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Good dental health can reduce dementia risk

15/09/2022

People with poor dental hygiene are 21% more likely to develop dementia in later life, new research suggests. According to the study, recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, poor oral health and tooth loss increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The study authors said their findings emphasize the importance of monitoring, as well as management of “periodontal health in the context of dementia prevention”. They added that because of this finding, dental professionals are in a great position to track and intervene should a patient's periodontal health begin to deteriorate. “Our mouth is full of bacteria (good and bad). We need these bacteria to live in equilibrium and when our dental hygiene is missing, the bad bacteria can overcome and install in our gums. There is evidence that bacteria can travel to the brain and participate with neurodegeneration that will ultimately decline our cognitive health,” she told Healthline. “Oral health is important for our overall quality of life. Taking care of our mouth is as important as taking care of our body. Our mouth is more exposed to the environment, and it is the entrance to our entire body,” she added. The research has spoken: Brush your teeth two to three times a day and visit a dentist twice a year as routine, or sooner if you notice a change in your dental health. *Image by Reto Gerber from Pixabay 

Switch 30 mins of social media for exercise to reap mental health benefits – study

13/09/2022

By replacing 30 minutes of daily social media use with physical activity, you will feel happier, new research suggests. According to the new study, switching social media for exercise for just two weeks can have a positive impact. The research team from the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany, headed up by assistant professor Julia Brailovskaia, Ph.D., reported that participants who swapped social media for exercise felt more satisfied, less depressed, and less stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic than their peers in a control group. Furthermore, the positive effects of the two-week period lasted for up to six months after the study concluded. “Given that we don’t know for certain how long the coronavirus crisis will last, we wanted to know how to protect people’s mental health with services that are as free and low-threshold as possible,” Brailovskaia said in a statement. “This shows us how vital it is to reduce our availability online from time to time and to go back to our human roots,” she added. “These measures can be easily implemented into one’s everyday life and they’re completely free – and, at the same time, they help us to stay happy and healthy in the digital age.” *image courtesy of Irina L from Pixabay 

Reducing salt intake by just 1g per day can reduce heart disease risk

17/08/2022

Reducing salt intake by just 1g per day can significantly lower a person's risk of heart disease, a new study has found. According to the Chinese study, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health, almost 9 million cardiovascular events could be prevented each year by 2030 if people cut their salt intake by just 1g per day. Despite the World Health Organization recommending people to eat a maximum of 5g of salt per day, the researchers noted that China has one of the highest daily salt intakes in the world with an average consumption of 11 grams per day – more than twice the WHO recommended amount. Furthermore, around 40 per cent of all deaths in China are associated with or because of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the researchers found that reducing salt by 1g per day could lower the average systolic blood pressure by 1.2 mm/Hg, potentially preventing 9 million cardiovascular disease events and stroke cases by 2030 – of which 4 million would be fatal. “While this study focused on the salt intake in China, the benefits of salt reduction in an American diet are well established,” Dr. Jeffrey Tyler, a cardiologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in California, told Healthline. “People who are middle or older age, diabetic, with kidney disease… benefit, even more, when reducing salt intake.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Short walks after meals lowers diabetes risk – study

10/08/2022

Taking a short walk after eating can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes and heart problems, a new study suggests. According to the study, published in Sports Medicine, just 2 to 5 minutes of light walking after a meal can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood glucose levels spike after eating, triggering the pancreas to release insulin to control the increase and promote the storage of glucose in fat, muscle, liver and other body tissues. Over time, some people's cells develop a resistance to insulin, which can lead to blood glucose levels remaining elevated. If this persists, complications, including cardiovascular disease and nerve damage, can occur. “With standing and walking, there are contractions of your muscles” that use glucose and lower blood sugar levels, Aidan Buffey, the lead study author and a PhD student in physical education and sport sciences at the University of Limerick, told The Times. “If you can do physical activity before the glucose peak, typically 60 to 90 minutes [after eating], that is when you’re going to have the benefit of not having the glucose spike,” he said. *Image by

Green tea may help reduce blood sugar and gut inflammation

04/08/2022

Its origins date back to 2737 B.C. in the Far East when the Chinese Emperor Shennong mistakenly drank water with a dead tea leaf boiled inside. Fast forward to today and people all over the world enjoy green tea as part of their diet, benefiting from the list of potential health benefits in the process. Now, new research shows that green tea may also help reduce blood sugar and gut inflammation. According to the study, published in Current Developments in Nutrition, people who regularly consume green tea have lower fasting blood sugar levels than their peers who don't. Furthermore, green tea extract was also found to decrease gut inflammation, highlighted by a decrease in stool inflammatory proteins. Senior study co-author Richard Bruno, PhD, a professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, said the study showed positive results after just one month. “What this tells us is that within one month we’re able to lower blood glucose in both people with metabolic syndrome and healthy people, and the lowering of blood glucose appears to be related to decreasing leaky gut and decreasing gut inflammation — regardless of health status,” he said in a statement. “This could be a simple yet powerful intervention for people with metabolic syndrome or those at risk for it. It could be a therapy to start while we continue to promote healthy lifestyle changes,” said Olivia Vaughn, a registered dietitian nutritionist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. *Image by Mirko Stödter from Pixabay 

Smartphones could improve memory - study

02/08/2022

Smartphones and other electronic gadgets have been an ubiquitous part of many people's lives for years now. But while the myriad of apps that are available include many that can help us not forget important details or dates, there has always been some debate around how good these gadgets are for our own internal memories. Now, new research has shed a light on the subject. According to the study, published on August 1 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, external memory devices can actually improve memory for information that someone has never saved. For the study, led by University College London (UCL) researchers, 158 volunteers were asked to play one of three memory task games involving high and low value circles on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The researchers found that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their own memory to recall additional, less important pieces of information. Participants who tended to use the digital devices to store the details of the high-value circles in the trial, demonstrated a memory improvement of 18%. Their memory for low-value circles was also improved by 27%, even in people who had never set any reminders for low-value circles. Senior author, Dr Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) said: “The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved. But we need to be careful that we back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.” *Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

Eating ultra-processed foods associated with poorer cognitive performance

28/07/2022

Eating ultra-processed foods could impair cognitive performance in older adults, new research suggests. According to the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, older individuals who eat foods such as packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, choclates and pre-prepared pies, pizzas and pasta perform worse on standardized cognitive tests than their counterparts who do not consume such foods. The researchers from Australia that such food items contain little to no whole foods and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives. For the study, the researchers evaluated more than 2,700 participants who were 60 years old and above. The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014. Each participant was asked to recall what they ate in a 24-hour period on two non-consecutive days. The participants then underwent standardized, validated cognitive tests, including one that assesses Alzheimer’s disease. “Research indicates that diets that follow a Mediterranean Diet style, recognized by the high proportion of foods with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, are associated with a reduced risk of age-associated cognitive decline and dementia,” said Barbara Cardoso, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior lecturer in nutrition, dietetics, and food at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. *Image by Hannah Chen from Pixabay

Wearable fitness trackers promote positive health changes - study

26/07/2022

The global wearable fitness tracker market is expected to be worth a staggering $138.7 billion by 2028, testimony to the enormous popularity of these devices. Now, new research shows that fitness trackers really do help motivate people to exercise more each day. According to the large-scale review published in The Lancet by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), wearable fitness trackers promote positive health changes. They spur individuals to move more and lose a modest amount of weight as a result. “Since activity trackers are becoming so widely used in society, research into their effectiveness has grown rapidly,” said lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate Ty Ferguson. “We realized now was a great time to pull all this knowledge together and see if there is an overall message on their utility as health tools.” For its research, the UniSA team reviewed nearly 400 studies involving around 164,000 participants worldwide who use wearable fitness trackers to monitor their physical activity levels. The team found that wearable fitness trackers motivate people to walk up to 40 minutes more each day, equivalent to roughly 1,800 more steps. This resulted in an average weight loss of 1kg (2.2 lbs) over a 5-month period. “What was a nice surprise is just how helpful they were for such a wide variety of people, including all ages, healthy people, and those living with a variety of chronic conditions,” said Ferguson. *Image by Phi Nguyễn from Pixabay

Just one in five Americans have 'optimal' heart health

30/06/2022

Only 20% of American adults have 'optimal' heart health, new research reveals. According to the study by the American Heart Association (AHA), the US population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health. This is based on AHA's Life’s Essential 8™ cardiovascular health scoring, its updated metrics to measure heart and brain health. The AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring includes: diet physical activity nicotine exposure sleep health body weight blood lipids blood glucos blood pressure With sleep being the newest addition. For the AHA study, researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2018. This data included non-pregnant, non-institutionalized individuals between two and 79 years old who did not have cardiovascular disease. All participants had an overall cardiovascular health (CVH) score calculated for them ranging from 0 to 100, as well as a score for diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure – all using AHA definitions. The results revealed that among the more than 23,400 American adults and children without cardiovascular disease (CVD), overall cardiovascular health was not ideal. Indeed, the research showed roughly 80% of people scored at a low or moderate level. Mitchell Weinberg, MD, chair of cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, the AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring is both valuable and patient friendly for determining CVH. “Possessing one number that crystallizes a person’s current health status enables that individual to comprehend the need for change and target a single numeric goal,” he said. *Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

Fit kids are mentally sharper in later life, finds study

29/06/2022

Kids who are physically active stand a greater chance of remaining mentally sharp for decades, new research suggests. The finding adds to the weight of evidence in favour of kids being physically active, such as the associated bone and muscle development benefits and reduced risk of diabetes and heart attack. The study by researchers in Australia followed 1,200 people for 30 years. It uncovered a link between childhood fitness and mental performance in middle age. Commencing in 1985, the study assessed the heart and lung fitness, power, and endurance, and measured for waist-to-hip ratio of children between the ages of 7 and 15 at the time. More than 30 years later, those with the highest fitness scores and lower waist-to-hip ratios as kids tended to score better in tests of their thinking skills. Interestingly, while physical exercise was associated with higher scores in things like processing speed and attention, it had no impact on memory. Michele Callisaya, PhD, a study co-author and associate professor from the National Centre for Healthy Ageing at Peninsula Health and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “This might be because the cognitive functions of processing speed and attention start to decline in midlife. Memory generally starts to decline later.” The results of the study are published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. *Image by Tri Le from Pixabay

How many immune-boosting microbes do people eat?

22/06/2022

Our gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and germs that live in our digestive tracts – is hugely important when it comes to health, influencing our immune systems, as well as our physical and mental states. But while we know that certain foods, such as fermented produce, yogurts, and non-starchy vegetables can help boost gut health, little is known about how many immune-boosting microorganisms people actually eat on a day-to-day basis as part of their diets. To investigate, researchers estimated the number of microorganisms per gram in more than 9,000 food items, including those high in such organisms, like yogurt, pickles, and kimchi. Then, to see how many people ate foods packed with microorganisms, the researchers took a detail look dietary data collected from 2001 to 2018 for almost 75,000 adults and children. Overall, 26% of adults and 20% of children consumed foods with high levels of microorganisms, researchers reported in The Journal of Nutrition. "When we think of microbes in our food, we often think of either foodborne pathogens that cause disease or probiotics that provide a documented health benefit," study co-author Colin Hill, PhD, of APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork, said in a statement. "It is very timely to estimate the daily intake of microbes by individuals in modern society as a first step towards a scientific evaluation of the importance of dietary microbes in human health and well-being," he added. *Image by rhys jung from Pixabay

2-3 cups of coffee a day may reduce kidney injury risk by almost a quarter

16/06/2022

Coffee consumption is linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as liver, heart, and neurological diseases. Now, new research suggests we can also add kidney protection to that list. According to the study, the results of which are published in Kidney International Reports, people who regularly drink coffee have a reduced risk acute kidney injury. However, the benefits are most apparent in those who drink 2-3 cups of coffee each day. For the study, the team of researchers used data from 14,207 adults ages 45-64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The researchers asked the participants to disclose information relating to how much coffee they drank. The results were:  27% never drank coffee 14% drank less than a cup of coffee per day 19% drank 1 cup per day 23% drank 2-3 cups per day 17% drank more than 3 cups per day After adjusting for demographic factors, the researchers found that participants who consumed any amount of coffee had an 11% lower risk of developing acute kidney injury than those who did not drink coffee. The researchers further noted a that those consuming 2-3 cups of coffee per day experienced the most substantial risk reduction (23%) *Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay

Study suggests walking can help with knee pain

14/06/2022

As counterintuitive as it sounds, walking may actually help with knee pain associated with osteoarthritis, new research shows. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition that affects more than 32 million American adults. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. The study, the results of which are published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, found that walking regularly helped stave off knee pain in osteoarthritis sufferers. “In individuals > 50 years old with knee osteoarthritis, walking for exercise was associated with less development of frequent knee pain,” the authors wrote. “These findings support that walking for exercise should be encouraged for people with knee osteoarthritis.” For the study, more than 1,000 people aged 50 and over with osteoarthritis were asked to report on their levels of exercise, osteoarthritis symptoms, and pain levels. After four years, more than a third (37%) who didn’t walk for exercise experienced frequent pain, while just 26% of those who walked experienced the same pain. “Everyone’s always looking for some kind of drug. This highlights the importance and likelihood that interventions for osteoarthritis might be something different, including good old exercise,” Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, MD, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the lead author on the study, told The New York Times. *Image by Susanne Pälmer from Pixabay

Weight-loss surgery found to slash cancer risk and mortality

09/06/2022

Bariatric surgery, also commonly referred to as weight-loss surgery, can help to reduce the risk of developing six different types of cancer associated with obesity, new research suggests. For the study, more than 1,600 obese people who had either gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy surgery were compared to a control group of over, 2,100 obese individuals with obesity who did not undergo surgery. Both groups were matched in terms of age, sex and BMI. According to the study, the findings of which were presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), people who underwent bariatric surgery were also less likely to develop any type of cancer compared to their obese peers who had not had surgery. In fact, the study found that only 5.2 percent of people who had bariatric surgery went on to develop some type of cancer during the 10-year study period, compared to 12.2 percent of those who did not have weight loss surgery. Furthermore, the overall 10-year survival rate for patients who underwent surgery was 92.9 percent, while it was just 78.9 percent for the non-surgical group. Commenting on the study, Dr. Shanu Kothari, president of the ASMBS, said: “Patients live longer after bariatric surgery because they have less cardiac events and less cancers.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Drinking coffee (even with sugar) linked to longer life

03/06/2022

Drinking coffee – even with sugar in it – is linked to a longer lifespan, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, people who drink coffee moderately are more likely to live longer than those who drink less or more. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank, a database of around half a million people who have consented to having their medical and genetic information made available to researchers. The study team found that people who drank between 1.5 and 3.5 cups of coffee per day were less likely to die (due to any cause) during a 7-year follow up period. Perhaps more surprising is the finding that people who drink sweetened coffee appear to benefit the most. Indeed, these individuals were as much as 31% less likely to die than those who drink less than 1.5 cups and more than 3.5 cups per day. However, lead researcher Dr. Dan Liu said: “The results for those who used artificial sweeteners were less clear.” “Based on the findings, we can tell people that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet, but to be cautious about higher-calorie specialty coffees,” Liu concluded. In other words, be conscious of how much added sugar sometimes goes into popular coffee shop chain beverages. *Image courtesy of Soner Köse from Pixabay

A cup of cranberries a day could keep cognitive decline away

26/05/2022

A new study has shed more light on the potential health benefits of cranberries, specifically how they might help fight cognitive decline because of a particular group of plant compounds they contain known as flavanoids. In previous studies, flavanoids, which are found in vegetables, fruit, red wine, tea, and coffee, have been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and lower dementia risk. Cranberries are actually rich in two types of flavonoids: anthocyanin and proanthocyanidins. Dr. David Vauzour, senior research fellow in molecular nutrition at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, wanted to investigate how cranberries impact the brain. To address the knowledge gap, Dr. Vauzour led a new study, the results of which are published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Interestingly, the stufy revealed a link between consuming the equivalent of a cup of cranberries a day and improved memory function. For the study, 60 pre-screened participants were separated into two groups and asked to undergo pre-intervention baseline tests to assess their cognitive levels. Participants were then asked to either take a sachet of freeze-dried cranberry powder or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks. Follow-up testing revealed that the group taking the cranberry powder not only demonstrated significant improvements in visual episodic memory performance, but also had increased flow in three areas of their brains. Dr. Vauzour says he would now like to see this study replicated with a larger sample size. *Image by Kristine Lejniece from Pixabay

Skip those late-night meals to reap anti-aging benefits – study

20/05/2022

Calorie restriction has long been known to have anti-aging benefits, but now new research suggests timing can also play a role. According to the study by researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, the timing of meals contributes to the life-extending effects of calorie restriction. Studying mice, the researchers found that following a calorie-restricted diet, the rodents that only ate during the active phase of their circadian rhythm lived nearly 35% longer than control mice that were allowed to eat whenever they wanted. Both animals and humans have circadian rhythms, the purpose of which is to control daily cycles of physiology, metabolism, and behaviors like eating. In mice, which are nocturnal, the normal time to eat is at night. The study revealed how eating at other times had a significant impact on lifespan. “We have discovered a new facet to caloric restriction that dramatically extends lifespan in our lab animals,” says senior author Dr. Joseph Takahashi, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and chair of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “If these findings hold true in people, we might want to rethink whether we really want that midnight snack,” he adds. The study is published in the journal Science. *image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

Dogs can detect passengers with COVID-19 at airports - study

18/05/2022

They are known to be able to sniff out illegal drugs and even cancer, but now a new study suggests sniffer dogs can also detect COVID-19 among airline passengers. Perhaps even more remarkable is the study, conducted by researchers in Finland, also found that once trained, dogs are as acuurate at sniffing out COVID-19 as a PCR nose and throat swab test. "Our preliminary observations suggest that dogs primed with one virus type can in a few hours be retrained to detect its variants," added Anu Kantele, a professor of infectious diseases at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues. For the study, the researchers took four dogs previously trained to detect illegal drugs, dangerous goods and cancers, and trained them to recognise SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. To do so, the study team used swab samples from 114 people who had tested positive for the virus on a PCR swab test, including 28 with no symptoms, and from 306 negative tests. Remarkably, the dogs were able to successfully detect 92% of infected people and 91% of uninfected people. The dogs' noses were then put to the test in a live environment at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport in Finland between September 2020 and April 2021. The dogs correctly identified 296 (99%) of 300 passengers with negative PCR results. Read the full release at BMJ Global Health. *Image: Sniffer dogs at Melbourne Airport doing a demonstration, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Want to stay on top of your weight? More sleep could be the answer, research suggests

12/05/2022

How much good quality sleep you get each night could impact your ability to not only lose weight but also maintain it, new research suggests. Studies have previously shown that a lack of quality sleep can increase people's desire for high calorie foods, including those that are loaded with carbohydrates. Now, new research reveals how a lack of quality sleep can also undermine people's attempts to maintain a healthy weight after dieting. For the study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied the quality and duration of sleep among 195 obese adults. They found that a low calorie diet can help aid better sleep, with sleep quality increasing by 0.8 global PSQI score points and sleep duration by 17 minutes per night after the initial 8-week period. Moreover, the researchers found that those who slept less than 6 hours a night, or had poor sleep quality, increased their BMI by 1.1 kg/m2. In comparison, obese adults who achieved over 6 hours of quality sleep each night reduced their BMI by 0.16 kg/m2. Dr. Signe Torekov, study lead author and a professor of clinical translation metabolism, said: “Adults who aren’t sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep after weight loss appear less successful at maintaining weight loss than those with sufficient sleep.”

A one-week social media break helps reduce anxiety, depression - study

09/05/2022

It's become a ubiquitous part of most people's lives, but social media could be driving feelings of anxiety and depression, and taking a break from it for just one week can be beneficial, new research shows. According to the study, which is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, people who stopped using social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for seven days reported an increased sense of well-being. Moreover, some said they got back around nine hours in their week that they would have otherwise spent scrolling such platforms. “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” Jeff Lambert, the lead study author and a health and exercise psychologist at the University of Bath, said in a statement. “We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects,” he said. “We wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.” The researchers now want to investigate whether other groups can benefit from taking social media breaks, including younger people and those with physical and mental health conditions. The team also wants to monitor individuals for longer than a week to see if the benefits last over time. If the results do indeed last, the study authors say we might even see social media breaks being prescribed as an option for people dealing with mental health issues. *Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Could the 'love hormone' oxytocin be responsible for life satisfaction?

04/05/2022

Oxytocin – also known as the “love hormone” – is a neurochemical that acts on organs in the body and as a chemical messenger in the brain, controlling not just key functions of the reproductive system, but also aspects of human behaviour. Now, new research has revealed how people whose brains produce more oxytocin are kinder to others and live more satisfied lives. In addition, the research also discovered that as we age we produce more oxytocin, which could provide clues as to why older individuals are often more caring and more content with life than their younger peers. For the research, more than 100 people were recruited and asked to watch an empathy-invoking video about a father and his child with terminal cancer. At the end of the video, the participants were given a financial reward and asked if they wanted to donate any of it to charity. Oxytocin levels were measured before and after these steps. “The findings of our study are consistent with many religions and philosophies, where satisfaction with one’s life is enhanced by helping others,” reported first author Dr Paul J Zak of Claremont Graduate University. “People who released the most oxytocin in the experiment were not only more generous to charity, but also performed many other helping behaviors. This is the first time a distinct change in oxytocin has been related to past prosocial behaviors,” reported Zak. The findings of the study are published in the journal Frontier in Behavioral Neuroscience. *image courtesy of Tristan Le via pexels.com

Food cravings could be our guts, not our brains, telling us something

28/04/2022

Most people experience cravings for certain foods from time to time. But did you ever stop to think that these cravings could be your body's way of telling you that it wants something in particular? New research by the University of Pittsburgh has revealed that when we crave foods, it could be our gut microbiome's way of getting us to forage for foods containing certain nutrients. Studying mice that had been bred to have no microbiome, the researchers showed they could influence the mice's diet preferences through their gut microbiomes. Drs Kevin Kohl and Brian Trevelline from the University of Pittsburgh collected microbes from three wild rodent species with different natural diets. They gave these microbic “cocktails” to 30 of the study mice. What they witnessed was mice with different microbes selecting foods rich in significantly different macronutrients. In other words, it was as though their guts were driving their food preferences. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Trevelline said: "Animals need a suite of essential amino acids to survive. But the microbes that live inside of our guts need [to] grow and have some of these same nutrients or make nutrients that the human body or the animal body can recognize. For instance, they make these essential amino acids, and then they’re released into the gut where they can be absorbed by the host.” *Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

Tackling obesity: What you eat is more important than when you eat - study

26/04/2022

If you're trying to lose weight, focusing on what you eat instead of when you eat could be the key to success, new research suggests. According to the Chinese study, the results of which are published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the number of calories you consume has a greater impact on your weight than when you eat. For the study, 139 obese individuals were put on a calorie-restricted diet. Men were told to consume between 1,500 and 1,800 calories per day, while women were limited to 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day. Half of the study participants were then also told to follow a time-restricted eating pattern, which saw them only able to consume their daily food allocation between 8am and 4pm each day. The results show the group using just calorie restrictions lost an average of 6.3kg while the group that was also under time restrictions lost an average of 8kg during the 12-month study period. The researchers say the difference between the two groups is so negligible that it suggests adding time restrictions is no more beneficial with regard to reducing body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than just daily calorie restriction alone. *Image by hectordarismendi from Pixabay

Largest migraine-genetics study to date could inspire new treatments

19/04/2022

Millions of people around the world suffer with migraines on a regular basis. These debilitating headaches can last for days at a time and, in severe cases, prevent people from going about their daily lives, including working and studying. While there are drugs to treat migraine headaches and others to prevent their onset, the cause of migraines remains unknown. The leading theory is that migraines are a neurovascular condition that involves an interaction between the blood vessels in the head and the brain itself. Now, the largest study of migraines to date has uncovered 123 genetic regions, or loci, that are associated with the condition — 86 of which were previously unknown. The research, which involved analyzing the genomes of 102,084 people with migraine and those of 771,257 controls who do not have the condition, has trebled the known genetic risk factors for the condition. “In addition to implicating tens of new regions of the genome for more targeted investigation, our study provides the first meaningful opportunity to evaluate shared and distinct genetic components in the two main migraine subtypes,” says first author Heidi Hautakangas, Ph.D., from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland at the University of Helsinki. The study is published in Nature Genetics. *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay    

Regular exercise linked to more heart health benefits among people with stress, anxiety

07/04/2022

People who suffer with stress and anxiety could realise heart health benefits through regular exercise, new research has found. According to the study by res earchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, regular physical activity among individuals with depression or anxiety had nearly double the cardiovascular benefit than in people without such diagnoses. The study found that, people who accomplished the recommended amount of physical activity per week – 150 minutes, according to he American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association – were 17 per cent less likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event than those who exercised less. However, of those who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity per week, individuals with anxiety or depression had a 22 per cent risk reduction versus a 10 per cent among those without either condition. The analysis included more than 50,000 patients in the Massachusetts General Brigham Biobank database. Just over 4,000 of the patients analyzed had suffered a major cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, chest pain caused by a blocked artery, or underwent a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart. Commenting on the study's findings, Michael Emery, MD, who is the co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and was not involved in the study, said: “Exercise is medicine both physically and psychologically, and these factors interplay such that when you are more physically healthy your psychological state is more robust, and when you are mentally more healthy your physical state is improved.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Staying hydrated linked to decreased heart failure risk

06/04/2022

Staying "well hydrated" in middle age may lower a person's risk of heart failure in later life, new research suggests. According to the study by researchers at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), individuals with lower blood sodium levels (serum sodium) has a 39% lower risk of having heart failure in their later years. Serum sodium increases as a person's fluid levels decrease i.e. people who are dehydrated usually have more sodium in their blood. The normal range for serum sodium is 135 to 146 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). The researchers found that study participants with levels of serum sodium on the high end of the normal range — above 143 mmol/L — had a 39% increased risk of developing heart failure. For the study, the researchers analyzed information from more than 11,000 adults aged 45 to 66 over a 25-year period. It is worth noting that the study did not include individuals with diabetes, obesity or heart failure. The results of the study are published in the European Heart Journal. *Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Just two servings of avocado per week cuts risk of cardiovascular disease

31/03/2022

Eating just two servings of avocado each week can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by a fifth, new research reveals. According to the study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, one avocado a week (equivalent to two servings) appears to cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 21% compared to people who do not eat avocado. Furthermore, by replacing half a serving of margarine, butter, egg, yoghurt, cheese or processed meats per day with the equivalent amount of avocado, people can lower their risk of heart disease by 16%-22%. Avocados contain dietary fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats and other key vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamins C, E, and K. The new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAMA), involved almost 70,000 women from the NHS Nurses’ Health Study and around 40,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, said: “We desperately need strategies to improve intake of American Heart Association-recommended healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — that are rich in vegetables and fruits. “Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits.” *Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

Sugar-free drinks help lower weight and risk of diabetes

24/03/2022

Sugar-free and low sugar drinks can help people realise a number of health benefits, a new study has found. According to the research, the results of which are published in JAMA Network Open, drinking diet soda and sugar alternatives, such as Stevia and Equal, instead of can help people lose weight, reduce their BMI, and lower their risk of diabetes. In fact, the researchers said participants who consumed low and no-calorie beverages saw positive effects similar to those one would expect from water. “Ideally, you would replace sugary beverages with water as much as possible, but our findings show that people have another choice — a low-calorie or no-calorie beverage is a good option as well,” said Tauseef Ahmad Khan, MBBS, PhD, a researcher at the University of Toronto department of nutritional sciences and a coauthor of the study. Modern Western diets often contain too much sugar and it's causing a huge health problem. For example, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar daily, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people limit their daily intake of sugar to about 6 tsp women and 9 tsp for men. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, lists higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease among the health issues related to too much sugar intake. *Image by DesignDraw DesignDrawArtes from Pixabay

This AI tool can be used to predict heart attacks

23/03/2022

Scientists have developed a method that could make automating the prediction of heart attacks a reality. The Artificial Intelligence-enabled tool, which was developed by scientists at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, uses an algorithm to measure people's levels of coronary plaque buildup. It then predicts how likely the person is to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of their plaque. The tool, described in The Lancet Digital Health, performs its analyzes on medical tests called coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA), which take 3D images of the heart and coronary arteries. Until now though, there hasn't been a fast or automated way to analyze the CTA images. Plaque buildup can lead to arteries narrowing, which makes it more difficult for blood to get to the heart, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. "Coronary plaque is often not measured because there is not a fully automated way to do it," said Damini Dey, PhD, director of the quantitative image analysis lab in the Biomedical Imaging Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai and senior author of the study. "When it is measured, it takes an expert at least 25 to 30 minutes, but now we can use this program to quantify plaque from CTA images in five to six seconds." Having been trained by the scientists, the AI tool accurately predicted which patients would experience a heart attack in five years based on the plaque seen in their CTA images. "More studies are needed, but it's possible we may be able to predict if and how soon a person is likely to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of the plaque imaged with this standard test," said Dey. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Sleep in darkness to protect your health

17/03/2022

Sleeping with even a small amount of light may disrupt your blood sugar and cardiovascular control, new research suggests. According to the study by scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, leaving a TV or bedside lamp on overnight is enough to the raise blood sugar and heart rates of healthy people. For the study – the results of which are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – 20 healthy volunteers were asked to spend two nights in the university's sleep lab. On the first night, all participants slept in a very dark room. On the second, half slept with a lighting level of 100 lux, equivalent to a TV or bedside light. Each morning, the research team investigated all the volunteers’ blood sugar control. They found that people who slept in the dimly lit room on their second night had slightly worse blood sugar control than on their first night. “They thought they slept well, but your brain knows that the lights are on,” said Senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. People who had two nights under dark conditions had little difference in their blood sugar control. Zee added: “The results from this study demonstrate that just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Having a healthy gut microbiome can improve the success of cancer treatment

01/03/2022

More is being discovered all the time about the significant role of the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in our stomachs and intestines when it comes to our health. Now, the largest study of its kind to date has confirmed the link between the gut microbiome and the response to cancer immunotherapy therapy for melanoma. The study, the findings of which are published in the journal Nature Medicine, was co-ordinated by King's College London, CIBIO Department of the University of Trento and European Institute of Oncology in Italy, University of Groningen in the Netherlands and funded by the Seerave Foundation. Dr Karla Lee, clinical researcher at King's College London and first author of the study, said: "Preliminary studies on a limited number of patients have suggested that the gut microbiome, as an immune system regulator, plays a role in the response of each patient to cancer immunotherapy, and particularly in the case of melanoma. This new study could have a major impact on oncology and medicine in general." It's known that dietary changes can alter the microbiome, as can next generation probiotics and faecal transplantation. This change is in turn modifying the microbiome's action on the immune system. With this new understanding of the microbiome's impact on cancer therapy effectiveness, clinicians can potentially look to alter a patient's microbiome before beginning treatment. This is potentially important because less than 50% of immunotherapy patients respond positively to treatment for melanoma. *image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

Owning a pet long term may slow cognitive decline - study

28/02/2022

Good news for pet lovers as a new study shows that having a long-term furry companion may delay memory loss and other kinds of cognitive decline. According to the preliminary study by researchers at the University of Michigan, pet ownership was especially beneficial for working verbal memory, such as memorization of word lists. The new data is expected to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting in Seattle in April. In a press release, Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who authored the study, said: “Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress.” However, she added, “our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.” Owning a pet for five or more years was linked to delayed ageing in the brain of adults around 65 years old. While owing a dog was found to be most beneficial, followed by owning a cat, people who cared for rabbits, hamsters, birds, fish and reptiles can also reap benefits. The bottom line is the Michigan researchers found that cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners than non-pet owners over the six-year period. *Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay

Significant proportion of older adults develop new health conditions after COVID-19

16/02/2022

Initially, when the COVID-19 outbreak first happened, many thought the SARS-CoV-2 virus caused mainly respiratory problems. And while that assumption still holds true, new research shows that the disease can actually impact multiple organs in a person's body.   The new study, the results of which appear in the BMJ, sought to discover whether adults develop other health conditions after a SARS-CoV-2 infection.   For the research, a team led by Dr. Ken Cohen, executive director of translational research at Optum Labs, studied the health insurance records of 133,366 adults aged 65+ in the United States who had received a COVID-19 diagnosis before April 1, 2020.   The researchers compared the records to individuals who did not have COVID-19 in 2019 or 2020 and individuals who had a lower respiratory tract infection but not COVID-19.   The team then identified new conditions occurring 3 weeks or more after each participant’s COVID-19 diagnosis.   Of those individuals who had a SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020, 32% sought medical attention for a new or persistent condition. This was 11% higher than the comparison group from 2020.   Among the new or persistent conditions were respiratory failure, fatigue, high blood pressure, memory issues, kidney injury, mental health-related diagnoses, hypercoagulability and cardiac rhythm disorders.   Dr. Alicia Arbaje, director of Transitional Care Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and a clinician at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, said: “I think this work is significant. First, because it focuses on older adults, and this is the population that’s most likely to demonstrate long-term effects from this infection, and so I think it’s important and timely given the phase of the pandemic that we’re in.”   [Related reading: Long Covid may hinder women's response, recovery from exercise]   *Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Highly accurate new blood test can detect early-stage lung cancer

10/02/2022

The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the greater a patient's chances of survival. Now, a new test has could help with the detection of lung cancer in is early stages. Developed by researchers at Peking University People’s Hospital in China, the novel non-invasive blood test assess levels of lipid biomarkers in patients' plasma samples. While lung cancer screening techniques already exist, they often produce low accuracy results. And considering better treatment options and survival rates are associated with earlier detection, accuracy is key. In contrast, the new test, named Lung Cancer Artificial Intelligence Detector (LCAID), has high accuracy. The study’s lead author, Jun Wang, chief of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Peking University Peoples Hospital, explained: “The accuracy and high specificity of LCAID might help improve the detection and screening of lung cancer and consequently reduce unnecessary exposure to radiation and invasive diagnostic procedures. Notably, most patients with lung cancer included in this study were at Stage I, and over 90% of them were correctly classified by LCAID.” More information about the LCAID research can be found in Science Translational Medicine. *Image courtesy of Belova59 from Pixabay 

How an hour more in bed can kerb your calorie intake

08/02/2022

More sleep each night could help with weight loss, according to a new study published yesterday.   Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study by researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin adds to the growing evidence that sufficient sleep plays a crucial part to overall health and wellbeing.   By getting just over an hour of extra sleep a night, study participants reduced their caloric intake by an average of 270 kilocalories (kcal) a day. The researchers say this amount could translate to a 26-pound loss over 3 years.   Prior research has found that sleep restriction causes people to eat more and increases the chances of weight gain over time.   Speaking about the study, researcher Dr. Estra Tasali, director of the UChicago Sleep Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, said: “Prior research showed that sleep loss leads to increases [in] food intake in the laboratory setting and weight gain. In our study, we showed for the first time that in [a] real-word setting, objectively tracked caloric intake is decreased when sleep is extended in individuals who habitually sleep less than 6.5 hours.”   For the study, the researchers recruited 80 obese adult participants, aged 21 to 40, who habitually slept fewer than 6.5 hours a night. Both caloric intake and daily energy stores were measured via a simple urine-based test.   *image courtesy of Katniss12 from Pixabay

Just 10 mins of exercise a day can boost your health - study

01/02/2022

Just 10 minutes of exercise a day could prolong your life, as well as save hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, new research suggests. According to the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, if adults over 40 added 10 minutes of moderate to physical exercise to their daily routines, more than 110,000 deaths in the US alone could be prevented annually. But the benefits of exercise don't stop there. If the amount of physical activity was increased by 30 minutes, even more lives – as many as 272,297 – could be saved each year. “We have known that regular exercise is essential and has tremendous health benefits,” said Dr. Vanita Rahman, clinic director of the Barnard Medical Center at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit organization that promotes preventive medicine. The good news is that almost anyone can benefit because your 10 minutes of exercise could be as simple as a walk around the block or dancing to a few of your favorite songs in your kitchen. Dana Santas, a mind-body coach for professional athletes, said: “Fitting in ten minutes of exercise every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how fast ten minutes goes by when you're mindlessly scrolling social media or watching your favorite TV show. It's not a big time investment, but it can deliver big health benefits.” *Image by Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

Magnesium's role in fighting cancer, boosting immunity revealed

25/01/2022

Magnesium is an essential macromineral, which means we all need to consume relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily amount of magnesium adults 19-51+ years should consume is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Almonds, cashews, peanuts and spinach are all good sources of magnesium. But walnuts are even more magnesium-rich, providing around 158mg of the macromineral per 100g. Consuming enough magnesium in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits, including healthy bones, lower type 2 diabetes risk and better cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also linked to improved muscle contraction and nerve transmission, as well as better regulated blood pressure and boosted immunity. Previous research has shown that mice on a low-magnesium diet experience faster rates of cancer spread. Furthermore, said mice have weaker immune defenses against influenza viruses. Now, Swiss scientists have discovered that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, need magnesium to do their jobs and eliminate cancerous or infected cells. The researchers discovered that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to lock on to their targets. Senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, explains: “In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.” “If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended — and therefore active — position.” The researchers also found, through analyzing data from past clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, that low serum levels of magnesium were associated with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival. The Swiss study appears in the journal Cell. *image by Pera Detlic from Pixabay

Astronauts experience 'space anemia' when they go into space

18/01/2022

The impact of space travel on the human body has always been thought to be significant. But now a new study reveals just how hard it hits an astronaut's red blood cells.  On Earth, our bodies make and destroy around 2 million red blood cells every second. However, in space, the number of red blood cells destroyed rises to 3 million per second, according to a new study, resulting in a loss of 54% more cells than people on Earth experience. This lower red blood cell phenomenon is known as space anemia and it was previously only thought to last for the first 10 days in space. But the University of Ottawa research shows that space anemia actually lasts for the full duration of the astronaut's mission and their red blood cell levels only return to normal between three to four months after their return to Earth. "Space anemia has consistently been reported when astronauts returned to Earth since the first space missions, but we didn't know why," said study author Dr. Guy Trudel, a rehabilitation physician and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa, in a statement. The findings of the study are published in the journal Nature Medicine. Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

How sharks could help in the fight against coronaviruses

11/01/2022

Sharks could potentially help in the fight against COVID-19, new research suggests. According to the study by researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota and biomedical company Elasmogen, a biomedical company in Scotland, antibody-like proteins derived from sharks' immune systems can prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, its variants, and related coronaviruses from infecting human cells. The small, unique shark cells, known as VNARs, are around one-tenth the size of human antibodies, which allows them to reach even the tiniest of areas. The researchers found the VNARs can bind to infectious proteins in unique ways that bolster their ability to halt infection. Intriguingly, they were not just effective against SARS-CoV-2 , but also SARS-CoV-1, which caused the first SARS outbreak in 2003. While the researchers say their findings will not help in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as treatments using shark VNARs simply aren't yet available, they could hold some promise in the face of future coronavirus outbreaks. "The big issue is there are a number of coronaviruses that are poised for emergence in humans," says Aaron LeBeau, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of pathology who helped lead the study. "What we're doing is preparing an arsenal of shark VNAR therapeutics that could be used down the road for future SARS outbreaks. It's a kind of insurance against the future." The team published its findings in Nature Communications. *image courtesy of Andrea Bohl from Pixabay 

Post-Covid autoimmune response can last months and attack body cells - study

06/01/2022

New research has found that being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that can cause COVID-19, can trigger an immune response which lasts well after the initial infection and recovery, even if the person experiences mild symptoms or is asymptomatic. Infection with a virus causes our bodies to unleash proteins called antibodies which are designed to protect our cells from the foreign invaders (the virus). In some circumstances, however, these antibodies can attack the body's own organs and tissues. According to the research conducted by Cedars-Sinai, people who have had a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, have a wide variety of autoantibodies up to six months after they have fully recovered, including some which can cause injury to organs and tissues. The study is the first to report not only the presence of elevated autoantibodies after mild or asymptomatic infection but their persistence over time. "These findings help to explain what makes COVID-19 an especially unique disease," said Justyna Fert-Bober, Justyna Fert-Bober, PhD, research scientist in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and co-senior author of the study. "These patterns of immune dysregulation could be underlying the different types of persistent symptoms we see in people who go on to develop the condition now referred to as long COVID-19," Fert-Bober added. The research has been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. *Image by leo2014 from Pixabay 

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