Here’s how belly fat could raise your cancer risk

Belly fat may release more of a protein that can cause a non-cancerous cell to turn into a cancerous one, new research has found.

Obesity has been linked to several types of cancers including that of the breast, colon, prostate, uterus or kidney, but the new study, published in the journal Oncogene, indicated that just being overweight is not necessarily the best way to determine risk.

“Our study suggests that body mass index, or BMI, may not be the best indicator,” said lead author Jamie Bernard, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the US.

“It’s abdominal obesity and, even more specifically, levels of a protein called fibroblast growth factor-2 that may be a better indicator of the risk of cells becoming cancerous,” Bernard added.

There are two layers of belly fat. The top layer, known as subcutaneous fat, lies right under the skin. The layer under that, called visceral fat, is the one she found to be more harmful.

Bernard and her co-author Debrup Chakraborty, a postdoctoral student in her lab, studied mice that were fed a high-fat diet and discovered that this higher-risk layer of fat produced larger amounts of the fibroblast growth factor-2, or FGF2, protein when compared to the subcutaneous fat.

They found that FGF2 stimulated certain cells that were already vulnerable to the protein and caused them to grow into tumours.

Bernard also collected visceral fat tissue from women undergoing hysterectomies and found that when the fat secretions had more of the FGF2 protein, more of the cells formed cancerous tumours when transferred into mice.

“This would indicate that fat from both mice and humans can make a non-tumorigenic cell malignantly transform into a tumorigenic cell,” Bernard said.

There are several other factors released from fat, including the hormone estrogen, that could influence cancer risk, but many of those studies have only been able to show an association and not a direct cause of cancer, Bernard said.

Odisha government forms empowered committee to reduce blindness

In an effort to develop a roadmap to reduce 25 per cent of curable blindness by 2022, Odisha government has formed an empowered committee led by LV Prasad Eye Institute’s Dr Tara Prasad Das as Chairman. The committee will have 16-member and recommend standards to implement, monitor and provide oversight for seamless implementation of universal eye care programme.

Under the programme announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently, the state government has set a target to achieve 25 per cent reduction in treatable/curable blindness by 2022, a notification issued by the health and family welfare department said.

Odisha committee for blindness, Naveen Patnaik, Naveen Patnaik form committee for blindness, Blind, blindness, LV Prasad Eye Institute Odisha, Odisha news, health news, indian express newsThe panel, is represented by ophthalmologists from state-run medical colleges and experts from private eye hospitals. The panel will guide the state government to operationalise the universal eye care programme through building a cadre of skilled medical and paramedical workforce.

Official sources said, about 80 per cent of the visual impairment is curable if treated timely. The panel will recommend measures to equip primary and secondary health facilities to provide continuum of care for ophthalmic conditions, said Health and Family Welfare Secretary P K Meherda.

The committee would work for a period of five years. Besides, it would establish systems for routine screening, diagnosis and managing pre-disease conditions and advocate and design strengthening of eye care in health insurance/assurance programmes.

Dancing to your favourite beats may reverse signs of ageing

Want to stay young for long? A daily bout of physical exercise, especially dancing, can help reverse the signs of ageing in the brain as well as delay the onset of age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to a study.

It is known that physical exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity.

However, the new study demonstrated that dancing has the most profound anti-ageing effect on the brain in the elderly.

It also helps increase balance as well as improve sensorimotor, visual and vestibular information — the three involved sensory systems.

While “physical activity is one of the lifestyle factors that can counteract several risk factors and slowing down age-related decline. I think dancing is a powerful tool to set new challenges for body and mind, especially in older age”, said lead author Kathrin Rehfeld, from the German centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Germany.

Balancing is an important everyday function, crucial for social mobility. Impaired balance often results in falls, which constitute a major health risk factor with consequences both on morbidity and even mortality) as well as health care costs.

For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the team recruited elderly volunteers, with an average age of 68, who were assigned either an eighteen-month weekly course of learning dance routines or endurance and flexibility training.

The traditional fitness training programme conducted mainly repetitive exercises such as cycling or Nordic walking but the dance group were challenged with different genres such as Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance.

The results showed that both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus — region of the brain prone to age-related decline and is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s.

But “it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioural changes in terms of improved balance”, Rehfeld said.

Diet diary: Why haemoglobin levels may not be measure of iron status

If you thought that your haemoglobin levels are a measure of your iron status, think again! While haemoglobin reflects whether an individual is anaemic or not, it may or may not necessarily be an indicator of your body’s iron stores. You may have normal haemoglobin levels and still have iron deficiency, also referred to as non-anaemic iron deficiency.

Non-anaemic iron deficiency was suggested as a causative factor for diffuse hair loss in women in 1963. Since then, numerous studies have evaluated the associations between decreased iron and hair loss. Iron is stored in the body as ferritin. During early stages of iron deficiency, a decreased serum ferritin level is a sign of decreased iron stores. Ferritin accounts for 20 per cent of total iron in adults and plays an important role, both in absorption and recycling of iron, and is formed by intestinal mucosa, liver, spleen and bone marrow.

Ferritin levels are a good indication of iron storage levels. Low ferritin levels indicate depleted iron reserves, while high ferritin levels indicate inflammation and can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A higher-than-normal ferritin level may be due to any inflammatory condition, alcoholic liver disease, frequent blood transfusion or too much stored iron in the body (hemochromatosis). Hair fall, hair thinning, hair loss (alopecia) and dull lifeless hair and lightening of dark hair can be linked to low ferritin levels.

Low iron stores or ferritin have been considered a possible contributing factor in several other conditions — muscle weakness, aching joints, breathlessness or heart palpitations, difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), dry skin, sensitivity to cold temperature; pale pallor, thin, soft or brittle nails that don’t grow or may ’spoon’, ‘curl’-up or split, meaty tongue and a pale conjunctiva under the eye lids. Since iron is one of the key nutrients to ‘switch on’ cellular functions, low levels effect brain function as well. Brain fatigue, light headedness, headaches, depressed or disturbed mood (anxiety), sleep disturbances, mood alterations, increased aggressiveness, impatience, intolerance, or anxiety are common features.

Iron deficiency is also known to depress the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to infection — particularly thrush, chronic herpes, mouth ulcers or chronic ear infections. Also, thyroid, para-thyroid and adrenal gland function are also influenced by an imbalance of iron. Ammehorea (loss of menstrual cycles) is also seen with low iron stores. A poorly understood behaviour seen among iron deficient people is pica- the craving and consumption of ice, chalk, starch, clay, soil and other non-food substances.

Most common effects of low ferritin levels include heavy menstrual bleeding, crash dieting, poor diets, parasitic infections, surgeries, severe illnesses, digestive tract bleeding, emotional stress, medications, certain health conditions like malabsorption and thyroid abnormalities or hormonal changes. Hormonal changes are a common cause of low ferritin levels among females, particularly after pregnancy, following discontinuation of birth control pills or during menopause.

haemoglobin, anaemic, iron deficiency, hair loss, ironHigh doses of Vitamin A supplements, blood pressure and gout medications may interfere with iron absorption and hence cause hair loss. Excessive or prolonged intake of certain supplements including vitamins B12, D, E, zinc, calcium, copper, magnesium or chromium antagonise the absorption of iron and may contribute to iron deficiency. While these nutrients are important, supplementation with ferritin should be done with care for efficient body functioning. Interestingly, obesity and iron deficiency are the two most common nutritional disorders worldwide and studies found a higher rates of iron deficiency in obese than normal-weight individuals.

Iron rich foods include animal foods — meat, especially organ meat (liver), poultry & fish and green leafy vegetables including cauliflower greens, mustard greens, radish leaves, amaranth (chaulai), lotus stem, black gram, black sesame, seaweed, black beans, soybean, water melon, grains like quinoa and some dry fruits like dates and sultanas.

Iron is absorbed 2-3 times more efficiently when taken with foods high in vitamin C like citrus fruits (oranges, lemon, guava), amla, sprouts and some vegetables like tomatoes, cauliflower.

Sense of self-worth in kids similar to adults: Study

If you often tend to belittle your four-year-old son or daughter’s ability to do a task, think again. According to psychologists, young children may have a sense of self-worth similar to that of older kids and adults, and may become discouraged.

The findings revealed that our ability to reason about our self-worth as individuals develops early in life. Young children can think of themselves as possessing abstract traits and abilities, and they can also reason about their self-worth, which has implications for self-esteem, the researchers said.

“Young children’s self-concepts are not qualitatively different from those of older children and adults,” said Andrei Cimpian, Associate Professor at the New York University in the US.

“However, this level of maturity in reasoning about the self also means that young children can become dispirited in the face of failure and are not the undaunted optimists that previous theories have described,” Cimpian added.

It has long been thought that young children think of themselves in concrete, behavioural terms and, unlike adults or older children, are cognitively incapable of reasoning about their traits or their worth as individuals.

For the study, which appeared in the journal Child Development, the team conducted a series of studies of children ranging from four to seven years in age, where the children were asked to imagine they could not complete a task despite “trying really hard”.

children, cognitively incapable, traits, worth, self-worth, adult involvement, self-esteem, Indian express, Indian express newsIn some cases, they were told the task was easy and in others that it was difficult. The results showed that children lowered their estimation of their abilities, but not their global self-worth, when told they failed an easy, as opposed to hard, task.

Conversely, they lowered their estimation of their global self-worth, but not their abilities, when informed they failed an adult-requested (vs. self-initiated) task. Importantly, adult involvement could negatively affect self-esteem, independent of the task.

“It is therefore important for both parents and educators to understand that children may become more discouraged than we previously realised and find ways to foster a productive learning environment,” Cimpian noted.

One-fifth of women with postpartum depression keep silent

One in five or 21 per cent of new mothers who experience postpartum mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, do not disclose their symptoms to healthcare providers, a study shows.

Over 10-20 per cent of women experience significant mood disorders after childbirth, and those disorders can adversely affect the physical and emotional well-being of both mothers and children.

“Our study finds that many women who would benefit from treatment are not receiving it, because they don’t tell anyone that they’re dealing with any challenges,” said Betty-Shannon Prevatt, clinical psychologist and doctoral student at North Carolina State University.

The study found that women who were unemployed, had a history of mental health problems or were experiencing severe symptoms were more likely to not to report to doctors. Conversely, women experiencing the highest levels of stress, as well as those with the strongest social support networks, were most likely to report their symptoms to healthcare providers.

mental health problems, experiencing severe symptoms, report to doctors, anxiety, doctors, Indian Express, Indian Express newsFor the study, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, the team conducted an anonymous survey of women who had given birth within the previous three years. Survey responses showed that 51 per cent of study participants met the criteria for postpartum mood disorders.

However, more than one in five of those who experienced these did not disclose their problems to healthcare providers. “The study highlights the importance of support networks and the need to normalise the wide variety of reactions women have after childbirth,” Prevatt said.

“We need to make it OK for women to talk about their mental health, so that they can have better access to care. Working with the people around new mothers may be key,” Prevatt added.

Lack of good night sleep may up dementia risk in elderly

Older adults who get a good night’s sleep with the least disturbance and are able to dream well may be at  a lower risk of developing dementia later, a research has claimed. The study showed that spending less time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep — which is when most of our dreaming occurs — and taking longer to enter REM sleep can both raise the risk of dementia.

Each percentage reduction in REM sleep was associated with a nine per cent increase in the risk of all-cause dementia and an eight per cent increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease dementia. “Different stages of sleep may deferentially affect key features of Alzheimer’s disease. Our findings implicate REM sleep mechanisms as predictors of dementia,” said Matthew Pase, a doctorate student at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) in the US.

people with dementia,  sleep disturbance, risk,  Alzheimer, research, Indian express, Indian express newsFor the study, which appeared in the journal Neurology, the team studied 321 participants over the age of 60. It is common for people with dementia to experience sleep disturbance. However, it is unclear if sleep disturbance occurs as a consequence of dementia or if disturbed sleep is associated with the risk of dementia in the future, the researchers said.

Previous study had revealed that people who consistently sleep more than nine hours each night had double the risk of developing dementia in 10 years as compared to participants who slept for nine hours or less.

Further research is needed to determine whether REM sleep helps protect the brain from dementia or is sensitive to early brain changes that accompany dementia, the researchers suggested.

Reducing nicotine in cigarettes could curb addiction

Reducing nicotine content in cigarettes may decrease their addiction potential in vulnerable populations, says a study. The research team examined the addiction potential of cigarettes with reduced nicotine content in three vulnerable populations of smokers — individuals with psychiatric disorders (affective disorders, opioid-use disorder), and socio-economically disadvantaged women.

“Evidence in relatively healthy and socially stable smokers indicates that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes reduces their addictiveness,” said lead researcher Stephen Higgins, Professor at University of Vermont in the US.

nicotine content, smokers, vulnerable to tobacco, reducing the nicotine content, cigarette, indian express, indian express news“Whether that same effect would be seen in populations highly vulnerable to tobacco addiction was unknown,” Higgins said. The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, is “the first large, controlled study to examine the dose-dependent effects of cigarettes with reduced nicotine content on the reinforcing effects, subjective effects, and smoking topography of vulnerable populations”, according to the study’s authors.

The study ran between March 2015 and April 2016 and included 169 daily smokers, including 120 women and 49 men. “This study provides a very encouraging indication that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes would help vulnerable populations,” Higgins said.

Too much of good cholesterol bad for your health: Study

While high levels of good cholesterol have long known to be beneficial, its excess can also raise your risk of death, researchers claim. Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. However, the findings showed that people with extremely high levels of good cholesterol have a higher mortality rate than people with normal levels.

For men with extremely high levels, the mortality rate was 106 per cent higher than the normal group, while for women it was found to be 68 per cent higher.

high good cholesterol, higher mortality rate, increased risk, extremely low levels, risk of death, Indian express, indian express news“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol. Doctors have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate,” said Borge Nordestgaard, Professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

For the study, the team analysed data of 116,000 people. They were followed for an average of six years and the result showed over 10,500 deaths. On the other hand, people with extremely low levels of HDL in the blood were also at increased risk of mortality, the researchers said.

The people with medium levels of HDL in the blood had the lowest mortality. For men, this level was 1.9 mmol/L. For women, it was 2.4 mmol/L. “It appears that we need to remove the focus from HDL as an important health indicator in research at hospitals and at the general practitioner,” Nordestgaard said.

Oral steroids ineffective for chest infections in adults

Oral steroids should not be used for treating acute lower respiratory tract infection or chest infections in adults who don’t have asthma or other chronic lung disease as they do not reduce the duration or severity of symptoms, according to a new study.
“Oral and inhaled steroids are known to be highly effective in treating acute asthma as well as infective flares of other long-term lung conditions but need to be used carefully because of the risk of unwanted side effects,” said Michael Moore, Professor at the University of Southampton in the UK.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA, the team looked at 398 non-asthmatic adults with acute chest infections — but no evidence of pneumonia and not requiring immediate antibiotic treatment — who were randomly split into two groups, one receiving 40 mg of the oral steroid “prednisolone” for five days and one receiving a placebo over the same time period.

Oral steroids, side effects of steroids, oral pills, acute asthma, chest infection, antibiotic, treatment, respiratory tract infection, indian express, indian express news“We have conclusively demonstrated steroids are not effective in patients with the symptoms of chest infections, such as shortness of breath, wheeze and cough with phlegm that overlap with acute asthma,” Moore added. Moore said that alternative methods of treating chest infections should be found to reduce the amount of antibiotics being used to combat anti-microbial resistance, which is considered a global health crisis.

It does not look as if steroids are the answer, he said. “More needs to be done to find alternative treatments to antibiotics if we are to get ahead of antibiotic resistance, which is increasing at an alarming rate. Herbal remedies could have a potential role to play,” Moore noted.