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Low carb diet can prevent and treat type 2 diabetes

27/10/2022

Over 400 million people worldwide are living with type 2 diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Yet a new study suggests the condition could be controlled and even prevented through diet alone. Publishing their findings in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers from Tulane University in Louisiana in the United States revealed how following a diet that is low in carbohydrates can help people with unmedicated diabetes and those at risk for diabetes lower their blood sugar. For the study, the researchers recruited 150 participants and separated them into two groups: one which followed a low carb diet (less than 40 net grams of carbohydrates a day for the first 3 months and less than 60 net grams during months 3 to 6) and one which followed their usual diet. The researchers found that not only did the low carb diet group see their hemoglobin A1c, a marker for blood sugar levels, drop, they also lost weight and had lower fasting glucose levels. “The key message is that a low-carbohydrate diet, if maintained, might be a useful approach for preventing and treating Type 2 diabetes, though more research is needed,” said lead author Kirsten Dorans, assistant professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. *Image by Nemanja_us from Pixabay

Eating earlier can reduce weight gain

12/10/2022

Eating earlier in the day can be beneficial for weight loss, new research suggests. According to the study by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, people who eat later are hungrier during the day and have lower levels of serum leptin, the hormone that helps regulate body fat. Later eaters also burned fewer calories and had a lower core body temperature. The researchers say that eating later actually changes gene expression in adipose tissue in favor of increased fat storage, which could predispose people to becoming obese. Based on the study, the researchers said that people who ate later in the day were twice as likely to feel hungry. They were also more likely to desire certain foods like starchy foods or meat. To thoroughly test, the researchers had half the study group eat earlier in the day and half eat later. Both groups then switched places and tried the alternative eating protocol. The results were mirrored on both occasions, underlining the study findings. Commenting on the study, Julie Palmer, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said that one main takeaway is that we feel hungrier when we wait to eat later in the day. “When higher-calorie foods are more available to us later in the day … we’re more likely to overeat them,” said Palmer.  *Image by Steve Buissinne 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

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 

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

AHA adds sleep to heart health checklist

07/07/2022

The American Heart Association (AHA) has added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist for the first time. Sleep now joins diet, exercise, tobacco use, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure on the association's list of factors people can modify to stay healthy. The AHA published its new checklist, called “Life’s Essential 8,” in the journal Circulation on June 29. The old checklist, created in 2010, was known as “Life’s Simple 7.” “Not only is sleep health related to the other things that play a role in heart health, it seems to also be directly related to cardiovascular health itself,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, the director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, who helped compile the new AHA checklist. “Sleep is changeable, and studies show that you can improve aspects of heart health just by improving sleep,” Dr. Grandner says. People who get less than six hours of good quality sleep a night are at increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as worse mental and cognitive health, Grandner says. Likewise, those who get more than nine hours of sleep a night are also less likely to be healthy and more likely to die prematurely, he added. *Image by Wokandapix 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

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

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

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

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.”

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

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

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

Just two glasses of wine enough to hit daily sugar limit

21/02/2022

Sorry, wine lovers, but new research shows that you could be hitting your daily recommended sugar intake with just two glasses of your favorite tipple. The analysis of 30 bottles of wine by Alcohol Health Alliance UK, a coalition of more than 60 organisations working together to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, found that some bottles had up to 59g of sugar – more than a glazed doughnut! In the UK, winemakers are not legally required to put nutritional information on labels. The UK's NHS recommends that adults consume no more than 30g of "free sugars" per day, which includes sugar in fruit juices and smoothies, or sugar added to food or drink. Campaigners are calling for change, to better inform wine drinkers about how many calories and how much sugar they are consuming. The Alcohol Health Alliance UK analysis revealed it was possible for a person to hit the daily sugar limit for adults by drinking two medium-sized glasses of some wines. More telling was the discovery that lower-strength wines were among those containing the most sugar. So just because they have a lower alcohol content, it doesn't mean they are necessarily the healthier option. Next time you're in your local supermarket, have a look to see which wines have nutritional information and, if you can, opt for one that has a lower sugar content. Image by Vinotecarium 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

Ultra-processed foods linked with higher risk of heart attack, stroke

09/12/2021

The impact of heavily processed foods on your health has been widely acknowledged for some time. But now new research shows just how potentially dangerous consuming such food products can be for people who have already had a heart attack or stroke. According to the research by the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention of the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, consuming ultra-processed foods (UPFs) increases the risk of a second — and more likely fatal — heart attack or stroke for people who already have cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, the research shows that UPFs are associated with a two-thirds increased risk of a second heart attack or stroke, this time fatal, compared with people who eat these types of foods less frequently. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the probability of people who frequently eat UPFs of dying from any cause was 40% higher. Examples of UPFs include soft drinks, sweet or savory packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products, and pre-prepared frozen dishes. Worryingly, many adult Americans' diets comprise high levels of UPFs, as much as 60% in some cases. The study is published in the European Heart Journal. *Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay

Herbs, spices can reduce blood pressure, research finds

16/11/2021

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (hypertension). Left untreated, this hypertension can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Individuals with hypertension are often advised to reduce their salt intake, as doing so can help reduce blood pressure levels. Now, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has decided to investigate the health effects of herbs and spices, particularly whether they can benefit people with hypertension. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to look at the effect of longer-term consumption of herbs and spices on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They found that a higher level of herbs and spices in food reduced 24-hour blood pressure readings. The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Speaking to Medical News Today, Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Indeed, the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices in an average Western diet were surprising to me. “We [already know] about the effects of many lifestyle factors, especially dietary factors, that can increase blood pressure — such as sodium, alcohol, and caffeine — and others that can decrease blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, […] weight loss, physical activity, and some vitamins, including folate and vitamin D when intake is low, but the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices are new!” *Image by monicore from Pixabay

Losing sleep over the COVID-19 outbreak? These 5 tips will help

26/05/2020

The widespread panic and uncertainty being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means sleep isn’t coming easy for many people right now. But good quality sleep is the bedrock of our lives, consuming about a third of our total time on this planet and dramatically influencing the other two-thirds. That’s why it’s so important that we all get enough good quality sleep on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are five tangible tips to promote better sleep at this difficult time: 1. Get into a routine By getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, you can significantly boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. If you get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same times each day, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you follow random patterns. 2. Exercise more In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, regular exercise also helps you sleep better. And while cardiovascular exercise, strength training and yoga are all great for helping you sleep – especially if you do them during the day and not just before bed. 3. Watch your diet For the best sleep, try and eat a balanced diet that contains vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins - like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. 4. Consume less alcohol While some people rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep, studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep. In fact, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative kind. 5. Limit gadget use at night Blue light from TVs, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets plays havoc with your circadian rhythm and, as a result, the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is suppressed. For the best night’s sleep, limit your use of gadgets and other visual devices to around one to two hours before bed.

Cutting salt intake is 'immensely beneficial'

25/02/2020

We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”

You could live up to 14 years longer by avoiding these 5 bad habits

20/02/2020

A new study has revealed five bad health habits which, if avoided, could help you live significantly longer. While the habits themselves are nothing we haven’t heard before, the findings of the study are important as they highlight just how much of an impact the five factors can have on lifespan. So if you want to live years longer, avoid these five behaviours: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet. Specifically, the study found that women aged 50 who avoided all five risk factors lived 14 years longer than women who did not. Among men, the difference in lifespan was 12 years. Publishing the study findings in the BMJ, senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.” Importantly, the results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors – emphasising that everyone stands to benefit from avoiding these five unhealthy habits. Finally, the research also revealed that the five habits had a positive impact for people diagnosed with a disease during the study period. For example, individuals who developed cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of the five healthy practices. In contrast, among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were witnessed for both heart disease and diabetes.

More health benefits of Mediterranean diet discovered

18/02/2020

The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.

Sleep apnoea likely caused by fatty tongues

14/01/2020

Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes some individuals to experience pauses in their breathing while they are sleeping, resulting in them gasping for breath. Said pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds right up to a few minutes. But while sleep apnoea can be alleviated with certain measures, including wearing oral appliances at bedtime, its exact cause has remained open to debate. Now, a new study has revealed that having a fatty tongue could play a part. According to the research by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, larger, fattier tongues – which are more common among obese individuals – could be a main driver of sleep apnoea. That’s why when overweight and obese people shed the pounds, including fat in their tongues, any sleep apnoea they’ve been experiencing also tends to improve. “You talk, eat and breathe with your tongue - so why is fat deposited there?" said study author Dr Richard Schwab, of Perelman School of Medicine. “It's not clear why - it could be genetic or environmental - but the less fat there is, the less likely the tongue is to collapse during sleep.” The researchers now plan to discover which low-fat diets (if any) are particularly good at reducing fat in the tongue.

Avoid fad diets and ‘party drips’ this New Year, says UK’s top doctor

07/01/2020

It’s now 2020, the start of a New Year, and for many people that means following a set of resolutions, one of the most common of which will be to lose weight over the next 12 months. But if you’re keen to shed some pounds in 2020, don’t try to do it using fad diets because they don’t work and can even be harmful, says NHS England’s top doctor. Speaking about diet pills, "tea-toxes" and appetite suppressant products, Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said they are not quick fixes. Furthermore, they can even cause side effects, such as diarrhea and heart issues, he added. How to spot a fad diet? Well, according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), any diet that promises rapid weight loss of more than 2lbs (0.9kg) of body fat a week should be viewed with caution. If it sounds too good to be true, then it more than likely is – despite any celebrity recommendations it might have. The best way to get in shape safely is through sensible eating and regular exercise. Professor Powis also warned the public against using so-called ‘party drips’ as quick fix hangover cures. These nutrient therapy IV drips are usually made up of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C. But some individuals can react badly to them and, in the most serious cases, death can occur due to a toxic overdose.

Exercise labels on food help reduce calorie intake

12/12/2019

Experts say that food label warnings about the amount of physical exercise needed to burn off the calories contained in the product work. According to the researchers from Loughborough University in the UK, who looked at 14 separate studies to reach their conclusions, a simple label advising the consumer that it would take four hours to walk off the calories contained in a pizza, or 22 minutes of running to burn off a chocolate bar are effective in making people think twice about purchasing certain foods. They say the labels help people indulge less and could encourage healthier eating habits to fight obesity. Right now, it is estimated that two-thirds of the UK adult population are overweight or obese. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers say this simple type of labelling could help cut about 200 calories from a person's daily average intake. The reason it works is because people don’t really appreciate calories when they see them as just numbers. But by elaborating and highlighting how much exercise is needed to burn off a particular food product, the consumer is able to make a much more informed decision. Lead researcher Prof Amanda Daley said: “We know that the public routinely underestimate the number of calories that are in foods. So if you buy a chocolate muffin and it contains 500 calories, for example, then that's about 50 minutes of running.”

Extra virgin olive oil could protect against various dementias

28/11/2019

So-called ‘Mediterranean diets’ have long been associated with various health benefits. And now new research suggests extra virgin olive oil – a common component of many Mediterranean diets – may protect against certain dementias. The research in mice revealed that a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil helps prevent a toxic accumulation of the protein tau, which is a hallmark of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. For the research, Dr. Domenico Praticò, a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, led a team to study the neurological benefits of extra virgin olive oil. During the study, the team looked at the olive oil's effect on "tauopathies." - age-related neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the deposition of abnormal tau protein in the brain – which can lead to the onset of various forms of dementia. They found that olive oil consumption led to 60% less tau and better cognitive recognition memory performance. “These results strengthen the [healthful] benefits of [extra virgin olive oil] and further support the therapeutic potential of this natural product not only for [Alzheimer's disease] but also for primary tauopathies,” said Dr. Praticò. The team’s findings are published in the journal Aging Cell.

Hate the taste of certain vegetables? It could be in your genes…

14/11/2019

New research suggests that some people have an inherent dislike of certain vegetables. According to the study by Dr Jennifer Smith and colleagues from the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, inheriting two copies of the unpleasant taste gene provides a "ruin-your-day level of bitterness" to foods such as broccoli and sprouts. The research could explain why some people find it really difficult to include certain vegetables in their diets. The team’s findings could also provide some explanation as to why beer, coffee and dark chocolate taste unpleasant to some people. Everyone inherits two copies of a taste gene called TAS2R38, which basically allows us to taste bitterness. However, people can inherit different variants. People who inherit a variant called AVI aren't sensitive at all to bitter tastes. Those who inherit one copy of AVI and another called PAV do experience bitter tastes, but not to extremes. That super-sensitivity for bitter foods is found in people who inherit two copies of the PAV variant - often called "super-tasters". Of the 175 people studied, those with two copies of the bitter taste PAV gene variant ate only small amounts of leafy green vegetables. Speaking to medics at a meeting of the American Heart Association, Dr Smith said: “You have to consider how things taste if you really want your patient to follow nutrition guidelines”.

Compound found only in avocados could hold promise for type 2 diabetes treatment

12/11/2019

A compound found only in avocados could help reduce type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. The study by researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada found that a fat molecule called avocatin B, or AvoB - which avocados alone contain – can help strengthen insulin sensitivity and could forestall type 2 diabetes. Initial tests involving mice showed that AvoB slowed weight gain and increased insulin sensitivity by ensuring the complete oxidation of fats. As a result, mice that were given the compound had improved glucose tolerance and utilization. Then, in a separate, double-blind placebo‐controlled human trial, an AvoB supplement was given to people with an average Western diet for 60 days. The researchers found that the participants had tolerated the compound well and no negative effects in the liver, muscles, or kidneys were witnessed. There was also some weight loss among participants that took the supplement, though the authors of the study considered it statistically insignificant. Paul Spagnuolo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Guelph, said the research team will now design clinical trials to assess AvoB's effectiveness in people. Furthermore, they have already received clearance from Health Canada to sell AvoB in powder and pill forms, perhaps as early as next year.

How tomato puree could improve male fertility

10/10/2019

Lycopene - a natural pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their colour - is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and tomatoes contain plenty of it. In fact, it is estimated that tomatoes account for 80% of the lycopene in the US diet. Now, a new study suggests Lycopene may also help boost sperm quality. According to the research by a team at the University of Sheffield, healthy men who consumed the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree each day were found to have better quality sperm. During the 12-week trial, 60 men were randomly selected to take 14mg of lactolycopene supplement each day. The reason a supplement was used is because the participants would have had to eat 2kg of tomatoes each day to obtain an equivalent dose of lycopene. The participants’ sperm was tested before, during and after the trial. While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the men who had been taking the lycopene had healthier and faster sperm. Encouraged by the results, the researchers now want to expand the trial to include more men and see if the findings are the same. Lycopene has also been previously linked to other health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Just 10% weight loss can reverse effects of type-2 diabetes

03/10/2019

A new study has found that if people with type-2 diabetes achieve just 10% weight loss within 5 years of being diagnosed, they are twice as likely to experience remission at the 5-year follow-up as those who haven’t lost any weight. The findings of the study by researchers from Cambridge appear in the journal Diabetic Medicine and were obtained through analysis of 867 people aged 40-69 with newly diagnosed type-2 diabetes. Having followed the study participants for 5 years, the researchers found that 257 (30%) had diabetes in remission. Speaking about their findings, first author Hajira Dambha-Miller, Ph.D. said: “Our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least 5 years, with a more modest weight loss of 10%. This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people.” The fact diabetes can be sent into remission with just moderate weight loss – and not just the drastic intensive weight loss measures we’ve known about for some time - will be welcome news for many people living with the condition. It reinforces the importance of managing one’s weight through dietary choices and physical exercise. Going forward, the Cambridge team hopes to be able to use the research to help medical professionals better support patients with type-2 diabetes and reduce their symptoms.

Better diabetes management could be just a text message away

10/09/2019

Simple educational and motivational text messages can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar better, a new study has found. It is not only an extremely affordable and scalable measure, but one that can be applied globally. According to the six-month Chinese study, diabetes patients who received the text messages and standard care reduced their glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c ) by more than patients who just received standard care. The results showed an average reduction in HbA1c of 2 mmol/mol (0.2%) in patients who received the supportive text messages. The group that did not receive the text messages experienced an average increase in HbA1c of 1 moll/mol (0.1%). For the study, the participants were split into two groups: one that received standard diabetes care and two text messages each month thanking them for their participation, and another group that received standard care and up to six text messages per week containing information on subjects like dietary advice, physical activity, emotional support and blood glucose monitoring.  As well as actually reducing their HbA1c, the group receiving the supportive text messages also had a greater proportion of patients who achieved their HbA1C target of less than 7% (69.3% vs. 52.6% in the control group). Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Xiqian Huo, of Beijing's Fuwai Hospital, said: “Lifestyle advice such as strict dietary control may have contributed to glycemic improvements, together with reminders to monitor blood glucose regularly. The messages were designed to provide information and motivation, and help patients set goals and manage stress.” The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology on Saturday, August 31 also appear in journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Omega-3 supplements do not benefit people with type-2 diabetes

22/08/2019

People with type-2 diabetes get no benefit from taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, a new study has found. According to researchers from the University of East Anglia, while omega-3 supplements are not harmful for people with type-2 diabetes (this has been a concern previously), they don’t provide any benefit either. This contradicts a common belief that omega-3 can protect against diabetes and even reverse the condition. The study, which involved 58,000 participants, found that people who consumed more omega-3 had the same risk of developing diabetes as individuals who did not. Furthermore, taking omega-3 fish oil did not influence levels of blood glucose, insulin and glycated haemoglobin - all measures of how the body handles sugar. ‘Better to eat fish’ Douglas Twenefour, deputy head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “Eating a healthy, varied diet is incredibly important, and we know that certain foods - including fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, yoghurt and cheese - can help to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. “While omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for our overall health, it's generally better for people with type 2 diabetes to get their intake by eating at least two portions of oily fish a week, than by taking supplements." The advice from Dr Lee Hooper, who led the research, is to forego the expensive omega-3 supplements and instead buy oily fish and/or spend your money on physical activity, which will have more of a positive impact when it comes to type-2 diabetes.

Consuming flavonoids lowers risk of cancer, increases lifespan

20/08/2019

It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.  

Men's sexual function could be boosted by a daily helping of nuts

30/07/2019

By adding just a handful of nuts to their daily diet, men could improve their sexual function, a study suggests. The 14-week trial, which involved 83 men split into two groups, found that adding 60 grams of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts to a Western-style diet benefitted sexual function. Reporting their findings in the journal Nutrients, the authors of the study said the group of men who ate the extra nuts each day showed significant increases in two measures of erectile and sexual function: orgasmic function and sexual desire. A previous analysis of the trial data in 2018 yielded signs that eating more nuts also improves sperm quality. “Including nuts in a regular diet significantly improved auto-reported orgasmic function and sexual desire,” the Spanish researchers concluded. They are now calling for further, large-scale studies to determine the effect of eating nuts on sexual function – especially as separate research found that consuming pistachios helped improve erectile function. The theory is that pistachios, like many other nuts, contain antioxidants and arginine, a powerful compound that increases vasodilatation. So, if you are not easily able to follow a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts, you could still reap some of the sexual function rewards by adding just a handful of nuts to your daily diet.

Meal times, fasting can aid weight loss - study

25/07/2019

If you’re looking to lose some weight, eating earlier in the day and intermittently fasting could help, new research suggests. According to a paper published in the journal Obesity, the timing of meals and intermittent fasting influences metabolism, which can have an impact on weight loss. Researchers discovered this following a trial involving 11 men and women, all of who were in good health, aged between 25 and 45 years and carrying some excess weight. The trial participants were split into two groups: one who ate breakfast at 08:00 and then ate their last meal of the day at 14:00, and another who ate breakfast at 08:00 and had their last meal of the day at 20:00. Both groups ate the same meals each day. At the end of the trial, participants underwent a battery of tests in a respiratory chamber to assess their metabolism. The number of calories, fat, carbohydrates and proteins burned were all measured. It was revealed that the participants who ate their last meal of the day at 14:00 and, therefore, fasted longer overnight, burned more fat than the other group. They also had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. “Eating in sync with circadian rhythms by eating early in the daytime appears to reduce body weight and improve metabolic health,” the authors of the paper wrote.

Giving up alcohol can provide a mental health boost for women

11/07/2019

Even though it’s widely accepted that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle, a new study suggests that people who abstain from drinking have the highest levels of wellbeing. And it’s women who stand to benefit the most from giving up the booze. According to the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), men and women who have abstained from drinking alcohol their whole lives had the highest levels of mental wellbeing at the start of the 5-year study. And for females who moderately consumed alcohol (fewer than seven alcoholic drinks per week), quitting was linked with a boost in mental health. Speaking about the findings of the study, Co-author Dr Michael Ni, a brain scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said: “Global alcohol consumption is expected to continue to increase unless effective strategies are employed. Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. “Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental wellbeing, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.”

Charcoal-based toothpastes could increase risk of tooth decay

14/05/2019

Charcoal-based toothpastes - which claim to help whiten teeth - could actually increase the risk of tooth decay and staining, a review published in the British Dental Journal has found. According to the review, charcoal-based toothpastes often contain little or no fluoride to help protect teeth and the claims they make about whitening are not supported by any evidence. Furthermore, excessive brushing with them can actually do more harm than good because they are often more abrasive than regular toothpastes and can cause damage to tooth enamel and gums. The authors of the paper say people should stick to brushing with a regular fluoride toothpaste and consult their dentist about teeth bleaching/whitening. Speaking about the review, Prof Damien Walmsley, from the British Dental Association, said: “Charcoal-based toothpastes offer no silver bullets for anyone seeking a perfect smile, and come with real risks attached. “So don't believe the hype. Anyone concerned about staining or discoloured teeth that can't be shifted by a change in diet, or improvements to their oral hygiene, should see their dentist.” The bottom line, according to study co-author Dr Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, from the University of Manchester Dental School, is that charcoal-based toothpastes do not provide “a low cost, quick-fix, tooth-whitening option.”

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