Partner more influential than upbringing when it comes to obesity – study

A person’s partner has a greater impact on their chances of becoming obese than their upbringing, findings of a new study show.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have analysed data provided by 20,000 Scottish families.

They found that by middle age, the routine a couple shares – including their diet and exercise habits – has a greater impact than the lifestyle they shared with their siblings and parents when growing up.

Professor Chris Haley of the Medical Research Council’s Human Genetics Unit led the research and said that the study will help scientists better understand the links between obesity, genetics and lifestyle.

He added that the study findings support the message that lifestyle changes in adulthood may mean that people from families with a history of obesity can still reduce their risk by changing their habits.

“Although genetics accounts for a significant proportion of the variation between people, our study has shown the environment you share with your partner in adulthood also influences whether you become obese and this is more important than your upbringing,” said Professor Haley.

The information was gathered as part of the Generation Scotland project, a resource of health data that helps researchers to investigate genetic links to health conditions.

Scientists compared people’s genetics and home environments in childhood and adulthood and related those to measures linked to health and obesity.

A total of 16 measures were considered including waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, body fat content and body mass index.

The study is published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

Bright foods ‘can cut breast cancer risk’

We already know they help you see in the dark, but now carrots have another string to add to their bow; scientists claim they could cut the risk of women developing some breast cancers by 60 per cent.

It’s long been known that eating a diet rich in beta-carotene, the chemical which makes vegetables like carrots, spinach and red peppers so brightly colored, is good for health. It’s been linked to helping guard against heart disease and cancer, but a new study suggests it’s particularly beneficial when it comes to breast cancer.

The research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and took in 1,500 women with tumors in their breasts and 1,500 without. All were asked about the diets, as the team were trying to find a link between plant chemicals and cancer risk.

Blood tests allowed the group to investigate the amount of beta-carotene in the women’s bodies, alongside other things which are derived from plants like vitamin C.

It was discovered that those whose meals tended to be crammed with beta-carotene rich foods were 40 to 60 per cent less likely to develop estrogen receptor negative breast cancers. One in three women with breast cancer have this type of tumor.

However, the level of the chemical didn’t have an impact on estrogen receptor positive tumors, which the bulk of breast cancer cases are.

Other plant chemicals didn’t have much of an effect either way, with one expert keen to point out that no food should be viewed as a magical cancer cure.

“We’ve long known that a healthy diet – carrots included – can help to lower your risk of breast cancer because it helps to maintain a healthy weight,” Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at charity Breast Cancer Now, said.

“While it’s really important to eat vegetables as part of a balanced diet, there is unfortunately no such thing as a superfood when it comes to breast cancer risk.”

Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in the body, which helps keep a host of processes healthy, such as vision and the immune system.

Perfect pigtails

It’s back to school for hair this season as pigtails are back on trend and better than ever. Anyone growing up with long hair is likely to have posed for a cheesy school photograph (probably missing a few front teeth), locks divided in half and tied up with ribbons. While back then the favored look was firmly attaching a ponytail on either side of our heads so the strands sprouted out above our ears, now it’s all about long and low.

You might have thought you had outgrown the pigtail, but a host of designers went all retro for their Spring/Summer 16 shows and gave the style a modern twist, perfect for those of us who still embrace their inner child.

Marni opted for grownup graphic pigtails at their runway show, with the look created by hairstylist Paul Hanlon. The models sporting the trend showed off low pigtails running down their back, which were twisted at the nape of the neck before being secured with hair ties hidden underneath. The whole appearance was sleek, with many manes incorporating a slick wet look, and complemented with supersized chunky earrings.

Fashion powerhouse Chanel also embraced the pigtails, choosing them as the perfect accessory for their classic boater hats. While Marni preferred to hide the hair ties, Chanel made them a big part of the look – choosing large, textured nude colored ribbons to keep the style in place. Their pigtails were also messier than Marni’s and flyaway strands made a frequent appearance during the show.

Other takes on the trend including the addition of narrow black elastic headbands which had ornate detail around the front in contrasting white, while braids were also featured with models sashaying down the catwalk sporting long, sleek pigtails which had been plaited.

If you want to recreate the look, the good news is you can do it in a matter of moments as long as you keep things simple. Start off by spritzing your mane with holding hairspray to ensure your pigtails stay in place and give it a good comb to calm any flyaways if you’re attempting a sleek look – or consider experimenting with sea salt spray for added texture and more of a beachy vibe. Then divide your hair into two and fasten each section at the nape of your neck with a hair elastic. Feel free to add nude colored ribbon for a glitzy event, or if you’re headed out for the night try a decorative elastic headband. Plaiting hair which has been sectioned into two parts is also a great take on the trend and you’ll be camera ready in a matter of moments. Make sure you stick to a center parting and banish any drifting strands with hairspray.

Almonds = weightloss

Another day, another weight loss tip – this time it seems almonds could be the answer to our slim-down prayers. Many of us want to drop a few pounds, but it can be tricky to dedicate yourself to a diet when there are so many delicious treats winking at you from supermarket aisles. If that sounds familiar, switching some snacks to a handful of almonds daily could be what’s needed.

A team of researchers at the University of Florida in America have looked into the impact the seeds have on diets. Data was taken from 28 pairs of parents and their children, with the mothers or fathers munching on 1.5 ounces (400grams) of almonds a day for three weeks. The kids got half an ounce, or the same amount of almond butter.

Before this, each of them were measured on the US’ Healthy Eating Index, which shows how good someone’s diet is. Scores under 51 show a poor diet, 51 to 80 means things could be better with some tweaks, while over 80 indicates a healthy food intake.

When things kicked off, the adults’ average score was 53.7, with a fluctuation of 1.8 either way. The children came in at 53.7 too, with a change of 2.6 in either direction.

After the almonds were introduced, the results changed dramatically. The mothers and fathers saw their diets rise to 61.4 (with a fluctuation of 1.4), with the kids’ climbing to 61.4 plus or minus 2.2.

Everyone ate more protein, which is known to keep you full for longer, and saw the amount of empty calories (ones which don’t offer any goodness or nutrients to the body) reduce.

“The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child’s diet, it’s more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life,” author Alyssa Burns explained.

One issue was that the children sometimes got bored with almonds and wanted more variety. It’s suggested that parents should get creative in the kitchen to guard against this, meaning using the seeds in porridge or sandwiches.

Knee pain? Try Botox

Suffering from knee pain? Botox may be the cure, as a new study has discovered the usually cosmetic treatment helped ease a painful joint condition which affects more than one in eight active individuals.

Scientists at Imperial College London and Fortius Clinic looked at 45 people suffering with what’s known as lateral patellofemoral overload syndrome (LPOS), with sufferers experiencing severe pain at the side and front of their knee joint. It is often round in runners and cyclists.

Dysport – a protein known as a botulinum toxin, which is what Botox is – was injected into the muscle at the front and outside of the hip of the participants in the trial, then they were given personalized physiotherapy treatment.

In total 69 per cent didn’t need any more procedures on the joint and after five years were free of pain entirely. This is a stark contrast to previous studies which showed that 80 per cent of people suffering from the condition still had ongoing symptoms after other treatments, while 74 per cent reported being less active.

Usual treatments include steroid injections, physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. If these fail, surgery is often considered as an option, and even then patients aren’t always guaranteed the issue will go away completely.

“As a physiotherapist it can be incredibly frustrating to run out of treatment options for patients with this painful condition,” study co-author Doctor Jo Stephen, of Imperial College London and Fortius, said. “Many athletes who took part in this study had exhausted all other treatment options and this was their last resort.

“We are really excited that our approach is showing positive results for patients, which could have implications for active people around the world.”

Findings were published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Patients traveled from all over the country to take part in this study, which is an indication of their eagerness to find a solution to their discomfort,” co-author David Urquhart, of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, added.

Cut down on sugar for a good sleep

We all know that sugar is bad for our waistlines and that the more we eat and drink it, the more pounds we’ll pile on. Research from Queen Mary University in London recently pointed out that cutting the sugar content in sweet drinks by 40 per cent over the next couple of years would prevent a million cases of obesity in the UK.

But it isn’t just our weight that sugar affects, as scientists and Silentnight beds expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan have stressed the negative impact sugar has on our night’s sleep.

Dr Anna Weighall from the University of Leeds recently worked with Silentnight on an in-depth study, which found a correlation between how much shut eye we get and how much we crave sugar. Research documented in Sleep Disorders: Treatment & Care brought to light that high calorie diets in young people leads to a shorter sleep.

Leptin is a hormone that reduces hunger and it peaks during sleep, meaning it decreases with lack of sleep. With leptin keeping hunger pangs at bay, another hormone called ghrelin increases food cravings and is more present when you’re struggling to sleep,

“With talk of a ‘sugar tax’ we are all increasingly aware of the negative effects of sugar on the nation’s health, especially in relation to weight gain and obesity.” Dr Weighall explained.

“However, scientists have also shown that our diet can be important for sleep too. There is evidence that both adults and children who eat high calorie diets are more likely to sleep less.”

Dr Ramlakhan is adamant that sugar should be avoided near bed time, especially for sensitive sleepers.

“What is interesting from the research is that we see how quite quickly the relationship between sugar and sleep can become a negative cycle – with what we put into the body disrupting our sleep patterns, we are then kept awake and our body begins to crave all the things which keep us awake,” she added.

“Sugar can cause more restlessness and hyperactivity, especially if you’re a sensitive sleeper so best to minimize it. I would encourage people to break the cycle with a low sugar or better still sugar free drink before bed. If you have a hot drink before you go to sleep, it best to make it with almond milk which is high in tryptophan which is proven to improve sleep.”

Mothers over 40 ‘more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke’

A fresh study claims that new mothers over the age of 40 are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke later in life.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota in America looked at more than 72,000 women to compile their new research, with 3,300 of those falling pregnant at a more mature age. The research was conducted on the women over a period of 12 years during the latter stages of their lives as part of the US Women’s Health Initiative Study.

They found that the women who had given birth after turning 40 were 70 per cent more likely to die of a cardiovascular disease in later life. They were also found to be twice as likely to suffer a haemorrhagic stroke, caused by a brain bleed, and a fifth more likely to have a heart attack.

In addition, their risk of suffering from an ischaemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) was increased by a staggering 60 per cent.

The results were presented on Wednesday (17Feb16) at the American Stroke Association Meeting in Los Angeles.

“We already knew that older women were more likely than younger women to experience health problems during their pregnancy,” Professor Adnan Qureshi, lead researcher and director of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute in Minnesota, said at the meeting.

“Now, we know that the consequences of that later pregnancy stretch years into the future. Women with a late pregnancy need to be aware of their increased risk and take steps to improve their cardiovascular health.

“Their doctors also need to remain vigilant years later in monitoring these women’s risk factors through physical examination and, perhaps, more tests and earlier interventions to prevent stroke and other cardiovascular events.

Meals + avocados = weight loss

The benefits of the humble avocado are wide ranging. From boasting cancer fighting carotenoids (organic pigments) to brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids – the avocado really is a diet staple. And new research has further proved this, with scientists from the Hass Avocado Board in California discovering the green fruit can aid weight loss.

“This study supports the body of research showing the many benefits that fresh avocados have to offer when consumed in everyday healthy eating plans,” Emiliano Escobedo, the board’s executive director, said.

Emiliano’s work, published in Journal of Clinical Lipidology, concluded that swapping solid fats for avocados can “significantly change lipid profiles”.

His team got their results by analyzing 10 unique avocados studies featuring 229 participants. They looked at the impact avocado had on cholesterol levels, finding that one to one-and-half avocadoes per day “significantly reduced total cholesterol”.

“Fresh avocado, as part of a balanced diet, and as a cholesterol-free substitute for solid fats, can help be part of the solution for maintaining normal cholesterol levels,” Dr Nikki Ford, director of nutrition for Hass Avocado Board, noted.

As well as adding avocado to your diet, try making easy kitchen swaps to up your daily fruit and vegetable intake.

One of the simplest ways to sneak in some more goodness is to switch spaghetti for spiraled vegetables. Adding meaty sauces with courgetti spaghetti (spiralised courgettes), for example, will also see you reduce your carbohydrate intake.

Spiralisers were 2015’s must have kitchen gadget, and their popularity shows no sign of slowing down. JML’s newest launch is the Veggetti 2.0, which quickly and easily turns a range of vegetables into neat spiral ribbons. There are two settings, so you can make your carrots, courgettes or cucumber thick or thin, depending on whether you choose to add them to salads or hot dishes.

For those with a sweet tooth who can’t help but reach for a treat after meal times, try incorporating fruit into your snacks. Yes we all know reaching for an apple over a bar of chocolate is the smart decision, but realistically that’s not going to satisfy your sugar craving. Instead cut up said apple and dip into peanut butter (natural is, of course, the better choice here). Goodness, but with that added naughty edge.

Hair transplant tips

Hair transplants are becoming more and more popular – once deemed rare they’re now seen almost everywhere, especially on those celebs who shall remain nameless! It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and if you’ve been wondering about whether to undergo a procedure yourself, Dr Bessam Farjo, co-founder of the Farjo Hair Institute and medical director of the Institute of Trichologists, has shared his words of advice.

There are different methods used depending on the candidate. The procedure involves relocating hair grafts from donor areas, like the back and sides of the scalp, to the thinning or bald areas which need covering.

So what happens beforehand? “In preparation for the procedure, the donor and recipient sites are frozen and de-sensitized to make it as comfortable and painless as possible,” Dr Farjo explains. “Hair transplants are generally performed under local anesthetic, so there is little to no feeling of the procedure itself. Some patients even choose to sit back and watch TV or listen to the radio while we’re extracting the hair grafts!”

Dr Farjo also detailed the different types, with one called strip follicular unit transplantation (FUT). This involves root hairs being taken from an area at the back of the scalp, leaving a very subtle, fine scar which is barely noticeable. This is a great option for those who don’t wish to shave their hair before undergoing a transplant, especially men and women with long locks.

It’s not the quickest choice though: “The procedure usually lasts between four to 12 hours, with up to 12,500 hairs being transferred per day.”

There’s also follicular unit extraction (FUE). “Hair grafts are individually extracted from large donor areas that are spread across the scalp,” the expert says of the treatment. “The harvesting method is either performed manually or mechanically, with the world-renowned ARTAS robotic procedure.

“The ARTAS Robotic System offers patients a minimally invasive procedure, automatically finding the best donor hairs to harvest for transplantation. The machine, which is guided by the surgeon at all times, is capable of extracting up to 1,000 hair grafts per hour.”

As one treatment restores around 30 per cent of the original density of the treated area, Dr Farjo explains patients will benefit most from a couple of sessions per area. This will see a more natural, even finish.

What’s vital is to keep your scalp nice and clean after the surgery, so Dr Farjo advises patients wash their hair 24 hours after the session has ended. Likewise, results won’t be obvious straight away and may take six to eight, or even 18, months to be apparent.

Fix fake tan blunders

A good tan is the perfect accessory for any event – as it can make you look healthier and more radiant. Unless you have the luxury of being a natural English rose, it’s likely you’ve experimented with a faux glow in the past.

Luckily, you don’t have to resort to sunbeds to get a tan, as there are numerous products on the market to help you achieve a post-holiday appearance.

But while there are new products hitting the shelves every day, things can still go wrong – resulting in orange palms or streaky skin. Traditionally, fixing such a blunder could see you in the bath covered in lemon juice, or ferociously scrubbing yourself with a sea salt mixture. However, there are now a host of products that enable you to return to a normal shade without resorting to such drastic measures.

One of the most effective products is tan guru St. Tropez’s Tan Remover Mitt. Like a glove, this is worn over the hand and can be used to buff away any tan build-up, ensuring an even surface for any further fake tan application.

“Run a bath and fill it with a bath oil and soak your skin – the oil will soften the tan. Take St. Tropez Tan Build Up Remover Mitt and work in circular motions around your body to encourage the tan to fade,” Jules Heptonstall, St. Tropez Tanning & Skin Finishing Expert, told Cover Media.

“Or go swimming – the chlorine will break down the tan, again take those exfoliating gloves and work in circular motions in the showers afterwards. Steam rooms and saunas also soften the tan too.”

Another option is Superdrug’s Sunkissed Exfoliating Self Tan Remover, which contains fruit AHAs to help get rid of any streaky tans. Or, Sienna X’s celebrity tan ambassador James Harknett advises that the brand’s Polishing Body Scrub is a perfect exfoliator.

“A quick fix solution to remove unwanted tan lines would be to first fade down the natural color,” James told Cover Media. “Body brushing is a gentle alternative to a harsh body scrub, I recommend using the Sienna X Polishing Body Scrub for quick and easy exfoliation that is kind to the skin.”

Of course to avoid any fake tan mistakes, there are several steps you can do before applying your tan lotion of choice to prevent unsightly streaks. St. Tropez’s Jules lists them for Cover:

1. Make sure you’ve exfoliated your skin 24 hours prior to application

2. Ensure you’ve completed any hair removal 24 hours prior to application

3. Have you moisturized dry areas directly before application – hands, elbows, knees and feet (and eyebrows and hairline if fair haired)?

4. Have you got an applicator mitt to hand?

5. After application make sure your palms, nails and between fingers are wiped to remove residue tan.

Follow these simple steps and you’re unlikely to make any mistakes. But if you do have a slip up, don’t despair – you can fix it!