Monday, February 3, 2014

Health Research Recap (Week of Jan. 27, 2014)

Researchers studying mice found that fragmented sleep caused tumors to grow more aggressively by altering the immune system.  The researchers placed 2 groups of mice in cages that allowed them to either sleep uninterrupted or with constant interruption for 7 days and then injected them with tumor cells.  After 2 weeks, all mice had tumors that were felt and they were assessed after 4 weeks.  The tumors in the mice who experienced fragmented sleep were twice the size of those who slept uninterrupted and were more likely to invade other tissues when implanted in the thigh.  Sleep affects health in many ways, so getting good sleep should be high up on your list of priorities.

A couple of studies found that sleeping for short or excessively long periods of time is linked to symptoms of depression.  The first study was done in twins and showed changes in the expression of genes related to both sleep and depression symptoms based on sleep duration.  The effects were almost twice as large in twins who slept for less than 7 hours or more than 9 hours when compared to those who slept between 7-8.9 hours per night.  The other study showed a link between sleep deprivation and depression, but the study in twins is more interesting because it shows that putting the same genes under different environmental conditions can have a pretty strong affect on health.

Researchers found that people who ate a bad breakfast as adolescents were 68% more likely to have the metabolic syndrome 27 years later than those who ate a substantial one.  A poor breakfast was defined as either eating nothing or only eating or drinking something "sweet".  The characteristics of the metabolic syndrome that were most affected were abdominal obesity and high fasting blood glucose.  While the snap judgement is to declare breakfast the most important meal, I think the real issue is that people focus more on eating real food that is unprocessed and nutrient dense than when they are eating their food.

A study on the effect of contradictory nutritional information found that people who felt they had heard more conflicting nutritional recommendation were more likely to ignore them altogether.  Furthermore, they were more likely to ignore recommendations that were not very controversial and had total support such as eating more vegetables.  One of the trappings of using the type of data that most people base their recommendations on is that it is not very accurate, and it is unfortunate that the nutritional sciences pump out recommendations based on shoddy research.  Especially since it apparently causes some blowback that this study identifies.

A study on the psychological effect of labeling obesity as a disease found that obese people who read the message that obesity was a disease were less likely to believe healthy nutritional practices were important, were less likely to be concerned about their weight and had a more positive body image, and were more likely to select higher calorie choices from a menu than people who read the message that obesity was not a disease or a neutral message on the topic.  I personally am against the message that obesity is a disease, my opinion is that it is a metabolic state that increases the risk for disease.  I also believe the message that it is a disease is damaging in more ways than this study elucidates, but the most obvious is that making someone feel like their state is out of their control is not very motivating. Regardless, I believe a good body image is important, but not when it comes at the expense of someone's health.

A study on yoga found that female breast cancer survivors who practiced yoga for 3 months had 41% less fatigue and an approximate 12% drop in inflammatory cytokines than women who did not practice yoga.  Additionally, the same tests were run 3 months after the yoga class had finished and fatigue was 57% lower and inflammatory cytokines were approximately 17% lower in the women who practiced yoga.  The researchers believe the continued improvement once the classes were stopped was possibly from improved sleep quality, continued practice at home, or the women also could have taken aspects from the yoga classes such as breathing and meditation and applied them in real life.

A study found a two-fold increase in heart attack risk for men under the age of 65 at the onset of testosterone therapy.  In men over 65 and men under 65 with pre-existing heart disease, beginning testosterone therapy doubles their risk of having a non-fatal myocardial during the onset of therapy.  The study didn't look at the long term effects of testosterone therapy, but I think there is a place for testosterone therapy if done properly and in the context of an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Michael Eades has a great post on the way pharmaceutical research is deceptively reported to inflate the effects of their drugs, check it out here.