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Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?): Both sugary, diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain aging -- ScienceDaily

Now, new research suggests that excess sugar -- especially the fructose in sugary drinks -- might damage your brain. Researchers using data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) found that people who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus -- an area of the brain important for learning and memory. But before you chuck your sweet tea and reach for a diet soda, there's more: a follow-up study found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.

Insulin resistance may lead to faster cognitive decline: Executive function, memory are particularly vulnerable to the effects of insulin resistance, researchers say -- ScienceDaily

nsulin resistance is a condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin. The resistance prevents muscle, fat, and liver cells from easily absorbing glucose. As a result, the body requires higher levels of insulin to usher glucose into its cells. Without sufficient insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to prediabetes, diabetes, and other serious health disorders. The scientists followed a group of nearly 500 patients with existing cardiovascular disease for more than two decades. They first assessed the patients' baseline insulin resistance using the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA), calculated using fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels. Cognitive functions were assessed with a computerized battery of tests that examined memory, executive function, visual spatial processing, and attention. The follow-up assessments were conducted 15 years after the start of the study, then again five years after that. The study found that individuals who placed in the top quarter of the HOMA index were at an increased risk for poor cognitive performance and accelerated cognitive decline compared to those in the remaining three-quarters of the HOMA index. Adjusting for established cardiovascular risk factors and potentially confounding factors did not diminish these associations.

So-called 'synthetic marijuana' linked to serious health problems

SCBs are often sold as safe alternatives to marijuana that, because of their chemical structures, will not be discovered through standard drug screenings. This feature makes them popular among groups who want to elude detection, such as adolescents and military personnel. SCBs are also more potent than ?9-THC; "these are highly efficacious drugs; they tend to activate the CB1 receptor to a greater degree than we can ever get to with THC from marijuana," says William E. Fantegrossi, a behavioral pharmacologist at UAMS. As a result, some users turn to them to achieve a more intense high. A range of both acute and long-term adverse effects of SCB use are reported in clinical case studies, including seizures and convulsions, kidney injury, cardiotoxicity, strokes, anxiety, and psychosis in susceptible individuals, as well as tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence. Twenty deaths have also been linked to SCB use.

One 20 minute exercise session reduces key inflammatory protein 5%.

[…]This activation process during exercise produces immunological responses, which include the production of many cytokines, or proteins, one of which is TNF -- a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps boost immune responses. "Our study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a five percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF," said Hong.[…]

Impact of parent physical activity, sedentary behavior on their preschool children -- ScienceDaily

Young children do follow in their parents' footsteps. Literally. That's the conclusion of researchers who found that in underserved populations, parents' physical activity -- and their sedentary behavior -- directly correlates with the activity level of their preschoolers. Researchers say these findings could lead to interventions that focus more on helping parents model -- not just encourage -- an active lifestyle for their children.

Health Hacks for the Holidays

Make your exercise commitment small enough so that there is no way you can’t fit it in.

Crossing State Lines Is No Easy Jaunt for Insurers and Local Regulators - WSJ

Insurance executives question how much interstate sales would unleash competition. Premiums are closely tied to underlying costs, such as rates paid to local doctors and hospitals and projected health needs of enrollees. The regulatory environment notwithstanding, selling coverage in any given state would require an insurer to have a local network of allied doctors and hospitals, something new entrants to a market might find costly to arrange. “In order to offer more value, you will need to have relationships and contracts with the providers in a state,” said Paul Markovich, chief executive of Blue Shield of California. Insurers almost certainly wouldn’t sell coverage at the same price in multiple states, said Jim O’Connor, a principal at consultants Milliman Inc. They would adjust rates to reflect costs in each location, even if all the policies were under the same regulatory regime, he said.

How Exercise May Turn White Fat Into Brown

Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat, the findings suggest.

Want a new body? Get a new 'buddy'! | News | The University of Aberdeen

Dr Rackow added: “Once we found that having a new exercise companion increases exercise frequency we wanted to find out why this is beneficial and what quality of support they offer that has this effect.   Our results showed that the emotional social support from the new sports companion was the most effective. Thus, it is more important to encourage each other than doing the actual activity together. “

Fitness trackers do not increase activity enough to noticeably improve health | Society | The Guardian

The participants were assigned to one of four groups – a control group which had no tracker, a group which wore a Fitbit Zip device and the two final groups were given trackers and also offered financial rewards, either cash incentives for themselves or donations to charity for the first six months of the trial.[…] The researchers also measured participants’ levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week as well as their weight, blood pressure and cardio-respiratory fitness at the start of the study and six and 12 months later. They found that during the first six months of the study, only participants in the cash incentive group recorded increases in physical activity. The mean daily step count among wearers was 11,010 steps in the cash group, 9,280 in the charity group, and 8,550 in the Fitbit group. After a year, those in the cash incentive group had returned to the same levels of physical activity that they recorded at the start of the trial. Advertisement But by contrast, those in the Fitbit group showed improved levels of physical activity, recording an average of an additional 16 minutes of MVPA per week than they did at the start of the trial. However, the authors said that this increase was “probably not enough to generate noticeable improvements in any health outcomes”. They also found that Fitbit and charity participants showed similar step counts to when they were measured at six months.

Can Running Kill You?

Even if we did have perfect information, though, we’d still be left to roll the dice—as we do in countless decisions every day. What if it turned out that running at least 40 miles a week would extend life by two years for 99 percent of people, but shorten it by 10 years for the other 1 percent? Would you carry on? What if, instead, the proportions were 99.9 percent and .1 percent? Such decisions are deeply uncomfortable, which is why we avoid thinking about them when we, say, take an antibiotic or step outside on a sunny day.

Arivale launches data-based wellness coaching program in California | MobiHealthNews

“Our target spans three categories,” said Lewis. “Health Optimizers, like someone who wants to live a long time and do all kinds of exciting things; Health Hopefuls, who have recently had or known someone who had a health scare and wants to change their ways; and Health Demoralized, who have a number of unhealthy behaviors and want to change almost everything, but they don’t have a chronic illness – yet.” Arivale, which was cofounded in 2014, has been offering its product since last year to users in Washington. In May 2015, the company raised $36 million in funding. Over the past year, they had 1,200 people try out the beta version, and expects a swift customer following in the new market. “We chose California because we’ve had so much interest,” Lewis said. “We’ve received a lot of requests from people who want science-based feedback and coaching on how to maximize their wellness.”   At $3,500 for a one-year subscription to the service, and $1,000 following that, Alivare isn’t cheap, and it’s not a quick undertaking. It takes a few months to fully analyze and put the data to actionable use, and early testing took up to six months. Customers join, go through the concierge service of the app to make goals, get blood tests, wait for the results, then start figuring out a plan with their dietician/coach.

Use it or lose it: UMD study shows that stopping exercise decreases brain blood flow | EurekAlert! Science News

Dr. Smith and colleagues measured the velocity of blood flow in brain with an MRI scan while they were still following their regular training routine (at peak fitness) and again after 10 days of no exercise. They found that resting cerebral blood flow significantly decreased in eight brain regions, including the areas of the left and right hippocampus and several regions known to be part of the brain's "default mode network" - a neural network known to deteriorate quickly with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. This information adds to the growing scientific understanding of the impact of physical activity on cognitive health.

The Hunger in Our Heads

In fact, the researchers calculated that the exercisers consumed about 25 fewer calories than they did during their baseline session. The nonexercisers, however, consumed about 100 calories more.

Coffee drinking tied to lower risk of suicide | Harvard Gazette

The authors reviewed data from three large U.S. studies and found that the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day was about half that of those who drank decaffeinated coffee or very little or no coffee.

Too much time online 'damages immune system and makes users more likely to catch flu' - Mirror Online

The surveyed 500 people, aged between 18 and 101, and discovered that those who go on the web too much have 30% more cold and flu symptoms than those who do not. It also suggested that internet addicts may suffer stress when they are disconnected from the net and the cycle of "stress and relief" may lead to altered levels of cortisol - a hormone that impacts immune function.

Nike’s claim on Pre in Runner’s World | We Run and Ride

I’m going to say it: this month’s Runner’s World article on the relationship between Nike and Pre felt too much like an advertisement to be ultimately inspiring.

Is a sexually transmitted yeast infection making people mentally ill? | Science | News | The Independent

“Because Candida is a natural component of the human body microbiome, yeast overgrowth or infection in the digestive tract, for example, may disrupt the gut-brain axis.  “This disruption in conjunction with an abnormally functioning immune system could collectively disturb those brain processes that are important for memory.”

Asleep somewhere new, one brain hemisphere keeps watch -- ScienceDaily

They consistently found that on the first night in the lab, a particular network in the left hemisphere remained more active than in the right hemisphere, specifically during a deep sleep phase known as "slow-wave" sleep. When the researchers stimulated the left hemisphere with irregular beeping sounds (played in the right ear), that prompted a significantly greater likelihood of waking, and faster action upon waking, than if sounds were played in to the left ear to stimulate the right hemisphere. In other sleep phases and three other networks tested on the first night, there was no difference in alertness or activity in either hemisphere. On the second night of sleep there was no significant difference between left and right hemispheres even in the "default-mode network" of the left hemisphere, which does make a difference on the first night. The testing, in other words, pinpointed a first-night-only effect specifically in the default-mode network of the left hemisphere during the slow-wave phase.

Systems Nutrigenomics Reveals Brain Gene Networks Linking Metabolic and Brain Disorders - EBioMedicine

Meng et al. report fructose as a powerful inducer of genomic and epigenomic variability with the capacity to reorganize gene networks critical for central metabolic regulation and neuronal processes in the brain; conversely, an omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has the potential to normalize the genomic impact of fructose. Our findings help explain the pathogenic actions of fructose on prevalent metabolic and brain disorders and provide proof-of-concept for nutritional remedies supported by nutrigenomics evidence. Our integrative approach complementing rodent and human studies supports the applicability of nutrigenomics principles to predict disease susceptibility and to guide personalized medicine.

Sugar can cause brain damage, claim scientists (but salmon reverses it)

The scientists fed a group of rats for six weeks with fructose-spiked water (the equivalent to about a litre of soft drinks a day for humans). Then they put them in a maze, alongside rats which had drank only water. The rats which had consumed fructose took twice as long to navigate the maze as the water-only group, despite the same level of training - suggesting that their memories had been impaired.

Running cuts cancer risk

training mice regularly on a wheel (the mouse version of a treadmill) decreased the growth of multiple types of tumors, including skin, liver, and lung cancers. Furthermore, mice that exercised regularly had a smaller chance of developing cancer in the first place. The beneficial effects of running went beyond tumor formation and growth, extending to cancer-associated weight loss, a process termed cachexia that is seen in cancer patients. Mice that exercised regularly showed no signs of cancer-associated weight loss in the researchers' lung cancer mouse model.

Exercise strengthens your nerves too

Unsurprisingly, the elite masters athletes’ legs were much stronger than the legs of the other volunteers, by an average of about 25 percent. The athletes had about 14 percent more total muscle mass than the control group. More interesting to the researchers, the athletes also had almost 30 percent more motor units in their leg muscle tissue, and these units were functioning better than those of people in the sedentary group. In the control group, many of the electrical messages from the motor neuron to the muscle showed signs of “jitter and jiggle,” which are actual scientific terms for signals that stutter and degrade before reaching the muscle fiber. Such weak signaling often indicates a motor neuron that is approaching death. In essence, the sedentary elderly people had fewer motor units in their muscles, and more of the units that remained seemed to be feeling their age than in the athletes’ legs.

Drinking more coffee may undo liver damage from booze | Reuters

Compared to no coffee consumption, researchers estimated one cup a day was tied to a 22% lower risk of cirrhosis. With two cups, the risk dropped by 43%, while it declined 57% for three cups and 65% with four cups. But the results still leave some unresolved questions.

Why We Get Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them) - The New York Times

The never-injured runners, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt, the scientists found, even when the researchers controlled for running mileage, body weight and other variables.

Neurons change across basil ganglia with habit formation

Interestingly, the group observed that changes in go and stop activity occurred across the entire region of the basal ganglia they were studying as opposed to specific subsets of brain cells. O'Hare said this may relate to the observation that an addiction to one thing can make a person more likely to engage in other unhealthy habits or addictions as well.