Today’s Headlines: Tango, Snacking and Caffeinated Underwear

The tango can help those with Parkinson’s disease. It seems knowing how to match your feet to the music is useful for more than just looking good at parties. New research out this week has found that patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) enrolled in a two-year program where they were taught the tango saw improvements in their symptoms and balance. According to the authors, “participation in community-based dance classes over 2 years was associated with improvements in motor and nonmotor symptom severity, performance on activities of daily living, and balance in a small group of people with PD. This is noteworthy given the progressive nature of PD and the fact that the control group declined on some outcome measures over 2 years.” Tango has been shown in other studies to improve self-esteem, memory and motor coordination. (Washington Post)

Snacking as a meal replacement is on the rise. Normally, it’s snacking between meals that we try to avoid. But new data from global surveys has revealed that snacks are also becoming a meal replacement. “The study revealed people are frequently replacing snacks with meals. Globally, 45 percent of people admit to snacking instead of eating a meal—52 percent of those snack for breakfast, 43 percent snack for lunch, and 40 percent snack for dinner.” While most people eat savory snacks, the kind varies from place to place. “People in the United States and Middle East are enjoying more meat snacks, with dried meat and jerky sales surging 15 percent and 25 percent, respectively. In Europe, sales of dips, including salsa and hummus, rose 6.8 percent, while in Latin America crackers, rice cakes and pita chips sales spiked 21 percent. People in Asia-Pacific countries indulged in dairy products with sales of yogurt, cheese and pudding increasing 6.4 percent.” The researchers hope these findings push individuals to seek out healthier options while also encouraging snack producers to make their snacks more nutritious. (NBC)

Caffeine in your underwear is useless for weight loss. The claims from several companies selling weight-loss clothing with caffeine have been found to be bogus and misleading by the FTC. US regulators have ruled that producers of underwear, girdles and leggings laced with caffeine need to pull their ads and refund money to consumers. “The Federal Trade Commission said Wacoal America and Norm Thompson Outfitters, which owns Sahalie and others, were accused of deceptive advertising that claimed their caffeine-impregnated clothing would cause the wearer to lose weight and have less cellulite.” The ruling was made after the companies were found to have no evidence for any of the claims made. Per the FTC, “If someone says you can lose weight by wearing the clothes they are selling, steer clear. The best approach is tried and true: diet and exercise.” (Fox)

How Exercise Can Help Prevent Depression

running woman exercise We’ve all heard of the runner’s high as that addictive “second wind” that hits exercisers whose brains start to release brain-made opioids. But it seems there are other ways exercise can change the chemistry of your brain. A new study out this week has found that muscles may be producing chemicals that can play a direct role in how well the brain clears out old chemicals and, as a result, how likely you are to develop depression. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Varicose Veins, Overweight Eaters and Prescription Drugs

Laser treatment may be the way to go for varicose veins. Many older adults suffer from unsightly varicose veins that result from decades of trying to push blood against the force of gravity. A new study looking at laser treatment, foam injection and surgery has found that “all three treatments reduced symptoms associated with varicose veins, but there were fewer complications after laser treatment…In the study, about 1 percent of patients who underwent treatment with a laser experienced complications such as lumpiness, skin staining and numbness. About 6 percent of those who received the foam treatment, and 7 percent of those who underwent surgery experienced such complications.” While all decisions about which treatment to get should be individualized, the study provides more information about how the treatments compare. (Fox)

Eating with someone overweight may make you eat more. It seems our attitude toward food isn’t the only thing that determines how much we eat. New research out this week found that eating with someone who is either overweight or appears to be overweight can influence what a person chooses to eat and how much of it. Participants ate with an actress either wearing a fat suit or not and were given the option of salad or pasta. “Even when the overweight person ate salad, her meal companions loaded up. When participants ate with overweight eating companions, regardless of what she served herself, participants ate more pasta. They ate less salad even if the overweight person ate more salad.” The researchers surmise that just eating with someone overweight may decrease motivation to eat healthy regardless of what the other person is eating. The goal is obviously not to avoid overweight companions when going out to dinner, but “to be more mindful of how much we’re consuming” and what influences our choices. (NBC)

Saturday is National Prescription Take-Back Day. If old medications have been hogging the space in your medicine cabinet, you’re in luck. While many medications can be taken back at pharmacies, controlled medications like opioids can’t currently be returned. “Unused and expired prescription drugs sitting in medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers everywhere adds to the growing problems of accidental poisoning in children, drug addiction and overdose, as well as illegal possession and sales of controlled substances. Additionally, chucking that old bottle of pills in your garbage can is unsafe for the environment.” The take-back program will take place nationwide from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, at locations found here. (CBS)

Genes for Flavor May Be Associated with Alcohol Consumption

women drinking at bar together

When you go out for drinks with friends, you probably assume that a sip of whiskey burns just as much in your friend’s mouth as it does in yours. As it turns out, that may not be the case. A new study has found that certain genes related to flavor may influence how much a person likes or doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. The researchers looked at three genes, two related to the flavor of bitterness and one related to burning sensation. The genes were chosen because they had previously been found to be related to alcohol consumption, but how exactly they were involved was unknown. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Hospital Gowns, Probiotic Chicken and Conscientious Partners

You should ask if you need that hospital gown. Donning the hospital gown has become a dreaded requirement for most entering the hospital or even just getting a quick check-up. New research suggests that as many as 50% of those putting on the gowns may not actually need to lose the pants for it, though. The researchers looked at how often patients put on gowns with nothing but undergarments and then asked doctors whether they thought having pants off under the gown was needed for the exam. “The results showed that only 11 percent of the patients wore lower-body clothing beyond undergarments. Although the doctors said that 56 percent of the patients could wear pants without causing a medical problem, only 25 percent of these patients actually did so, according to the findings.” Given that the majority of those surveyed would prefer to wear pants, the findings could help improve hospital visits for patients. (Fox)

Your chicken might soon be taking probiotics. The meat industry has come under increasing pressure to lay off the antibiotics, which many use to increase the growth of their animals while also warding off infection. The problem is these antibiotics can end up in the food supply and can also contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. “To keep its chickens disease-free, Perdue Farms is giving the livestock fewer antibiotics—but more probiotics. The poultry giant believes probiotics, or ‘good bacteria,’ will fend off the harmful kind that might otherwise take up residence in its birds.” The company is saying antibiotics will now only be used to treat birds that are sick. (TIME)

Finding a conscientious mate may help your career. While the risk-taking rule-breakers may be exciting to be with, there are some real advantages to relationships with the more reliable rule-followers. It seems one of those benefits might be better job attainment. Researchers “found a connection between having a conscientious spouse and a higher likelihood of pay increases, job promotions and generally just being more satisfied at work. Conscientious people, according to how the researchers measured it, follow rules, work hard and are reliable, predictable and able to control their impulses.” The authors cite several possible reasons for the work benefits. These spouses are more likely to share day-to-day responsibilities, serve as a good role model for their partner and increase happiness in the relationship by being more dependable. (Washington Post)

Stress May Be Worse for the Obese Than Those of Normal Weight

stressed woman at desk

We’ve long been told that too much stress is bad for our health. Living under the burden of stress for extended periods of time can increase your blood pressure, worsen coronary artery disease and lead to heart rate irregularities, not to mention the psychological toll it takes. While the exact ways stress influences your physical health aren’t all completely known, hormones that coordinate how your body responds to stressful situations are likely involved. A new study has now revealed that how much you weigh may influence how high those hormones go. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Artificial Sweeteners, Cervical Cancer and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Artificial sweeteners may be messing with your blood sugar. Zero-calorie alternatives to sugar have become the mainstay of those looking to lose weight while maintaining sweetness. But a new study in mice has found that “artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes.” The researchers looked at blood sugar measurements and the microbes in the intestinal tract of the mice to see if the sweetener versus regular sugar would affect either of them. “The group of mice getting artificial sweeteners developed marked intolerance to glucose,” with their blood glucose spiking early and falling slowly. “When the researchers treated the mice with antibiotics, killing much of the bacteria in the digestive system, the glucose intolerance went away.” In further experiments, the researchers found that bacteria from humans who regularly consume artificial sweeteners create the same glucose intolerance in the mice. It is unknown at this time how bacteria influence glucose tolerance. (NYT)

There may soon be a urine test for cervical cancer. Currently, women at risk for cervical cancer have to undergo periodic Pap smears to test for possible cervical cancer. This is often accompanied with a test for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer and now prevented with the HPV vaccine. New research is now showing that “testing urine for HPV has good accuracy when compared to testing samples taken from the cervix for HPV.” A major advantage of the test is that “it could be done at home, and then interpreted by medical professionals.” As screening rates have declined, researchers are looking for new ways to try and make it easier for women to be screened. While the test wouldn’t replace the Pap smear or HPV test in many cases, “it could also be a boon in settings where more traditional means of screening for cervical cancer are difficult due to cultural resistance to gynecologic exams.” (CBS)

Smoking and salty foods may both contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is a long-known risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a debilitating and painful degenerative joint disease that affects more than a million Americans. But a new study has found that the amount of salt a person consumes may play a role, too. “Researchers set out to see if a salty diet might be linked to the onset of RA, but found a connection only among smokers–who were more than twice as likely as anyone with a low-salt diet to develop the condition.” They found that those smokers with the lowest salt consumption had similar rates of RA to nonsmokers. “More research is also needed to identify the biological pathways through which sodium intake can affect smoking as a risk factor. The study provides the first evidence in rheumatoid arthritis that sodium intake may influence risk for onset of the disease.” (Reuters)

Today’s Headlines: Leg Pain, Tooth Decay and Commuting

Chiropractic care might help your leg pain. Chiropractic is a widely used therapy for a variety of chronic pains. But the evidence for its efficacy has always been conflicting. A new study out this week has found that it could be helpful in the treatment of back-related leg pain. The researchers have found that “people with leg pain related to back problems had more short-term relief if they received chiropractic care along with exercise and advice, rather than exercise and advice alone.” The benefits weren’t only seen in the short term. “Nine months after the treatment ended, patients who received chiropractic therapy were still doing better than the other group in terms of global improvement, medication use and satisfaction.” According to the authors, “Spinal manipulation combined with home exercise may be worth trying for those with back-related leg pain that has lasted more than four weeks.” (Reuters)

Tooth decay mostly from having too much sugar. Only recently have doctors appreciated how important the health of your teeth is to overall well-being. The best way to keep those pearly whites may be to avoid sugar in your diet. A new report just released has said that “sugars are the only cause of tooth decay in kids and adults.” According to the researchers, “only 2% of people at all ages living in Nigeria had tooth decay when their diet contained almost no sugar, around 2g per day. This is in stark contrast to the USA, where 92% of adults have experienced tooth decay [and adults consume large amounts of sugar].” While the authors note that fluoride in water and toothpaste has helped stave off some tooth decay, it’s not enough to protect a person over the course of their life. They say that “this means it is now even more important to develop a radical prevention policy with a marked reduction in sugar intake.” (TIME)

Walkers and bikers are happier commuters. Getting to work on foot or two wheels is obviously a good workout for the muscles, but new research indicates it’s good for our brain, too. Researchers found that “daily commuters who stopped driving to work and started walking or riding a bike were under less stress and were able to concentrate better.” Public transportation also had benefits, but they weren’t as pronounced as those with walking and cycling. According to the authors, “commuters reported feeling better when traveling by public transport than when driving. You might think that things like disruption to services or crowds of commuters might have been a cause of considerable stress but buses or trains also give people time to relax, read, socialize and there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station.” Those who spent the most time commuting in cars felt the worst. (CBS)

Lower Activity in One Part of the Brain Affects Food Craving and Consumption

fridge with food

Snack cravings can strike at any time, and resisting the urge can be challenging. New research this week indicates that a specific part of your brain plays a significant role in whether or not you end up reaching for the snacks. The study enrolled 121 women who all professed to strong and frequent cravings for chocolate and potato chips. The researchers were interested in knowing how different parts of the brain might influence a person’s inclination to snack on these foods, with the ultimate goal of figuring out how certain brain circuits might influence eating habits that can lead to obesity. Read more  »