A landmark British study published in The Lancet finds that type 2 diabetes can be reversed with a radical weight management programme that does not include any medication. The number of people living with type 2 diabetes has quadrupled over 35 years, from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
Doctors often focus on controlling blood sugar levels with drug treatments. They fail to address the root cause—obesity and the accumulation of intra-abdominal fat—which can be modified with diet and exercise.
298 adults between 20 to 65 years who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the past six years were randomly assigned either to an intensive weight management programme or to the current treatments.
The diet group had to follow a low-calorie formula diet averaging not more than 853 calories a day for three to five months, followed by two to eight weeks of stepped food reintroduction, along with guidance and strategies to help maintain weight loss. They stopped taking any diabetic and blood pressure-lowering drugs before starting the diet.
At 12 months, about a quarter of the weight management group had lost 15kg or more compared with none in the control group. In addition, nearly half of the weight management group achieved diabetes remission compared with six in the control group.
On average, participants in the weight management group lost about 10kg compared to 1kg in the control group. Diabetes remission was closely related to the degree of weight loss, 9 out of 10 people who lost 15kg or more and nearly three quarters of those who lost 10kg or more achieved remission.
The weight management group also saw improvement in average triglyceride concentrations and almost half saw no rise in blood pressure even though they were off all antihypertensive drugs.
“Substantial weight loss results in reduced fat inside the liver and pancreas, allowing these organs to return to normal function. Losing weight is not just linked to better management of type 2 diabetes: significant weight loss could actually result in lasting remission,” the study co-author noted.
Women who use hormone-based contraceptives have a 20 per cent increased risk of developing breast cancer and the risk increases with longer durations of use, according to a Danish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Older contraceptives with higher doses of oestrogen were known to carry a higher risk of breast cancer. But the newer versions with lower-oestrogen formulations are considered safer.
The study was based on 1.8 million women in Denmark who were observed for about 11 years. There were 11,517 cases of breast cancer during the study period.
Women who took oestrogen/progestin birth control pills had about a 20 per cent increased risk of breast cancer. The risk increased from 9 per cent with less than one year of use to 38 per cent with more than 10 years of use.
There was a similarly increased risk with products that only contain progestin like intra-uterine devices (IUDs). Even after discontinuing hormonal contraception, the risk of breast cancer was still higher among the women who had used hormonal contraceptives for 5 years or more. Although the absolute risk is relatively low, women should discuss their contraceptive options with their gynaecologist, the researchers suggested.
Since the risk of breast cancer is higher in women over 40, women might want to consider hormone-free contraceptive methods like condoms, IUDs that do not release hormones or a diaphragm.
Sleep Better with Windows Open
Want a good night’s sleep? Try keeping a bedroom window or door open.
For the study in the journal Indoor Air, researchers led by Asit Kumar Mishra, Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, tracked the sleep patterns of 17 healthy volunteers over five nights by monitoring their night-time movements using a sensor.
The researchers also monitored carbon dioxide levels, temperature, background noise and humidity in the bedrooms. The participants slept in rooms that either had a door or window open, allowing for better ventilation and air flow, or in rooms with closed doors and windows. Better ventilated rooms had lower levels of carbon dioxide and this was tied to better sleep quality.
“Lower carbon dioxide levels [in the bedroom] implied better sleep depth, sleep efficiency, and lesser number of awakenings.”
Gum Disease Linked to Oesophageal Cancer
Brushing and flossing your teeth daily can help prevent oesophageal cancer. Numerous studies have already linked gum disease to a heightened risk of heart disease. According to a study published in the journal Cancer Research, gum disease bacteria can increase the odds of oesophageal cancer.
Globally, oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths. Oesophageal cancer has only a 15 to 25 per cent, five-year survival rate because it is often diagnosed at advanced stages. “Oesophageal cancer is fatal, and there is an urgent need for new avenues of prevention, risk stratification, and early detection.” The researchers tracked the oral health of 1,22,000 Americans for 10 years. The presence of two types of bacteria linked with gum disease was found to heighten the risk of oesophageal cancer. The presence of one particular oral bacterium called Tannerella forsythia—commonly linked to gum disease—increased the risk of developing oesophageal tumours by 21 per cent.
But, all bacteria are not bad. The presence of two types of bacteria—Streptococcus and Neisseria—were associated with a decreased risk for oesophageal cancer.
“Our study indicates that learning more about the role of oral microbiota may potentially lead to strategies to prevent oesophageal cancer, or at least to identify it at early stages,” the study author noted.
Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help guard against periodontal disease and the growing list of health conditions associated with it.
The Family That Does Not Feel Pain
Six members of an Italian family are insensitive to pain! Members of the Marsili family do not feel pain from burns and have experienced pain-free bone fractures. They also don’t feel the burn from hot chilli peppers. According to the researchers, the family members have all the nerves responsible for sensing and transmitting pain, but they're not working properly.
The researchers have identified a rare genetic mutation that makes them pain-free.
For the new study published in the journal Brain, the researchers studied the effects of the gene by breeding mice without it. The mice with the altered gene were significantly insensitive to high temperatures. The study suggests that the mutant gene affects other genes linked to pain signalling.
The researchers hope the new findings could lead to treatments that could help millions of people who suffer from chronic pain. One in ten people suffer from moderate to severe disabling chronic pain.
“By identifying this mutation and clarifying that it contributes to the family’s pain insensitivity, we have opened up a whole new route to drug discovery for pain relief. With more research to understand exactly how the mutation impacts pain sensitivity, and to see what other genes might be involved, we could identify novel targets for drug development,” the study co-author noted.
According to a study published in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, ketogenic diet burns ten times more fat than a standard American diet, and that too without exercise.
The study examined the effect of a ketogenic diet on metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke), weight, body mass index, and body fat mass.
Thirty adults with metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to one of three groups; ketogenic diet with no exercise; standard US diet with no exercise; and standard US diet with 30 minutes of exercise for 3-5 days a week.
At the end of the 10-week period, those in the ketogenic group saw the most health benefits in terms of losing weight, body fat percentage, BMI and lowering blood sugar levels. Their resting metabolic rate—the rate at which the body burns energy when it is at rest—was more than ten times that of those who ate a standard diet.
“All variables for the ketogenic group outperformed those of the exercise and non-exercise groups, with five of the seven demonstrating statistical significance,” the study authors noted.
So what is a ketogenic diet? A keto diet is a high-fat, low carb diet that focuses on consuming meat, fish, poultry, eggs, full-fat dairy, nuts, non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens and avoiding sugary foods, and starchy foods like rice, bread and potatoes. Only some fruits are allowed.
Did You Know
The WHO will include gaming disorder—playing video games obsessively—as a mental health disorder in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for the first time. ICD is a widely used diagnostic manual that was last updated in 1990. The latest version will be published in 2018.
Motorcycle passengers at a greater risk
Motorcycle passengers are less likely to wear helmets and hence are more likely to suffer from traumatic brain injuries than motorcycle riders, according to a US study published in JAMA Surgery.
The study was based on more than 85,000 motorcycle trauma patients; nearly 6,000 were passengers. While 66.6 per cent of the riders wore helmets only 57.5 per cent of the passengers did.
Traumatic brain injury was the most common injury among both riders and passengers. But passengers suffered a significantly higher rate of injury since they were less likely to wear helmets.
Even when wearing helmets, brain injuries were more likely in passengers because they were more likely to be ejected from the motorcycle during accidents.
“Neurologic and other head and neck trauma accounts for a large portion of fatalities and serious injuries associated with motorcycle accidents,” said the author of the study. “Further public education is crucial in order to promote awareness of the importance of helmet compliancy.”
Calcium and Vitamin D May Not Protect Your Bones
Seniors are often advised to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures. But, according to a Chinese study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, taking these supplements may not protect hip fracture and other bone breaks in older adults.
The researchers reviewed data from 33 randomised clinical trials involving 51,145 adults over 50 years, that compared the use of calcium, vitamin D or both with placebo or no treatment, and new fractures. The supplements were not associated with a lower risk of bone fractures compared with not taking them. But calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. The study author suggests getting them through diet and lifestyle rather than from supplements. “Dietary calcium is irreplaceable for skeletal health. Milk, vegetable, fruit and bean products are the most important food sources of calcium.”
“Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin in response to ultraviolet-B radiation in sunlight, and dietary sources of vitamin D are limited. Exercising out in the sunshine should provide a person with all the vitamin D they need.”
Did You Know
People who drink hot tea every day have a 74 per cent lower risk of developing glaucoma than those who don’t.
British Journal of Ophthalmology
Ketamine Reduces Suicidal Thoughts
Ketamine, an anaesthetic drug, was found to be significantly effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, and its anti-suicidal effects occurred within hours of administration. “There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm. Currently available antidepressants can be effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression, but they can take weeks to have an effect. Suicidal, depressed patients need treatments that are rapidly effective in reducing suicidal thoughts when they are at highest risk. Currently, there is no such treatment for rapid relief of suicidal thoughts in depressed patients,” the study leader added.
For the US study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 80 adults with major depression and clinically significant suicidal thoughts were randomly assigned to receive either low-dose ketamine or midazolam, a sedative.
Within 24 hours, the ketamine group had a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts compared to the midazolam group. Fifty-five per cent of the ketamine group saw a 50 per cent or higher reduction in suicidal thoughts, compared to 30 per cent of the midazolam group. The improvements in the ketamine group also persisted for up to six weeks. The ketamine group also had greater improvement in overall mood, depression, and fatigue compared with the midazolam group.
Most common side effects were dissociation (feeling spacey) and an increase in blood pressure, but they did not last long. “This study shows that ketamine offers promise as a rapidly acting treatment for reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression. Additional research to evaluate ketamine’s antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects may pave the way for the development of new antidepressant medications that are faster and have the potential to help individuals who do not respond to currently available treatments,” the study authors noted.
Did You Know
One serving of green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale a day may slow brain ageing by 11 years and reserve memory and thinking skills as a person grows older
Tougher Regulations for HomoeoMedicines
The US Food and Drug Administration is proposing tougher regulation standards for homoeopathic products. The new policy would particularly focus on homoeopathic treatments that are marketed for serious diseases and/or conditions but have failed to show any clinical benefits. It also covers homoeopathic products that contain potentially harmful ingredients or do not meet current good manufacturing practices.
Examples of products that may be subject to the enforcement priorities are infant and children’s products that contain ingredients associated with potentially significant safety concerns, such as belladonna and nux vomica; and products marketed for serious conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a large uptick in products labeled as homoeopathic that are being marketed for a wide array of diseases and conditions, from common cold to cancer. In many cases, people may be placing their trust and money in therapies that may bring little or no benefit in combating serious ailments, or worse—that may cause significant and even irreparable harm because the products are poorly manufactured, or contain active ingredients that aren’t adequately tested or disclosed to patients,” the FDA Commissioner said.
CONTRIBUTOR: SHYLA JOVITHA ABRAHAM