Eating more sugar means less vitamins
NEW European research has found that the more added sugar we eat, the fewer vitamins and minerals we appear to consume in our daily diets.
Carried out by researchers at Lund University in Sweden, the new study looked at data gathered from two different study groups.
One group had 1,797 participants aged 18 to 80 years, who had their dietary intake assessed through a four-day food diary.
Another had 12,238 participants aged 45 to 68 years, who had their diet assessed using a combination of a seven-day food diary, a food frequency questionnaire and an interview.
From this data, the researchers were able to look at the participants’ intake of added sugar – sugar added to food and drinks during processing, not the sugar that exists naturally in fruit, vegetables or milk – and the average daily intake of nine micronutrients: calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.
The findings, published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, showed that in both sets of participants, the higher the intake of added sugar, the lower the intake of all nine vitamins and minerals.
Although eating too much sugar has been linked to a number of diseases and health problems, including poor dental health, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the recommended daily maximum for sugar intake still varies from country to country.
As an example, the researchers point out that The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, which are the dietary guidelines set for the Nordic populations, suggest that added sugar should be no more than 10 per cent of total energy intake, while the European Food Safety Authority says that there is insufficient scientific data to set an upper limit for sugar.
“The selection of added sugar, as opposed to other types of sugar, was done with the purpose of looking at the overall effect of the quality of diet.
“Added sugar is not part of foods and beverages naturally, it is added to foods and beverages during processing, manufacturing or at the table for different purposes, and is therefore not strictly necessary in our diets,” says researcher Esther González-Padilla.
“However, to be able to ascertain a clear limit of added sugar intake, the decrease in micronutrient intake needs to be remarkably enlarged, which we did not observe in our study.
“Even though this study alone is not sufficient to change recommendations, it adds valuable evidence to the body of knowledge we have, in order to possibly adjust recommendations in the future,” she concludes. – AFP Relaxnews
Here are some methods to handle anxiety
IT’S NORMAL to feel anxious from time to time. But if you’re chronically anxious, you can and should do something about it, health experts say.
Why? For one thing, because anxiety can hold you back in your life, remarks Caroline Foran, a lifestyle journalist and bestselling Irish author of two books on how to master fear.
Everyone, she says, is capable of doing it and gaining self-confidence.
Anxiety disorders are many and varied.
Phobias are one well-known type. They’re characterised by a fear of specific objects or situations and a desire to avoid them, such as spiders or tunnels.
Social phobias are common as well. They involve fear and avoidance of certain social situations, such as public speaking.
“Here the fear is centred on being judged by others to be inadequate,” says Dr Markus Banger, medical director of the Department of Addictive Disorders and Psychotherapy at the LVR Clinic in Bonn, Germany.
People with what is known as generalised anxiety disorder are persistently and excessively anxious; about losing their job, for example, even when there are no signs of this happening.
“Generalised anxiety disorder is often accompanied by depression,” points out Dr Banger.
Another type of anxiety disorder are panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear.
Physical reactions are intense and can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating and trembling.
Anxiety disorders have various causes.
“About 30 per cent of the disorders have a genetic basis,” Dr Banger says.
The rest are linked to the use of medications or drugs, physical illnesses, life experiences or traumatic events.
People with a severe anxiety disorder should seek professional help, such as having their general practitioner (GP) recommend a psychotherapist.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, possibly in combination with medications, can bring relief.
In many milder cases of anxiety though, people can help themselves.
One of Foran’s tips in this regard is a visualisation exercise.
The next time you’re nervous or anxious, direct your attention to your feelings and thoughts, even if it’s unpleasant, she says.
Inhale and count to four, then exhale and count to eight. Repeat this five times until your heart rate has slowed.
This exercise can be helpful before an examination or public presentation.
Another self-help approach is to make yourself aware of your anxieties by writing down what you’re afraid of, as detailed as possible, on a sheet of paper.
“Ripping up the paper afterwards can sometimes be a first step towards overcoming your fear,” Dr Banger says.
It can also be helpful to talk about your anxieties with your partner or good friends, he adds, explaining that “a talk can help put your feelings of anxiety into perspective”.
Exercise and relaxation techniques, for instance, yoga, can be quite effective in dealing with anxieties too, he says.
A further method recommended by Foran is what she calls “fear hacking”.
It involves imagining the worst-case outcome in a situation you’re anxious about, then developing a contingency plan for it.
What then actually happens may well be less disagreeable than you feared.
But if your worst-case scenario does come to pass, Foran says, you’ll be prepared to handle it and won’t have a knee-jerk, anxiety-fuelled reaction. – dpa
Learning difficulties ‘link to brain connections’
Differences associated with learning difficulties are found less in specific areas of the brain and more in the connections between them, experts say.
After scanning 479 children’s brains, Cambridge University researchers found they were organised in multiple “hubs”.
Those with no difficulties – or very specific ones, such as poor listening skills – had well connected hubs.
But those with widespread and severe difficulties – 14-30% of all children – were found to have poor connections.
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It was recently suggested schools were failing to spot ADHD and autism, which could be contributing to a rise in exclusions.
Dr Duncan Astle told BBC News: “We have spent decades searching for the brain areas for different types of developmental difficulty such as ADHD and dyslexia.
“Our findings show that something which is far more important is the way a child’s brain is organised.
“In particular, the role that highly connected ‘hub’ regions play.
“This has not been shown before and its implications for our scientific understanding of developmental difficulties is big.
“How do these hubs emerge over developmental time?
“What environmental and genetic factors can influence this emergence?”
“Another key finding is that the diagnostic labels children had been given were not closely related to their cognitive difficulties – for example, two children with ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] could be very different from each other.
“This has been well known in practice for a long time but poorly documented in the scientific literature.”
Treatment should be “less reliant” on naming a diagnosis, Dr Astle said.
“They should either receive broad interventions that benefit everyone or tailored interventions that support the child’s areas of cognitive difficulty by harnessing their relative strengths.
“But the take-home message is that the ‘label’ is unlikely to be helpful in deciding how to support a child.”
Earlier research has suggested poor connectivity within the brain also plays a role in the emergence of mental-health disorders in adolescents. –BBC
Cancer survivor has baby from frozen egg
IN a world first, a woman rendered infertile by cancer treatment gave birth after one of her immature eggs was matured, frozen, and then – five years later – thawed and fertilised, researchers in France reported.
A study in the journal Annals of Oncology published on Feb 19, 2020, describes how the baby boy was born to a 34-year-old French woman who had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Before the treatment began, doctors removed seven immature eggs from her ovaries and used a technique called in vitro maturation (IVM) to allow the eggs to develop further in the laboratory.
Up to now, there have been no successful pregnancies in cancer patients with eggs that have undergone IVM and freezing.
Some children, however, have been born as a result of IVM, immediately followed by fertilisation and transfer to the patient.
Dr Michael Grynberg, head of Antoine Beclere University Hospital’s Department of Reproductive Medicine and Fertility Preservation near Paris, recalled becoming aware of the then 29-year-old patient’s case.
“I offered her the option of egg freezing after IVM, and also, freezing ovarian tissue,” he said.
The patient rejected the second option as being too invasive only days after cancer diagnosis.
So-called cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is an experimental method in which the outer layer of an ovary, which contains immature eggs, is taken out of the body and frozen for future use.
In the case of the French patient, ultrasound revealed that there were 17 small, fluid-filled sacs containing immature eggs in her ovaries.
But using hormones to stimulate the ovaries to ripen the eggs would have taken too long and might have made her cancer worse, leaving retrieval of the immature eggs and freezing as the best option.
“The technique of preservation through freezing without (hormone) stimulation works less well, but in this case, we didn’t really have a choice,” said Dr Grynberg.
After five years, the patient recovered from breast cancer, but she was unable to conceive naturally – the chemotherapy had made her infertile.
After the age of 40, some 40% of breast cancer patients transition into menopause because of their treatment. At 30 years of age, the rate is 15% to 20%.
Six of the eggs that had been frozen five years earlier survived the thawing process, and five were successfully fertilised.
One of these fertilised eggs was transferred to the patient’s womb, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Jules on July 6, 2019.
No information was provided on the identity of the biological father.
“We have shown that this technique – even if it can be improved – allows women in this situation to have children,” Dr Grynberg said.
Experts not involved in the procedure described it as a breakthrough.
“Getting eggs to mature successfully after removal from the ovary has been a challenge, so this is a very welcome positive step,” said Dr Richard Anderson, head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health in Scotland.
Freezing eggs at that stage also means that they remain the woman’s property, without the complications that using a partner’s sperm to fertilise can engender, he noted.
“This advance is particularly important for cancer patients, but it’s also a step towards easier and less invasive in vitro fertilisation (IVF),” he added. – AFP Relaxnews