Accurate Measurements of Sodium Intake Confirm Relationship with Mortality

Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, but a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and their colleagues using multiple measurements confirms it. The study suggests that an inaccurate way of estimating sodium intake may help account for the paradoxical findings of others.

“Sodium is notoriously hard to measure,” said Nancy Cook, ScD, a biostatistician in the Department of Medicine at BWH. “Sodium is hidden – you often don’t know how much of it you’re eating, which makes it hard to estimate how much a person has consumed from a dietary questionnaire. Sodium excretions are the best measure, but there are many ways of collecting those. In our work, we used multiple measures to get a more accurate picture.”

Sodium intake can be measured using a spot test to determine how much salt has been excreted in a person’s urine sample. However, sodium levels in urine can fluctuate throughout the day so an accurate measure of a person’s sodium intake on a given day requires a full 24-hour sample. In addition, sodium consumption may change from day to day, meaning that the best way to get a full picture of sodium intake is to take samples on multiple days.

While previous studies have used spot samples and the Kawasaki formula, the team assessed sodium intake in multiple ways, including estimates based on that formula as well as ones based on the gold-standard method, which uses the average of multiple, non-consecutive urine samples. They assessed results for participants in the Trials of Hypertension Prevention, which included nearly 3,000 individuals with pre-hypertension.

The gold-standard method showed a direct linear relationship between increased sodium intake and increased risk of death. The team found that the Kawasaki formula suggested a J-shaped curve, which would imply that both low levels and high levels of sodium consumption were associated with increased mortality.

“Our findings indicate that inaccurate measurement of sodium intake could be an important contributor to the paradoxical J-shaped findings reported in some cohort studies. Epidemiological studies should not associate health outcomes with unreliable estimates of sodium intake,” the authors wrote.

Source: EurekAlert!


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Sweden’s Top Fast-Food Chain Debuts Vegan Milkshakes

Nicole Axworthy wrote . . . . . . . .

Sweden-based fast-food chain Max Burgers will debut new vegan milkshakes to all 119 locations across the nation by this fall.

The coconut milk-based shake, which will be available in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, is currently being tested at one Max Burgers’ Stockholm location.

“It was an immediate success,” Max Burgers head of PR Marita Wengelin told VegNews.

“Our plan was to test it in another five restaurants during May, but since the demand for the shake has exceeded all our expectations, we have not been able to roll it out to further restaurants and the supplier is working hard to produce it to the required volume.”

Max Burgers plans to serve the vegan milkshakes at vegetarian music festival Way Out West in Gothenburg in August before introducing it to all Sweden locations, and plans to eventually replace all of the dairy-based milkshakes on its menu with the vegan version.

The move to replace dairy is part of Max Burgers’ environmentally motivated initiative to increase its plant-based options in its effort to encourage 50 percent of its sales to come from non-red-meat meals by 2022.

In 2016, Max Burgers introduced its Green Family vegetarian options, which include a vegan barbecue sandwich made with Oumph! vegan pulled pork, red onion, lettuce, jalapeños, and vegan mayonnaise, and will also soon offer two vegan versions of its LyxShake, a whipped-cream-based dessert made with strawberries or blueberries.

Source: Vegnews

Portable Music Players Tied to Hearing Loss in Kids

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . .

Children who listen to music through headphones may be at greater risk of noise-related hearing loss, a Dutch study suggests.

Researchers examined hearing test results for 3,316 children ages 9 to 11. They also asked parents about hearing complaints from their children, how often kids used portable music players and how high they typically set the volume.

Overall, 443 children, or 14 percent, had at least some difficulty hearing at high frequencies. High frequency hearing loss, especially in younger people, is often caused by noise exposure.

Regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high they set the volume, kids who used portable music players just one or two days a week were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as children who didn’t use the devices at all.

“Although we cannot conclude from this study that music players caused these hearing losses, it shows that music exposure might influence hearing at a young age,” said lead study author Dr. Carlijn le Clercq of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

“This is important, because hearing loss is irreversible and thus has lifelong consequences,” le Clercq said by email.

More than nine in 10 older children and teens use some type of portable music player – often a smartphone or tablet – for education and recreation, researchers note in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

With noise-related hearing loss, sounds can seem muffled or distant and people may hear ringing in their ears. This can sometimes be temporary, happening after a loud concert, but it can become permanent with repeated exposure to noise.

In the current study, 1,244 children, or about 40 percent, never used portable music players. Another 19 percent used portable music players once or twice a week, and about 8 percent used them at least three times weekly.

Most of the kids didn’t have any hearing-related symptoms. Even among children with high frequency hearing loss, only about 7 percent reported symptoms “sometimes” or “often.”

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how portable headphone use might directly cause hearing loss in kids. Some younger children may develop high frequency hearing loss as a result of ear infections, especially when infections are chronic.

Another limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on portable music player use and hearing-related symptoms for roughly one-third of the study participants.

Still, the results suggest that parents need to be more vigilant about how children use headphones, and how often, said Kevin Franck director of audiology for Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Parents should limit use of a portable music player,” Franck, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study, said by email. It’s too loud if parents can hear it, he said.

Headphones also are not the only way that children may develop hearing loss, noted Colleen Le Prell, an audiology researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas who wasn’t involved in the study. Live concerts, band practice, hunting, power tools, lawn mowers, dirt bikes, mopeds, and other motorized equipment can also create enough exposure to loud noise to potentially damage kids’ hearing, she said by email.

“Limiting music player use should be considered as part of an overall safe listening strategy,” Le Prell added.

Whenever children may be exposed to loud noise, “hearing protection should be provided, and should include ear plugs marketed for musicians, ear muffs, or conventional ear plugs as appropriate for the sound source,” Le Prell advised.

Source: Reuters

Brain Metals that May Drive Alzheimer’s Disease Progression Discovered

Alzheimer’s disease could be better treated, thanks to a breakthrough discovery of the properties of the metals in the brain involved in the progression of the neurodegenerative condition, by an international research collaboration including the University of Warwick.

Dr Joanna Collingwood, from Warwick’s School of Engineering, was part of a research team which characterised iron species associated with the formation of amyloid protein plaques in the human brain – abnormal clusters of proteins in the brain. The formation of these plaques is associated with toxicity which causes cell and tissue death, leading to mental deterioration in Alzheimer’s patients.

They found that in brains affected by Alzheimer’s, several chemically-reduced iron species including a proliferation of a magnetic iron oxide called magnetite – which is not commonly found in the human brain – occur in the amyloid protein plaques. The team had previously shown that these minerals can form when iron and the amyloid protein interact with each other. Thanks to advanced measurement capabilities at synchrotron X-ray facilities in the UK and USA, including the Diamond Light Source I08 beamline in Oxfordshire, the team has now shown detailed evidence that these processes took place in the brains of individuals who had Alzheimer’s disease. They also made unique observations about the forms of calcium minerals present in the amyloid plaques.

Understanding the significance of these metals to the progression of Alzheimer’s could lead to more effective future therapies which combat the disease at its root.

Dr Joanna Collingwood, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering and expert in trace metals analysis, high resolution imaging, and neurodegenerative disorders, commented:

“Iron is an essential element in the brain, so it is critical to understand how its management is affected in Alzheimer’s disease. The advanced X-ray techniques that we used in this study have delivered a step-change in the level of information that we can obtain about iron chemistry in the amyloid plaques. We are excited to have these new insights into how amyloid plaque formation influences iron chemistry in the human brain, as our findings coincide with efforts by others to treat Alzheimer’s disease with iron-modifying drugs.”

The team, led by an EPSRC-funded collaboration between University of Warwick and Keele University – and which includes researchers from University of Florida and The University of Texas at San Antonio – made their discovery by extracting amyloid plaque cores from two deceased patients who had a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers scanned the plaque cores using state-of-the-art X-ray microscopy at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, USA and at beamline I08 at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Oxfordshire, to determine the chemical properties of the minerals within them.

They also analysed the magnetic state of the iron species in the plaques to confirm the presence of various iron minerals including the magnetic iron oxide magnetite.

The research team propose that interactions between iron and amyloid that produce the chemically reduced iron species, including magnetite, may account for toxicity that contributes to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This will soar to 2 million by 2051.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of deaths from the condition, saving 30,000 lives a year.

Source: University of Warwick


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Introduction to Pilates

Pilates is ‘A thinking way of moving’

Also known as the ‘Body Control Method’, Pilates is a system of slow, flowing, and precise movements developed in the 1920s and onwards by the German-born Joseph Pilates, (born 1880). Described as ‘a thinking way of moving’, Pilates works by developing and integrating our awareness of our bodies, our core strength and our mobility. This combination enables us to achieve ‘functional fitness’ – to know and be able to use our own true strength and flexibility effectively.

Pilates himself began his exploration of physical potential through having suffered a range of debilitating conditions himself in childhood years, including rickets, asthma and rheumatic fever. He embarked on a spirited and determined quest for achieving his own peak physical condition, and in time it seemed a natural progression that he would begin to take responsibility for helping others to realise theirs too.

Pilates practice first gained popularity with dancers, then more widely among sportspeople, and now is a favourite among all. Joseph Pilates left Germany for New York in 1926, where he began to be highly valued among the New York dance community. By 1956 it was reported that ‘virtually every dancer in New York had meekly submitted to the spirited instruction of Joe Pilates.’

Today, Pilates has something to offer everyone, whether their lifestyle is largely sedentary and office-bound, hectically energetic or physically demanding. It requires some patience to learn and is less likely to appeal in itself to younger children. However, as an ‘as well as’ exercise to be used in schools or sports clubs, the principles of Pilates could save young people from ever getting into the bad postural habits that some adults spend many hours learning how to undo.

Pilates develops long, lean muscles and core strength

Pilates builds strength from the inside out and can have a visibly powerful effect on the shape and even height of our bodies. It is essentially the complete opposite of ‘body-building’. Instead of building ‘big’, short, bulky muscles by isolated weight-lifting exercises, Pilates continually works to stretch and strengthen our muscles, using carefully controlled movements to build a longer, leaner, stronger and more flexible body. Pilates teaches that our power lies in a central column of complex muscles in the torso and pelvis, and that our strength comes from proper alignment, awareness and breathing rather than brute force.

Pilates works as a reliable partner with other forms of exercise

Pilates teacher Michael King calls Pilates not an ‘instead of’ but an ‘as well as’ form of exercise; it works in a way which is extremely effective in complimenting other exercise programs, sports or performance arts. For example, Pilates can help the golfer rebalance their body after building up one side of muscles through their ‘swing’, and it can assist in building stamina, concentration and relaxation for performers including dancers, singers and actors.

Pilates is a ‘physical intelligence’ for everyday life

Pilates is a non-competitive physical conditioning program which can help people of all walks of life take care of their bodies. It can help us to live our everyday lives more enjoyably and effectively. For example, teaching us ways to avoid back pain by protecting and strengthening our backs if we do a lot of desk work or driving, or training our bodies so that we are less likely to injure ourselves in everyday tasks like lifting an object.

“The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power.” – Joseph Pilates 

What to expect at a Pilates class

Pilates generally involves a lot exercising on a mat on the floor. Some of the exercises performed in a Pilates session may seem not dissimilar to the stretches, sit-ups or even push-up type exercises of conventional fitness regimes, but the approach and method of doing them is completely different.

You need to wear comfortable loose/stretchy clothing, and in time you may wish to get yourself a Pilates mat for practice at home (you do need something soft between you and the floor for Pilates exercises).

Who can do Pilates?

Pilates includes many different movements and ranges in levels of difficulty, so therefore can suit anyone. Teachers advise first becoming familiar with the main principles of Pilates before engaging with the deep postural muscles, concentration and breathing.

Who can it benefit?

Sufferers of posturally-based back pain, sports injuries, repetitive strain injuries and stress can benefit from Pilates. It is especially helpful in offering ways to prevent and change problematic postural habits that can lead to experiences of occasional or even chronic pain. Osteopath Piers Chandler, writes that the Pilates method “can genuinely complement treatment and accelerate recovery. Some patients who are referred to Pilates teachers never need any further regular treatment.” Pilates can also contribute greatly to a supportive recovery program for people with sports injuries. The practice of Pilates is also known to help counter anxiety and stress.

“Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.” – Joseph Pilates