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Soft drinks high blood pressure

Soft drinks high blood pressure

Drinking soft drinks is associated with higher blood pressure, according to a study of over 2,500 people reported this week in the journal Hypertension. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Someone with a blood pressure level in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) of 135 over 85 is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75.

The new research shows that for every extra can of soft drink consumed per day, participants on average had a higher systolic blood pressure by 1.6 mmHg and a higher diastolic blood pressure by 0.8 mmHg. This difference was statistically significant even after adjusting for factors such as weight and height. The study did not examine the mechanism that might link soft drinks with blood pressure. However, the researchers suggest that raised uric acid, which has been linked to soft drink consumption, might raise blood pressure by reducing the levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes the lining of the blood vessels.

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The association between soft drinks and higher blood pressure was especially strong in people who consumed a lot of salt as well as sugar. Diet drinks were linked with lower blood pressure levels in some analyses, but the association was not consistent or strong. Professor Paul Elliott, senior author of the study, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: “It’s widely known that if you have too much salt in your diet, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure. The results of this study suggest that people should be careful about how much sugar they consume as well.”

The researchers analysed data from 2,696 volunteers aged between 40 and 59, in eight areas of the US and two areas of the UK. On four separate occasions over a period of three weeks on average, the participants reported what they had eaten in the preceding 24 hours, as well as giving urine samples and having their blood pressure measured. The volunteers were taking part in INTERMAP, the International Study of Macronutrients, Micronutrients and Blood Pressure.

The researchers also found that people who drink more soft drinks tended to have more unhealthy diets in general. As well as consuming more sugar, those consuming more than one soft drink a day consumed more calories by 397 kilocalories per day on average, and less fibre and minerals. Those who did not consume soft drinks had a lower body mass index (BMI) on average than those who consumed more than one drink per day. “Individuals who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to have less healthy diets,” said Dr Ian Brown, the study’s first author, also from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “They are consuming empty calories without the nutritional benefits of real food. They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium.” “This is a population study,” Dr Brown added. “It can’t say definitively that sugary drinks raise your blood pressure, but it’s one piece of the evidence in a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed. In the meantime, we would advise people who want to drink sugar-sweetened beverages should do so only in moderation.”

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Craving for alcohol linked to obesity

Addiction researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a risk for alcoholism also may put individuals at risk for obesity. The researchers noted that the association between a family history of alcoholism and obesity risk has become more pronounced in recent years. Both men and women with such a family history were more likely to be obese in 2002 than members of that same high-risk group had been in 1992. “In addiction research, we often look at what we call cross-heritability, which addresses the question of whether the predisposition to one condition also might contribute to other conditions,” says first author Richard A. Grucza, PhD. “For example, alcoholism and drug abuse are cross-heritable. This new study demonstrates a cross-heritability between alcoholism and obesity, but it also says — and this is very important — that some of the risks must be a function of the environment. The environment is what changed between the 1990s and the 2000s. It wasn’t people’s genes.”

Obesity in the United States has doubled in recent decades from 15 percent of the population in the late 1970s to 33 percent in 2004. Obese people – those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – have an elevated risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

Reporting in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Grucza and his team say individuals with a family history of alcoholism, particularly women, have an elevated obesity risk. In addition, that risk seems to be growing. He speculates that may result from changes in the food we eat and the availability of more foods that interact with the same brain areas as addictive drugs. “Much of what we eat nowadays contains more calories than the food we ate in the 1970s and 1980s, but it also contains the sorts of calories — particularly a combination of sugar, salt and fat — that appeal to what are commonly called the reward centers in the brain,” says Grucza, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “Alcohol and drugs affect those same parts of the brain, and our thinking was that because the same brain structures are being stimulated, overconsumption of those foods might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction.”

Grucza hypothesized that as Americans consumed more high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods, those with a genetic risk for addiction would face an elevated risk from because of the effects of those foods on the reward centers in the brain. His team analyzed data from two large alcoholism surveys from the last two decades. The National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey was conducted in 1991 and 1992. The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was conducted in 2001 and 2002. Almost 80,000 people took part in the two surveys.

“We looked particularly at family history of alcoholism as a marker of risk,” Grucza explains. “And we found that in 2001 and 2002, women with that history were 49 percent more likely to be obese than those without a family history of alcoholism. We also noticed a relationship in men, but it was not as striking in men as in women.” Grucza says a possible explanation for obesity in those with a family history of alcoholism is that some individuals may substitute one addiction for another. After seeing a close relative deal with alcohol problems, a person may shy away from drinking, but high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods also can stimulate the reward centers in their brains and give them effects similar to what they might experience from alcohol.

“Ironically, people with alcoholism tend not to be obese,” Grucza says. “They tend to be malnourished, or at least under-nourished because many replace their food intake with alcohol. One might think that the excess calories associated with alcohol consumption could, in theory, contribute to obesity, but that’s not what we saw in these individuals.” Grucza says other variables, from smoking, to alcohol intake, to demographic factors like age and education levels don’t seem to explain the association between alcoholism risk and obesity. “It really does appear to be a change in the environment,” he says. “I would speculate, although I can’t really prove this, that a change in the food environment brought this association about. There is a whole slew of literature out there suggesting these hyper-palatable foods appeal to people with addictive tendencies, and I would guess that’s what we’re seeing in our study.” The results, he says, suggest there should be more cross-talk between alcohol and addiction researchers and those who study obesity. He says there may be some people for whom treating one of those disorders also might aid the other.

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Omega-3 foods prevent eye disease

Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to protect seniors against the onset of a serious eye disease known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Researchers did a fresh analysis of a one-year dietary survey conducted in the early 1990s. The poll involved nearly 2,400 seniors between the ages of 65 and 84 living in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region, where fish and shellfish are eaten routinely.

While participants in all groups, including controls, averaged at least one serving of fish or shellfish per week, those who had advanced AMD had consumed less fish and seafood containing omega-3 fatty acids. After their food intake was assessed, participants underwent eye examinations. About 450 had AMD, including 68 who had an advanced stage of the disease, which can lead to severe vision impairment or blindness. Prior evidence suggested that dietary zinc is similarly protective against AMD, so the researchers looked to see if zinc consumption from a diet of oysters and crabs reduced risk of AMD, but no such association was seen.

The researchers believe that the low dietary zinc levels relative to zinc supplements could account for the absence of such a link. However, they cautioned against people to start taking omega-3 supplements to protect against AMD based on this study because they are not sure that the above results have sufficient power to draw any conclusions. The correlation is important but larger studies with longer term follow-up are needed before being able to properly assess the impact.

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Teen soft drinks risk heart disease

Excessive intake of sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks and fruit juices that offer no nutritional value other than calories to the diet of teenagers can elevate their risk of heart disease in later life, claims a new study. According to health experts, there is growing evidence of the link between excess sugar consumption among youngsters and a number of health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, elevated triglycerides that are considered markers for heart disease. Lead author of the study, Jean Welsh, post-doctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta stated, “We need to be aware of sugar consumption. “It’s a significant contributor of calories to our diet and there are these associations that may prove to be very negative. “Sugar-sweetened soft drinks and sodas are the major contributor of added sugar and are a major source of calories without other important nutrients. “Parents and adolescents need to become aware of the amount of added sugar they are consuming and be aware that there may be some negative health implications if not now, then down the line.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations, a teenager who requires 2,200 calories may have an upper limit of 150 calories from added sugar while someone with an energy requirement of 1,800 calories per day should limit added sugar to 100 calories. However, the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) of 2,157 teenagers aged 12 to 18 years found that the average teenager consumes close to 500 calories added sugars each day. “Adolescents are eating 20 per cent of their daily calories in sugars that provide few if any other nutrients,” said Jean Welsh.

In order to get an insight into the impact of high sugar consumption in adolescence on the risk of cardiovascular disease in later life the researchers studied 646 teenagers. For the purpose of the study, they analyzed the 24-hour dietary recall by teens with data from the US Department of Agriculture on sugar content in foods. It was noted that the teens’ average daily consumption of added sugars was three to five times higher that the limit acceptable by the AHA.

The study found, that teens who consumed 30 percent or more of total calories from added sugars exhibited lower levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, compared to those who ate less than 10 percent of added sugar. In addition, it was observed that obese and overweight teenagers who consumed more sugar also had the most insulin resistance.

Although the study hints at a possible association between added sugar intake and poor cholesterol profiles as well as other heart disease risk factors, researchers feel there is need for more research to substantiate the findings. Welsh stated, “We need controlled studies to really understand the role of added sugars in cardiovascular disease. But it is important to be aware of the added sugar in the foods we all eat.”

The study is published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal ‘Circulation.’

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Stress affects more women than men

About one in seven Britons feels under extreme stress, a survey suggests.We can reasonably conclude that these numbers will be similar right here in Australia. Experts say stress raises blood pressure, putting people at greater risk of stroke. A poor diet and lack of exercise also contribute to the chances of suffering a stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Each year, about 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. Almost one in five women and one in 10 men feel their stress levels are out of control, according to the poll of 2,000 people in Britain.

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The survey, by the Stroke Association and the engineering company Siemens, found almost a fifth of people said they took no exercise. A similar number said they exercised for 30 minutes once a week. More than a quarter of people aged 45 to 54 said they never exercised, despite suffering the highest stress levels. Almost half said they were under more than “moderate stress”. Overall, 40 per cent of those surveyed said they were unaware of the link between exercise and lowering the risk of stroke.

James Beeby, of the Stroke Association, said: “The research is incredibly worrying and emphasises the need for people to be aware of the dangers of stroke. “It’s imperative that people take regular exercise and modify their diet to reduce the risk of suffering a stroke.” Siemens sponsors the British rowing team and provides some funding for the Stroke Association’s Stroke for Stroke campaign. Andreas Goss, the chief executive of Siemens in the UK, said: “Contrary to popular belief, stroke can affect people of any age.”

Originally Published in The Telegraph

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Newborns with low vitamin D levels at increased risk for respiratory infections

The vitamin D levels of newborn babies appear to predict their risk of respiratory infections during infancy and the occurrence of wheezing during early childhood, but not the risk of developing asthma. Results of a study in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics support the theory that widespread vitamin D deficiency contributes to risk of infections.

“Our data suggest that the association between vitamin D and wheezing, which can be a symptom of many respiratory diseases and not just asthma, is largely due to respiratory infections,” says Carlos Camargo, MD, DrPH, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), who led the study. “Acute respiratory infections are a major health problem in children. For example, bronchiolitis – a viral illness that affects small airway passages in the lungs – is the leading cause of hospitalization in U.S. infants.”

Although vitamin D is commonly associated with its role in developing and maintaining strong bones, recent evidence suggests that it is also critical to the immune system. Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight, and achieving adequate levels in winter can be challenging, especially in regions with significant seasonal variation in sunlight. Previous studies by Camargo's team found that children of women who took vitamin D supplements during pregnancy were less likely to develop wheezing during childhood. The current study was designed to examine the relationship between the actual blood levels of vitamin D of newborns and the risk of respiratory infection, wheezing and asthma.

The researchers analyzed data from the New Zealand Asthma and Allergy Cohort Study, which followed more than 1,000 children in the cities of Wellington and Christchurch. Midwives or study nurses gathered a range of measures, including samples of umbilical cord blood, from newborns whose mothers enrolled them in the study. The mothers subsequently answered questionnaires – which among other items asked about respiratory and other infectious diseases, the incidence of wheezing, and any diagnosis of asthma – 3 and 15 months later and then annually until the children were 5 years old. The cord blood samples were analyzed for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) – considered to be the best measure of vitamin D status.

Cord blood samples were available from 922 newborns in the study cohort, and more than 20 percent of them had 25OHD levels less than 25 nmol/L, which is considered very low. The average level of 44 nmol/L would still be considered deficient – some believe that the target level for most individuals should be as high as 100 nmol/L – and lower levels were more common among children born in winter, of lower socioeconomic status and with familial histories of asthma and smoking. By the age of 3 month, infants with 25OHD levels below 25 nmol/L were twice as like to have developed respiratory infections as those with levels of 75 nmol/L or higher.

Survey results covering the first five years of the participants' lives showed that, the lower the neonatal 25OHD level, the higher the cumulative risk of wheezing during that period. But no significant association was seen between 25OHD levels and a physician diagnosis of asthma at age 5 years. Some previous studies had suggested that particularly high levels of vitamin D might increase the risk for allergies, but no such association was seen among study participants with the highest 25OHD levels. Camargo notes that very few children in this study took supplements; their vitamin D status was determined primarily by exposure to sunlight.

An associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Camargo notes that the study results do not mean that vitamin D levels are unimportant for people with asthma. “There's a likely difference here between what causes asthma and what causes existing asthma to get worse. Since respiratory infections are the most common cause of asthma exacerbations, vitamin D supplements may help to prevent those events, particularly during the fall and winter when vitamin D levels decline and exacerbations are more common. That idea needs to be tested in a randomized clinical trial, which we hope to do next year.”

Co-authors of the Pediatrics paper are Ravi Thadhani, MD, and Janice Espinola, MPH, from MGH; Tristram Ingham, MBChB, Kristin Wickens, PhD, and Julian Crane, FRACP, from University of Otaga, Wellington, New Zealand; Karen Silvers, PhD, Michael Epton, PhD, FRACP, and Philip Pattemore, MD, FRACP, from University of Otago, Christchurch, NZ; and Ian Town, DM, from University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ. The study was supported by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the David and Cassie Anderson Bequest and the MGH Center for D-receptor Activation Research.

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Veggies and exercise improve vision in women

It's the same advice that mothers everywhere have been giving for years, but now there's science to back it up: Eating veggies is good for the eyes. A new study from the University of Wisconsin confirmed that women who have a healthy diet, exercised regularly and didn't smoke were less likely to suffer macular degeneration as they got older. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision problems in older people in the United States, researchers said.

The study of 1,313 women from Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin is the first to look at several lifestyle factors that influenced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a release from the university. These findings show a healthy lifestyle can improve the chances of good eyesight for those who inherit the condition, according to Dr. Julie Mares of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

According to the study, 18 percent of women deemed to have unhealthy lifestyles developed early AMD while just 6 percent of women in the healthy-lifestyle group developed the condition. Researchers found that the association of healthy eyes and healthy overall diets was stronger than what they observed for any single nutrient. Women whose diet score was the in top 20 percent had a 50 percent lower prevalence of early stages of macular degeneration than woman with the lowest percent for healthy diet scores. Higher scores were given to those with more leafy green and orange vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and legumes, according to the release.

Mares said this was the first study where researchers found higher levels of physical activity lowered the likelihood of early macular degeneration. However, this study didn't show obesity was related to AMD, but obese women were more likely to have more macular degeneration. That trend was explained by a poor diet and low physical activity, according to the university. The study also confirmed other studies that smoking played a role in eye disease.

The university said the study is being published online in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a journal of the American Medical Association. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute. It was also supported by the Research to Prevent Blindness and the Retina Research Foundation.

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Depression – Diabetes Relationship

A baseline questionnaire about medical history and health practices was completed and then repeated every 2 years through 2006. Self-reported symptoms of depression, use of antidepressant medication, and physician-diagnosed depression were used as measures of depression. Depressed mood was assessed using the 5-item Mental Health Index, with a score of 52 or less indicating severe depression.

Those who reported a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus had the diagnosis confirmed by means of a supplementary questionnaire validated by medical record review.

During the 10-year follow-up, 2844 women were diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes and 7415 developed depression.

The relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women who were depressed was 1.17 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05 – 1.30). Study participants using antidepressants had a relative risk of 1.25 (95% CI, 1.10 – 1.41).

After controlling for all covariates, the investigators found women with diabetes had a relative risk of 1.29 (95% CI, 1.18 – 1.40) of developing clinical depression.

In addition, the relative risk for depression in diabetic subjects taking no diabetic medication, oral hypoglycemic agents, and insulin was 1.25 (95% CI, 1.09 – 1.42), 1.24 (95% CI, 1.09 – 1.41), and 1.53 (95% CI, 1.26 – 1.85), respectively.

The results also showed that compared with their nondiabetic counterparts, women with diabetes were more likely to have a higher body mass index and less likely to be physically active, a finding that suggests these 2 risk factors could be “major mediating factors.”

Nevertheless, they note the association remained significant after controlling for body mass index and lifestyle factors, which suggests “depression has effects on incident diabetes independent of adiposity and inactivity.”

The finding that women taking antidepressant medications were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those with severe depressive symptoms or physician-diagnosed depression has at least 2 possible explanations — antidepressant medications may be a marker of more severe, chronic, or recurrent depression or the medications themselves may increase diabetes risk.

“Although antidepressant medication use might be a marker of severe depression, its specific association with elevated risk of diabetes warrants further scrutiny,” they write.

In addition, the study authors note that these findings reinforce the hypothesis that diabetes may be related to stress: “Depression may result from the biochemical changes directly caused by diabetes or its treatment, or from the stresses and strains associated with living with diabetes and its often debilitating consequences.”

“This large, well-established cohort study provides evidence that the association between depression and diabetes is bidirectional and this association is partially explained by, but independent of, other known risk factors such as adiposity and lifestyle variables. Future studies are needed to confirm our findings in different populations and to investigate the potential mechanisms underlying this association,” the investigators conclude.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression. The study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Arch Intern Med. 2010;170:1884-1891.

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Diet Advice can help control diabetes

Individuals with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes know that maintaining a nutritious diet is one of the most important things they can do to control their disease. The findings of a new study suggest that the services of a registered dietitian may help individuals accomplish this goal.

A team of investigators from the American Dietetic Association reviewed evidence from previous research and summarized their findings in a report published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

In their write-up, researchers laid out a set of exhaustive dietary guidelines for individuals affected by diabetes. Researchers said that the services of registered dietitians may be key in helping individuals follow the guidelines, which could help them significantly improve their condition.

“The evidence is strong that medical nutrition therapy provided by registered dietitians is an effective and essential therapy in the management of diabetes. Registered Dietitians are uniquely skilled in this process,” said Marion Franz, who led the investigation.

The guidelines developed by the research team lay out 29 nutritional points that can help diabetics improve their blood sugar control.

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Cancer cells slurp up Fructose

Pancreatic tumor cells use fructose to divide and proliferate, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a study that challenges the common wisdom that all sugars are the same.Tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in two different ways, the team at the University of California Los Angeles found.

They said their finding, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain other studies that have linked fructose intake with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancer types. “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues wrote. “They have major significance for cancer patients given dietary refined fructose consumption, and indicate that efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose-mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.”

Americans take in large amounts of fructose, mainly in high fructose corn syrup, a mix of fructose and glucose that is used in soft drinks, bread and a range of other foods. Politicians, regulators, health experts and the industry have debated whether high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients have been helping make Americans fatter and less healthy.

Too much sugar of any kind not only adds pounds, but is also a key culprit in diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Several states, including New York and California, have weighed a tax on sweetened soft drinks to defray the cost of treating obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola (KO.N) and Kraft Foods (KFT.N) have strongly, and successfully, opposed efforts to tax soda. The industry has also argued that sugar is sugar.

Heaney said his team found otherwise. They grew pancreatic cancer cells in lab dishes and fed them both glucose and fructose. Tumor cells thrive on sugar but they used the fructose to proliferate. “Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” Heaney's team wrote. “I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” Heaney said in a statement.

Now the team hopes to develop a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.

U.S. consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, researchers reported in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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