Passengers who are stuck sitting next to, in front of, or behind a sick person on a plane: beware. There's a pretty good chance you'll catch their cough, cold, or flu.
That's the finding of a new study, which was funded by Boeing and conducted by in-flight data scientists from Emory University and Georgia Tech.
For their research, a troupe of 10 data scientists embarked on five round-trip cross-country flights, most of which were fully booked and flew during the height of flu season. In the air, the scientists worked like a band of germ-sniffing spies: they documented how passengers moved around the cabin, took hundreds of environmental samples, and tested the planes for the presence of 18 common respiratory illnesses.
The researchers used the data they collected about passengers' in-flight movement to simulate how transmission might work when a person is sick. They found that passengers sitting in a sick flier's row, or the row directly in front of or behind that germ-bag, will almost certainly come within a 1-meter (3.28-foot) radius of the sick person.
The people sitting near you on a plane are the greatest threat to your health
Since the most common way to spread viruses like the flu is by sneezing, coughing or breathing on healthy people, spending hours in close proximity to a person who's spewing virus particles is a near sure-fire way to get sick.
The study takes as an example a sick person sitting in the aisle seat of a plane that has three seats per side.
That person has a roughly 80% chance of infecting everyone in their row on that side of the aisle, as well as those in the rows directly in front and behind them on that side, the study found.
On the other side of the aisle, the person in the aisle seat directly across from this hypothetical sick person also has an 80% chance of catching the bug. So do the people in the aisle seats one row ahead of and behind the sick individual. But the people sitting across the aisle from a germy person in a middle or a window seat are significantly more shielded from exposure, with just a 10-30% chance of infection.
The researchers did not compare this scenario to one in which people are sitting near each other for long periods of time without the help of airplane air filters (like on a train, for example).
Nonetheless, they concluded that the people who are farther than one row away from a sick person on a flight probably wouldn't catch the illness, since most people on planes don’t interact with anyone besides their immediate seatmates, even when they get up.
Even in-flight movements like getting up to open an overhead bin or go to the restroom had little effect on illness transmission beyond those three rows in the danger zone.
Germs are "unlikely to be directly transmitted beyond 1 meter from the infectious passenger," the study authors wrote.
By their calculations, the best way to avoid catching germs is to get a window seat and stay there for the duration of the flight. Middle seats were rated second-safest, while the aisles were most dangerous for passing around and catching germs.
Even if your seatmates look healthy, that doesn’t mean you’re safe
As luck would have it, the flights the scientists took were full of pretty healthy travelers: all 229 of the germ samples they took on the planes came back negative, and the observers only saw one passenger who was coughing "moderately."
That surprised lead study author Vicki Hertzberg, a professor of data science at Emory University.
"Eight out of the 10 flights were taken during 'influenza season,'" she told Business Insider in an email. "I thought we might have seen something."
But it's probably a good thing they didn't, for the passengers' sake.
Some research suggests that illness droplets can travel as far as six feet away from a sick person, and flu particles can last for up to 24 hours on hard surfaces. So if you don't wash your hands frequently, you're going to be at risk while traveling, no matter where you sit on a plane.
Some planes that were in the air in Asia during the 2003 SARS outbreak found that as much as 40% of the cabin was at risk of becoming infected with the deadly virus.
For those reasons, the scientists behind this limited, US-based study were cautious about drawing any major conclusions. After all, a long international flight is bound to have more people getting up and milling around in the aisles.
So there’s just no sure way to know what kinds of germs might await on your next flight.
Young people with diabetes are at greater risk than peers without the disease of developing mental health problems or attempting suicide as they transition into adulthood, a Canadian study suggests.
Based on data for more than 1 million young people born in Quebec, researchers found that being diagnosed with diabetes is associated with increased odds of being diagnosed in an emergency room or hospital with a mood disorder like depression. It’s also linked to higher odds of being admitted to a hospital for a suicide attempt, according to the report in Diabetes Care.
Between the ages of 15 and 25, adolescents and young adults with diabetes are 325% as likely to attempt suicide as their same-age peers, and 133% as likely to suffer from a mood disorder, said Dr. Marie-Eve Robinson, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa, Canada, who led the study.
Past research has explored risks for psychiatric disorders in individuals with and without type-1 diabetes, Robinson and her colleagues write in Diabetes Care, but the risks during the transition from adolescence to adulthood have not been assessed.
“In addition to challenges inherent to adolescence, young adults with diabetes who transition to adult care need to adapt to a new adult-care provider and a treatment facility,” Robinson told Reuters Health.
Young adults tend to perceive pediatricians as more family-centered and less formal compared to adult-care providers and this can sometimes make the transition difficult, she explained.
Type-1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin; the disease typically emerges in childhood or adolescence. Type-2 diabetes, the more common form of the illness, is associated with aging and overweight and occurs when the body becomes less responsive to insulin.
Young people with type-1 diabetes must also take full responsibility for managing their diabetes, Robinson said, which includes injecting insulin multiple times a day, monitoring their glucose and paying close attention to diet and physical activity.
“This can be overwhelming, especially when their previous caregivers were providing significant support during childhood and adolescence.”
To assess the mental health toll of these burdens, the researchers used Quebec registries to identify people born between April 1982 and December 1998 without any mental illness diagnosed before age 15. The final analysis included 3,544 adolescents diagnosed with diabetes between ages 1 and 15, and nearly 1.4 million young people without diabetes.
The study team followed the youths from age 15 to 25 and found that in addition to increased risks for a mood disorder diagnosis or a suicide attempt, youth with diabetes were almost twice as likely to visit a psychiatrist, compared to peers without diabetes.
With diabetes, young people also had a 29% higher risk of being diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder. However, there were no differences between the groups in schizophrenia diagnoses.
Even without a diagnosis of diabetes, there is a lot of anxiety and depression nowadays in the adolescent population, said Dr. Anastassios G. Pittas, co-director of the Diabetes and Lipid Center, at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
“To be diagnosed, on top of that, with a chronic, incurable medical condition that affects essentially every minute of one’s life has a huge impact,” Pittas, who was not involved in the current study, told Reuters Health in a phone interview.
However, depending on the age of the child, a major medical diagnosis need not always have a negative impact, he added.
For Pittas, one major limitation of the study was the large range in ages at which diabetes was diagnosed, and he would have liked to see if there were differences in mental health risk on that basis.
“Children diagnosed with diabetes at age 1 or 2 do not know life without diabetes,” said Pittas, adding that kids diagnosed before ages 7 or 8 tend to do better than those diagnosed in the middle of adolescence.
Even so, the study authors note in their report, endocrinologists who treat young adults rarely receive a patient’s psychosocial summary as part of their referral documents from their pediatric colleagues.
“As children with diabetes will inevitably transfer to adult care, pediatric and adult healthcare providers should be aware of the increased risk of developing mental health problems,” Robinson said.
Every star athlete has a team of pros that help them stay at the top of their game. Take Russell Wilson. At home in Seattle, the guy has a personal chef, mental coach, personal trainer—the list goes on. But a wellness squad isn’t only reserved for the rich and famous. That’s right: There are certain experts that we should all have in our back pocket to help stay in tip-top shape, regardless of what’s going on the squat rack, office, or wherever else you’re striving for those big gains.Now, if you’re anything like me, you typically only go seek out this sort of help when something feels off. That weird pain is traveling down your leg again, or your shoulders feel extra tight, or you’re waking up feeling bummed more often than you would like.
Don’t wait. Instead, check in with your wellness roster on the regular. From acupuncturists to therapists to general practitioners, we got experts to weigh in on the specialists you should be seeing.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, men have a habit of avoiding annual doctor visits. Of 1,174 men surveyed, only 50 percent of men go to the doctor for preventative care, and 41 percent of men were told as children that men don’t complain about health issues. Considering annual wellness visits are included gratis with any regular insurance plan, it’s time to stop making excuses and get yourself into a paper gown, stat.
What to look for: There are several different types of physicians that can be identified as a primary care doctor, including family practice, internal medicine, and general practice. Regardless of which one you go with, the right doctor will talk to you about an overall picture of wellness, instead of just what you can do to avoid illness, according to Steven Lamm, MD, medical director of the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health.
“The foundations for wellness require you to understand the importance of things like sleep, stress management, nutrition, and exercise,” he says. “You should be comfortable being open with them.”
Injuries happen to all of us. Research shows that between 19 and 74 percent of CrossFitters and 40 to 50 percent of runners struggle with injury each year. Connecting with a good physical therapist can help you stay off the injured list. And should you land there, the right DPT (that stands for doctor of physical therapy) can get you back toward better movement patterns in no time.
What to look for: When looking for a physio, examining their credentials is a great place to start, says Dan Giordano, DPT, CSCS, and co-founder of Bespoke Treatments. According to Giordano, your therapist should have “DPT” next to their name, which means that they’ve completed a postgraduate degree that takes about three more years and passed the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
“Look at the work they have done outside the four walls of a clinic,” he adds. “Look for experience and see where it has been applied. Do not go to a PT that has 15-minute appointment slots that consist of heat packs and massage. Your time (and money) is worth more than that.”
Like a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone or a trip to that good Italian spot you usually only save for fourth dates, a stellar massage can be a treat. It can also do way more than just help you relax. “Massages can help loosen your muscles and tendons, allowing for increased blood flow and circulation,” says Brittany Driscoll, CEO and founder of Squeeze, a new massage concept from the team behind DryBar. “This can eliminate toxins, manage pain, and reduce fatigue.”
While Driscoll says weekly massages are great, it’s understandable that funds might not allow that. Aim to get one monthly for best results, she suggests.
What to look for: We don’t want to downplay the goodness of a no-name massage parlor where you can sneak in a full hour’s worth of bodywork for $45 or less. However, most states require massage therapists to be licensed before they can legally practice—and you may not find that there. “Find a spot you’re interested in, then inquire about a masseuse’s style or speciality,” says Driscoll. “Make sure to be detailed about what you’re hoping to achieve, where you want more focus or areas to avoid, and definitely don’t be shy about asking for more or less pressure throughout your session.”
A few facts on acupuncture: More than 14 million people in the U.S. have tried the millennia-old Chinese practice, and a lot of doctors hope it can be an effective alternative to opioids for pain management. Part of the rapidly growing “alternative” medicine industry, estimated to be worth $197 billion by 2025, acupuncture can help the body “with pretty much anything you can think of (and some things you may not),” according to Molly Forsyth, DACM, L.Ac., founder of 8 Point Wellness in New York City. “Acupuncture is an incredibly effective tool to manage and minimize the ailments caused by physical and emotional pressures of day to day life.”
Specialists use super-small needles on areas around the body called acupuncture points. According to Forsyth, the goal is helping patients achieve results like better digestion, increased energy, better mood, deeper sleep, and even an increase in concentration and work performance.
What to look for: Forsyth suggests finding a good referral and to seek treatment from a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac). You can find or check credentials on the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). “Finding an acupuncturist can be like finding a therapist,” she says. "If the first acupuncturist you meet and work with doesn’t feel like a good fit, don’t hesitate to try another.”
There’s a growing awareness that mental health is just as important as physical health. But it’s still something that a large crop of men really struggle with. Dozens of studies have shown that men are less likely than women to seek out mental help for things like substance abuse, depression, and stress. Men also make up over 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States, which translates into one death every 20 minutes or so.
"Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for men, who may feel pressured to excel without addressing their emotional wellbeing and mental health due to social stigma or lack of awareness,” says Salina Grilli, LCSW and owner of SMG Psychotherapy in New York. “In therapy, men can take a step back to gain insight into their behaviors and thoughts, which can help develop ways to productively manage their stress.”
What to look for: When seeking out a therapist, look for someone who is licensed to practice therapy and has a postgraduate degree, says Grilli, including LCSW, LMHC, LMHC, PsyD, or PhD. A lot of experts, including Grilli, suggest people speak with a therapist weekly, especially at the beginning, to develop a good, comfortable relationship and explore the practice. From there, there may be room to progress to biweekly visits or check-ins as needed.
Developing the right mindset for weight loss is how you will ultimately find success in your journey. If you set out to lose those few extra pounds surrounded with negativity for yourself and your body, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Most people try to lose the weight with the worst possible opinion of themselves rolling around in their brain and with the notion that they need to ‘fix’ themselves. They dive into these fad diets and exercise regimens out of a sense of self-deprecation, calling themselves “fat”, referring to their “wiggly” parts, and being overwhelmed with how they see themselves in the mirror and how they feel on the regular. This inevitably leads to an unhealthy obsession with fast results, a concentration on a ‘fast fix’ and losing sight of what will be something you can sustain, caring for yourself, and overall health.
This warped ideology is destructive as the focus is only on weight and deprivation and being dissatisfied as opposed to what the actual benefits of the weight loss will bring to you. This is only negativity-focused; what you don’t or can’t have. That doesn’t mean that you merely think positively and it’s fixed; a thought isn’t going to fix it for you. Changing to a healthy mindset is more than that. It’s about shifting the thoughts as well as the decisions that you make for yourself and the behavior that you allow for yourself, in turn, producing different results.
Why Mind Over Matter May Be The Right Approach
Having the right mindset for weight loss is going to affect what it is you’re focused on. What you’re focused on affects the things that you in turn think about yourself. The things that you feel about yourself affect your decisions. Your decisions will then affect the way in which you are going to behave and those variant behaviors are going to bring about differing results. With the right mindset, you will start out knowing there is no problem to fix and this whole process will be a positive one with a successful outcome.
Why You May Be Too Stressed To Lose Weight
There is a protein, betatrophin, that is being deemed the culprit in our inability to lose weight due to stress. If you’re wondering, can stress stop weight loss, it indeed can particularly high amounts of stress. There is a link between your stress and fat metabolism due to the betatrophin. Our chronic stress will stimulate our body’s production of this protein which in turn inhibits a needed enzyme for fat metabolism. Basically, betatrophin decreases our ability to break down the fat. So, your stress levels are actually causing you to accumulate fat. Another reason why mindfulness is very important in creating a balance and decreasing the stress that you have in your life.
Increasing Energy And Motivation
A good way to instill motivation and energy into your weight-loss program is to add daily self-care and self-kindness to your regimen. This is showing your mind, body, and soul that you are accepting and loving of yourself and focused on taking the best care of yourself. This makes you feel good in the moment and leads your energy into weight loss motivation. Allowing ourselves pleasure oftentimes takes a back seat especially when we’re busy or stressed and, over time, this leads to those negative thoughts and a bad attitude.
Self-care is an essential component in order for you to be successful with your weight management whether it be to lose or to maintain. When you are providing yourself with the proper amount of care, you will learn how to increase focus and energy and in turn how to be motivated to lose weight. It’s about doing things that will promote overall good health, acts of kindness towards yourself, not expecting far too much from yourself all at one time, being patient with the process, and not coming down on yourself if it doesn’t go as you had hoped right away. Speaking harshly of or to ourselves leads to shame and guilt to the point where we have no inspiration or motivation to continue to work towards any of our goals. Always try to uplift yourself with self-care and self-kindness every day, be accepting, be loving, and you will be successful.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
In order to have a healthy mind and a healthy body it is important that we be both mentally and physically fit and strong. A good healthy mental faculty is essential for good physical well being. A large problem in today’s society is everyone is living a very fast-paced lifestyle, many are extremely stressed, and generally rushing against the clock in order to do all that the day holds for us. There is no time for us to eat the way that we need to, sleep as we owe our bodies to, or exercise in the way that we are required to. There is always a search for the mental peace in order to deflate the stress levels, but we are not paying attention to the fact that if we neglect our body, how is our brain going to get the proper nourishment.
What is the answer? We need to take the time to do what is needed, what is owed, and what is required. That means eat on time, slowly, and in a healthy way; sleep for eight full hours in a night without any interruptions; exercise even if it's for short spurts each day; take breaks away from the chaos to decompress; pursue interests outside of work and everyday life that you have a passion for. All of this is going to lead you to a much healthier life and in turn a much healthier version of yourself. This is going to show you how to increase energy and motivation within your life and before you know it your body will slowly turn into what you want it to be. Healthy mind results in a healthy body.
With growing concerns about mental health, and how we care for ourselves, it’s important to address stress – it’s something we all struggle with during certain periods of our lives, and it can not only become overwhelming, but act as a contributor to other serious physical conditions, such as osteoporosis.
In recent years, stress has been considered a primary catalyst for mental health issues, and while the mechanisms underlying the physiological impact of stress on osteoporosis are not well-understood, several studies have shown that stress hormone signalling via the brain- immune connection is a significant contributor to the disease.
Osteoporosis, as the most common form of metabolic bone disease, is also known as the ‘silent disease’. In most cases, osteoporosis gradually develops and rarely has any symptoms until the bones are brittle and start to break more easily – typically a diagnosis of osteoporosis is not established until multiple breaks have occurred. The fact is that as many as 3 million people in the UK suffer from osteoporosis, and with an ageing population, and instances of osteoporosis set to rise, chances to slow down or prevent the disease ought to be considered across all generations.
A recent study* shows that chronic stress has been associated with increased systemic inflammation. In addition, the inflammatory factors have been shown to have a detrimental effect on osteoporosis through the promotion of osteoclasts, or the elements that break down the bone matter, and an increase in the cell death of osteoblast populations, the elements responsible for rebuilding healthy bone matter. The result being, factors that contribute to the breakdown of bones are increased by chronic stress, whilst bone rebuilding is decreased, and this contribution can advance symptoms of osteoporosis.
It is also worth considering the impact that osteoporosis carries psychologically, particularly if a fracture has been experienced. There are likely to be long-lasting effects on overall quality of life; physical, social, financial and psychological well-being all being potential casualties. It’s possible that osteoporosis can lead to feelings of anxiety, driven by a fear of falling, or even depression, as a result of reduced self-esteem and feelings of helplessness and loss of independence.
Preventative treatment is crucial when it comes to maintaining bone health throughout life. Exercise, a healthy diet, and getting enough vitamin D are always recommended as well as limited alcohol consumption, no smoking and reducing unnecessary stress. In addition, it is recommended that we maintain healthy levels of calcium, through our diets – but also through effective supplements, such as LithoLexal® OSTEOPOROTIC Bone Health.
Until recently, the majority of calcium supplements available were all rock-based, containing inorganic matter that is hard for the body to absorb. LithoLexal® contains a natural, marine plant-based extract that contains a highly bio-available source of calcium and magnesium, and a unique bioactivity not exhibited in comparative products - making LithoLexal® uniquely positioned to demonstrate its excellence and clinical efficacy in users by improving the health of the bones.
Source: Sustain Health
Good or bad news first…?
Since good news soothes the bad, let’s go with the bad news first: According to a recent article in the British Journal of Medicine, the U.S. currently faces twin pain-and-opioid crises (Mackey & Kao, 2019). Chronic pain (CP), pain lasting three or more months or beyond expected healing time, is an epidemic currently affecting over 100 million American adults—more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined—at an estimated cost of $635 billion (IOM, 2011).
CP can interrupt life, impeding the ability to work, exercise, have sex, engage in hobbies, or even go outside. It’s the number-one cause of long-term disability in the U.S. (NIH, 2011). As if this wasn’t bad enough, we now find ourselves in the midst of an opioid crisis—what the U.S. Department of Health calls “the most daunting and complex public health challenge of our time.”
One reason we find ourselves in this pickle is that pain has historically been framed as a “biomedical” problem, due exclusively to biological issues like tissue damage and anatomical dysfunction. It has, therefore, primarily been treated with biomedical solutions, like pills and procedures. However, CP is neither being cured nor solved, addiction rates are skyrocketing, and the prevalence of chronic pain is still on the rise (Nahin et al., 2019). While this does not mean we should rip pills from the hands of long-term pain sufferers—which is unethical at best and cruel at worst—something clearly needs to change.
Now for the good news (and not soon enough!): Thanks to recent advances in science and medicine, we now understand pain better than ever before. Research on pain management and treatment advances daily, and previous wrongs are being made right. There is hope.
To better understand pain, let’s first define it: the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience.” Said another way, pain is both physical and emotional 100 percent of the time. It’s never just one or the other. This is confirmed by neuroscience research indicating that pain is processed by multiple parts of the brain, including the limbic system—your brain’s emotion center (Martucci & Mackey, 2018).
“Physical” pain is also, and always, impacted by your emotions.
So why do we have pain? Answer: pain serves as the body’s danger response system, keeping us safe and alive by warning us of possible harm. Pain teaches us to avoid dangerous situations in the future and motivates us to take action in the present. Step on a nail? Pain galvanizes you to pull it out! Break your ankle on a run? Pain motivates you to stop, get help, and heal. And once you burn your hand on that hot stove, chances are high you’ll learn never to do it again.
You may reasonably believe that pain is located exclusively in your body, in the part that hurts. But while sensory information from the body is critical to pain processing, pain is actually constructed by the brain. Evidence of this is a condition called phantom limb pain, in which an accident victim loses a limb and continues to feel terrible pain in that missing body part. If pain were located exclusively in the body, no limb should mean no pain!
It’s also reasonable to believe that pain is due exclusively to body-based biological issues, as suggested by the biomedical model (e.g., “the issue is in the tissues”). However, what we now know—and have actually known for decades—is that pain is not biomedical, but rather biopsychosocial (Gatchel, 2004).
This means there are three overlapping, equally-important domains to target if we want to effectively treat CP: biology, psychology, and social functioning. The biological domain includes genetics, hormones, tissue damage, inflammation, anatomical issues, system dysfunction, even sleep and nutrition. This domain typically receives the most attention. But two-thirds of the model remain, and psychosocial factors, critical to address for effective treatment, are frequently ignored.
The psychological domain of pain includes thoughts and beliefs (e.g., “I’m broken; I’ll never get better”); prior experiences and expectations; emotions (e.g., anxiety, anger, depression), and coping behaviors (e.g., withdrawing, avoiding movement and activity). Social factors include socioeconomic status, access to care, family, friends, culture, community, context, and other socioenvironmental factors. Neuroscience research reveals that negative emotions, catastrophic thoughts, and unhealthy coping behaviors actually amplify pain, exacerbate symptoms, and keep you stuck in a cycle of fear, inactivity, misery, and pain. Said another way: stress, anxiety, depression, catastrophic thinking, negative predictions, focusing on pain, social withdrawal, lack of exercise, and activity avoidance all make pain worse.
On the flip side, however, this revelation offers some optimism: Research confirms that we can exert some control over pain by taking charge of emotions, thoughts, beliefs, attentional processes and coping behaviors using treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), biofeedback, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (Cherkin et al, 2016; Kerns et al, 2011; Nahin et al, 2016; Sturgeon, 2014). These interventions have a robust evidence-base that grows every day. Additionally, providing patients with pain education may reduce pain and disability, increasing understanding of pain while reducing fear of movement and activity-avoidance (Louw et al., 2013; Louw et al., 2016).
Biobehavioral interventions like these have been shown to change both brain and body, neuroscience and biology, showing potential to calm the pain system and increase functioning (Davidson et al., 2003; Flor, 2014; Petersen et al., 2014; Martucci & Mackey 2018). Indeed, psychosocial approaches to pain management are so promising that some pain programs, such as those at UCSF and Stanford, now incorporate them into their integrative pain management clinics. As a pain psychologist, I see the effectiveness of these therapies every day in my practice, as patients get out of bed and resume their important lives.
So if you’re coping with chronic pain, remember this: Changing your brain can change your pain. Addressing your emotional health directly impacts your physical health because brain and body are always connected. Consider hiring a therapist to be your “pain coach”—it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and it’s not all in your head. Try biobehavioral interventions like CBT, biofeedback, and mindfulness, and request that your insurance company reimburse these approaches to pain management in addition to pills and procedures.
Source: Psychology Today
People don’t generally connect diet with mental health, and it’s certainly not on the radar of most health professionals when treating depression. But as global rates of depression and other non-communicable diseases have risen, the average diet quality has changed drastically.
Recent studies have shown that not only are diet and depression related, but people with unhealthy diets are more likely to become depressed. (That’s even after controlling for factors like smoking, alcohol, physical activity, marital status, education, and income.) Conversely, healthy diets are protective.
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After years of exploring the effects of nutritional supplements on mental health as a researcher at the University of South Australia, I became frustrated. After all, people eat food, not nutrients. Food delivers a virtual orchestra of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which contribute to the symphony that is our living body and brain.
It’s no accident I say body and brain — they are intimately connected. Confirming Hippocrates’ observation circa 400 BC, scientists have identified multiple connections between the brain and the rest of your body. Most revealing are pathways between the brain and gut. This “gut-brain axis,” or the biochemical signaling between your gastrointestinal tract and nervous system, can affect everything from mood to libido. (And vice versa. Think of the queasy, fluttering feeling in your stomach before a speech or job interview.)
So what does the gut-brain axis tell us about depression? This debilitating condition afflicts over 300 million people and carries the largest burden of disease worldwide. Not the least of that burden is a higher rate of heart disease and other protracted ailments. Biological factors, like inflammation, poor nutrition, and dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria), are related to both physical illness and depression, so they might help explain this connection. But the best way to show cause and effect – to answer the question of whether diet improves mood, or if depression causes poor diet – is with a randomized controlled trial.
So in 2014 and 2015, my team recruited people with depression. We eventually signed up 152 people, ages of 18 to 65, with self-reported or diagnosed depression. These volunteers visited our clinic for blood tests and completed questionnaires about their diet and mental health. Then we randomly allocated them to a diet intervention or control group. To keep everything else constant, participants were instructed not to change any existing treatments or start any new ones.
Running this kind of study is no easy task, and our group was one of the first to do it in people with depression. In some clinical trials, it’s easy to design a controlled experiment: participants take an active supplement or placebo and everyone finds out afterward which one they took. But changing people’s diets is a different matter. First, we researched strategies that nudge people towards healthier eating. Then we tested the program. Our multi-pronged approach included interactive nutrition education, individual goal setting, food hampers, recipes and – yes – cooking workshops. Eat your heart out, MasterChef. My post-doc, Dorota Zarnowiecki, and I even made some cooking videos, bloopers and all. (Turns out, you can’t put an onion back together if you messed up while chopping it.)
Depressed people often feel better just by engaging in research or activities that generate peer support. So volunteers allocated to the control group not only continued their normal diets, they attended social groups instead of cooking workshops. In these they shared holiday tales, played games, amused themselves with personality tests, and enjoyed tea and snacks. Cooking workshops and social groups were held once a fortnight for three months. Our team was so wonderful that everyone enjoyed themselves – I even started worrying the social group was having too much fun.
Cook like a nonna
Married to an Italian whose parents cultivated their own produce and pressed home-grown olives into oil, I am partial to a Mediterranean diet. It turns out abundant research strongly supports this traditional diet’s health benefits for chronic disease, and its bountiful nutrients sustain healthy brain function. So this is what we recommended.
Over years of cooking for a family while studying and working, I had developed a portfolio of simple, quick, tasty Mediterranean-style meals that could be reheated as leftovers or frozen. Popular recipes included chili beans with avocado, eggplant parmigiana, and Greek lentil soup. They sound simple – and they are. One participant summed it up nicely: “I like the fact that you turn up to a cooking class and you’ve got half a dozen ingredients sitting on a bench, and you sort of look at them and go, ‘Oh, that’s not gonna add up to much.’ But then you cook it up and go, ‘Wow, that small number of ingredients cooked up to make such delicious food.’”
The recipes embodied Mediterranean diet principles: abundant plant foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olives, as well as generous dollops of extra virgin olive oil, fish, and moderate portions of dairy. Traditional Mediterraneans ate virtually no processed food like refined grains, sweets, or red meat. Because people with mental illness have particularly low omega-3 levels, we also supplemented the diet group with fish oil to boost their omega-3s.
One of the challenges we faced was that human studies are often plagued by drop-outs. Several people pulled out before they even got to baseline assessment — understandable if you suffer depression. Others left once they discovered their group allocation. (Many wanted to do the dietary intervention.) So we ended up testing 95 people after three months, and 85 after six months. Fortunately, clever statistical analyses enabled us to factor in all cases; in other words, to estimate the missing data for those who had left the program.
As suspected, the results showed all mental health parameters improved in both groups. But mood improved significantly more in the Mediterranean diet group: the severity of depressive symptoms was 45 percent lower in the diet group, compared to 26.8 percent in the social group. At the beginning of the study, 80 percent of all participants reported ‘extremely severe’ depression; this dropped by 60 percent overall. Some people made life changes and got new jobs. One participant went so far as to describe herself as “born again,” saying, “It’s really changed me – it’s changed my life.” She now uses her deep-fryer basket to blanch bulk vegetables.
Our budding chefs rejoiced in shunning low-fat diets and embracing extra virgin olive oil – and some even lost weight. Many reported a new-found love of legumes. But others found it hard; for instance, when going out, or if partners or children were reluctant to depart from old favorites. Our team reported that encouraging participants to plan ahead helped some of them mitigate these barriers.
How we can be confident these changes in diet played a role in the participants’ recovery? The diet group increased their Mediterranean diet score on a 14-item questionnaire, and reported eating more fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and greater diversity of fruit and vegetables. They also ate less red meat and unhealthy snacks. Better yet, improved diet and the correlated mental health changes were still apparent at six-month follow up assessments. Blood omega-3 levels increased in the treatment group, and were associated with some mental health outcomes, but surprisingly not with reduced depression.
This study was limited, since it wasn’t a double blind trial for obvious reasons (people were clearly assigned to groups that either cooked or just socialized). This could influence participants’ perceptions or reports of their diet and mental health. Future research would also benefit from measuring blood indicators of improved diet, like carotenoid – the pigments responsible for bright red, yellow, and orange hues in plants – as a proxy for increased fruit and vegetable consumption. It would also be useful to measure inflammatory markers, like C-reactive protein, interleukins, or tumor necrosis factor, to investigate physiological changes that could help explain enhanced mood. Longer term follow-ups would show if improved diet and mental health can be sustained.
This research and another recent pioneering study with similar findings tell us the benefits of wholesome diets extend beyond better physical health. My dream is for children to grow up enjoying real food. Imagine the difference it would make if health professionals embraced diet as an essential tool in their clinical kits: doctors could prescribe food vouchers and cooking workshops, or subsidize healthy food for people with chronic health issues, including depression. It may seem strange now, but research is catching up to common sense: eating well makes you feel better.
An international research team has discovered that reduced levels of serotonin in the blood may be linked to heightened somatic awareness, a condition where people experience physical discomforts for which there is no physiological explanation.
Symptoms of heightened somatic awareness may include headaches, sore joints, nausea, constipation or itchy skin. Patients are also twice as likely to develop chronic pain, as the condition is associated with illnesses such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and temporomandibular disorders. The illness tends to cause great emotional distress, particularly since patients are often told it’s “all in their head.”
“Think of the fairy tale of the princess and the pea,” said Dr. Samar Khoury, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University’s Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain.
“The princess in the story had extreme sensitivity where she could feel a small pea through a pile of 20 mattresses. This is a good analogy of how someone with heightened somatic awareness might feel; they have discomforts caused by a tiny pea that doctors can’t seem to find or see, but it’s very real.”
The study, recently published in the Annals of Neurology, found that patients who suffer from somatic symptoms share a common genetic variant. The mutation leads to the malfunctioning of an enzyme important for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter with numerous biological functions.
“I am very happy and proud that our work provides a molecular basis for heightened somatic symptoms,” said Dr. Luda Diatchenko, lead author of the new study and a professor in McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry.
“We believe that this work is very important to patients because we can now provide a biological explanation of their symptoms. It was often believed that there were psychological or psychiatric problems, that the problem was in that patient’s head, but our work shows that these patients have lower levels of serotonin in their blood.”
The findings have laid the groundwork for the development of animal models that could be used to better characterize the molecular pathways in heightened somatic awareness. But mostly, the researchers hope their work will pave the way for treatment options.
“The next step for us would be to see if we are able to target serotonin levels in order to alleviate these symptoms,” said Diatchenko, who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics.
As much as we tout the importance of practicing safe sun, we get it, sunburns happen. And while they're NEVER a good thing for your skin (your risk for developing melanoma doubles if you've experienced five or more sunburns, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation) there's no denying that they can range from mild to more severe.
Enter sun poisoning, which, while not a technical medical diagnosis, is a larger umbrella term that encompasses everything from super extreme sunburns to sun-induced rashes. Ahead, top derms weigh in on what you need to know about sun poisoning, how to recognize the symptoms of sun poisoning, and how to treat it.
Sun Poisoning Symptoms
Sun poisoning can actually make you feel sick.
"If a sunburn has left you with systemic symptoms—fever, nausea, fatigue—this can be an indication of sun poisoning," explains Chicago dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, M.D. Basically, if your sunburn symptoms are more than just skin-deep, you may have crossed over from sunburn to sun poisoning. (Oh, and on the skin note, large areas of blistering are another telltale sign. And to the previous point about skin cancer, it's also worth noting that even one of these types of blistering sunburns during childhood or adolescence nearly doubles your chance of developing melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.)
When you get sunburned, your body triggers an immune response to try and heal the skin, which is why you can end up feeling almost like you have the flu, adds New York City dermatologist Rita Linkner, M.D., of Spring Street Dermatology.
Sun poisoning can also show up as a rash.
Some people are just extremely sensitive to sun exposure and develop a rash; the technical term for this is polymorphous light eruption, explains Dr. Linkner. (While it's more common in lighter skin types, it can happen to anyone.) This manifests as bumpy red patches (that can also be itchy) that can show up anywhere on the body, though it usually happens in the early part of the summer after your skin is first exposed to sunlight, she adds.
"Many people confuse this kind of rash with a sunscreen allergy, but if you haven't used a new product, and you experience this year after year, it may simply be the sun that your skin is reacting to," says Dr. Linkner. While it's still best to attempt to limit your sun exposure as much as possible, this is less cause for alarm than a super extreme sunburn, since it's more so that your skin is 'adjusting' the sun again. (Related: 5 Weird Side Effects of Too Much Sun)
How to Treat Sun Poisoning
In the case of sun poisoning, the best offense is a good defense. In other words, protect your skin from the sun. (More on that in a minute.) But if the sun has already gotten the best for you, there are a few things you can do. If you're feeling sick, first and foremost, get yourself inside, stat (hopefully that goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway, just in case).
Cooling and soothing are the name of the game for treating your skin—think chilled aloe vera gel or even an over-the-counter steroid to help bring down some of the inflammation, says Dr. Carqueville. Dr. Linkner advises popping a baby aspirin, too; other pain-killers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help, but aspirin specifically turns off prostaglandins, the compounds responsible for making you feel sick, she says. Plus, it will alleviate some of the pain and can even tamp down some of the redness in your skin.
Above all, hydrate, both internally and externally. "A sunburn wreaks havoc on the skin barrier, allowing all of the moisture to escape, so you want to both use moisturizer and drink plenty of water," says Dr. Carqueville. (Related: The Best Moisturizers with SPF 30 or Higher)
If rashes are cropping up on your body, Dr. Linkner says the best thing to do is to pay a visit to your dermatologist. Not only will he or she be able to correctly diagnose you (i.e. make sure those bumps are in fact being caused by the sun and not something else), but the best fix for this is a prescription-strength cortisone cream. (Related: What's Causing Your Itchy Skin?)
All of this being said, if you have widespread blistering all over your body or are feeling seriously ill, get yourself to a doctor, ASAP.
How to Prevent Sun Poisoning
Here's a recap of some of the best sun-safe behaviors that will help you avoid all of the above. One, whenever possible, stay out of the sun during peak hours, namely 10 am to 4 pm. If you do have to go outdoors, hang in the shade, and protect yourself with a wide-brim hat, sunnies, and SPF clothing. (Related: How to Protect Your Skin From the Sun—Besides Wearing Sunscreen.)
And finally, the star of the show, SUNSCREEN. While daily application 365 days a year is paramount, now's the time to be extra diligent about your 'screen strategies; UVB rays, those responsible for burning your skin, are strongest during the summer. Opt for a broad-spectrum formula with at least an SPF 30 and reapply every two hours, especially when you're outdoors. (Related: The Best Face and Body Sunscreens for 2019)
Benji Jones: Wait, how zoomed-in are you? The internet is good for many things, but providing trusted advice on natural remedies is definitely not one of them, especially when it comes to apple cider vinegar. A quick Google search will show you that people use it for everything from cleaning their teeth to curing yeast infections. So if people on the internet are doing it, it's worth trying, right? Definitely wrong. Because not only is there little evidence to support most of the uses for apple cider vinegar, but some of them are straight-up bad for you. Apple cider vinegar is basically just fermented juice. Yeast turns the sugars in apple juice into alcohol, and bacteria then turns that alcohol into acetic acid, the chemical linked to most of cider vinegar's alleged benefits. But here's the thing: This process isn't unique to apple cider vinegar. In fact, acetic acid is in all types of vinegar, from white wine to balsamic. The main thing that makes cider vinegar different is that it might be easier to swallow than a straight-up swig of balsamic. And if you are so inclined to gulp it down, there's at least one benefit you can look forward to. Research shows that drinking cider vinegar after a meal may help lower your blood-sugar levels.
Edwin McDonald: So studies have demonstrated that when people eat a high-starch meal and follow it with a little bit of apple cider vinegar, the blood sugars after eating those meals may not go up as much compared to when you eat placebo.
Jones: That's doctor and trained chef Edwin McDonald. He says that ingesting as little as 20 grams of apple cider vinegar has been shown to slow the release of food from your stomach into your intestines. That's where your body breaks down starches like pasta into sugars, and as a result...
McDonald: You're not gonna absorb those sugars as quickly. So when you don't absorb sugars as quickly, your insulin levels really don't rise as much, and your blood sugar doesn't rise as much.
Jones: And that's great news for anyone who's diabetic or pre-diabetic. Now, despite what you read online, it probably won't help you lose weight.
McDonald: I also run a weight-management clinic, and this question comes up all the time.
Jones: But lowering your blood sugar after a meal is just about the only benefit of drinking apple cider vinegar. Research does suggest that acetic acid can slow down the accumulation of body fat and prevent metabolic disorders in mice and rats. But there's little evidence that it has the same effect on humans. In one weight-loss experiment, 30 volunteers drank two tablespoons of either apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar, or a placebo drink, twice a day, for two months straight, and none of them lost weight. In an older study with a similar design, participants did lose weight, but only about a third of a pound each week, which McDonald says isn't much. But if not for weight loss, what about using cider vinegar to whiten your teeth?
McDonald: I caution people against that.
Jones: That's because cider vinegar is an acid. In fact, most brands have a pH between 2 and 3, which is similar to stomach acid, so swishing it around in your mouth can over time wear down the enamel around your teeth, leaving them feeling rough to the touch and more susceptible to cavities and decay. Yikes. Then there are the people who use apple cider vinegar as a shampoo replacement. And as it turns out, there's actually a pretty good reason for that. Because cider vinegar is so acidic, Dr. McDonald says it can kill some of the microbes that make your hair stink, and it can also limit the population of a type of fungus that can lead to dandruff. But there's a flip side. Because cider vinegar is so acidic, it can also burn or irritate your scalp. So you should always dilute it with water. Oh, and despite what you read online, cider vinegar is not effective against head lice. In fact, one study found that among six home remedies that people use to eliminate lice, like olive oil and mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar is the least effective. None of them worked though. The claims of what apple cider vinegar can do don't stop there. Just keep in mind that at least for now, none of them is supported by a large body of scientific research. Now, of course, we're not talking about taste. When it comes to cooking, there's no uncertainty: Apple cider vinegar is delicious. I use it all the time when making dressing, pickles, and sauces. Yes, I cook. I just don't walk away from meals thinking I've just swallowed some ultimate cure-all.
Source Business Insider
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