Cutting Calories for Longevity

Eating less may help people live longer, reports CNN.com. Scientists at Louisiana State University tested the effects of calorie restriction on 53 healthy men and women between 21 and 50 years old. For two years, one-third of the volunteers ate their normal diet, while the rest cut their caloric intake by 15 percent. Unsurprisingly, those who consumed fewer calories lost weight—about 20 pounds on average. But they also saw another benefit: Their metabolic rate, which governs the amount of energy the body requires to sustain normal daily functions, slowed by about 10 percent during sleep. “It’s important because every time we generate energy in the body, we generate byproducts,” explains lead author Leanne Redman. These so-called free radicals accumulate and cause damage to cells and organs; this damage has been linked to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other age-related diseases. Previous studies have shown that reducing calories can extend life in rodents (Read More)

Controlling Parents, Mean Kids

The toxic effects of helicopter parenting may not end once children head off to college. A new study shows that undergrads who’ve been raised by controlling, manipulative moms and dads may take their anger and stress out on other students. Researchers from the University of Vermont interviewed 180 predominantly female college students about their relationship with their parents as well as their tendency to behave aggressively. Those with domineering parents were more likely to exhibit “relational aggression,” which often involves spreading rumors and backstabbing as well as excluding or publicly embarrassing friends, reports Medical Daily. The students’ physiological response to stress influences how they unleash this hostility on their peers, the study shows. Those who perspired more and grew more agitated while recounting a difficult experience were considered impulsive, while the students who sweated less and reacted calmly were deemed more calculating and manipulative. “If you’re calm, you can be (Read More)

Digital Eye Strain Growing

All the time we spend on computer screens and smartphones is taking a toll on our eyes. A new survey of more than 10,000 adults shows that 65 percent of Americans experience uncomfortable symptoms of digital eye strain, such as headaches, dry or irritated eyes, blurry visions, and neck pain. The condition is most prevalent among Millennials, who tend to use more than one device simultaneously. Holding small screens less than a foot from their eyes reduces the rate of blinking which can lead to eye dryness, irritation and redness. Digital screens also emit blue lights, which may cause cellular damage deep inside the eye. “Our eyes are not built to stare at digital screens all day but the demands of our modern-day world frequently put us in front of a screen for hours every day,” optometrists Justin Bazan tells MedicalDaily.com. “It’s the problem everyone has but no one knows (Read More)

Distracted-Walking Injuries

People who wander through the streets transfixed by their smartphones, utterly unaware of their surroundings, aren’t merely irritating. Research indicates that walking while preoccupied can lead to serious injuries – and even death. An Ohio State University study  found that injuries due to distracted walking doubled between 2004 and 2010, resulting in more than 1,500 emergency room visits for broken pelvises, legs and wrists, and injuries to the head and neck, The New York Times reports. Preoccupied pedestrians are walking off train platforms, falling down stairs, walking into poles or moving cars in crosswalks, or in the recent case of a tourist in San Diego, even stumbling off cliffs. Experts warn that this 21st-century menace may only get worse as handheld gadgets become equipped with even more enticing features. The best safeguard is a simple common sense. “You can’t really pay attention to more than one thing at a  time,” (Read More)

Grilling Causes Inflammation

Regularly eating grilled, broiled, or roasted meat, chicken, or fish may increase the risk for high blood pressure, a new study shows. Harvard researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing the diet and cooking methods of more than 86,000 women and 17,000 men who were followed for up to 16 years. They found those who ate foods cooked by high heat more than 15 times a month were 17 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who ate them less frequently. The people who preferred their meats well-done were also 15 percent more likely to become hypertensive, reports Reuters.com. “The chemicals produced by cooking meats at high temperatures induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance in animal studies, and these pathways may also lead to an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure,” says the study’s lead researcher, Gang Liu. Lowering the heat could help reduce these health (Read More)

Freezing the ‘Hunger Nerve’

Diets often fail as long-term solutions for many people trying to lose weight. But new research suggests that freezing the so-called hunger nerve could suppress hunger and be an effective new treatment for those struggling with obesity. When the stomach is empty, a branch of the vagus nerve called the posterior vagal trunk kicks into action, sending hunger signals to the brain. Guided by CT scan images, researchers used a probe to freeze this nerve in 10 obese women and men, with the aim of dampening its signal. “We’re not trying to eliminate this biological response, only reduce the strength of this signal to the brain,” the study’s lead author, David Prologo, tells ScienceDaily​.com. The preliminary results of the study suggest the nerve-freezing procedure may do just that. None of the subjects experienced side effects, but all of them reported feeling more satisfied and less hungry 90 days later. They also (Read More)

Brain-Boosting Beets

Beets may have a protective effect on the brain that could help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests. Scientists at the University of South Florida found that betanin, the compound that gives the root vegetable its rich red color, could help prevent pro tein pieces called beta-amyloid from forming harmful plaque in the brain—a hallmark of the neurodegenerative disease. This plaque usually occurs when beta-amyloid binds to metals in the brain such as iron and copper; these metals cause the protein to form clumps that can trigger inflammation and oxidation, which destroys nerve cells. In a series of experiments, the researchers found that when beta-amyloid bound to copper was exposed to betanin, oxidation dropped by up to 90 percent. “This is just a first step,” co-author Li-June Ming tells the New York Daily News. “But we hope our findings will encourage other scientists to look for structures similar to betanin, [which] could (Read More)

Happy Heart Syndrome

It’s already been proven that intense emotional distress—say, after losing a loved one—can trigger a cardiac abnormality called “broken heart syndrome.” But now new research suggests sudden bursts of joy can have the same effect. The condition, known as Takotsubo syndrome (TTS), occurs when the base of the heart’s left ventricle balloons and becomes partially paralyzed. TTS is rarely fatal but causes a rapid and severe weakening of the heart that brings on chest pain and breathlessness— symptoms akin to those of a heart attack. After analyzing 485 cases of the syndrome linked to emotional events, researchers in Switzerland found that 96 percent were caused by sadness and stress, but 4 percent were provoked by ostensibly happy occasions, such as weddings and birthdays, The Washington Post reports. It’s unclear exactly how extreme emotions damage the heart, but cardiologists suspect a surge of adrenaline may be to blame. “We believe TTS is a (Read More)

Size Really Does Matter

Short men and overweight women are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to education, career opportunities, and earning potential, a new study shows. After examining the DNA of about 120,000 adults, researchers at Exeter University in England found that men who are genetically predisposed to be short generally have less schooling and lower wages than those with tall genes. For every additional 2½ inches in height resulting purely from genetics (rather than diet or economic status), a man’s annual income increases by nearly $2,300. A similar analysis of body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—reveals that heavier women face even greater obstacles than short men. When a woman has a genetically predicted weight 28 pounds more than another woman of the same height, she is on average paid $4,300 a year less. “This is the strongest evidence by far that there is a (Read More)

Americans’ Unhealthy Habits

To remain healthy, doctors say, you have to eat well, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, and keep body fat in check. But new research shows that only 2.7 percent of Americans are actually adhering to all four healthy habits. Researchers came to that surprisingly glum conclusion after examining national survey data on more than 5,000 people, compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 47 percent got 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise, only 38 percent had healthy diets, and only 10 percent had proper body-fat levels. Only 16 percent met three of the four criteria. “This is sort of mind boggling, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle,” study author Ellen Smit of Oregon State University tells ScienceDaily.com. “There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”