Sweeteners may cause type 2 diabetes

Those who swap sugar for artificial sweeteners are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.

While the sweet alternatives may contain less calories and aid weight loss, they have been linked to changing gut bacteria, which could cause glucose intolerance.

Data on 2,856 U.S. adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES III) was looked at, with participants noting down their diet in the last 24 hours. They were split into groups who consumed artificial sweeteners (aspartame or saccharin) and consumers of natural sugars (sugar or fructose).

From the results, it was discovered that those who ate artificial sweeteners – aspartame or saccharin – had a slightly higher BMI level (28 vs. 27), and these individuals were more likely to be women.

“Our study shows individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes,” Professor Jennifer Kuk, of York University in Toronto, said.

Sweeteners can be found in everything from fizzy drinks to chewing gum and yoghurt. Type 2 diabetes comes about when a person’s blood sugar level becomes too high, which in this case was measured by the ability to manage blood sugars using an oral glucose tolerance test.

Professor Kuk notes that the damage in health wasn’t found in those who consumed saccharin or natural sugars, suggesting that the obesity reduction from sweeteners isn’t enough to justify the health problems caused by them.

However, the expert notes things need to be checked further, adding: “More research is needed to better understand the weight-management benefits of artificial sweetener consumption over natural sugars against the potential increased diabetes risk, particularly for those with obesity.”

The study is published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

5:2 diet gives same results as less calories overall

You may lose weight in the short-term while on the 5:2 diet, but it’s not more beneficial than cutting your daily calorie intake in a less restrictive manner, a new study has discovered.

The famous 5:2 way of eating sees people tuck into a normal amount of food five days a week, while cutting back dramatically for two days.

Researchers from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne looked into 24 obese male war veterans aged 55-75 for six months, setting them five counselling sessions with a dietitian over this period. While one group when on the U.K. generated 2:5 diet, eating just 600 calories two days a week, the rest cut their usual average of around 2,400 calories a day by 600 calories all week.

It was found that both groups lost body fat and girth, with the calorie-reduced diet group losing an average of 2.3 per cent of their body fat and shedding 6.4cm from their waistlines.

Meanwhile, those on the 5:3 diet came in at around 1.3 per cent and 8cm. After the six months, the mean weight loss of the former group was 12lbs, and 11.6lbs for the 5:2 participants.

“Compliance rates were similar for the two groups, but the 5:2 diet group reported being hungrier, especially early on in the study,” researcher Margie Conley told the Dietitians Association of Australia’s national conference in Melbourne.

“Interestingly, weight loss slowed at the three-month mark for both groups, which was when the dietitian follow-up tapered out, showing support may be the key element in continuing success.”

These findings don’t necessarily mean the 5:2 diet is a fad, but it goes to show that being healthier overall has the same results without the extremes.

Make your break from booze easy

After a heavy weekend, or seven nights of drinking while on holiday, you may have decided to take a break from alcohol and give your body a well-needed rest.

It’s a tough feat though as you work out how to avoid the booze train in social situations, or after a stressful week at work. That’s why we’ve got some tips on how to make the process easier for you, as well as enjoyable.

See it as a challenge

If it’s not Dry January, you’re not pregnant or not ill, people may quiz you on why you’ve decided to do such a thing – especially with summer arriving soon. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family that you’ve set yourself a challenge, and that you need their help in completing it. Keep your response to ‘You’re not drinking?!’ brief, and if someone offers to buy you a beverage be confident in ordering a soft drink or coffee – you’ll feel better in the morning!

Make non-boozy plans

Not all your social events have to take place in a bar. When the weather is nice why not meet a friend in the park for a catch up, or stop by that exhibition you’ve wanted to see for months? Not only will you forget about your non-drinking regime, but you’ll feel a lot more cultured too. And if you’re single, you may even strike up an interesting, sober conversation with a potential beau. No beer goggles here!

Remind yourself of why you stopped

Whether you’ve quit for good or are taking some time out, during moments of weakness remind yourself of the reasons why you came to that decision. List them out, say them aloud or talk to someone else about them for reassurance. While at it, replace your drinking with something else that will benefit you personally. For example, use the time and money you used to put into buying alcohol into a gym class or sign up to an evening course.

Slip ups don’t mean failure

Everyone is prone to weaknesses, so if you do happen to have a sip or two while trying to go dry, don’t beat yourself up about it. Brush off your slip up, recover from it and move on – it’s not the end of the world!

Do you know the ‘hidden’ symptoms of asthma?

While most people recognize wheezing as a sign of asthma, far fewer realize that chest pain or trouble sleeping may also indicate breathing trouble, survey results show.

A national survey in the U.S., has found that there are many misconceptions about the respiratory condition and many people are in the dark about some of its less obvious symptoms.

Commissioned by National Jewish Health, a leading pulmonary research center based in Denver, Colorado, the survey asked 1,002 adults across the country to identify potential signs of asthma.

While most correctly labelled shortness of breath and wheezing, more than one-third failed to identify persistent coughing as a symptom, and they fared even worse when it came to chest pain and trouble sleeping.

“A lot of people have asthma and don’t know it. Many adults do not have the traditional asthma symptoms, or they don’t have all of the symptoms,” said Dr David Beuther in a statement. “It’s not rare that your asthma doesn’t present like the textbook. It’s actually more common than most people realize. To the patient or perhaps the primary care provider, things that seem like a very unusual set of symptoms for asthma are actually quite common. That is why you often need a specialist to diagnose and treat it.”

Dr. Beuther said that in the U.S. one in every 200 adults are diagnosed with asthma every year. And while children with the disease might have more common symptoms, adults who develop asthma typically have some of the less recognized symptoms.

“As a pulmonologist, I see people with symptoms that aren’t yet defined like difficulty breathing, cough and episodes of recurring bronchitis. When we first embark on trying to figure out what that is, I often mention that one of the big three causes of chronic cough, for example, is asthma. And it’s more common than not that my patient is surprised to hear that a chronic cough or recurring bronchitis is actually asthma,” he explained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.6 per cent of children in the U.S., or 6.3 million, currently have asthma, compared to 7.4 per cent of all adults, or 17.7 million. In the U.K., around 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma.

While there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

Obesity could be contagious

Obesity may be something that can be caught by another person in a similar way that a contagious bug is spread, scientists have found.

A new study conducted by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut can lead to a number of conditions, including obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and even allergies. For the first time in history, experts have found evidence that traces of bacteria can survive outside the anatomy, suggesting it could be passed between people. If this gut microbiome has a negative impact on the other person’s body, the problems mentioned above could manifest themselves.

Researchers at the institute found that a third of gut microbiota in a healthy person produced spores – a form of bacterial hibernation which allows some to remain dormant for long periods of time – that can survive in open air. Microbiota transmission had not been considered before now, and means that some health issues and diseases could be passed on rather than passed down through genetics. Around two per cent of an individual’s body weight is linked to bacteria, meaning obesity could be caused by it.

“Being able to cast light on this microbial ‘dark matter’ has implications for the whole of biology and how we consider health,” Dr Trevor Lawley, group leader at the Sanger Institute, said.

“We will be able to isolate the microbes from people with a specific disease, such as infection, cancers or autoimmune diseases, and study these microbes in a mouse model to see what happens.

“Studying our ‘second’ genome, that of the microbiota, will lead to a huge increase in our understanding of basic biology and the relationship between our gut bacteria and health and disease.”

Scientists can now work on a tailor-made treatment with niche beneficial bacteria, as it was always too difficult to study bacteria before now due to it being sensitive to oxygen. Now, they can be cultivated in a laboratory.

Dr Lawley and his team are hoping to create a pill with this new knowledge. Findings were published in Nature.

Apple juice can help kids get through stomach flu

Apple juice can be just as effective as electrolyte solutions when treating children with stomach bugs, researchers claim.

In small children, the treatment of gastroenteritis usually focuses on replacing fluids lost through diarrhea or vomiting. However, kids often don’t like the taste of electrolyte solutions and they can often be relatively expensive.

Accordingly, University of Calgary researchers have looked in to how the use of diluted apple juice and other fluids may be an alternative to electrolyte solutions given to children suffering from a level of dehydration.

The researchers studied 647 children ages six months to five years old who came to the emergency department with mild dehydration from stomach flu. Half of the group was given half-strength apple juice followed by their favorite drink, while the others received an apple-flavored electrolyte solution.

Twenty five per cent of the children who drank the electrolyte solution still needed intravenous (IV) fluids or other additional treatment, compared to only about 17 per cent of the kids who drank apple juice and their favorite drink.

Results shows that two-year-olds and older children responded best to apple juice, but even the younger group did a little better with apple juice than the electrolyte solution.

“These results challenge the recommendation to routinely administer electrolyte maintenance solution when diarrhea begins,” the researchers said in their analysis.

However, lead author Stephen B. Freedman noted that apple juice isn’t always appropriate and the method to treat dehydration should be evaluated on a case by case basis, taking into consideration those with moderate to severe dehydration or those at risk for electrolyte abnormalities or other significant medical conditions.

The study was first published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rosemary aroma may improve memory

If your memory isn’t as good as it used to be, you may want to start growing some rosemary plants. Researchers at Northumbria University have found that merely being in a rosemary-scented room could improve memory by 15 per cent among older people.

Rosemary, a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen leaves, is a good source of vitamin A, and has long been valued for its therapeutic scent as well as culinary value.

To test the effects of rosemary on memory retention, researchers randomly allocated 150 people over the age of 65 to rooms with either a rosemary aroma, lavender aroma or no scent at all.

The participants were then given a simple memory challenge. Accordingly, researchers found that those placed in the room with a rosemary aroma performed better on the memory test than others.

“In terms of mood, rosemary significantly increased alertness and lavender significantly increased calmness and contentedness compared to the no aroma control condition,” researchers said in a statement.

Postgraduate student Lauren Bussey said that the findings support previous research indicating that the aroma of rosemary essential oil can enhance cognitive functioning in healthy adults.

Lauren added that this is the first time that similar effects have been demonstrated in the healthy over 65’s. However, she noted that further investigation is required to understand the potential benefits of these aromas throughout the life span.

The same group of researchers also conducted analysis into the impacts of drinking peppermint tea and found the beverage could improve long term memory and alertness.

In a study of 180 people, they found peppermint tea helped to improve long term memory, working memory and alertness. Meanwhile, chamomile tea significantly slowed memory and attention speed, which is why it’s such a good option for relaxing.

Dr Mark Moss noted that it was “interesting” to see the herbal teas’ differing effects on mood and cognition.

The research was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Nottingham, U.K.

Listening to music may help babies learn faster

Playing music to babies may help them learn language skills faster, a new study claims.

Researchers at the University of Washington suggest that listening to music with a waltz-like rhythm and tapping out the beats with their parents, improved babies’ processing of music patterns and speech sounds.

Researchers randomly assigned 39 nine-month-old babies to be exposed to music or serve as a control group. Nineteen babies in the control group played with toys during a dozen 15-minute sessions over a month. The other 20 babies listened to “recordings of children’s music played while an experimenter led the babies and their parents through tapping out the beats in time with the music,” lead study author T. Christina Zhao said, according to HealthDay. All the songs were in triple meter, such as waltzes, which were chosen because they’re relatively difficult for babies to learn.

The following week after the play sessions ended, all babies underwent brain scans.

“While sitting in the brain scanner, the babies listened to a series of music and speech sounds, each played out in a rhythm that was occasionally disrupted,” Zhao said. “The babies’ brains would show a particular response to indicate they could detect the disruption.”

The researchers found that the brains of the babies in the music exposure group were better able to respond to disruptions in speech and music rhythm.

Accordingly, the study results add another twist to the debate over whether music can make babies smarter. The researchers did admit that it is not clear how long the effect of listening to music may last or how much exposure to music is needed to make improvements in music and speech-pattern processing. But Zhao and her colleagues hope to learn whether or not the apparent effects from listening to music are lasting and how much exposure might be needed.

Previous research, known as the ‘Mozart effect’, looked into how music in early childhood might have a positive impact on young children’s brain development. But such theories are controversial and research into the relationship of sound and music for cognitive function and various physiological metrics has had no definitive results to date.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Energy zapping foods

Ever suffer from that mid-morning or mid-afternoon (or both!) slump? Well it might not have anything to do with your sleep the night before, and everything to do with the food you recently ate.

Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin has given Daily Mail Australia the rundown on what foods zap the most energy from us. First up it’s your reliable cup of coffee. Yes, that caffeine hit you rely on daily may actually be doing you zero favors.

“Not only is coffee a diuretic, it actually stops your absorption of fluids and leaches out iron. All resulting in you ending up with less energy long term,” Zoe noted.

She adds that while caffeine will give you a short term boost in the energy stakes, this declines rapidly and will leave you even more tired after.

And as you step away from the coffee, make sure you ditch energy and diet soft drinks too.

“With anything that is synthetic your liver has to metabolize it,” the diet expert said. “It’s working harder than it should, leaving you tired.”

Zoe continues to explain that foods with a high salt or sugar content are also a no-no, as they cause your glycemic index to spike, meaning you’ll be on a high for a bit, before crashing down to no energy.

White bread is another culprit, which could explain why so many people feel sluggish after lunchtime.

During the day, if you’re hit with a snack attack then load up on a handful of nuts or an apple. If you’re after something sweet, try dipping apple chunks into a little peanut butter. For lunch opt for salads, full of grains and pulses. Avocado is also filling and makes a colorful edition to your plate. Protein like fish, chicken and boiled eggs will also give you afternoon energy. It’s fine to drink coffee, but maybe restrict to one or two cups a day. Fill the void with green tea, and begin the day with a hot lemon to kick start your metabolism.

Watercress extract helps detoxify carcinogens in smokers

An extract from watercress reduced the effects of carcinogens in smokers, lowering their risk for developing lung cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found supplements of an extract manufactured from the aquatic leaf vegetable, taken multiple times a day, reduced the activation of nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone and increased detoxification of benzene and acrolein, all of which lowers the risk of lung cancer.

The study, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in New Orleans on Tuesday (19Apr16), suggests it may be possible for the increased risk for lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes to be lowered or mitigated to an extent.

“Cigarette smokers are at far greater risk than the general public for developing lung cancer, and helping smokers quit should be our top cancer prevention priority in these people,” said Dr Jian-Min Yuan in a statement. “But nicotine is very addictive, and quitting can take time and multiple relapses. Having a tolerable, nontoxic treatment, like watercress extract, that can protect smokers against cancer would be an incredibly valuable tool in our cancer-fighting arsenal.”

For the study, Dr Yuan and his team enrolled 82 cigarette smokers in the randomized clinical trial. The participants either took 10 milligrams of watercress extract mixed in 1 milliliter of olive oil four times a day for a week or took a placebo. Each group of participants then had a one week “wash-out” period where they didn’t take anything and then switched so that those getting the placebo now received the extract. They all continued their regular smoking habits throughout the trial. In one week, the watercress extract reduced activation of the carcinogen known as nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone in the smokers by an average of 7.7 per cent. It increased detoxification of benzene by 24.6 per cent and acrolein by 15.1 per cent, but had no effect on crotonaldehyde. All the substances are found in cigarette smoke.

Researchers also reported that for participants missing genes that remove the carcinogens and toxicants from the body, the effect was even greater.

Furthermore, Dr. Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, is good for people, they are unlikely to have the same pronounced effect as the extract.

Another clinical trial of hundreds of people will need to be held before the treatment can be recommended for smokers.