Dinner timing caninfluence cancer risk

Eating an early dinner and eating at least two hours before going to bed are both associated with a lower risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Though numerous studies have focused on the association between food choices and cancer risk, none looked at the health effects of timing of food intake, especially eating late at night.

For the Spanish study published in the International Journal of Cancer, the researchers analysed data from 621 prostate cancer patients and 1,205 breast cancer patients, as well as 872 men and 1,321 women without cancer.

People who had their dinner before 9pm or waited at least two hours after supper before going to sleep had a 20 per cent lower risk of developing breast or prostate cancer compared to those who had supper after 10pm or those who went to bed immediately after supper.

“Adherence to diurnal eating patterns, and specifically a long interval between last meal and sleep, are associated with a lower cancer risk, stressing the importance of evaluating timing in studies on diet and cancer,” the study concluded.

Pregnancy history linked to Alzheimer’s

Women who gave birth to five or more children may be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a South Korean study published in the journal Neurology.

The study was based on 3,549 women, average age 71, from Korea and Greece. The women had their first child at 25. They provided information on their reproductive history and took diagnostic tests to screen for Alzheimer’s or its precursor, mild cognitive impairment.

Among them, 118 women had Alzheimer’s disease and 896 women had mild cognitive impairment.

Women who had given birth to five or more children were 70 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than women who had fewer children.

While 59 of the 716 women (8 per cent) with five or more children developed Alzheimer’s, only 53 of the 2,751 (2 per cent) women with fewer children did.

Another surprising finding was that women who had experienced an incomplete pregnancy (abortion or miscarriage) were about half as likely to develop Alzheimer's as women who had never had an incomplete pregnancy.

While 71 of the 1,174 women (6 per cent) who never had an incomplete pregnancy developed Alzheimer’s disease, only 47 of the 2,375 women (2 per cent) who had an incomplete pregnancy did.

Heart attack risk rising among pregnant women

For women, the risk of having a heart attack during pregnancy, labour or in the two months following delivery seems to be rising, according to a US study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

An analysis of 49,829,753 births found that 1,061 women suffered a heart attack during labour and delivery; 922 had a heart attack before birth, and 2,390 women had heart attacks after delivery.

The risk of suffering a heart attack among pregnant women rose 25 per cent from 2002 to 2014.

The fact that more women are having children later in life (heart attack risk increases with age) combined with the rising rates of obesity and diabetes could be contributing factors. Compared to pregnant women in their 20s, those aged 35 to 39 were five times more likely to suffer a heart attack, while women in their early 40s had a ten times greater risk.

“Our findings highlight the importance to women considering pregnancy to know their risk factors for heart disease beforehand. These patients should work out a plan with their physicians to monitor and control risk factors during pregnancy so that they can minimise their risk,” said the study author.

Vitamin supplements do not protect the heart

According to a US study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcome, taking multivitamin and mineral supplements do not prevent heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular diseases.

The conclusion was based on an analysis of 18 published studies, including more than 2 million participants who were followed for an average of 12 years.

“It has been exceptionally difficult to convince people, including nutritional researchers, to acknowledge that multivitamin and mineral supplements do not prevent cardiovascular diseases,” said the study author.

In fact, according to the study author, supplements can be harmful. People may take supplements instead of adopting steps that can actually prevent cardiovascular diseases like following a “heart-healthy diet, exercise, tobacco cessation, controlling blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, and when needed, medical treatment.”

Multivitamin and mineral supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry. The global nutritional supplement industry is expected to reach $278 billion by 2024. Unlike drugs, nutritional supplements are not regulated for safety or effectiveness before they are sold.

The American Heart Association does not recommend using multivitamin or mineral supplements to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Did you Know

MRI scans show that wearing a necktie can reduce blood flow to the brain by 7.5 per cent, which can potentially affect cognitive functioning.


Rising temperatures linked to an increase in suicides

According to a Stanford study published in the Nature Climate Change, rising temperatures may lead to a spike in suicides.

The researchers compared historical temperature and suicide data across the US and Mexico over several decades, to see if there was any correlation between warm weather and increased suicide.

They also analysed more than half a billion tweets to see whether words such as lonely, suicidal, and trapped were used more often during heat waves.

There was a strong link between rising temperatures and increased suicide rates and the use of depressive language on social media. Suicide rates rose 0.7 per cent in the US and 2.1 per cent in Mexico for every one degree Celsius increase in average monthly temperature.

According to their projections, temperature rise could lead to a 1.4 per cent increase in suicides in the United States and a 2.3 per cent increase in suicides in Mexico by 2050, adding up to an additional 21,000 suicides in the two countries. The effects of warmer temperatures on suicide rates are roughly about the same as that of economic recessions.

An earlier study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science had reported that crop-damaging warm temperature trends over the last three decades have contributed to over 59,000 suicides in India.

Did you Know

Babies staying in hospital neonatal intensive care units tend to sleep better if they are played recordings of their mother’s voice.

A study presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies

Low dose aspirin mayprotect against ovarian cancer

The benefits of aspirin against cardiovascular diseases are well established. Two new studies are extending the benefits to ovarian cancer as well.

Women who take a low-dose aspirin daily have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. In women who develop cancer, it can boost survival outcomes.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide and is often diagnosed in advanced stages.

For the study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analysed data from 13 studies from around the world that included 7,58,829 women. Among them, 3,514 had developed ovarian cancer.

The women were asked about their use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study found that taking daily aspirin was associated with a 10 per cent reduced risk of ovarian cancer.

"The results of the study support that aspirin can reduce ovarian cancer risk, but further studies will need to be performed before a recommendation of daily aspirin can be made," said the study author.

The second study published in The Lancet Oncology was based on nearly 1,000 women already diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Women who took aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer had up to a 30 per cent improvement in survival.

Start solids sooner to help babies sleep better

Babies who are introduced to solids at three months sleep better and wake up less frequently than babies who are exclusively breastfed the first six months, according to a British study published in JAMA Paediatrics.

The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. However, many mothers introduce solids before five months and report infant waking at night as a deciding factor.

For the study, 1,303 babies were randomly divided into two groups: one group was exclusively breastfed for six months, and the other group were started on solid foods from the age of three months, while continuing to be breastfed.

Parents completed questionnaires about their babies’ eating habits (both solids and breastfeeding) and sleep duration every month until their baby was 12 months, and then every three months up to three years of age.

Maternal quality of life, including physical and psychological health, social relationships and environment, was also assessed.

Infants who started having solids at three months slept longer, woke less frequently and had fewer sleep problems than those infants who were exclusively breastfed for six months. The mothers of infants who were started on solids earlier also reported better quality of life.

Drug combo may reduce risk after a mini-stroke

Giving the clot-preventing drug clopidogrel along with aspirin to patients who have suffered a minor stroke or a transient ischaemic stroke (TIA) could lower their risk of a major stroke over the next 90 days, according to new research published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A mini-stroke is caused by a temporary blockage in a blood vessel to the brain that often dissolves on its own without any lasting, disabling symptoms. But, people who suffer a mini-stroke have up to a 15 per cent higher risk of suffering a more severe stroke within the next three months.

A study of 4,881 adults across 10 countries who had a TIA or a minor stroke showed that those who took clopidogrel plus aspirin had a 25 per cent lower risk of a major stroke, heart attack or death from blood clots within three months of the initial event compared to those who took just aspirin.

Those in the combo group had a small increase in the risk of haemorrhage compared with the aspirin alone group. But, the bleeding events are usually reversible.

"The study gives us solid evidence that we can use this drug combination to prevent strokes in the highest-risk people, but not without some risk of bleeding. Of the 33 major haemorrhages that occurred in these 4,881 patients, more than half involved the gastrointestinal tract, and none of them was fatal. These largely preventable or treatable bleeding complications of the treatment have to be balanced against the benefit of avoiding disabling strokes," said the study author.

Keep blood pressure in check to prevent dementia

Keeping your blood pressure in check can benefit your heart as well as your brain. According to a study presented at the Alzheimer's Association meeting, intensive blood pressure control can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

The study is an extension of the SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial) that assessed the cardiovascular benefits of keeping blood pressure tightly controlled which prompted the revised blood pressure guidelines—these reduced the target for normal systolic blood pressure from 140mmHg to 120mmHg.

In the SPRINT trial, more than 9,300 people with high blood pressure, average age 68, were randomly assigned to lower their systolic blood pressure to either less than 140mmHg or less than 120mmHg.

Those who kept their systolic blood pressure at 120mmHg or less had a 19 per cent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment than those whose blood pressure was targeted to 140mmHg. They also had a 15 per cent lower risk of mild mental impairment and dementia combined.

MRI scans showed that those who lowered their blood pressure aggressively also had fewer brain lesions.

Did You know

A study of 3,307 coronary heart disease patients who were followed for 30 years showed that those who exercised regularly had a 36 per cent lower risk of death compared to those who were inactive.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Helicopter parenting not good for your child

Helicopter parents—parents who are over controlling—can hinder their child’s emotional development.

For the study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, the researchers followed 422 children from economically diverse backgrounds for eight years and evaluated them at ages 2, 5 and 10.

They observed parent-child interactions and reviewed teacher reports and self-reports from the children at age 10.

Helicopter parents constantly told their child what to play with, how to play with a toy, how to clean up after playtime and were too strict or demanding.

Children of helicopter parents had poorer emotional and behavioural regulation at 5. At 10, they had more emotional and school problems, fewer social skills, and less academic productivity.

On the other hand, stronger emotional regulation at age 5 was linked to fewer emotional and social problems and better academic performance at age 10.

“Our research showed that children with helicopter parents may be less able to deal with the challenging demands of growing up, especially with navigating the complex school environment. Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively are more likely to act out in the classroom, to have a harder time making friends and to struggle in school,” said the study author.