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Is workplace snackingmaking you fat?

22 min read

All that snacking at work could be the reason for your expanding waistline.

A survey of 5,222 employees across the US found that nearly a quarter of them get food from work at least once a week, which included food purchased at workplace cafeterias. All this added to about 1,300 calories.

More than 70 per cent of all calories acquired at work were free and contained mostly empty calories with high amounts of sodium and refined grains, and very little whole grains and fruit.

The most common workplace food types were generally high in solid fat, added sugars and sodium, and included pizza, sandwiches, soft drinks, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, candy and French fries.

Most of the foods obtained at workplaces do not meet the dietary guidelines.

“Worksite wellness efforts should consider improving the dietary quality of food sold or offered at work. Since we found that a lot of food obtained by employees were free, employers may also want to consider healthy meeting policies to encourage healthy food options at meetings and social events," said the study author.

The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting.

Erectile dysfunction increases risk of heart disease

Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) are at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, regardless of other risk factors such as cholesterol and high blood pressure.

For the study published in the journal Circulation, the US researchers followed more than 1,900 men, aged 60 to 78, for over four years. There were a total of 115 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events during the study period.

Men with ED were twice as likely to experience heart attacks, cardiac arrests, sudden cardiac death, and fatal or non-fatal strokes compared to those without ED.

Cardiovascular diseases and ED have similar risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and excess abdominal fat. But, evidence supporting ED as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events had been limited.

“Our results reveal that erectile dysfunction is a potent predictor of cardiovascular risk,” said the lead researcher. “Our findings suggest that clinicians should perform further targeted screening in men with erectile dysfunction regardless of other cardiac risk factors, and should consider managing any other risk factors—such as high blood pressure or cholesterol—much more aggressively.”

The food medicine

Can consuming specific food helps us fight diseases? New research presented at Nutrition 2018—meeting of the American Society for Nutrition—highlights the health impact of specific foods in lowering the risk for diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and other health problems.

A study among 892 South Asians living in the US found that people who follow a vegetarian diet have fewer risks for heart disease and diabetes, including a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference, lower amounts of abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and lower blood sugar compared to non-vegetarian South Asians.

A twelve-week random study of overweight or obese adults with pre- or type 2 diabetes concluded that regular egg consumption reduced the risk factors associated with diabetes by improving fasting blood sugar levels and insulin resistance without any adverse effects on cholesterol levels.

Overweight, but otherwise healthy adults, aged 45 or older, showed improvements in cardio-metabolic risk factors including blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and insulin-producing cell function, after eating a handful (about 1.5 ounces) of whole pecans daily for four weeks, compared to study participants who consumed a diet similar in total fat and fibre but without daily pecans.

A study of 1,01,677 people, aged 54 to 83 years, found that those who consumed low-fat or fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, had a lower risk for developing colorectal cancer.

A study of 706 people showed that eating more vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables) and berries, but not other fruits, may reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease and slow its progression in older adults.

A study of 14,208 adults, aged 45 to 64 years, showed that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk for liver disease.

Did you Know

Lung cancer risk drops about 40 per cent within five years of quitting smoking compared to people who continue to smoke.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Kitchen towels can cause food poisoning

Your kitchen towels could be harbouring pathogens that could cause food poisoning. For the Mauritian study presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting, researchers analysed 100 kitchen towels that had been used for one month.

Among them, 49 per cent of towels tested were loaded with disease causing bacteria—37 per cent had Escherichia coli (E. coli), 37 per cent had Enterococcus, and 14 per cent had Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus).

The bacterial count increased with the number of family members and children. Towels used for multiple purposes and humid towels had a higher bacterial count than single-use towels and dry ones. Towels used in non-vegetarian households had more bacteria.

“Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels. Cross-contamination is happening in the kitchen, and those bacteria could reach our food and cause food poisoning,” said the lead researcher.

Did You know

The American Heart Association recommends eating non-fried fish like salmon,
mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna—which are all high in omega-3 fatty acids—at least twice a week, to help reduce the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest and ischaemic stroke.

Circulation

Drug combination more effective for women suffering miscarriage

Millions of women suffer miscarriages every year. In the final part of a miscarriage, the body should expel the pregnancy tissue. If the body fails to do so, women need to undergo a surgical procedure or take the drug misoprostol.

But misoprostol does not always work, and many women are forced to have the surgery, prolonging an already physically and emotionally difficult situation.

A US study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol worked more effectively in helping women complete the painful miscarriage process without surgical intervention.

Three hundred women who suffered a miscarriage in the first trimester were given either standard 800 micrograms of misoprostol placed vaginally or pretreatment with 200mg of mifepristone administered orally, followed by misoprostol.

Among them, 83.8 per cent of women who received the combo treatment experienced complete gestational sac expulsion compared to 67.1 per cent who received misoprostol alone. Only 8.8 per cent in the combo group needed surgical intervention compared to 23.5 per cent in the misoprostol-alone group.

“Though rarely discussed openly, miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy, and the public health burden is both physical and psychological,” said the study author.

High blood pressure in the fifties linked to dementia

High blood pressure in your 50s may increase your risk of developing dementia later in life, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal.

The researchers tracked the blood pressure and dementia risk of 8,639 adults, aged 33–55 for nearly 32 years. Among these, 385 participants developed dementia at an average age of 75.

Those who had a systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or more at the age of 50 had a 45 per cent increased risk of developing dementia compared to those with lower systolic blood pressure. The increased risk was seen even in people without any cardiovascular problems.

However, higher blood pressure at age 60 and 70 was not linked to dementia. Nor was diastolic blood pressure.

Most guidelines consider a reading of 140/90 mmHg as a threshold for hypertension. But in 2017, many health organisations in the US lowered the threshold to 130/80 mmHg for all adults based on research showing that people with blood pressure in the 130-139 range have twice the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.

“Our analysis suggests that the importance of mid-life hypertension on brain health is due to the duration of exposure. So we see an increased risk for people with raised blood pressure at age 50, but not 60 or 70, because those with hypertension at age 50 are likely to be ‘exposed’ to this risk for longer,” said the study author.

Religious people live longer

You may live longer if you are religious. An analysis of 1,096 obituaries from across the United States showed that people whose obituaries mentioned a religious affiliation lived about 5.64 years longer than those without religious ties. When gender and marital status—two factors that have strong effects on longevity—were factored, religious people still had about four years advantage.

Another analysis of 505 obituaries showed that those with religious affiliation lived 9.45 years longer than those who did not. Religious people still had a 6.48 years longevity boost after accounting for gender and marital status.

The researchers suggested a few reasons for the advantage: many of the religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organisations, which previously have been linked to longer lifespan; many religions restrict unhealthy practices such as alcohol and drug use, and having sex with multiple partners; and many religions promote stress-reducing practices that may improve health, such as gratitude, prayer or meditation.

"The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives," said the study co-author.

The findings were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Many medications linked to depression and suicide

Many commonly prescribed medications have the potential to cause depression or increase the risk of suicide, according to a US study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

An analysis of medication use patterns of 26,192 adults found that about one third were on medications that have depression as a possible side effect, and about 24 per cent were on medications with suicide as a potential side effect. Many of them were taking multiple drugs simultaneously—called poly-pharmacy—which further increased their risk of depression.

More than 200 commonly used drugs, including hormonal birth control medications, blood pressure and heart medications, proton pump inhibitors, antacids and painkillers have depression or suicide listed as potential side effects.

About 15 per cent of those who were on three or more of these medications had depression, compared to only five per cent of those not using any of the drugs, seven per cent of those using one medication and nine per cent of those taking two drugs simultaneously.

Similar results were seen for drugs that listed suicide as a potential side effect.

“The take away message of this study is that poly-pharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs—many of which are also available over the counter,” said the lead researcher.

Did you Know

The risk of dying within 30 days of a severe heart attack is nearly 50 per cent higher in the coldest months (November to April) compared to the warmest months, even though the overall number of heart attacks are about the same through the year.

British Heart Foundation

Loneliness is bad for the heart

Loneliness is bad for your heart. Lonely people are twice as likely to die from heart disease, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology's annual nursing congress. In both men and women, feeling lonely was a stronger predictor of poor outcomes than living alone.

The researchers studied the impact of social network on the health outcomes of 13,463 patients with different cardiovascular diseases, including ischaemic heart disease, abnormal heart rhythm, heart failure, or heart valve disease.

Loneliness was associated with worse outcomes for all patients regardless of their type of heart disease, and even after accounting for factors such as age, level of education, other diseases, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol intake.

Loneliness doubled the mortality risk in women and nearly doubled the risk in men. Men and women who were lonely were also three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, and had a significantly lower quality of life than those who were not lonely.

"Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health, and lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease," said the study author.

CONTRIBUTOR: SHYLA JOVITHA ABRAHAM

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