Healthy lifestyle may offset genetic risk of dementia

New research has revealed that following a healthy lifestyle may help to offset a person’s genetic risk of dementia.

The study, which was led by the University of Exeter, found that the risk of dementia was 32 per cent lower in people with a high genetic risk if they had followed a healthy lifestyle, compared to those who had an unhealthy lifestyle. Participants with a high genetic risk and an unfavourable lifestyle were almost three times more likely to develop dementia compared to those with a low genetic risk and a favourable lifestyle.

The study analysed data from 196,383 adults of European ancestry aged 60 and older. The researchers identified 1,769 cases of dementia over a follow-up period of eight years. The team grouped the participants into those with high, intermediate and low genetic risk for dementia.

To assess genetic risk, the researchers looked at previously published data and identified all known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Each genetic risk factor was weighted according to the strength of its association with Alzheimer’s disease. To assess lifestyle, the researchers grouped participants into favourable, intermediate and unfavourable categories based on their self-reported diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. The researchers considered no current smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption as healthy behaviours. The team found that living a healthy lifestyle was associated with a reduced dementia risk across all genetic risk groups.

The results were published in the journal JAMA.

The gender sleep gap

A nationwide study has found that the average British woman sleeps three hours less than her partner every night – which equates to 1,095 hours every year.

The poll of 2,000 couples also revealed as many as half of British women say they feel constantly sleep deprived, while a third claim to have a broken night’s sleep every night, compared to just two in 10 men. And the impact for women is severe, with almost a quarter (73 per cent) claiming to be at their wits’ end due to lack of sleep, compared to 64 per cent of men. One in three (34 per cent) feel depressed and 21 per cent say their diet goes out of the window when they are tired. The study, which was carried out by Bensons for Beds, also found that, when they do actually manage to get a good night’s sleep, a fifth of British women believe they look younger, 21 per cent say they feel much more confident, and 30 per cent feel more in control.

Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? See our sleep feature here for some great top tips.

Probiotic can help to reduce stress and anxiety, while increasing sharp thinking and vitality

A new study has revealed that stress and anxiety can be reduced, and sharp thinking and vitality increased by taking a probiotic. The probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum 1714, brand name Zenflore, was given to a group of men and women over a month in a randomised trial in which some took the supplement and others a dummy pill. Those who took the probiotic not only reported reduced stress, but also improved mental acuity. This was borne out by brain imaging – taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end – which showed decreased electrical activity in the brain linked to stress and increased currents in areas linked to alertness in those on the supplement.

The research was carried out at University Hospital Tubingen, Germany. Dr Eileen Murphy a co-author of the research said: “The gut has been called the second brain as there are multiple connections between it and the brain. This is an exciting new area of science and this is the first study to show images of the effect of this probiotic on stress levels in the brain.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

For more tips on how to beat stress and anxiety, read our feature here.

An apple a day...

The old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and it seems that there could be a lot of truth in this old adage, particularly when it come to type 2 diabetes.

“There is evidence to suggest that polyphenols – active biological compounds with antioxidant properties, found in plant-based foods such as apples – may help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London.

“Certain polyphenols, when consumed in foods as opposed to supplements, may contribute to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the case of diabetes, it is believed that polyphenols may help to protect the pancreatic beta-cells that produce insulin from damage by harmful chemicals". Perhaps it’s time to include more British apples in your diet?

Bone health not improved by increasing protein intake in healthy adults

New research has revealed that increasing protein intake beyond official recommendations has little to no benefit for bone health in healthy adults.

Researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Surrey investigated if protein intake can impact the bone health of adults and children. Examining 127 previous studies published over a 40-year period, which scrutinised the link between protein and bone density, bone mineral content and relative risk of osteoporotic fractures, researchers discovered increasing protein intake had minimal benefit for bone health in healthy adults.

The researchers found that only 4 per cent of bone density and bone mineral content in adults is dependent on protein intake with the remaining 96 per cent due to other factors. These were not examined in the research but could include other nutritional factors such as age, body weight and genetics. For children, a strong relationship between protein intake and bone health was identified, accounting for up to 14 per cent of bone mineral content. However, in adults, protein supplementation via protein shakes or tablets was also not found to reduce the risk of fractures nor improve bone health. No detrimental effect of having an increased protein intake was identified.

New report highlights decline in UK’s diet quality over the last 20 years

The average UK diet is falling short of vital nutrients, which could lead to an increase in chronic illnesses, a new report has claimed.

The new report from the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS) is titled State of the nation: dietary trends in the UK – 20 years on. Where are we and where are we going? The report revealed that more than two thirds (69 per cent) of adults aged 19 to 64 fail to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables. It also stated that oily fish consumption has not improved in the last 20 years, remaining consistently below optimal levels, while intakes of fibre (roughage) were also below recommended levels, partly as a reflection of poor fruit and vegetable intakes and low levels of wholegrain foods.

Other facts to emerge from the report were that more women of childbearing age are not meeting even minimum targets for vitamin A, while 10 times more older women are not meeting the minimum dietary target for iron.

GP, Dr Gill Jenkins, says: “Given that vitamins and minerals are essential for the maintenance of health and we need them daily to fuel our bodies, the shortfall in nutrients across population groups is a worry. With nutrient intakes having declined substantially over the last 20 years, these vitamin and mineral shortfalls are not going to disappear. Efforts must continue to be made to improve the British diet, but in the meantime, adults and children should bridge dietary gaps by topping up with a daily multivitamin and multimineral as well as an omega-3 supplement, appropriate to their age group and needs.”

Study highlights increase in cholesterol levels

Over half of Britons have cholesterol levels that are out of the recommended healthy range, according to new findings. The research, from health company Thriva, focused on the cholesterol levels of both men and women aged between 18 and 90 years old.

The results showed that men, on average, were more likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels, with over half (56 per cent) of respondents having cholesterol results above the optimal range, compared with 50 per cent of women.

Results showed that the age group with the greatest number of unhealthy cholesterol levels were those aged between 60 and 64, in which over three-quarters (77 per cent) of tests reported cholesterol levels that were out of the recommended healthy range. High cholesterol levels have been linked to increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.

Dr Vishal Shah, medical director for Thriva commented: “High cholesterol is something that can affect you at any age. The good news is that in most cases people are able to lower their cholesterol levels with a few simple changes to their daily lifestyle and diet.”

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