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Health scan

A snapshot of the current thinking in medicine, fitness and lifestyle trends that impact your life!

health and fitness Updated: Aug 31, 2013 23:13 IST
brain power

Financial worries lower brain power

Being short on cash makes you a bit slower in the brain, a new study suggests. Financially stressed people are also short on thinking capacitywrite researchers in the journal Science.

The scientists looked at the effects of finances on the brain both in the lab and in the field. In controlled lab-like conditions, they had about 400 shoppers at a mall in New Jersey consider certain financial scenarios and tested their brain power.

Then they looked at real life in the fields of India, where farmers only get paid once a year. An IQ test of the same 464 farmers before and after harvest showed their IQ scores improved by 25% when their wallets fattened.

Can’t sleep? Blame a wandering mind

People who have trouble sleeping find it difficult to switch off the part of the brain that makes our attention wander. The discovery of variations in brain activity could help the search for a treatment for insomnia, say scientists in the journal Sleep Medicine.

“It is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper,” said Dr Sean Drummond, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, and lead author of the study.

Dr Drummond and his team compared MRI scans of 25 regular sleepers with 25 insomniacs and found both groups were equally effective at completing tasks, the insomniacs’ brains did not shut down the regions of the brain that are usually used when we daydream.

Coffee and tea for a healthy liver

Your morning cup of tea or coffee may be doing more than just perking you up before work. Increased caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Worldwide, more than two in three people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity have NAFLD, the major cause of fatty liver not due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Caffeine stimulates the metabolisation of fats stored in liver cells and decreases the fatty liver. These findings suggest that having an equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee or tea a day prevents and protects against the progression of NAFLD in humans, reports the journal Haepatology.

Diabetes best fought with fruit, not juice

Eating more apples but drinking less orange juice could help give some protection from type 2 diabetes, according to scientists. Fruit rich in fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals — such as blueberries, grapes, apples and pears — as particularly protective.

In their studies, the overall risk of the study participants developing type 2 diabetes was 6.5%. Three helpings of particular fruits weekly cut the chances of those people developing the disease by 7%.

Excepting strawberries and cantaloupe melon, the substitution of whole fruit for juice gave greater protection (also creating a 7% lowered risk). The study, which is published in the British Medical Journal, says eating more fruit would prevent many chronic diseases.

Pregnant women should stay active 24x7

Staying active through the day prevents pregnant women from gaining too much weight. Most pregnant women spend nearly 75% of the time they are awake in sedentary behaviours. Getting women to be more active

during pregnancy is not only important for limiting weight gain, but it also impacts the future health of the baby. If a woman gains too much weight, it predisposes the baby to childhood obesity and also raises the risk for complications for the mother, such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia and postpartum obesity. Pregnant women should manage their weight through diet and at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.