Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

How Stress and Sleep Conspire to Make You Fat

Source: Time Healthland

Link: #comments

By: Meredith Melnick




The trouble with stress is that it seeps into every area of your life — affecting your sleep, mood and the size of your waistline. The interactions between these factors were the subject of a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity, which found that people with high stress and poor sleep were less likely to achieve a 10-lb. weight loss goal.

The study [PDF], led by Dr. Charles Elder of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., involved 472 obese adults (with BMIs between 30 and 50) over age 30; 83% of the participants were women and a quarter were senior citizens over 65. The volunteers were enrolled in a weight-loss program that included attending weekly group counseling sessions, keeping a food diary, exercising at moderate intensity most days of the week (for at least three hours per week), reducing daily consumption by 500 calories and sticking to a low-fat, low-salt diet high in fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins. (More on Is Daylight Saving Time Bad for Your Health?)

At the beginning of the study and again six months later, the researchers looked at certain lifestyle measures, like the participants’ stress levels, nightly sleep quality, and depression.

Over the course of the study, 60% of participants lost at least 10 lbs. — the threshold that gained them entry into the second, weight-maintenance phase of the trial (the results of which are not yet available). As expected, researchers found that factors like exercise, keeping a food diary and attending behavioral counseling sessions were highly correlated with successful weight loss. (On average, participants lost nearly 14 lbs.)

But the researchers also found some other influential predictors of success: sleep quality and stress. Participants who reported sleeping less than 6 hours, or more than 8 hours, per night at the start of the study were less likely to meet the 10-lb. weight loss goal, compared with people who slept 6-8 hours. (More on Lack of Sleep Linked With Depression, Weight Gain and Even Death)

Stress compounded that association: people who slept too little or too much and reported high levels of stress were only half as likely to make it to the second phase of the study as people who got 6-8 hours of sleep and had low stress. What’s more, weight loss was tied to reductions in stress and depression over time, leading the authors to suggest that for people trying to shed extra pounds, it might be worth focusing on proper sleep and stress reduction too. “[C]linicians and investigators might consider targeting sleep, depression and stress as part of a behavioral weight loss intervention,” the authors concluded.

This isn’t the first time scientists have identified sleep or stress as a culprit in weight gain. At last week’s American Heart Association meeting, researchers from Columbia University released data from a study of 26 healthy men and women, showing that when people are sleep-deprived (4 hours of sleep a night for six nights), they eat significantly more calories than when they’re well rested (9 hours of sleep a night for six nights). In the study, sleep-deprived women ate 329 more calories per day, and men ate 263 more calories — and most of those excess calories came from foods like ice cream and fast food.

It’s thought that disruptions to the sleep cycle stimulate a hormone called ghrelin, which in turn stimulates appetite.

Further, there’s increasing evidence that chronic stress can trigger overeating as a coping behavior. And studies show that high-calorie, fatty foods light up some of the same reward pathways in the brain that drugs do (at least in mice) — in other words, fatty, sugary snacks can become “addictive.”

For dieters, the combination of poor sleep and lots of stress can be a serious gut-buster.


Firstborn kids more prone to food allergies: study

Source: Yahoo! News

Link: firstborn-kids-more-prone-food-allergies-study-20110323-094643-060.html



If you suffer from food allergies, consider your rank in the family birth order. According to a study out of Japan, firstborn siblings are more likely to suffer from food allergies than their younger brothers and sisters.

In a survey of more than 13,000 children ages 7 to 15, food allergies were prevalent in four percent of firstborn children, 3.5 percent of second-born children, and 2.6 percent in subsequent siblings.

Firstborns were also more likely to suffer from symptoms like an itchy, running nose and inflammation of the eyelids than their younger siblings.

The findings likewise suggest that food allergies may have a prenatal origin, as food allergies decreased significantly as birth order increased.

In a study published last November, researchers found that mothers who consume peanuts during their pregnancy could be putting their babies at increased risk of a peanut allergy. The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, evaluated 503 infants across the US, ages three to 15 months, with milk or egg allergies or with severe eczema — all factors associated with an increased peanut allergy.

A total of 140 infants showed strong sensitivity to peanut-based blood tests, and the consumption of peanuts during pregnancy was a significant predictor.

While previous studies have found links between general childhood allergies and birth order, the Japanese researchers say theirs is the first to show a link between specific food allergies and sibling birth order.

In an interview with MyHealthNewsDaily, study researcher Takashi Kusunoki of the Shiga Medical Center for Children in Shiga, Japan, postulated that younger siblings may be spared from food allergies because the mother’s immune system in the womb changes with multiple pregnancies.

Kusunoki also hypothesized that younger children develop stronger immune systems than their older siblings because more children in the house means more germs. That means younger siblings may be exposed to more pathogens at an earlier age.

The study was presented during the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in San Francisco earlier this week.

The abstract for the study can be found at, and is No. 525.

To prevent younger children from developing the same food allergies as the firstborn, one study recommends eliminating the offending food from the mother’s diet from the third trimester on, and continuing the ban until the child is two years old.

According to researchers from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, seven out of ten babies born to mothers who took avoidance measures had no food allergies, compared to 45 percent of babies whose mothers took no precautions.

Pediatricians recommend eliminating the offending food from both the mother’s diet and the household environment.

Breastfeeding has also been shown to protect children against the development of allergies.

The Top 7 Sleep Killers — And How To Solve Them

Source: Shine From Yahoo!

Link: the-top-7-sleep-killers-and-how-to-solve-them-2460502


All you want to do is close your eyes until morning, but instead, you’re stuck in bed, wide awake, watching the minutes tick by. Here’s help.

By Stephanie Booth


It’s three in the morning, and once again, you’re staring at the ceiling as your mind races. Not being able to nod off when you want to is agonizing. And you’re not the only one with the problem: Two-thirds of women report trouble sleeping several nights each week.

So what’s keeping you up? Read on for the factors, habits, and behaviors that have been killing your sleep, then the simple fixes.

SLEEP KILLER 1: Light Seeping into Your Room

Even slivers of light — the kind that sneaks in through a crack in your blinds or the blueish glow of a computer monitor left on — can keep you awake. “Light signals your brain to stop producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep and wake cycles,” says Shelby Freedman Harris, PsyD, clinical psychologist at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.

The solution: Get black-out shades, chuck your digital clock for one without an LCD display, shut off your computer before turning in — whatever it takes to make your room pitch-black, suggests clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep. If light still gets in, consider wearing an eye mask to bed.

SLEEP KILLER 2: An Erratic Meal Schedule

Not having a set time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day makes it tough for your body to know when to send out sleepiness signals. “That’s because your internal body clock, which tells your system when to sleep and when to wake, relies on cues from the environment, like mealtimes,” explains Breus. If these cues vary greatly from day to day — say one night you have dinner at 8, then the next at 10, and then on the third day at 6 — your system has trouble keeping track of time and knowing when to start winding down, he adds.

The solution: Stick to a routine meal schedule each day, even on weekends, as much as you can. B vitamins help regulate sleep patterns, so eat foods rich in these nutrients (like whole-grain cereals, nuts, broccoli, and potatoes).

SLEEP KILLER 3: Your Evening Second Wind

It’s a common scenario: After feeling draggy all day, you’re suddenly struck with a burst of energy at night. Of course, it’s hard to resist taking advantage of this jolt, so you decide to organize your closet or pop in a workout DVD, for example. Then when it’s time for you to turn in, you’re too wired to doze off.

Here’s what’s probably triggering it: What feels like a surge in energy could really be a rush of anxiety prompted by increased production of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which your system pumps out when you’re sleep-deprived, says Breus. Using this hormone rush to further stay awake makes you feel wired at first then, ultimately, even more fatigued, he adds.

The solution: Try hard not to give in to that hormone-fueled anxiety surge, or use it to do something relaxing — like reading a good book — that doesn’t cause you to put off going to bed at a decent hour.


SLEEP KILLER 4: Your Beauty Routine

Beware of what you put on your face and in your body before turning out the lights. Certain scents, herbs, and spices encourage your brain to wake up, not shut off. One example: peppermint. Scrubbing your face with a peppermint skin wash or brushing your teeth with a peppermint toothpaste can keep you awake, says Harris. Eucalyptus- and rosemary-scented products also amp up your alertness.

The solution: Save the energizing scents for the morning, when you need that extra help to get going. In the p.m., “use a mild toothpaste and lavender-scented face wash or body lotion, since lavender has been shown to cue your body to slow down,” says Harris.

SLEEP KILLER 5: Your Menstrual Cycle

Ever notice that sleeplessness seems to strike just before your period? Blame a natural dip in the hormone progesterone — which helps you sleep soundly — during your preperiod week, explains Kathryn A. Lee, PhD, a nurse researcher who specializes in sleep disorders at the University of California at San Francisco.

The solution: Anticipate a monthly inability to snooze so you won’t let it get you frustrated and irritated, and use the time to tackle projects you otherwise have no time for.

SLEEP KILLER 6: Drinking Late at Night

Alcohol is a depressant, and a drink before bed can relax you enough to fall asleep easily. Unfortunately, the sleepiness probably won’t last. “Alcohol is metabolized quickly, and once it’s out of your system, your body experiences withdrawal symptoms that can interrupt your sleep,” says clinical psychologist Anne Bartolucci, PhD, president of Atlanta Insomnia and Behavioral Health Services.

The solution: Plan for last call to be about four hours before you think you’ll be going to bed so your body has time to metabolize the alcohol completely and the resulting withdrawal symptoms won’t disturb you.


SLEEP KILLER 7: Your Expectations

Though eight hours is the average amount of sleep most adults need per night, lots of people need even more, while others can function perfectly well on six, five, or even four hours. “But if you sleep for longer than your body requires, you’ll have trouble falling asleep or keep waking too early in the morning,” says Bartolucci.

The solution: Figure out how much sleep you truly need by hitting the hay and waking up sans an alarm for a week. If, toward the seventh day, you find yourself waking after seven hours, then that’s probably your number.

In Japan, Pregnant Women Have Double the Reason to Dodge Radiation

Source: Time Healthland

Link: in-japan-pregnant-women-have-doubly-good-reason-to-dodge-radiation



When Kathryn Higley, head of the department of nuclear engineering and radiation health physics at Oregon State University, learned she was pregnant years ago, she immediately informed her supervisor, who outfitted her with a fetal dosimeter, an iPod-sized personal radiation monitoring system, to attach to her belly.

In the U.S., pregnant women who work in a nuclear facility can be exposed to 50 millirem per month — or about 500 millirem over the course of a full-term pregnancy. “At that level,” says Higley, “nothing will happen to the fetus.”

But the fluctuating levels of radiation near the malfunctioning Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactors could be more of a cause for concern for unborn babies and young children, who appear to be at greater risk because their cells multiply more rapidly than adults’. In pregnant women, radiation passes via the mother’s blood to the fetus through the umbilical cord. Radiation can also accumulate near the uterus — in the mother’s bladder, for example — and affect the fetus. (More on Time.comJapan’s Next Nightmare: Health Problems from Radiation Exposure)

The information coming out of Japan changes so frequently that it’s difficult to pin down a specific level of radiation that residents are exposed to; in any case, levels vary from place to place.

Earlier this week, Higley heard a report of 800 millirem at the nuclear plant’s boundary. But taking into account the 12-mile evacuation zone, she says the risk is probably not even as great as the 50 millirems per month that a pregnant nuclear-facility employee is allowed to absorb.

“For convenience, we assume any radiation dose gives us an increased risk of cancer,” says Higley. “But a dose of 10,000 millirem increases the lifetime cancer risk between 1/2 to 1%.” (In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the typical lifetime cancer risk at up to 50%.)

Yet in areas experiencing high concentrations of radiation, says Higley, “there is no question that really elevated levels do affect the embryo and fetus.”

For that reason, pregnant women and parents of little kids would be wise to heed advisories regarding evacuation zones. Newly pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. They may not even be aware they’re pregnant, yet inside their bodies, the dividing ball of cells, called a blastocyst, is extremely sensitive. (More on Time.comRadiation Exposure: Fast Facts About Thyroid Cancer and Other Health Risks)

“Early on, any radiation dose at the blastocyst stage is an all-or-nothing event,” says Higley, meaning the blastocyst is thought to either recover and continue growing or miscarry.

According to Duke University’s Radiation Safety Division, rapidly dividing tissues — an embryo or fetus is a good example — are more sensitive to radiation. “Therefore, one could infer that the human fetus, because of its rapid progression from a single cell to a formed organism in nine months, is more sensitive to radiation than the adult,” states a one-page explainer called “A Perspective on Risk to the Fetus from Ionizing Radiation.”

Possible side effects include miscarriage, birth defects, mental retardation and childhood cancers such as leukemia. Poor outcomes are largely related not only to dosage but to a woman’s stage of pregnancy at the time of exposure; first and second trimesters are of the most concern.

At fetal doses less than 1,000 millirem, according to Duke, there is no evidence of harm. Doses between 1,000 millirem and 10,000 millirem incur a low risk of problems, while doses over 10,000 millirem may be linked to lower IQ, retardation and poor academic achievement. (More on Time.comRadiation May Be a Greater Cancer Risk for Adults Than Doctors Thought)

This week, the New York Times published an email from Douglas Almond, a Columbia University economist who researched the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, in which he worries that the Japanese government is not adequately protecting pregnant women.

Almond’s research, published in 2009 in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, examined Chernobyl fallout in Sweden, where radiation levels were considered safe. He wrote:

While this has been largely confirmed in subsequent studies, there is one important exception: children in utero at the time of the accident. Swedish students who were in utero during the accident experienced significantly lower cognitive function, as reflected in performance on standardized tests in middle school, especially those tests that correspond best to IQ.

The damage was greatest for cohorts in utero in regions of Sweden that received more fallout by virtue of rainfall during the time the radioactive plume was over Sweden, and were of gestational age 8-25 weeks at the time of the accident. This last finding mirrors earlier epidemiological analysis of the survivors of Atomic bombings in Japan, which found reduced IQ and head circumference among the cohort exposed to radiation at those gestation ages.

Bottom line: if you’re pregnant and living near the reactor, steer clear of the contamination zone — and then some.

%d bloggers like this: