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Vitamin D 'boosts child muscles'

Higher levels of maternal vitamin D during pregnancy have been linked to better muscle development in children, say researchers.

The study on 678 children, showed vitamin D levels in the womb were linked to grip strength at the age of four.

The team at the University of Southampton say the muscle boost could persist throughout life.

Trials are taking place to see how effective pregnancy supplements are.

Most vitamin D is made by the skin when exposed to sunlight and supplements are offered during pregnancy.

It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age”

Dr Nicholas Harvey Researcher

Some doctors have voiced about vitamin D deficiency as people become more "sun aware" and have linked it with a range of health problems.

Hold tight

The team at the University of Southampton investigated the impact of the vitamin in pregnancy.

Blood samples were taken 34 weeks into the pregnancy and the vitamin D levels were compared with how tightly their children could squeeze a device in their hand at the age of four.

The results showed that women with high levels of vitamin D in the late stages of pregnancy were more likely to have children with greater muscle strength.

Dr Nicholas Harvey told the BBC that: "There's some evidence that 'fast' muscle fibres go down in vitamin D deficiency and you get more fat in muscle.

"If there is deficiency in utero then they may end up with a lower number of numbers of these 'fast' muscle fibers."

The group in Southampton is now conducting a trial in which 1,200 expectant mothers are given higher doses of vitamin D supplements to assess the impact on both bone and muscle strength.

Dr Harvey said there may be long term benefits to increasing muscle strength.

"It peaks in young adulthood before declining in older age and low grip strength in adulthood has been associated with poor health outcomes including diabetes, falls and fractures.

"It is likely that the greater muscle strength observed at four years of age in children born to mothers with higher vitamin D levels will track into adulthood, and so potentially help to reduce the burden of illness associated with loss of muscle mass in old age."

Prof Cyrus Cooper, from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, added: "This work should help us to design interventions aimed at optimizing body composition in childhood and later adulthood and thus improve the health of future generations

Source : BBC

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How Emotions Are Mapped in the Body

Researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.

"Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states. This way the prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment. Awareness of the corresponding bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness," tells assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University.

"The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis. On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis."

The research was carried out on line, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study. The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown with pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.

Source: Science Daily

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Apple-a-day call for all over-50s

If everyone over the age of 50 ate an apple a day, 8,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes could be avoided every year ,say researchers.

Apples would give a similar boost to cardiovascular health as medicines, such as statins, yet carry none of the side-effects, the University of Oxford researchers say in the BMJ.

They base their assumptions on modelling, not direct scientific study.

Any fruit should work, but getting people to comply could be challenging.

It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.”

Dr Adam Briggs Lead researcher

More than two-thirds of adults do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, population surveys suggest.

And although nine in 10 of us do manage to eat at least one portion a day, Dr Adam Briggs and colleagues, from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University, say we would all benefit from eating more.

By their calculations, if adults of all ages could manage to eat an extra portion of fruit or veg a day, as many as 11,000 vascular deaths could be averted each year.

  • Energy: 35.4kcal
  • Fat: 0.09g
  • Saturated fat: 0.02g
  • Monosaturates: 0.01g
  • Polyunsaturates: 0.05g
  • Cholesterol: 0.00mg
  • Fibre: 1.39g
  • Salt: 0.00g

The Victorian mantra of "an apple a day" to keep the doctor away is particularly important for the over-50s, who are at increased risk of vascular diseases, say the researchers.

They analysed the effect on the most common causes of vascular mortality - heart attacks and strokes - of prescribing either a statin a day, which lowers cholesterol, or an apple a day to people over 50.

Assuming at least seven in every 10 complied with the advice, statin drugs could save 9,400 lives and an apple a day 8,500 lives a year, they calculate.

The data their work rests on comprises a large body of medical trials and observations involving hundreds of thousands of patients.

Dr Briggs said: "The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice, 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'

"It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke.

"While no-one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit."

Dr Peter Coleman, of the Stroke Association, said everyone stood to benefit from eating a balanced diet.

"Apples have long been known as a natural source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavanoids, all of which are good for our health and wellbeing.

"This study shows that, as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, a daily apple could help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Source : BBC

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Eating nuts during pregnancy 'may curb allergies'

Children are less likely to have a nut allergy if their mother ate nuts while pregnant, a study has concluded.

The work, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at the health and diets of more than 8,000 children and their mothers.

The US researchers believe that early exposure in the womb creates natural tolerance to certain foods.

But the findings conflict with other studies that have shown either no effect or a possible risk from nut consumption.

Current international guidance is that there is no need to either avoid nuts, nor to actively eat them”

Dr Adam Fox, Consultant children's allergist at Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust

Experts say this makes it difficult to offer firm advice to mothers-to-be, with the exception of women who are themselves allergic to nuts and should therefore always avoid eating them.

Conflicting evidence

The study authors, led by Dr Lindsay Frazier of the Dana-Faber Children's Cancer in Boston, concluded children were a third less likely to have a nut allergy if their mothers had eating nuts during pregnancy.

This included tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, brazils, hazelnuts and macadamias as well as peanuts.

The authors say this suggests that nut consumption may protect against future allergies.

But there are other factors that may also explain this difference.

For example, the women who ate nuts were also more likely to have healthier diets containing plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Dr Adam Fox, consultant children's allergist at Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust, said the findings were interesting but inconclusive.

"To make things even more complicated, there is also strong evidence to suggest that nut allergy doesn't develop until after birth and that it is exposure of the infant's skin to nut protein that is most important in the development of allergy.

"With such differing results from different studies, it is currently impossible to offer advice about exactly what mothers should do regarding nut consumption during pregnancy but current international guidance is that there is no need to either avoid nuts, nor to actively eat them.

Source : BBC

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Coffee or Tea: Enjoy Both in Moderation for Heart Benefits, Dutch Study Suggests

Coffee and tea drinkers may not need to worry about indulging -- high and moderate consumption of tea and moderate coffee consumption are linked with reduced heart disease, according to a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers in The Netherlands found:

  • Drinking more than six cups of tea per day was associated with a 36 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who drank less than one cup of tea per day.
  • Drinking three to six cups of tea per day was associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease, compared to consumption of less than one cup per day.

And for coffee they found:

  • Coffee drinkers with a modest intake, two to four cups per day, had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those drinking less than two cups or more than four cups.
  • Although not considered significant, moderate coffee consumption slightly reduced the risk of heart disease death and deaths from all causes.

Researchers also found that neither coffee nor tea consumption affected stroke risk.

"While previous studies have shown that coffee and tea seem to reduce the risk of heart disease, evidence on stroke risk and the risk of death from heart disease was not conclusive," said Yvonne T. van der Schouw, Ph.D., study senior author and professor of chronic disease epidemiology, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands. "Our results found the benefits of drinking coffee and tea occur without increasing risk of stroke or death from all causes.

Van der Schouw and colleagues used a questionnaire to evaluate coffee and tea consumption among 37,514 participants. They followed the participants for 13 years for occurrences of cardiovascular disease and death.

Study limitations included self-reported tea and coffee consumption, and the lack of specific information on the type of tea participants drank. However, black tea accounts for 78 percent of the total tea consumed in The Netherlands and green tea accounts for 4.6 percent. Coffee and tea drinkers have very different health behaviors, researchers note. Many coffee drinkers tend to also smoke and have a less healthy diet compared to tea drinkers.

Researchers suggest that the cardiovascular benefit of drinking tea may be explained by antioxidants. Flavonoids in tea are thought to contribute to reduced risk, but the underlying mechanism is still not known.

Source : science Daily

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