August News Round-Up

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Breastfeeding may protect babies from meningitis, blood poisoning and pneumonia.
The Mail (26th August) reports on a study by Imperial College London, which found that a sugar present in the breast milk of roughly half of women (it depends on blood type!) reduces rotavirus and group B streptococcus, as well as boosting a child’s ‘friendly’ gut bacteria, effectively protecting them from these infections. (Also covered in Medical News Today)
Childhood antibiotics increase risk of T1Diabetes
Whilst on the subject of infant gut health… MedPageToday (24th August) reports on a mouse study mimicking typical early childhood antibiotic exposure, which induced altered gut microbiota, T-cell populations, and gene expression which doubled the incidence of type 1 diabetes compared with mice on a low level of antibiotics.
Mediterranean diet more effective than statins
Many newspapers, including The Telegraph (28th August), reported on a study that looked at the impact of the Med diet on survival of heart patients. It found that it cut the chances of early death by 37 per cent (relative risk). Previous research has found just taking statins cuts mortality by 18 per cent, making the Med diet twice as effective… and at least four times as tasty. OK, I made that last bit up.
...and protects against Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Medical Daily (10th Aug) reports on a study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition which found that elderly people who eat a Med diet pattern benefit from better brain health.
Paleo diet in healthy people may improve cardiovascular health
A small preliminary trial found that after just 8 weeks there was an increase in the molecule IL10 (interleukin-10) indicating reduced arterial inflammation. For the exaggerated headlines head over to the Mail (29th August), or for a more sober reflection try Medical News Today.
Fish oils in brief:

The lab rats get their own back!

Ketones improve cognitive function and endurance
Medical Daily (18th Aug) report on a study which found that lab rats made ‘ketogenic’ through calorie restriction and supplementing with ketones had improved cognitive function and exercise endurance. It’s an odd approach but seems to lend credence to the performance athletes that are using high-fat diets for endurance sports. What is remarkable in this study is that the rats were not only running for longer but faster too!

This Month’s Guest Publication: NEW SCIENTIST

New Scientist Aug 2016
In our household, New Scientist is the only magazine we have a subscription for and have received the print edition every week for over a decade. We are often struck by how often it covers topics we have just posted about or covered in a talk (i.e. We got there first – high fives!) This month’s editions have had several articles that I think might be of interest to my readers. If you don’t want to buy the print edition their website has some content that is free, although some require a signup or subscription, likewise with some of the links below.
1. Sleep disruption and infections  (FREE ACCESS)
I am seeing more and more evidence on the importance of sleep (see our post on Sleep and Health). Here is another bit: a study in which mice were shown to be more susceptible to viral (herpes) infections towards the end of the day, suggesting that late nights, sleep disruption and shift work may make us more vulnerable to infections.
2. Migraines and Salt  (FREE ACCESS)
What is so great about science is that it is always throwing up unexpected results. Here is one of those. It had previously been observed that sodium levels in the cerebrospinal fluid rise during a migraine. High sodium levels make neurons more excitable. So it seemed reasonable to assume that high levels of salt in the diet might be associated with increased, or worse migraines amongst sufferers.
So researchers were surprised, as was I when they checked the surveys of 8819 adults and discovered the exact opposite – those with the highest levels of sodium in their diet reported the fewest severe headaches and migraines
3. More doubt on vitamin pills  (FREE SIGN UP
Many vitamin pills – taken as an ‘insurance policy’ when there is no evidence of deficiency – may do more harm than good. The latest bit of research is that calcium supplements appear to increase the risk of dementia. One study found a seven-fold increase in risk!
4. Archaeology – food for thought

Otzi and Teotihuacan

LEFT: Analysis of Otzi the 5300-year-old, copper age iceman discovered in the Alps twenty years ago, has shown that he was clothed in the skins of many animals: His quiver was made from roe deer, his hat from brown bear. His coat from goat and sheep, leggings from goat leather, and his loincloth from sheep leather. (FREE ACCESS)
RIGHT: Studies of the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan (1st to 4th century) has revealed that they farmed rabbits in large quantities for food. (FREE ACCESS)
5. BAD MEDICINE: Why so much health advice turns out to be wrong (SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED)
A great article documenting ten major areas of medicine where the conventional thinking turned out to be wrong. I’ll just give you three of my favourites:

    Rationale: they work in cases of heart attack, so have been assumed to benefit those with stable heart disease, so became a common practice from 2004.
    Reversal: Shown not to reduce future heart attacks or death, and may cause harm
    Rationale: Early detection will help intercept the disease before it progresses too far. So Mammograms and PSA testing have been routine since 1980s
    Reversal: Many false positives lead to unnecessary procedures. PSA testing no longer recommended in the US.
    Rationale: Removing damaged cartilage will (obviously) reduce pain and increase mobility. By 2002 there were over half a million procedures being carried out each year in the US.
    Reversal: Several trials have found no benefit over physical therapy alone.

I hope you have enjoyed these items. If so, leave a comment to let me know. (Or hit the like button if you’re in a hurry!)

1 thought on “August News Round-Up”

  1. The Telegraph’s report on Mediterranean diets giving some large per cent-age benefit should be viewed with a great deal of scepticism. Whenever relative risk figures are quoted they mean little. If the original risk was very small in the first place,there is no point in worrying and changing your life in the forlorn expectation that it will be beneficial.
    What is a Med diet anyway? If it includes fish caught locally (in the Med) then my understanding is the Med is so polluted you it might be better not to eat the fish. It might be the sunshine that makes them healthier, not the diet.


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