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Dec 16
Intense exercise can lead to sleep disturbance
Intensive bouts of exercise can lead to significant and progressive decline in sleep quality, says a new study.

The researchers also found that a high carbohydrate regime reduces some, but not all, of the effects of hard training.

For the study, the scientists from Loughborough University in England studied the effects of two nine-day periods of heavy training on 13 highly trained cyclists.

The researchers monitored the athletes' moods, sleep patterns and performance before, during and after exercise.

To determine whether diets could counter the effects of any sleep deprivation, the athletes were also given high or moderate amounts of carbohydrate throughout the study, though none of them knew which.

The researchers discovered that even as little as nine days of intense training can cause 'significant and progressive decline in sleep quality'.

"Sleep efficiency was significantly reduced during the intensified training period," the researchers observed, with the number of times the athletes woke throughout the night significantly increased.

They also noticed that the athletes' moods and capacity for exercise both worsened over the period of observation.

As for the additional carbohydrates, the team concluded that a high carbohydrate regime reduced some, but not all, of the effects of hard training.

The study appeared in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

Dec 15
Fish oil comes to eyesight's rescue
According to a new study, taking fish oil every day can keep eyesight troubles at bay.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes and now, this polyunsaturated fat, most commonly found in cold-water fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel as well as some nuts and seeds, has been found to ward off debilitating 'dry eye' syndrome, the Mirror reported.

And because it also boosts contrast sensitivity, an important measure of visual function in situations of low light or fog, omega-3 could keep you safe when negotiating dark roads too.

Researchers found that omega-3 oil supplements can improve dry eye by as much as 105 per cent.

David Allamby, a world-renowned specialist and laser eye surgeon, revealed that tear film has a layer of oil that helps keep water on the surface of the eye and if people are deficient in omega-3s, they may suffer dry, uncomfortable eyes.

He added that cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna are best, adding "Or flaxseed oil is a good vegetarian alternative. I give my patients flaxseed oil supplements before and after laser eye surgery, to improve the quality of their eyes and their vision."

The findings have been unveiled at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Symposium in San Diego, USA.

Dec 12
How parents can help prevent substance use in kids
Adolescence is a time when many children may consider experimenting with alcohol or drugs. A new research shows parents can reduce that risk by maintaining a healthy and open relationship with their children.

"Adolescents are more likely to drink or use drugs if they hang out with deviant friends or if they actively seek out peers to facilitate substance use," said study's lead author Thomas Schofield from Iowa State University in the US.

"Parents who know what's going on with their children and their friends can minimize the impact of both pathways," Schofield added.

Nearly 675 children were included in the study.

Researchers observed mothers and fathers separately as they interacted with their children in fifth grade and again in seventh grade.

Their data shows that for many, this age range is a starting point or baseline for alcohol, tobacco and drug use. It's also a time when parents may be caught off guard by changes in their child's behaviour, if they don't have a strong foundation established, Schofield said.

He added: "Preadolescence and early adolescence is not a particularly risky time; it's just the best time to get kids on board with collaborating, communicating with their parents and creating that relationship earlier."

This indicates that more than genetics is at play, and parents can make a difference in influencing their child's behaviour, Schofield said.

Dec 11
Two drinks a day keeps Alzheimer's death risk at bay
According to a recent study, 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day can ward off an early death from Alzheimer's disease.

Moderate drinking has been associated with a lower risk of developing and dying from heart disease and stroke. But alcohol is known to damage brain cells, and given that dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder, drinking might be harmful in those with the condition.

The research team analysed data originally collected on 330 people with early stage dementia or Alzheimer's disease and their primary careers from across Denmark as part of the Danish Alzheimer's Intervention Study (DAISY).

The researchers say there could be several explanations for the findings, including that people who drink moderately have a richer social network, which has been linked to improved quality, and possibly length, of life.

Another explanation may lie in the fact that the seemingly protective effect of alcohol may have been caused by reverse causality, whereby those drinking very little alcohol were in the terminal phase of their life, which would have artificially inflated the positive association.

The results point towards a potential, positive association of moderate alcohol consumption on mortality in patients with Alzheimer's disease. "However, we cannot solely, on the basis of this study, either encourage or advise against moderate alcohol consumption in [these] patients," the researchers caution.

They suggest that further research looking at the impact of alcohol on cognitive decline and disease progression in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease would be particularly informative.

The study is published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Dec 10
Frequent green tea consumption may hamper fertility: Study
Are you a green tea lover? Read this carefully as the cup packed with anti-oxidants and other health benefits may adversely affect your fertility and development in case of frequent use, warn researchers.

In experiments over fruit flies, the team from University of California-Irvine discovered that excessive consumption adversely affected development and reproduction in fruit fly populations.

According to them, one should avoid high dose of green tea or any natural product as nutraceuticals such as green tea, while growing in popularity, are largely unregulated.

"While green tea could have health benefits at low doses, our study and others have shown that at high doses, it may have adverse effects," said Mahtab Jafari, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

"Further work is needed to make any definite recommendations but we suggest that green tea should be consumed in moderation," she added.

For the study, Jafari and colleagues investigated the effects of green tea toxicity on the development and reproduction in fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Embryos and larvae were subjected to various doses of green tea polyphenols.

Larvae exposed to 10 milligrams of green tea were slower to develop, were born smaller and exhibited a dramatic decline in the number of emerged offspring.

Ten milligrams of green tea made the flies more susceptible to starvation and heat stress but protected them against dehydration.

Female offspring showed decreased reproductive output and a 17 percent reduction in lifespan while males were unaffected, the study found.

Ten milligrams of green tea caused morphological abnormalities in reproductive organs such as testicular and ovarian atrophy.

Jafari believes that high doses of green tea may cause "too much" apoptosis or cell death.

Derived from the plant Camellia sinensis, green tea is popular worldwide for its purported brain and heart health and anti-cancer properties.

Jafari noted that in other tests with mice and dogs, green tea compounds in large amounts dramatically reduced body weight and, in mice, negatively affected embryo development.

"We are planning to measure total consumption and identify and quantify the metabolites of natural products in flies," Jafari pointed out, adding that these experiments will enable us to have a better understanding of toxic doses in humans.

The paper appeared in the Journal of Functional Foods.

Dec 09
Tails say go left but sperm distort bodies to turn right!
Sperms need to crane their necks to turn right to counteract a left-turning drive caused by the rotation of their tails, says new research, adding that the discovery can lead to better in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and other fertility treatments

Led by Dr Vasily Kantsler from University of Warwick in Britain, the researchers discovered that all sperm tails (flagella) rotate in a counter-clockwise motion as they beat to enable them to move through and against the motion of a fluid.

The counter-clockwise motion means that sperm should only be able to move in a leftwards direction.

But the researchers observed that approximately 50 percent of the sperm observed in the research moved to the right.

Comprised of a head, mid connecting piece and the flagella, 3D motion analysis of the sperm found that they were distorting their bodies at the mid-piece to counteract the physical forces that would cause them to turn left.

The differences between the actions necessary for a sperm to turn left or right means that all could be able to turn in both directions or only one - indicating that there could be two physiologically distinct spermatozoa subpopulations.

"Analysing sperm's flagella beat in 3D, we have realised that all the cells rotate flagella anti-clockwise which would make them to turn left only," Kantsler noted.

At the same time, "we have noticed the right moving sperm also have a right bent in the mid-piece section of the flagella providing a force, which would counteract the left-turning", he informed.

For the study, the researchers devised an experiment to understand sperm cell behaviour under specific conditions.

By doing so, they observed "heart" shape trajectories of sperm cells in the experiments, showing the sperm turning left or right against the flow to form half of a heart shape depending on the direction they took.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dec 08
Smaller food portion sizes could help tackle obesity: Study
Reducing the size of large food portions, packaging and tableware could help tackle obesity, a new Cambridge study has claimed.

Researchers have found the 'most conclusive evidence to date' that people consume more food or drinks from larger size portions or packages, and when using larger items of tableware.

The study at the University of Cambridge in UK found that eliminating larger portions completely could reduce daily energy intake consumed by 12 per cent to 16 per cent among adults in the UK, and by 22 per cent to 29 per cent among adults in US.

Researchers suggested steps like reducing food and drink serving sizes that contain high amounts of calories such as the standard single serving of confectionery, chips and cakes, and reducing availability of larger portion and package sizes.

They said that portion sizes should be limited at check outs, aisle ends and special displays. They also called for highlighting single portion sizes in packaging.

According to the researchers, implementation of portion size interventions will be easier in public sector organisations, such as schools, hospitals, military bases, and prisons, than in industries.

They said that reducing portion sizes may mean going back to sizes of portion and tableware similar to those in the 1950s, and changes may even involve reductions of over 50 per cent for some energy dense products.

This is far greater than the estimated 5 per cent reductions currently offered and negotiated with the food industry.

The study was published in The BMJ.

Dec 07
Meditation `better pain reliever` than morphine
You may want to get on the "Breathe in, breathe out" bandwagon as a team of boffins has suggested that meditation, a science-backed, no-prescription-needed way to reduce pain, is way better than taking morphine.

The study conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina suggests that just a few minutes of meditation each day could prove better pain relief than powerful drug medication.

The study showed that those individuals who had been taught to use relaxation and breathing techniques to cope with the pain had calmer brain scans. These people reported a 27 per cent reduction in pain intensity and 44 per cent less emotional pain.

Lead researcher Fadel Zeidan believes these findings prove that mindfulness meditation can produce different patterns of brain activity.

He said that based on the findings, they believe that as little as four 20-minute daily sessions of mindfulness meditation could enhance pain treatment in a clinical setting, adding "However, given that the present study examined healthy, pain-free volunteers, we cannot generalise our findings to chronic pain patients at this time."

The study is reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Dec 05
Women have more diverse patterns of sexual response: Study
Exploring sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual arousal in women, new research shows that heterosexual women have more diverse patterns of sexual response than previously reported.

In the first study, women watched short videos, and in the second study, women listened to stories about interacting sexually with a woman or a man.

Genital response was measured with a vaginal photoplethysmograph - a clear acrylic device that illuminates the capillary bed of the vaginal wall -- and participants also self-reported their sexual arousal.

In both studies, the lead researcher Meredith Chivers from the Sexuality and Gender Laboratory at Queen's University showed that only heterosexual women who were exclusively attracted to men showed similar genital responses to both female and male sexual stimuli.

Heterosexual women who also report some attraction to women, however, showed a different pattern of response - their genital responses were greater to female stimuli, similar to other sexually-diverse women.

"Both exclusively and predominantly androphilic women (women attracted to men) showed sexual response patterns that differed from their self-reported sexual attractions," Dr Chivers noted.

"Sexually-diverse women showed genital and self-reported arousal responses that were more similar to their self-reported sexual attractions," she noted.

As a whole, this research illustrates the complex relationship between sexual identity, sexual attraction, sexual arousal and genital responses to sexual stimuli.

Earlier research on women's sexual orientation and patterns of sexual response has previously focused on women's genital and subjective sexual arousal relative to their sexual identity, as heterosexual, bisexual or lesbian.

Among women, however, there is significant diversity among women in their sexual attractions to other women and men, regardless of sexual identity.

For example, a substantial minority of heterosexual women (20 per cent in some studies) also report some attraction to women.

"The new research provides a window of opportunity to understand how women's sexual response relates to her experience of sexual attraction and desire, addressing gaps in contemporary models of sexual response," concluded Dr Chivers in the journal PLOS ONE.

Dec 04
Eating French fries may put your health at risk
French fry lovers, beware! A chemical in your favourite snacks - more commonly associated with heavy industry than crispy fried potatoes - may put you at severe health risk in the long run.

French fries contain acrylamide, a chemical that poses a risk for several types of cancer in rodents.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers the chemical a "probable human carcinogen".

Led by researcher Yi Wang from the University of Idaho, the team assessed more than 140 potato varieties.

The goal was to identify potatoes that make great French fries and form less acrylamide.

Researchers planted 149 potato breeds in five potato-growing regions across the US.

Upon harvesting, they sent some of the raw potatoes to labs.

There, the potatoes were stored in conditions similar to commercial potatoes.

After storage, the labs tested the potatoes for their levels of reducing sugars and asparagine - an amino acid that is a known precursor of acrylamide.

Researchers then fried some of the potatoes and observed how much acrylamide the potatoes formed.

The team found that it is fairly achievable to identify potato breeds that produce less acrylamide, especially when compared with the industry standard potato breeds.

"The real challenge is to find the varieties that not only have those characteristics, but also yield finished products with desirable processing quality that meet the stringent standards of the food industry," Wang explained.

According to him, the team hopes to identify genes that are related to lower acrylamide in certain fried potatoes.

The study shows a strong relationship between the genetics of a raw potato and its potential to form acrylamide.

If researchers are able to identify the specific genes, they may be able to eliminate them in the future.

Scientists first began paying attention to the unwanted chemical's presence in food more than a decade ago.

Trace amounts of acrylamide are present in many foods cooked at high temperatures.

Relatively high levels are found in fried potatoes, including French fries and potato chips.

The research was published in the journal Crop Science.

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