We cannot believe that 2013 is almost over. There have been many health stories over the past year, some we reported, many we did not. Rather than stick religiously to fitness topics, this summary will cover all the major health topics of 2013. It will be fast a furious, you will need to follow the links to read up on all the juicy details.
American life expectancy is lower than rest of developed world
The year did not start well with news that life expectancy in America is flagging behind 16 other rich countries. Obesity is a major problem now. Men live until 75 years on average and women 81 years. Still not bad. Reported in The National Academies.
Stress affects future generations
Stressed out people can pass the ill effects of their stress onto the next generation. How does it work? Stress causes some genes to become chemically silenced which helps explain some of the health issues relating to stress. The genes are also silenced in eggs and sperm, meaning that the effect of stress is passed on to the next generation. Reported in Science.
Fructose may cause overeating
Drinking fruit juice may increase appetite and cause overeating. Researchers found that after drinking a fructose beverage the brain fails to notice that the stomach is full. Then glucose is consumed the feeling of being full is triggered. Fructose is added to processed food on a large scale and this could be a reason for so much overeating. However, not all health scientists agreed that the research was conclusive. See The Independent for a review.
Obesity rises in India, but malnutrition still biggest problem
Not so much news, more of a stark reminder of the world in which we live. While one half of the world is slowly eating themselves to death, the other half are still suffering from malnutrition and everything else associated with extreme poverty. Reported on BMJ.
60% of UK is overweight
Latest figures in February showed that three in five people in England are now overweight (i.e. with a BMI over 25). One in ten children are obese before they start school. The Health and Social Care Information Centre stated the cause as an increase in poor diet and decrease in exercise and activity. See HSCIC.gov.uk for the full reports.
Doctors say sugary drinks should be taxed
This has been a topic of debate for years. Sugar makes people fat. Fat causes diabetes. Diabetes cost the health service billions and kills. Why don’t we tax it?
The UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges suggest a 20% tax on sugar drinks. It worked with alcohol and tobacco.
Affordable Care Act
Yep, Obamacare came to America. Hated by some, loved by others, the act aims to provide affordable health care for everybody. Sounds like a great idea, although it is still a long way behind Great Britain’s NHS. The act also aimed to improve quality of care and to encourage insurers to provide free health advice to prevent future illness to their
patients customers. It costs $940 billion, which is why some people are upset about it. The act also prevents insurers from refusing policies to those with an ongoing medical condition. This is actually something which most UK health insurance companies fail at. For an impartial opinion and review of the act read the BBC News page.
Mummies had heart trouble
OK, the people of Egypt, Peru and Utah who were people before mummies, they had the heart trouble.
Heart problems have been around for millennia, suggesting that either ancient wealthy leaders ate too much saturated fat and sugar, and got little exercise, or that it is just a problem that will always kill humans.
The study is freely published in The Lancet (pdf).
Red meat feeds heart disease bugs
Feasting on red meat provides bacteria in the gut with their favorite food source. This causes an increase in trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) levels is a trigger for heart disease. Advice is the reduce red meat consumption. See Nature Medicine or more info.
Teenagers need more sleep
There are times in our lives when the brain needs more sleep to recover. The teenage years is such a time. Scientists believe that teenagers should get an extra hour of sleep every day. Lack of sleep in the modern world is a big problem and is also connected with overeating, lethargy and weight gain. Research published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Obesity becomes a disease
In June the American Medical Association decided to reclassify obesity as a disease, rather than a condition. This affects the treatment which people can receive for being obese. As we have reported before, obesity causes many serious health problems. It is at the root of many cases of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. News report: Obesity is a disease in the US. Should it be?
Your face indicates BMI and weight problems
Paul Marks reported in the New Scientist that a photo of your face can predict BMI. The research was published in Perception,doi.org/c67jd5. This research was then built upon in Image and Vision Computing, doi.org/mnz. “This could be used in smart health applications, relating face images to BMI and associated health risks” – Guo, 2013.
Working at a desk is unhealthy
Long periods sitting down at a desk, or in front of a TV, are bad for health. OK, we know that, this is why we exercise! Ah, but no, exercise will not reverse the problem; “these detrimental associations remain even after accounting for time spent in leisure time physical activity” Read Too much sitting – A health hazard on Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.
Signing in a choir is good for your heart
Sitting all day may be bad for health, but signing is good! Research from University of Gothenburg looked at the health benefits of group singing.
Praise the Lord! Or something like that ….. see New Scientist.
Burning brown fat causes heart problems
When we are cold we burn “brown fat”. A few years ago this was considered good to get cold and burn brown fat to lose weight. However, burning brown fat causes a release of bad cholesterol which causes heart disease and heart failure. This could be a reason why so many elderly people die in winter when it gets very cold. See BMJ for the research. The best advice is to wrap up warm, put the heating on and stay indoors in winter.
The obesity gene really does cause … obesity!
The FTO gene is back. More is now understood, and researchers have found that people with two copies of the worse variant are far more likely to become obese. Why? Increased hunger. See Journal of Clinical Investigation for more.
Two million people killed by air pollution every year
Our cities are still killing us by the million. Obesity is bad, but so is air pollution. We need to live greener lives. Full story in Environmental Research Letters.
Cigarette packages makes us smoke
Researchers concluded in July that packaging can seduce people into smoking. Because of this some governments, such as the UK, are calling for plain packets to be introduced. Research based on an Australian study, details here: BMJ Open.
Tattoos can make use exercise for longer
Health researchers have developed a biosensor that can be worn like a temporary tattoo. The biosensor can help prevent an athlete hitting the “wall”. Research in Analytical Chemistry.
Crocs enjoy a nice watermelon
It is not just us humans who need a balanced diet, crocodiles do too. Famous for attacking small animals, you would be forgiven for thinking that they are purely carnivorous. Some brave researchers have discovered this year that they enjoy some fruit now and then too. Watermelons seem to be a favorite fruit snack. See Journal of Zoology for the research.
Live outdoors to reset body clock
In August we learned that if you spend a few days living outside with limited natural light your body clock will reset and this can help with improving sleep patterns and losing weight. Our advice is to go camping for your next vacation. It is cheap, healthy and lots of fun!
Food tastes better when we are tired
Poor sleep makes food seem more appealing. We have talked about sleep and health before. The new research published in Nature Communications suggests that eating more when tired would have an evolutionary advantage. It makes sense – if you are very tired you will be less able to hunt or gather, so best to eat more while it is available.
US children less obese
Major news – America children experience a reduction in obesity – the first ever. Obesity is still a major problem, but the percentage of children who are obese appears to have fallen from 17.9% to 16.6% between 2008 and 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol 62, p 629
Womb cancer caused by weight gain and lack of exercise
A research study found that women who are overweight and do not exercise are more likely to develop cancer of the womb. This seems like very clear evidence that being fit and healthy really does prevent, or at least reduce the risk of, some cancers. Environment and genes play a role too, but personal lifestyle choices can make a big difference.
Lack of folic acid harms future generations
A diet deficient in folic acid can impact not only a mothers unborn child, but also future generations. One malnourished mother can give rise to many unhealthy children. This news suggests that it is more important than ever to stick to a healthy diet. It may also explain why diseases such as obesity are on the rise. Each generation is carrying more unhealthy genes. Read Linda Geddes’ article in the New Scientist.
Over half of diabetes patients have high blood pressure
A study of diabetes patients in England and Wales showed that fewer than half manage to keep their blood pressure within recommended guidelines. High blood pressure is a cause of vascular damage which is a major cause of heart failure, stroke, blindness, impotency and kidney failure. More work is needed to help people control blood pressure, the focus is too heavily on glucose levels. You can access the full report here http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB12421
E-cigarettes are targeting youngsters
Governments and charities have spent millions trying to educate people about the dangers of smoking tobacco and a lot of good progress has been made. Now electronic cigarette manufacturers are trying to get children and young adults hooked on nicotine – just one drag from a lifetime of addiction. See Cancer Research UK and my blog post. At least the European parliament refused to classify e-cigarettes as medicine.
Alzheimer’s and diabetes the same disease?
Two diseases which are crippling developed nations may not only be related, they may be part of the same disease. People with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The same advice is given to reduce risk of both: “Go to the gym and eat fewer twinkies”. See Jessica Griggs’ article in the New Scientist for more.
Children are slower runners
In November a study was published which found that on average children today are slower runners than their parents were at the same age. A combination of obesity (and general weight gain) and sedentary lifestyles has made children less fit than a generation ago. Read our report.