Posts tagged with "Study Finds"

Overeating doesn’t cause obesity? Scientists claim it’s all about what you’re eating, not how much

September 15, 2021

There may be no need to turn down that second portion and push back from the table. A team of scientists now says it’s  actually what you eat, not how much you eat that leads to obesity, Study Finds reports.

Their study finds processed food and rapidly digestible carbohydrates may be what’s really behind society’s growing waistline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of American adults classify as obese. This places nearly half the population at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, the USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020 to 2025 maintains that losing weight “requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.”

However, lead author Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School,  says that this age-old energy balance model for weight loss doesn’t actually work in a world full of highly palatable, heavily marketed, cheap processed foods. Indeed, he points out, despite years of public health messaging about eating less and exercising more, cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases continue to rise.

His team claims that its new carbohydrate-insulin model better explains the global trend towards obesity and weight gain, noting that the model even points to more effective and long-lasting weight loss strategies.

“During a growth spurt, for instance, adolescents may increase food intake by 1,000 calories a day. But does their overeating cause the growth spurt, or does the growth spurt cause the adolescent to get hungry and overeat?” asks Dr. Ludwig in a media release.

But if overeating is not the main cause of weight gain, what is? The real culprit is processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.

The study finds such foods also cause hormonal responses which alter an eater’s metabolism, drive fat storage, and lead to weight gain. When people consume carbohydrates, the body increases the amount of insulin it secretes. This signals fat cells to store more calories and leaves fewer calories for the body to use as muscle fuel.

As a result, the brain thinks the body isn’t getting enough energy to keep going and starts sending out the hunger signals. Moreover, the researchers say, a person’s metabolism can also slow down as the body tries to “conserve fuel. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves people thinking they’re still hungry and continuing to pile on more non-filling food.

Reducing consumption of the rapidly digestible carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era lessens the underlying drive to store body fat. As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle,” Dr. Ludwig says.

The findings appear in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Live long and prosper: Moving to the city helps seniors increase their longevity

September 3, 2021

Living longer in your senior years may be all about one thing—location, location, location. A new study finds that moving to a busy urban area can increase longevity among older adults, reports Study Finds.

While many retirees tend to leave big cities for a quieter life and warmer weather, researchers from MIT say heading to many coastal metropolises —such as,New York City, San Francisco, and Miami — actually adds an extra year to their lives.

Specifically, the study finds adults over 65 who move from a metro area in the 10th percentile (in terms of how much they enhance longevity) to an area in the 90th percentile adds 1.1 years to their lives. Currently, the average lifespan for an adult in the United States  is 83.3 years.

“There’s a substantively important causal effect of where you live as an elderly adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States,” says Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics in a university release.

While a region’s “health capital”—or the local population’s tendency to be obese, smoke, or suffer from other health problems—plays a major role in health, study authors also looked at the environmental factors of metro areas. Entering the study, the team suspected that the nature of available medical care in urban areas becomes a key factor in how long older adults live. Other possible drivers include climate, pollution, crime, and traffic safety.
“We wanted to separate out the role of people’s prior experiences and behaviors—or health capital—from the role of place or environment,” Finkelstein notes.

Researchers looked at the Medicare records of 6.3 million beneficiaries from 65 to 99 years-old between 1999 and 2014. Around two million of these Americans moved from one U.S. “commuting zone” to another during the study. The rest did not move during that 15-year period.

“The idea is to take two elderly people from a given origin, say, Boston. One moves to low-mortality Minneapolis, one moves to high-mortality Houston. We then compare how long each lives after they move,” Finkelstein explains.

Although different people have different health histories, study authors say

Medicare records include detailed claims data—which enabled the team to account for 27 different illnesses and conditions. These ranged from lung cancer to diabetes to depression. In the end, researchers used the data to create a standard mortality risk model to examine how changing cities later in life leads to either a drop or rise in longevity.

The results show that many urban areas on the East and West Coasts of the United States have a positive impact on longevity for seniors who move there. Some Midwestern cities like Chicago also appear to give seniors a boost.

On the other hand, much of the deep South negatively impacts the lifespans of older adults. This includes states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and northern Florida. The American Southwest, including areas in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona, also scored poorly in the MIT study.

While the team estimates that “health capital” accounts for about 70% of the differences in longevity around the country, the new findings show that 15% of these differences depend on where you live.

However, Study Finds notes, while some major cities clearly push health in one direction or another, other areas around America are harder to gauge. In some cities, like Charlotte, North Carolina, researchers discovered that moving here has a positive effect on longevity, but residents still have a lower overall life expectancy. Conversely, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, people moving here have a higher overall life expectancy, but the study finds the city has a below-average effect on the longevity.

“Our [hard] evidence is about the role of place,” Finkelstein says. “We know something about Charlotte, North Carolina, makes a difference, but we don’t yet know what.”

“Differences in health care across places are large and potentially important,” Finkelstein concludes. “But there are also differences in pollution, weather, [and] other aspects. … What we need to do now is get inside the black box of ‘the place’ and figure out what it is about them that matters for longevity.”

The study appears in the journal, American Economic Review.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Straight talk: Runners should stop leaning forward so much to avoid overuse injuries

August 5, 2021

Avid runners are constantly chasing a new personal-best time or distance, but oftentimes the pursuit of excellence can result in a litany of injuries. Now, researchers from the University of Colorado, Denver find that an unlikely remedy may help runners avoid such injuries. They say athletes just need to stop leaning forward so much, Study Finds reports.

Let’s explain. The trunk flexion refers to the angle at which a runner bends forward from the hip. This angle fluctuates greatly from person to person. Most runners self-report an angle ranging anywhere from -2 degrees to 25 degrees. This latest research reports that the greater the trunk flexion angle, the bigger the impact on stride length, joint movements, and ground reaction forces. In simpler terms, how far one leans forward as they run may have a big impact on subsequent knee pain, back pain, and medial tibial stress syndrome.

“This was a pet peeve turned into a study,” says Anna Warrener, PhD, lead author and assistant professor of Anthropology at CU Denver, in a media release. “When (co-researcher) Daniel Lieberman [PhD, from the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University] was out preparing for his marathons, he noticed other people leaning too far forward as they ran, which had so many implications for their lower limbs. Our study was built to find out what they were.”

The human body’s head, arms, and trunk make up just about 68% of total body mass. So, even minor fluctuations in one’s trunk flexion may substantially alter lower-limb kinematics and ground reaction forces (GRF) while out for a run or jog, Study Finds reports.

To research this topic, study authors recruited 23 injury-free, recreational runners (ages 18-23). The team recorded each participant as they ran for 15 seconds at their self-selected trunk position. In addition to participants’ trunk position of course, researchers also asked each subject to try running at a 10-, 20-, and 30-degree angle of flexion.

“We had to create a way in which we could reasonably force someone into a forward lean that didn’t make them so uncomfortable that they changed everything about their gait,” Dr. Warrener explains.

Researchers accomplished this by hanging a lightweight, plastic dowel from the ceiling just above the runners’ heads. They then moved the dowel up or down, depending on the necessary angle.

Contradicting the research team’s original hypothesis, the experiments showed that average stride length decreased by 0.39 inches; and stride frequency increased from 86.3 strides per minute to 92.8 strides/min. Also, overstride in relation to the hip increased by 28%.

“The relationship between strike frequency and stride length surprised us,” Dr. Warrener adds. “We thought that the more you lean forward, your leg would need to extend further to keep your body mass from falling outside the support area. As a result, overstride and stride frequency would go up. The inverse was true. Stride length got shorter and stride rate increased.”

Researchers theorize that this may be caused by a drop in the “aerial phase.” In other words, less leg air time means shorter steps.

“The act of swinging your leg is really expensive as you’re running,” Dr. Warrener comments. “Swinging it faster as you lean forward may mean a higher locomotor cost.”

In comparison to subjects’ trunk flexion of choice, increased angles produced a more flexed hip and bent knee joint. More leaning also changed both foot and lower limb position, causing a bigger impact on body ground reaction forces. Rate of loading jumped by 29% and vertical ground reaction force impact transients increased by 20%.

All in all, these findings suggest that excessive trunk flexion may be a leading cause of running overuse injuries.

“The big picture takeaway is that running is not all about what is happening from the trunk down—it’s a whole-body experience,” Dr. Warrener concludes. “Researchers should think about the downstream effects of trunk flexion when studying running biomechanics.”

The study is published in Human Movement Science

Research contact: @StudyFinds.


Eyes wide shut: Mammals dream about the world they’re entering before birth

July 27, 2021

Whether it’s a human, a dog, or a rat, newborn mammals have the incredible capacity to understand and make “visual sense” of the world upon opening their eyes for the very first time. How, though, is this possible if they’ve never actually seen anything up until that moment?

Researchers from Yale University are offering up an explanation: Before birth, they say, mammals dream about the world they’ll eventually enter.

According to a report by Study Finds, the Yale scientists conceived the fascinating and thought-provoking theory after observing waves of activity within the neonatal retinas of a group of mice who hadn’t opened their eyes for the first time yet. Upon birth, this activity ceases quickly and a more mature network of visual stimuli begins transmitting to the brain, where mammals further encode and store the information.

“At eye opening, mammals are capable of pretty sophisticated behavior,” says senior study author Michael Crair, the William Ziegler III Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, in a university release. “But how do the circuits form that allow us to perceive motion and navigate the world? It turns out we are born capable of many of these behaviors, at least in rudimentary form.”

To investigate the origins of these pre-birth waves of activity, study authors scanned the brains of mice right after birth but before their eyes opened for the first time. Incredibly, this led to the discovery that the retinal waves flow in a pattern that essentially mimics the activity that an animal would see if they were really moving forward through a physical environment.

“This early dream-like activity makes evolutionary sense because it allows a mouse to anticipate what it will experience after opening its eyes, and be prepared to respond immediately to environmental threats,” Crair notes.

Next, researchers analyzed more closely the cells and circuits responsible for the production of the retinal waves observed in neonatal mice. When they blocked the function of starburst amacrine cells, which are retina cells responsible for the release of neurotransmitters, the retinal waves could not flow in a way that recreated forward motion. Consequently, those mice weren’t as adept at responding to visual motion after birth.

Even among adult mice, those same cells play a big role in retina function and environmental cue responses.

There are, of course, many differences between mice and humans. Mice are much better at responding to visual cues immediately after birth, but human babies are still quite capable of identifying objects and detecting movement.

“These brain circuits are self-organized at birth and some of the early teaching is already done,” Crair concludes. “It’s like dreaming about what you are going to see before you even open your eyes.”

The study appears in the journal Science.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

‘Bite me’: Deadly spider venom can help heart attack survivors recover

July 26, 2021

Fear of spiders, or arachnophobia, is one of the most common phobias. According to a new study, however, at least one of our eight-legged friends may turn out to be a life saver, Study Finds reports.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia report that venom from one particular type of spider—the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel web spider, considered to be among the world’s most deadlyis the integral ingredient in a new life-saving treatment for heart attack victims.

Ironically, a molecule extracted from this spider’s venom is being used to produce a new drug candidate capable of both preventing heart attack damage and extending the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants.

Study authors explain that the new drug actually blocks a “death signal” sent from the heart during a heart attack.

“After a heart attack, blood flow to the heart is reduced, resulting in a lack of oxygen to heart muscle,” study co-author Dr. Nathan Palpant, UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), says in a university release. “The lack of oxygen causes the cell environment to become acidic, which combine to send a message for heart cells to die. Despite decades of research, no one has been able to develop a drug that stops this death signal in heart cells, which is one of the reasons why heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the world.”

The drug candidate, a protein called Hi1a, was tested by exposing beating human heart cells to heart attack stressors. Then, the drug was added to the mix to see if it improved outcomes.

 “The Hi1a protein from spider venom blocks acid-sensing ion channels in the heart, so the death message is blocked, cell death is reduced, and we see improved heart cell survival,” Dr. Palpant told Study Finds.

What’s more, “This will not only help the hundreds of thousands of people who have a heart attack every year around the world, it could also increase the number and quality of donor hearts, which will give hope to those waiting on the transplant list,” notes Professor Peter Macdonald from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. “The survival of heart cells is vital in heart transplants — treating hearts with Hi1a and reducing cell death will increase how far the heart can be transported and improve the likelihood of a successful transplant.

“Usually, if the donor heart has stopped beating for more than 30 minutes before retrieval, the heart can’t be used – even if we can buy an extra ten minutes, that could make the difference between someone having a heart and someone missing out. For people who are literally [at] death’s door, this could be life-changing,” he adds.

These findings build off of earlier work by another of the study’s co-authors, Professor Glenn King, who had previously discovered a small protein in the venom of the Fraser Island (K’gari) funnel-web spider capable of improving recovery in stroke survivors.

“We discovered this small protein, Hi1a, amazingly reduces damage to the brain even when it is given up to eight hours after stroke onset,” King says. “It made sense to also test Hi1a on heart cells, because like the brain, the heart is one of the most sensitive organs in the body to the loss of blood flow and lack of oxygen.”

“For heart attack victims, our vision for the future is that Hi1a could be administered by first responders in the ambulance, which would really change the health outcomes of heart disease,” he continues. “This is particularly important in rural and remote parts of Australia where patients and treating hospitals can be long distances apart—and when every second counts.”

These findings can also help in the transfer of donor hearts for cardiac transplantation. The drug/protein looks to be able to facilitate the transport of donor hearts over longer distances, thus increasing the network of both available donors and recipients.

Moving forward, researchers are hoping to begin human clinical trials for both stroke and heart disease in about two to three years.

The study is published in Circulation.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Hate driving through tunnels? Listening to slow music can help keep you focused

July 16, 2021

Many motorists hate driving through tunnels. From narrow lanes; to poor lighting; to anxiety about being in an enclosed, underground space; navigating tunnels can be challenging—even for experienced drivers.

So what can help drivers ease these fears and make it through to the other side? Researchers say a little background music may be all you need to calm the nerves, according to a report by Study Finds.

“When drivers go through a tunnel, they need to process a large amount of information quickly. We wanted to find the best way to use sound to keep drivers alert and focused inside tunnels. We here compare the effect on brain activity and physiology of different types of sound: slow versus fast music, warning sounds such as sirens, and a voice reminding them to drive safely,” says corresponding author Associate Professor Yanqun Yang from China’s Transportation Research Center in College of Civil Engineering in a press release.

“We [found] that the best solution is to play slow music inside the tunnel, but to play alarming sounds like sirens at the entry and exit or during emergencies.”

Indeed, although accidents occur more frequently on open roads, car accidents tend to be more serious inside tunnels.

According to Study Finds, researchers have determined that these accidents typical happen near the entrance to a tunnel. However, once drivers get used to the atmosphere of driving inside a long, enclosed space, accident rates typically drop. Unfortunately, the risk jumps back up around the mid-point of the tunnel. Researchers say this is probably due to boredom and drivers letting their guard down.

For this study, researchers recruited 40 young drivers for an experiment using virtual reality. Each “drove” through a simulated three-mile tunnel, driving between 50 and 60 mph, while viewing the tunnel through VR screens. They also used a driving console with a steering wheel and pedals which the team monitored to see how much pressure participants applied while in the tunnel.

Yang’s team then compared how drivers responded to five different sounds. Those included a recording of the sound inside a real tunnel,; the slow song, “Canon,” with 72 beats per minute; and the fast song, “Croatian Rhapsody,” with 96 bpm. Scientists also subjected the group to a police siren and a female’s voicing giving safety reminders.

What they discovered is that motorists drove fastest through a tunnel while fast music was playing and the slowest while slow music played. The group was also more relaxed and had a smaller mental load while listening to slow music. Moreover, 63% chose slow music as their preferred background soundtrack.

“We find that slow music played as background throughout the tunnels, replaced by sirens only at spots and times when the risk of accidents is highest, is best to keep drivers alert, at ease, and not tired, while stimulating them to be extra vigilant and focused when needed,” says co-author Dr. Wei Lin from the University of Cincinnati.

“There still a long way to go before more specific design and management recommendations can be proposed. For example, future studies should test the effect of a greater range of sounds on drivers who differ in age, driving experience, hearing sensitivity, and degree of fatigue. But our study is a proof of principle, which pushes our knowledge on road safety a step forward.”

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Significant Otter app helps couples communicate ‘straight from the heart’

May 28, 2021

Want to send that special someone a heartfelt message? Scientists have created an app that can literally tell your partner how you’re feeling without uttering a single word, Study Finds reports.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University say the Significant Otter app can actually provide couples with a more meaningful way of communicating than using emojis, GIFs, and memes. Designed mainly for smartwatch users, the app monitors the wearer’s heart rate and then tries to gauge his or her emotional state by the results. The user can then send those real-time feelings to a significant other in the form of a friendly, animated otter.

“Our social cues are limited online,” says Fannie Liu, a graduate of CMU and research scientist at Santa Monica, California-based Snap. in a university release. “We’re exploring a new way to support digital connection through a deeper and more internal cue.”

Once the app measures a person’s sensed heart rate, it provides the wearer with a choice of otters to send. For example, if the app detects a fast heart rate, Significant Otter may suggest sending an excited or angry otter. However, they can also send an exercising or eating otter if that’s what’s really pushing their heart rate up.

In return, the person’s partner can reply with an otter that provides him or her with support, depending on the various heartbeat readings.

According to Study Finds, researchers from CMU, Snap, and the University of Washington started testing the app in April 2020 with 20 couples. Little did they know the coronavirus pandemic would provide the perfect environment to see how people keep connected to their loved ones when they have to keep their social distance.

The results reveal using bio-signals, like heart rate, made it easier for the couples to share more authentic communication while in quarantine. The participants reported that Significant Otter allowed them to have a sense of their loved ones’ well-being—even if they couldn’t be physically together.

“It’s coming from your heart,” Liu concludes. “It can be a very intimate gesture to see or feel someone’s heartbeat. It’s a signal that you’re living.”

Researchers presented their invention at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference in Chicago in May.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Are you a shopaholic? Addiction experts set clinical guidelines for ‘compulsive-buying shopping disorder’

May 27, 2021

Although many people would probably describe their friends, their family members (or even themselves) as “shopaholics,” is there really a way to tell when the occasional spending spree becomes an actual addiction?

Researchers at Flinders University in South Australia say the answer is yes: Indeed, they claim to be the first clinicians to have found a way of diagnosing people who will “shop till they drop,” according to a report by Study Finds.

Their new criteria can determine whether someone suffers from shopping addiction, which scientists refer to as Compulsive-Buying Shopping Disorder.

“In over 20 years, since I started investigating excessive buying, there has been an absence of commonly agreed diagnostic criteria which has hampered the perceived seriousness of the problem, as well as research efforts and consequently the development of evidence-based treatments,” lead author Professor Mike Kyrios says in a university release.

Researchers gathered opinions from 138 experts in over 35 countries to reach a consensus on the criteria. The experts conclude a key feature of a shopping addiction is buying items without ever using them for their intended purpose.

Another characteristic of the disorder is when people use shopping as a feel-good mechanism or to relieve negative emotions. Study authors defined excessive buying as losing control over what items they purchase.

“Clients who show excessive buying behavior commonly have difficulties in regulating their emotions, so buying or shopping is then used to feel better,” Professor Kyrios explains. “Paradoxically, if someone with Compulsive Buying-Shopping Disorder goes on a shopping trip, this will briefly improve their negative feelings, but will soon lead to strong feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment.”

The new framework promises to help people who struggle to manage their spending and mental well-being. Evidence-based criteria for Compulsive Buying-Shopping Disorder is long overdue, the researchers note. Scientists will also need to develop more targeted treatments for this “debilitating” condition.

“This will now be possible with the world’s leading experts agreeing on diagnostic criteria for the disorder.” Professor Kyrios concludes.

The findings appear in theJournal of Behavioral Addictions.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Blinders off: Non-surgical cataract cure is coming

May 20, 2021

There’s good news for individuals battling the debilitating effects of cataracts. A revolutionary breakthrough could cure the condition without the need for invasive surgery, Study Finds reports.

New research by scientists at the UK’s Anglia Ruskin University has identified a drug therapy that could bring relief to a the 33% of of seniors who have a visually impairing cataract. At present, the only way currently to fix a cloudy lens is to remove it and insert a clear plastic replacement.

More than 4 million operations for cataracts are performed each year in the United States; and 28 million, worldwide. A cataract is caused by an accumulation of protein in the lens that reduces the transmission of light to the retina and it is accountable for nearly 50% of the global cases of blindness.

This latest research—led by professor Barbara Pierscionek and published in the journal,  Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciencereveals that a particular protein called aquaporin  regulates how water is transported through the lens. Without an ordered arrangement of lens proteins and water, the lens loses its transparency. Therefore, aquaporin proteins are necessary for clear vision.

“Cataracts are one of the main causes of vision loss and blindness worldwide, yet for many people surgery is inaccessible for various reasons,” says Pierscionek in a statement. “Our findings indicate the role of the aquaporin proteins and the crucial importance of this for the lens to work correctly and the eye to see clearly.

“Further research in this area is planned,” she continues, “but this discovery, together with our research on nanotechnologies that indicate drug therapy for cataract is possible, could potentially revolutionize the way cataract is treated, opening up the field for drug-based therapy rather than surgery. This would have exciting implications for public health.”

The research was presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting, held May 1-7 virtually.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Gut feelings: Eating yogurt may help you feel happier

May 11, 2021

Eating yogurt that contains probiotics may help you feel less stressed and depressed, Study Finds reports.

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine recently studied mice who were fed a “friendly,” probiotic bacteria found in live-culture yogurts called Lactobacillus. The team found that the rodents’ depressive symptoms were largely reversed by consuming the yogurt.

Scientists have long known that stress plays a large role in our moods. However, the role of our gut microbiome—which contains thousands of bacterial organisms—in either sustaining or blocking such feelings has not been explored extensively

With 7% of Americans suffering from depression at any given time, the study’s implications are enormous.

For their experiment, the researchers examined the composition of the mice’s microbiomes before and after being subjected to stress—and found that the level of Lactobacillus in their gastrointestinal systems decreased markedly after the mice had experienced stress. Concomitant depression also resulted.

According to the report by Study Finds, as soon as the mice were fed probiotic yogurt, their mood reverted back to a more stable state.

“A single strain of Lactobacillus is able to influence mood,” says lead researcher Dr. Alban Gaultier, a neuroscientist, in a university release.

They verified the phenomenon they had observed by examining how much kynurenine— a chemical that drives depression— had increased while the  Lactobacillus had diminished.

“This is the most consistent change we’ve seen across different experiments and different settings we call microbiome profiles,” notes Ioana Marin, a research student.

While the study still must be conducted on humans to determine whether the same results can be achieved, its breakthrough findings show promise. One potential issue with the research is the fact that it’s much harder to measure depression in mice than it is in humans.

Gaultier plans to first examine the effects of Lactobacillus on those with multiple sclerosis—sufferers also commonly experience depression.

“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome,” says Gaultier. “It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health—and your mood.”

In the meantime, no clinically depressed individuals should solely eat yogurt in lieu of taking medication, the researchers warn.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

Research contact: @StudyFinds