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

health and fitness Updated: Jul 21, 2013 00:00 IST
Hindustan Times

Smoking raises risk of alcohol abuse

Even a one-time exposure to nicotine may temporarily change how the brain’s reward system responds to booze, putting smokers at an increased risk of alcohol abuse. Smoking is a well-known risk factor for subsequent alcohol abuse.

The new study found that even a single exposure to nicotine temporarily changes how the brain’s reward system responds to alcohol and increases the reinforcing properties of alcohol via stress hormones.

This decreased reward response to alcohol arose through two mechanisms: an initial activation of stress hormone receptors and a subsequent increase in inhibitory signalling in the brain.

Music helps children cope with pain

Children who listened to music while an IV needle was inserted into their arms were less stressed than kids who didn’t listen to music, says a new study.

“We were really looking to see if music could reduce the distress in children,” said Lisa Hartling, the study’s lead author from University of Alberta in Canada.

Aside from pain medication, other ways to help control pain in the emergency department (ED) include distractions such as audio, video, stories, imagery and concentrated breathing exercises, Hartling and her colleagues say.

The children, who were all between three and 11 years old, also received the usual treatments to help make the procedures less painful, including pain relievers applied to the skin, and comforting, supportive words from the medical staff.

Past research has shown that music significantly reduces pain and anxiety during medical procedures.

Walnuts lower prostrate cancer risk

Eating a modest amount of walnuts — about two handfuls, or 2 ounces a day — may protect against prostate cancer, shows US research.

A comparison of tumour growth in mice injected with human prostate cancer cells showed only 3 of 16 mice eating a walnut-enriched diet developed prostate tumours, compared with 14 of 32 mice (44%) on the non-walnut control diet.

Also, the final average tumour size in the walnut-fed animals was roughly one-quarter of the average size of the prostate tumours that developed in the mice eating the control diet, which showed that walnuts also slowed tumour growth.

The mice consumed a diet typically used in animal studies, except with the addition of a small amount of walnuts pulverised into a fine powder. The walnut portion was the equivalent to a human eating two handfuls of walnuts a day.

Obesity may carry an osteoporosis risk

Obesity is a risk factor for the frail bone disease osteoporosis. US researchers have discovered that some people who are overweight have hidden fat inside their bones that could make them weak and prone to fractures, report a Harvard Medical School team in Boston in the journal Radiology.

They used scans to show some people carry fat in hidden places like the liver, muscles and bone marrow as well as their belly, hips or thighs. Dr Miriam Bredella, who carried out the work, says apple-shaped people who carry weight around their waist may be at greatest risk.

The bone marrow is where the cells responsible for new bone formation — osteoblast cells — live. Bone marrow fat has been found in higher-than-normal levels in people who have osteoporosis.

Non-stick chemicals don’t cause stunting in kids

Babies’ early exposure to chemicals used in non-stick and stain-resistant products was not linked to small body size at age seven, says a new study from Denmark, looking at the chemicals’ effects on growth.

After tracking more than 800 children from the womb to seven years of age, researchers found the concentrations of perfluorinated chemicals the kids were exposed to before birth had no bearing on children’s growth later on, reports the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Perfluorinated chemicals are used in stain-resistant carpet to non-stick cookware and food packaging. Even after being phased out, the chemicals persist in the body and in the environment, taking years to break down.

First Published: Jul 20, 2013 23:57 IST