Work stress upping biscuit intake

Reaching for a bit of cake when you feel blue or tucking into some ice cream when you’re getting over heartbreak is nothing new, but a new survey suggests stress is causing people to turn to food in unprecedented numbers.

According to a team at market research company Mintel, as many as one in three workers feel so stressed about their job they use calorific food like doughnuts and biscuits to cope. Things are particularly bad in the 35 to 44 age bracket, with one in four feeling so worried about deadlines they dip into fatty and sugary snacks.

The study also found people tend to see food as an instant way to help with stress, so use it more regularly than exercise or instead of talking over their problems. On top of this, four in 10 fathers put their career above their family, with one in four mothers doing the same. It’s thought this is in part because of money worries and the desire to provide for children.

“Eating comfort food is the number one thing working Brits have done to tackle work stress in the past 12 months with 33 per cent of workers saying they’ve done this, followed by 30per cent who have turned to alcohol and one in seven – 15 per cent – who have smoked or vaped,” the Mintel team explained.

It seems stress is a very real problem, with 70 per cent of those spoken to admitting they’ve suffered from it.

There is hope on the horizon though, with 29 per cent of people stating exercise has helped them overcome stress. Others confided in friends and family, while seven per cent turned to a professional for help with coping.

It’s thought part of the problem are the hours people are working, which have been extended more and more over the years. Almost of half of people check or answer work email when they are out of the office too, which means they don’t have time to switch off and are also working more hours than required.

One in ten people don’t bother taking a lunch break either, with two in five doing so a couple of times a week.

“Rising work pressures are having a detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing,” senior consumer lifestyle analyst at Mintel, Ina Mitskavets, warned.

“But this presents forward-thinking companies with opportunities to come up with creative ways of encouraging employees to embrace a healthier balance, which could result in greater staff retention and loyalty.”

Some of the suggestions are that workers should be banned from checking email after hours or that companies should partner with gyms to offer low-cost membership.

Chocolate can be beneficial during pregnancy

Pregnant women often worry about gaining too much weight when they are expecting, but a new study has shown that eating chocolate could provide essential health benefits. Anyone who has been through pregnancy will have experienced cravings at any time of the day or night – with chocolate being top of many women’s list. Now you no longer need to stress about tucking into your favorite sweet treat, as scientists have found high–flavanol chocolate can boost fetal growth and help the placenta perform more efficiently.

The study conducted by experts at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada, also determined the sweet stuff can decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition which can occur in the latter stages of pregnancy.

“This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” explained study co-author Dr Emmanuel Bujold.

Previous studies have produced conflicting findings when it comes to the impact of eating chocolate during pregnancy, so this latest trial focused on the effect of high-flavanol chocolate, such as dark chocolate, which is high in cocoa solids.

For the study, 129 women were chosen, all between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant with one baby. They were given 30 grams of either high-flavanol or low-flavanol chocolate to eat every day for 12 weeks, and their progress was followed until they gave birth. Each participant’s uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (PI) was measured, which shows blood velocity in placental, fetal and uterine circulations. The PI showed noticeable improvement for both groups.

Gestational hypertension, placenta weight, pre-eclampsia and birth weight was also noted for each woman – and no differences were found between the two groups.

What to know about the Zika virus

The Zika virus is spreading like wildfire through the media, causing mass panic around the globe. But how much do we actually know about the condition? Before you find yourself in a frenzy, here’s some pointers on what to be familiar with.

1. Humans catch it through mosquitoes

It’s well known that these bugs carry diseases, and the Zika virus is one of them. But it’s only the Aedes species of mosquito which transmits it, the same species that can give people the dengue fever that can cause illness and death in tropical locations. While many mosquitoes come out at night, these ones are more active during the day and have a more aggressive bite.

2. It can be transmitted through blood or sexual contact

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t given a warning about this as the evidence is quite limited, there have been a few cases documented. They showed Zika had been transmitted through a blood transfusion, and it was also found in semen even after leaving the infected person’s blood stream. Add an extra barrier by wearing a condom if you feel wary.

3. Pregnant women be careful

Zika has been linked to major birth defects as the virus can be transmitted from mother to fetus, or even to newborns, although this is more rare.

“The major concern with Zika virus and pregnancy is possibly a link to a condition known as microcephaly,” Niket Sonpal, M.D., associate clinical professor at Touro College of Medicine in New York City, states, according to shape.com. “With this condition, the baby’s head is much smaller than expected, which can lead to many neurological problems.”

4. It’s spreading rapidly

There were only a few cases of the Vika virus in humans up until 2007, but nine years later the illness appears to be spreading eastwards. It’s hitting the Caribbean, South America and Central America, and is now deemed as a pandemic. It’s even causing travel bans.

5. But it might not be serious

The severe symptoms of Zika are extremely rare for women who are not pregnant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out. More common effects are joint pain, rash, fever and conjunctivitis which last between a couple of days to a week. Only one in five people who contract the illness will really suffer, with Niket sharing recovery tips.

“For people who do get sick, the illness is usually mild and self-limited. Rest, getting enough fluids, and time will take care of it,” Niket said. “If you don’t get better after a few days, see your doctor right away.”

Want a toned tummy? Laugh more!

It’s long been suggested that laughter is the best medicine, and now it seems the old adage is actually true. According to scientists, a good fit of the giggles burns as many calories as a brisk walk – that’s up to 120 per hour. Don’t feel you have to walk around laughing like a loon though, as even just some low-key chuckling can burn around 20 calories an hour.

If that’s not enough to encourage you to get your jolly on how about this – laughing also works out the internal obliques, the group of stomach muscles which are essential for the much-coveted six pack. In fact, a good giggle has been found to activate them even more than a set of stomach crunches.

If you want to get the most out of your mirth, you need to find something really funny. Only an intense form of uncontrollable laughter will burn 120 calories an hour, dubbed the sort which makes you roll on the floor unable to breathe. Hearty laughs can cut around 100 calories an hour – which is nothing to be sniffed at.

On top of all this, giggling improves blood flow in the body which means it’s a bit like having a cardiovascular workout.

The findings come courtesy of comedian Dr Helen Pilcher, who has a phD in biology. She was enlisted to complete a survey by comedy TV channel Dave, and she’s suggested that watching funny programs of an evening could improve your overall health.

“This report raises the joyous possibility that watching comedy shows can help you to shape your six pack by targeting internal oblique muscles more effectively than sit-ups,” she explained.

“I definitely felt more toned after watching hours of TV comedies.”

Helen was quick to add that it’s important to be careful about your other habits too – so you’ll only see the benefits of laughing “provided you don’t eat any pies while you watch” the hilarious shows.

More siblings = behavioural problems?

Growing up with siblings can teach you many lessons about sharing, looking after others and making sure you get to the biscuit tin first. But while there might be plenty of benefits to having brothers and sisters, new research now suggests people who come from a large family face problems at school.

According to a study from the University of Houston, children from big families are more likely to suffer behavioural issues and fall behind in class.

“Families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood performance on cognitive tests and measures of social behaviour,” the research claims.

“Importantly, we find that these negative effects are not merely temporary disruptions following a birth but in fact persist throughout childhood.” The worrying thing is that the scientists think the issues could persist into early adulthood. If this is true, these early experiences could shape people for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of what happens in early childhood has lasting impacts,” co-author Dr Chinhui Juhn said.

“In many respects, this matters more than a lot of things that happen later in (a child’s) life.”

To draw their conclusions, experts looked at data from older children, investigating the time before and after their younger siblings were born.

The more children, the less ‘parental investment’, which is the time spent with individual children, the environment and the resources available, including money and books.

The study also scored mothers on the Armed Force Qualification Test, which reveals information about socioeconomic factors. Mothers with a low score are more likely to be in financial difficulty. The findings were not straightforward, as those with a mother with a median score were less affected by siblings. The study also neglected to investigate fathers.

In conclusion, it seemed that children from large families with financial difficulties suffered the most.

“If you are in a well-resourced family, some of these things don’t apply,” Dr Juhn summarized.

“When the second child comes along, there is less time and attention. But in an environment with more resources, it’s not as binding.”

Daydreaming = obesity, according to new research

If you find yourself easily distracted you need be careful – scientists have found that daydreaming could increase a person’s risk of obesity.

Apparently, those who get lost in their thoughts fail to recognize how much they’ve eaten, potentially resulting in them tucking into more food than they should.

Data on 38 children aged eight to 13, collected by the ‘Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute – Rockland Sample’, was analysed, with five of the children obese and six overweight. They were weighed and information about their eating habits was gathered, as well as brain scans being performed.

Three areas of the brain were identified, associated to eating habits and weight. The inferior parietal lobe is linked to inhibition and is capable of overriding an automatic response, like eating. The frontal pole is linked to impulsive behaviour, while the nucleus accumbens is focuses on the reward.

Looking at children who ate the most, the experiment found that the part of the brain which is linked to being impulsive was more important than the sector associated with inhibition. In contrast, kids who behaved in a way that kept them from food saw their area of the brain associated with inhibition play a stronger role than the impulsive side.

Researchers think the way to tackle this is to encourage children to practice mindfulness from a young age, with study co-author Dr Ronald Cowan, of Vanderbilt University, adding: “We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.”

Study co-author, Dr Dr Kevin Niswender, added: “Adults, and especially children, are primed towards eating more. This is great from an evolutionary perspective – they need food to grow and survive.

“But in today’s world, full of readily available, highly advertised, energy dense foods, it is putting children at risk of obesity.”

The study was published in the journal Heliyon.