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Knowledge Update

Reducing salt intake may protect heart, kidney health

​London, Nov 18 (IANS) Reducing sodium intake may provide significant improvements in kidney and heart health among patients suffering from chronic kidney disease, new research has found. The study showed that in patients with chronic kidney disease, dietary sodium restriction reduced albuminuria -- an indicator of kidney dysfunction -- and blood pressure levels, whereas paricalcitol -- a vitamin D receptor activator -- in itself had no significant effect on these measures. However, the combination of paricalcitol and a low sodium diet resulted in the lowest albuminuria levels in patients. "The study found that sodium restriction provided a relatively large beneficial effect, whereas the effect of paricalcitol was small. Thus, the impact of the combined intervention was largely due to the protective effect of sodium restriction," said Martin de Borst from University Medical Center Groningen, in The Netherlands. Urinary excretion of proteins, including albumin, is an indicator of chronic kidney disease. Therapies that reduce such albuminuria can slow kidney function decline and also have beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels, the researchers said. Unfortunately, currently available therapies do not eliminate albuminuria in many patients, leaving these individuals with what is known as residual albuminuria. The findings appear in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Drinking whole-fat milk may make kids leaner

​Toronto, Nov 17 (IANS) Struggling to reduce obesity in your kid? Opt for whole milk. A new study shows drinking whole milk may make kids leaner and increase their vitamin D levels, in comparison to low-fat or skimmed milk. In the study, children who drank whole milk (containing 3.25 per cent fat content) had a body mass index (BMI) score of 0.72 units lower than those who drank one or two per cent low-fat milk. That's comparable to the difference between having a healthy weight and being overweight, said lead author Jonathon Maguire, pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital in Ontario, Canada. It may be because children who drank full-fat milk were likely to end up less hungry, making them less likely to snack on high calorie foods, the researchers explained. Further, children who drank one cup of whole milk each day had better vitamin D levels -- known to protects bones and immune system -- than those who drank nearly three times as much skimmed milk. This could be because vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning it dissolves in fat rather than water. Milk with higher fat content therefore contains more vitamin D. "Children who drink lower fat milk don't have less body fat, and they also don't benefit from the higher vitamin D levels in whole milk," Maguire said, adding "it's a double negative with low fat milk." For this study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers studied 2,745 children ages two to six years. The findings indicate a need to closely examine existing nutritional guidelines that recommend two servings of low fat (one per cent or two per cent) milk for children over the age of two to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, the researchers suggested.

Fatty food may up mental problems in children

​London, Nov 16 (IANS) Love to binge on fatty foods such as oily samosas and cheese-laden pizzas? Beware, as a new study warns that such children may be at risk of developing cognitive and psychiatric problems such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer's disease in their adulthood. According to the study, diets rich in fat deplete the levels of a key protein known as reelin which help synapses in the brain to work properly. This hampers behavioural flexibility and memory. Low levels of reelin have been associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in later life. "These changes from a young age onwards are more the result of the fatty foods themselves, and the impact they have on young brains, rather than arising from the mere fact of being obese," said Urs Meyer from ETH Zurich in Switzerland. The authors focused on a prefrontal cortex -- a brain region -- associated with the planning of complex actions and decision making, expressing one's personality and controlling one's social behaviour. Adolescents eating high-fat diets were found to have cognitive deficits due to the immature character of the prefrontal cortex during this time frame. "We saw that plasticity in the prefrontal cortex was impaired in animals fed high-fat foods during adolescence and quite remarkably we then observed that when restoring reelin levels, both synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions went back to normal," explained Pascale Chavis from the INMED Institute in France. A careful nutritional balance during this sensitive period is pivotal for reaching the full capacity of adult prefrontal functions, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal "Molecular Psychiatry".

Healthy lifestyle can reduce genetic heart attack risk

New York, Nov 14 (IANS) Following a healthy lifestyle can cut in half the probability of a heart attack or similar events even among those at high genetic risk, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin. "The basic message of our study is that DNA is not destiny," said study senior author Sekar Kathiresan, Director, Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US. The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that lifestyle factors -- not smoking, avoiding excess weight and getting regular exercise -- significantly alter the risk of coronary events. "Some people may feel they cannot escape a genetically determined risk for heart attack, but our findings indicate that following a healthy lifestyle can powerfully reduce genetic risk," Kathiresan, who is also Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said. "Many individuals - both physicians and members of the general public -- have looked on genetic risk as unavoidable, but for heart attack that does not appear to be the case," Kathiresan added. The researchers analysed genetic and clinical data from more than 55,000 participants in four large-scale studies. Each participant in the analysis was assigned a genetic risk score, based on whether they carried any of 50 gene variants that previous studies associated with elevated heart attack risk. Based on data gathered when participants entered each study, the investigators used four lifestyle factors -- no current smoking; lack of obesity, defined as a body mass index less than 30; physical exercise at least once a week, and a healthy dietary pattern -- to determine a lifestyle score, whether participants had a favourable (three or four healthy factors), intermediate (two factors) or unfavourable (one or no healthy factors) lifestyle. The researchers found that a higher genetic risk score significantly increased the incidence of coronary events -- as much as 90 per cent in those at highest risk. Each healthy lifestyle factor reduced risk, and the unfavourable lifestyle group also had higher levels of hypertension, diabetes and other known risk factors upon entering the studies, the study found.

Sitting in car for long may put infants at suffocation risk

​New York, Nov 13 (IANS) Infants and new born kids, if seated in cars for more than 30 minutes, may be at a risk of suffocation, suggests a study published in the Daily Mail. According to the study, very young babies whose neck muscles are not strong enough to stop their heads flopping forward could stop breathing. This increases the risk they will be unable to breathe -- with potentially fatal results. "There should be separate advice for very young babies. If you can avoid a journey, it's probably better to do so, restricted to no more than half an hour or so. But try to avoid unnecessary car journeys with young babies," said Peter Fleming, Paediatrician at the Bristol University. Research carried out by the researchers used a laboratory in a laboratory to replicate the effects of sleeping in a car seat during a car journey at 30mph. After half an hour in the seat, the amounts of oxygen in the blood of babies under two months old were found to have dropped 'significantly' while their heart rates increased. The authors said their findings still mean babies should travel in a properly secured child seat during car journeys -- as is required by law. But they advise that an adult should sit next to the baby to make sure the infant is breathing properly. "There have been reports of deaths of infants who have been left in a sitting position, including in car seats -- both on journeys, and when parents have used it as an alternative to a pushchair or cot for the infant to sleep in," Fleming added. Car seat makers should provide consistent information to parents to warn them of the dangers of long car journeys with very young babies, the study suggests.

Shorter sleep may increase consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks

New York, Nov 11 (IANS) People who sleep five or fewer hours a night are likely to drink significantly more sugary caffeinated drinks, such as sodas and energy drinks, according to a new study

"We think there may be a positive feedback loop where sugary drinks and sleep loss reinforce one another, making it harder for people to eliminate their unhealthy sugar habit," said Aric A. Prather, assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco.

"This data suggests that improving people's sleep could potentially help them break out of the cycle and cut down on their sugar intake, which we know to be linked to metabolic disease," Prather added.

To understand whether this is a more general pattern in the adult population, the researchers in the study published in the journal Sleep Health analysed the records of around 18,000 participants.

The study included participants' reports of how much sleep they usually got during the work week, as well as their total consumption of various beverages, including caffeinated and non-caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice, drinks with artificial sweeteners, and plain coffee, tea and water.

The researchers found that people who regularly slept five or fewer hours per night also drank 21 per cent more caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages -- including both sodas and non-carbonated energy drinks -- than those who slept seven to eight hours a night.

People who slept six hours per night regularly consumed 11 per cent more caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages. On the other hand, the team found no association between sleep duration and consumption of juice, tea or diet drinks.

"Sleeping too little and drinking too many sugary drinks have both been linked to negative metabolic health outcomes, including obesity," Prather added.

Enhancing the duration and quality of sleep could be a useful new intervention for improving the health and well-being of people who drink a lot of sugary beverages, the study suggests

Healthy lifestyle improves brain function

​London, Nov 10 (IANS) If you exercise before work, or forego fried food for fruits and salads, you can expect brain functions to improve over time, according to a new study.

Living a healthier lifestyle could increase executive function, which is the ability to exert self-control, set and meet goals, resist temptation and solve problems, the study said.

"People who make a change to their health behaviour, like participating in physical activity, eating less processed food, or consuming more fruits and vegetables, can see an improvement in their brain function over time and increase their chances of remaining healthy as they age," said one of the researchers Julia Allan from University of Aberdeen in Britain.

The researchers analysed the relationship between physical activity and executive function, adjusting for other variables such as age, gender, education, wealth and illness and found evidence that the relationship between the two is bidirectional.

Specifically, individuals with poor executive function showed subsequent decreases in their rates of participation in physical activity and older adults who engaged in sports and other physical activities tended to retain high levels of executive function over time.

Researchers noted that while the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, focused on physical activity and its relationship to executive function, it is likely a positive feedback loop also exists between executive function and eating nutritious foods.

Similarly, it is likely that negative feedback loops also exist, in that unhealthy behaviours such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol will be both a result of and a predictor of declining executive function, the researchers said.

Smartphone use near bedtime may lead to poor sleep

​New York, Nov 10 (IANS) If you want to improve your sleep, better cut down on smartphone use near bedtime, suggests a new study that found longer average screen-time is associated with poor sleep quality and less sleep overall.

Poor sleep is associated with health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and depression.

"Exposure to smartphone screens, particularly around bedtime, may negatively impact sleep," the study said.

For the study, Matthew Christensen from the University of California - San Francisco, US, and colleagues sought to test the hypothesis that increased screen-time may be associated with poor sleep by analysing data from 653 adult individuals across the US.

Participants installed a smartphone application which recorded their screen-time, defined as the number of minutes in each hour that the screen was turned on, over a 30-day period.

They also recorded their sleeping hours and sleep quality.

The researchers found that each participant totalled an average of 38.4 hours over this period, with smartphones being activated on average for 3.7 minutes in each hour.

Longer average screen-time was associated with poor sleep quality and less sleep overall, particularly when smartphones were used near participants' bedtime, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Chronic health may reduce social participation in the middle-aged

​Ottawa, Nov 10 (IANS) Middle-aged adults suffering from arthritis, heart diseases, diabetes and depression are more likely to experience disability and limited involvement in society, a study has found.

According to the study, physical and mental chronic conditions, alone and in combination, were strongly associated with disability and social participation restrictions.

However, the impact of these combinations of conditions differed by gender and age.

"What this research shows is that depending on your age and sex, the specific chronic diseases most highly associated with disability in the population differ," said Lauren Griffith, Associate Professor, McMaster University in the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study found that arthritis was consistently associated with disability for men and women across most age groups. In middle-aged adults (45-54 years), depression and arthritis were most often associated with disability and social participation restrictions, especially in women.

Compared to women, combinations of chronic conditions that included diabetes and heart disease were stronger drivers of disability in men, especially in the younger age group (45-54 years).

To conduct the study, the research team analysed population-based data from more than 15,000 participants aged 45 to 85 years.

While the association between single chronic conditions and disability is well documented, there is little research examining the combination of both physical and mental chronic conditions on disability and social participation.

The researchers concluded that knowing which chronic conditions are associated with greater disability and social participation limitations may help clinicians to target treatment strategies for patients.

Your love for sugary beverages may cause prediabetes

​New York, Nov 10 (IANS) Individuals who regularly consume sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, colas and other carbonated beverages, and non-carbonated fruit drinks such as lemonade and fruit punch, may be at an higher risk of developing prediabetes, new research has revealed.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes. If diagnosed early, it is reversible through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

"Our results suggest that high sugar-sweetened beverage intake increases the chances of developing early warning signs for Type 2 diabetes," said Nicola McKeown, Associate Professor at the Tufts University, Massachusetts in the US.

"If lifestyle changes are not made, individuals with prediabetes are on the trajectory to developing diabetes," McKeown added.

The findings showed that adults who drink a can of soda per day or a median of six 12 fluid ounce servings a week are at 46 per cent higher risk of developing prediabetes.

Further, the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages had nearly eight per cent higher insulin resistance scores, compared to low- or non-consumers.

On the other hand, diet soda -- defined as low-calorie cola or other carbonated low-calorie beverages -- intake was found with no associations with risk for either prediabetes or insulin resistance, the study said.

However, and further studies are needed to reveal the long-term health impact of artificially sweetened drinks, the researchers noted.

Intake of sugar-sweetened beverage should be limited, or replaced with healthier alternatives such as water or unsweetened coffee or tea, McKeown recommended.

For the study, the researchers analysed 1,685 middle-aged adults over a period of 14 years, who did not have diabetes or prediabetes during an initial baseline examination.

The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.