Archive for November 2012

Low vitamin D levels need preventative action

There is growing awareness about the importance of the “sunshine vitamin” – vitamin D – for you health.Low vitamin D levels need preventative actionBut Professor Mitch Blair, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says more action is needed – potentially including fortifying more foods and even cutting the cost of the vitamin to make it more easily available,

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that contributes to healthy, strong bones and helps to control the amount of calcium in the blood.

Unlike many other vitamins, getting your recommended daily amount of vitamin D is not that easy.

The main source is sunlight; but with short days, long nights and limited sunlight even during the summer, it’s not easy to get your fix that way.

Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms – but only 10% of a person’s recommended daily amount is found naturally in food.

Put bluntly, eating more fish and getting out in the sun a bit more won’t make much of a difference to your vitamin D levels.

Unfortunately, there is limited national research on the true extent of vitamin D deficiency in the UK population.

But we do know that there has been a four-fold increase in admissions to hospital with rickets in the last 15 years and that some groups are more ‘at risk’ than others – namely children, pregnant women and certain ethnic minority groups.

Pilot studies and regional monitoring suggests that vitamin D deficiency is likely to affect at least half the UK’s white population, up to 90% of the multi-ethnic population and a quarter of all children living in Britain.

A recent study in Australia revealed that a third of under-25% are vitamin D deficient – perhaps surprising in a country blessed with plenty of sunshine.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of debilitating diseases in children and adults – including diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets, a bone disease associated with poor children in Victorian England.

Lack of vitamin D is often cited as a contributory factor in broken bones and fractures, with obvious implications for some child protection cases.

Even the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends supplements for pregnant or breastfeeding women and their children from six months to four years.

The Chief Medical Officer recommends supplements for children up to the age of five and the government’s Healthy Start programme provides vitamins free for people on income support.

Currently, many brands of cereal and orange juice contain added vitamin D which helps boost daily intake.

In the USA most milk is supplemented with vitamin D, which has helped reduce deficiency, particularly in children. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is currently looking into this.

We also need to make sure healthcare professionals – including GPs, paediatricians, doctors and nurses – know the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, but more importantly give appropriate advice to patients who are ‘at risk’ to prevent problems developing.

And it’s important that the public are aware of the implications of vitamin D deficiency, where they can get supplements and how they can boost their intake.

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A good night’s sleep can help beat obesity

A good night’s sleep can help beat obesity scientists have revealed- as research suggests being overtired can make you fat.A good night's sleep can help beat obesityLack of sleep has been found to create a hormone imbalance, which increases the appetite and leads to putting on weight, it is claimed.

Even partial sleep deprivation was found to be a factor in body weight regulation, with research suggesting a good night’s sleep could have a significant impact in the fight against obesity.

Research found that over a third of Americans were obese and more than a quarter get less than six hours sleep a night.

Current obesity treatments were found to focus on changing lifestyles by promoting exercise and change in diet.

But changing an individual’s daily routine, including sleep patterns, could be a vital step in helping to shed the pounds, it is claimed.

Sharon Nickols-Richardson, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, said: “Various investigations, although diverse, indicate an effect of partial sleep deprivation on body weight management.

“The intriguing relationship between partial sleep deprivation and excess adiposity makes partial sleep deprivation a factor of interest in body weight regulation, particularly in weight loss.”

The report reviewed research papers from the past 15 years to determine the role of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance and weight regulation.

The team constructed a series of comparative tables detailing individual study populations, study designs, energy intake, energy expenditure, and measurements of the hormones ghrelin, leptin, insulin, glucose, and cortisol.

It identified a set of patterns, including reduced insulin sensitivity, increases in ghrelin, and decreases in leptin among partially sleep-deprived individuals. Changes in ghrelin and leptin influenced energy intake among the study populations.

Prof Nickols-Richardson said: “Changes in these hormones coinciding with an energy-reduced diet paired with changes in response to partial sleep deprivation may be expected to increase ghrelin and decrease leptin concentrations even further to promote hunger.”

Further research was needed to determine the effects of sleep deprivation on body composition and substrate use.

The study “Partial Sleep Deprivation and Energy Balance in Adults: An Emerging Issue for Consideration by Dietetics Practitioners” was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Reports

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/A-good-nights-sleep-can-help-beat-obesity

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Does a high fat diet damage your brain?

Eating a high fat diet can impair the function of the part of the brain that controls appetite and energy expenditure which in turn dictates our weight.Does a high fat diet damage your brain?That is the finding presented at the British Science Festival by scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health.

This may help explain why overweight people struggle to lose weight and then struggle to maintain their weight loss.

Researchers fed mice a diet high in saturated fat and sugar over 16 weeks – where 60% of their energy came from saturated fat – and compared them with mice fed a normal diet over the same period.

Using techniques such as transcriptomics and proteomics, scientists then studied genes and proteins in the hypothalamus of their brain – the part that regulates eating and energy expenditure.

They found that mice fed a high fat diet had changes to genes and proteins indicative of damage in the hypothalamus and that these changes occurred very rapidly – within weeks.

Dr Lynda Williams, Obesity and Metabolic Health Group Leader, at the Rowett, said: “The hypothalamus is a small area at the base of the brain containing neurones that control the amount of food we eat and the energy we expend.

“However this control breaks down in obesity – the system appears not to work – and we don’t really know why this happens. In our study we found that genes and proteins changed in response to a high fat diet and that these changes are normally associated with damage in the brain, indicating that damage had occurred in the hypothalamus in mice that ate a diet high in saturated fat.

“We instinctively know that eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar will lead to overweight and obesity. Our results indicate that a high fat diet can damage the areas of the brain that control energy balance and perpetuate the development of obesity. High fat and high sugar foods are energy dense foods which are highly palatable and they are very easy to overeat.”

“Our findings may also explain why some overweight people find it difficult to diet and why weight loss after dieting is so difficult to maintain. We now plan to carry out further studies that will look at whether these effects are reversible.”

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Antioxidant rich diet cuts heart attack risk

Eating lots of antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables does appear to cut the chance of having a heart attack according to research.Antioxidant rich diet cuts heart attack riskSwedish researchers estimate that eating a diet high in antioxidants – mainly derived from fruit and veg – could cut the chance of a heart attack by a quarter.

They believe that different antioxidant compounds could work together to protect the body in a much more powerful way than taking single large doses can achieve.

Specifically, the researchers found that older women ate seven fruit and vegetable portions a day, were between 20 and 29 per cent less likely to have a heart attack over a decade, than those who ate just 2.4.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances which mop up molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), better known as ‘free radicals’.

These prompt inflammation, can damage cells, and have been implicated for triggering cancer and heart disease.

The researchers assessed antioxidant intake by looking at the diets of 30,000 Swedish women aged 49 to 83 at the start of the study.

Those with the highest antioxidant intake were 20 per cent less likely to have suffered a heart attack than those with the lowest intake, after statistically adjusting for a host of factors like differences in age, weight, and whether they smoked or exercised.

Women who ate a lot of fruit and vegetables also tended to eat less saturated fat. When the researchers adjusted for intake of fats, the difference in heart attack rates rose to 29 per cent. The study did not look at overall mortality.

Dr Alicja Wolk from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who was the lead researcher, said their research contrasted with tests of single antioxidant supplements, which have largely failed to find evidence that they cut heart attacks or mortality rates.

Pamela Hannley, managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, where the report is published, said: “Although weight-loss diets abound, the few which emphasize increasing intake of fruits and vegetables actually may be on the right track.”

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Stroke sufferers are getting younger due to poor diet

Younger people are increasingly suffering strokes because of their unhealthy lifestyle according to new research.Stroke sufferers are getting younger due to poor dietThe average age of someone suffering a stroke has fallen from 71 years in 1993/4 to 69 years in 2005 and study published in the journal Neurology found.

It was also found that 13 per cent of strokes occurred in people aged under 55 in 1993/4 which increased to 19 per cent in 2005.

Study author Dr Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, said: “The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.

“Other factors, such as improved diagnosis through the increased use of MRI imaging may also be contributing. Regardless, the rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability.”

The study looked at people aged between 20 and 54 in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area of America during three separate, one year long periods between July of 1993 and June of 1994, and the calendar years of 1999 and 2005.

Dr Kissela said: “The good news is that some of the possible contributing factors to these strokes can be modified with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.

“However, given the increase in stroke among those younger than 55, younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease.”

A spokesman for the UK’s Stroke Association said: “Although this research was carried out in the US, western cultures lead very similar lifestyles and in other research parallels have often been drawn between the US and the UK.

“For these reasons it’s likely that the UK could face similar outcomes. However, a UK specific study hasn’t been carried out yet.”

Every year around 152,000 people suffer a stroke in Britain and a third are known to occur in people under the age of 65 including 400 in children.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Stroke-sufferers-are-getting-younger-due-to-poor-diet-researchers

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Red wine could help you lose weight

Drinking red wine could help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and preventing you from overeating according to new research.Red wine could help you lose weightResearchers found that when bees were fed resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, they ate less food afterwards.

While bees normally gorge themselves on sugary foods when they are freely available, those which had been fed resveratrol chose to stop eating once they had taken on enough to meet their energy needs.

They also became uninterested in diluted sugar solutions, suggesting they had become less sensitive to it, the scientists reported in the Aging journal.

Previous studies have indicated that resveratrol could also combat obesity by mimicing the effects of a low fat diet, and help prevent the onset of age-related disease.

Gro Amdam, one of the study’s authors from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said: “Because what we eat is such an important contributor to our physical health, we looked at the bees’ sensitivity to sugar and their willingness to consume it.

“Bees typically gorge on sugar and while it’s the best thing for them, we know that eating too much is not necessarily a good thing.”

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Eat eggs while pregnant to lower child’s risk of illness

Pregnant women should eat plenty of eggs and lean meat to reduce their unborn child’s risk of high blood pressure and mental health problems in adulthood, researchers claim.Eat eggs while pregnant to lower child's risk of illnessA nutrient called choline, which is found in meat, eggs, beans and broccoli, could lower the risk of the children developing stress related illnesses and chronic conditions later in life.

In future, women could even be given choline tablets in the same way folic acid is prescribed today to lower the risk of children being born with defects like spina bifida, experts said.

The researchers from Cornell University studied changes in “epigenetic markers” – chemicals which attach to our DNA and influence how our genes work – in a group of 26 pregnant women in their third trimester.

Epigenetic markers are important because they determine whether individual genes are “switched on”, meaning they work properly, or “switched off”, making them completely inert.

Some of the women were assigned to take in 480mg of choline per day through their diet and supplements – an amount just above the recommended dose – while others were given 930mg per day.

The larger dose caused more chemicals to be added to the women’s DNA, altering genes that regulate hormone activity in the body, researchers found.

Genes that regulate the production of cortisol, a hormone previously linked to lifelong risk of stress and metabolic disorders, were turned down so that levels of it in the babies’ blood were 33 per cent lower.

Prof Eva Pressman, who led the study, said mothers who suffer from anxiety and depression – conditions which raise cortisol levels – could benefit from taking choline as a protective measure.

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Obese children are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes

Researchers say obese children with high BMIs may already have up to 40% higher chance of heart disease.Obese children are more likely to have heart attacks or strokesObese children have a far higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack when they grow up than peers who have a normal weight, according to new research.

Children who are dangerously overweight may already have a 30%-40% higher chance of either suffering a stroke or developing heart disease in later life, Oxford University researchers found.

They end up with a range of risk factors for either disease, such as a thickening of the heart muscle known as left ventricular mass, which is often a sign of emerging heart disease.

“Weight, and especially obesity, has a significant effect on the risk parameters for cardiovascular disease that are present in children from age five years”, say the six academics in a paper published online in the British Medical Journal. “This effect could give them a head start on their normal and even overweight classmates for future cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke”, they conclude.

The findings are the latest graphic illustration of the medical problems associated with the sharp rise in childhood obesity in recent years. They prompted calls for GPs and practice nurses to measure children’s Body Mass Index (BMI) levels so that those who are worryingly heavy can be helped.

It is already known that obese adults are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack. The Oxford researchers sought to measure the extent of the same association for children with a BMI of at least 30. They analysed 63 previous studies published between 2000 and 2011, which examined key health indicators among 49,220 children aged between five and 15 in a number of highly developed countries.

They found that both obese and overweight children had “significantly higher” blood pressure and cholesterol levels than classmates who were of a healthy weight, especially those whose BMI was 30 or more.

Obese pupils also had much higher fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, which often indicate diabetes, which is closely associated with obesity.

“Having a body mass index outside the normal range significantly worsens risk parameters for cardiovascular disease in school-aged children. This effect, already substantial in overweight children, increases in obesity and could be large than previously thought”, say the authors, who include Matthew Thompson, a GP.

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Only one in six baby boomers retiring in good health

Only one in six ‘baby boomers’ is retiring in good health- with most succumbing to a range of conditions and diseases including high cholesterol, osteoporosis or cancer.Only one in six baby boomers retiring in good healthEven though today’s 60-somethings have benefited from the NHS and welfare state pretty much from birth, most still have at least one health problem, say Government scientists.

They found the average baby boomer – referring to those born in the years just after the Second World War – has two medical conditions.

Just over half have high blood pressure, a third are obese, and a quarter have high cholesterol.

A quarter have Type 2 diabetes or ‘pre-diabetes’, meaning they are on the cusp of fully developing the condition.

Almost one in five suffer from a mental health problem, while 12 per cent have chronic lung or throat disease.

Eleven per cent have cancer, the same proportion that has osteoporosis. In addition, 11 per cent have suffered from cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

One in six have three or more health problems.

The results are from a study of 2,661 people born in 1946, from every walk of life, whose health has been followed from birth. For this, the latest study, they were assessed between 60 and 64 years of age for 15 conditions.

The study found the origins of poor health in one’s 60s could usually be traced back to early middle age.

Dr Mary Pierce, of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, the GP who led the report Clinical Disorders in a Post War British Cohort Reaching Retirement: Evidence from the First National Birth Cohort Study said: “The babies born in the post-war period were the first generation to enjoy the lifelong benefits of the NHS and the welfare state, and have an extended life expectancy.”

Writing in the report, published in the journal PLoS One, she warned: “The health of the baby boomers as they age will dominate the work of the health and social care systems for the next three decade.”

“We might, therefore, expect this generation to be in pretty good health at retirement age.  But our research shows that medical conditions – some of which could lead to serious disability or even death ­– are common among baby boomers.”

Professor Diana Kuh, director of the unit, said some of the conditions shared “common root causes related to poor diet and inactive lifestyles”.

They argued GPs would become more and more stretched as the baby boomer generation aged, with Dr Pierce saying it made “a compelling case to invest in primary care to ease the burden on an already stretched service”.

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