Too Much TV Linked to Premature Death

Adults who watch a lot of TV may be at an increased risk of dying at a relatively young age, a new study suggests.

The study involved more than 13,200 adults in Spain who were all college graduates, and were around 37 years old at the study’s start. Participants were followed for about eight years, over which there were 97 deaths.

Those who watched three or more hours of TV a day were twice as likely to die over the study period, compared with those whose watched TV for one hour or less daily, the study found.

In addition, the researchers found that participants’ total time spent sitting — including time spent watching TV, using a computer or driving — was also linked to an increased risk of death during the study period.

The findings held even after the researchers took into account factors that could affect a person’s risk of death, including age, sex, smoking habits, total daily calorie intake, snacking habits, body mass index, physical activity level and whether participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to a longer life span.

The results agree with several previous studies that have linked watching TV with an increased risk of death. A 2010 study of Australian adults found that each additional hour of watching TV was linked with an 11 percent increased risk of death over a 6-year period. But the new study is one of the first to examine the link in younger adults.

“Our findings suggest that not only the promotion of physical activity but also the reduction in sedentary activities (especially television viewing) is a priority for the prevention of premature mortality,” the researchers, from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, wrote in a paper published today (June 25) in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Interestingly, when the researchers considered computer use and driving separately, neither of these activities were linked with an increased risk of death, but future studies are needed to confirm these findings. The researchers noted that they assessed people’s computer use at the study’s start in 1999, before prolonged use was common. Driving and computer use may also require slightly more energy expenditure and muscle activity than watching TV, the researchers said.

The study found an association, and cannot prove that watching TV causes people to die at an early age — it’s possible that other factors not accounted for in the study may explain the link. More research is also needed to examine whether decreasing time spent watching TV might reduce a person’s risk of death, the researchers said.


Engineered Probiotics Prevent Obesity in Mice

Weight gain can be prevented with engineered probiotics, even when paired with a high-fat diet, at least in mice, a new study shows.

Researchers genetically modified probiotic bacteria to produce a hunger-suppressing compound called NAPE, which is normally released by the cells in the small intestine after a meal and signals the brain to reduce food intake.

The NAPE-producing bacteria were added to the mice’s drinking water for eight weeks, and colonized in the intestines of the animals. The mice were fed a high-fat diet during this time.

By the end of the study period, the mice that had received modified bacteria ate less food, and developed less insulin resistance and fat in the liver, compared with mice that drank regular water or nonmodified bacteria.

The researchers also found that after they removed the bacteria from the drinking water, the effects persisted for about four to six weeks, as the bacteria cleared out from the animals’ guts, according to the study, published June 24 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The findings suggest that adding genetically modified bacteria into the gut — which normally hosts trillions of bacteria, some of which support digestive health — could be one way to prevent obesity and metabolic diseases, the researchers said. [5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health]

“Obviously, obesity has multiple causes,” said study researcher Sean Davies, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “My thinking is that obesity is a long-term issue that, generally speaking, creeps up on people. You just overeat a little bit each time, over a period of months and years, and slowly become obese.”

To reverse obesity, the researchers are looking for similar small steps that could work incrementally, over the long term, Davies told Live Science.

Studies have found that people who are obese appear to not produce enough NAPE, which stands for N-acylphosphatidylethanolamine, and works to suppress appetite after having a meal, the researchers said. By altering the gut bacteria, the researchers aimed to increase the amounts of this compound.

The bacterium used in the study is a known probiotic, a harmless strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) called Nissle 1917, that has been studied and used in humans for about a century.

Eventually, the researchers plan to test their method in people, Davies said. But first, they have to find a safer alternative — the bacteria in their current form cannot be used in humans because they are resistant to antibiotics, so they grow more easily in the lab.

Once a safer version of the bacteria is made, it would have to pass other safety tests for unknown side effects, like any other drug, Davies said.


Could a cocoa extract prevent Alzheimer’s?

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and by 2050, this number is expected to increase to 16 million. With figures like these, the race is on to find ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. Now, a new study by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, finds that a cocoa extract could do just that.

The research team, led by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, a professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine, found that a cocoa extract – called lavado – may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This means that symptoms of the condition – such as cognitive decline – could be prevented.

According to the investigators, lavado cocoa extract is a minimally processed cocoa that is high in polyphenols – antioxidants that are also found in fruits and vegetables. Past research has indicated that polyphenol-rich diets may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

With this in mind, the team wanted to see how lavado cocoa extract – alongside natural and Dutched cocoa extracts – affected disease progression.

Lavado ‘reduces A? oligomers formation and reduces synaptic damage’

To reach their findings, recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the team genetically engineered mice to mimic the human form of Alzheimer’s disease.

Each of the three cocoa extracts were tested on the mice, and the lavado cocoa extract was found to be the most effective against Alzheimer’s. It reduced the formation of A? oligomers in the brains of the mice and reduced damage to synapses.

The team explains that A? oligomers are groups of molecules that clump together and disturb synaptic structures in the brain that are responsible for the function of memory circuits.

The A? oligomers activate inflammatory responses with the intention of destroying a foreign body, but they actually cause damage to the brain’s own cells.

“Our data suggest that lavado cocoa extract prevents the abnormal formation of A? into clumped oligomeric structures, to prevent synaptic insult and eventually cognitive decline,” says, Dr. Pasinetti, adding:

“Given that cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease is thought to start decades before symptoms appear, we believe our results have broad implications for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.”

Dutched cocoa extract – which undergoes an alkalizing process known as “Dutching” to remove its acidity – did not have any beneficial effect against the formation of A? oligomers and synaptic damage, according to the researchers. This could be because the Dutching process reduces polyphenol levels.

“Our finding of protection against synaptic deficits by lavado cocoa extract, but not Dutched cocoa extract, strongly suggests that polyphenols are the active component that rescue synaptic transmission, since much of the polyphenol content is lost by the high alkalinity in the Dutching process,” says Dr. Pasinetti.

Extract may hold potential for Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention

Dr. Pasinetti says that the loss of synaptic function in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients may be more likely to lead to memory loss than the loss of nerve cells, therefore reducing damage to the synapses could be a more reliable target for the development of drugs for Alzheimer’s.

This study, according to the researchers, suggests that lavado cocoa extract could pave the way for such drugs, but further studies are needed to better determine how the extract works in the brain.

Furthermore, the team says it could be worth turning lavado cocoa extract into a dietary supplement, as it may provide a “safe, inexpensive and easily accessible” way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

This is not the first time cocoa has been associated with brain health. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, which suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may prevent memory decline in older adults.

And cocoa has been linked to other health benefits. A recent study published in The FASEB Journal found that dark chocolate may be good for the heart, while other research suggested chocolate may even prevent obesity and diabetes.

Our Knowledge Center article on the health benefits of chocolate reveals some of the other ways chocolate may be good for you.

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High blood sugar ‘raises depression risk’ in diabetics

Researchers have suggested that people with diabetes may be more prone to depression because of an interaction in this group between high blood sugar levels and a neurotransmitter associated with depression. The team presented their findings at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago, IL.

Previous research has suggested links between diabetes and depression, but scientists have been unsure of the mechanism driving this association.

In 2010, Medical News Today, reported on a study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, which explored the relationship between depression and diabetes in a sample group of 65,381 women. The Harvard team found that not only were women with diabetes at increased risk of becoming depressed, but that depressed women were also at increased risk of developing diabetes.

The researchers from that study found that women with depression had a 17% higher risk of developing diabetes – and women taking antidepressants had a 25% higher risk of developing diabetes – than women without depression.

They also found that women with diabetes had a 29% higher risk of depression – and women taking insulin had a 53% higher risk of depression – compared with women without diabetes.

“Depression may result from the biochemical changes directly caused by diabetes or its treatment,” the authors hypothesized, “or from the stresses and strains associated with living with diabetes and its often debilitating consequences.”

This hypothesis is addressed by the researchers behind the new study – Nicolas Bolo, PhD, from Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, and Dr. Donald Simonson from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both in Boston.

Biochemical mechanism may explain depression-diabetes association

“It was traditionally thought that patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have higher rates of depression than their nondiabetic peers because of the increased stress of managing a complex chronic disease,” Bolo and Simonson write.

“Our results suggest that high blood glucose levels may predispose patients with type 1 diabetes to depression through biological mechanisms in the brain.”

Bolo and Simonson studied three men and five women (average age 26) with type 1 diabetes and compared them with a control group of six men and five women (average age 29). None of the participants were depressed.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists measured the levels of glutamate – a neurotransmitter linked to depression at high levels – in the subjects’ brains. Participants were scanned both when their blood sugar level was normal – at 90-110 mg/dL – and when it was moderately elevated, at 180-200 mg/dL.

The authors found that when the blood sugar level was raised, the strength of the connections between regions of the brain involved in self-perception and emotions became weaker in the diabetic patients than in the healthy control subjects.

Raising blood glucose levels also raised the levels of glutamate in the diabetic patients, but not in the control group. Elevated levels of glutamate in the diabetic patients corresponded with worse scores on a depression questionnaire.

However, the researchers note that although the diabetic group reported worse scores than the control group, the scores were still well below the range for major depression.

Dr. Bolo believes that the team’s findings “may enable the development of more targeted approaches to treating depression in diabetes.”

In 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study that found pain and depression in women with type 2 diabetes may be reduced by vitamin D2 supplements.

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Walking boosts creative thinking

New research shows that walking boosts creative thinking. In a series of experiments, researchers from Stanford University in California compared levels of creativity in people while they walked with while they sat and found creative output went up by an average of 60% while walking.

Many people claim that they come up with their best ideas while walking. Steve Jobs, late co-founder of Apple, used to hold meetings while walking, and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has also been seen doing the same.

Now, a study by Dr. Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, may explain why. They report their findings in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

They found that the act of walking itself does the trick – it does not matter whether the walk is indoors or outdoors, it has the same effect in boosting creative inspiration.

In one experiment, they found that compared with sitting down, walking indoors on a treadmill facing a blank wall or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses.

Dr. Oppezzo says she thought “walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me.” She says theirs appears to be the first study to look specifically at the effect of non-aerobic walking on simultaneously generating new ideas, and compare it with sitting.

The effect of walking appears to persist for a little while; even if people sat down shortly after a walk, their creative juices continued to flow, the researchers found.

Creative thinking tested for non-aerobic walking versus sitting, indoors and outdoors

To carry out their four experiments, Dr. Oppezzo and Prof. Schwartz recruited 176 college students and other adults, and had them complete tasks that researchers normally use to measure creative thinking.

They placed the participants in various conditions, comparing non-aerobic walking to sitting, indoors and outdoors. When outdoors, for instance, the walkers would walk, and the sitters were pushed in wheelchairs around a pre-determined path on the Stanford campus.

The reason for pushing sitters around in wheelchairs in the outdoor parts of experiments was to give them the same visual movement as walking.

The participants also underwent different combinations of walking and sitting. For example, there might be two consecutive walking sessions, or two consecutive seated sessions, or a walking session followed by a seated one. The sessions lasted from 5 to 16 minutes, depending on the tasks the participants were asked to complete.

Tests of divergent thinking

In three of the experiments, the participants undertook tests of their divergent thinking creativity. Divergent thinking is where you generate ideas by thinking of lots of possible solutions.

Walkers scored an average of 60% higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting,the researchers say.

For these tests, the participants were asked to think of as many uses as they could for a given object. They were given three objects at a time, and each time, they had 4 minutes to think of as many uses of the three objects as they could.

The responses were marked according to novelty (nobody else in the group had thought of it) and appropriateness (for example, it would be unrealistic to suggest a tire could be used as a ring on a finger).

In these three experiments, the vast majority of the participants scored higher on divergent thinking creativity while walking than while sitting.

In one particular experiment carried out indoors, participants walking on a treadmill scored an average of 60% higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting.

There was also a fourth experiment that tested a more complex type of creativity. The tester gives the participants prompts to which they have to respond with complex analogies. The more the analogy captures the deep structure of the prompt, the more it scored on high quality. For instance, in response to the prompt “a robbed safe,” a response like “empty wallet” would not score as high on quality as “a soldier suffering from PTSD,” which captures the sense of loss, dysfunction and violation.

This experiment found that walking outside resulted in 100% of participants generating at least one high-quality complex analogy, compared with only 50% when sitting indoors.

No effect on focused thinking

The study also showed that not all thinking is the same. Divergent, brainstorm thinking is different to convergent thinking that requires single, correct answers.

Productive creativity involves a series of steps, from generating ideas to execution, and not all using the same type of thinking process.

To test the effect of walking versus sitting on convergent thinking, the researchers gave the participants word-association exercises. For each exercise, the participants looked at three words, then had to say the word that linked all three. For instance, the correct response to “Swiss, cake and cottage” would be “cheese.”

The results showed that when performing this test, walking produced slightly worse scores than sitting.

Dr. Oppezzo says the study shows walking appears to benefit the creative steps that involve divergent thinking. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, does not appear to benefit.

Prof. Schwartz says more work is now needed to find the underlying causes, but their findings provide a “very robust paradigm that will allow people to begin manipulations, so they can track down how the body is influencing the mind.”

One of the key questions to investigate will be to determine if it is just walking, or any form of mild physical activity, that has this effect on creativity.

Dr. Oppezzo says in the meantime:

“This study is another justification for integrating bouts of physical activity into the day, whether it’s recess at school or turning a meeting at work into a walking one. We’d be healthier, and maybe more innovative for it.”

In another study, researchers found that walking can reduce heart risk as much as running. Reporting the study in April 2013, Medical News Today describes how, after comparing 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study, investigators concluded that brisk walking can reduce a person’s risk of diabeteshigh blood pressure, and high cholesterol just as much as running can.

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Mosquito species which do not consume blood:

“Toxorhynchites” a largest known mosquito species called “elephant mosquito”. The adult of this species do not survive on blood rather than that they survive on high carbohydrate diet i.e. saps, juices, honeydew etc from the damaged plants, fruits, nectar. They also choose to feed on protein rich and fat rich diet means they feed on other mosquito larvae as well as similar nektonic prey.

The female larvae of other mosquito species choose blood meals because blood help in producing more eggs than nectar. So the adult species of elephant mosquito do not provide harm to the humans. But blood sucking mosquito can infect the human and can cause diseases like malaria, dengue and other diseases. Disease vector and toxin control researchers have suggested that if Toxorhynchites mosquitoes were introduced to areas outside their natural range, their larvae-munching behavior could fight with the dengue fever.




Polyurethane-it is a material used in the manufacturing of wide range of items from toys to airplane wings and many more. It is a known fact that the items made from Polyurethane which is discarded would still be intact for years because it does not decompose.

But now a fungi name “Pestalotiopsis microspora” is discovered  by the students of yale university which can survive on polyurethane and eat it alone and it can do so in anaerobic (oxygen free) environment that is close to the condition at the bottom of a landfill.

“Pestalotiopsis microspora” was discovered in the jungles of Ecuador, while on the University’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory.

Pria Anand a student recorded the fungi’s this amazing behavior and Jonathan Russell isolate the enzymes that helps the organism to degrade plastic as its food source. They published it and conclude that this microbe is “a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bio remediation.”

A Squirt of Stem Cell Gel Heals Brain Injuries

Scientists have developed a gel that helps brains recover from traumatic injuries. It has the potential to treat head injuries suffered in combat, car accidents, falls, or gunshot wounds. Developed by Dr. Ning Zhang at Clemson University in South Carolina, the gel is injected in liquid form at the site of injury and stimulates the growth of stem cells there.

Brain injuries are particularly hard to repair, since injured tissues swell up and can cause additional damage to the cells. So far, treatments have tried to limit this secondary damage by lowering the temperature or relieving the pressure at the site of injury. However, these techniques are often not very effective.

More recently, scientists have considered transplanting donor brain cells into the wound to repair damaged tissue. This method has so far had limited results when treating brain injuries. The donor cells often fail to grow or stimulate repair at the injury site, possibly because of the inflammation and scarring present there. The injury site also typically has very limited blood supply and connective tissue, which might prevent donor cells from getting the nutrients they require.

Dr. Zhang’s gel, however, can be loaded with different chemicals to stimulate various biological processes at the site of injury. In previous research done on rats, she was able to use the gel to help re-establish full blood supply at the site of brain injury. This could help create a better environment for donor cells.

In a follow-up study, Dr. Zhang loaded the gel with immature stem cells, as well as the chemicals they needed to develop into full-fledged adult brain cells. When rats with severe brain injuries were treated with this mixture for eight weeks, they showed signs of significant recovery.

The new gel could treat patients at varying stages following injury, and is expected to be ready for testing in humans in about three years.




‘Super’ banana to face first human trial

A super-enriched banana genetically engineered to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa will soon have its first human trial, which will test its effect on vitamin A levels, Australian researchers said Monday.

The project plans to have the special banana varieties—enriched with alpha and  which the body converts to vitamin A—growing in Uganda by 2020.

The bananas are now being sent to the United States, and it is expected that the six-week trial measuring how well they lift vitamin A levels in humans will begin soon.

“Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching  such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food,” said project leader Professor James Dale.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) project, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes to see conclusive results by year end.

“We know our science will work,” Professor Dale said.

“We made all the constructs, the genes that went into bananas, and put them into bananas here at QUT.”

Dale said the Highland or East African cooking banana was a  in East Africa, but had low levels of micro-nutrients, particularly pro-vitamin A and iron.

“The consequences of vitamin A deficiency are dire with 650,000-700,000 children world-wide dying … each year and at least another 300,000 going blind,” he said.

Researchers decided that enriching the staple food was the best way to help ease the problem.

While the modified banana looks the same on the outside, inside the flesh is more orange than a cream colour, but Dale said he did not expect this to be a problem.

He said once the genetically modified bananas were approved for commercial cultivation in Uganda, the same technology could potentially be expanded to crops in other countries—including Rwanda, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

“In West Africa farmers grow plantain  and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well,” he said.


Fruit juice ‘as bad’ as sugary drinks, say researchers

Two medical researchers writing in one of The Lancetjournals argue that because of its high sugar content, fruit juice could be just as bad for us as sugar-sweetened beverages like carbonated drinks and sodas.

Naveed Sattar, professor of Metabolic Medicine, and Dr. Jason Gill, both of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, call for the UK government to change the current “five a day” guideline to exclude a portion of fruit juice from the list of fruits and vegetable servings that count toward it.

In their paper, published in the The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, they propose that including fruit juice as one of the five a day is “probably counter-productive,” because it leads people to consider fruit juice as a healthy food that does not need to be limited, as is the case with less healthy foods.

They also urge food companies to improve container labeling of fruit juices to inform consumers they should drink no more than 150 ml a day of the product.

Fruit juice has come under the spotlight since medical experts recently started looking more closely at the link between high sugar intake and the risk for heart disease.

In 2012, researchers at Harvard reported in the journal Circulation that daily consumption of sugary drinks raised heart disease risk in men. Two years earlier, researchers presenting at an American Heart Association conference said Americans’ higher consumption of sugary drinks has led to more diabetes and heart disease over the past decade.

Fruit juice is not a low-sugar alternative to sugar-sweetened drinks

Dr. Gill says “there seems to be a clear misperception that fruit juices and smoothies are low-sugar alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.”

Prof. Sattar explains:

“Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks, for example: 250 ml of apple juice typically contains 110 kcal and 26 g of sugar; and 250 ml of cola typically contains 105 kcal and 26.5 g of sugar.”

He says research is beginning to show that unlike solid fruit intake, for which high consumption appears linked either to reduced or neutral risk for diabetes, high fruit juice intake is linked to raised risk for diabetes.

“One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit; in addition, much of the goodness in fruit – fibre, for example – is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts,” he adds.

Also, although fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals that are mostly absent in sugar-sweetened drinks, the levels of nutrients in fruit juices many not be enough to offset the unhealthy effect that excessive consumption has on metabolism, says Dr. Gill.

In their paper they refer to a trial where participants drank half a liter of pure grape juice every day for 3 months. And the results showed that despite grape juice’s high antioxidant properties, it led to increased insulin resistance and bigger waists in overweight adults.

Poor public awareness about the amount of sugar in fruit juice

The researchers also report an online poll of over 2,000 adults that tested public awareness of the sugar content of fruit juices. Respondents were asked to look at pictures of containers filled with non-alcoholic drinks and estimate how many teaspoons of sugar each contained.

The results showed that even though all the drinks had a similar sugar content, on average the respondents underestimated the sugar content of fruit juices and smoothies by 48%, and overestimated that of carbonated drinks by an average of 12%.

Prof. Sattar says there are strong public health reasons for taxing or targeting sugary drinks in some way, so as to reduce consumption. But he and Dr. Gill do not go as far as to advocate children should not drink fruit juice at all, which is what some have been calling for in the US.

They do, however, urge public health policymakers to include fruit juice when they debate the issue of sugar-sweetened drinks.

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