Today’s Headlines: Unsaturated Fats, Ovarian Cancer and Weight Loss

Eating unsaturated fats balances weight gain. Gaining a few pounds may not seem like a big deal, but your body responds to the weight with resistance to insulin (a precursor of diabetes) and decreased blood vessel function. New research out this week has found that “unsaturated fats in the diet improved cholesterol levels despite the extra calories and subsequent weight gain.” A group of study participants increased their calories with muffins made with either saturated or unsaturated fats. “After seven weeks, each group had gained between two and three percent of their body weight, about 3.5 pounds (1.5 kilos) each, and waist girth increased by about one percent, but blood pressure did not change significantly.” When researchers looked at their blood, “the unsaturated oil group had lower cholesterol and lipid levels at the end of the study than they had at the beginning of the study. For the saturated oil group, cholesterol went up. Both groups showed signs of increased insulin resistance.” It seems that keeping your diet high in these fats is another way to protect yourself from the side effects of weight gain. (Reuters)

Researchers develop new tool for predicting ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer can be a tricky disease to detect. Its late discovery often means that it’s far more deadly than it might have been had it been found earlier. A group of researchers found a way to aggregate key data to determine how likely a finding in a woman’s abdomen is to be a cyst or a cancer. “The metric uses a combination of patient information, blood test results and ultrasound scans to predict the malignancy, type and stage of the cancer.” The tool isn’t just important for staging cancer: “It’s very important to get the pre-operative diagnosis right. If it isn’t right, the patient might have a more extensive operation than they need, for example having an ovary removed unnecessarily. That ovary removal could be a critical issue for young women in terms of fertility.” Earlier detection and better operations could shift women towards earlier stage cancer, where survival is 90%. (BBC)

When losing weight, it doesn’t matter how fast you do it. You might have heard that losing weight gradually helps you keep off the pounds, but a new study out this week has found that slow or fast, it doesn’t make much of a difference. “Despite its austerity, the extreme diet worked better for more people than the gradual diet, according to the study. Among the volunteers who made it to the end of the weight-loss portion of the study, 81% of those on the rapid plan lost at least 12.5% of their body weight. For volunteers on the gradual diet, only 62% achieved the same goal.” Despite the weight loss, gradual dieters saw better improvements in hip and waist circumference. The researchers then followed up three years later to see whether participants had regained the weight. “The net result after more than three years: Those who followed the gradual diet ended up losing 0.44 pounds more, on average, than those who followed the rapid diet.” (LA Times)

How Breakfast Changes Your Brain

cottage cheese berries

People tend to fall into one of two camps when it comes to breakfast: those who eat it and those who don’t. While some in the latter camp staunchly deny the need for breakfast, others may skip it for lack of time or energy to make it or to save a few calories. A new study out this week has found that skipping breakfast is a bad way to save calories since doing so may increase your cravings for food later in the day. Read more  »

The Shocking Increase in Heroin Deaths

drug-addiction

Heroin continues to kill.  Just how bad is it? Beyond bad, and more terrible than you have heard. The numbers should scare the shoes off of you.

According to a report last week by the feds, heroin deaths doubled from 2010 to 2012. That’s a massive spike in a short amount of time that represents a ballooning of a preexisting heroin overdose epidemic. One author of the study gives this reason for this rise: “This big increase in heroin-related deaths is directly tied to the epidemic of narcotic painkiller abuse.”  Read more  »

Getting Older? Be Careful Where You Decide to Live

older couple house

My wife and I love life in the suburbs. There’s a certain peace and tranquility in escaping from the hustle and bustle of New York City, not to mention the bonus of cheaper square footage. I know we’re not alone in our love for these areas. Today more than 50% of Americans live in the suburbs, and a new study out this week has found that number may be surging thanks to movement of those over 65.   Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Smelling Skin, Typing and Poop Pills

Smell is sensed by more than your nose. While the nose has long been thought to be the main receptor for molecules wafting through the air, it turns out other organs may be doing some sniffing. “Over the last decade or so, scientists have discovered that odor receptors are not solely confined to the nose, but found throughout body where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions.” Now researchers have found that skin is highly sensitive to smells in the air. “More than 15 of the olfactory receptors that exist in the nose are also found in human skin cells. Not only that, but exposing one of these receptors (colorfully named OR2AT4) to a synthetic sandalwood odor known as Sandalore sets off a cascade of molecular signals that appears to induce healing in injured tissue.” Skin abrasions bathed in the scent of Sandalore healed 30% faster than those without the smell, which the researchers say “could lead to cosmetic products for aging skin and to new treatments to promote recovery after physical trauma.” (NYT)

Typing on that touch screen may be hurting your shoulders. We all love our digital devices, but the changes in daily activities they’ve brought may not all be for the better. A study has found that typing on a tablet keyboard for long periods of time could cause chronic shoulder issues. “The small study found touch screen, or virtual, keyboards, which lack a feedback mechanism indicating a key has been pressed, require less typing force and finger-muscle activity than conventional keyboards. But tablet users must keep their fingers hovering above the keyboard to avoid accidentally activating the keys. That can lead to prolonged static loading in the shoulders, a form of muscle exertion caused by not moving.” In having to hold one’s hands floating above the keyboard, the forearms seemed to do less work, but shoulders end up doing more. Over time, that could lead to shoulder issues. (Fox)

Fecal transplants work well when taken as pill. The emergence of antibiotic resistance brought the blight of C. difficile infection to hospitals. The nasty bug infects the colon of some recently treated with antibiotics whose immune systems don’t work as well as they normally should. The infection can be deadly. Treatment with antibiotics has proven difficult, but researchers have shown that giving a poop enema from a healthy donor can have a 90-100% success rate when all else fails. “In a study published Saturday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers report that the same success rate can be reached by processing the healthy excrement into capsules and administering the pills by mouth.” The researchers concentrated the mixture normally given by enema into a pill that’s taken frozen. “A single treatment requires a gulp-worthy 30 pills—15 on the first day and 15 on the second. In a trial of 20 patients, it brought normal bowel health and function to 18—which is the same rate of success seen in more invasive methods.” (Washington Post)

New Research Approach May Confirm Hypothesized Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease

cell cultures

Despite the fact that millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, little is known about what causes affected individuals to descend into dementia. Two proteins called tau and beta-amyloid were thought to be involved because they were found in widespread clumps and tangles in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s, but not in those same patterns in those who didn’t have the disease. Unfortunately, it was difficult to tell whether these proteins were the culprits or if they were merely bystanders. Researchers hadn’t developed the techniques to know if they were causing death of neurons in a person’s brain directly or if they indicated a problem elsewhere, somewhat like a traffic jam shows that a car accident is somewhere up ahead. Read more  »

4 Tips to Making Behavior Changes That Stick

woman-with-goals

Whether you want to lose weight, save money or get more sleep, you’re going to have to change your current behavior to achieve your goal. Most people only think about the positive aspects that a change will bring about, but if you really want to succeed, you need to consider the downside of the choices you’re making.

I’ve taught my patients that the key to making behavior changes stick is to anticipate the obstacles ahead of time so you can problem-solve and be prepared when you hit a roadblock. And don’t forget about the positive aspects that your behavior change will bring about. You’ll need to remind yourself of those benefits to motivate you when you’re feeling challenged.

Here are four tips to make behavior changes that last: Read more  »