Men with waists over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are at greater risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. That’s the message to come out of a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organisation. According to Dr Heinz Freisling, the lead author of the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, a person’s waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk as their body mass index (BMI). His advice is for people to know their waistlines. “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity,” he said. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and pancreas. The study combined data from about 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.
While the association between a lack of exercise and an increased risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, is well-established, new research shows that just 14 days of physical inactivity can increase a person's risk such conditions. A study by the University of Liverpool found that young, healthy adults who switched from moderate-to-vigorous activity and then to near-sedentary behaviour for just 14 days experienced metabolic changes that could raise their risk of chronic disease and even premature death. Presenting their findings at the European Congress on Obesity 2017 in Portugal, Study leader Dr. Dan Cuthbertson and colleagues said that reducing physical activity for just 14 days led to a loss of skeletal muscle mass in the participants. However, the reduction of physical activity for 14 days also led to an increase in total body fat. Furthermore, said body fat was most likely to accumulate centrally, which the team notes is a significant risk factor for chronic disease. Current guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fewer than 50% of adults meet these exercise recommendations. Are you doing enough exercise each week? Even just small lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to your risk of chronic disease.
People with non-O blood could be at greater risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggests. Scientists say it's because A, B and AB blood contains higher levels of a blood-clotting protein. The research, which was presented at the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, analysed studies involving 1.3m people. It found that people 15 in 1,000 people with non-O blood suffered a heart attack, compared to 14 in 1,000 people with O blood. While these figures don't sound that startling at first, when applied to a whole population the numbers become more important. It is hoped that the findings will help doctors better identify who is at risk of developing heart disease. However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings would not have a large impact on the current advice issued by the charity. "Most of a person's risk estimation is determined by age, genetics (family history and ethnicity) and other modifiable risk factors including diet, weight, level of physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. "People with a non-O blood group type - AO, BO and AB - need to take the same steps as anyone wanting to reduce their CVD risk." So regardless of your blood type, the advice remains the same: improve your diet, weight, level of physical activity and don't smoke. In addition, manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes too. There's nothing you can do about your blood group, but you can make positive lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
This year's International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) Awards were held on April 26 in the beautiful town of Opatija, Croatia on the Adriatic coast. France Surgery had been nominated in the 'Best use of technology in medical tourism' category, so a small team travelled from France to Croatia to attend the awards ceremony. The best use of technology category recognises companies that have "developed or demonstrated innovative technology in healthcare enabling technology or applications, or for the innovative use of existing technology in health management to the benefit of the international patient." And it's with great pleasure and much honour that we can reveal that we won! Shown above accepting our award are France Surgery co-founders Carine Hilaire, Françoise Loesch and Dr. Marc Giraud, together with Keith Pollard, the Managing Director of International Medical Travel Journal. We’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our patients and everyone who has helped contribute to our success. Facilitating world-class medical procedures here in France and providing the best recovery services available is our passion, and it's so rewarding to be recognised (again) by the IMTJ. You can find out more information about the IMTJ Awards on the official website here.
The world's first vaccine against malaria will be introduced in three countries - Kenya, Ghana and Malawi - starting in 2018; a move that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. The RTS,S vaccine, as it's known, trains the body's immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. However, it is not yet known if the vaccine will be feasible to use in the poorest parts of the world where access to healthcare is often very limited. This is because the vaccine needs to be given four times over an 18-month period. The concern is that while the vaccine schedule could be followed in a closely-controlled and well-funded clinical trial, real-world situations may prove more difficult - especially in poorer countries. It's the primary reason the WHO is running trials of the vaccine in the three aforementioned countries. It is thought that high risk areas will be targeted first in each of the three countries, all of which already run large programmes to tackle malaria. The trial will involve more than 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months. In the clinical trial, the vaccine prevented nearly four in 10 cases of malaria in this age group. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: "The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. "Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine. "Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa."
A compound found in the slimy mucus from a particular species of frog in India destroys the influenza (flu) virus, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Immunity. Researchers from the Emory Vaccine Centre and the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in India say the frog slime destroys the H1 variety of influenza viruses. It's hoped that the discovery will lead to powerful new flu remedies being developed in the future. The frog, called hydrophylax bahuvistara, is a type of fungoid frog which was first discovered in 2015 and lives in the forests of south west India. It has an eye-catching orange stripe down the back of its body. For the study, the researchers collected secretions from the frogs' skin before releasing them back into the wild. They then began analysing the different chemicals found in the slime. They managed to isolate small structures that act as "anti-flu peptides", which were used to successfully vaccinate mice against the swine flu virus (Influenza A of H1). The peptides were found to not only blow up the virus, but also leave healthy tissue intact. Speaking to NBC News, Dr Jacob, senior study author and associate professor in microbiology, said: "This peptide kills the viruses. It kind of blows them up. There's no collateral damage." The team decided to call the flu-destroying compound urumin, after an Indian whip-like sword used in martial arts in the south of India called an urumi.
Toddlers who regularly use touchscreen devices, such as smartphones and tablets, don't sleep as well as their counterparts who don't, according to new research. The study in Scientific Reports shows that every hour a toddler spends playing with a touchscreen device each day shortens their sleep by almost 16 minutes. Conducted by Birkbeck, University of London and King’s College London, the study questioned 715 parents, with kids under three years old, about their children's touchscreen device usage and sleep patterns. It found that 75% of toddlers used a touchscreen device on a daily basis and slept for nearly 16 minutes less for every hour of use as a result. While the study isn't definitive, it does suggest that playing with touchscreen devices could be linked with possible sleep problems. However, the study also found that toddlers who play with smartphones and tablets have accelerated development of their fine motor skills. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr Tim Smith, one of the researchers involved told the BBC: "It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep." His advice is not to ban toddlers from playing with touchscreen devices altogether, but to limit the amount of time they spend on them instead - the same as a lot of parents do with time spent in front of the TV.
There are all sorts of diets out there, but a certain type in particular could be a "ticking time bomb" for young people's bone health, according to a leading charity in the UK. Dairy-free diets, which see the amount of dairy consumed significantly reduced or cut out completely, says the National Osteoporosis Society, are putting people's health at risk. That's because milk and other dairy products are important sources of calcium, which boosts bone strength. A survey by the charity found that a fifth of under-25s are cutting out or reducing dairy in their diet. Furthermore, its findings suggest many young people are seeking and following dietary advice they find online. While some of this advice can be good, the charity warns that some individuals are restricting what they eat too much. Prof Susan Lanham-New, head of nutritional sciences at the University of Surrey and clinical advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society, said: "Diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late 20s it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed." In the UK, the Department of Health recommends 700mg of calcium a day for adults and pregnant women, but that increases to 1,000mg a day for boys and girls between 11 and 18. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the human body and helps to regulate metabolism, promote healthy bones and teeth, controls muscle contraction and blood clotting, and transmits information via the nervous system.
In 2015 alone, 6.4 million deaths worldwide were attributed to smoking, according to a major new study, the results of which were published in The Lancet medical journal. Even more eye-opening is the fact that half of those deaths occurred in just four countries - China, India, USA, and Russia. The study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the US found a staggering one in 10 deaths globally is caused by smoking, despite decades of tobacco control policies in many countries. Furthermore, mortality rates could rise even more as tobacco companies aggressively target new, emerging markets. Interestingly, the number of people that smoked daily in 2015 was one billion (one in four men and one in 20 women), which is actually a reduction from the one in three men and one in 12 women who did in 1990. However, population growth has meant there were actually more people smoking in 2015 than 1990. "Despite more than half a century of unequivocal evidence of the harmful effects of tobacco on health, today, one in every four men in the world is a daily smoker," said senior author Dr Emmanuela Gakidou. "Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability, and so to further reduce its impact we must intensify tobacco control to further reduce smoking prevalence and attributable burden."
The slogan for British yeast extract Marmite is 'You either love it or hate it'. And while many people in America may not have even heard of it, a new study will come as good news for lovers of the popular food stuff. A by-product of beer brewing, Marmite is a sticky, almost black coloured food paste with a very distinctive, powerful, salty flavour. People in the UK usually eat it in sandwiches or on toast. According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of York in the UK, Marmite could help boost brain function. The study found that participants who ate one teaspoon of Marmite every day displayed a reduced response to visual stimuli - an indicator of increased levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Simply put, GABA "clams" the human brain and helps restore the optimal balance of neuronal activity required for healthy brain functioning. Low GABA levels have previously been linked with anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and autism. That's why researchers have been looking at ways to increase GABA levels in the brain. Speaking about the findings of the research, Senior author Dr. Daniel Baker, of the Department of Psychology at York, said: "Since we've found a connection between diet and specific brain processes involving GABA, this research paves the way for further studies looking into how diet could be used as a potential route to understanding this neurotransmitter." The study serves as a great reminder of how diet has the ability to alter brain processes.
More than 20 million people in Britain are physically inactive and increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation. The charity has warned that the lack of exercise by such a large proportion of the British population is costing the NHS a staggering £1.2bn each year. Women are 36% more likely than men to be physically inactive, which the report defines as not meeting the UK government's guidelines for physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week. However, despite the report finding that 11.8 million women were physically inactive compared with 8.3 million men, it is actually men who sit down for longer (78 days a year compared to 74 for women). Furthermore, inactivity levels differ by region. For example, 47% (2.7 million) of people living in the North West of England were found to be inactive, whereas people in the South East had the lowest rate at 34%. Over five million deaths across the world each year are attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, as well as one in six deaths from any cause. Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.
Are you partial to a nice cup of tea? If you are, it could be a habit that serves you well in the future as scientists have discovered that drinking tea can potentially lower a person's risk of cognitive decline by as much as 50%. The study, the findings of which were published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, was led by Feng Lei from the Department of Psychological Medicine at National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. It involved 957 Chinese adults aged 55 and older, focussing on their tea consumption, including frequency, quantity and type. All of the study participants underwent standard assessments designed to gauge their cognitive function. The results showed that the individuals who drank tea regularly had a 50% lower risk of cognitive decline. Furthermore, adults with the APOE e4 gene - which is linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease - and who also drank tea regularly, had an 86% lower risk of cognitive decline. In addition, the scientists say that the greatest cognitive benefits were witnessed with tea that was brewed from tea leaves, such as green tea, black tea and oolong tea. The source of the cognitive benefits is thought to lie in the bioactive compounds found in tea. "These compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential and other bioactive properties that may protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration," Lei explains. "Our understanding of the detailed biological mechanisms is still very limited so we do need more research to find out definitive answers." More studies are now planned to further investigate the link between tea and cognitive function.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with an urge to go to the toilet? A new study from Japan suggests that it could be linked with the amount of salt you consume. For the study, researchers from Nagasaki University analysed more than 300 volunteers. They found that a reduced salt intake caused people to urinate less in the middle of the night. The problem - called nocturia - is thought to mainly affect people over the age of 60. It disrupts sleep and can have a significant impact on people's lives. Presenting their findings at the European Society of Urology congress in London, the researchers said that a sensible diet could help to improve the symptoms of nocturia. During the study, patients with a high salt intake were advised to cut back. Instead of needing the toilet more than twice a night their trips dropped to just one. As a result, their quality of life also improved. To add extra weight to the study's findings, 98 volunteers were asked to eat more salt than normal. They found they went to the toilet more often at night time. Study author Dr Matsuo Tomohiro said that while larger studies were needed to confirm the link, the results could still offer help for older people. "This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people," he said.
Are you partial to energy drinks mixed with alcohol on a night out? New research from Canada might make you change your drinking habit, as it reveals the dangers linked to this risky combination. According to the Canadian researchers, the caffeine found in many popular energy drinks, such as Red Bull and Monster, can make people feel wide awake and lead to them drinking more. This can lead to a greater risk of accidents or injuries. In addition, medics say energy drinks and alcohol cause disrupted sleep and a raised heart rate. Independent UK-based charity Drinkaware says that mixing alcohol and energy drinks can lead to people being "wide awake drunk" - a combination of the stimulating effects of caffeine and the brain-slowing effects of alcohol. The Canadian researchers analysed 13 different studies conducted between 1981 and 2016, and found that a link existed between drinking alcohol mixed with energy drinks and an increased risk of fights, falls and accidents. Audra Roemer, study author and doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Victoria, said: "Usually when you're drinking alcohol, you eventually get tired and you go home. "Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol, and engage in risky behaviour and more hazardous drinking practices."
Doctors say that an innovative new drug can cut bad cholesterol to unprecedented levels, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes for millions of people. Accounting for around 15 million deaths each year, heart attacks and strokes are the world's biggest killers. They are also the reason why people take drugs known as statins to reduce their levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL. Bad cholesterol causes blood vessels to fur up, which increases the chances of them blocking, leading to the heart or brain being starved of vital oxygen. The new drug, evolocumab, changes the way a person's liver works to help reduce bad cholesterol and is thought to be much more effective than statins. Evolocumab's potential was seen during a large international trial involving 27,000 patients who were already taking statins. "The end result was cholesterol levels came down and down and down and we've seen cholesterol levels lower than we have ever seen before in the practice of medicine," according to Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London. "They would have another 20% reduction in risk and that is a big effect. It is probably the most important trial result of a cholesterol lowering drug in over 20 years," he added. One heart attack or stroke was prevented for every 74 patients taking evolocumab in the two-year trial. The British Heart Foundation's medical director, Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, said: "This trial is a significant advance" in fighting one of the biggest killers in the world.
A new type of breast cancer treatment could help up to 10,000 women in the UK, according to scientists. Historically, biological therapies have been used to help fight rare, inherited genetic errors which can lead to cancer, such as the BRCA one actress Angelina Jolie carries. However, a new study has found that such therapies could also help women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have these genetic errors. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute study suggests that such therapies could be effective in one in five breast cancers (20%). For comparison, the number of women who develop cancer and have faulty BRCA genes is 1 to 5%. For the study, the researchers analysed the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found that a significant proportion had "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA. Therefore, given the close similarities, these cancers could also potentially be treated with biological therapies. Clinical trials are now being called for to confirm the researchers' theory. Baroness Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said the initial results were "a revelation". "We hope it could now lead to a watershed moment for the use of mutational signatures in treating the disease," she said. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
It is hoped that a new mobile app developed in Canada could help treat millions of patients in Africa. MOST, or mobile optimised skill training, is an application that can be accessed on a tablet or smartphone which helps accelerate the number of healthcare workers that can be taught essential surgical skills. The brainchild of Vancouver-based surgeon and UBC surgical professor Dr. Ronald Lett, MOST was brought to life by Surrey, B.C. tech company Conquer Mobile and will be provided by the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) for free. Unlike existing face-to-face courses, which are usually taught by doctors visiting Africa to limited groups, MOST will facilitate the sharing of skills in the community long after visiting teams have left. At present, there are 5 mobile training courses available in MOST, but another 7 are planned for the future. The new technology will be used to train 25,000 African healthcare workers and treat 2 million patients over the next 3 years. [caption id="attachment_3741" align="alignnone" width="620"] Dr. Ronald Lett has been teaching surgical skills to healthcare workers in Sub-Saharan Africa for 22 years. (Image credit: Ronald Lett)[/caption] "The problem is there is a huge demand for surgical education, limited funding, and therefore we feel that we can optimize training, by having it available using newer technology," said Lett. African healthcare workers will be able to download the app onto their smartphone or tablet and go through the academic knowledge part using games and skills questions. There will also be avatars which react and provide feedback as though the individual were practising on a real life patient. Today, women in Africa are 10 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in the Americas. Furthermore, 13% of Africans will die as a result of an injury. The MOST app will be tested by CNIS in Ethiopia and Rwanda this spring or early summer.
Despite the fact the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen over the past 30 years, fewer people are actually attempting to shed weight, according to a new study, the findings of which were published in JAMA. Around two thirds of the adult population in the United States are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. However, new research has found that even though there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese since the 1980s, the percentage of U.S. adults who are trying to lose weight has fallen. For their research, study co-author Dr. Jian Zhang and her colleagues from the Georgia Southern University, analysed the data of 27,350 U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59 years. The analyses revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity increased by 13%, from 53% in 1988-1994 to 66% in 2009-2014. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the percentage of people who attempted to lose weight over the same period actually dropped by 7%, from 56% in 1988-1994 to 49% in 2009-2014. At present, people are deemed to be overweight or obese depending on their body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are proven to help curb weight gain, which is why we should all make a conscientious effort to watch what we eat and exercise more. [Recommended read: BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research]
People should be cautious when purchasing medications online after an investigation uncovered "widespread failings" at some Internet-based providers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said. The independent regulator of health and social care in England inspected 11 internet prescription services in the country and found some "potentially presenting a significant risk to patients". Despite some providers being well-run, others were cutting corners, according to the CQC investigation. For example, two online providers - Treated.com and MD Direct - did little or no checking of patients' identities. In addition, they were guilty of inadequate prescribing and gave no assurances that the clinicians working behind the scenes had the qualifications or relevant skills for the roles they were performing. Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Prof Steve Field, the CQC's chief inspector of general practice, said: ""Some of these websites prescribed unlicensed medicines and - even more worryingly - medicines for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease and Lithium for bipolar disorder." The CQC has now drawn up a set of clear standards for online pharmacies. Going forward, all Internet-based providers must: verify that a patient is who they say they are, such as through a Skype check obtain a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history ensure patients truly understand what medicines they are being given seek permission to contact a patient's GP One of the biggest problems cited with antibiotics being sold online is that some people treat them like sweets. More discipline is needed if we are to prevent the so-called antibiotic apocalypse - where bacteria become resistant to more and more drugs - from happening.
In 2015, France Surgery was named ‘Medical Travel Agency of the Year' at the International Medical Travel awards. Last year, we were a finalist in the ‘Best Marketing Initiative’ category. Now, it's with great pleasure that we can announce we've been nominated once again at the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards 2017, which is scheduled to take place at the Design Hotel Royal, Opatija, Croatia on the evening of April 26th this year. This year, France Surgery is being recognised in the 'Best Use of Technology in Medical Tourism' category, which the IMTJ website describes as: "Awarded to an organisation that has developed or demonstrated innovative technology in healthcare enabling technology or applications, or for the innovative use of existing technology in health management to the benefit of the international patient. Entries will be accepted from clinics, hospitals, hospital groups, medical travel agencies and facilitators, and organisations providing technology services to the medical travel industry. The judges will be looking for objective evidence of success that can be attributed to the initiative. Supporting information should include evidence of the benefits provided to the medical travel sector." We'll be up against stiff competition, but hoping for a positive result when we head to Croatia next month. You can find out more about the IMTJ Medical Travel Awards, including information about all the categories, on the official website.
Last Wednesday, France Surgery proudly exhibited at the fourth edition of the China Workshop in Paris. The event, which was held at the Hotel du Collectionneur, saw hundreds of French exhibitors and Chinese visitors brought together under one roof to promote tourism opportunities in France for Chinese nationals. While Europe has always been a popular destination for Chinese tourists, the China Workshop presents a unique opportunity for French companies and Chinese tour operators to get in contact and develop mutual business relationships. France Surgery spent the day forging new business partnerships and promoting France as a medical tourism destination for Chinese nationals. The China Workshop was a fantastic opportunity for us to speak face-to-face with people interested in our services and provide them with detailed information about the medical tourism opportunities that exist for them here in France. France Surgery is already looking forward to next year's China Workshop, which is sure to be another successful event. You can find out more about the event on the official China Workshop website.
South Korean women will become the first people in the world to have an average life expectancy above 90, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The study, conducted by Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation, analysed the lifespans of people living in 35 industrialised countries. In each country analysed, the average life expectancy is expected to increase by 2030 and the gap between men and women will start to close in most countries. "As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years," said study lead author Majid Ezzati in a journal news release. Ezzati is a professor at Imperial College London's School of Public Health in England. "Our predictions of increasing life spans," he added, "highlight our public health and health care successes. However, it is important that policies to support the growing older population are in place." The biggest issue for governments, say the researchers, will be how they overcome the challenges associated with pensions and care for elderly people. Equality of life, say the researchers, is the secret to South Korea's success, with things like education and nutrition benefitting most people in the country. Furthermore, South Korea is better at dealing with hypertension and has some of the lowest obesity rates in the whole of the world. Surprisingly, Japan, which currently has the longest life expectancy for women, is expected to tumble down the rankings going forward and be overtaken by both South Korea and France. By 2030, the US will have the shortest life expectancy of all the rich countries analysed for the research.
Half of people labelled 'obese' because of their body mass index (BMI) scores are actually healthy, according to new research, bringing into question the validity of the scoring system. Scientists claim the BMI scoring system is wrongly labelling millions of people 'unhealthy' when, in fact, they are actually much healthier than their slimmer counterparts. Dr. A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor in the department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said: "Many people see obesity as a death sentence. But the data shows there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy." Scientists say that BMI is being used by healthcare companies to increase premiums in some countries and that the latest findings will be "the final nail in the coffin for BMI." The problem with BMI is that it can give people false hope. For example, a person can have a 'normal' BMI, yet be at risk of disease, highlighting that it is not always an accurate predictor of future health. Prof Tomiyama and her colleagues discovered that more than 54 million Americans are being labelled as "unhealthy," even though they are not. The study - the results of which were published in the International Journal of Obesity - analysed the link between BMI and several health indicators, including blood pressure and glucose, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It found nearly half of Americans who are labelled 'overweight' because of their BMIs (34.4 million people) are healthy, as are 19.8 million who are considered 'obese'.
By simply cooking rice the wrong way, millions of people worldwide could be endangering their lives, scientists believe. That's because rice contains traces of the poison arsenic, which stems from industrial toxins and pesticides that can remain in the soil it grows in for decades. In fact, rice contains about 10-20 times more arsenic than other cereal crops because of the way it is grown in flooded paddies. Fortunately, the way people cook rice can have a dramatic effect on the amount of arsenic that finds its way into their bodies. Chronic arsenic exposure has been linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and developmental problems, which is why the new research is so alarming. For the BBC TV programme “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,” Prof Andy Meharg, from Queens University Belfast, tested how three different ways of cooking rice affected the levels of arsenic in it afterwards. In the first method, he used a ratio of two parts water to one part rice. This is the method many people use and sees the water “steamed out” during cooking. It's also the method that resulted in the most arsenic remaining in the rice. In the second method, he used five parts water to one part rice and washed off the excess water. The levels of arsenic almost halved with this method. In the third and final method, he soaked the rice overnight before cooking it. This resulted in the levels of arsenic being reduced by a whopping 80%. "The only thing I can really equate it to is smoking," said Professor Meharg. "If you take one or two cigarettes per day, your risks are going to be a lot less than if you're smoking 30 or 40 cigarettes a day. It's dose-dependent - the more you eat, the higher your risk is."
A Mediterranean-inspired meal with lashings of virgin olive oil may help to protect your heart, according to new research. Cholesterol is carried around the blood by two different types of molecules called lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). You'll most likely know LDL as "bad cholesterol". That's because high levels of LDL can lead to plaque building up in arteries, which can result in heart disease and stroke. HDL, on the other hand, the so-called "good bacteria", actually absorbs cholesterol and carries it to the liver where it is flushed from the body. That's why having high levels of HDL can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can protect against the development of heart disease as it improves the lipid profile of HDLs. The new research - which was led by Montserrat Fitó, Ph.D., coordinator of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain - aimed to determine whether eating a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil or nuts over a long period of time would improve the beneficial properties of HDL in humans. Fitó's team randomly selected a total of 296 people who already had a high risk of heart disease and were participating in a separate study. They had an average age of 66 and were assigned to one of three diets for a year. They found that the individuals on the Mediterranean diet enriched with virgin olive oil had improved HDL functions. "Following a Mediterranean diet rich in virgin olive oil could protect our cardiovascular health in several ways, including making our 'good cholesterol' work in a more complete way," said Fitó.
Does the sound of people eating or breathing elicit a response from you that's perhaps a little over the top? If so, you're not alone and scientists have now discovered why some people react this way. There's far more to the condition - misophonia - than simply disliking noises such as nails being scraped down a blackboard. UK scientists have now discovered that some people's brains become hardwired over time to produce an "excessive" emotional response to otherwise normal actions. Olana Tansley-Hancock, 29, from Kent, developed misophonia when she was eight years old. For her, the sound of people eating and breathing and rustling noises trigger her condition. "I feel there's a threat and get the urge to lash out - it's the fight or flight response," Olana told the BBC. "Anyone eating crisps is always going to set me off, the rustle of the packet is enough to start a reaction." Publishing the findings of their study in the journal Current Biology, the scientists said people with misophonia have overtly active anterior insular cortexes - the part of our brains that joins our senses with our emotions. There is currently no treatment for misophonia and it is still not clear how common the condition is because there is still no definitive way to diagnose it.
A simple breath test which measures the levels of five specific chemicals in a person's breath could detect stomach and esophageal cancer, a new study has found. At present, the only way to diagnose cancers of the stomach and oesophagus is with endoscopy, an invasive, expensive method, which isn’t without its complication risks. It's hoped that the new breath test method could not only save thousands of lives each year, but also negate the need for patients to undergo painful endoscopy exams. The breath test works by measuring the levels of butyric, pentanoic and hexanoic acids, butanal, and decanal in people's breath samples. These can then be compared to a 'chemical signature' indicative of stomach and esophageal cancer. Presenting her team's findings at the European Cancer Congress 2017 in Amsterdam, Dr Sheraz Markar, an NIHR Clinical Trials Fellow from Imperial College London, said the breath test "could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survival." The clinical trial involved 335 patients from three different London hospitals, 163 of which had been diagnosed with stomach or esophageal cancer and 172 who had showed no evidence of cancer when they underwent an endoscopy. The researchers found that the breath test had an overall accuracy level of 85%, with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 81%. This means that not only was the breath test good at picking up those who had cancer (sensitivity), it was also good at correctly identifying who did not have cancer (specificity). Dr Justine Alford from Cancer Research UK welcomed the findings. "The next step is to see if it can detect the disease at its earliest stages," she said.
Around 620,000 people in the UK are living with a faulty gene which places them at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease or sudden death, a charity has warned. To make matters even worse, most of them are totally unaware. According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the number of people with the faulty gene hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is 100,000 higher than originally thought and could be even higher still in reality. Every week in the UK, approximately 12 seemingly healthy individuals aged 35 or under suffer a sudden cardiac arrest with no explanation. The cause is predominantly undiagnosed heart conditions. The prevalence of inherited conditions is becoming better known, however, the charity warned that as yet undiscovered faulty genes and under-diagnoses mean the real scale is inevitably unknown. A child of someone who has an inherited heart condition has a 50% chance of inheriting it themselves too. Nevertheless, research has helped to uncover many of the faulty genes that cause inherited heart conditions and structured genetic testing services have been developed as a result. However, the medical director of the BHF, Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, said that more research is urgently needed. "If undetected and untreated, inherited heart conditions can be deadly and they continue to devastate families, often by taking away loved ones without warning. "We urgently need to fund more research to better understand these heart conditions, make more discoveries, develop new treatments and save more lives."
We recently informed you about how researchers from Cambridge University believe a chemical compound found in dogfish sharks could be used to potentially halt the onset of Parkinson's Disease (here). Now scientists in Australia hope a drug that mimics part of a shark's immune system could be used to help treat an incurable lung disease in humans. People with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) - a condition that scars lung tissue - find that their breathing becomes progressively harder and they develop a persistent dry cough. At present, there is no cure for IPF, so treatment focuses on symptom relief and slowing the progression of the disease. Initial tests with the drug, AD-114, showed that it can successfully kill the cells that cause fibrosis. Researchers hope that human trials with AD-114 can commence as early as next year. Dr Mick Foley, from the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, was keen to stress that no sharks were harmed during the research, and just a single blood sample was taken from a wobbegong shark at Melbourne Aquarium for the tests. "It would be very nice to say one day that 'this person is alive because of what the sharks told us,'" Dr Foley said. IPF is a disease that kills more than 5,000 people in the UK alone every year, according to the British Lung Foundation.
Even though around 7 million people in France and more than 70 million in Europe are currently living with osteoarthritis today, there is still no treatment capable of anatomically reversing the debilitating disease. To try to combat this startling reality, the European Commission has agreed to finance a four-year research program known as the ADIPOA project. Coordinated by Professor Christian Jorgensen, Head of The Clinical Unit for Osteoarticular Diseases University Hospital Montpellier in France, the ADIPOA project is a collaborative program bringing together 200 researchers from seven countries to work to validate a new concept of treatment based on stem cell therapy. Phase 1 of the ADIPOA project was completed in 2014 and the results were sufficiently encouraging to warrant a larger, multi-centre Phase 2b study, designed to further test the effectiveness of the treatment. ADIPOA-2, as it's known, will now build on the previous study's work and further assess the safety and efficacy of patient-derived stems cells in the treatment of advanced osteoarthritis of the knee. Professor Jorgensen said: "Ambitious as it sounds, we are aiming to deliver an effective treatment for the debilitating and incurable condition of osteoarthritis within as little as five years. We have arrived at this point because of a great deal of work by many scientists, clinicians and stem cell experts who have made enormous contributions in understanding the therapeutic potential of stem cells."
People who eat browned toast, chips and potatoes could be increasing their risk of cancer, according to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). That's because the chemical acrylamide - which is known to be toxic to DNA and cause cancer in animals - is produced when starchy foods are roasted, fried or grilled for too long at high temperatures. For example, when bread is warmed to make toast the sugar, amino acids and water present in it combine to create colour and acrylamide. The darker the colour of the toast, the more acrylamide is present. The FSA admits that it does not know exactly how much acrylamide can be tolerated by people, but it does believe we are all eating too much of it. As a result, the FSA has launched a new campaign advising people to make some small changes to the way they prepare and cook food: Always aim for a golden yellow colour when toasting, frying, baking, or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, bread and root vegetables Store raw potatoes in a cool, dark place above 6C and not in the fridge. Carefully follow cooking instructions when heating oven chips, pizzas, roast potatoes and parsnips Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet which includes five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, as well as starchy carbohydrates In addition to the campaign, the FSA is also working with the food industry to reduce the amount of acrylamide found in processed food. Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said most people were not aware that acrylamide even existed. "We want our campaign to highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice."
Researchers believe a chemical compound found in dogfish sharks may have the potential to reduce the formation of toxic proteins that are related to the development of Parkinson's disease. Publishing their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers from Cambridge University said Squalamine - which is found in the liver of dogfish sharks - not only prevents the formation of toxic plaques, known as Lewy Bodies, which accumulate in the brain of Parkinson's sufferers, but also stops them being as damaging once they’ve already formed. It's not the first time, though, that squalamine has been used for medical purposes. It has already featured in clinical trials for cancer and eye conditions in America. A trial now in Parkinson's Disease patients is also being planned by one of the researchers involved in the study. Parkinson's Disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement. At present, up to 1 million people in the United States alone are living with Parkinson's, while its precise causes remain unclear. The hope is that if further tests prove successful, a drug treating at least some of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease could be developed from squalamine.
Great news for fans of spicy food as research finds a link between eating red hot chilli peppers and a longer lifespan. The study of more than 16,000 people living in the United States found that those who ate red hot chilli peppers - ranging from a single chilli to several chillies every day - had a 13% lower risk of death from all causes compared to individuals who didn't eat them. Study co-authors Mustafa Chopan and Benjamin Littenberg, both from the Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, recently published their findings in the journal PLOS One. While it still hasn't been determined exactly why chilli peppers might extend lifespan, the researchers believe it is likely down to capsaicin, which activities transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Capsaicin is also where chilli peppers get their distinctive fiery flavour. There are many different types of chilli pepper, all with varying levels of heat. They are the fruits of the Capsicum plant, which belongs to the nightshade family. Capsaicin is also believed to have anti-inflammatory and/or anti-oxidant effects, as well as helping to boost the metabolism, which can help combat obesity. The team says that further study is needed to investigate the benefits of other spices and differential effects of certain chilli pepper sub-types, which "may lead to new insights into the relationships between diet and health, updated dietary recommendations, and the development of new therapies."
People who cram all their recommended weekly exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend can realise important health benefits, a study suggests. Furthermore, just being active, without undertaking the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, is still enough to reduce the risk of premature death by a third. Researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Sydney analysed the survey responses of around 64,000 adults aged over 40 in England and Scotland focusing on the amount of time they spent doing exercise and their general health over an 18-year period. They found that no matter how many times people exercised in a week, as long as they met the recommended guidelines the health benefits were the same. The findings of the study are particularly good news for people with busy lives who simply do not have enough time during the week to exercise. These particular individuals often squeeze all of their physical activity into the weekends, leading to them becoming known as "weekend warriors". In fact, these so-called "weekend warriors" were found to lower their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 41% and cancer by 18%, compared with people who were inactive. Commenting on the findings of the study, Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said: "The maximum health benefits are achieved from 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. "However, every little counts and just 10 minutes of physical activity will provide health benefits."
People who live near busy roads have higher rates of dementia, suggesting that traffic can have an impact on our mental health, according to research recently published in the Lancet. In fact, the research suggests that as many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50 metres of a busy road could be down to traffic. For the study, the researchers followed 2 million people in the Canadian province of Ontario over an 11-year period. They found that both noisy traffic and air pollution could be contributing to people's brain decline. UK dementia experts have called the findings "plausible", but also said more research is needed to further investigate any potential link. Over the course of the study, 243,611 cases of dementia were diagnosed. However, the risk was greater for those living near major roads. Compared with people living 300m away from a major road the risk was: 7% higher within 50m 4% higher between 50-100m 2% higher between 101-200m Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario and one of the report authors, said: "Increasing population growth and urbanisation have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden." Dementia is thought to affect around 50 million people worldwide. However, its causes are still not understood.
The New Year is here and for many of you that will mean a new exercise regime designed to get you into shape and improve your overall health. For some people, though, sticking to a disciplined program of physical exercise is one of the hardest resolutions they can make because a lack of motivation gets in the way. But now new research sheds some light on why many people, despite understanding the benefits of regular exercise, find it hard in practice to stay physically active. Researchers from the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), led by Alexxai V. Kravitz, focused on why obese animals also have a hard time carrying out physical activity. They found that a dysfunction in obese rodents' dopamine systems might help explain why. Mice fed on a high-fat diet started gaining significantly more weight than mice fed on a normal diet. They were also observed to have fewer movements; spend less time moving; and were slower when they did move, compared with the lean mice. Most interesting of all was that the overweight mice's changes in movements did not correlate with body weight gain. Instead, the researchers found that a deficit in striatal D2R explained the obese mice's lack of activity. "In many cases, willpower is invoked as a way to modify behavior. But if we don't understand the underlying physical basis for that behavior, it is difficult to say that willpower alone can solve it," said Kravitz.
Ever wondered why us humans get so much shoulder, hip and knee pain? Scientists from Oxford University say it's due to a hangover from evolution. More worrying is that the same scientists say future generations could be at even greater risk, if this trend continues. The scientists studied more than 300 specimens from different species spanning 400 million years to see how bones changed over extremely long periods of time. Apparently, the changes occurred when man began standing up straight on two legs. Dr Paul Monk, of the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, Oxford University, who led the research, wanted to discover why patients in his clinic came in with similar orthopaedic complaints. "We see certain things very commonly in hospital clinics - pain in the shoulder with reaching overhead, pain in the front of the knee, arthritis of the hip, and in younger people we see some joints that have a tendency to pop out," he said. By analysing detailed CT scans of 300 ancient specimens housed at the Natural History Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the team was able to create a library of 3D models and identify changes to the shapes of single bones over millennia. One particular example is how the so-called 'neck' of the human thigh bone grew broader to support the extra weight as humans started walking upright. Studies have shown that the thicker the neck of the thigh bone, the more likely it is to be affected by arthritis. Scientists say this is one potential reason why humans are susceptible to so much hip pain.
A new treatment for early stage prostate cancer has been described as "truly transformative" by surgeons. The approach, which has been tested across Europe, uses lasers and a drug made from deep sea bacteria to eliminate tumours, without any severe side effects. The results of clinical trials on some 413 men, which were published in The Lancet Oncology, showed nearly half of them had no remaining trace of cancer. One of the biggest issues for men with early stage prostate cancer is that treatment often leads to lifelong impotence and incontinence. That's why many men choose the "wait and see" approach when they are diagnosed in the early stages and only opt for treatment if their cancer starts growing aggressively. These new findings turn that approach on its head and "change everything," according to Prof Mark Emberton, who tested the technique at University College London. The bacteria that the drug is made from live in total darkness and become toxic when exposed to light. This is how the new treatment works. Fibre optic lasers are inserted through the perineum (the gap between the anus and the testes) and into the cancerous prostate gland. When they are activated the drug kills the cancer and leaves the healthy prostate behind. While the fact that 49% of patients went into complete remission is remarkable in itself, the additional finding that impact on sexual activity and urination lasted for no more than three months makes the treatment even more amazing. Even though more research is needed, the findings of the study are being hailed as "truly transformative" for prostate cancer patients.
All of us experience a little pain from time to time. It's not unusual and can usually be treated with over the counter pain remedies. But if said pain and discomfort lingers; becomes too much to cope with; and interferes with your day-to-day life, it's time to consider your options. Many shoulder pains are the result of a breakdown of soft tissues in the joint, which can often happen to people who have jobs that involve lots of manual labour and people who play certain sports. Rotator cuff tears, tendonitis and arthritis are all typical causes of shoulder pain. Surgery becomes an option when the pain and discomfort you experience becomes too much to bear, and when it comes to shoulder pain you (usually) have several surgical options: Arthroscopic surgery - Where a tiny camera (arthroscope) is inserted through a small incision in your skin and used to examine or repair the shoulder joint tissues. Shoulder stabilisation surgery - Carried out to improve the stability and function of the shoulder joint and prevent recurring dislocations. Total shoulder replacement - Surgeons replace the ends of the damaged upper arm bone (humerus) and usually the shoulder bone (scapula) or cap them with artificial surfaces lined with plastic or metal and plastic. Reverse total shoulder replacement - In standard total shoulder replacement surgery, a metal ball is used to replace the head of the humerus. The socket of the shoulder is replaced with a high-strength plastic implant. With reverse total shoulder replacement surgery, the positions of the new ball and socket are 'reversed' and on the opposite sides of a normal shoulder. Advances in replacement parts mean that most will last a lifetime, but on average artificial joints have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years.
A 32-year-old man who was born without a left hand has received one from a deceased donor, in an operation that surgeons claim is a world first. The man, who is known as Piotr, was born with a congenital birth defect which caused him to be missing the limb, but following the 13-hour procedure in Poland he now has a left hand for the first time in his life. At present, Piotr only has the ability to move his fingers, but doctors are confident that this will improve over time. Adam Domanasiewicz, who headed up the operation at Wroclaw Medical University, Poland, said: "It is the first graft in the world of an upper limb onto an adult with this congenital defect. "We are talking about a man who lived 32 years without this member." Domanasiewicz added that the operation could open up exciting new possibilities to hundreds of thousands of people in the world born without limbs, whose only option up until now has been prostheses. Bones are joined using titanium plates and screws, in much the same way as broken bones are fixed. They should eventually heal together, but the plates remain in place to ensure stability. Key tendons and muscles are then connected before the blood vessels are finally joined. With time and expert after care, the donor hand will move with strength and dexterity, and will even feel warm to touch and heal itself when injured. While hand transplants have been previously performed on patients whose own limbs have been amputated, Piotr's operation is the first involving a person with a congenital birth defect resulting in a missing limb.