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Knowledge Update

Pokemon Go's health benefits are moderate, short-lived: Study

New York, Dec 14 (IANS) Claimed to boost physical activity levels and promote public health, augmented reality game Pokemon Go's health benefits are just moderate as well as short-lived, researchers say. Pokemon Go is a smartphone-based game that projects graphics onto the real world and has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch in July 2016 in many countries. The findings showed that the game improves physical activity such as walking only moderately, and the effect is lost in a matter of six weeks. The first week of installation saw that the daily average steps increased by 955 additional steps. However, the number of steps gradually decreased over the following five weeks and by the sixth week the number had returned to pre-installation levels. "Our results indicate that the health impact of Pokemon Go might be moderate. Even if smaller amounts of physical activity might also be important for health outcomes, the increase in steps from Pokemon Go, as with many physical activity interventions, was not sustained over time," said Katherine Howe from Harvard University. The results remained the same even after accounting for a number of factors that may have influenced the findings, such as age, sex, race, weight status, and walkability of the area of residence, the study reported. "Over a six-week period one can do a lot to increase physical activity. We just have to be more creative about finding ways to get people to keep exercising," the researchers said. Further, the effect of Pokemon Go on physical activity might be different in children, and there might also be other potential benefits associated with the game, such as increased social connectedness and improved mood, they added. For the study, published in the journal BMJ, researchers conducted an online survey of 1,182 participants, out of which 560 between the age of 18-35, reported playing Pokemon Go.

Running is actually good for knee joints: Study

New York, Dec 11 (IANS) Contrary to popular perception, running actually reduces inflammation in knee joints and slows the process that leads to osteoarthritis, a study said. "This idea that long-distance running is bad for your knees might be a myth," said study co-author Matt Seeley, Associate Professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University in Utah, US. In the study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the researchers measured inflammation markers in the knee joint fluid of several healthy men and women aged 18-35, both before and after running. The researchers found that the specific markers they were looking for in the extracted synovial fluid -- two cytokines named GM-CSF and IL-15 -- decreased in concentration in the participants after 30 minutes of running. When the same fluids were extracted before and after a non-running condition, the inflammation markers stayed at similar levels. "What we now know is that for young, healthy individuals, exercise creates an anti-inflammatory environment that may be beneficial in terms of long-term joint health," said study lead author Robert Hyldahl from Brigham Young University. Hyldahl added the study results indicate running is chondroprotective, which means exercise may help delay the onset of joint degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis.

Suffering from mental illness? Adopt a pet

​London, Dec 11 (IANS) For individuals suffering from various mental illness, pets can provide them with unconditional support as well as help manage stigma, a research suggests. The study found that the consistent presence and close physical proximity of their pets can provide an immediate source of calm and therapeutic benefit for people with mental health conditions. "The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgement," said lead author Helen Brooks from University of Manchester in Britain. For 60 per cent of study participants, pets played a central role in the social networks of people managing a long-term mental health problem. "Pets were also considered particularly useful during times of crisis. Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which they were often not receiving from other family or social relationships," Brooks added. According to the participants, one reason for this was that their pet helped by distracting them from symptoms and upsetting experiences such as hearing voices or suicidal thoughts. Participants from the study were quoted as saying: "I felt in a sense that my cat was familiar, in that he understood or was an extension of my thoughts." However, despite the identified benefits of pet ownership, pets were neither considered nor incorporated into the individual care plans for people with mental conditions, the researchers said, suggesting that pets should be considered a main source of support in the management of long-term mental health problems. For the research, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, the team interviewed 54 participants, aged 18 and above, who were under the care of community-based mental health services and had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness.

You ruin the fun when you schedule leasure activities

New York, Dec 11 (IANS) Aiming for a weekend getaway? Do not chalk out events, it may spoil the fun as it may seem like another work. According to researchers, scheduling a leisure activity like seeing a movie or taking a coffee break at a specific time led people to anticipate less enjoyment and actually enjoy the event less than if the same activities were unplanned. "People associate schedules with work. We want our leisure time to be free-flowing," said Selin Malkoc, Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University in the US. However, that does not mean one should not plan at all. The research showed that roughly planning an event (but not giving a specific time) led to similar levels of enjoyment as unplanned events. "Time is supposed to fly when you're having fun. Anything that limits and constrains our leisure chips away at the enjoyment," Malkoc added. In the study, the team analysed 13 separate studies that looked at how scheduling leisure activities affects the way we think about and experience them. In one study, college students were given a calendar filled with classes and extracurricular activities and asked to imagine that this was their actual schedule for the week. Half of the participants were then asked to make plans to get frozen yogurt with a friend two days in advance and add the activity to their calendar. The other half imagined running into a friend and deciding to get frozen yogurt immediately. Results showed that those who scheduled getting frozen yogurt with their friend rated the activity as feeling more like a "commitment" and "chore" than those who imagined the impromptu get-together. "If you schedule leisure activities only roughly, the negative effects of scheduling disappear," Malkoc said. "People don't want to put time restrictions of any kind on otherwise free-flowing leisure activities," she noted, in the paper published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Men like to 'show off' while eating at social gatherings

​New York, Dec 6 (IANS) If you're a man, gorging on delicious delicacies at a holiday meal or friend's BBQ might have more to do with your ego than the quality of the food. According to a new study, men are at particular risk of overeating in social situations even when there is no incentive to do so, but opportunities for them to "show off". "Even if men aren't thinking about it, eating more than a friend tends to be understood as a demonstration of virility and strength," said Kevin Kniffin from Cornell Food and Brand Lab, a US-based non-profit research firm. For the study, researchers recruited college aged students of similar weight to participate in either a competitive chicken wing eating challenge with cheering spectators, or a competitive chicken wing eating challenge with no spectators. The prize for eating the most chicken wings was a worthless plastic medal, but competitors still ate about four times more food than normal. Men who ate in front of spectators ate 30 per cent more than those without spectators and described the experience as challenging, cool and exhilarating. Women, on the other hand, ate less with spectators than without them and described the experience as slightly embarrassing, the researchers said. "Focus on your friends and not the food," noted Brian Wansink, Director from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "If you want to prove how macho you are, challenge your friend to a healthy arm wrestle instead of trying to out-eat him," Wansink said, in the paper published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Handful of nuts daily cuts risk of heart disease, cancer

​London, Dec 5 (IANS) Eating at least 20 gram of nuts a day -- equivalent to a handful -- can reduce the risk of a wide range of diseases including heart disease and cancer, new research has found. Handful of nuts daily can cut people's risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 per cent, their risk of cancer by 15 per cent, and their risk of premature death by 22 per cent, the study said. The study included all kinds of tree nuts, such as hazel nuts and walnuts, and also peanuts -- which are actually legumes. The results - published in the journal BMC Medicine - were in general similar whether total nut intake, tree nuts or peanuts were analysed. What makes nuts so potentially beneficial is their nutritional value, said study co-author Dagfinn Aune from Imperial College London. "Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats -- nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels," Aune said. "Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk," Aune explained. The research team analysed 29 published studies from around the world that involved up to 819,000 participants, including more than 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and more than 85,000 deaths. While there was some variation between the populations that were studied, such as between men and women, people living in different regions, or people with different risk factors, the researchers found that nut consumption was associated with a reduction in disease risk across most of them. "Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time," Aune said. The study also found that if people consumed on average more than 20 gram of nuts per day, there was little evidence of further improvement in health outcomes.

Sleep loss takes a toll on your heart

​New York, Dec 3 (IANS) Short-term sleep loss due to long working hours may adversely affect your heart function, a study has warned. People who work in fire and emergency medical services, medical residencies and other high-stress jobs are often called upon to work 24-hour shifts with little opportunity for sleep. "For the first time, we have shown that short-term sleep deprivation in the context of 24-hour shifts can lead to a significant increase in cardiac contractility, blood pressure and heart rate," said study author Daniel Kuetting from University of Bonn in Germany. For the study, Kuetting and colleagues recruited 20 healthy radiologists, including 19 men and one woman, with a mean age of 31.6 years. Each of the study participants underwent cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging with strain analysis before and after a 24-hour shift with an average of three hours of sleep. The researchers also collected blood and urine samples from the participants and measured blood pressure and heart rate. Following short-term sleep deprivation, the participants showed significant increases in blood pressure and heart rate. "The study was designed to investigate real-life work-related sleep deprivation," Kuetting said. As people continue to work longer hours or work at more than one job to make ends meet, it is critical to investigate the detrimental effects of too much work and not enough sleep. The results of this pilot study are transferable to other professions in which long periods of uninterrupted labour are common, Kuetting said. "These findings may help us better understand how workload and shift duration affect public health," he noted. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.

Be creative to beat anxiety over death

London, Dec 2 (IANS) Individuals with high levels of creative ambition and achievement are likely to be more resilient to death concerns, as creative achievements can act as buffer against anxiety over death, researchers have said. In a study, students with a record of creative achievement, coupled to high levels of creative goals, were found to make less death associations in their thought processes after thinking about their own demise in comparison to those with low levels of creativity. In comparison, among those with low levels of creative goals -- whatever be their record of creative achievement -- thinking about their own mortality were found to make more death associations in their thought processes. The findings suggested that those who pursue creativity and produce significant creative contributions may benefit from existential security -- the feeling that survival is secure -- in the face of death, said Rotem Perach, postgraduate researcher at the University of Kent, in Britain. In addition, creative people are often thought to be motivated by the desire to leave an enduring cultural legacy. Their creative achievement may be an avenue for symbolic immortality, or in other words, individuals who value creativity continue to live on in our culture even after passing away, the researchers noted. The researchers analysed a group of 108 students to understand the anxiety-buffering functions of creativity among people for whom creativity constitutes a central part of their cultural worldview, the paper published in the Journal of Creative Behavior.

Why could men be more at risk of diabetes?

​London, Dec 2 (IANS) Men accumulate more iron than women making them prone to Type 2 diabetes, researchers said. Two-fifth of men as compared to one-fifth of women were at risk. Iron is a micronutrient that is required in the formation of some essential body proteins and enzymes, like haemoglobin, cytochromes and peroxidase. However, it is harmful when stored in excess in the body. It promotes the release of free radicals that damage the secretion capacity of beta cells of pancreas to produce insulin. It also decreases insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues and organs involved in glucose metabolism, the study said. The study, led by Alex O. Aregbesola from University of Eastern Finland, showed that men have 61 per cent higher prevalence and 46 per cent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes when compared with women. Excess body iron accumulation is a known risk factor of Type 2 diabetes in hereditary hemochromatosis -- a disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet. However, the study showed that even mildly elevated body iron contributes to the prevalence and incidence of Type 2 diabetes. This excess iron was found to disturb the glucose metabolism in the body. On the other hand, moderate iron stores were found safer than depletion toward iron deficiency. Iron depletion toward deficiency did not offer protection against Type 2 diabetes. The type of association between iron stores and the risk of Type 2 diabetes showed that the risk was lowest on moderate levels, the researchers said. "This study provides a new body of evidence that mildly elevated body iron is an important risk factor of glucose metabolism derangement, which contributes to the increase in the prevalence and incidence of Type 2 diabetes," Aregbesola said, in the paper published in the journal Annals of Clinical Biochemistry.

No play makes your son a dull boy: Study

​London, Dec 1 (IANS) Is your son in primary school showing poor reading and maths skills? Blame it on the sedentary lifestyle, suggests a study. The study showed that adolescent boys spending less time in physical activity and more hours in sitting idle are prone to show poor academic skills. "Boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through Grades 1-3," said Eero Haapala from the University of Eastern Finland. On the other hand, increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time, may improve academic achievement, the researchers said. It could improve reading skills amongst boys in Grades 1-3. This was also associated with better arithmetic skills among boys in Grade 1. However, in girls, there were no such strong and consistent associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading or arithmetic skills, the study observed. For the study, the team investigated the longitudinal associations of physical activity and sedentary time with reading and arithmetic skills in 153 children aged six-eight years in Grades 1-3 in primary schools. The study was recently published in the Journal of Science and Medicine and Sport.