- It’s Time to Rethink High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss
- U.K. Regulator Says Some Cannabis Products Count as Medicine
- Blood Pressure Drugs May Lower Risk of Depression
- Why Netflix Can Actually Be Good for Your Relationship
- How Fructose May Trigger Body Fat
- World Health Organization Urges Countries to Tax Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity
- Doctors Can Predict If Antidepressants Will Work For You
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 10:21 AM PDT
Eating a diet that’s high in protein is often recommended for people trying to lose weight, since high-protein foods make people feel more full, preventing overeating. However, a new study suggests that while the diet may help people slim down, it doesn’t necessarily improve other health problems under the hood. (For more on that, see: How Much Protein Should I Eat Every Day.)
In a small study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis followed 34 postmenopausal women with obesity for about six months. The women were split into three groups: One group kept their diet the same, one group went on a calorie-restricted weight loss diet (with the daily recommended amount of protein), and another group went on the same diet but also increased their protein intake by about 150-250 calories. The researchers provided all the meals for the women, and besides the increased protein, the diets were virtually the same.
The study authors found that while both groups of women were able to lose about 10% of their body weight, the women who ate more protein experienced no changes in their insulin sensitivity—which is important for overall health.
Improved insulin sensitivity is important to cut down on a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes—which is common in people with obesity. It’s one of the reasons weight loss is recommended for better health in the first place. The women who lost weight without increasing the amount of protein they ate experienced a 25 to 30% improvement in insulin sensitivity. But the women who ate more protein experienced no change in their insulin sensitivity at all. “We definitely expected a blunting of the effect, but to completely eliminate it was a little bit surprising,” says lead study author Bettina Mittendorfer, a professor of medicine.
The number of people in the study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, is very small, but Mittendorfer says the report is not the first to raise skepticism about high-protein diets. “There is a reported association from epidemiological studies between protein intake and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes,” she says.
Mittendorfer and her fellow researchers plan to continue studying the issue to better understand why people who eat more protein did not experience the same metabolic benefits, and whether the type of protein a person consumes matters. For instance, does plant protein have different effects compared to animal protein? “It’s a tremendous effort to go through a 10% loss in body weight. To not see an improvement in one of these key factors is significant I think,” says Mittendorfer.
Though the study is small and more research is needed to better understand the findings, Mittendorfer says she would advise people to be “cautious” about adopting a high-protein diet to lose weight. “I think there is no reason to go for high protein intake during weight loss, based on our results,” she says. “There’s no reason to do it, and potentially there is harm or lack of a benefit.”
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 08:33 AM PDT
A U.K. government regulator says certain cannabis products can be considered medicine, in a big win for the campaign to legalize cannabis use.
The decision from the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) applies to products containing Cannabidiol (CBD), a specially bred variety of cannabis that has extremely low levels of the hallucinogenic drug THC, meaning it does not cause a high but is thought to retain the same health benefits of other forms of cannabis.
The MHRA review found that CBD has a “restoring, correcting or modifying” effect on “physiological functions” when administered to humans, the U.K.’s Independent reports.
“We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are a medicine,” said the MHRA, in a statement to TIME. “Products for therapeutic use must have a medicines’ licence before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK. Products will have to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards to protect public health.”
The government’s review came about as a result of discussions between the MHRA and CBD vaporizer company MediPen, the Independent reports.
“Since our inception we’ve worked hard to obtain our goal of breaking down the negative connotations surrounding cannabis to lead to a reform in the law for medicinal use,” Jordan Owen, MediPen’s managing director, told the Independent. “Now this is finally becoming a reality.”
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 08:21 AM PDT
Hypertension and depression may share some important biological pathways, an insight that may one day lead to a new way to treat depression.
Previous studies have found that people with high blood pressure who take drugs to treat their condition tend to experience more depressive symptoms, while major depressive disorder is linked to a 1.3 fold greater risk of developing hypertension. To better understand how the two are connected, Sandosh Padmanabhan, professor of cardiovascular genomics and therapeutics at the University of Glasgow, and his colleagues took advantage of hospital data recording people’s blood pressure history and mood disorders.
In a report published in Hypertension, Padmanabhan analyzed data from more than 144,000 people who had high blood pressure and were prescribed a drug to treat it. He compared this information with data on whether they were admitted to the hospital for a mood disorder over five years. Of the four different types of popular anti-hypertensive drugs in the study, two classes—beta blockers and calcium channel blockers—were linked to a higher risk of depression requiring hospitalization compared to angiotensin antagonists such as ACE inhibitors. The angiotensin drugs, however, were associated with a lower risk of mood disorder admissions, even compared to people who weren’t taking any medications for blood pressure control at all.
That suggests that angiotensin antagonists might be protecting people from developing mood problems, which opens the possibility that they might be used as treatments for mood disorders like depression—even for people without hypertension.
But Padmanabhan warns that more research is needed before doctors should consider prescribing the anti-hypertension drugs for depression, or for people taking beta blockers and calcium channel blockers to worry about their risk of depression. “Nobody should stop their treatment for hypertension” based on these results, he says. “However, the findings are something that we want doctors to be aware of.”
The data is also important for depression researchers; it provides some new theories for scientists to test about how the pathways affected by the angiotensin drugs overlap with those involved in mood.
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 06:00 AM PDT
It’s no relationship secret that having friends in common can improve a couple’s bond. But what if your social circles don’t overlap? Not to worry, says a team of psychologists from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada: Sharing Frank and Claire Underwood (or Ross and Rachel, or Jim and Pam) may work just as well.
For their recent study, the researchers had more than 250 students in relationships complete a series of questionnaires about their romantic bond and their habits; and then analyzed the results. Their findings, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggest that enjoying TV shows, movies, and books together can boost the quality of a couple’s relationship—especially for partners who don’t share pals IRL.
In other words, that Netflix series you’re both obsessed with may actually be fanning your romantic flame. But, you may be thinking, isn’t that just because of all the extra hours spent cuddled up on the couch?
In an effort to rule out the possibility, the researchers controlled for the amount of time partners logged together. “We found that sharing media had an independent effect,” lead author Sarah Gomillion, PhD, told Health in an email.
Reading books and watching shows and flicks as a couple was associated with greater intimacy and confidence in the relationship—and the link was strongest for participants who had fewer mutual friends with their partners, the researchers found.
“Having a shared circle of friends can make couples feel closer and can even protect them from breaking up,” Gomillion explained to Health. But if that’s not the case, fictional characters seem to be a good substitute.
“Having a shared connection to the characters in a TV series or film might make couples feel like they share a social identity even if they lack mutual friends in the real world,” says Gomillion, who is a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. (At the time of the study, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.)
So while sitting in front of the TV for hours on end isn’t always a great idea, the occasional series binge may do you and yours some good. “People often say that activities like watching Netflix isolate us, but our research suggests that it can actually have important social benefits,” says Gomillion—like building your bond with your boo.
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 05:00 AM PDT
Fructose, a type of sugar, quickly absorbs into the liver of mice with diabetes, potentially causing health complications, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal eLife. The findings, if further studied, could provide insight for people with diabetes.
In the study, the researchers showed that mice with diabetes absorb fructose very quickly and that fructose is quickly sent to the liver. In the liver, it creates fat. The researchers say a protein that’s turned on by diabetes is likely to blame for the quick absorption and fat creation.
In the study, the researchers identified a molecular interaction that occurs in the inner lining of the intestine. The study authors say this interaction could regulate how much fructose a person absorbs when they eat very sweet foods or drinks. “We found that the mice with diabetes absorb more fructose than a mouse without diabetes,” says study author Richard Lee, a professor and a principal faculty member at Harvard Stem Cell Institute. “If this was proven in humans, it would imply that diabetic patients actually get more of the fructose if they ingest it.”
Lee says the study adds support to the idea that consuming too much sugar, like fructose, can spur diabetes, and not just calorie consumption alone.
Fructose is a type of sugar found in high-fructose corn syrup, which commonly used in sugary drinks and processed food, honey, table sugar and fruit. Consumption of fructose has significantly increased through the years, as has the prevalence of diseases like obesity and diabetes.
“Over the past few decades we’ve been eating more sugar, including fructose, and that correlates quite well with the metabolic problems we are seeing,” says Lee. “We want to know if this is true for all forms of diabetes, and we want to set up collaborations to study this in humans.”
Eating low amounts of fructose, like what a person would consume if they eat fruit, is considered safe.
Posted: 11 Oct 2016 03:52 AM PDT
(GENEVA) — The U.N. health agency on Tuesday recommended that countries use tax policy to increase the price of sugary drinks like sodas, sport drinks and even 100-percent fruit juices as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
The World Health Organization, in a statement timed for World Obesity Day, said that the prevalence of obesity worldwide more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, when nearly 40 percent of people globally were overweight.
In a 36-page report on fiscal policy and diet, WHO also cited “strong evidence” that subsidies to reduced prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can help improve diets. It said that tax policies that lead to a 20-percent increase in the retail prices of sugary drinks would result in a proportional reduction in consumption.
Drawing on lessons from campaigns to fight tobacco use, WHO says imposing or increasing taxes on sugary drinks could help lower consumption of sugars, bringing health benefits and more income for governments such as to pay for health services. The health agency has long recommended that people keep intake of sugar to less than 10 percent of their total energy needs.
“Consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes,” says Dr. Douglas Bettcher, who heads WHO’s department for preventing non-communicable diseases. “If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives.”
WHO officials say that the U.S. is no longer the leading consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages — Chile and Mexico are now in front. They also noted rapid increase in consumption like China and sub-Saharan Africa. At least three in five adolescents in countries like Chile, Argentina and Algeria consume soft drinks daily, compared to between 20 to 40 percent in the U.S. and much of Europe.
“Taxation policies can be a very important tool — just one tool among many — but a very important tool for the reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, who heads WHO’s Department for Nutrition and Health. He pointed to “pioneering” efforts by Michael Bloomberg, during his time as mayor of New York, and other U.S. officials to reduce sugar consumption.
The report was based on information collected in May last year, but WHO is coming forward with its recommendation on Tuesday because the evidence of the link between tax policy and reduced consumption coupled with health benefits have only recently emerged, said Temo Waqanivalu, coordinator of WHO’s department for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.
Waqanivalu said that “discussion is ongoing” with companies behind such beverages on efforts to reduce sugar consumption.
Posted: 10 Oct 2016 12:06 PM PDT
Antidepressants can be very effective in treating depression, but the drugs are often a hit or miss; of the 10% of Americans diagnosed with depression, the medications generally work in about half of cases. Even then, finding the right antidepressant can often take months of cycling through different drugs until one starts to alleviate the mood disorder.
But in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, researchers led by Leanne Williams, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, found that a combination of brain scans and assessment of early life stress can predict which people are more likely to respond to an antidepressant right from the start.
Williams and her colleagues scanned the brains of 80 people with depression using functional MRI, which allows scientists to see which parts of the brain are active while people are seeing specific objects in the MRI machine. In this case, Williams was interested in analyzing the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotional processing. Animal studies and previous human studies have linked certain levels of activity of this brain region with mood disorders. The volunteers were shown pictures of happy and sad faces, and Williams recorded their amygdala responses to each.
She also asked them questions about their childhood experiences to determine how much stress or trauma they have been exposed to from an early age. Losing a loved one, having an illness, experiencing family conflict or being exposed to neglect or abuse can all affect how the brain—particularly the emotional brain—develops.
All of the people were randomly assigned to one of three popular antidepressants, each of which works in a different way in the brain, for eight weeks. After this, their brains were scanned again. Those who showed more amygdala activity when they saw happy faces were most likely to have good responses to antidepressants, while those with less activity—and therefore less ability to recognize and feel happiness—were not as likely to benefit from the drugs.
This pattern held even for people who reported having childhood trauma. That suggests, says Williams, that these people had found a way to cope or overcome their early life stress. People who reported having such trauma and who did not have a strongly active amygdala response to smiling faces were least likely to respond to antidepressants.
The results suggest that for people with a history of early-life trauma and under-active amygdala, medication may not be the best first-line treatment to try. It might mean that for these people, asking about their childhood experiences and referring them to counseling to address their reaction to these events might be as important as a drug to helping their depression.
“Primary care doctors in the study said they don’t have currently in front of them a way to make these decisions about depression treatment,” says Williams. “There are sets of antidepressants available and basically equal chance of choosing any one of them. They don’t know whether they need to refer someone to much more intensive counseling. They have no way of knowing if they should try medication or not.”
Williams hopes that the treatment of depression will soon include brain scans, which many people already have done anyway, to provide more hints about the best way to treat the mental illness in different people. If the scans show that the amygdala is under-active, for example, doctors might know that the patient is not likely to respond to antidepressants. Then physicians can investigate whether trauma has been present and consider advising the patient to look into counseling alongside different types of medications to help them with their depression.
Such stratification can be beneficial to a person both mentally as well as financially, since the current model of trying different drugs until one works can be both costly and detrimental to one’s mental health. “If your brain is in a situation where it’s unlikely to respond to an antidepressant, then continuing to try different ones is not necessarily going to help,” says Williams.
Combining information about people’s life history as well as biological information from brain scans could be a novel way to tailor depression treatment, she says. Giving people more confidence that they will be directed to the right treatment could also encourage more people with depression to get treated; currently a vast majority don’t. She points out that ordering additional tests such as scans is common in almost every other disease that’s not a mental illness—for heart conditions, bone disorders and more. While brain scans might require more upfront costs in depression, directing people to the treatment that’s most likely to work for them from the start may save more in the long run.
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