Archive for September 2012

Spare tyre triples risk of heart attack

People who carry a small “spare tyre” around their waist but are otherwise a healthy weight are at triple the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Spare tyre triples risk of heart attackMen and women who are not overweight but store most of their fat around their waist are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke than even the clinically obese.

This could be because those who are overweight or obese have more weight on their thighs and hips which helps offset the problem, researchers said.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic in the United States examined the health records of 12,785 people with an average age of 44, over a 14-year period.

They recorded patients’ body mass index (BMI) – their ratio of weight relative to height – as well as their waist-to-hip ratio, which signifies how much of their weight they store on their belly.

During the study, 2,562 of the patients died, including 1,138 as a result of a cardiovascular problem such as heart disease or stroke.

The findings suggest that people with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio were 2.75 times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition than people who were normal on both scales.

Even people who were clinically obese and had a high proportion of fat stored around their middle had only 2.34 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with the healthiest group.

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Munich, Dr Karine Sahakyan said having a normal BMI “should not reassure them that their risk for heart disease is low”.

“Where their fat is distributed on their body can mean a lot even if their body weight is within normal limits,” she said.

Fat which accumulates between the organs in the abdomen, and causes the waistline to expand, is made of a different type of cell to that which accumulates around the legs and thighs.

Cells in belly fat release chemicals which raise insulin resistance and are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

People who are overweight and obese have more muscle mass and store some of their fat on their legs and hips, which Dr Sahakyan said was “actually protective”.

Slimmer people are more likely to carry extra weight on the waist, she said.

Patients with a high waist-to-hip ratio can offset their risk by exercising more and sticking to a healthy diet.

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NHS turning to weight loss surgery to tackle obesity epidemic

The NHS is increasingly resorting to weight loss surgery to tackle Britain’s obesity epidemic- with the number of gastric bypass operations rising six fold in just five years.NHS turning to weight loss surgery to tackle obesity epidemicBritain’s men and women are among the fattest in Europe. Ministers want to tackle the problem at source- but surgeons say weight loss surgery is extremely effective for treating the morbidly obese.

Between 2006-7 and 2011-12 the number of gastric bypass operations increased from 858 to 5,407, according to figures from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Over the same period the number of gastric band operations also increased, but at a slower rate, from 715 to 1,316.

A gastric bypass involves making the stomach much smaller and shortening the length of the small intestine. This makes it impossible to eat large meals and reduces absorption of nutrients.

It has become much more popular than gastric banding, which involves inserting an adjustable and removable band that limits the effective size of the stomach, but nothing else.

Surgeons said the increases indicated there was a large unmet need for weight loss (‘bariatric’) surgery, rather than any sizeable increase in the number of morbidly obese people since 2006.

Alberic Fiennes, president of the the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society (BOMSS), said: “There are about 1.5 million such adults in the UK. They face premature death, disease and disability brought on as a direct result of their condition. These can be prevented, improved or eliminated by surgery.

“There is compelling evidence that weight loss surgery to treat the most severely affected is one of the most clinically effective, safe and cost effective treatments available.

American research indicates the morbidly obese could gain around three extra years of life from bariatric surgery. It also improves quality of life – besides weight loss – in some cases reversing patients’ Type 2 diabetes.

However, although there are national guidelines on who is eligible, some local health authorities refuse to adhere to them, leading to a postcode lottery of care.

Bariatric surgery is expensive – costing up to £14,000 a time – and there are too few qualified surgeons to meet demand. The NHS currently spends about £50 million on bariatric surgery.

Mr Fiennes called on the Department of Health “to invest in a long term strategy to ensure that all patients have equal access to this life-saving treatment.”

He also explained the gastric bypass operations had become the favoured option because they “may be more effective in the long term”.

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Food additives improved to suppress hunger

Dieters could suppress their appetite by eating yogurts and smoothies laced with a new “anti-hunger” powder that turns into a gel when it reaches their stomach, scientists claim.Food additives improved to suppress hungerThe new ingredient- a modified form of a commonly used food additive, could help people lose weight by making them feel full after eating smaller amounts of food, according to German scientists.

A trial by Dow Wolff Cellulosics– a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, showed that volunteers who ate food containing the additive consumed 13 per cent fewer calories when given a second meal two hours later.

If further trials prove that it could be of benefit to dieters, the ingredient would be suitable for use in a variety of cold foods and drinks including yogurts, fruit shakes and smoothies, they said.

Presenting the results from the company’s first trial at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr Carsten Huettermann said: “This ingredient would make people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food.

“With that sense of fullness and hunger-satisfaction, they would not crave more food. In our first study, we saw that fewer calories were consumed at the following meal after eating our new product.”

The ingredient, known as SATISFIT-LTG, is a modified version of methyl cellulose, a food additive which has been used as a binding agent in ready meals, baked goods and other snack foods for 50 years.

Methyl cellulose is a white powder which dissolves in cold water and, when heated, turns into a gelatin-like material that holds ingredients together and gives foods a more desirable texture.

In its normal state, the ingredient passes through the stomach very quickly and does not make the person who has eaten it feel any less hungry.

But Dow Wolff, which manufactures methyl cellulose, claims it can be modified to form a gel at body temperature, meaning it remains in the stomach for longer and is absorbed by the small intestine.

Previous studies have shown that substances which turn into a gel when they reach the stomach or intestine can trigger the feeling of fullness, the scientists said.

The company announced it plans to carry out further trials based on its early-stage “proof-of-concept” experiment.

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Green tea extract eradicates cancer tumours

New anti cancer drugs based on green tea could soon be developed after scientists found an extract could make almost half of tumours vanish.Green tea extract eradicates cancer tumoursThe University of Strathclyde team made 40 per cent of human skin cancer tumours disappear using the compound, in a laboratory study.

Green tea has long been suspected of having anti-cancer properties and the extract, called epigallocatechin gallate, has been investigated before. However, this is the first time researchers have managed to make it effective at shrinking tumours.

Previous attempts to capitalise on its cancer fighting properties have failed because scientists used intravenous drips, which failed to deliver enough of the extract to the tumours themselves.

So, the Strathclyde team devised a “targeted delivery system”, piggy-backing the extract on proteins that carry iron molecules, which cancer tumours vacuum up.

The lab test on one type of human skin cancer showed 40 per cent of tumours disappeared after a month of treatment, while an additional 30 per cent shrank.

Dr Christine Dufès, a senior lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, who led the research, said: “These are very encouraging results which we hope could pave the way for new and effective cancer treatments.

“When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many of the tumours every day, in some cases removing them altogether.

“By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumours continued to grow.  This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.”

She added: “I was expecting good results, but not as strong as these.”

Dr Dufès said population studies had previously indicated that green tea had anti cancer properties, and scientists had since identified the active compound as epigallocatechin gallate.

But the Strathclyde researchers were the first to delivery it in high enough doses to tumours to have an effect.

She explained: “The problems with this extract is that when it’s administered intravenously, it goes everywhere in the body, so when it gets to the tumours it’s too diluted.

“With the targeted delivery system, it’s taken straight to the tumours without any effect on normal tissue.”

Cancer scientists are increasingly using targeted delivery to improve results, relying on the many different ‘receptors’ that tumours have for different biological substances.

In this instance, the scientists used the fact that tumours have receptors for transferrin, a plasma protein which transports iron through the blood.

The results have been published in the journal Nanomedicine.

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Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancers

Almost half of cancers are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle that could be avoided by quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising and drinking less alcohol, the most comprehensive study of its kind has found.Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancersAround 134,000 cancers each year are the result of a poor lifestyle, Cancer Research UK has found.

In the most wide reaching study yet conducted into the issue, it was found that 14 different lifestyle factors ranging from smoking, to lack of exercise, eating too much salt, not having babies, drinking too much and being overweight contributed to four in every ten cancers diagnosed in the UK.

The findings expose the myth that developing cancer is ‘bad luck’ or down to your genes, the researchers said.

Previous studies had suggested around 80,000 cancers a year could be prevented but they did not take into account occupational exposures to things like asbestos, infections that can cause cancer and sunburn as the latest research has.

In a complex set of research studies, scientists calculated how many cancers and of what type could be attributed to each of the 14 lifestyle factors.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Smoking was the biggest factor, causing nearly one in five of all cancers.

But Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said most people would not know that a quarter of all breast cancer cases could be prevented along with half of colorectal cancers.

He added: “Leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee that someone will not get cancer but doing so will significantly stack the odds in your favour.”

Dr Kumar said tackling unhealthy lifestyle factors linked to cancer would also reduce the risk of a host of other killer diseases such as heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney disease and others.

Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Queen Mary, University of London, and study author, said: “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it.

“Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear that around 40 per cent of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.

“We didn’t expect to find that eating fruit and vegetables would prove to be so important in protecting men against cancer. And among women we didn’t expect being overweight to have a greater effect than alcohol.”

The study found that alcohol was responsible for 6.4 per cent of breast cancers and almost one in ten liver cancers.

Three quarters of stomach cancers could be avoided, mostly by not smoking, eating too much salt and consuming more fruit and vegetables.

Red meat consumption led to 2.7 per cent of cancers, almost 8,500 cases. Obesity was linked to more than five per cent of cancers or almost 18000 cases, including a third of womb cancers.

Lack of breastfeeding was linked to 3.1 per cent of breast cancers and 17 per cent of ovarian cancers.

The study did not examine how many cancer deaths would be prevented with a healthier lifestyle.

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UK families are wasting billions worth of food

The average UK family wastes £12 billion worth of food each year analysis reveals.UK families are wasting billions worth of foodResults from the government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) show there has been a 13% reduction in household food waste since 2006-7.

The amount thrown away each year has fallen from 8.3m tonnes to 7.2m tonnes.

But Wrap’s chief executive, Dr Liz Goodwin, said food worth £12 billion a year is still being binned. She said the fall in food being thrown away was “very welcome”, but more still had to be done.

“Despite the reduction, the food we waste in homes, which accounts for about half the UK’s food waste, is still worth £12 billion a year as a result of food price inflation.

“And the food that is being wasted throughout the supply chain is significant at a time when food security is a major global issue,” she said.

According to Wrap, high food price inflation means the financial value of food wasted in the UK has remained the same over the last three years, despite less being binned.

It says had the reduction in waste not been achieved, the value of food thrown away would have been at least £2.5 billion more – taking the total to £14.5 billion.

The advisory body, which used data from about 90 local authorities for its research, about a fifth of all food purchased is wasted and more than half the food that is thrown away, about 60%, could have been eaten.

The organisation said its findings suggested the reduction in waste could be in part due to increased food prices and difficult economic conditions.

Wrap said the reduction in food waste had saved local councils in the UK up to £80m a year, because by sending less food to the tip they are incurring lower landfill charges.

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Children who resist sweets less likely to be obese adults

Children who can resist sweets on the promise of a greater reward later are less likely to be obese as adults new research has has found.Children who resist sweets less likely to be obese adultsResearchers gave four year olds a biscuit or marshmallow sweet and told them that if they did not eat it they would be given another later.

They were filmed for 15 minutes and those who resisted were given another treat.

The researchers from University of Wisconsin found that those children who were able to control their urge to eat the first sweet performed better at school, were able to handle stress more effectively and were less likely to be obese.

Dr Tanya Schlam, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, said: “Interventions can improve young children’s self-control, which may decrease children’s risk of becoming overweight and may have further positive effects on other outcomes important to society such as general health, financial stability, and a reduced likelihood of being convicted of a crime.”

The findings, involving 653 children, were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The original experiments with the sweets were completed between 1968 and 1974 and 164 participants were followed-up once they were in their mid-30s.

The researchers found that each minute a child delayed gratification predicted a 0.2 point decrease in adult body mass index, calculated by dividing weight by height squared.

Dr Schlam said: “One explanation for our present findings may be that those who are more successful at delaying gratification at age four also may be more successful in regulating their caloric intake throughout life.”

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Super ageing 80 year olds have brains of 50 year olds

Scientists have now discovered that some OAPs are among a group of octogenarian “super-agers” who have brains like people in their 50s.Super ageing 80 year olds have brains of 50 year oldsMRI scans have found that some people in their eighties have more developed sections of the brain associated with memory, attention and thinking skills.

The researchers believe that for some people the rare ability to withstand the effects of ageing is in the genes, while for others it may be down to a combination of genes and a healthy way of life. It is hoped that the discovery, by Northwestern University in Chicago, could lead to new approaches to the treatment of dementia.

Emily Rogalski, an assistant professor in cognitive neurology, said: “The super-agers really are a diverse group, not all were wealthy, some exercised five times a week while others only ran if they were chased.”

“Some individuals smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and had a Martini each evening while others never touched alcohol or cigarettes.”

“So it seems there are different paths to becoming a super-ager. There may be some people for whom genetics is very important and they are able to get away with being unhealthy and still have super brains.”

Researchers scanned the brains of 12 people in their eighties who scored extremely highly on memory and thinking tests, with average results similar to or better than middle-aged people. They then compared them with the brain scans of 10 normally ageing 80 year-olds and middle-aged people.

In bright octogenarians, the outer layer of the brain, the cortex, is thicker and more like that of someone in their fifties.

Professor Rogalski said that the phenomenon is rare, and he had whittled down 300 people who thought they had superior reasoning to just 30 after tests.

The super-agers included one woman who had survived the Holocaust, drank whisky each night and outlived four husbands.  Another spent her life as a housewife, contracted cancer, and went through chemotherapy.

Some were on a multitude of medicines for various conditions while others were physically healthy.

Prof Rogalski said: “By looking at a really healthy older brain, we can start to deduce how super-agers are able to maintain their good memory.

“Many scientists study what’s wrong with the brain, but maybe we can ultimately help Alzheimer’s patients by figuring out what goes right in the brain of super-agers.  What we learn from these healthy brains may inform our strategies for improving quality of life for the elderly and for combating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Another part of the brain, the anterior cingulate, of the super-agers was also thicker than in the 50 to 65 year-olds.

Prof Rogalski said: “This is pretty incredible.  This region is important for attention. Attention supports memory.  Perhaps the super-agers have really keen attention and that supports their exceptional memories. These are a special group of people.”


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Daily aspirin dose cuts cancer risk

A daily dose of aspirin for over 60s can cut their risk of cancer by up to 40 per cent and may offer protection after just a few years- researchers claim.Daily aspirin dose cuts cancer riskA study of more than 100,000 healthy people found that those who took a dose of aspirin every day were two fifths less likely to develop and die from stomach, oesophageal or colorectal cancer in the following decade.

They also had a 12 per cent lower risk of dying from other cancers, adding up to an overall 16 per cent lower risk of death from cancer of any type.

Although earlier research had found similar results, the new paper adds to the evidence in favour of taking the drug as a protective measure.

Doctors have previously called for low doses of aspirin to be taken from middle age, especially for people with a family history of cancer or heart disease, which it is also thought to protect against.

The authors of the latest study, Can Aspirin Reduce Cancer Risk and Mortality? published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said: “Even a relatively modest benefit with respect to overall cancer mortality could still meaningfully influence the balances of risks and benefits of prophylactic (protective) aspirin use.”

The researchers, from the American Cancer Society, studied data on more than 100,000 healthy men and women, most of whom were over 60, and questioned them about their use of aspirin at regular intervals over the next decade.

They found that those who used aspirin every day were less likely to die from cancer in the following eleven years, with the biggest effect on cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Unlike previous research, the study found there was no difference between patients who had been taking the drug daily for less than five years, and those whose use was longer-term.

Referencing a separate study, the scientists said there was “some suggestion” the protective effect of aspirin could begin within three years of daily use.

In an editorial accompanying the article Dr John Baron of North Carolina University said the health benefit of aspirin estimated by the study could be “conservative”, adding: “The drug clearly reduces the incidence and mortality from luminal gastrointestinal cancers, and it may similarly affect other cancers.”

But Dr Eric Jacobs, who led the study, emphasised people should not take aspirin every day before discussing the potential side effects, such as stomach bleeds, with their doctors.

He said: “Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer.

“Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding. Decisions about aspirin use should be made by balancing the risks against the benefits in the context of each individual’s medical history.”

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Heart benefits of statins exceed diabetes risk

The benefits of taking statins for hearts exceeds the increased risk of diabetes from the drugs new reserach has found.Heart benefits of statins exceed diabetes risk

Although the cholesterol busting drugs raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those already prone to the disease, the cuts in heart attacks and strokes are worth it, an article- Cardiovascular benefits and diabetes risks of statin therapy in primary prevention published in The Lancet said.

Millions of people take statins to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke and it has been argued that everyone over the age of 50 should take them.

However, in people who are already at risk of type 2 diabetes by being overweight for example, taking statins can increase the chances of developing the disease by 28 per cent.

For healthy people not at risk of diabetes, statins have no effect on the disease.

Conversely, statins can cause fatigue, muscle pains, headaches, nausea and memory problems.

Currently UK doctors consider statins for patients whose chances of having a heart attack over the next decade are calculated to be 20 per cent or greater.

A team of scientists led by Professor Paul Ridker, based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA, analysed data gathered during the Jupiter trial, the first controlled study to report that taking statins results in an increased risk of developing diabetes.

They said for those taking statins during the five year trial the drugs clearly increased the likelihood of developing diabetes in patients already at risk of the disease, these patients were still 39 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular illness while using statins, and 17 per cent less likely to die over the trial period.

Patients who were not already at risk of developing diabetes experienced a 52 per cent reduction in cardiovascular illness when taking statins, and had no increase in diabetes risk.

Professor Ridker said: “Our results show that in participants with and without diabetes risk, the absolute benefits of statin therapy are greater than the hazards of developing diabetes.

“We believe that most physicians and patients would regard heart attack, stroke and death to be more severe outcomes than the onset of diabetes, and so we hope that these results ease concern about the risks associated with statin therapy when these drugs are appropriately prescribed – in conjunction with improved diet, exercise and smoking cessation – to reduce patients’ risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In an accompanying commentary article Professor Gerald Watts of the University of Western Australia’s Cardiometabolic Research Centre, at the Royal Perth Hospital, said warnings over the use of statins and diabetes could be altered to apply only to people already at risk of diabetes.

He said: “A major take-home message for the clinician involved in either primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease is that all individuals on a statin who have major risk factors for diabetes, particularly impaired fasting glucose, need to be informed about the risk, monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia, and advised to lose weight and take regular physical exercise to mitigate the emergence of diabetes.”

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