In the News: Type 2 Diabetes Remission Possible With Special Diet, Intense Exercise May Help Parkinson’s Disease, Weather Not Likely To Make Bones and Joints Ache

Type 2 diabetes remission possible with a special diet. According to a study published today in the Lancet medical journal, certain people with Type 2 diabetes were able to put the disease in remission without medication by following a rigorous diet plan. One hundred and forty-nine participants with type 2 diabetes participated in the study for six years, and were monitored closely as they underwent a liquid diet (which provided only 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months). The participants were then reintroduced to solid food and maintained a structured diet until the end of the yearlong study. The researchers found that half of the participants were able to put their diabetes into remission, without medication, after one year. In addition, those who participated in the study also lost an average of more than 20 pounds. The findings are important, as diet and lifestyle are touched upon in research on diabetes remission, but the impact of cutting calories and increasing physical activity is rarely discussed. The study also offered a more universal approach to reversing diabetes compared to undergoing bariatric surgery, which can achieve remission for some people, but is considerably more expensive and comes with a greater health risk. (ABC)

Intense exercise may help Parkinson’s disease. An important new study published in JAMA Neurology looked at the effect of intense exercise on the progression of Parkinson’s Disease with adults in the early stages of the disease. The researchers recruited 128 men and women who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s within the past five years. None had started taking medications for treatment, and none regularly exercised. The researchers tested their aerobic capacity, maximum heart rates, and disease severity, using a standard numerical scale. They then divided the men and women randomly into three groups, one control group who would not exercise, one who participated in moderate exercise, and one who exercised intensely. After six months of monitoring the exercise sessions, the only group that showed no decline in the progression of the disease was the group that exercised intensely. Researchers theorize that intense exercise causes improved blood flow to the brain, which may aid overall brain health and slow deterioration. The study’s results also indicate that while gentler exercise is safe for people with Parkinson’s, it does not seem to delay the advancement of the disease. (NYT)

Weather not likely to make bones and joints ache. A study published in BMJ looked at whether an increase in humidity, rainfall, or barometric pressure can cause joint or back pain. Researchers looked at medical records of 11,673,392 Medicare outpatient visits. Matching the dates of the visits to local weather reports, they found that 2,095,761 of them occurred on rainy days. Using estimates they predicted how many of those visits were for a condition related to join or back pain, and how many of them occurred on rainy days. After controlling for age, sex, race and various chronic conditions, they found that more visits for bone and joint pain happened on dry days than wet ones. While the weather might not be causing joint pain, there might be some psychology involved; researchers say that when it’s raining and you have joint pain you might be more likely to attribute it to the weather than when it’s sunny and you have joint pain. (NYT)

In the News: Women Are Naturally Fitter Than Men, Mammograms May Not Be Useful, Exercise Can Make Body Fat Healthier

Women are naturally fitter than men. A new study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism looked at the natural fitness ability of women as compared to men. Researchers from the University of Waterloo directed women and men who were of a similar age and BMI to walk at gradually increasing speeds and inclines on a treadmill, going until they had reached 80% of their maximum heart rate. Each person wore a face mask to measure how much oxygen they used and how much carbon dioxide they produced.The results found that women adjusted to the exercise after about 30 seconds, while men took 42 seconds. Women had a 30% faster rate of processing oxygen overall, a clear advantage when it comes to physical efficiency. It’s important to remember that fitness can’t just be defined by aerobic power; how quickly a person adapts to an exercise level is really a good indicator of health and fitness. Inspired to start working out? Try these exercises. (T)

Mammograms may not be useful. Picking up early signs of disease is the best way to prevent cancer from spreading, so it is widely recommended by doctors that patients get screened for all types of cancer on a regular basis. However, a new study published in BMJ shows that mammography did little to reduce either deaths or advanced breast cancer over a period of 23 years in the Netherlands. The study involved all Dutch women who were screened with mammograms every other year between 1989 and 2012, a total of eight million women overall. Over a long period of time, there was no significant decrease in stage 2 to stage 4 breast cancers, and the mammograms designed to pick up tumors led to overdiagnosis (most of which not requiring treatment) 60% of the time. This is dangerous, as overdiagnosis of breast cancer can lead to additional biopsies and even treatments that expose women to side effects, without necessarily protecting them from cancer. To learn more about breast health, take this quiz. (T)

Exercise may create healthier fat. A new study, which was published last month in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that just a single session of exercise may change the molecular workings of fat tissue in ways that, over time, could improve metabolic health. Researchers gathered men and women who were overweight but did not have insulin resistance, then tested their body compositions and took fat samples. The researchers then had each volunteer exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike for an hour at a moderately tiring pace, and an hour later, repeated the fat biopsies. In almost all of the volunteers, the fat tissue after exercise showed greater amounts of a protein that is known to contribute to the development of more blood vessels. More blood vessels in tissue leaders to greater blood flow, which is great for metabolic health. While the changes were not enormous, they were shown to occur consistently and after a single session of exercise. With continued exercise, one could expect to improve fat health over time. (NYT)

In the News: Birth Control Pills Still Linked to Breast Cancer, Showering At Night Improves Sleep, Tylenol Use In Pregnant Women Linked to ADHD

Birth control pills still linked to breast cancer. A Danish study which tracked 1.8 million women over the course of a decade has found that birth control pills and contraceptive devices that release hormones may cause an increased risk of breast cancer. These findings reinforce previously held beliefs that hormonal contraceptive methods may lead to a higher likelihood of breast cancer. While a lot of women think that new pills and devices are safer due to a lower amount of hormones, researchers are looking into the progestin hormone which is often used these days as a potential cause for the higher risk. They have also determined that there were not many differences in terms of IUDs and pills, as they both release hormones in the body. These findings may change the way doctors approach prescribing these medications. Want to learn more about breast cancer risks and prevention? Check out this fact sheet. (NYT)

Showering at night improves sleep. Research has shown that taking showers at night can help control your body temperature and therefore help you fall asleep faster. Studies conducted by the New York’s Montefiore Medical Center report that your core temperature naturally begins to drop in the evening and remains low while you sleep. While a shower before bed will briefly heat up your skin, you’ll quickly feel colder after toweling off because, as with sweat, the evaporation of moisture on the skin leads to skin cooling. This cooling effect may facilitate the onset of sleep. The results of several studies show that body temperature plays an important part in regulating circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to feel tired or alert. Cooling down sends signals to the body when it’s supposed to go to sleep. The effects work the same way when reversed; early in the morning since you’re likely to be on the move after your shower, and your body’s circadian rhythms are driving your core temperature upwards, a shower will help you feel more awake. While you’re at it, try these five snacks to help you sleep! (T)

Tylenol use during pregnancy may increase ADHD risk. In a large study published online in Pediatrics, researchers looked at possible effects of heavy use of acetaminophen by pregnant women on the brain of a developing fetus. The study analyzed acetaminophen use during more than 100,000 pregnancies in Norway, and the risk of the child eventually being diagnosed with ADHD. Researchers looked at information collected from a Norwegian patient registry about what drugs they had taken while pregnant and analyzed which children were later given ADHD. diagnoses. They found that regardless of the medical reason the women used acetaminophen, those who reported taking it for 29 consecutive days or more during their pregnancy had children who were twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD. While the study doesn’t completely prove cause and effect, there’s enough evidence of a link to make experts think carefully about what the recommendations for pregnant women should be in the future. (NYT)

Go With Your Gut: The Basics of Digestive Health

woman-eating-exercise

Written By Toni McKinnon, AsktheScientists.com

You really should start trusting your gut. That’s because it has a huge impact on your mood, brain, and overall health.

The gut—which is a short way to say stomach, small, and large intestines—processes your diet. It absorbs the energy and nutrition you get from your food. So, without good gut and digestive health, your cells aren’t getting what they need to thrive every day.

Any discussion of gut health has to start at the microscopic level with your microbiome. This collection of bacteria and other microbes lives in your intestines and helps you process the food you eat.

It’s totally normal for the gut to be home to trillions of bacteria. There’s actually as many microbial members of your microbiome as human cells in your body. You’ll find them mostly in the large intestine and to a lesser extent in the small intestine, but not much in the stomach. The harsh, acidic environment of the stomach isn’t very inhabitable. Most of these single-celled primitive organisms are just hanging out where the food stays the longest, waiting for free meals.

But you benefit, too. Your gut bacteria help out, breaking down food. And all it costs you is a little bit of space at the Hotel Intestine and a meal.

Adding Probiotics to Your Diet

This win-win symbiotic relationship is typical. Most of the microbes (also called microflora) are harmless if they stay in the right place and in manageable quantities. Of the 40,000-plus different strains and species, there are well-studied bacteria shown to help.

We call these probiotics. And you’ve probably heard that term a lot.

There’s a definition—provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—that’s widely accepted: “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” But most people probably know probiotics as “good bacteria.”

Labeling the bacteria “good” might be going a little bit too far. Even if it’s compelling and simple, it’s not perfectly accurate to start calling some bacteria heroes and others villains. All bacteria are selfish and are just looking after themselves and their descendants. We just happen to benefit from that selfishness sometimes.

Because we do gain health benefits from some, it’s important to maintain a thriving population of bacteria shown to be helpful/useful. Probiotics can help provide reinforcements that can tip the balance of gut bacteria in a positive direction.

Research on probiotics shows ties to healthy digestion, and even healthy immune function. That makes sense because your gut contains a high concentration of immune cells that can help the good bacteria take foothold which helps to support a healthy immune system.

Not all probiotics are created equal, though. When you’re looking for one to help balance your belly, make sure to look at the research. Two of the most clinically studied strains are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.  One of the core benefits of these strains is supporting a healthy gut microbiota by making the gut environment more favorable to the healthy strains of bacteria that already live inside you, so those groups can thrive.

Other Tips for Good Gut Health

Taking a probiotic is just one way to help maintain your gut health. Lifestyle factors can play a big role. That’s because you are the environment for your microbiome, so you have the chance to influence the type of bacteria that coexist with you.

Bacteria are still living organisms, so you don’t have total control. But here are five ways to provide the best environment possible for beneficial bacteria:

  1. Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Make sure you get plenty of fiber—beneficial bacteria like it and it’s good for overall health.
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Get plenty of restful sleep.
  5. Find ways to productively deal with stress.

About the Author

Toni McKinnon RN, CCRP, & USANA’s Director of Health and Science Education

“Nurse Toni” is a Licensed Registered Nurse (RN) and a Certified Clinical Research Professional (CCRP). Toni began her career at a local trauma one hospital specializing in orthopedic nursing. She joined USANA’s department of Research and Development in May of 1996 to be a resource for health and nutrition information for customers, and to help start the human clinical research program. She has been involved in human clinical research for over 20 years and is a co-author of several scientific, peer-reviewed manuscripts. She has written numerous research-related articles on nutrition and health and has been responsible for overseeing the organization of third-party published research to support product efficacy and safety. She formally joined the Department of Health and Science Education in November of 2014. Toni is the creator of USANA’s Ask the Scientists website and the weekly Nutrition Spotlight eNewsletter. Both resources help educate consumers on the role of nutrition in health.

In the News: Breakfast Can Boost Your Metabolism, Hormonal Birth Control May Have Serious Risks, Air Pollution May Impact Bone Health

Breakfast can boost your metabolism. While there has been a great amount of evidence published supporting the benefits of breakfast, now the evidence is even stronger. In the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers asked 49 people to either eat breakfast or fast until mid-day, every day for six weeks. Before and after the study, the researchers measured everyone’s metabolism, body composition, and cardiovascular and metabolic health. The findings suggest that eating breakfast every morning may help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease by increasing the activity of genes involved in fat burning. They also found that even if a morning meal increased a person’s total calorie consumption for the day, those calories might offset by other energy-burning benefits. However, while the participants in the study ate breakfasts high in carbohydrates, the researchers cannot say conclusively if other types of breakfasts (high-protein, high-fat, etc) would have the same effects. Researchers are also looking further into how breakfast interacts with other behaviors, such as regular exercise. On the go? Here are 20 breakfasts you can make in five minutes or less. (T)

Hormonal birth control may have serious risks. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers in Denmark report that women taking hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills, the patch, the ring and hormonal IUDs, have up to triple the risk of suicide as women who have never taken hormonal birth control. Researchers analyzed a national study that tracked all women ages 15 and older who were living in Denmark from 1996-2013. They also looked at prescriptions filled for contraceptives, as well as deaths and causes of death, and compared women taking this type of birth control to women who did not have a history of contraceptive use. The risk of attempting suicide was nearly double that of women who’d never used birth control and triple that for suicide. However, don’t stop using contraceptives just yet —other scientists say the study may not have accounted for all of the potential differences in women who use contraceptives versus those who do not. For example, women using contraceptives are more likely to be in relationships, which might bring along more emotional challenges, especially in younger women. (T)

Air pollution may impact bone health. Investigators have analyzed data in a new study in Lancet Planetary Health looking at the relationship between air pollution and the risk for weakening bones. The analysis looked at two studies, one that tracked hospital admissions among nearly 10 million Medicare recipients in the Northeast over eight years. The other looked at levels of parathyroid hormone, which aids bone health, in 700 middle-aged low-income men in Boston. They found that the risk for bone fractures among people over 65 increased steadily as levels of air pollution went up. People living in locations with higher levels of air pollution, especially middle-aged men, were also found to have had lower levels of bone mineral density. The researchers compare these results to secondhand smoke, detailing that the ill effects of smoking, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and bone mineral density loss, can also be caused by air pollution. Want to boost your bone health? Try these foods. (NYT)

In the News: Marriage Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Nearly Half of Cancer Cases Are Within Our Control, Dog Owners May Live Longer

Marriage linked to lower risk of dementia. A new paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry by researchers from University College London found that people who are unmarried or widowed are at increased risk of developing dementia compared to married people. The review found that people who had never married were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia compared to married people, and widows and widowers were 20 percent more likely. The analysis used evidence from 15 previously published studies involving more than 800,000 people in Europe, North and South America and Asia. The question of why this is might be explained by similar studies, which show that people with spouses tend to be healthier than those without them. The researchers analyzed that married couples may motivate each other to exercise, eat healthfully, maintain social ties and smoke and drink less—all things that are associated with a lower risk for dementia. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about this disease. (T) 

Nearly half of cancer cases are within our control. In a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, researchers at the American Cancer Society calculated how much risk factors for cancer are within a person’s control. The study analyzed national cancer data and calculated how much of cancer cases and deaths can be attributed to factors that people can change; these included smoking, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, eating red and processed meats, not exercising, six cancer-related infections (including HPV), and more. Among more than 1.5 million cancers in 2014, 42 percent were traced to these factors, as well as 45 percent of deaths in that year. Researchers say that this should be seen as encouraging overall since it supports the idea that a good proportion of cancer cases and deaths can possibly be avoided. The hope is that these findings will encourage local, state and federal lawmakers to support more policies that reduce these risk factors, such as creating smoke-free areas and encouraging physical exercise. (T)

Dog owners may live longer. A Swedish study suggests that owning a dog is linked to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death. The study, published in Scientific Reports, used demographic data on 3.4 million Swedes ages 40 to 80, and found that owning a dog was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of death and a 23 percent lower risk of death specifically from cardiovascular disease. These results were found through the Swedish Board of Agriculture, as all dogs in Sweden must be registered and identified by number with an ear tattoo or an implanted chip. Interestingly, the effect seemed to be stronger with certain breeds, particularly pointers and retrievers. Researchers suggested that this may reflect different kinds of owners, as owning an athletic dog might be good motivation to go out and exercise, as well as providing social support. (NYT)

In the News: Leaving the House Daily Can Help Seniors Live Longer, Cinnamon Oil May Trigger Fat Burn, Cold and Flu Drug May Halt Cancer Growth

Leaving the house daily can extend seniors’ lives. A study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found that two million senior citizens rarely or never leave the house, most often due to mobility issues and other physical difficulties. Aside from having a negative impact on their physical health, staying cooped up all the time can cause damage to their mental health as well. Being confined to the house at all times can cause anxiety, depression, and mental illness. In the study, 3,375 adults between 70 and 90 years were assessed, and they found that seniors who left their homes every day had the lowest risk of death and those who rarely ever left the house had the highest risk. For more longevity tips, check out this list.(MN)

Cinnamon oil may trigger fat burn. New research from the University of Michigan indicates that cinnamaldehyde, the oil that gives cinnamon its trademark flavors, may encourage calorie burn and enhance fat metabolism. After testing on mice, they found promising results, though it’s still too early to know how this ingredient will impact people and how much is needed. While a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of oatmeal or coffee may not do the trick, experts speculate that eating it every day in one way or another can eventually have metabolic benefits. Want to learn more about adding cinnamon to your diet? Here are six surprising uses for this magic spice. (T)

Cold and flu drug may halt cancer cells. Researchers have found that N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), a common FDA-approved cold and flu medicine, may stop the growth of cancer cells by starving them of certain of proteins. When looking for an explanation, they found that NAC has antioxidant properties and that previous research showed tumors, particularly breast cancer tumors, had high levels of oxidative stress. When the tumor cells are exposed to this type of stress, they actually release a form of nutrients that cancer needs to go and thrive. With that in mind, they looked to NAC as a means of starving the cells and thus halting their development. These results show the potential for an affordable, everyday medication to stop cancer growth without the use of toxic treatments. (MN)