Diabetes

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in plants and marine life.

Two types are plentiful in oily fish:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): The best-known omega-3 fatty acid, EPA helps the body synthesize chemicals involved in blood clotting and inflammation (prostaglandin-3, thromboxane-2, and leukotriene-5). Fish obtain EPA from the algae that they eat.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): In humans, this omega-3 fatty acid is a key part of sperm, the retina, a part of the eye, and the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain.

DHA is present throughout the body, especially in the brain, the eyes and the heart. It is also present in breast milk.

Health benefits

Some studies have concluded that fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid is beneficial for health, but others have not. It has been linked to a number of conditions.

Multiple sclerosis

Fish oils are said to help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) due to its protective effects on the brain and the nervous system. However, at least one study concludedTrusted Source that they have no benefit.

Prostate cancer

One study found that fish oils, alongside a low-fat diet, may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. However, another study linked higher omega-3 levels to a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that a high fish oil intake raises the risk of high-grade prostate cancer by 71 percent, and all prostate cancers by 43 percent.

Post-partum depression

Consuming fish oils during pregnancy may reduce the risk of post-partum depression. Researchers advise that eating fish with a high level of omega 3 two or three times a week may be beneficial. Food sources are recommended, rather than supplements, as they also provide protein and minerals.

Mental health benefits

An 8-week pilot study carried out in 2007 suggested that fish oils may help young people with behavioral problems, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The study demonstrated that children who consumed between 8 and 16 grams (g) of EPA and DHA per day, showed significant improvements in their behavior, as rated by their parents and the psychiatrist working with them.

Memory benefits

Omega-3 fatty acid intake can help improve working memory in healthy young adults, according to researchTrusted Source reported in the journal PLoS One.

However, another study indicated that high levels of omega-3 do not prevent cognitive decline in older women.

Heart and cardiovascular benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may protect the heart during times of mental stress.

Findings published in the American Journal of Physiology suggested that people who took fish oil supplements for longer than 1 month had better cardiovascular function during mentally stressful tests.

In 2012, researchers noted that fish oil, through its anti-inflammatory properties, appears to help stabilizeTrusted Source atherosclerotic lesions.

Meanwhile, a review of 20 studies involving almost 70,000 people, found “no compelling evidence” linking fish oil supplements to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or early death.

People with stents in their heart who took two blood-thinning drugs as well as omega-3 fatty acids were found in one study to have a lower risk of heart attack compared with those not taking fish oils.

The AHA recommend eating fish, and especially oily fish, at least twice a week, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Alzheimer’s disease

For many years, it was thought that regular fish oil consumption may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, a major study in 2010 found that fish oils were no better than a placebo at preventing Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile, a study published in Neurology in 2007 reportedTrusted Source that a diet high in fish, omega-3 oils, fruit, and vegetables reduced the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Vision loss

Adequate dietary consumption of DHA protects people from age-related vision loss, Canadian researchers reported in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Epilepsy

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry claims that people with epilepsy could have fewer seizures if they consumed low doses of omega-3 fish oil every day.

Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may help reduce the risk of psychosis.

Findings published in Nature Communications details how a 12-week intervention with omega-3 supplements substantially reducedTrusted Source the long-term risk of developing psychotic disorders.

Health fetal development

Omega-3 consumption may help boost fetal cognitive and motor development. In 2008, scientists found that omega-3 consumption during the last 3 months of pregnancy may improve sensory, cognitive, and motor development in the fetus.

Foods

The fillets of oily fish contain up to 30 percent oil, but this figure varies. White fish, such as cod, contains high concentrations of oil in the liver but less oil overall. Oily fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include anchovies, herring, sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel.

Other animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids are eggs, especially those with “high in omega-3” written on the shell.

Vegetable-based alternatives to fish oil for omega 3 include:

  • flax
  • hempseed
  • perilla oil
  • spirulina
  • walnuts
  • chia seeds
  • radish seeds, sprouted raw
  • fresh basil
  • leafy dark green vegetables, such as spinach
  • dried tarragon

A person who consumes a healthful, balanced diet should not need to use supplements.

Risks

Taking fish oils, fish liver oils, and omega 3 supplements may pose a risk for some people.

  • Omega 3 supplements may affect blood clotting and interfere with drugs that target blood-clotting conditions.
  • They can sometimes trigger side effects, normally minor gastrointestinal problems such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea.
  • Fish liver oils contain high levels of vitamins A and D. Too much of these can be poisonous.
  • Those with a shellfish or fish allergy may be at risk if they consume fish oil supplements.
  • Consuming high levels of oily fish also increases the chance of poisoning from pollutants in the ocean.

It is important to note that the FDA does not regulate quality or purity of supplements. Buy from a reputable source and whenever possible take in Omega 3 from a natural source.

The AHA recommend shrimp, light canned tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish as being low in mercury. They advise avoiding shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, as these can be high in mercury.

It remains unclear whether consuming more fish oil and omega 3 will bring health benefits, but a diet that offers a variety of nutrients is likely to be healthful.

Anyone who is considering supplements should first check with a health care provider.

As the use of marijuana is increasing in the United States, researchers are asking whether the use of this substance — particularly smoking joints — is associated with an increased risk of any form of cancer, and, if so, which.

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, with more than one in seven adults reporting that they used marijuana in 2017.

Statistical reports project that sales of cannabis for recreational purposes in the U.S. will amount to $11,670 million between 2014 and 2020.

According to recent researchTrusted Source, smoking a joint remains one of the main ways in which individuals use marijuana recreationally.

While specialists already know that smoking tobacco cigarettes is a top risk factor for many forms of cancer, it remains unclear whether smoking marijuana can increase cancer risk in a similar way.

To try to find out whether there is a link between recreational marijuana use and cancer, researchers from the Northern California Institute of Research and Education in San Francisco and other collaborating institutions recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing this potential association.

In their paper — which appears in JAMA Network OpenTrusted Source — the team notes that marijuana joints and tobacco cigarettes share many of the same potentially carcinogenic substances.

“Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke share carcinogens, including toxic gases, reactive oxygen species, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo[alpha]pyrene and phenols, which are 20 times higher in unfiltered marijuana than in cigarette smoke,” write first author Dr. Mehrnaz Ghasemiesfe and colleagues.

“Given that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer death (responsible for 28.6% of all cancer deaths in 2014), similar toxic effects of marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke may have important health implications,” they go on to emphasize.

‘Misinformation — a threat to public health’

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and team identified 25 studies assessing the link between marijuana use and the risk of developing different forms of cancer. More specifically, eight of these studies focused on lung cancer, nine looked at head and neck cancers, seven examined urogenital cancers, and four covered various other forms of cancer.

The studies found associations of different strengths between long-term marijuana use and various forms of cancer.

The researchers note that the study results regarding the link between marijuana lung cancer risk were mixed — so much so that they were unable to pool the data.

For head and neck cancer, the researchers concluded that “ever use,” which they define as exposure equivalent to smoking one joint a day for 1 year, did not appear to increase the risk, although the strength of the evidence was low. However, the studies produced mixed findings for heavier users.

There was insufficient evidence to link this drug to a heightened risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, oral cancer, or laryngeal, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancers.

Among urogenital cancers, the investigators found that individuals who had used marijuana for more than 10 years appeared to have a higher risk of testicular cancer — more specifically, testicular germ cell tumors. Once again, however, the strength of the existing evidence was low.

There was insufficient evidence that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of other forms of cancer, including prostate, cervical, penile, and colorectal cancers.

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and colleagues note that the studies that they had access to had many limitations, including numerous methodological problems and an insufficient number of participants who reported high levels of marijuana use.

Going forward, the team suggests that there is an urgent need for better quality studies assessing the potential relationship between marijuana and cancer. The researchers conclude:

“Misinformation [on this topic] may constitute an additional threat to public health; cannabis is being increasingly marketed as a potential cure for cancer in the absence of evidence, with enormous engagement in this misinformation on social media, particularly in states that have legalized recreational use.”

“As marijuana smoking and other forms of marijuana use increase and evolve, it will be critical to develop a better understanding of the association of these different use behaviors with the development of cancers and other chronic conditions and to ensure accurate messaging to the public,” they add.

The majority of people can donate blood. However, those who use nicotine products, cannabis products, or both may wonder whether or not they can donate blood.

Hospitals and health clinics use donated blood to treat various medical conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of blood donations collected around the world per year exceeds 117.4 millionTrusted Source.

Blood donations can help with:

  • serious injuries
  • surgery
  • anemia
  • cancer
  • chronic illnesses

Read on to learn more about how different ways of using cigarettes, cannabis, and other drugs can affect a person’s ability to donate blood.

Nicotine

If a person smokes cigarettes or vapes, it does not disqualify them from donating blood.

However, both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) contain harmful chemicals that may affect a person’s blood.

The American Lung Association claim that a burning cigarette produces more than 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and arsenic. Several of these chemicals are toxic, and 69 of them can cause cancer.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain the following harmful substances:

  • propylene glycol, which is present in paint solvents, antifreeze, and some foods (as an additive)
  • acetaldehyde, which is a toxic product of ethanol alcohol
  • formaldehyde, which is a chemical preservative present in disinfectants, glue, and plywood
  • diacetyl, which is a flavoring agent that tastes like butter
  • heavy metals, including nickel and lead
  • benzene, which is a chemical compound present in car exhaust

Currently, minimal information exists regarding the exact effects of vaping on blood donations. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both vaping and smoking cigarettes can increase blood pressure.

According to American Red Cross guidelines, people can donate blood as long as their blood pressure is between 90/50 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 80/100 mm Hg.

In one 2018 studyTrusted Source, researchers compared blood donations from people who smoke with donations from people who do not smoke. They concluded that smoking cigarettes does not affect the overall quality of the donated blood.

However, the researchers did note that the donations from the people who smoke had higher concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the red blood cells. COHb forms when red blood cells come into contact with carbon monoxide, significantly reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry.

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that people avoid smoking for 12 hoursTrusted Source before donating blood.

Cannabis

Like smoking cigarettes and vaping, smoking cannabis does not disqualify a person from donating blood.

Current scientific researchTrusted Source suggests that cannabis use can negatively impact the cardiovascular system by:

  • increasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • narrowing the blood vessels
  • causing inflammation in the vessel walls
  • promoting blood clots

However, these potential adverse health effects should not impact the quality of any donated blood.

That being said, Vitalant — a nonprofit blood service provider — explain that people must not be under the influence of recreational drugs or alcohol at the time of donation.

Other drugs

According to the American Red Cross, people with a history of recreational intravenous drug use are not eligible to donate blood. This requirement helps prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

It is important to note that this is not the case for people who have used drugs in other ways, such as by smoking them or taking them orally. The American Red Cross and other blood donation companies do not specify drug use as an excluding factor.

However, a person does need to make sure that substances such as nicotine and cannabis are not in their system when donating blood.

Excluding factors

To donate blood, the general requirement is that a person should be at least 17 years old. A person can be 16 years old, but they must have a legal guardian’s consent.

Other factors that may disqualify a person from giving blood include:

  • feeling sick or having cold or flu symptoms
  • using intravenous drugs not prescribed by a licensed doctor
  • having an active infection
  • having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
  • having uncontrolled diabetes
  • having a blood clotting disorder
  • having ever had the Ebola virus
  • having blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • having received a blood transfusion within the past 12 months
  • having a heart rate below 50 beats per minute (BPM) or above 100 BPM
  • having recently traveled to a foreign country
  • being pregnant, or having given birth within the past 6 weeks

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of donating blood here.

Summary

Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hoursTrusted Source before and after donating blood.

A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms. It is a good idea to avoid smoking until these symptoms go away.

A recent study has identified an association between consuming two soft drinks per day and an increased risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. Because the study authors cannot prove causation, however, they call for more research.

Osteoarthritis, which is characterized by progressively weak and brittle bones, predominantly affects older adults.

As Western populations age, therefore, the incidence of osteoporosis rises in step.

The condition affects around 200 million peopleTrusted Source worldwide. As a person’s bone mineral density becomes reduced, the risk of fractures increases.

In fact, according to the authors of the most recent study paper, globally, an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 3 seconds.

Although some of the primary risk factors for osteoporosis are unalterable, such as age and sex, some lifestyle habits also play a part.

For instance, alcohol consumption and tobacco use both increase the risk. Nutrition may also play a role, with researchers particularly interested in calcium intake.

One recent study in the journal Menopause focused on the impact of consuming soft drinks.

Why soda?

A number of older studies have observed a link between consuming soft drinks and reduced bone mineral density in teenage girlsTrusted Source and young womenTrusted Source.

However, other studies that specifically looked for an association between soda and osteoporosis have not identifiedTrusted Source a significant relationship. One study found linksTrusted Source between cola intake and osteoporosis but did not see the same effect in relation to other sodas.

Because of these discrepancies, the authors of the latest paper set out to study the links between soft drinks and bone mineral density in the spine and hip. They also looked for a relationship between soda intake and the risk of hip fracture over a 16 year follow-up period.

To investigate, the scientists took data from the Women’s Health Initiative. This is an ongoing national study that involves 161,808 postmenopausal women. For the new analysis, the researchers used data from 72,342 of these participants.

As part of the study, the participants provided detailed health information and questionnaire data outlining lifestyle factors, including diet. Importantly, the diet questionnaire included questions about their intakes of caffeinated and caffeine-free soft drinks.

What did they find?

During their analysis, the scientists accounted for a range of variables with the potential to impact the results, including age, ethnicity, education level, family income, body mass index (BMI), use of hormonal therapy and oral contraceptives, coffee intake, and history of falls.

As expected, they did observe a relationship between soda consumption and osteoporosis-related injury. The authors write:

“For total soda consumption, both minimally and fully adjusted survival models showed a 26% increased risk of hip fracture among women who drank on average 14 servings per week or more compared with no servings.”

The researchers explain that the association was only statistically significant for caffeine-free sodas, which produced a 32% increase in risk. Although the pattern was similar for caffeinated sodas, it did not reach statistical significance.

For clarity, the percentages above display relative risk, not absolute risk.

The study authors reiterate that the significant link was only present when comparing the women who drank the most soda — at least two drinks per day — with those who drank none. This, they explain, suggests “a threshold effect rather than a dose-response relationship.”

It is also worth noting that the scientists found no links between soda consumption and bone mineral density.

Limitations and theories

As mentioned above, earlier research looking for connections between soda and osteoporosis produced conflicting results. Although this study benefits from a large sample size, detailed information, and a long follow-up period, we cannot consider its results definitive; there is too much conflicting information.

There are also certain limitations to the study. For instance, as the researchers note, the participants only reported soda consumption early in the study. People’s dietary habits can change significantly over time, and the team could not account for this.

Also, although the researchers controlled for a wide range of factors, there is always the chance that an unmeasured factor played a part in this association.

That said, when we look at studies involving other age groups, as well as studies using both men and women, it does seem that soda consumption overall might influence bone health in some way.

The study authors believe that this might be because added sugars have a “negative impact on mineral homeostasis and calcium balance.”

Another theory the authors outline concerns carbonation, which is the process of dissolving carbon dioxide in water. “It results in the formation of carbonic acid that might alter gastric acidity and, consequently, nutrient absorption.”

However, they are quick to explain that “[w]hether this factor plays a role in these findings is yet to be explored.”

Because osteoporosis is becoming more prevalent, research into nutritional risk factors is more critical than ever. The authors call for more work.

Flavonoids are compounds that are naturally present in fruit and vegetables. Scientists have known for 20 years that they can help prevent colorectal cancer but have not fully understood the underlying biology.

Flavonoids are compounds that are naturally present in fruit and vegetables. Scientists have known for 20 years that they can help prevent colorectal cancer but have not fully understood the underlying biology.

Now, a new study describes a molecular mechanism through which a product of flavonoid digestion can inhibit cancer cell growth under certain conditions.

The study is the work of a team at South Dakota State University in Brookings, who report their findings in a recent issue of the journal Cancers.

At first, the researchers were investigating how aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) can reduce colorectal cancer risk.

In that earlier work, they saw how a salicylic acid derivative called 2,4,6-trihydroxybenzoic acid (2,4,6-THBA) was able to slow cancer cell growth.

They decided to search for natural sources of 2,4,6-THBA and found that it was also a compound that results from the digestion of flavonoids.

Metabolite of flavonoid digestion

Flavonoids begin to break down once they enter the intestines. Gut bacteria reduce them further into metabolites when they enter the colon.

Having observed these processes, scientists have proposed that the anticancer effects of flavonoids are due to their metabolites. One of these metabolites is the molecule 2,4,6-THBA.

“We hypothesized,” says senior study author Jayarama Gunaje, Ph.D., “that flavonoids decrease colorectal cancer due to the action of the degraded, or broken down, products rather than the parent compounds.”

“These areas are underexplored,” adds Gunaje, who is an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy & Allied Health Professions at the university. The study paper gives his name as G. Jayarama Bhat.

Testing 2,4,6-THBA on colon cancer cells

The new study is the first to investigate how 2,4,6-THBA, as a product of flavonoid breakdown in the gut, can help to prevent cancer of the colon or rectum.

The colon and rectum form part of the large intestine. With help from a range of gut bacteria, the final stage of digestion takes place in the colon, which then passes the remaining waste to the rectum to await evacuation through the anus.

According to 2016 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancers are the fourth most common type of cancer in the United States and also the country’s fourth most common cause of cancer deaths.

During 2016, the latest year for which figures are available for the U.S., some 141,270 people found out that they had cancer of the colon or rectum, and 52,286 died from these types of cancer.

In the new study, the researchers found that 2,4,6-THBA can bind to three enzymes that typically help cells to divide. They wondered if this ability was sufficient to block cancer.

However, when they tested the effect of 2,4,6-THBA on colon cancer cells, they found that there was none.

The metabolite needs a transporter

A search of previous studies on 2,4,6-THBA revealed that the metabolite could not enter cells without the aid of a transporter protein called SLC5A8.

Gunaje points out, however, that cancer cells can disable the transporter protein with a genetic mutation. This has a protective effect that allows the cancer cells to proliferate.

Further tests, including some with cancer cells that express SLC5A8, demonstrated that 2,4,6-THBA was able to enter cells that expressed the transporter protein but could not gain access to cells that did not.

The researchers say that these results show that 2,4,6-THBA needs the transporter to inhibit cancer growth.

Gunaje explains that the flavonoid metabolite likely has two ways of helping to prevent cancer. The first way is that by slowing the rate of cell division, 2,4,6-THBA gives immune cells a chance to locate and destroy the cancer cells.

The second way that 2,4,6-THBA likely helps to prevent cancer is that by slowing cell division, it gives the cell more time to repair any damage to its DNA.

Damage to DNA is how mutations occur, which raises the risk of cells growing out of control and starting tumors.

The researchers are already investigating which gut bacteria produce metabolites from flavonoids. They foresee the possibility of developing probiotics that could help to prevent colorectal cancer.

“We have so many drugs to treat cancer, but almost none to prevent it. Therefore, demonstrating 2,4,6-THBA as a protective agent against colorectal cancer has immense potential health benefits.”

Jayarama Gunaje, Ph.D.

A recent review and meta-analysis focus on the role of legumes in heart health. Taking data from multiple studies and earlier analyses, the authors conclude that legumes might benefit heart health but that the evidence is not overwhelming.

It is a no-brainer that nutrition plays a pivotal role in health. At one end of the spectrum, it is common knowledge that eating a diet that is high in sugar, salt, and fat increases the risk of poorer health outcomes.

At the other end, eating a balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is likely to reduce the risk of certain conditions.

However, drilling down to the effect of individual foods on specific conditions is notoriously difficult.

The authors of a recent review in Advances In Nutrition have taken up that gauntlet. They wanted to understand how legumes, which include beans, peas, and lentils, affect heart health.

In particular, they focused on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and CVD mortality. CVD includes coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke. They also investigated legume consumption in relation to diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, explains why investigating heart health is such a pressing matter, stating that “[c]ardiovascular disease is the world’s leading — and most expensive — cause of death, costing the United States nearly 1 billion dollars a day.”

Why legumes?

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and micronutrients but contain very little fat and sugar. Due to this, as the authors of the current study explain:

“The American Heart Association, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and European Society for Cardiology encourage dietary patterns that emphasize intake of legumes” to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and manage diabetes.

Recently, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes commissioned a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Using the results of these studies, they hope to update current recommendations on the role of legumes in preventing and treating cardiometabolic diseases.

In the current review, the authors compared data on people with the lowest and highest intake of legumes. They found that “dietary pulses with or without other legumes were associated with an 8%, 10%, 9%, and 13% decrease in CVD, [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence, respectively.”

However, they found that there was no association between legume intake and the incidence of myocardial infarction, diabetes, or stroke. Similarly, they identified no relationship between legumes and mortality from CVD, coronary heart disease, or stroke.

Although the team identified a positive relationship between consuming higher quantities of legumes and a reduced risk of certain cardiovascular parameters, the authors’ conclusions are still relatively muted. They write:

“The overall certainty of the evidence was graded as ‘low’ for CVD incidence and ‘very low’ for all other outcomes.”

They continue, “Current evidence shows that dietary pulses with or without other legumes are associated with reduced CVD incidence with low certainty and reduced [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence with very low certainty.”

Nutritional difficulties

One of the primary issues that scientists face when investigating nutrition and health is residual confounding. For instance, if someone eats more legumes than average, they might also eat more vegetables in general. Conversely, someone who eats few legumes might eat less fruit and vegetables overall.

If this is the case, it is difficult to pin any measured benefits on the legumes, specifically. They might simply be due to the increase in plant food overall.

Similarly, someone who eats particularly healthfully might also be more likely to exercise. Understanding whether the legume, the overall dietary patterns, or the entire lifestyle influences any given health outcome is verging on impossible.

Another problem centers around self-reporting food intake. Human memory, as impressive as it is, can make mistakes. One paperTrusted Source on this topic states that self-reports of food intake “are so poor that they are wholly unacceptable for scientific research.”

Studies attempt to minimize the influence of these factors as much as possible, but it can be challenging. As the authors explain, “Despite the inclusion of several large, high quality cohorts, the inability to rule out residual confounding is a limitation inherent in all observational studies.”

Despite the difficulties, overall, the authors believe that increasing legume intake could improve the heart health of the population of the United States.

“Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average. Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure.”

Co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova

Although those studying nutrition and disease face many challenges, it is important to continue this line of investigation. Currently, in the U.S., 1 in 4 deathsTrusted Source relate to cardiovascular disease. If a simple change in diet could reduce the risk even a small amount, it might make a significant difference at the population level.

A new study adds to the evidence that sleep deprivation has a significant effect on our day-to-day functioning. The authors warn that if we have slept poorly overnight, we are twice as likely to commit errors, some of which may well be very costly.

Having a good night’s sleep is key to maintaining both physical and cognitive health. Our bodies know this instinctively, and researchers have proved many a time that this is true.

For example, at Medical News Today, we have covered studies showing that sleep protects vascular health, helps maintain brain health, and may even give the immune response a boost.

Conversely, poor sleep may lead to cardiovascular disease, contribute to depression, and increase a person’s risk of diabetes.

Some researchers have also warned that sleep loss can affect aspects of our memory and visual perception so severely that driving after a sleepless night can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

Following on from such evidence, researchers from Michigan State University’s Sleep and Learning Lab in East Lansing have conducted further research on sleep, attention, and higher order cognitive functioning.

Their findings, which feature in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, show that sleep loss has an important effect not just on how well we can maintain our focus, but also on how well we can follow complex procedures — an aspect that they refer to as “placekeeping.”

For their study, the investigators recruited 138 participants, whom they split into two groups: 77 people stayed in the laboratory overnight and had no sleep, while the remaining 61 participants slept at home.

The evening before, all of the volunteers took part in two tasks. The first one measured their reaction time to a particular stimulus, and the second one assessed their place keeping abilities — that is, how well they were able to follow the particular steps of a complex process even with repeated interruptions.

On the morning after, each participant had to repeat these tasks to see how their performance compared with that of the previous evening. The researchers found that the participants who had experienced sleep deprivation struggled significantly.

“Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling,” says study co-author Kimberly Fenn.

“Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do and simply can’t trust that they won’t make costly errors. Oftentimes — like when behind the wheel of a car — these errors can have tragic consequences,” she warns.

Although it may not come as a surprise that lack of sleep reduces a person’s ability to focus, the researchers note that their recent study shows that sleep deprivation actually affects higher cognitive functioning, interfering with memory recall to a large extent.

“Our findings debunk a common theory that suggests that attention is the only cognitive function affected by sleep deprivation,” says first author Michelle Stepan.

“Some sleep deprived people might be able to hold it together under routine tasks, like a doctor taking a patient’s vitals. But our results suggest that completing an activity that requires following multiple steps, such as a doctor completing a medical procedure, is much riskier under conditions of sleep deprivation.”

Michelle Stepan

“After being interrupted [as they were performing complex tasks], there was a 15% error rate in the evening, and we saw that the error rate spiked to about 30% for the sleep deprived group the following morning,” notes the first author.

“The rested participants’ morning scores were similar to the night before,” she adds. This finding, the investigators argue, should serve as a warning to people who experience sleep loss not to underestimate the effect that it can have on their daily lives.

“There are some tasks people can do on autopilot that may not be affected by a lack of sleep. However, sleep deprivation causes widespread deficits across all facets of life,” Fenn emphasizes.

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Diabetes
Diabetes

Until recently, indigenes of Udo Community in Edo State had to travel to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Ugbowo, in the outskirts of Benin (about 40 minutes drive), or any other hospital for serious medical interventions. Although the UBTH Annex Health Centre is located within the community, it had no capacity to administer to the needs of diabetic and hypertensive patients until days ago, with support from Sanofi Pharmaceutical.

The health centre had been neglected and had not performed surgery for a long time until last month following concerted efforts by the current Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UBTH, Dr Darlington Obaseki. Being the first time ever that new diabetes and hypertension clinic was functioning at the UBTH Annex, as early as 8 am, hundreds of people from the community and nearby villages had poured into the facility, anxiously waiting to be screened for diabetes, hypertension, and to receive general medical attention.

People from at least 46 communities in the Ovia South-West Local Government of the state benefited from the screening conducted by UBTH, in partnership with Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, as part of activities to mark the World Diabetes Day (WDD). Records from research earlier conducted at the UBTH showed that diabetes and hypertension constituted the commonest disease condition suffered by people in the community. But due to lack of functional diabetes and hypertension centre, people from the community had to make the about 40-minute trip to UBTH, Benin city for emergency cases, or settle for herbal remedy.

Forty-year-old Ivie Eghosa, one of the female beneficiaries of the intervention programme came out being both sad and happy. Egohsa, who was diagnosed to be diabetic, recalled how she lost her baby during labour, last year, on her way to Benin City for surgical an intervention.
She said: “I could not deliver my baby through normal vaginal delivery, so the doctor referred me to the UBTH, Ugbowo, Benin City, for a C-section but I lost my baby on the way before I could get to the hospital.”

Aside diabetes and hypertension care, the hospital has begun carrying out surgical operations since last month. Confirming this to The Guardian on Sunday, the CMD, Dr Obaseki said: “Since last month, we started carrying out Cesarean Section (CS) here. Prior to this, when a woman is in labour and the labour gets protracted, we bundle the expectant mother into a car heading to Benin City, which is about 40 minutes drive away. But now, we don’t have to do that. Our facility at Ugbowo is over- subscribed because people gravitate to where there is excellent service,” he said.

Obaseki, who said the service at the UBTH Annex is subsidized explained: “People don’t pay the same amount that they pay in Benin here. So, there’s no need for people to keep visiting substandard health facilities.” Excited about the functional diabetes clinic in his domain, the Iyase of Udo Kingdom, HRH Patrick Igbinidu, expressed his appreciation to Sanofi and UBTH for the feat. With this intervention, he said his people would no longer travel the long distance to Benin for medical intervention, or visit native doctors.

“Before the arrival of this CMD, nobody cared about this hospital. People always go to private hospitals or visit native doctors when they need medical care,” said the monarch, who, alongside his council of chiefs benefitted from diabetes and hypertension screening. The General Manager, Sanofi Nigeria-Ghana, Mrs Folake Odediran, in her remarks said the growing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes was a major public health concern.

With regards to the facility, She explained, Sanofi’s partnership with UBTH, which has been formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), was a freewill service aimed at contributing to the wellbeing of the people.

“This is the second diabetic clinic that Sanofi is supporting in Nigeria, but not the last. Importantly, this is a freewill service that Sanofi has done, in partnership with UBTH,” she stated. An endocrinologist at the UBTH, Dr. (Mrs) Toyin Ohenhen, explained that diabetes affects everyone in any society, irrespective of age, sex, or race.

According to her, there are three main types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes, which only occurs during pregnancy. Of these three types, she said Type 2 is the commonest and is due to insulin resistance when the body can’t use insulin efficiently. Symptoms of diabetes, according to Ohenhen include excessive thirst and hunger, frequent urination, drowsiness or fatigue, dry or itchy skin, blurry vision and wounds that don’t heal easily.

If not properly managed, she said diabetes could result in many complications, including heart attack or stroke, eye problems, kidney damage and limb amputations among several others. She advised the people to reduce the risk of diabetes by eating nutritious food, which should include plenty of vegetables and fruits, indulging in regular exercises, and generally embracing healthy lifestyles. She also said that people living with diabetes need the support of their families to cope with the financial and emotional pressure that accompanies a diabetic diagnosis.

Every year, diabetes reportedly kills about four million people worldwide and is associated with serious consequences such as stroke, blindness, limb amputation, kidney diseases and cardiovascular diseases. The theme for the diabetes awareness month and World Diabetes Day 2019, “Family and Diabetes” has been designed by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), organisers of the WDD to raise awareness on the impact that diabetes has on the family, to support the network of those affected, while also promoting the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and educating about the condition.

The IDF defines diabetes as a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the bloodstream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood.

Low-calorie sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, can allow people with diabetes to enjoy sweet foods and drinks that do not affect their blood sugar levels. A range of sweeteners is available, each of which has different pros and cons.

In this article, we look at seven of the best low-calorie sweeteners for people with diabetes.

1. Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. To make stevia, manufacturers extract chemical compounds called steviol glycosides from the leaves of the plant.

This highly-processed and purified product is around 300 times sweeter than sucrose, or table sugar, and it is available under different brand names, including Truvia, SweetLeaf, and Sun Crystals.

Stevia has several pros and cons that people with diabetes will need to weigh up. This sweetener is calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar levels. However, it is often more expensive than other sugar substitutes on the market.

Stevia also has a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant. Some people report nausea, bloating, and stomach upset after consuming stevia.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classify sweeteners made from high-purity steviol glycosides to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. However, they do not consider stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts to be safe, and it is illegal to sell them or import them into the U.S.

According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of a person’s body weight. Accordingly, a person who weighs 60 kg, or 132 pounds (lb), can safely consume 9 packets of the tabletop sweetener version of stevia.

Various stevia products are available to purchase online.

2. Tagatose

Tagatose is a form of fructose that is around 90 percent sweeter than sucrose. Although rare, tagatose does occur naturally in some fruits, such as apples, oranges, and pineapples. Manufacturers use tagatose in foods as a low-calorie sweetener, texturizer, and stabilizer.

Not only do the FDA class tagatose as GRAS, but scientists are interested in its potential to help manage type 2 diabetes. Some studies indicate that tagatose has a low glycemic index (GI) and may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity. GI is a measure of a food’s potential to affect a person’s blood sugar levels.

Tagatose may be of particular benefit to people with diabetes who are following a low-GI diet. However, this sugar substitute is more expensive than other low-calorie sweeteners and may be harder to find in stores.

Tagatose products are available to purchase online.

3. Sucralose

Sucralose, available under the brand name Splenda, is an artificial sweetener made from sucrose. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar but contains very few calories.

Sucralose is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, and it is widely available. Manufacturers add it to a range of products from chewing gum to baked goods.

Sucralose is heat-stable, whereas many other artificial sweeteners lose their flavor at high temperatures. This makes sucralose a popular choice for sugar-free baking and sweetening hot drinks.

The FDA have approved sucralose as a general-purpose sweetener and set an ADI of 5 mg/kg of body weight. A person weighing 60 kg, or 132 lb, can safely consume 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of sucralose.

However, recent studies have raised some health concerns. A 2016 study found that male mice that consumed sucralose were more likely to develop malignant tumors. The researchers note that more studies are necessary to confirm the safety of sucralose.

A range of sucralose products is available to purchase online.

4. Aspartame

Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener that has been available in the U.S. since the 1980s. It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar, and manufacturers add it to a wide variety of food products, including diet soda. Aspartame is available in grocery stores under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal.

Unlike sucralose, aspartame is not a good sugar substitute for baking. Aspartame breaks down at high temperatures, so people generally only use it as a tabletop sweetener.

Aspartame is also not safe for people with a rare genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria.

The FDA consider aspartame to be safe at an ADI of 50 mg/kg of body weight. Therefore, someone with a body weight of 60 kg, or 132 lb, could consume 75 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of aspartame.

Many different aspartame products are available to purchase online.

5. Acesulfame potassium

Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K and Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. Manufacturers often combine acesulfame potassium with other sweeteners to combat its bitter aftertaste. It is available under the brand names Sunett and Sweet One.

The FDA have approved acesulfame potassium as a low-calorie sweetener and state that the results of more than 90 studies support its safety. A 2017 study in mice has suggested a possible association between acesulfame potassium and weight gain, but further research is necessary to confirm this.

The FDA have set an ADI for acesulfame potassium of 15 mg/kg of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of acesulfame potassium.

6. Saccharin

Saccharin is another widely available artificial sweetener. There are several different brands of saccharin, including Sweet Twin, Sweet’N Low, and Necta Sweet. Saccharin is a zero-calorie sweetener that is 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar.

According to the FDA, there were safety concerns in the 1970s after research found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats. However, more than 30 human studies now support the safety of saccharin, and the National Institutes of Health no longer consider this sweetener to have the potential to cause cancer.

The FDA have determined the ADI of saccharin to be 15 mg/kg of body weight, which means that a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person can consume 45 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of it.

People can purchase a range of saccharin products online.

7. Neotame

Neotame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar. Neotame can tolerate high temperatures, which means that it is suitable for baking. It is available under the brand name Newtame.

The FDA approved neotame in 2002 as a general-purpose sweetener and flavour enhancer for all foods except for meat and poultry. They state that more than 113 animal and human studies support the safety of neotame.

The FDA have set an ADI for neotame of 0.3 mg/kg of body weight. This is equivalent to a 60 kg, or 132 lb, person consuming 23 packets of a tabletop sweetener version of neotame.

Considerations when choosing a sweetener

When choosing a low-calorie sweetener, some general considerations include:

  • Intended use. Many sugar substitutes do not withstand high temperatures so they would make poor choices for baking.
  • Cost. Some sugar substitutes are very expensive, whereas others have a cost more comparable to that of table sugar.
  • Availability. Some sugar substitutes are more widely available in stores than others.
  • Taste. Some sugar substitutes, such as stevia, have a bitter aftertaste that many people may find unpleasant.
  • Natural versus artificial. Some people prefer using natural sweeteners, such as stevia, rather than artificial sugar substitutes.

Summary

Many people with diabetes need to avoid or limit sugary foods. Low-calorie sweeteners can allow them to enjoy a sweet treat without it affecting their blood sugar levels.

There is a range of sweeteners to choose from, each with different pros and cons. Although the FDA generally consider these sugar substitutes to be safe, it is still best to consume them in moderation.

Stroke prevention can start today. Protect yourself and avoid stroke, regardless of your age or family history.

What can you do to prevent stroke? Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.

You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

How to prevent stroke
Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today to avoid stroke, before a stroke has the chance to strike.
1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. “High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women,” Dr. Rost says. “Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.”

Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 135/85. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.

How to achieve it:
*Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
*Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
*Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
*Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
*Quit smoking, if you smoke.
*If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

2. Lose weight
Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.

Your goal: While an ideal body mass index (BMI) is 25 or less, that may not be realistic for you. Work with your doctor to create a personal weight loss strategy.

How to achieve it:
*Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
*Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

3. Exercise more
Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.

How to achieve it:
Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
Start a fitness club with friends.
When you exercise, reach the level at which you’re breathing hard, but you can still talk.
Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.

4. If you drink — do it in moderation
Drinking a little alcohol may decrease your risk of stroke. “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower,” says to Dr. Rost. “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”

Your goal: Don’t drink alcohol or do it in moderation.

How to achieve it:
*Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
*Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
*Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

5. Treat atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. “Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously,” Dr. Rost says.

Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.

How to achieve it:
*If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
*You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

6. Treat diabetes
Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.
Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.

How to achieve it:
*Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
*Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

7. Quit smoking
Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. “Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly,” Dr. Rost says.

Your goal: Quit smoking.

How to achieve it:
*Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
*Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
*Don’t give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

Identify a stroke F-A-S-T
Too many people ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. “My recommendation is, don’t wait if you have any unusual symptoms,” Dr. Rost advises. Listen to your body and trust your instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away.”

The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke. Cut out this image and post it on your refrigerator for easy reference.
FAST – Identify a stroke FAST chart
Signs of a stroke include: weakness on one side of the body; numbness of the face; unusual and severe headache; vision loss; numbness and tingling; and unsteady walk.

*Culled from Harvard Special Health Report Stroke: Diagnosing, treating, and recovering from a “brain attack.”