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Body fat distribution linked to prostate cancer risk

Higher levels of abdominal and thigh fat are linked with an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer, researchers have found.

Prior studies have demonstrated that obesity is linked with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and a poorer prognosis after diagnosis. Also, emerging evidence suggests that the specific distribution of fat in the body may be an important factor.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analysed body fat distribution and assessed the risk of being diagnosed with, and dying from, prostate cancer among 1,832 Icelandic men who were followed for up to 13 years.

During the study, 172 men developed prostate cancer and 31 died from the disease. The accumulation of fat in specific areas – such as visceral fat (deep in the abdomen, surrounding the organs) and thigh subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin) – was associated with the risk of advanced and fatal prostate cancer. High body mass index (BMI) and high waist circumference were also associated with higher risks of advanced and fatal prostate cancer.

It is hoped that the findings, which were published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, may lead to a better understanding of the relationship between obesity and prostate cancer and provide new insights for treatment.

Good news for ‘night owls’!

Researchers have been able to ‘retrain’ the body clocks of so-called ‘night owls’ – people with extreme late sleeping and waking habits – in order to improve their mental wellbeing and performance. Teams from the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK, and Monash University in Australia, showed that, over a three-week period, it was possible to shift the circadian rhythm of night owls.

Disturbances to the sleep/wake system have been linked to a variety of health issues, including mood swings, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and declines in cognitive and physical performance.

The 22 participants in this particular study had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am. Over a three-week period, they were asked to: wake up two to three hours before regular wake up time and maximise outdoor light during the mornings, go to bed two to three hours before habitual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening, keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days, and have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.

The study, published in Sleep Medicine, showed participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration. In addition, participants reported a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness.

Liver disease is on the increase, report reveals

Liver disease is now the biggest cause of death in those aged between 35 and 49 years old, a new report has revealed. The findings were released by the British Liver Trust to coincide with the Love Your Liver campaign. The trust also revealed that liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the next few years.

More than 90 per cent of liver disease is due to three main risk factors: obesity, alcohol and viral hepatitis. Liver problems develop silently with no obvious symptoms in the early stages yet if caught early, the disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes. The Love Your Liver campaign focuses on three simple steps:

  • Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive alcohol-free days every week
  • Eat a balanced healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and take more exercise
  • Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested if at risk. There are now very effective cures for hepatitis C.

To find out more, visit www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener

Survey highlights sleep issues

New research from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has revealed that 43 per cent of adults reported sleeping less than the recommended minimum of seven hours and that 32 per cent of primary and 70 per cent of secondary school children reported sleeping less than nine hours. On top of this, 80 per cent of adults, and 44 per cent of secondary school children, reported waking up at least once during the previous night. The research, conducted as part of BNF Healthy Eating Week, surveyed 6,018 primary and secondary school students aged between seven and 16, and 1,576 adults from across the UK. ‘Sleep Well’ is one of the focusses for this year’s BNF Healthy Eating Week, and aims to highlight why getting enough good quality sleep is a key element of a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Lucy Chambers, Senior Scientist at BNF says: “With more and more emerging research linking lack of sleep to poor dietary choices, and the burgeoning obesity crisis in the UK, we are keen to place a new focus on sleep this year – looking into how well we’re actually all sleeping, and providing advice and resources to help improve sleeping habits”.

A clean sweep!

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is appealing for people to become part of the solution to the litter problem that is engulfing UK beaches by adopting a beach and leading a clean-up and survey during this year’s Great British Beach Clean, which takes place from 20 to 23 September. During last year’s event, volunteer cleaners picked up over 600 items of litter for every 100m of UK coastline surveyed and just under 15,000 volunteers took part.

Data collected by volunteers from the 25 years of MCS-led Great British Beach Cleans has been instrumental in the introduction of the 5p single-use carrier bag charge, the ban on microbeads in personal cleaning products like shower gels and toothpastes, the commitment to a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland (and the consultation on one in England and Wales), and a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England from next year.

To get involved, find a beach you want to clean, sign up and register it on the MCS online system, and MCS will provide you with all the help you need to get going. Visit www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch to find out more.

Poll reveals fears about climate change

A survey has revealed that 70 per cent of respondents would be happy to reduce or give up consuming red meat in order to combat the effects of climate change. The study of 2,000 adults, which was commissioned by The School of Health, also found that over two thirds would willingly stop using plastic packaging and bags and 40 per cent would stop charging equipment overnight, such as phones and televisions.

The survey revealed that three quarters of respondents believed climate change is the biggest crisis facing humanity today – but many are ‘confused’ about how they can help. Human behaviour was blamed more than deforestation and fossil fuels as the factor most strongly affecting climate change. Over one third of those polled believe over-population has an impact, leading to 40 per cent admitting they would avoid having more than three children, while one in 10 would give up having kids altogether.

The study also found that four in 10 people would happily give up their diesel car to help the planet and one sixth is prepared to swap their current vehicle for an electric one in the ‘near future’. A further 44 per cent of those polled via OnePoll.com admitted they are ‘worried’ about their health due to the impact of climate change and half are concerned over the amount of chemicals in medicines.

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