If you’re over 40, just 10 minutes of leisurely activity each week could lower your risk of death from multiple causes. That’s the key finding from a recently published study by researchers from China and the United States. According to the study involving 88,140 US adults, even low-level physical activity, such as gardening, can help people live longer lives. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said that even people who spend just a short time each week being physically active have a lower risk of death due to cancer, cardiovascular issues and all-cause mortality. However, participating in more vigorous types of exercise, including running and cycling, affords even greater health benefits. Unlike people who were physically inactive, those who undertook between 10 and 59 minutes of moderate, leisurely exercise each week had an 18% lower risk of death from all causes. Those who were physically active for a little longer (between 150 and 299 minutes per week) had a 31% lower risk of all-cause death. Undertaking over 1,500 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis resulted in a 46% decrease in overall mortality risk. Furthermore, individuals who opted for more vigorous exercise instead of lighter physical activity had a much lower mortality risk still.
A new cholesterol-lowering drug could offer hope for both people who are unable to take statins due to the side effects and for people who statins are ineffective. An international study suggests the drug, called bempedoic acid, helps lower cholesterol in people who continue to have high levels despite taking statins. It is thought that it can also be used for people who are unable to take statins because of the associated side-effects. Publishing their research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say they have asked UK and US drug regulators to consider approving the pill for widespread use. Bempedoic acid works by blocking an enzyme in the body that is used to produce cholesterol. For the study, over 1,000 people with cardiovascular disease or a genetic cholesterol condition were given bempedoic acid in addition to their usual cholesterol-lowering medication. About 700 other study participants were given a placebo. After just three months, the group taking bempedoic acid had 17% less bad cholesterol than the group receiving the dummy medication. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Kausik Ray, from Imperial College London, said: “Bempedoic acid could be another addition to the arsenal of cholesterol lowering treatments available to patients. “What we have is a new class of drug that could be given to patients who are already taking statins and could help them further reduce their cholesterol levels and thus potentially cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes.” Bad cholesterol remains one of the main risk factors for heart attacks and strokes across the world.
Children in Italy have been told not to go to school unless they can prove they have been properly vaccinated. Any children under six who cannot show that they have received mandatory vaccines will be turned away from school, while parents of older kids (six to 16) risk being fined up to €500 ($566) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. The policy comes as a worrisome decline in vaccines has been seen across Italy and a measles outbreak was witnessed last year. Speaking about the new policy, Health Minister Giulia Grillo said the rules were now simple: “No vaccine, no school.” She added that parents have had adequate time to ensure all their children’s vaccines were up to date by now. Under Italy’s so-called Lorenzin law, children must receive a range of mandatory immunizations before attending school. These include vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Italian officials say the compulsory vaccine law has led to inoculation rates for measles reaching the 95% population coverage rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – the threshold for “herd immunity.” The deadline by which children had to be vaccinated was March 10 (after a previous delay). And despite calls for it to be extended, the Health Minister has stood firm on the issue.
Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes parts of a person’s brain to progressively deteriorate over many years, causing the most recognizable symptom: involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body. It is still not fully known what causes Parkinson’s, but researchers have identified several risk factors, including a person's age and sex, as well as some genetic factors. However, a team of researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada has potentially uncovered a new predictor of risk: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Most people, during the REM phase of sleep, enter a state of paralysis and cannot move, preventing them from physically acting out a dream they might be having. People with RBD, though, are able to act out dreams without knowing – which can lead to them injuring themselves or other people they share a bed with. Detailing their findings recently in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, the researchers say that 73.5% of the 1,280 people with REM sleep behavior disorder went on to develop Parkinson’s disease. As lead author Dr. Ron Postuma and colleagues explain, REM sleep behavior disorder could be a strong predictor of Parkinson’s, which may allow people with the sleeping disorder to be offered experimental Parkinson’s therapies in the future to prevent the disease developing. [Recommended reading: Long weekend lie-ins do not make up for sleep loss during the week – study]
Following a low-calorie diet – even for just a few months – can arrest type-2 diabetes for at least two years, new research suggests. The findings of the study highlight that type-2 diabetes might not necessarily be the life sentence we previously thought. Nearly 300 people with type-2 diabetes in Scotland and Tyneside (in the UK) participated in the study. Half were given standard diabetes care, while the other half were put on a structured weight management programme. After 12 months, 46% of those on the low-calorie programme had successfully reversed their type-2 diabetes. In comparison, just 4% of the study participants given the standard treatment had gone into remission. Two years later, 36% of the study participants on the structured weight management programme were still in remission. “People with type 2 diabetes and healthcare professionals have told us their top research priority is: ‘Can the condition be reversed or cured?’ We can now say, with respect to reversal, that yes it can. Now we must focus on helping people maintain their weight loss and stay in remission for life,” said Prof Mike Lean from Glasgow University, who led the study with Taylor. Type-2 diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise and can lead to serious complications such as amputations, visual problems and heart disease. It is thought that one in 16 adults in the UK is currently living with type-2 diabetes, a condition that is fuelled by obesity. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
We all know how important sleep is for our health. But did you know that sleeping poorly during the week and trying to make up for it at weekends does not reverse the damage chronic sleep loss does? According to new research, the findings of which appear in Current Biology, long weekend lie-ins are not enough to undo the damage that sleep loss during the week causes. As one of the study authors, Kenneth Wright, from the University of Colorado Boulder, points out: “The key take-home message from this study is that ad libitum weekend recovery or catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective countermeasure strategy to reverse sleep-loss-induced disruptions of metabolism.” For the study, researchers recruited 36 young and healthy individuals. Said individuals were then split into three groups: one that got 5 hours' sleep per night both during the week and at weekends; one that got 5 hours' sleep per night during the week, followed by unrestricted sleep at the weekend and then another 2 nights of 5 hours' sleep; and a control group that got up to 9 hours’ sleep every night during both the week and the weekend. All study participants who had restricted sleep during the week gained weight because they tended to snack after dinner. Moreover, even after recharging over the weekend, individuals who went back to restricted sleep during the week continued their after-dinner snacking habit and gained weight. Furthermore, participants who had restricted sleep every night also had lower insulin sensitivity – a marker of poorer than average health. So if you’re in the habit of not sleeping much during the week and trying to make up for it at weekends, you could be detrimentally impacting your health.
A radical new Parkinson’s treatment that reawakens brain cells damaged by the condition has been tested in people. Patients in the trial were either given the new drug or a placebo. Those who received the drug had it administered via a “port” in the side of their heads which allows it to be delivered directly to their brains. The authors of the study say they saw visual evidence of improvements to the affected areas of the patients’ brains that were given the real drug, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), suggesting that it might help regenerate dying brain cells. After an initial safety study, 35 patients took part in the main trial. Half received monthly infusions of GDNF, while the other half received a placebo. Interestingly, both groups of patients showed improved symptoms at the end of the trial, although the group that received GDNF were the only ones who showed actual brain tissue improvements. Speaking about the findings of the trial, Dr Alan Whone, principal investigator, said: “We've shown with the Pet [positron emission tomography] scans that, having arrived, the drug then engages with its target, dopamine nerve endings, and appears to help damaged cells regenerate or have a biological response.” More research is now needed to see if it was actually GDNF that triggered the patients’ improvements and not a so-called placebo effect, where individuals feel better despite them taking medication with no active ingredient.
How many push-ups (also known as press-ups) can you do? Do you even know? Do you even care? Well maybe you should… That’s because a new study has found that a man’s ability to do push-ups may be a good indicator of their cardiovascular risk. The findings of the study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, may enable physicians to assess cardiovascular risk more easily and more cost effectively. Simply put, the more push-ups a man can do, the lower his cardiovascular risk and vice versa. Speaking about the findings of the study, first author Justin Yang, M.D. said: "Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting.” For the study, researchers measured both the push-up capacity and the submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance of each participant at the beginning. Yearly physical exams and medical questionnaires were then used to gather relevant data. The researchers found that participants who were able to complete over 40 push-ups to begin with had a 96% lower cardiovascular risk than those who could only complete 10 or fewer push-ups. It is still unknown whether the findings of the study also apply to women and men who are older, younger and/or less physically fit than the participants. That’s the study involved 1,104 active male fire fighters with a mean age of 39.6 and mean BMI of 28.7.
A woman from Oxford in the UK has become the first person in the world to have gene therapy in an attempt to halt the most common type of blindness in the West. Janet Osborne, aged 80, had a synthetic gene injected into the back of her eye in a bid to prevent more of her cells from dying. It is thought that Mrs Osborne is the first person to receive such treatment to combat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects around 600,000 people in the UK alone. Carried out under local anaesthetic, the procedure was carried out at Oxford Eye Hospital by Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford. Mrs Osborne is the first person of a 10-patient trial to receive the treatment, which is being conducted to check the safety of the procedure. All the trial participants have already lost some of their vision. If the trial proves successful, the aim going forward would be to use the gene therapy to halt AMD in its tracks before a person’s sight is impacted. Mrs Osborne and the rest of the trial participants will have their vision monitored to determine the effectiveness of the therapy. Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Osborne said: “I find it difficult to recognise faces with my left eye because my central vision is blurred - and if this treatment could stop that getting worse, it would be amazing.”
Hip and knee replacements last much longer than previously thought, according to a large-scale study from the UK. It’s a reality that will help both patients and surgeons determine when it is the right time to perform surgery. The study conducted by the University of Bristol analysed 25 years’ worth of operations data involving more than 500,000 patients. It found that eight out of 10 knee replacements (80%) and six out of 10 hip replacements (60%) last as long as 25 years. Until now, little has been known about the true success and longevity of replacement hips and knees – despite them being two of the most common forms of surgery carried out on the NHS. Previously, doctors have been unable to provide accurate estimates as to how long a patient’s replacement hip or knee might last. Now, they are in a much better position to give confident answers when questioned. Speaking about the findings of the research, which were published in The Lancet, Dr Jonathan Evans, orthopaedic registrar, lead study author and research fellow at Bristol Medical School, said: “At best, the NHS has only been able to say how long replacements are designed to last, rather than referring to actual evidence from multiple patients' experiences of joint replacement surgery. “Given the improvement in technology and techniques in the last 25 years, we expect that hip or knee replacements put in today may last even longer.” Follow these links to find out more about minimally invasive hip replacement surgery and minimally invasive knee surgery in France.
Every year, on February 14, people all over the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving cards, flowers, chocolates and other special gifts to that special someone in their life. But where does Valentine’s Day have its origins and who was St Valentine? Valentine’s Day is thought to have its roots way back in the third century AD. According to popular belief, Roman Emperor Claudius II was adamant that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage. In defiance of the Emperor’s orders, a Roman Catholic priest named Valentine carried out secret marriage ceremonies for couples. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown into jail and condemned to die. While in jail, it is said that Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. On February 14, the day he was executed, Valentine sent a letter to the jailer’s daughter, which he signed “from your Valentine.” However, it wasn’t until a few hundred years later in around 496 AD that Valentine’s Day actually became a thing. At the time, the Romans held an annual festival in the middle of February known as Lupercalia. Part of the celebrations involved boys drawing the names of girls from a box. The couple would remain boyfriend and girlfriend for the rest of the festival and even get married sometimes. Lupercalia became a Christian celebration and its name was changed to Valentine’s Day to remember the priest (now a saint) who had died all those years before. Ever since, it has been celebrated on February 14 and become synonymous with people showing their feelings to those they love.
People all over the world routinely sit down to eat breakfast every day. And while menus and traditions vary depending on where you are, many people are in agreement that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” That’s because it provides the body with the energy and nutrients needed to start the day. But what bearing does eating breakfast each day have when you are trying to lose weight? Well, according to a new study – the findings of which were published in the BMJ - the answer is not a lot at all. In fact, not only did the study find no evidence that eating breakfast aids weight loss, it also found that skipping breakfast doesn’t have a negative effect and isn’t linked to people feeling hungrier. For the study, the team from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, analyzed 13 randomized controlled trials. They found that daily calorie intake was higher in individuals who ate breakfast than in those who didn’t. The authors concluded: “Although eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it may have the opposite effect.” In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Eating or skipping breakfast has different effects depending on the person’s unique metabolism.
A new study has revealed that half of UK adults cannot name a single dementia risk factor. If asked, how many could you name? The study by Alzheimer's Research UK found that just 1% of UK adults could name the seven known dementia risk or protective factors. Heavy drinking, smoking, genetics, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes are the six dementia risk factors, while physical exercise is a protective factor. According to the study, more than half of UK adults know someone with dementia, yet only half also recognised that the disease is a cause of death. Furthermore, a fifth of people quizzed for the report incorrectly said that dementia is an inevitable part of getting old. Right now, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and that number is expected to top one million by 2025. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around two-thirds of all cases. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is a sad truth that more people are affected by dementia than ever before and half of us now know someone with the condition. Yet despite growing dementia awareness, we must work harder to improve understanding of the diseases that cause it.” You can read the full Alzheimer’s Research UK report here: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf#zoom=100
Cutting down on meat is something many people say they are striving to do nowadays. Initiatives like Veganuary and Meat-free Mondays are helping to drive the trend and highlight the benefits of consuming less meat. But what’s the reality? Has meat consumption gone up or down over the past 50 years? Well, according to UN Food and Agriculture Organization data, meat production today is nearly five times higher than it was in the 1960s. That is down to two main factors: first, there are more people to feed today. Second, people around the world have become richer, which is associated with a rise in meat consumption. In a nutshell, there are more people in the world and more of those people can afford to eat meat. This is highlighted when you consider the countries that eat the most meat. For example, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina all have annual meat consumption levels of more than 100kg per person. In fact, most countries in Western Europe have annual meat consumption levels of between 80kg and 90kg per person, while individuals in lower-income nations eat considerably less meat. For example, annual meat consumption levels in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Nigerians are 7kg, 8kg and 9kg per person respectively. The bottom line is that meat is still a luxury in many countries today. So, despite the initiatives and the seeming shift to people consuming less meat, the reality is that meat consumption isn’t falling. One point that is worthy of note, however, is that meat eating habits are changing. For example, in the West, people are eating more poultry and less red meat (namely beef and pork). Have your meat eating habits changed in recent times? If they have, was it a conscious decision on your part? [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
People who have sedentary jobs could significantly boost their lifespans by taking short, regular movement breaks, a new study has found. It’s no secret that individuals who spend a lot of time sitting down are more likely to develop certain adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, as well as having increased risk of osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, colon cancer and high blood pressure. However, just a small amount of exercise, the study suggests, could lower the risk of early death. According to the research – the findings of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – individuals who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death. For example, workers who had a movement break (involving some low-intensity exercise) every 30 minutes had a 17% lower risk of death than their counterparts who did not have any breaks. Moreover, individuals who broke up periods of sitting every 30 minutes with moderate- to high-intensity exercise lowered their risk of early death by 35%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and study lead, said: “If you have a job or lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting, you can lower your risk of early death by moving more often, for as long as you want and as your ability allows — whether that means taking an hour-long high-intensity spin class or choosing lower-intensity activities, like walking.”
Do you use a fitness tracker to monitor your levels of physical activity and keep an eye on how many calories you’re burning from day to day? If you do, you could be relying on overestimated information, according to the findings of a new study. Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales found that many popular fitness trackers often overestimate the number of calories burned while walking by over 50%. In fact, all products tested by the research team ranging between £20 and £80 in price were inaccurate during walking and running tests. Surprisingly, some fitness trackers gave polarising results. For example, the Fitbit Charge 2, the best-selling fitness tracker on the market, scored very well when it came to estimating calories burned while running, underestimating by just 4%. However, when measuring walking, the same device overestimated calories burnt by more than 50%. Other less expensive devices, namely the Letscom HR and the Letsfit – significantly underestimated the number of calories burned while running by 33% and 40% respectively. However, both were more accurate than the Fitbit Charge 2 in estimating calories burned while walking, overestimating by 15.7% and just 2% respectively. One of the researchers, Dr Rhys Thatcher, said that while fitness trackers can be great as motivational tools, people need to be cautious in the data they provide. “If you want to know the exact number of calories that you are burning during an exercise session then it doesn't matter which device you use, you have to interpret the data with some caution,” he said.
Most people understand the important role exercise plays in maintaining and boosting your health. But expensive gym memberships coupled with the busy lives many people lead mean that getting enough exercise is often a non-starter due to the associated expenses and/or a lack of time. The good news though is that new research shows stair climbing, at short intervals that last just a few minutes throughout the day, can improve cardiorespiratory health. For the study, researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, led by Martin Gibala, Ph.D., observed two groups of sedentary youngsters. One group climbed three flights of stairs three times a day and had recovery sessions of between one and four hours in between, while the other group did not exercise. At the end of the study period, the cardiorespiratory health of both groups was assessed. The group that performed the stair climbing each day had higher cardiorespiratory fitness than the group that did no exercise. Moreover, the stair climbers were also found to be stronger at the end of the intervention. Jonathan Little, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, and study co-author, said: “We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.” So there you have it. You can boost your cardiorespiratory health by simply adding ‘exercise snacks’ into your daily routine.
The third Monday in January (yesterday) is widely referred to as Blue Monday; so-called because it’s when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and general winter blues are thought to be at their peak. But despite catching the popular imagination, is there any scientific or medical proof to support Blue Monday being the most depressing day of the year? In a nutshell, no, there isn’t. Blue Monday was actually invented by psychologist Cliff Arnall in 2005. It is said that Arnall came up with the idea of Blue Monday as part of a marketing campaign for British travel company Sky Travel (now defunct). Arnall used a mathematical equation that took into account a variety of factors to determine which was the saddest day of the year. One factor included was Northern Hemisphere weather data and Sky Travel used Arnall’s findings to persuade people that the only way to beat the winter blues on Blue Monday was by heading south of the equator. So, Blue Monday is nothing more than an elaborate marketing tool really, designed to encourage people to go on holiday. But that hasn’t stopped it becoming a phenomenon that’s talked about every year mid-January. In an interview with The Telegraph back in 2010, Arnall said people should ignore the most depressing day of the year label and try to be cheerful. “I was originally asked to come up with what I thought was the best day to book a summer holiday, but when I started thinking about the motives for booking a holiday, reflecting on what thousands had told me during stress management or happiness workshops, there were these factors that pointed to the third Monday in January as being particularly depressing," said Arnall. How did you feel yesterday? Any bluer than usual?
Inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is commonplace in the United States, a new study has found. According to the analysis of prescription data for 19.2 million people by researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, 23.2% of all antibiotic prescriptions written in 2016 were inappropriate. The findings of the research published in the British Medical Journal reveal that colds, coughs, and chest infections – all of which are usually caused by viruses - were the top conditions that antibiotics were inappropriately prescribed. Antibiotics are only effective when used to fight illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses. The problem with taking antibiotics inappropriately is that it can lead to antibiotic resistance. This is where bacteria are able to survive drugs that once killed them. Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approx. 2 million people in the US every year acquire antibiotic resistant infections. As a result, more than 23,000 die. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., said “Antibiotic overuse is still rampant and affects an enormous number of patients. “Despite decades of quality improvement and educational initiatives, providers are still writing antibiotic prescriptions for illnesses that would get better on their own.”
The health benefits of eating fiber have long been hailed, but how much fiber should we all be eating to prevent chronic disease and premature death? A new study reveals just that… Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the research is the culmination of a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials that took place over almost 40 years. The results appear in the journal The Lancet. One of the objectives of the research was to help in the development of new guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as discover which carbs protect us the most against noncommunicable diseases. So how much fiber should we be eating? Well, the research found that a daily intake of 25–29 grams of fiber is ideal. People who consumed this amount of fiber each day were 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause and had a 16–24 percent lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. The researchers also say that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day could lead to even more health benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said: “The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels. “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.” Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Are you consuming enough fiber?
The inevitable abundance of food and alcohol you consumed over the festive period has probably left you feeling as though you need to detox a little now the New Year is here. One of the simplest ways to do this is by choosing to not drink alcohol for the entire month of January. Started by UK-based charity Alcohol Change UK, Dry January, as it is known, has become something of a widespread phenomenon, with an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK alone expected to participate this year. Taking part is easy. All you have to do is not drink any alcoholic drinks throughout the month of January. If you’ve curbed your drinking already this month, well done! If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. Here are some of the health benefits of quitting alcohol for at least a month: Save money (alcoholic drinks can be expensive) Improve your general health (you can potentially lower your blood pressure and cholesterol) Promote weight loss (alcoholic drinks contain plenty of calories) Sleep better (alcohol is not your best friend when you want a good night’s sleep) Improve your long-term relationship with alcohol (prove to yourself that you don’t need it and don’t have to rely on it going forward) Are you up for the Dry January challenge? It’s only for a month and the potential health benefits speak for themselves.
A clinical trial is underway in Cambridge to determine whether a breath test can accurately detect the presence of cancer. Scientists from Cancer Research UK want to see if any cancer signatures can be picked up in breath samples. If they can, the hope is that such breath tests could be used alongside current blood and urine tests help doctors detect cancer at an early stage going forward. However, we won’t know the results of the trial for at least two years. When cells in the human body carry out biochemical reactions, molecules known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released. But if cancer is present, a different pattern of molecules is produced. The team is trying to determine if these different signatures can be detected in a person’s breath. The ultimate goal would be to develop a test that can not only detect cancer cells, but accurately pinpoint where they are i.e. what type of cancer. For the trial, breath samples from some 1,500 individuals will be analysed – some of who have cancer. Dr David Crosby, head of early detection research at Cancer Research UK, said breath tests had the potential "to revolutionise the way we detect and diagnose cancer in the future".
The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.
To help boost our understanding of cancer and help in the search for new treatments, scientists in Cambridge, UK have built a Virtual Reality (VR) 3D model of a tumour. The ‘virtual tumour’, which was created using a real tumour sample extracted from a patient, can be studied in detail from all angles, allowing its individual cells to be explored. And despite the fact the human tissue sample was only about the size of a pinhead, within the virtual laboratory it can be enlarged to appear several metres across. Forming part of an international research scheme, the 3D tumour model is the product of a £40 million grant awarded to the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre by Cancer Research UK last year. Multiple users from anywhere in the world can take advantage of the VR system simultaneously and fly through the tumour cells to afford a much more in-depth understanding of them. Talking to the BBC, Prof Greg Hannon, director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (part of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre), said: “No-one has examined the geography of a tumour in this level of detail before; it is a new way of looking at cancer.” [Recommended reading: Rainforest vine compound starves resilient pancreatic cancer cells]
For the first time ever, a commercial drone has been used to deliver an important vaccine to a remote island. Unicef arranged for the drone to carry the vaccine 40km (25 miles) across rugged mountains in Vanuatu, a small Pacific island. The vaccine was given by local nurse Miriam Nampil to 13 children and five pregnant women. While it’s not the first time that a drone has been used to deliver medicine to remote areas, it is a first for a country to reach out to a commercial drone company to help with vaccine delivery. Approximately 20% of all children in Vanuatu do not receive vaccines because getting them there is too difficult. Following the successful trial flight at the beginning of December, Unicef now hopes that drones will play an important role in facilitating remote vaccination programmes going forward. “Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore. “With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child.” Vaccines have to be kept cool, which presents several challenges when transporting them long distances. If undertaken on foot, the journey would have taken several hours. By drone, however, with the vaccine stored in a styrofoam box with ice packs and a temperature logger to monitor conditions, the delivery took just 25 minutes. Follow this link to Twitter to see some footage of the drone in action: https://twitter.com/UNICEFPacific/status/1070603704414298112
How’s your blood pressure? Do you even know? If you haven’t had it checked recently, your blood pressure could be creeping up (getting higher) and you might not have even realised. In fact, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is often called a “silent killer” because it rarely causes symptoms until a person’s health is already severely damaged. That’s why keeping an eye on your blood pressure and looking out for any potential symptoms is so important. Failure to seek treatment when you have high blood pressure can lead to serious health complications such as stroke and heart disease. This is ironic when you consider that hypertension can usually be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication. So what high blood pressure warning signs should you be looking out for? First and foremost, the only way to check whether you have high blood pressure or not is to have it checked by a health professional, or check it yourself providing you know how to and have the necessary equipment. Remember, just because you feel ‘fine’ does not mean you aren’t at risk of hypertension. If your blood pressure becomes extremely high (above 180/120 mmHg), something referred to as ‘hypertensive crisis’, you may experience any of the following symptoms: Severe headaches Nosebleeds Severe fatigue Chest pain Irregular heartbeat Vision problems Back pain Severe anxiety Blood in your urine Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) Hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency and immediate intervention is required to prevent serious damage to blood vessels and major organs. So, in short, you are unlikely to know whether you have elevated blood pressure or not until serious damage has occurred. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and heed any advice from medical professionals on how to keep yours at a healthy level.
Christmas Day is less than two weeks away and that means many of us will soon be gorging ourselves on all sorts of culinary delights. It’s a reality that will see a lot of people piling on the pounds this month ahead of the inevitable January fitness drive. But what if there was a simple way to limit the impact of Christmas feasting on our waistlines? A new study by the Universities of Birmingham and Loughborough in the UK suggests there is. According to the study involving 272 volunteers, regular home weigh-ins coupled with simple weight-loss tips can prevent people from putting on weight over the festive period. For the study, the volunteers were divided into two groups. One group weighed themselves regularly and were given dietary advice, including information on how many calories they needed to burn to negate Christmas food. The other group didn’t weight themselves and were only given a small amount of healthy lifestyle advice. The group that weighed themselves and had access to the additional information weighed 0.49kg less than the "comparison" group come the end of the study. Study lead author, Frances Mason, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Applied Health Research, said “People gain a kilo of weight on average annually. Often this weight gain happens at Christmas, and is never fully lost. This could possibly be a factor driving the obesity epidemic.” In other words, by simply keeping track of your weight and understanding the impact the foods you are eating are having on your waistline, you stand a better chance of avoiding weight gain at a time of year that’s traditionally associated with piling on the pounds. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
Honeybees produce a substance called Royal Jelly. It is used in the nutrition of larvae, the development of new queen bees and to feed adult queen bees. In other words, it’s a substance that is hugely important for the survival of honeybee colonies. While the reasons why Royal Jelly stimulates some bee larvae to turn into queens rather than worker bees remain unclear, we do know that it (Royal Jelly) comprises water, proteins and sugars. With Royal Jelly’s amazing properties, it’s easy to see why some people believe it can unlock the fountain of youth. And new research now suggests that it actually might. According to the findings of a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Royal Jelly’s main active component, royalactin, bolsters the ability of stem cells to renew themselves i.e. royalactin has the ability to enable an organism to produce more stem cells and repair itself if necessary. Researchers from Stanford University said their study showed that Royal Jelly can be used across species and that their findings could be used to help treat individuals with disorders such as muscle wastage and neurodegenerative disease. However, the leader of the team from Stanford, Kevin Wang, doesn’t suggest everyone goes out and buy Royal Jelly right away. That’s because it’s not all made the same and some variants don’t even contain any royalactin. Nevertheless, the research is exciting and will no doubt lead to further studies being conducted in the future.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is a “global epidemic” that must be tackled if we are to prevent its ill effects. In the United States, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. That’s why finding effective ways to treat the condition is paramount. But now scientists say they are on the verge of creating a pill that could make obesity a thing of the past - without the need for diet and exercise. Sounds too good to be true, right? Nevertheless, the team at Flinders University in South Australia say that they key to curbing obesity could lie in a single gene known as RCAN1. The team found that when RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were then fed a high fat diet, they did not gain weight. In fact, they could eat as much food as they wanted over a prolonged period of time, the researchers say. Damien Keating, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Flinders, and leader of the research team, said blocking RCAN1 allows the body to transform unhealthy white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Stunning pictures of the mice used for the trial highlight the difference when RCAN1 was blocked and when it wasn’t. The results of the research are published in the journal EMBO Reports.
Nobody likes to see a baby with a cold. After all, runny noses and a cough are bad enough when you’re fully grown, let alone when you’re still just an infant. But new research suggests that babies who are born with lots of different bacteria in their noses are more likely to recover quicker from their first cold and could help bolster the way we deal with colds going forward. The findings of the research are interesting because the common cold is caused by a virus, yet it would appear that bacteria found in the respiratory tract do play a part when it comes to recovery. Indeed, the researchers from the University Children's Hospital of Basel found that babies who have lots of different bacteria living in their nose tend to recover more quickly from their first respiratory virus. Moreover, babies with fewer different types of bacteria take longer to recover. Prof Tobias Welte, President of the European Respiratory Society, said: “There is an association between respiratory symptoms in babies in the first year of life and the development of asthma by school age. “We do not yet fully understand this link but the bacteria living in the upper airways could play a role.” He also welcomed further research to help determine the relationship between bacteria, respiratory infections and long-term lung health.
Les lauréats du Nobel de médecine 2018, James Allison et Tasuku Honjo, ont révolutionné l’approche pour traiter les tumeurs, en trouvant le moyen d’activer la réponse du système immunitaire. Le Prix Nobel de médecine 2018 récompense l’Américain James Allison et le Japonais Tasuku Honjo, deux chercheurs qui ont développé une approche totalement innovante contre les cancers. De manière isolée, les deux hommes ont trouvé le moyen d’activer le système immunitaire de l’organisme pour l’aider à éliminer lui-même des tumeurs, une technique en plein essor appelée immunothérapie. Cancer: l’immunothérapie cherche à repousser ses limites Jusque-là, les médecins avaient accès à trois voies majeures pour lutter contre les cancers: la chirurgie, la radiothérapie pour irradier les tumeurs et les médicaments s’attaquant aux cellules tumorales, comme la chimiothérapie. Les travaux de James Allison, du centre MD Anderson de l’université du Texas et Tasuku Honjo, de l’université de Kyoto, apportent ainsi une quatrième approche, en stimulant le système immunitaire. Lymphocytes T La clé de l’approche inventée par les deux scientifiques, de manière totalement indépendante l’un de l’autre, repose sur le fonctionnement les lymphocytes T, les cellules responsables de la réponse immunitaire de l’organisme. Dans le cas de la plupart des tumeurs, les lymphocytes T n’arrivent pas à percevoir les cellules cancéreuses comme une menace, et n’essaient même pas de les détruire. Immunothérapie et chimio, une combinaison gagnante contre certains cancers James Allison a découvert un récepteur sur les lymphocytes T, appelé CTLA4, qui agit comme un frein sur leur fonctionnement. Avec un anticorps spécifique ciblant ce récepteur, un anti-CTLA4, Allison a prouvé qu’il pouvait guérir des souris victimes de tumeurs. Un succès spectaculaire qui a par la suite été reproduit chez l’homme, d’abord pour des mélanomes, puis pour bien d’autres types de tumeurs par la suite. De son côté, Tasuku Honjo a découvert une protéine, PD1, qui pouvait elle aussi agir comme un frein pour empêcher les lymphocytes T d’agir. Indépendamment des travaux d’Allison, le chercheur japonais a lui aussi trouvé un moyen d’inhiber PD1, permettant aux cellules du système immunitaires de s’attaquer efficacement à des mélanomes, puis à de nombreuses autres tumeurs. Cyrille Vanlerberghe, Le Figaro France
We recently wrote about how an exotic fish could help heal human hearts. Now, new research suggests that a rainforest vine compound is highly effective at killing treatment-resistant pancreatic cancer cells. Known for their ability to survive even the most inhospitable conditions, pancreatic cancer cells are notoriously difficult to kill. It’s one of the reasons why pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat and why the condition usually has a poor outlook. Indeed, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says the 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is just 12-24 percent. However, researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany and the Institute of Natural Medicine at the University of Toyama in Japan have discovered that a compound found in a Congolese rainforest plant can make pancreatic cancer cells susceptible to nutrient starvation. The compound, ancistrolikokine E3, has anti-austerity properties and inhibits the Akt/mTOR pathway of pancreatic cancer cells. It’s this pathway that enables these cancer cells to thrive even under conditions of low nutrients and oxygen – an ability in the cancer field known as ‘austerity.’ While more research is needed, the compound is seen as promising for the development of future anticancer drugs.
Ovarian cancer treatment is much more effective if it’s administered during the early stages of the disease. In fact, when ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, approximately 94% of patients have a good prognosis post-treatment. However, the reality is that relatively few cases (about 20%) of ovarian cancer are diagnosed early, which makes treatment less effective. But a newly developed blood test could change this. Beyong a full pelvic exam, medical professionals, at present, have two options when it comes to testing for ovarian cancer: a transvaginal ultrasound and a cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) blood test. Unfortunately, both have significant limitations. For example, while the ultrasound can detect growths, it cannot determine whether they are cancerous. The CA 125 test looks for a specific ovarian cancer marker, but people with unrelated conditions also have high levels of this particular antigen. These limitations of the existing tests are one of the driving forces behind the development of the new blood test. The new test, developed by a team from Griffith University and the University of Adelaide (both in Australia), looks for telltale sugars associated with ovarian cancer cells. According to the findings of the team’s study, the new blood test detected large levels of the sugars in 90% of people with stage 1 ovarian cancer and 100% of people with later stage ovarian cancer. Moreover, the test detected none of the telltale sugars in healthy participants. Prof. James Paton, one of the study authors, said the test is a huge step toward diagnosing ovarian cancer in its early stages. “Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages, when there are more options for treatment and survival rates are better. Our new test is therefore a potential game-changer,” he said.
People who have a heart attack sometimes experience heart muscle damage. As a result, many live with heart failure and may require a heart transplant in the future. But what if there was a way for human hearts to heal themselves? Scientists say an exotic fish could perhaps hold clues to making such an occurrence a reality. The Mexican tetra fish, which lives in freshwater, can, quite amazingly, repair its own heart. Popular with aquarium owners because of its unique coloring, the tetra fish has many different species, most of which can heal their own hearts following damage. To understand how the tetra fish do this, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford in the UK travelled to the Pachón cave in Mexico to study a tetra subspecies, the “blind cave tetra”. This remarkable fish has not only lost its ability to see, but also its color. Moreover, it can no longer regenerate heart tissue. By studying the blind cave tetra alongside other species of tetra, the team of researchers was able to create genetic profiles for both, allowing them to better understand what gives the tetra its amazing heart regeneration abilities. The team, led by Dr. Mathilda Mommersteeg, an associate professor at the University of Oxford, identified three separate genomes relevant to the tetra’s self-healing. Further analysis revealed two genes, lrrc10 and caveolin, were far more active in the river tetras. “A real challenge until now was comparing heart damage and repair in fish with what we see in humans. But, by looking at river fish and cave fish side by side, we've been able to pick apart the genes responsible for heart regeneration,” said Dr. Mommersteeg. Going forward, the research team hopes it may be possible to develop a way for heart attack patients to repair their own heart tissue.
Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
So-called “freakshakes” (milkshakes that contain chocolates, sweets, cake, cream, sauce and more) should be banned because they have “grotesque levels of sugar and calories,” a UK charity has said. Action on Sugar, a charity concerned with sugar and its effects on our health, has called for the belt-busting creations to be removed from sale, following a survey it conducted. For the study, the charity surveyed milkshakes sold in restaurants and fast food shops across the UK to see how much sugar and how many calories they contained. Topping the survey (not in a good way) was the Toby Carvery Unicorn Freakshake, which contains an eye-watering 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories. That’s more than half the recommended number of daily calories for an adult and over six times the amount of daily sugar for a seven to 10-year-old. Many of the milkshakes looked at by Action on Sugar contained more than half the recommended daily amount of calories for an adult. More worryingly, out of the 46 products looked at by the charity, all would be labelled red/high for excessive levels of sugar per serving. Speaking about the findings of the survey, Action on Sugar chairman, Graham MacGregor, said: “These very high calorie drinks, if consumed on a daily basis, would result in children becoming obese and suffering from tooth decay - that is not acceptable. “These high calorie milkshakes need to be reduced immediately below 300kcal per serving.” [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]
We are often told that being overweight increases our risk of cancer. In fact, in the UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to Cancer Research UK. But why does being overweight increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer? A group of scientists say they now know. The team from Trinity College Dublin say the reason overweight people are at greater risk of developing cancer is because a certain cell in the body that’s used to destroy cancer gets clogged with fat and stops working as a result. Publishing their findings in the Nature Immunology journal, the team said they were able to show that the body’s natural cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat. They are hopeful that new drug treatments can be developed that will reverse the effects and restore the cancer-killing ability of said cells. Until then, though, the best advice remains to stay a healthy weight, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Although we know that obesity increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, we still don't fully understand the mechanisms underlying the link. “This study reveals how fat molecules prevent immune cells from properly positioning their tumour-killing machinery, and provides new avenues to investigate treatments.” [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
Women who are larks, otherwise known as “morning people”, have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, a study has revealed. While the exact reason why remains unknown, the team of researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK say their findings are important and add to the growing understanding of how sleep affects our health. A person’s body clock (also known as their circadian rhythm) regulates when a person feels sleepy or awake over a 24-hour period. So-called morning people wake up earlier, peak earlier in the day and feel sleepy earlier in the evening. In contrast, “evening people” (night owls) get up later, peak later in the day and go to sleep later in the evening. Using a data analysis technique called Mendelian randomisation, the researchers looked at DNA snippets of more than 400,000 women. They discovered that women who were larks were less likely to have breast cancer than their night owl peers. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rebecca Richmond, a researcher from the University of Bristol, told the BBC: “The findings are potentially very important because sleep is ubiquitous and easily modified. “Previous research has looked at the impact of shift work, but this is showing there may be a risk factor for all women.” Nevertheless, many questions still remain. For example, more research now needs to be conducted to see whether the body clock itself is directly impacting a person’s risk of developing cancer, or if factors like night owls breaking their natural circadian rhythm to accommodate jobs is having an impact. [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]
Patients with aggressive brain tumours could benefit from improved surgery outcomes by drinking a substance that makes their cancer glow pink, a trial suggests. For the trial, scientists gave patients with suspected glioma (a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord) a drink containing 5-ALA, a substance that accumulates in fast-growing cancer cells and makes them glow pink. The hope is that the glowing tumours will be easier for surgeons to safely remove, as they can be more easily distinguished from healthy brain tissue. Glioma is the most common type of brain cancer and treatment usually involves removing as much of the tumour as possible. The prognosis for patients, however, is usually poor. Speaking about the trial, Dr Kathreena Kurian, study author and associate professor in brain tumour research at the University of Bristol, said: “There's an urgent need to have something while the patient is on the table, while the neurosurgeon is operating, which will guide them to find the worst bits. “The beauty of 5-ALA is that they can see where high-grade glioma is, while they're operating.” The results of the trial have not yet been published, but were presented at the 2018 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow over the weekend. The next step, the researchers say, is to test 5-ALA in children with brain tumours.
A new study, one of the largest of its kind, suggests being the wrong weight i.e. overweight or underweight cold knock four years off a person’s life expectancy. According to the study, the findings of which were published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, from the age of 40, people towards the higher end of the healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) range (a healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 25) had the lowest risk of dying from disease, including cancer and heart disease. In contrast, individuals who had BMI scores of less than 18.5 or more than 30 had life expectancies that were 4.4 years and 3.85 years shorter respectively. BMI scores, which are calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in metres squared), are still considered by health professionals to be the simplest and most accurate way to work out if someone is overweight or underweight. For the population-based cohort study, researchers analysed anonymised data on 3.6 million adults from the U.K. Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran, lead author of the study, said: “The most striking thing about our findings was how widely BMI was linked to different causes of death. BMI was associated with deaths from nearly all major causes.” He added that the research reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that people who have low BMI scores are at as much risk, if not more, of reducing their life expectancies.