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.

Latest diet advice: Don’t fear fat

The key to dropping weight is to eat more good fats, claim experts.

For many, the first way to shed some pounds is to start eating a low fat diet, which means calorie counting and cutting out some of life’s most delicious foods.

However, in a new report by the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration, it is asserted that a diet high in healthy fats can actually curb the obesity crisis as well as type-2 diabetes, which is fueled by people’s soaring waistlines.

“Eating a diet rich in full-fat dairy – such as cheese, milk and yogurt – can actually lower the chance of obesity,” the report states.

“The most natural and nutritious foods available – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados – all contain saturated fat. The continued demonization of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing, wholesome and health promoting foods.”

The work also suggests avoiding processed food labelled as low fat or similar claims should be avoided, as should sugar, and refined carbohydrates should be consumed in small amounts.

Authors have also called for a return to “whole foods” like meat, fish and dairy and claim full fat dairy can protect the heart.

Professor David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, feels current dietary guidelines are deeply flawed.

“Current efforts have failed – the proof being that obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and show no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of Government and scientists,” he sighed.

Co-author of the report, Aseem Malhotra added: “We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend. It’s now truly time to bring back the fat.”

The report hasn’t gone down well with everyone though, with many from the scientific community slamming the advice.

“The claim that eating fat doesn’t make you fat is absurd. If you eat a lot of fat, you will get fat,” fumed professor Tom Sanders, of King’s College London.

Invest in your relationships

All of us need to seek comfort and support from others from time to time, whether we have a huge circle of friends or a few close confidants. As with many aspects of modern life, however, it is easy to dismiss what we all know will aid our general wellbeing.

New research released by the Mental Health Foundation to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22May16) shows that people regard maintaining healthy relationships as the most important factor to their wellbeing than eating healthily, exercising or avoiding negative habits including smoking combined. However, 46 per cent of the 2,000 adults in the U.K. who participated in the survey also admitted they regret not investing more time in their relationships – a figure which alarmingly hits 50 per cent among men.

As part of their guide to investing in relationships, the Mental Health Foundation sets out several key ways people can stave off loneliness and create more supportive relationships which protect both the mind and body.

Give time

Make active attempts to schedule in time to connect with friends and family when possible.

Be present

It can be tempting to check your phone, social media messages or work emails when spending time with family and friends. But try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones by switching out of work mode wherever possible.

Listen

Actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgmental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment.

Be listened to

Share how you are feeling, honestly, and allow yourself to be listened and supported.

Recognize unhealthy relationships

Being around positive people can make us happier. However, our wellbeing can be negatively affected by harmful relationships leaving us despondent. Recognizing this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.

Make your relationships resolution

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to make a relationship resolution this week (ends22May16). Those who sign up on their website will receive a text on New Year’s Eve to check their progress and prompt them to continue their efforts into 2017.

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.

Being busy keeps mind sharp

Though most of us complain when our schedules become too busy, new research suggests that being overbooked may actually be beneficial for the brain.

In a study undertaken by researchers at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas in Dallas, 330 healthy men and women aged between 50 and 89 were surveyed about their daily schedule. They then took part in a long series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance.

Accordingly, the results indicated that at any age, and regardless of education, a busier lifestyle is associated with superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning, and vocabulary. Especially strong is the association between busyness and better episodic memory, being the ability to remember specific events in the past.

“We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information,” said lead author Dr Sara Festini.

One mediating factor accounting for the relationship between busyness and brain activity may be the new learning process, propose the researchers. They say busy people are likely to have more opportunities to learn as they are exposed to more information and encounter a wider range of situations in daily life.

However, Dr Festini and her colleagues warn that the findings don’t prove that “busyness” can make people smarter.

“Living a busy lifestyle appears beneficial for mental function, although additional experimental work is needed to determine if manipulations of busyness have the same effect,” she said in a statement.

The research is part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, one of the most comprehensive studies of age-related changes in cognition and brain function in adults currently underway in the United States.

Director of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, Denise Park, said she was hopeful the findings would spur further investigation into the topic.

“We were surprised at how little research there was on busyness, given that being too busy seems to be a fact of modern life for so many,” she said.

The study was first published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Cut potatoes, cut high blood pressure risk

Potatoes are one of life’s greatest comfort foods, and whether you have them mashed, baked or fried, a helping of spuds really rounds a meal off nicely. However in recent years we’ve cut back on the humble potato because of waistline worries, culling carbs wherever possible. But new research suggests that as well as being a diet disaster, eating too many potatoes can also result in high blood pressure. In fact scientists from Boston’s Harvard Medical School said eating potatoes four times a week could be putting people in harm’s way.

The team, who published their results in the British Medical Journal, looked at data from three large American studies that had taken place over 20 years, involving 187,000 men and women. Women were found to have a slightly higher risk than men, but both sexes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure if they consumed potatoes four or more times a week, compared to those who ate the food source less than once a month.

The risk got even greater in those who specifically ate fries four or more times a week, jumping up to 17 per cent.

However those who regularly tucked into crisps weren’t affected, though salt intake wasn’t measured.

The team concludes it’s all to do with the high glycaemic index of starchy potatoes, which quickly turns into sugars in the body, making blood sugar levels spike. Over time this can lead to severe problems including stroke, dementia and heart disease. High blood pressure can cause blood vessels to become damaged and weakened, and can also cause blood clots in the arteries leading to the brain, blocking blood flow.

“These findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they do not support a potential benefit from the inclusion of potatoes as vegetables in government food programmes, but instead support a harmful effect that is consistent with adverse effects of high carbohydrate intakes seen in controlled feeding studies,” study authors said.

Replacing potatoes as often as possible with non-starchy vegetables is advised.

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!

How to stay healthy while traveling

While most of us love a relaxing holiday or travel abroad, one of the downsides to racking up those frequent flier miles is that it is harder to sustain healthy habits.

With routine abandoned, food in abundance and less access to the gym, the motivation to pound the pavement and burn off those extra calories typically goes out the window.

But with the summer travel season just around the corner, we’ve compiled some top tips to staying healthy while traveling.

Avoid mindless eating on the plane

When traveling on long-haul flights it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of mindlessly eating what is put in front of you, with food becoming a time occupier. In a blog post, nutritional biochemist and author Dr Libby Weaver encourages people to simply eat when they are hungry and not feel bad about turning down meals when offered by flight staff. She also advises people avoid coffee and alcohol, as these can dehydrate you further. Another good way to prioritize your diet is to pack your snacks ahead of time. While it may take a bit of extra planning, not only will you feel better when you land, you’ll avoid shelling out on bland airport meals.

Drink vegetable juices or smoothies

As soon as you land, grab a fresh vegetable juice to top your body up with added nutrition. If vegetable juice isn’t on offer, look for a fruit juice or smoothie which is high in vitamin C or citrus fruits, in order to support your immune system after draining air-conditioned flights. Food blogger Ella Woodward also recommends packing a travel blender when going on a trip so you can pick up local fruits and nuts, as well as some spinach and whizz up a quick smoothie each morning. It’s also a good idea to travel with a vitamin C supplement for a further boost.

Go for walks

When flying or on train journeys, it is import to move whenever possible, and simply walking up and down the aisles should do the trick. While sitting make sure you flex your ankles at regular intervals and moves your legs to keep the blood flowing. When you reach your destination, drop your bags and go for a quick tour around the town – this has the dual benefit of acclimatizing you to your surroundings and is a great way to incorporate movement.

Rest when you need it

While it is important to move and stay active when traveling long distances, rest is also vital. Dr Weaver suggests scheduling rest periods into your date, especially when on business trips, just as you would arrange any other appointment. Accordingly, when you get busy, you’ll always have that reminder when it is time for a break.

Diabetic mothers more likely to have overweight babies

Diabetic mothers are more likely to have babies who will be fat, new research has found.

Experts at Imperial College London looked at 42 tots whose mums had gestational diabetes and 44 babies from healthy mothers, using MRI scans to compare levels of body fat. These readings were taken not long after birth, then again when the little ones were 10 weeks old.

While there was no difference between the groups during the first scans, after 10 weeks the babies whose mothers had diabetes held 16 per cent high body fat volume than those who didn’t.

Scientists believe this is may be because of the baby’s metabolism in the womb, or due to the differences in the composition of breast milk in those women with diabetes as most of the tots in the experiment were breastfed.

Up to 18 per cent of women giving birth in England and Wales are affected by gestational diabetes, the NHS estimates, with the condition usually developing after 28 weeks during the final trimester. While it disappears when the baby is born, the mothers are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes later in life if they had the condition.

Women with gestational diabetes who are overweight or obese can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature labor or stillbirth.

“Gestational diabetes is becoming more and more common, and babies born to these mothers are at increased risk of developing diabetes when they grow up,” Dr Karen Logan, lead author of the study, said.

“Therefore we need to understand what effects maternal diabetes has on the baby.

“This new study suggests diabetes in the mother can trigger changes in the baby at a very early stage.”

Professor Neena Modi, from the department of medicine at Imperial and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), also noted: “We found no differences in body fat at birth. However by 10 weeks of age, the babies born to mums with diabetes had accumulated about 16% more fat even though they were predominantly breastfed.

“The importance of this unexpected finding is that the beginnings of obesity are apparent in early infancy in babies born to mothers with diabetes indicating that research targeted at methods to reduce excessive fat deposition in these babies is urgently needed.”

Findings were published in journal Diabetes Care.

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.