Posts tagged with "WebMD"

Can intermittent fasting improve your health?

November 23, 2018

According to research by the Calorie Control Council, a typical Thanksgiving dinner can carry a load of 3,000 calories. That’s about 500 more calories than most Americans eat in a whole day—and also about 500 more than it takes to gain one pound.

And that’s also why, on the day after the holiday, many of us might be wondering about the pros and cons of intermittent fasting—one of the buzziest diets out there right now. After all, why diet diligently all week when you can drop the excess weight by skipping food entirely just two or three days out of seven?

Fans of this form of dieting say they have lost as much as 8% of their body weight within eight weeks by cutting calories by 20% every other day. They also say they are healthier and have less inflammation.

WebMD theorizes that the possible secret behind the diet’s health benefits is that fasting puts mild stress on your body’s cells. Scientists think that the process of responding to this stress can strengthen the cells’ ability to fight off some diseases—even disorders as serious as heart disease and cancer.

But are these claims legit? Honestly, researchers say, not enough is known yet to confirm whether fasting is advisable or not.

As Liz Weinandy, a staff dietitian at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, admitted to Men’s Health magazine in a recent interview, ““I don’t think anybody knows.This is all preliminary.”

In fact, the magazine says, most of the press coverage of intermittent fasting and its purported immune system benefits has focused on just one study: In 2014, Valter Longo— a professor of Gerontology and the director of the USC Longevity Institute—found that cycles of a four-day low-calorie diet that mimicked fasting (FMD) cut visceral belly fat and elevated the number of progenitor and stem cells in several organs of older mice—including the brain, where it boosted neural regeneration and improved learning and memory.

The test was part of a three-tiered study on periodic fasting’s effects—involving yeast, mice, and humans— o be published by the journal Cell Metabolism in June 2015.

Longo and his team had both mice and human cancer patients fast for four days. During the fast, both the mice and the cancer patients discarded old blood cells; once the fast was broken, their bodies produced shiny, new cells to take the place of discarded ones, thus effectively regenerating their immune systems.

In fact, Longo found, in the pilot human trial, three cycles of a similar diet given to 19 subjects once a month for five days decreased risk factors and biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer with no major adverse side effects.

Results of of the study led the USC team to conclude that prolonged periods of fasting could reduce the harsh side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients—in fact, some patients are already trying this on their own, based on a story posted this year by U.S. News & World Report)—or even boost immunity for healthy people.

A 2015 study by Yale Medical School went one further, finding that hat a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Convinced and ready to start? First, read a few cautions from Men’s Health.

First, most intermittent fasting plans recommend not eating between 16 to 24 hours— a much shorter period of time than the four-day fast in Longo’s study. For this reason, Longo says it’s unlikely that his study has any long-term implications about the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Your body won’t eliminate old cells “until two, three, or four days into the fasting,” he told the magazine. “It takes even longer for the system to start really breaking down muscle, breaking down immune cells, breaking down different tissues.”

Indeed, the report says, future studies will require a broader sample size than Longo’s, so we can determine how fasting affects different groups of people —for instance, the elderly, or diabetes patients, or those with low-functioning immune systems.

What’s more, if you have an active lifestyle, cut back on exercising because fasting could potentially drain your stores of sodium and potassium—two electrolytes that are essential for kidney, heart, and muscle function.

And finally, don’t forget to drink. Water is always a great choice, all day, every day. Sparkling water is fine—but don’t use artificial sweeteners. They will wreak havoc on your insulin levels and defeat your end purposes entirely.

Research contact: melissa.matthews@hearst.com

Coming clean: Your showerhead is spritzing bacteria on your naked body

November 7, 2018

Do you want to know “the real dirt” on showers? A study conducted at the University of Colorado-Boulder has found that showerheads are covered with bacteria-filled slime that could make us sick.

The researchers used high-tech instruments and lab methods to analyze roughly 50 showerheads from nine cities—among them, New York City, Chicago, and Denver—in seven states nationwide.

They concluded that—while we believe we are getting invigorating relief and a good daily cleansing, about 30% of the showerheads we use instead are covering our naked bodies with significant levels of Mycobacterium avium. That’s a pathogen linked to pulmonary disease that most often infects people with compromised immune systems; but which occasionally can infect healthy people, said CU-Boulder Distinguished Professor Norman Pace, lead study author.

 “If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy,” he said.

Showering may cleanse our bodies of sweat and dirt, but over time, our showerheads develop scum—also known as biofilm—due to the warm, wet conditions in the stall or tub.

Many of the bacteria in the scum are not harmful, but the team did find traces of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in showerheads across the United States. NTM is particularly prevalent in parts of Southern California, Florida, and New York — all areas with higher reported incidences of NTM lung disease, the study authors note. They believe showerheads may transmit the disease.

Symptoms of the infection include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, fatigue and fever, according to the American Lung Association. Not everyone develops the condition after exposure to NTM, and doctors aren’t sure why only some people get sick. However, those who already have lung problems,  as well as older adults and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk. The infection is treated with antibiotics, according to WebMD.

The team also found that NTM is more common in metal showerheads, as well as U.S. households that use municipal water over well water. Mycobacteria are resistant to the chlorine found in municipal water, so they have more room to grow after other the chlorine kills off other bacteria.

According to study co-author Noah Fierer, more research should be done to determine whether our water treatments could put us at risk.

“There is a fascinating microbial world thriving in your showerhead and you can be exposed every time you shower,” Fierer said in a statement. “Most of those microbes are harmless, but a few are not, and this kind of research is helping us understand how our own actions—from the kinds of water treatment systems we use to the materials in our plumbing—can change the makeup of those microbial communities.”

What does all this mean for you? You definitely shouldn’t stop showering, but you might want to think about cleaning your showerhead every now and then. Using vinegar, which has been shown to kill many types of mycobacteria, is a good bet.

Research contact: matthew.gebert@colorado.edu

Who knew that dryer sheets can cause acne?

September 27, 2018

Using well-laundered, unsullied linens and towels can help you to avoid acne and eczema, right? This seems like a no-brainer, but it comes with a big caveat. You actually may be aggravating your skin condition, if you are throwing your linens into the dryer with products that infuse them with fabric softener. .

It’s true: Another seemingly harmless household product is out to ruin your skin, Prevention magazine reported on September 19.

In a Reddit post first spotted by MarieClaire.com that now has gone viral, one contributor who goes by the username of /regissss said, “PSA: Dryer sheets can cause acne”—sending everyone who ever has had zits into a frantic tailspin.

The Reddit contributor went on to say that, although she has been eliminating products from her routine for the last year in an effort to find the cause of her breakouts—including switching  laundry products to sensitive-skin–friendly detergents and dryer sheets—she still has been battling acne.

“Finally,” she wrote, “about a month ago, I cut out everything except All Free and Clear detergent and white vinegar as softener from my laundry routine.”. The result? Surprisingly clear skin.

“I went from having a new pimple or two a day to close to zero pimples per day almost overnight,” /Regissss claimed; “And within two weeks, my skin had almost completely cleared up.” It’s been a month, she says and her skin only has continued to improve.

“My skin’s recovery has been dramatic since then, and my dermatologist confirmed that dryer sheets can be a huge trigger for some people,” she continued in the post.

“Apparently, [dryer sheets] coat fabric (including your pillowcases) in a thin layer of wax and grease, which can leach into your pores at night while you sweat. This is why they’re so greasy when you put them in but so dry when you take them out.”

A dermatologist interviewed for WebMD also names dryer sheets as one of the 12 most common skin irritants. “You see rashes in places that are covered by clothing and relative sparing where the clothing is not,” says Amy Newburger, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Scarsdale, New York., author of the book Looking Good at Any Age and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “That’s a big giveaway.”

So if you’ve been struggling with breakouts, rashes, and/or sensitivity and have tried virtually everything, try cutting out your dryer sheets for a month and see how your skin responds. You can use wool dryer balls to curb static, and as for the softness? Well, maybe the fact that your skin could be happier will make up for your slightly scratchier sheets.

Research contact: mediarelations@aad.org

Coming clean: How often should you shower?

May 14, 2018

How often do you get all lathered up? Most Americans “come clean” by showering or bathing almost on a daily basis—which is, according to a Euromonitor International poll, the global average as well.

However, we are not as squeaky clean as we think, compared to some of our compadres worldwide. For example in Mexico, the Middle East, and Australia, eight showers a week have become the norm.

And closer to the Equator—in Colombia and Brazil—that number goes even higher, to 10-12 showers a week, respectively.

Meanwhile, people living in China, Japan and the United Kingdom bathe just a little less frequently, turning the tap on about five times a week.

That’s a pretty good level of hygiene worldwide, we all would agree. But, according to Euromonitor, there still are major discrepancies when you look at how much actual washing actually goes on in the shower.

For example, the researchers say, most people do not wash their hair during every shower. In the United States, we only shampoo an average of four times a week.

And that’s okay, experts agree: Speaking to the site WebMD, Carolyn Goh, MD, assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, advised that only a small group needs to shampoo daily, including those with very fine hair, those who exercises (and sweat) frequently, and those who live in very humid places.

What’s more, surprisingly enough, those in the know are not washing their entire bodies: “I tell patients who shower daily not to lather their whole bodies,” Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, assistant professor of Dermatology at George Washington University, told Time magazine in 2016. “Hit your pits, butt and groin, which are the areas that produce strong-smelling secretions. The rest of your body doesn’t need much soaping.”

In fact, there such a thing as over-bathing, which can leave you at risk for some health issues, the same story in Time reported.

“Dry, cracked skin opens up gaps that infection-causing germs can slip through. That means frequent bathing when your skin is already dry—and especially as you age, when your skin becomes thinner and less hydrated—may increase the odds of coming down with something,” Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for Research at Columbia University School of Nursing, told the weekly magazine.

Finally, you may want to reconsider how long you stay in your shower, if you live in an urban area, according to Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of Dermatology at UC San Diego. He told The New York Times, “If you’re on city water and you don’t have a filter on your shower, showering is a major source of exposure to carcinogenic chlorination byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are associated with bladder cancer, gestational and developmental problems.”

He points out that studies have shown that showering and bathing are important routes of exposure to these carcinogenics—and may actually represent more of your total exposure than the water you drink.

Research contact: info@euromonitor.com

77% check symptoms online before seeing a doctor

April 11, 2018

Is it allergy or a cold? Is it eczema or psoriasis? When Americans have symptoms, the first authority they check with these days may be WebMD—not the family physician.

The website, founded in 1996—and today, the leading health publisher in the United States—is the source that more than three-quarters (77%) of Americans say they “always” or “sometimes” consult about maladies before seeking help from a medical professional, based on findings of a YouGov poll released on April 9.

The poll, conducted among 8,889 U.S. adults in late March, found that 27% of respondents “always” go online to investigation symptoms and 50% “sometimes” do.

Just 16% say they don’t look into what’s ailing them before visiting a doctor’s office. While a majority in each age group are likely to say they’ll go online first, those between the age of 25 and 34 (80%) and between 45 and 54 (81%) are the most likely to say so.

The likelihood of “always” doing so decreases with age. In fact, just 18% of U.S. adults over the age of 55 say they look into their symptoms online whenever they are ill.

Fully 71% say they like WebMD and have visited the website within the past 30 days—either on their computers (16%) or on their smartphones or tablets (11%).

Research contact: Hoang.Nguyen@YouGov.com