


Essential Point: Coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of death in prospective epidemiological studies, especially in type II diabetics.


Coffee isn’t just black water. Many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the final drink, which actually contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.


A cup of coffee contains:


1. About 6% of the RDA for Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5).

2. About 11% of the RDA for Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).

3. About 2% of the RDA for Niacin (B3) and Thiamine (B1).

4. About 3% of the RDA for Potassium and Manganese.

5. May not seem like much, but if you drink several cups of coffee per day then this quickly adds up.


Coffee also contains a massive amount of antioxidants. In fact, coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables combined.


Essential Point: Coffee contains a decent amount of several vitamins and minerals. It is also the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet.


Even though coffee in moderate amounts is good for you, drinking way too much of it can still be harmful. I’d also like to point out that many of the studies above were epidemiological in nature. Such studies can only show association, they can not prove that coffee caused the effects. To make sure to preserve the health benefits, don’t put sugar or anything nasty in your coffee! If it tends to affect your sleep, then don’t drink it after 2pm. At the end of the day, it does seem quite clear that coffee is NOT the villain it was made out to be. If anything, coffee may literally be the healthiest beverage on the planet.




Sunrise of Sunset

Environmental exposure to bisphenol A; a widespread chemical found in plastics and resins, may suppress a gene vital to nerve cell function and to the development of the central nervous system, according to a study led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

The researchers published their findings – which were observed in cortical neurons of mice, rats and humans – in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Feb. 25, 2013.

The study found that bisphenol A may impair the development of the central nervous system, and raises the question as to whether exposure could predispose animals and humans to neurodevelopmental disorders, says lead author Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., PhD, associate professor of Medicine/Neurology and Neurobiology at Duke.

Bisphenol A; a molecule that mimics estrogen and interferes with the body’s endocrine system, can be found in a wide variety of manufactured products, including thermal printer paper, some plastic water bottles and the lining of metal cans. The chemical can be ingested if it seeps into the contents of food and beverage containers.

Research in animals has raised concerns that exposure to bisphenol A may cause health problems such as behavioral issues, endocrine and reproductive disorders, obesity, cancer and immune system disorders. Some studies suggest that infants and young children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of bisphenol A, which led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of the chemical in baby bottles and cups in July 2012.

While bisphenol A has been shown to affect the developing nervous system, little is understood as to how this occurs. The research team developed a series of experiments in rodent and human nerve cells to learn how bisphenol A induces changes that disrupt gene regulation.

During early development of neurons, high levels of chloride are present in the cells. These levels drop as neurons mature, thanks to a chloride transporter protein called KCC2, which churns chloride ions out of the cells. If the level of chloride within neurons remains elevated, it can damage neural circuits and compromise a developing nerve cell’s ability to migrate to its proper position in the brain.

Exposing neurons to minute amounts of bisphenol A alters the chloride levels inside the cells by somehow shutting down the Kcc2 gene, which makes the KCC2 protein, thereby delaying the removal of chloride from neurons.

MECP2, another protein important for normal brain function, was found to be a possible culprit behind this change. When exposed to bisphenol A, MECP2 is more abundant and binds to the Kcc2 gene at a higher rate, which might help to shut it down. This could contribute to problems in the developing brain due to a delay in chloride being removed.

These findings raise the question of whether bisphenol A could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett syndrome, a severe autism spectrum disorder that is only found in girls and is characterized by mutations in the gene that produces MECP2.

While both male and female neurons were affected by bisphenol A in the studies, female neurons were more susceptible to the chemical’s toxicity. Further research will dig deeper into the sex-specific effects of bisphenol A exposure and whether certain sex hormone receptors are involved in bisphenol A’s effect on KCC2.

These findings improve understanding of how environmental exposure to bisphenol A can affect the regulation of the Kcc2 gene. However, scientists wait for future studies to focus on what targets aside from Kcc2 are affected by bisphenol A.

In addition to Liedtke, study authors include Michele Yeo and Ken Berglund of the Liedtke Lab in the Division of Neurology at Duke Medicine; Michael Hanna, Maria D. Torres and Jorge Busciglio of the University of California, Irvine; Junjie U. Guo and Yuan Gao of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and Johns Hopkins University in City of Baltimore, Maryland; and Jaya Kittur, Joel Abramowitz and Lutz Birnbaumer of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.


Consuming Too Many Calories in Infancy Can Lead To Weight Problems Later In Life

New parents are pleased when their baby gains weight as expected, but if the rate of weight gain is slow, parents can become worried and concerned about their child’s future size. New research from the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol shows that most babies who are slow to put on weight in the first nine months of life have caught up to within the normal range by the age of 13, but remain lighter and shorter than many of their peers. There are significant differences in the pattern of ‘catch-up’, depending on the infant’s age when the slow weight gain occurs.

The new findings, published Monday 25 February, in the journal Pediatrics, are based on data from 11,499 participants in Children of the 90s, and provide the most conclusive and reassuring evidence for parents to date that, with the right care, many infants who fail to put on weight quickly in the first nine months of life will catch up over time. The study found that, of the 11,499 infants born at term, 507 were slow to put on weight before the age of eight weeks and 480 were slow to gain weight between eight weeks and nine months. Thirty children were common to both groups. The infants in the early group recovered quickly and had almost caught up in weight by the age of two, whereas those in the later group gained weight slowly until the age of 7, then had a ‘spurt’ between 7 and 10 years, but remained considerably shorter and lighter than their peers and those in the early group at the age of 13. At that age, children in the later group were on average 5.5k lighter and almost 4cm shorter than their peers; those in the early group were on average 2.5k lighter and 3.25cm shorter than their peers.

Slow weight gain is often seen by parents and some healthcare professionals as a sign of underlying ill health and clinicians face a dilemma between taking steps to increase a child’s energy intake and putting them at risk of obesity later in life by encouraging too rapid weight gain. The study shows that there were very different patterns of recovery between the early and late groups, even when other factors like the mother’s education, background, and her weight and height were taken into account, but that there was little difference between boys and girls.

The reason the early group caught up more quickly may be because those infants had obvious feeding difficulties and were more readily identified at the eight-week check, resulting in early treatment leading to a more rapid recovery. However, as Children of the 90s are observational study, there is limited information available about which infants received nutritional supplements or medical treatments. Children who showed slow weight gain later in infancy took longer to recover, because of the longer period of slow growth and because their parents were smaller and lighter too. Overall, parents can be re-assured that well babies showing slow weight gain in the first year do eventually recover to within the normal range, but at 13 years tend to be lighter and smaller than many of their peers. The findings highlight the importance of monitoring a baby’s weight and height gain during the first few weeks and months, but not creating anxiety with parents of slow-growing babies who are well, as most of these babies will catch up to within the national average over time.

The message to health professionals is that, unless children require intervention due to ill health, their calorie intake should not be increased as this may predispose them to obesity later in life. Feeding habits in the second six months of life determine a child’s future weight gain, so consuming too many calories in infancy can lead to weight problems later in life.


Links involving Air Pollution and Health Outcomes

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island

Lance Waller, PhD, chair of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, presents preliminary work that explores relationships between high-levels of air pollution exposure and health effects at a press briefing hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science on February 17, at 2 p.m. EST, in Boston.

During the briefing, Waller summarized his joint work with the Southeastern Center for Air Pollution Epidemiology. Southeastern Center for Air Pollution Epidemiology tests air pollution levels in various areas of Metro Atlanta and their health effects, based on data from associated emergency room visits, in order to determine relationships to exposure. The study assessed the general findings of Southeastern Center for Air Pollution Epidemiology to identify spatial uncertainties in exposures.

Southeastern Center for Air Pollution Epidemiology has identified geographically-referenced air pollution levels and health outcomes. The scientists will analyze these data to determine whether the effects seen city-wide mirror those observed in local neighborhoods. The team will also identify communities with higher risk levels and examine potential roles of behavioral connections such as prolonged outdoor activity and socio-economic status.

Satellite data—data collected by measuring light—will be collected to determine air pollution levels in areas where ground monitors—data collected by filters—are not located. Assessments made on the associations between monitored levels and satellite levels will help observe relationships over a broader region. Scientists will also look at pollution levels and the association specifically with respiratory diseases, as certain communities show stronger associations with these outcomes. Scientists hope that research will lead to improved understanding of the causes of these outcomes. Each component of research is essential because it generates potential solutions. If scientists can identify areas that are healthier, they may be able to identify why they are healthier and use these solutions as models to implement in other communities.


Depressed Patients Have Lesser Chance of Completing Cardiac Rehab

Depressed patients are less likely to complete exercise-based, cardiac rehabilitation programs, regardless of whether they are taking antidepressants, according to a study published in the Feb. 1 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Neil F. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., from INTERVENT International in Savannah, Georgia, and colleagues analyzed data from 26,957 patients who had completed a baseline assessment before participating in a 12-week exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation program. Based on baseline self-reported history of depression and the current use of antidepressants, patients were stratified into three cohorts: non-depressed, depressed un-medicated and depressed medicated.

Scientists found that 19.2 percent of patients self-reported a history of depression at baseline, with 41.5 percent of these patients taking antidepressants. Patients in the non-depressed cohort were significantly more likely to complete the exit assessment than patients in the depressed un-medicated or the depressed medicated cohorts 49.4 percent completion versus 44.5 and 43.5 percent, respectively. In all three cohorts, significant improvements were noted in multiple risk factors for those who completed the exit assessment.

The magnitude of improvement was similar in measures of blood pressure, serum lipids and lipoproteins, fasting glucose, weight, and body mass index for patients taking antidepressants and those who were not. Given the high prevalence of depression and the compelling evidence that it substantially increases the risk of coronary heart disease events, the data have important implications for physicians and payers of health care services. Specifically, findings serve to further highlight the need to optimize secondary prevention program referral, participation, and compliance for patients with a history of depression, including those treated with antidepressants.


Not So Obvious Heart Disease Warning Signs

High blood pressure, stress, and diabetes are all familiar warning signs that someone is at risk for cardiovascular disease. But there are other red flags that most of us are not aware of, such as hair loss, or problems in the bedroom. By paying attention to risk factors, and using them as cues to make healthy changes in your life, there’s a lot that can be done to prevent cardiovascular damage early on.

Heart disease may be the last thing on your mind when you’re cuddling close to your significant other, but trouble performing may be a concern for heart health as well as sexual health. Although, sexual dysfunction in men and women is different, the issue linking it to heart disease is the same: When blood vessels don’t work well, sexual problems can occur. If you have dysfunction in one circulatory area you have it in others. Treat both issues with good medical therapy and healthy lifestyle changes. Both sexual dysfunction and heart disease can be avoided. Regular exercise and talking with your physician about daily aspirin use and about vascular health resolves both problems.

Loss of hair is more than an issue of appearance. It may mean loss of circulation, according to a correlation between top rear head balding and cardiovascular disease described in a recent issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Lack of circulation to the hair follicles may be related to heart circulation, although other factors may play a role in the connection. Some patients, who have male pattern baldness, may smoke; has hypertension, or a genetic predisposition relating to heart disease. Watch and be aware. Knowing your family history, both of baldness and heart disease can help you asses your own risk. If either runs in the family, it’s extra reason to take steps to prevent hypertension and high cholesterol levels, and to avoid or quit smoking.

Sawing logs may cause your heart to struggle. A study from Emory University in Atlanta found that the obstructed airways in people who have sleep apnea or snore were linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Disturbed sleep may be a predisposition of high blood pressure and diabetes, both contributing to heart disease. Prevent future problems now. The good news is that this warning sign gives you lots of time to take action. Sleep-disordered breathing typically occurs decades before its diagnosed, and decades before signs of cardiovascular disease events. If you have these nighttime symptoms, take a sleep test and get advice from a specialist to improve your quality of sleep and quality of life.

Headaches may lead to heartaches as well. Women who experience migraines with visual or sensory disturbance at least once a month are twice as likely to develop heart disease, says a study published in June by the American Academy of Neurology. Circulation irregularities that cause the severe headaches may contribute to heart problems. If you find a vascular abnormality in one territory of the body, you’re likely to find it in another. Mind the warning sign. Talk with your physician about what a migraine may mean for your heart. Circulatory problems anywhere in the body should stimulate doctors to look for other areas of the body affected as well.

Toss your plastic water bottles into a recycling bin. According to University of Cincinnati study, the chemical bisphenol A found in hard plastic food and beverage containers can produce estrogen-like molecule that mimics estrogen effects, creating a heightened risk for heart disease in women. Bisphenol A could create too much estrogen or block the effects of its benefits. Replace plastic food containers and water bottles that is the type likely to contain bisphenol A with stainless steel, glass, or ceramic ones. If you’re not ready to banish other types of plastic containers, be sure you never heat them up, since this can cause other chemicals to leach into their contents.

Frequent arguments in your relationship may increase a woman’s odds of an actual broken heart. University of Utah study found women suffering from marital stress were at risk for additional symptoms of heart disease. Differences in hormones and how the sexes handle stress may explain why men were not similarly affected. Women’s hearts are very different than men’s hearts in terms of circulation and receptors they have for certain hormones. Take a deep breath. Stress can result in high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, and depression. People with difficulties controlling stress should seek help with coping. We all have stress and how we respond is very different, but there are methods to deal with your perception of stress and limit it. Try stress-reduction tactics like regular exercise, yoga, and mindfulness meditation. For relationship-related stress, discuss the option of marital counseling with your partner.


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