In the News – Health and Nutrition Research

In this week’s article we provide a round-up of some of the most profound health and nutrition articles to reach the news over the past few weeks, comprising:

  • Virtual reality maze ‘predicts Alzheimer’s disease’
  • ‘Good bacteria’ key to stopping asthma
  • Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO
  • Healthy Mediterranean style diet could block brain aging
  • Immune clue to preventing schizophrenia
  • Vigorous exercise may counter cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s

Virtual reality maze ‘predicts Alzheimer’s disease’

“Alzheimer’s disease can be detected decades before onset, using a virtual reality test, a study suggests.

People aged 18 to 30 were asked to navigate through a virtual maze to test the function of certain brain cells.

Those with a high genetic risk of Alzheimer’s could be identified by their performance, according to German neuroscientists.

The findings could help future research, diagnosis and treatment, they report in the journal Science.”

“Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research, said the latest study focused on healthy younger people at higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s, suggesting they may already show alterations in spatial navigation several decades before the disease could start.

She added: “Although we don’t know whether the young people in this study will go on to develop Alzheimer’s, characterising early brain changes associated with genetic risk factors is important to help researchers better understand why some people may be more susceptible to the disease later in life.

“The risk factors for Alzheimer’s are diverse, including age, genetics and lifestyle, and research is vital to allow us to unpick how each of these factors could contribute to a person’s risk of the disease.

Full article: Virtual reality maze ‘predicts Alzheimer’s disease’

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Good bacteria‘ key to stopping asthma

“Being exposed to “good bacteria” early in life could prevent asthma developing, say Canadian scientists.

The team, reporting in Science Translational Medicine, were analysing the billions of bugs that naturally call the human body home.

Their analysis of 319 children showed they were at higher risk of asthma if four types of bacteria were missing.

Experts said the “right bugs at the right time” could be the best way of preventing allergies and asthma.

In the body, bacteria, fungi and viruses outnumber human cells 10 to one, and this “microbiome” is thought to have a huge impact on health.

The team, at the University of British Columbia and the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, compared the microbiome at three months and at one year with asthma risk at the age of three.

Children lacking four types of bacteria – Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (Flvr) – at three months were at high risk of developing asthma at the age of three, based on wheeze and skin allergy tests.”

Full article: ‘Good bacteria’ key to stopping asthma

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Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO

“Processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and ham – do cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

Meanwhile, it said red meats were “probably carcinogenic” but there was limited evidence.

The WHO did stress that meat also had health benefits.

Cancer Research UK said this was a reason to cut down rather than give up red and processed meats.

And added that an occasional bacon sandwich would do little harm.”

“Prof Tim Key, from the Cancer Research UK and the University of Oxford, said: “This decision doesn’t mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat, but if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down.

Eating a bacon bap every once in a while isn’t going to do much harm – having a healthy diet is all about moderation.

Dr Teresa Norat, one of the advisors to the WHO report and from Imperial College London, said there were many factors causing bowel cancer.

She told BBC News website: “People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre, from fruit and vegetables and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active.

Full article: Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO

Healthy Mediterranean style diet could block brain aging

“People who eat a diet rich in fish, fruits and vegetables but low in meat may end up with bigger brains and slow down the cognitive ageing process, say researchers.

The study published in Neurology, set out to test whether higher adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet is linked to bigger brain volumes, and better maintenance of brain size during the ageing process.

Led by Yian Gu from Columbia University in New York, the team scanned the brains of more than 650 people – finding that those whose diets included at least five out of nine measures of a healthy Meditteranean style diet had brain volumes that were larger than the brain volumes of people whse diets included fewer than five components.

These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of ageing on the brain simply by following a healthy”, said Gu.

Indeed, they revealed that, on average, grey matter volume was 5 milliletres greater and white matter 6.4 milliletres greater than those who did not include at least five components.”

Full article: Healthy Mediterranean style diet could block brain aging

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Immune clue to preventing schizophrenia 

“It may be possible to prevent schizophrenia by calming the brain’s immune system, say scientists.

Brain scans found an overactive immune system in patients as well as in those at high risk of schizophrenia.

The UK Medical Research Council team wants to test anti-inflammatory drugs to treat or even prevent the disease.

Other experts in the field said the study, in the American Journal of Psychiatry, was “important” and furthered understanding of the illness.

There has been mounting evidence that the immune system and inflammation play a key role in schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions.

The researchers analysed microglia, which are like the brain’s own gardeners weeding out infection but also “pruning” unwanted connections between brain cells.

A chemical dye which sticks to microglia was injected into 56 people to record their microglia activity.

The highest level was found in patients with the condition, but those deemed at high risk of developing schizophrenia also showed heightened activity levels.”

Full article: Immune clue to preventing schizophrenia

Vigorous exercise may counter cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s

“Reports at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2015 verified that women are at higher risk than men for developing Alzheimer’s, and also progress more rapidly from mild cognitive impairment to out-right dementia than men do. But not all the news was bad. A study reported at the meeting indicates that physical exercise can halt, and even reverse, the decline in people with mild cognitive impairment.

In that study, conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, 65 previously sedentary women and men with mild cognitive impairment exercised at peak capacity for at least 45 minutes four times a week for six months.

At the beginning and end of the study, researchers tested participants’ cognitive skills and examined their blood and cerebrospinal fluid for levels of tau protein—a principal component of the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the participants scored significantly higher on the cognitive tests at the end of the study than they had at the beginning. Their tau protein levels had declined substantially as well.

The results indicate that aerobic exercise is more effective than any currently approved medication in fore-stalling Alzheimer’s disease. Given women’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s, it behooves all of us to exercise as vigorously and as regularly as is deemed safe for our health. If you have any doubts about your exercise capacity, talk to your doctor.”

Full article: Vigorous exercise may counter cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s

If you have any questions regarding the health topics that have been raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time., 01684 310099

Amanda Williams and the Cytoplan Editorial Team: Joseph Forsyth, Simon Holdcroft and Clare Daley

Last updated on 29th October 2015 by cytoffice


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