In the news – health and nutrition research

In this week’s article, we provide a roundup of some of the most recent health and nutrition related articles in the news, five items comprising:

  • Too much sugar? Even ‘healthy people’ are at risk of developing heart disease
  • Walking below minimum recommended levels linked to lower mortality risk
  • Losing sense of smell in later life could be early sign of dementia, scientists warn
  • Enough vitamin D when young associated with lower risk of diabetes-related autoimmunity
  • Probiotics benefit indigestion sufferers through gut microbiota normalisation


Too much sugar? Even ‘healthy people’ are at risk of developing heart disease

Healthy people who consume high levels of sugar are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

A ground-breaking study from the University of Surrey found that a subject group of otherwise healthy men had increased levels of fat in their blood and fat stored in their livers after they had consumed a high sugar diet.

The study, which has been published in Clinical Science, looked at two groups of men with either high or low levels of liver fat, and fed them a high or low sugar diet to find out if the amount of liver fat influences the impact of sugar on their cardiovascular health. The low sugar diet contained no more than 140 calories a day worth of sugar – an amount close to the recommended intake – while the high sugar diet contained 650 calories worth.

After 12 weeks on the high sugar diet, the men with a high level of liver fat – a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – showed changes in their fat metabolism that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.

The results also revealed that when the group of healthy men with a low level of liver fat consumed a high amount of sugar, their liver fat increased and their fat metabolism became similar to that of the men with NAFLD.

Read the full article via this link.

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Walking below minimum recommended levels linked to lower mortality risk

A new study concludes that walking has the potential to significantly improve the public’s health. It finds regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared to inactivity. The study appears early online in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Public health guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. But surveys show only half of U.S. adults meet this recommendation. Older adults are even less likely to meet minimum recommendations (42% ages 65-74 years and 28% ages 75 years and older).

Walking is the most common type of physical activity, and has been associated with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and breast and colon cancers. While several studies have linked overall moderate-vigorous physical activity to a reduced risk of death, relatively few have examined associations with walking specifically.

To learn more, investigators led by Alpa Patel, Ph.D., looked at data from nearly 140,000 participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. A small percentage (6-7%) in the study reported no moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity at baseline. Among the rest, about 95% reported some walking, and nearly half walked as their only form of moderate-vigorous physical activity.

After correcting for other risk factors, including smoking, obesity, and chronic conditions, the study found walking-only for less than 2 hours per week was associated with lower all-cause mortality compared to no activity. Meeting 1 to 2 times the minimum recommendation (2.5-5 hours/week) through walking-only was associated with 20% lower mortality risk. Results for those exceeding recommendations through walking-only were similar to those who met recommendations.

Walking-only was most strongly associated with respiratory disease mortality, with approximately 35% lower risk comparing more than 6 hours/week of walking to the least active group. Walking-only was also associated with about 20% less risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and with about 9 percent less risk of cancer mortality.

Walking has been described as the ‘perfect exercise’ because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age,” said Dr. Patel. “With the near doubling of adults aged 65 and older expected by 2030, clinicians should encourage patients to walk even if less than the recommended amount, especially as they age, for health and longevity.”

Read the full article via this link.

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Losing sense of smell in later life could be early sign of dementia, scientists warn

Losing the ability to smell peppermint, fish, orange, rose and leather could be an accurate early warning sign of dementia, according to a new study.

The ability of nearly 3,000 people aged 57 to 85 to detect these five odours was tested by scientists.

When they returned about five years later, almost all of the people who had not been able to name a single one of the five scents had dementia, as did nearly 80 per cent of those who gave only one or two correct answers.

However other experts said people could lose their sense of smell for other reasons with one writing that the study did not support the idea that “smell testing would be a useful tool for predicting the onset of dementia”.

One of the researchers, Professor Jayant Pinto, of Chicago University, said: “Loss of the sense of smell is a strong signal that something has gone wrong and significant damage has been done.

This simple smell test could provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify those who are already at high risk.

Of all human senses, smell is the most undervalued and underappreciated – until it’s gone.”

In the study, 78 per cent of those tested had a normal sense of smell, correctly identifying either four or five of the odours. Nearly 19 per cent got two or three out of five correct, while 2.2 per cent could only identify one and one per cent were unable to tell what any of the scents were.

These results show that the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health,” Professor Pinto said.

Read the full article via this link.

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Enough vitamin D when young associated with lower risk of diabetes-related autoimmunity

Getting enough vitamin D during infancy and childhood is associated with a reduced risk of islet autoimmunity among children at increased genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, according to a study published this week in the journal Diabetes.

The study’s lead author, Jill Norris, MPH, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz, and her co-authors examined the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and islet autoimmunity.

Islet autoimmunity, detected by antibodies that appear when the immune system attacks the islet cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, is a precursor to type 1 diabetes.

“For several years there has been controversy among scientists about whether vitamin D lowers the risk of developing of islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Norris.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease that is increasing by 3-5 percent annually worldwide. The disease is now the most common metabolic disorder in children under age 10. In younger children, the number of new cases is particularly high. And the risks seem to be greater at higher latitudes, further north from the equator.

Vitamin D represents a candidate protective factor for type 1 diabetes as it regulates the immune system and autoimmunity. Moreover, vitamin D status varies by latitude. But associations between vitamin D levels and islet autoimmunity have been inconsistent. This may be due to different study designs, population variation in vitamin D levels, or a failure to account for the combined effect of exposure and underlying genetic variation in the vitamin D pathway.

The findings are part of The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study, a large, multi-national study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Read the full article via this link.

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Probiotics benefit indigestion sufferers through gut microbiota normalisation

The Tokai University School of medicine assessed 24 Japanese patients with indigestion (functional dyspepsia) alongside 21 age-and gender-matched healthy controls to determine the effect of probiotics on gut microbiota.

Patients suffering from indigestion were treated with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus gasseri OLL2716 (LG21) in the form of 118g of yogurt daily for 12 weeks. They were then put on an overnight fast, after which gastric fluid was sampled and comparatively analysed against that of the healthy controls.

Probiotic therapy was shown to alter the composition of the gastric fluid microbiota in the indigestion patents to be on par with that of the healthy controls. To this end, probiotics “appeared effective in the treatment of functional dyspepsia through the normalisation of gastric microbiota”.

Before the treatment period, median bile acid concentration was considerably greater in those with indigestion than in the healthy controls. The study found that after the 12-week treatment period, the ratio of gastric fluid samples that contained detectable bile acids was still significantly higher among the indigestion patients than in the healthy controls.

The study hypothesised that probiotic could be an effective treatment for indigestion via the reduction of Escherichia/Shigella, a major source of toxic lipopolysaccharides in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

The study concluded that “probiotics appear effective in the treatment of functional dyspepsia through the normalisation of gastric microbiota”, but acknowledged its limitations, such as the relatively small number of samples, as well as the lack of post-treatment samples from the healthy controls.

Read the full article via this link.

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

clare@cytoplan.co.uk, 01684 310099

Clare Daley and the Cytoplan Editorial Team


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