Managing Children’s Weight, Blood Pressure & Cholesterol Protects Brain Function Mid-life

Managing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in children may help protect brain function in later life, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This is the first study to highlight that cardiovascular risk factors accumulated from childhood through mid-life may influence poor cognitive performance at midlife.

Previous research has indicated that nearly 1 in 5 people older than 60 have at least mild loss of brain function. Cognitive deficits are known to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet, as well as depression and low education level.

Many diseases that cause neurological deficits, such as Alzheimer’s, have a long preclinical phase before noticeable symptoms begin, so finding links between childhood obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors is important for cognitive health. The researchers noted that there are currently no cures for major causes of dementia, so it is important to learn how early in life cardiovascular risk factors may affect the brain.

“We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups,” said the study’s first author Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., a Ph.D. student at the Research Centre of Applied and Prevention Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, in Turku, Finland. ”Our results show active monitoring and prevention of heart disease and stroke risk factors, beginning from early childhood, can also matter greatly when it comes to brain health. Children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a national, longitudinal study on cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood in Finland. Researchers followed the participants’ cardiovascular risk factor profiles for 31 years from childhood to adulthood. Baseline clinical examinations were conducted in 1980 on approximately 3,600 randomly selected boys and girls, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, all of whom were white. More than 2,000 of the participants, ranging in ages from 34 to 49, underwent a computerized cognitive function test in 2011. The test measured four different cognitive domains: episodic memory and associative learning; short-term working memory; reaction and movement time; and visual processing and sustained attention.

Researchers found:

  • Systolic blood pressure, total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, as well as body mass index, from childhood to midlife are associated with brain function in middle age.
  • Consistently high systolic blood pressure or high blood total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were linked to worse memory and learning by midlife when compared with lower measures.
  • Obesity from childhood to adulthood was associated with lower visual information processing speed and maintaining attention.
  • Having all three cardiovascular risk factors was linked to poorer memory and associative learning, worse visual processing, decreased attention span, and slower reaction and movement time.

These results are from observational findings, so more studies are needed to learn whether there are specific ages in childhood and/or adolescence when cardiovascular risk factors are particularly important to brain health in adulthood. Study limitations include that a definite cause-and-effect link between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance cannot be determined in this type of population-based study; cognition was measured at a single point in time; and because all study participants are white, the results may not be generalizable to people from other racial or ethnic groups.

Source: American Heart Association

How Your Metabolism Influences How Many Calories You Burn Each Day

Terezie Tolar-Peterson wrote . . . . . . . . .

It’s a common dieter’s lament: “Ugh, my metabolism is so slow, I’m never going to lose any weight.”

When people talk about a fast or slow metabolism, what they’re really getting at is how many calories their body burns as they go about their day. The idea is that someone with a slow metabolism just won’t use up the same amount of energy to do the same task as does someone with a fast metabolism.

But does the speed of metabolism really vary all that much from person to person? I’m a nutrition scholar who focuses on the biological, environmental and socioeconomic factors that influence body composition. This question is trickier than it might first seem – and whatever the current speed of your metabolism, there are things that will nudge it into lower or higher gears.

Your body’s energy needs

Metabolism is a biological term that refers to all the chemical reactions needed to maintain life in an organism. Your metabolism accomplishes three main jobs: converting food into energy; breaking down food into its building blocks for protein, lipid, nucleic acid and some carbohydrate; and eliminating nitrogen wastes.

If you’re agonizing over the speed of your metabolism, you’re probably focused on how much energy you’re getting from the foods you eat and how much your body is using. The energy value of a food is measured in calories.

Your caloric needs can be divided into two categories.

Basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of calories required for basic functions at rest. Resting energy expenditure is the amount of calories you body use while resting or sleeping – about 60%-65% of your total energy expenditure. It doesn’t take into account the calories you’d need to power everything else you do – moving around, or activity energy expenditure (25%-30%), thinking, even digesting food (5%-10%). So your total energy expenditure combines the two: your resting energy expenditure plus your energy expenditures for other activities.

Coming up with a number

The estimated daily caloric intake needs for an adult woman of 126 pounds (57 kilograms) range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. For a man of 154 pounds (70 kilograms), daily calorie needs can range from about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. That’s about 11-14 calories per pound of body weight (25-30 calories per kilogram).

In contrast, infants burn about 50 calories per pound of weight per day (120 calories per kilogram). This requirement continuously decreases as the child ages. So infants have the highest metabolism of all. This extra calorie requirement is necessary for growth.

So if two women of the same weight can have caloric needs that vary by as much as 30%, does that mean the woman whose body uses up more calories has a faster metabolism than the woman whose body uses fewer calories? Not necessarily. One woman might spend more of her day physically active and thus need more energy to power her walking commute and after-work kickboxing class, for instance.

Beyond those rough guideline ranges, there are many ways to estimate resting and total energy expenditure if you want to figure out your body’s specific calorie needs. One common and easy method is to use predictive formulas such as the Mifflin-St. Jeor or Harris-Benedict equations which are based on your age, height, weight and gender to figure out how much energy your body needs just to be alive. To calculate total energy expenditure, you also need to add the activity factor.

Indirect calorimetry is another way to estimate metabolic rate. Energy expenditure is calculated by measuring the amount of oxygen used, and carbon dioxide released by the body. Your body relies on oxygen to perform all its jobs of metabolism. For every liter of oxygen you use, you use about 4.82 calories of energy from glycogen or fat. Respiratory indirect calorimetry is typically done at a doctor’s office, though small, portable, more affordable devices are increasingly being brought to market.

Factors that influence metabolic rate

Metabolic rate and calorie requirements vary from person to person depending on factors such as genetics, gender, age, body composition and amount of exercise you do.

Health status and certain medical conditions may also influence metabolism. For example, one regulator of metabolism is the thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple. The more thyroxin a person’s thyroid gland produces, the higher that person’s basal metabolic rate will be.

Having a fever can also affect a person’s basal metabolic rate. For each increase of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 C) in a person’s internal body temperature, their basal metabolic rate increases by approximately 7%.

Other medical conditions that influence basal metabolic rate can include muscle wasting (atrophy), prolonged starvation, low oxygen levels in the body (hypoxia), muscular disorders, depression and diabetes.

Another important factor is body composition. For example, an overweight woman with a body composition of 40% body fat and 75 pounds of muscle mass will burn fewer calories while resting than a woman with 30% body fat and 110 pounds of muscle mass; muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue in the body.

This is also why basal metabolic rate decreases with age. As people get older, they typically lose muscle mass and gain fat tissue – which equates to a decrease in basal metabolic rate of approximately 1% to 2% per decade.

If you really want to give your metabolism a jolt, the easiest way is to bump up your muscle mass and activity level. By increasing muscle mass, you’ll also increase the base number of calories needed to maintain those muscles. Instead of complaining about a slow metabolism, you can try to turn it up to be at least a bit quicker.

Source: The Conversation

A Few Kilograms Weight Loss Nearly Halves the Risk of Diabetes

Losing a few kilograms in weight almost halves people’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes — according to a large scale research study led by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia.

A new study published in the international journal JAMA Internal Medicine shows how providing support to help people with prediabetes make small changes to their lifestyle, diet and physical activity can almost halve the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The findings come from the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study (NDPS) — the largest diabetes prevention research study in the world in the last 30 years. The NDPS clinical trial ran over eight years and involved more than 1,000 people with prediabetes at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The study found that support to make modest lifestyle changes, including losing two to three kilograms of weight and increased physical activity over two years, reduced the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 40 to 47 per cent for those categorised as having prediabetes.

There are about eight million people with prediabetes in the UK and 4.5 million have already developed Type 2 diabetes.

The NDPS, funded by £2.5m from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and NIHR CRN Eastern, was led by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and University of East Anglia (UEA), together with colleagues from Ipswich Hospital, and the Universities of Birmingham and Exeter.

The research trial tested a simple lifestyle intervention, which helped people make small achievable lifestyle changes that led to a modest weight loss, and increases in physical activity.

Importantly these changes were sustained for at least two years and the weight lost was not put back on.

These findings are important as they show that a ‘real-world’ lifestyle programme really can make a difference in helping people reduce their risk of Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

Prof Mike Sampson, NDPS Chief Investigator and Consultant in Diabetes at NNUH, said: “We are delighted with the results of this trial, as until now no one was very sure if a real-world lifestyle programme prevented Type 2 diabetes in the prediabetes population we studied, as there have been no clinical trials that had shown this.

“We have now shown a significant effect in Type 2 diabetes prevention, and we can be very optimistic that even a modest weight loss, and an increase in physical activity, in real world programmes like this have a big effect on the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.

“This is really great news for the eight million people in the UK with a prediabetes diagnosis. The results of this trial, show that diabetes prevention is possible in the same prediabetes populations being treated in the NHS national diabetes prevention programme.

“This is important to know, as the clinical methods for diagnosing diabetes and prediabetes have changed a lot in recent years.”

The Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study ran between 2011 and 2018 and worked with 135 GP practices in the East of England, and found 144,000 people who were at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In screening sites across the East of England, 13,000 of these people then took a fasting glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) blood test to detect prediabetes.

More than 1,000 people with prediabetes were then entered into a randomised controlled trial, testing a pragmatic real-world lifestyle intervention, compared to a control group, with average follow-up of just over two years.

Earlier studies have used quite intense and expensive research interventions in different groups of prediabetes participants, but this is the first time a real world group delivered intervention has been shown to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

NDPS also asked lay members of the public who had Type 2 diabetes themselves, to help support participants with prediabetes in the trial, but for this particular population this did not further reduce the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.

NDPS co-investigatro Prof Max Bachmann, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The NDPS intervention was delivered in groups which was far less expensive than individual-focused interventions which have previously shown to be effective under optimal conditions.

“For every 11 people who received the NDPS intervention, one person was prevented from getting Type 2 diabetes, which is a real breakthrough.”

Prof Colin Greaves from the University of Birmingham, who jointly led the development of the NDPS intervention, said: “If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, this approach offers a way to take a different direction in your life — to get off the path to type 2 diabetes and onto the road to a healthier future.”

Dr Jane Smith, NDPS collaborator from the University of Exeter, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a huge health challenge globally. NDPS is an incredibly positive story for individuals and healthcare systems, and underlines the importance of providing national diabetes prevention programmes, which can use our research findings.”

Prof Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity for NHS England, said: “This study with similar referral criteria and a similar intensive lifestyle intervention to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme has surpassed expectations in preventing Type 2 diabetes. This is hugely encouraging for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, and what participants might expect to achieve in the longer term.”

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “We welcome this new research showing that a group-based support programme can help people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes reduce their risk.

“This trial again highlights how achieving modest weight loss through diet and physical activity changes can lead to huge benefits for people at high risk of developing type 2. Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, but with the right help many cases can be prevented or delayed.

“Diabetes UK’s Know Your Risk’ tool helps people to determine their risk and take steps to reduce it, including by self-referring on to NHS England’s Diabetes Prevention Programme in their local area.”

Source: University of East Anglia

Body Weight Has Surprising, Alarming Impact on Brain Function

As a person’s weight goes up, all regions of the brain go down in activity and blood flow, according to a new brain imaging study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the largest studies linking obesity with brain dysfunction, scientists analyzed over 35,000 functional neuroimaging scans using single-photon emission computerized tomography from more than 17,000 individuals to measure blood flow and brain activity.

Low cerebral blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is also associated with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, addiction, suicide, and other conditions. “This study shows that being overweight or obese seriously impacts brain activity and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as many other psychiatric and cognitive conditions,” explained Daniel G. Amen, MD, the study’s lead author and founder of Amen Clinics, one of the leading brain-centered mental health clinics in the United States

Striking patterns of progressively reduced blood flow were found in virtually all regions of the brain across categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, obesity, and morbid obesity. These were noted while participants were in a resting state as well as while performing a concentration task. In particular, brain areas noted to be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, the temporal and parietal lobes, hippocampus, posterior cingulate gyrus, and precuneus, were found to have reduced blood flow along the spectrum of weight classification from normal weight to overweight, obese, and morbidly obese.

Considering the latest statistics showing that 72% of Americans are overweight of whom 42% are obese, this is distressing news for America’s mental and cognitive health.

Commenting on this study, George Perry, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology at The University of Texas at San Antonio, stated, “Acceptance that Alzheimer’s disease is a lifestyle disease, little different from other age-related diseases, that is the sum of a lifetime is the most important breakthrough of the decade. Dr. Amen and collaborators provide compelling evidence that obesity alters blood supply to the brain to shrink the brain and promote Alzheimer’s disease. This is a major advance because it directly demonstrates how the brain responds to our body.”

This study highlights the need to address obesity as a target for interventions designed to improve brain function, be they Alzheimer disease prevention initiatives or attempts to optimize cognition in younger populations. Such work will be crucial in improving outcomes across all age groups.

Although the results of this study are deeply concerning, there is hope. Dr. Amen added, “One of the most important lessons we have learned through 30 years of performing functional brain imaging studies is that brains can be improved when you put them in a healing environment by adopting brain-healthy habits, such as a healthy calorie-smart diet and regular exercise.”

Source: ISO Press

Tips to Keeping Slim When You’re Stuck at Home

Beware of your fridge, pantry and couch during the coronavirus pandemic.

Being cooped up at home with easy access to food can lead to overeating. Couple that with routine housekeeping, working from home, homeschooling your kids and tending to loved ones, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for weight gain, experts at the University of Georgia in Athens warn.

“These tasks have been added to our many other responsibilities,” said Emma Laing, director of dietetics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “So if something has to give as we strive to find our new normal, routines surrounding eating and physical activity might go out the window.”

To stay on track, get up off the couch. Try to set times during the day for physical activity you enjoy, and to eat regular meals and snacks that provide adequate energy and hydration.

“In creating this schedule, do so while maintaining flexibility,” Laing said. “It’s important to trust our bodies’ cues for hunger, so listen to those first.”

Try to avoid mindless snacking.

Social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. In fact, physical activity is a crucial stress management strategy.

Ali Berg, a Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist, pointed out that “physical activity is good for maintaining immunity, in addition to adequate nutrition. Being active is also good for mental health.”

Even though gyms and yoga studios are closed, you can find other ways to be active, said Tracey Brigman, a clinical assistant professor.

“I start each day with a 2-mile walk,” said Brigman. “Anytime I cook, I dance (and embarrass my kids). Music also lifts my spirits so I don’t stress eat. If I have down time waiting for a timer, I jog around the rooms in my house while I wait.”

Other simple ways to stay active include playing with your pets, finding workouts online or through free apps, playing games with the family — and even cleaning the house.

Source: HealthDay