Anorexia may be caused by bacterial infections

Scientists now suspect that anorexia nervosa, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome may all be connected with an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut. They speculate that the activities of certain bacteria may confuse the immune system and lead it to produce antibodies to the body’s nerve cells which can attack the brain, including the limbic system, which controls our emotional responses. This can affect our moods and, in the case of anorexia, perhaps lead to inappropriate feelings of fear and disgust associated with food and body image.

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Alzheimer’s linked to microbial activity, including herpes virus

A team of 31 scientists and clinicians from institutions all over the world are suggesting that microbes, particularly the herpes virus and chlamydia bacteria, are major cause of dementia. They are thought to prevent neurons from communicating with each other, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline. It is also suggested that these viral or bacterial infections trigger the build-up of plaque in the brain associated with the disease.

The team explain that viruses and bacteria can often lie dormant in the brains of elderly people, but they can become active after stress or if the immune system is compromised. It has been known for a long time that viral infections in the brain can cause symptoms very similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s.

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Fussy eating may signal depression in young children

A study by Dr Nancy Zucker (Duke Centre for Eating Disorders), published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children with highly selective eating habits were more than twice as likely as normal eaters to have a diagnosis of depression. “Moderate” pickiness was also linked with significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety in a study group of more than 3,000 children aged two to six.

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Junk food kills stomach bacteria which keep you healthy

This research by Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, shows that eating junk food kills stomach bacteria which protect against obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and autism.

Spector has found that diets with just a few highly processed ingredients are so toxic to these bacteria that hundreds of species can be wiped out in just a few meals. He believes that this explains, amongst other things, why some people put on weight and others do not, even though they eat a broadly similar balance of carbohydrate, protein, fat and sugar.

Spector says: “Fifteen thousand years ago our ancestors regularly ingested around 150 ingredients in a week. “Most people nowadays consume fewer than 20 separate food types and many, if not most, are artificially refined. “Most processed food products come, depressingly, from just four ingredients: corn, soy, wheat or meat”.

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Probiotics could help with hay fever symptoms

A large number of studies have shown that probiotics reduce the severity of hay fever. Scientists now suspect that a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut can lead to a variety of allergies. They think that if these bacteria are lacking, the immune system can be sent into overdrive by allergens such as pollen, dust mites and animal hair.

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Friendly bacteria may help reduce your stress levels

This study of 22 healthy men found that those who took a probiotic containing Bifidobacterium longum 1714 performed better in a visual memory task. Previously the same team had found that this strain reduced stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms and improved memory in mice. These findings suggest that a lack of beneficial gut bacteria could have a significant effect on human emotional and cognitive functioning.

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Superior sensory integration improves performance in music, sport and business

This study is the fourth in a series of studies which have been able to correlate brain activity with world-class performances in athletics, music and business management. It found that peak performance was associated with superior sensory integration, described as how economically and effectively the brain was able to work and how well the various parts of the brain were cooperating. The term used in physics for the level of cooperation and efficiency is ‘coherence’. Researchers also found differences in the number of alpha waves produced, reflecting mental alertness; a higher level of socio-moral reasoning; and an ability to associate top performances with particular subjective experiences.

The researchers concluded that peak performances are associated with uniquely high mind-brain development and the different aspects and parts of the brain worked together in a particularly well-integrated way. This enabled individuals to make maximum use of their inherent ability, regardless of the particular activity in which they excelled.

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Every individual emits personal microbial cloud as unique as their fingerprints

Dr James Meadow, University of Oregon found that it was possible to identify most of the occupants of a room just by sampling their unique ‘microbial cloud’ – the personalised combinations of microbes which they emit. An occupied space is microbially different from an unoccupied one and the different combinations of bacteria are key to identifying individuals. These findings are the result of two different studies and more than 14 million sequences representing thousands of different types of bacteria. They took 312 samples from air and dust in the experimental chamber.

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Humans can influence the emotions of others through the smell of their sweat

People communicate positive emotions like happiness through the smell of their sweat suggest researchers led by Gün Semin at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. They showed that we produce chemical compounds – chemosignals – that can be detected by other people in our environment.

“This suggests that somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness. In a way, happiness sweat is somewhat like smiling – it is infectious,” explains Gün.

This study builds on previous research that showed that negative emotions such as fear and disgust are communicated in this way. These signals would be expected to produce negative moods in others in that environment.

The researchers also found that women who were exposed to happy sweat showed a more global focus in perceptual processing tasks, confirming results from previous studies. This suggests that people might work more effectively when they are in a happy environment.

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Mum’s stress in pregnancy can lead to an uncoordinated child

This study found a clear correlation between mothers’ stress levels in late pregnancy and how well coordinated their children were at ages 10, 14 and 17. Mothers who had to deal with three or more stressful experiences had the least coordinated children. The study used data from nearly 3,000 children and results would be seen in how well the children could write, throw and run.

The tests they used included standing on one leg, hand strength, turning a nut and bolt, threading beads onto a rod and walking along a straight line. Coordination is related to the level of sensory integration a child has achieved and significant difficulties are associated with developmental disorders such as dyspraxia.

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How men can pass unhealthy lifestyle on to their children

This research suggests that the lifestyles of men are written into their sperm and produce heritable traits that can be passed on to their children. Lean and obese men were found to be passing on different epigenetic information, particularly at gene regions connected to the control of appetite. This might explain why obese men often have obese children. When the men lost weight as a result of gastric band surgery they found an average of 5,000 structural changes to the sperm cell DNA, indicating that positive lifestyle changes might improve the genetic inheritance passed on through the sperm. This is just one example of how a man’s lifestyle may positively or negatively affect the health and wellbeing of his offspring.

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Stress link to mild cognitive impairment

Highly stressed people are more than twice as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment as their less stressed peers according to this study. The research studied the connection between chronic stress and a condition known as “amnestic mild cognitive impairment” (aMCI), primarily seen as memory loss. Many people with this form of memory loss go on to develop Alzheimer’s in the following months or years.

“Fortunately, perceived stress is a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, making it a potential target for treatment.” said study first author, Mindy Katz, M.P.H., senior associate in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein.

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Effects of bullying are worse than abuse

This study found that being bullied as a child has more damaging consequences than being the victim of abuse or neglect. These children were five times more likely to experience anxiety and nearly twice as likely to report depression and self-harm at age 18 than children who were physically mistreated.

Victims of bullying were often found to turn to bullying themselves as they lacked the emotional regulation, or the support, required to cope with it. The long-term effects were said to be anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies. The victims were also over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly or develop a psychiatric disorder.

The study investigated the impact on all those affected; the victims, the bullies themselves, and those who fall into both categories; ‘bully-victims’. All of the groups were more than twice as likely to have difficulty in keeping a job, or commit to saving, and all showed signs of having difficulty forming social relationships, particularly long term friendships, or good ties with parents in adulthood.

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Being bullied as a child linked to depression

This study, led by Lucy Bowes from Oxford University, found that nearly one third of young adults who suffer depression were bullied frequently at school. The most common types of bullying were name calling and having belongings taken. Most victims never told a teacher or a parent unless the bullying involved a physical assault, such as being hit or beaten up. The research followed nearly 4,000 teenagers from the ages of 13 to 18. It suggests that the effects of bullying can last for many years and may never be fully overcome.

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Antibiotics cause weight gain in children

This study at the University of Helsinki suggests that the use of antibiotics in young children may alter the natural populations of gut microbes and leave them vulnerable to weight gain and asthma in later childhood. 236 children were studied with a median age of five and this research backs earlier research on mice. The change in composition of the microbiome was found to have a long-term impact on metabolism that persisted even when the population of gut microbes had returned to normal several weeks later.

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Bacteria in our gut can control our appetite

This study, led by Sergueï O. Fetissov, a professor from Rouen University in France, found that certain strains of gut bacteria, including a benign strain of E.Coli, were capable of sending signals to the brain letting it know when the stomach was full. Their findings suggest that bacteria may even be responsible for regulating the amount of nutrients people consume at meal times

Bacteria in the gut create a particular protein, ClpB, about 20 minutes after we eat and this triggers a hormone which tells the brain to stop eating. Fetissov’s team measured the levels of this protein before and after eating. They found that after eating the bacteria were producing more than twice the amount of the ClpB protein as they did before the stomach was full. This corresponded to the time when most people began to feel as though they had eaten enough food.

This study helps to explain the findings of other studies which indicate a link between imbalances in the microbial population in the gut and a difficulty with weight control.

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Late nights can lead to obesity

This 5 year study of more than 3,300 American teenagers led by Lauren Asarnow of the University of California indicated that every extra hour that teenagers stayed up during the school week added 2.1 points to the Body Mass Index (BMI). The figure was unaffected by exercise, screen time or the actual number of hours they slept. The study used data from 1994 – 2009.

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Using electronic devices at bedtime can harm sleep

This study, led by Dr. Mari Hysing at the regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare in Bergen, Norway, found that electronic devices of all kinds have a serious effect on sleep quantity and quality. Smartphones, PCs, tablet computers, games consoles, televisions and MP3 music players all produced problems

The study looked at 10,000 16 – 19- year-olds in Norway. Almost all said that they used one or more electronic devices before bedtime. The study found that those who used a computer in the hour before bedtime were nearly three times as likely to get less than five hours’ sleep. Using a mobile phone before bed nearly doubled the risk of having a poor night’s sleep.

The study also found that that the longer a teenager spent in front of a screen during the day, the worse quality sleep they were likely to have. Spending more than four hours a day in front of a screen was linked to a 49 per cent greater risk of taking longer than usual to get to sleep. On average, the teenagers said that they needed eight to nine hours of sleep to feel rested. Those who spent more than two hours online were more than three times as likely to sleep for less than five hours. Those who spent more than four hours in front of a screen were three and a half times were more likely to sleep for less than five hours.

Regular poor sleep raises the risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes and can even shorten life expectancy.

The bluish light that screens emit can prevent sleep because it mimics daylight and suppresses production of melatonin, which triggers sleep. Circadian rhythms in general would then be affected.

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TVs in bedrooms cause children to lose sleep

This study, run by the Harvard School of Public Health, indicated that children lose seven minutes of sleep for every hour of television they watch a day. They followed 18,000 children aged 6 months to nearly eight years. Children under eight who had a television in their room were less likely to get the right amount of sleep and lost an average of 30 minutes of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation is linked to poor performance at school and to depression, injury and obesity. Current NHS advice suggests that televisions should be kept out of bedrooms to encourage sleep.

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