Reproductive Functions

Developed in Israel, where it has been available for eight years, Vigore treatment is said not only to assist men with erectile dysfunction (ED) but also to help those who are just not as good as they were in their 20s and 30s.

The treatment normally involves four blasts of sound waves lasting about five minutes each, with an interval of one week between each session. The idea is that the sound waves kick-start the growth of new blood vessels, which boosts blood supply and so improves, reduced erections.

Some studies suggest there is a benefit. One, carried out by researchers in Spain, and published in the World Journal Of Urology in July, looked at 76 men with erectile dysfunction who had failed to improve on drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), taken just before intercourse, or tadalafil, a similar, but daily, tablet.

Shockwave treatment, such as Vigore, involves a doctor passing a wand-like device along the penis while it emits gentle pulses for 15 to 20 minutes. This stimulates the growth of new blood vessels to increase blood supply to the penis and is also thought to promote the release of nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels.

Meanwhile, scientists say a quick blast with a laser can boost a woman’s sex drive. Experts found a painless five-minute zap increased libido and the number of orgasms.

The “fractional CO2 laser” involves rotating the device in the vagina, sending pulses of heat to tissue. It causes tiny wounds that trigger collagen production and boost blood flow.

The study, in 50 older women, compared regular hormonal cream with three laser sessions, which cost from £1,000.

It found sexual desire soared by 45 per cent and arousal by 56 per cent with the laser. The cream scores only went up 30 per cent and 27 per cent.

Post-laser satisfaction also rose by 40 per cent, with orgasms up 46 per cent, reported the Journal of Lasers in Medical Sciences.

GettyImages-1173123246 [Converted]

Although antianxiety medications target the nervous system, one new study suggests that anxiety disorders may stem more from the endocrine system.

Most people have brief periods of anxiety from time to time, such as when they experience stressful situations in which the outcome is unknown.

For many individuals, however, anxiety is an acute, frequent, and persistent emotional state that adversely affects quality of life. In fact, experts estimate that anxiety disorders affect around 264 million people worldwide.

Antianxiety medications, which typically target the central nervous system, can be helpful, but they often fail to provide permanent relief.

Now, a new study suggests that anxiety disorders may stem, at least in part, from malfunctions in the body’s endocrine system.

The results demonstrate that inflammation of the thyroid gland is associated with anxiety disorders, suggesting new avenues of treatment.

The researchers presented their findings at the European and International Conference on Obesity in September 2020. Juliya Onofriichuk, from Kyiv City Clinical Hospital in Ukraine, led the research.

She explains: “These findings indicate that the endocrine system may play an important role in anxiety. Doctors should also consider the thyroid gland and the rest of the endocrine system, as well as the nervous system, when examining [people] with anxiety.”

The thyroid gland

The thyroid gland produces two important hormones — T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) — that are involved in maintaining heart and muscle function, digestion, brain development, and bone health.

T4 and T3 help produce and regulate the hormones adrenaline and dopamine.

Adrenaline is sometimes known as the fight-or-flight hormone. It is associated with a sudden burst of energy, such as that which occurs in response to a threat.

Dopamine is the brain’s pleasure and reward hormone, and too much (or too little) of it can affect a person’s sense of well-being and quality of judgment.

Inflammation of the thyroid gland typically occurs when the body mistakenly targets the gland as an unwelcome invader. When this occurs, the body produces antibodies that attack the gland. These antibodies may damage the thyroid and can cause it to malfunction.

The study

Onofriichuk and colleagues studied 29 men and 27 women. Their average ages were 33.9 years and 31.7 years, respectively. Doctors had diagnosed anxiety in these individuals, and they all experienced anxiety attacks.

The scientists examined the participants’ thyroid glands using ultrasound. They also measured their levels of T4 and T3.

The researchers found that the thyroids of people with anxiety disorders exhibited signs of inflammation. They also detected thyroid antibodies in these individuals.

Even though the participants’ thyroid glands were inflamed, they were not significantly malfunctioning. Their T4 and T3 levels were slightly elevated but remained within a normal range.

To treat the inflammation, the researchers gave the participants a 14-day course of ibuprofen and thyroxine. This treatment successfully reduced thyroid inflammation.

Once the inflammation had resolved, the individuals experienced lower levels of anxiety, according to tests that the researchers carried out.

The implications of the study

The researchers did not investigate the role of sex and adrenal gland hormones in anxiety, though other research has noted the possible influence of the latter. Even so, the team’s findings offer new hope for people with anxiety.

Anxiety treatments may be more effective when they take into account the role of the endocrine system. The new study suggests that anxiety is not exclusively a disorder of the central nervous system.

It is worth noting that, to date, this particular study has not undergone peer review and does not appear in a medical journal.

Also, the study was relatively small, so scientists will need to replicate the findings in large-scale, placebo-controlled studies before drawing any solid conclusions.

Next up for the researchers is a wider investigation of the endocrine system’s role in anxiety disorders. They plan to explore the influence of sex and adrenal gland hormones — including estrogentestosterone, cortisol, progesterone, and prolactin — in people with diagnosed anxiety disorders and inflamed thyroid glands.

Beer bellies really do lead to brewer’s droop, research reveals.

Nine in ten middle-aged men with waists greater than 40in struggle to get an erection. The rate was a quarter higher than those with a 37in gut, who tended to have only mild difficulties. Those with the biggest bellies had nearly a quarter fewer orgasms and were less sexually satisfied.

Excess belly fat reduces the flow of blood needed to perform and affects testosterone levels, the Turkish researchers suggest in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Prof. Mustafa Bolat said: “It is similar to the furring up of arteries that occurs in heart disease.”Commenting on the findings, sex therapist Phillip Hodson said: “The greater British beer belly is not only bad for your heart physically – it is now clearly been linked to not being able to start, continue or complete the act of love.

“Belly fat also converts testosterone to oestrogen thus interfering with proper hormonal balance.

“Many try to disguise their girth by not tucking in shirts. But they’d do better to heed Government advice and not tucking into booze and butties.”

When children indulge in sugary foods, they turn feral and bounce off every available surface. This is, as most parents can attest, a fact. In this Special Feature, we ask whether this common knowledge holds up to scientific scrutiny.

You are at a party, and there are around 20 children, aged 3–6. The noise is deafening and the candy bowls are empty. Screams of joy fill the air as parents marvel at their offspring’s sugar-induced bedlam.

But what does the science say? Does sugar increase the risk of hyperactivity in children? Perhaps surprisingly, the data says “probably not.”

This will come as a surprise to anyone who has attended a gathering of children where sweet treats are available, so let’s dive into the evidence, or lack thereof.

Sugar and hyperactivity in children

The question of whether sugar influences children’s behavior started to generate interest in the 1990s, and a flurry of studies ensued. In 1995, JAMA published a meta-analysis that combed through the findings of 23 experiments across 16 scientific papers.

The authors only included studies that had used a placebo and were blinded, which means that the children, parents, and teachers involved did not know who had received the sugar and who had been given the placebo.

After analyzing the data, the authors concluded: “This meta-analysis of the reported studies to date found that sugar (mainly sucrose) does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children.”

However, the authors note that they cannot eliminate the possibility of a “small effect.” As ever, they explain that more studies on a large scale are needed.

There is also the possibility that a certain subsection of children might respond differently to sugar. Overall, though, the scientists demonstrate that there certainly isn’t an effect as large as many parents report.

Are some children more sensitive to sugar?

Some parents believe that their child is particularly sensitive to sugar. To test whether this might be the case, one group of researchers compared two groups of children:

  • 25 “normal” children aged 3–5
  • 23 children, aged 6–10, whose parents described them as being sensitive to sugar

Each family followed three experimental diets in turn and each for 3 weeks. The diets were:

  1. high in sucrose, with no artificial sweeteners
  2. low in sucrose, but with aspartame as a sweetener
  3. low in sucrose, but with saccharin — a placebo — as a sweetener

The study included aspartame, as the authors explain, because it, too, has been “considered a possible cause of hyperactivity and other behavior problems in children.”

All three diets were free from artificial food colorings, additives, and preservatives. Each week, the scientists assessed the children’s behavior and cognitive performance. After analysis, the authors concluded:

“For the children described as sugar-sensitive, there were no significant differences among the three diets in any of 39 behavioral and cognitive variables. For the preschool children, only 4 of the 31 measures differed significantly among the three diets, and there was no consistent pattern in the differences that were observed.”

In 2017, a related study appeared in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. The researchers investigated the impact of sugar consumption on the sleep and behavior of 287 children aged 8–12.

The scientists collected information from food frequency questionnaires and demographic, sleep, and behavior questionnaires. A surprising 81% of the children consumed more than the recommended daily sugar intake.

Still, the researchers concluded that “Total sugar consumption was not related to behavioral or sleep problems, nor affected the relationship between these variables.”

Taking the findings together, it seems clear that if sugar does impact hyperactivity, the effect is not huge and does not extend to the majority of children.

Why does the idea persist?

At this point, some readers might be asking, “If there is no scientific evidence that sugar induces hyperactivity in children, why does it induce hyperactivity in my children?” Some of the blame, it is sad to say, may fall on parental expectations.

A study that underlines this point appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 1994. The researchers recruited 35 boys aged 5–7 whose mothers described them as being behaviorally “sugar sensitive.”

The children were split into two groups. They all received a placebo, which was aspartame. Half of the mothers were told that their children had each received a placebo, and the others were told that theirs had each received a large dose of sugar.

The scientists filmed the mothers and sons as they interacted and were asked questions about the interaction. The authors explain what they saw:

“Mothers in the sugar expectancy condition rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. Behavioral observations revealed these mothers exercised more control by maintaining physical closeness, as well as showing trends to criticize, look at, and talk to their sons more than did control mothers.”

Also, the media plays a part in perpetuating the myth. From cartoons to movies, the term “sugar rush” has entered common parlance.

Another factor is the setting in which a child might be given excess sugar. The classic scenario is a room full of children at a birthday party. In this environment, they are having fun and are likely to be excitable, regardless of the candy consumed.

Similarly, if candy is a special treat, the simple fact of receiving a delicious reward might be enough to generate a boisterous outburst of high-octane activity.

Where did this idea begin?

The health effects of sugar have been discussed widely over the last century. Even today, much research is dedicated to understanding the full details of this sweet chemical’s power over human health.

In 1947, Dr. Theron G. Randolph published a paper discussing the role of food allergies in fatigue, irritability, and behavioral problems in children. Among other factors, he described sensitivity to corn sugars, or corn syrup, as the cause of “tension-fatigue syndrome” in children, symptoms of which include tiredness and irritability.

In the 1970s, sugar was blamed for reactive or functional hypoglycemia — in other words, a dip in blood sugar following a meal — which can cause symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, and irritability.

These were the two prominent theories that underpinned the belief that children’s behavior is negatively impacted by consuming sugar: It is either an allergic reaction or a response to hypoglycemia. However, neither theory is now backed by the data.

Another lay explanation is that sugary snacks cause a brief spike in blood glucose, an effect called hyperglycemia. However, the symptoms of hyperglycemia include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, irritability, and nausea. They do not include hyperactivity.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a fresh surge of interest in the sugar–hyperactivity theory. A number of studies appeared to show that children who were the most hyperactive consumed more sugar.

However, these studies were cross-sectional, meaning that they studied one population of children at one point in time. As the authors of the meta-analysis cited above explain, from these findings, it is impossible to know whether sugar causes hyperactivity or whether hyperactivity drives increased sugar intake.

Ongoing research

Since the 1990s, studies looking at hyperactivity and sugar have trailed off, with most experts considering the case closed. In one domain, however, studies have continued.

For the vast majority of children, sugar will not cause hyperactivity, but the jury is still out for one group of youngsters: those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scientists have approached this topic from two angles; some studies ask whether a high-sugar diet could increase the risk of developing ADHD, while others investigate whether sugar could exacerbate symptoms of ADHD in kids with the condition.

From the first camp of research, a study published in 2011 followed 107 fifth-graders and found “no significant association […] between total volume of simple sugar intake from snacks and ADHD development.”

Looking for longer-term effects, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2019 assessed “evidence of the association between dietary patterns and ADHD.” The authors concluded that “a diet high in refined sugar and saturated fat can increase the risk” of ADHD and that a diet heavy in fruit and vegetables is protective.

However, they acknowledge that the evidence was generally weak. For instance, of the 14 studies that found a relationship between diet and ADHD, 10 used a cross-sectional or case-control design, both of which are observational and can have methodological problems.

Cross-sectional studies cannot tease apart which came first, the cause or the effect, because they determine the prevalence of both at the same point in time.

Case-control studies provide stronger evidence, as they look back into potential causes, or risk factors, after working out who has the health issue in question. The researchers then explore the occurrence of the risk factors in a similar group of people who do not have the health problem.

However, information about potential causes can be affected by memory bias — for example, people with ADHD may be more likely to report that they had a sugary diet because the association is expected.

The authors of the meta-analysis make another important point; there is some evidence that people with ADHD are more likely to binge eat than people without it. This might mean that increased consumption of foods that activate reward networks in the brain, such as sugary snacks, might be the result of ADHD, rather than a factor that increases the risk of ADHD.

An important final word

Sugar, it seems, does not cause hyperactivity in the vast majority of children. In the future, larger, longer studies might detect a small effect, but current evidence suggests that the association is a myth.

This, however, does not discount the fact that a diet high in sugar increases the risk of diabetes, weight gain, tooth cavities, and heart disease. Monitoring children’s, and our own, sugar intake is still important for maintaining good health.

There is “strong evidence” that COVID-19- positive mothers can pass the virus on to their unborn infants, scientists said Thursday, in findings that could affect how pregnant women are shielded during the pandemic.

While there have been isolated cases of babies infected with the virus, the findings show the strongest link yet between mother and infant transmission.

Researchers in Italy studied 31 pregnant women hospitalised with COVID-19 and found the virus in an at-term placenta, umbilical cord, the vagina of one woman and in breast milk.

They also identified specific COVID-19 antibodies in the umbilical cords of several pregnant women as well as in milk specimens.

Claudio Fenizia, from the University of Milan and lead study author, said the findings “strongly suggest” that in-vitro transmission is possible.

“Given the number of infected people worldwide, the number of women that could be affected by this could be potentially very high,” he told AFP.

Fenizia stressed that none of the infants born during the study period tested positive for COVID-19.

“Although in utero transmission seems to be possible, it is too early to clearly assess the risk and potential consequences,” he said.

The World Health Organization said last month that new mothers infected with COVID-19 should continue breastfeeding.

“We know that children are at relatively low-risk of COVID-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Among other findings, the team identified a specific inflammatory response triggered by COVID-19 in the women’s placenta and umbilical cord blood plasma.

Fenizia said that the women studied were all in their third trimester, given the timeframe of Italy’s epidemic, adding that more research is currently underway among COVID-19-positive women in the early stages of pregnancy.

“Our study is aimed at raising awareness and inviting the scientific community to consider the pregnancy in positive women as an urgent topic to further characterise and dissect,” he said.

“I believe that promoting prevention is the safer advice we could possibly give right now for these patients.”

The study was released during a week-long International AIDS Conference, held online for the first time in its history due to the pandemic.

In the short-term, eating too much sugar may contribute to acne, weight gain, and tiredness. In the long-term, too much sugar increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people in the United States consume too much added sugar. Added sugars are sugars that manufacturers add to food to sweeten them.

In this article, we look at how much added sugar a person should consume, the symptoms and impact of eating too much sugar, and how someone can reduce their sugar intake.

How much sugar is too much? 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010-2015, on average, Americans consume 17 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar each day. This adds up to 270 calories.

However, the guidelines advise that people limit added sugars to less than 10% of their daily calorie intake. For a daily intake of 2,000 calories, added sugar should account for fewer than 200 calories.

However, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that people eat half this amount, with no more than 5% of their daily calories coming from added sugar. For a diet of 2,000 calories per day, this would amount to 100 calories, or 6 tsp, at the most.

Symptoms of eating too much sugar

Some people experience the following symptoms after consuming sugar:

  • Low energy levels: 2019 study found that 1 hour after sugar consumption, participants felt tired and less alert than a control group.
  • Low mood: A 2017 prospective study found that higher sugar intake increased rates of depression and mood disorder in males.
  • Bloating: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, certain types of sugar may cause bloating and gas in people who have digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Risks of eating too much sugar 

Consuming too much sugar can also contribute to long-term health problems.

Tooth decay

Sugar feeds bacteria that live in the mouth. When bacteria digest the sugar, they create acid as a waste product. This acid can erode tooth enamel, leading to holes or cavities in the teeth.

People who frequently eat sugary foods, particularly in between mealtimes as snacks or in sweetened drinks, are more likely to develop tooth decay, according to Action on Sugar, part of the Wolfson Institute in Preventive Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Acne

2018 study of university students in China showed that those who drank sweetened drinks seven times per week or more were more likely to develop moderate or severe acne.

Additionally, a 2019 study suggests that lowering sugar consumption may decrease insulin-like growth factors, androgens, and sebum, all of which may contribute to acne.

Weight gain and obesity

Sugar can affect the hormones in the body that control a person’s weight. The hormone leptin tells the brain a person has had enough to eat. However, according to a 2008 animal study, a diet high in sugar may cause leptin resistance.

This may mean, that over time, a high sugar diet prevents the brain from knowing when a person has eaten enough. However, researchers have yet to test this in humans.

Diabetes and insulin resistance

2013 article in PLOS ONE, indicated that high sugar levels in the diet might cause type 2 diabetes over time.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) add that other risk factors, such as obesity and insulin resistance, can also lead to type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease

A large prospective study in 2014 found that people who got 17–21% of their daily calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who consumed 8% added sugars. For those who consumed 21% or more of their energy from added sugars, their risk for CVD doubled.

High blood pressure

In a 2011 study, researchers found a link between sugar-sweetened beverages and high blood pressure, or hypertension. A review in Pharmacological Research states that hypertension is a risk factor for CVD. This may mean that sugar exacerbates both conditions.

Cancer

Excess sugar consumption can cause inflammationoxidative stress, and obesity. These factors influence a person’s risk of developing cancer.

A review of studies in the Annual Review of Nutrition found a 23–200% increased cancer risk with sugary drink consumption. Another study found a 59% increased risk of some cancers in people who consumed sugary drinks and carried weight around their abdomen.

Aging skin

Excess sugar in the diet leads to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which play a role in diabetes. However, they also affect collagen formation in the skin.

According to Skin Therapy Letter, there is some evidence to suggest that a high number of AGEs may lead to faster visible aging. However, scientists need to study this in humans more thoroughly to understand the impact of sugar in the aging process.

How to eat less sugar

A person can reduce the amount of added sugar they eat by:

  1. checking food labels for sweeteners
  2. reducing foods with added sugar
  3. avoiding processed foods in general

Checking food labels

Added sugar and sweeteners come in many forms. Ingredients to look out for on a food label include:

  • brown sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • honey
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • raw sugar
  • molasses
  • malt syrup
  • evaporated cane juice
  • agave nectar
  • maple syrup
  • invert sugar
  • fruit juice concentrates
  • trehalose
  • turbinado sugar

Some of these ingredients are natural sources of sugar and are not harmful in small amounts. However, when manufacturers add them to food products, a person might easily consume too much sugar without realizing it.

Reducing foods that contain added sugar

Some food products contain large amounts of added sugars. Reducing or removing these foods is an efficient way to reduce the amount of sugar a person eats.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010–2015 state that soda and other soft drinks account for around half a person’s added sugar intake in the U.S. The average can of soda or fruit punch provides 10 tsp of sugar.

Another common source of sugar is breakfast cereal. According to EWG, many popular cereals contain over 60% sugar by weight, with some store brands containing over 80% sugar. This is especially true of cereals marketed towards children.

Swapping these foods for unsweetened alternatives will help a person lower their sugar intake, for example:

  • swapping soda for water, milk, or herbal teas
  • swapping sugary cereals for low sugar cereal, oatmeal, or eggs

Avoiding processed foods

Manufacturers often add sugars to foods to make them more appealing. Often, this means people do not realize how much sugar a food contains.

By avoiding processed foods, a person can get a better sense of what their food contains. Cooking whole foods at home also means someone can control what ingredients they put into their meals.

When to see a doctor

People should see their doctor if they experience the symptoms of high blood sugar. According to the NIDDK, symptoms include:

  • increased thirst and urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sores that do not heal

These symptoms may indicate a person has diabetes. A doctor can test for diabetes by taking a urine sample.

People should also speak to a doctor if they experience other symptoms after eating sugar, such as bloating.

Summary

Consuming too much added sugar has many adverse impacts on health, including tiredness and weight gain, and more severe conditions, such as heart disease. Added sugars are present in many processed foods and drinks.

People can reduce their sugar intake by knowing what to look for on food labels, avoiding or reducing common sources of sugar, such as soda and cereals, and prioritizing unprocessed whole foods.

If a person is concerned about weight gain, symptoms that may indicate diabetes, or other symptoms they experience after eating sugar, they should speak to a doctor.

After examining the link between metabolites in urine and overall health, researchers created a 5-minute test to reveal a person’s nutritional fingerprint.

Research finds a new way to look at the relationship between what we eat and our health.

It might seem obvious that good nutrition is linked to good health. Still, it has proven difficult to identify specific links between foods and health outcomes. Two new studies from scientists at Imperial College London (ICL), United Kingdom, and various collaborators report insights from the analysis of metabolites in urine.

The researchers have created a 5-minute urine test that can capture a person’s “nutritional fingerprint.”

“Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate. For instance, asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat,” explains study author Joram Posma, of ICL’s Department of Metabolism, Digestion, and Reproduction.

“This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological makeup.” — Joram Posma, study co-author

The first study reveals links

Scientists from ICL and their collaborators — from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Murdoch University in Australia — authored the first of the two studies. It appears in the journal Nature Food.

Metabolites are molecules that the body produces during cellular metabolism, and some are measurable in a person’s urine.

Working with 1,848 study participants in the U.S., the researchers were able to identify associations between 46 different metabolites and food types.

Co-author Paul Elliot, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at ICL, explains:

“Through careful measurement of people’s diets and collection of their urine excreted over two 24-hour periods, we were able to establish links between dietary inputs and urinary output of metabolites that may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health. Healthful diets have a different pattern of metabolites in the urine than those associated with worse health outcomes.”

Metabolites were linked with the ingestion of alcohol, citrus fruit, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, red meats, and other animal proteins, such as chicken. Nutrients, including vitamin C and calcium, were also associated with metabolites in the study.

Metabolites’ associations with health outcomes also became apparent in the data. For instance, the scientists found that the metabolites formate and sodium were linked to obesity and higher blood pressure.

The second study and the 5-minute fingerprint

For the second research project, which also appears in Nature Food, the ICL team worked again with scientists from Murdoch University, along with researchers from Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University, both in the U.K.

The study reports that the scientists were able to produce an easy-to-administer urine test that could reveal a person’s metabolite profile in the form of a Dietary Metabotype Score (DMS).

Study author Isabel Garcia-Perez, of Imperial College, says:

“Our technology can provide crucial insights into how foods are processed by individuals in different ways — and can help health professionals, such as dietitians, provide dietary advice tailored to individual patients.”

In evaluating the test, the scientists conducted experiments with 19 people whom they instructed to follow one of four types of diets (ranging from very healthful to unhealthful) strictly based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) guidelines. The healthiest adhered 100% to the WHO recommendations, and the least healthy just 25% of them.

The study authors found that even among those who reported following the same diet, there were differences in the DMS.

WHO recommendations contain a great deal of latitude in the choice of specific foods. One recommendation, for example, is, “Fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils and beans), nuts, and whole grains (e.g., unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, and brown rice).”

The researchers found that, in general, the more healthful the person’s diet, the higher the DMS. Those with higher scores also had lower blood sugar and excreted an increased amount of energy from the body in the urine.

The study characterizes the difference between high energy urine and low energy urine as meaning that a person with a higher DMS would be losing 4 extra calories a day, which equates to about 1,500 calories a year, and would thus avoid about 215 g of body fat annually.

Next up for the team is investigating the use of this new technology in people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Rethinking diets

Aside from the obvious value of the 5-minute test, the studies suggest that it may be time to use the new findings to personalize healthful food recommendations.

Newcastle University’s John Mathers says:

“We show here how different people metabolize the same foods in highly individual ways. This has implications for understanding the development of nutrition-related diseases and for more personalized dietary advice to improve public health.”

The link between specific metabolites, foods, and outcomes also raises other considerations, according to ICL’s Gary Frost, another co-author:

“These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should rewrite food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”

Worried about the unique threats and challenges posed by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on human reproduction, fertility experts have instituted several studies on the impact of the virus.

The fertility experts under the aegis of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the feotus and neonate.

They affirmed in a joint statement made available to The Guardian by the President of IFFS, who is also the joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART) Maryland, Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, the importance for continued reproductive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said lessons learned from these experiences would be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.

According to the joint statement, in addition to helping patients, reproductive medicine practices are uniquely positioned to gather data and help to further COVID-19 research.

They noted: “Reproductive medicine professionals and practices are essential front-line resources for screening, monitoring, and assessing the prevalence and impact of the disease on patients and their progeny through Point-of-Care data collection.

“ESHRE, ASRM and IFFS are committed to continuous monitoring of the effects of COVID-19 on gametes and reproductive tissues, collecting data on pregnant patients infected during the pandemic, and assessing the outcomes of mothers and neonates.”

Examples of these research and registry efforts by the fertility experts are:

In the United States of America (U.S.A.), the ASPIRE (Assessing the Safety of Pregnancy In the Coronavirus Pandemic) Study is a nationwide prospective cohort study of pregnant women and their offspring during the COVID-19 pandemic. All patients under the care of a reproductive medicine specialist who conceived spontaneously or with assisted reproductive technology (ART) between March 1st and December 31st are encouraged to participate.

ESHRE is gathering global case-by-case reporting on the outcome of medically assisted reproduction (MAR) conceived pregnancies in women with a confirmed infection (https://nl.surveymonkey.com/r/COVID19ART).

The affiliate society of ASRM, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) is including mandatory COVID-19-related questions in their Clinic Outcome Reporting System (CORS) registry of ART, which accounts for over 95 per cent of all ART cycles in the U.S.A.

ESHRE is gathering data and mapping MAR/ART activity during the pandemic, country by country whether and /or when they stopped offering treatment and when they have resumed care.

IFFS is conducting COVID-19-related periodic surveys to assess global trends in access to MAR/ART services.

The fertility experts concluded: “Reproductive care is essential and reproductive medicine professionals are in a unique position to promote health and wellbeing. In addition, ASRM, ESHRE and IFFS are collaborating to advocate for patients and to gather data and resources to enhance the understanding of COVID-19 as it pertains to reproduction, pregnancy, and the impact on the fetus and neonate. The lessons learned from these experiences will be useful as humanity deals with future pandemics.”

They said reproduction is an essential human right that transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, and country of origin: a human right to which the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique threats and challenges. Reproductive health care professionals are in a special position to provide advocacy for this right and promote the health and well being of their patients.

The fertility experts said COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique global challenge on a scale not previously seen and the infectivity and mortality rates are higher than previous pandemics and the disease is present in almost every country. They also said the propagation and containment has varied widely by location and, at present, the timeline to complete resolution is unknown.

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, ASRM and ESHRE, independently recommended discontinuation of reproductive care except for the most urgent cases. More recently, with successful mitigation strategies in some areas and emergence of additional data, the societies have sanctioned gradual and judicious resumption of delivery of full reproductive care.

At least 8,000 miscarriages could be prevented each year if women at risk were given a hormone in their next pregnancy, research suggests.

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Between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage – the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks – having a major clinical and psychological impact on women and their families.

Experts say women with such a history, who have early bleeding in their pregnancy, could benefit from progesterone – naturally secreted by the ovaries and placenta in early pregnancy and is vital for healthy pregnancies.

There are scientific and economic advantages to giving a course of self-administered twice daily progesterone to women from when they first present with early pregnancy bleeding up until 16 weeks of pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, experts from the University of Birmingham and Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage suggest in two new studies. They are calling for women at risk to be given the hormone as a standard by the British National Health Service (NHS).

The first of the studies, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, examines the findings of two major clinical trials – Promise and Prism.

Promise studied 836 women with unexplained recurrent miscarriages at 45 hospitals in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the Netherlands, and found a three per cent higher live birth rate with progesterone, but with substantial statistical uncertainty.

Prism studied 4,153 women with early pregnancy bleeding at 48 hospitals in the UK. It found a 5 per cent increase in the number of babies born to those who were given progesterone who had previously had one or more miscarriages, compared to those given a placebo.

According to the research, the benefit was even greater for women who had previous recurrent miscarriages – three or more – with a 15 per cent increase in the live birth rate in the progesterone group.

The second of the studies, published in BJOG: an international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, looks at the economics of the Prism trial. It indicates progesterone is cost-effective, costing on average £204 (N95,976) per pregnancy.

An unpublished survey by the University of Birmingham of 130 healthcare practitioners in the UK found that before the results of the Prism study just 13 per cent offered women at threat of miscarriage progesterone. While post publication of the results in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2019 some 75 per cent now offer the treatment.

Dr. Adam Devall, senior clinical trial fellow at the University of Birmingham and manager of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said: “We believe that the dual risk factors of early pregnancy bleeding and a history of one or more previous miscarriages identify high risk women in whom progesterone is of benefit. The question is how should this affect clinical practice?”

Dr. Pat O’Brien, consultant and vice president of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “This treatment offers an increased chance of a successful birth and appears to be cost effective for the NHS, so we hope Nice will consider this important research in their next update of the guidance.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it is currently updating its guideline on the diagnosis and initial management of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage to consider new evidence on progesterone in treating threatened miscarriage.

late menopause
late menopause

Sexual problems are more common in postmenopausal women, which suggests that menopause can reduce libido.

The reduced sex drive is often caused by decreased estrogen levels, which can dampen arousal and result in sex being more painful.

In this article, we look at how menopause might affect someone’s sex drive, along with what can be done to improve libido.

Menopause and libido

What is menopause?

Menopause refers to when a woman stops having her period permanently, but it can affect more than a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Menopause can cause physical and emotional changes that impact a woman’s life, including her sex life.

Some symptoms and side effects associated with menopause include:

  • anxiety
  • bladder control issues
  • decreased sex drive and desire (libido)
  • depression
  • difficulty sleeping
  • thinning hair
  • weight gain

Each of these effects can impact a woman’s quality of life and relationship with her partner.

What is libido?

Libido refers to sexual interest and sexual enjoyment.

Some women going through menopause report reduced libido, but the causes vary from person to person.

According to one review, the reported rates of sexual problems in postmenopausal women are between 68 and 86.5 percent.

This range is much higher than in all women in general, which is estimated to be between 25 and 63 percent.

Why does menopause affect libido?

Decreased estrogen levels can result in reduced blood flow to the vagina, which can cause the tissues of the vagina and labia to become thinner. If this happens, they become less sensitive to sexual stimulation.

Decreased blood flow also affects vaginal lubrication and overall arousal. As a result, a woman may not enjoy sex as much and may have difficulty achieving orgasm. Sex may be uncomfortable or even painful.

Fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause can also affect a woman’s mental health, which in turn, may cause a decrease in her libido.

Stress can also impact a woman’s libido, as she may be juggling a job, parenting, and be caring for aging parents. The changes in hormone levels a woman may experience during menopause may make her irritable or depressed, so dealing with everyday stress may feel more difficult.

According to an article published in the Journal of Women’s Health, women who have more significant side effects associated with menopause are more likely to report lower libido levels.

Examples of these side effects include hot flashes, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and fatigue.

Other factors that make a woman going through menopause more likely to experience a reduced libido include:

  • history of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or depression
  • history of smoking
  • engaging in low levels of physical activity

A woman should talk to her doctor about how these conditions could affect her sex drive.

Tips for improving libido

There are several steps a woman can take to increase her libido. These include medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and home remedies.

Medical treatments

middle aged couple enjoying a bike ride
Spending time together on shared hobbies, exercising, and planned dates will help increase a couple’s intamacy.

If a woman experiences changes to her vaginal tissue, such as thinning and dryness, she may wish to consider estrogen therapy.

Prescription estrogen can be applied directly to the vagina in the form of creams, pills, or vaginal rings. These usually contain lower doses of estrogen than regular birth control pills.

Some women may wish to take estrogen pills that contain higher levels of hormones. This treatment, known as hormone replacement therapy, might help reduce symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood changes, but may also carry risks.

A woman thinking about hormone replacement therapy should discuss it with her doctor before starting to take any medication.

One study found that women using hormone therapies reported higher levels of sexual desire compared with women who did not.

Less commonly, a doctor may prescribe testosterone therapy. However, not all women respond to this treatment, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not approve it for treating sexual disorders in women.

A woman may not experience any changes in her sex drive after using estrogen or testosterone therapies.

A woman may also choose to see a therapist who specializes in sexual dysfunction or enhancing sex. Sometimes, couples may want to attend therapy together.

Lifestyle changes

Some women may benefit from using water-soluble lubricants during sex. These can be purchased over-the-counter at most drugstores.

However, women should avoid non-water soluble and silicone-based lubricants, as these can break down condoms used to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Increasing physical activity, such as getting 30 minutes or more of exercise on a routine basis, may help reduce menopause-related symptoms, including a low libido. Eating a healthful diet can also enhance a person’s overall sense of well being.

Changing sexual habits

There are many ways a person can foster a sense of intimacy with their partner, including:

  • Changing sexual routines: Try spending extended periods on foreplay, use vibrators or other sex toys to enhance an intimate experience, or engage in sexual activity or touching without the goal of orgasm.
  • Relieving stress together: There are many stress-relieving techniques a couple can do outside of the bedroom to increase intimacy. Examples include going on planned dates together, taking a walk, or spending time doing hobbies together, such as exercise, crafts, or cooking.
  • Practicing masturbation: Spending time alone and exploring what types of touch and sexual stimulation work well for an individual can help them talk to a partner about their needs and preferences. It can also help a person feel more comfortable with sexual activity without the pressure of a partner.

Natural remedies

Some women use natural supplements to try to increase their libido. It is important to keep in mind that the FDA do not regulate herbs and supplements, so women should be sure to choose a reputable brand.

Some natural remedies used to increase libido in women include:

  • black cohosh
  • red clover
  • soy

A woman should discuss these remedies with a doctor before taking them to ensure they will not interact negatively with other prescriptions and supplements she may be taking. Soy contains estrogen, so it may react with other estrogen therapies.

When to see a doctor

A woman should speak to her doctor whenever perimenopause or menopause is having a significant impact on her day-to-day activities, including sexual activity.

Sometimes, a doctor can recommend changes in health habits as well as discuss whether prescription medications may help relieve the symptoms, including a low libido.

Speaking with a doctor can also rule out any other underlying medical conditions that may cause a reduced libido. These conditions include urinary tract infections, uterine prolapse, endometriosis, or pelvic floor dysfunction.

Outlook

While some women do experience a decreased libido in menopause, others do not.

Some women may even experience a heightened libido after menopause. This can be due to reduced stresses over pregnancy and fewer child-rearing responsibilities.

If a woman’s libido is impacted after menopause, she should talk to her doctor about treatments that could enhance her quality of life.