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Air pollution cuts growth of working memory in kids




London, Oct 8: Exposure to air pollution on the way to school can have damaging effects on growth of children’s working memory, suggests new research.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, found an association between a reduction in working memory and exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — fine inhalable particles that have diameters of 2.5 micrometres or less — and black carbon — a pollutant directly related to traffic — during the walking commute to and from school.

The findings of an earlier study had shown that 20 per cent of a child’s daily dose of black carbon is inhaled during urban commutes.

“The results of earlier toxicological and experimental studies have shown that these short exposures to very high concentrations of pollutants can have a disproportionately high impact on health” said first author of the study Mar Alvarez-Pedrerol, researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain.

“The detrimental effects may be particularly marked in children because of their smaller lung capacity and higher respiratory rate,” she added.

The study was carried out in Barcelona and enrolled over 1,200 children aged from 7 to 10, from 39 schools, all of whom walked to school on a daily basis.

The children’s working memory and attention capacity was assessed several times during the 12-month study.

Their exposure to air pollution over the same period was calculated on the basis of estimated levels on the shortest walking route to their school.

Statistical analysis of the findings revealed that exposure to PM2.5 and black carbon was associated with a reduction in the growth of working memory.

An interquartile range increase in PM 2.5 and black carbon levels was associated with a decline of 4.6 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively, in expected annual growth of working memory, the study said.

The interquartile range (IQR) is a measure of variability based on dividing a data set into quartiles.

“The fact that children who walk to school may be more exposed to pollution does not mean that children who commute by car or on public transport are not also exposed to high levels,” said Jordi Sunyer, head of ISGlobal’s Child Health Programme. and co-author of the study.

“The solution is the same for everyone: reduce the use of private vehicles for the school run and create less polluted and safer home-to-school routes,” Alvarez-Pedrerol said.


Anxiety, depression can trigger smartphone addiction




London, March 22: People who are less emotionally stable and suffer from anxiety and depression are more likely to be addicted to their smartphones, according to a research.

Emotional stability is characterised by being emotionally resilient. The study found that being less emotionally stable was associated with problematic smartphone behaviour.

People who struggle with their mental health are more likely to intensively use their smartphone as a form of therapy and that the less conscientious individuals are, the more likely they are to be addicted to their phones.

As levels of anxiety increase, problematic smartphone use also increases, the findings showed.

“Problematic smartphone use is more complex than previously thought and our research has highlighted the interplay of various psychological factors in the study of smartphone use,” Zaheer Hussain, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby in Britain, said in a statement.

“This is because people may be experiencing problems in their lives such as stress, anxiety, depression, family problems, so in that state they are emotionally unstable, meaning they may seek respite in very excessive smartphone use. This is worrying,” Hussain said.

For the study, a team of psychologists conducted an online study with 640 smartphone users, aged between 13-69 years, to find out the association between smartphone use and personality traits.

The results showed that people who are “closed off” or less open with their emotions are more likely to have problems with smartphone use.

“They may be engaging in passive social network use, where you spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, browsing other peoples’ comments, pictures, and posts, and not posting anything of your own and not engaging in discussion with others, so there is no real positive social interaction while social networking,” Hussain noted.


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High meat intake may up liver disease risk




New York, March 21: Meat lovers please take note. Increased consumption of red or processed meat may increase the risk of developing the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), researchers have found.

“NAFLD is considered as the hepatic component of the metabolic syndrome, with insulin resistance and inflammation as key factors in its pathophysiology,” said lead author Shira Zelber-Sagi, Professor at the University of Haifa in Israel.

Researchers noted that high meat eaters were slightly younger, mainly male, had a higher body mass index (BMI), caloric intake and a worse metabolic profile.

In addition, individuals who consumed large quantities of meat cooked using unhealthy methods including, frying or grilling, had increased levels of high heterocyclic amines (HCAs) — pro-inflammatory compounds found in burned meat — and therefore developed insulin resistance.

People who are already diagnosed with NAFLD had similar consequences, along with an increased chance of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and chronic heart diseases, researchers mentioned in the study, published in the Journal of Hepatology.

“Unhealthy Western lifestyle plays a major role in the development and progression of NAFLD, namely, lack of physical activity and high consumption of fructose and saturated fat,” Zelber-Sagi said.

“Our study looked at other common foods in the Western diet, namely red and processed meats, to determine whether they increase the risk for NAFLD,” she added.

In order to test the association of type of meat and cooking method with NAFLD and insulin resistance, the team included 357 participants, between 40 and 70 years of age.

NAFLD and insulin resistance were evaluated by ultrasonography and homeostasis model assessment (HOMA). Meat-type and cooking method were measured by food frequency and detailed meat consumption questionnaires.

Results showed that NAFLD was diagnosed in 38.7 per cent of participants and insulin resistance in 30.5 per cent.


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Lap-band surgery may lower chronic knee pain



chronic knee pain

New York, March 20: Obese people who have a band surgically strapped around their stomach to restrict food intake not only lose weight but will also suffer less from arthritic knee pain, a new study suggests.

According to researchers, the pain proceeds from the deterioration and related inflammation in knee joints caused in part by the extra weight they bear.

While the pain relief seen with lap-band surgery applied to all patients with osteoarthritic knees, researchers found that it was most helpful in the young men and women who lost the most weight.

“Our study shows that extremely obese people seeking relief from their knee pain should consider lap-band surgery earlier because the benefits from it being successful — although significant for all ages — decrease with age,” said co-author Jonathan Samuels, Associate Professor at NYU School of Medicine.

For the study, published in the journal Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, researchers examined 120 patients who underwent lap-band surgery between 2002 and 2015.

All were surveyed for what they remembered about their knee pain immediately before surgery, a year after their procedure, and for as long as 14 years later.

The main purpose of the survey was to find out why some extremely obese people showed more knee pain relief from lap-band surgery than others.

According to the survey results, men and women in their 40s experienced post-surgical knee pain reductions after one year of between 50 and 60 percent; while those in their 50s, one year later, had pain reductions between 30 and 40 percent; and those in their 60s, had reductions between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Pain relief persisted for a decade in all patients monitored.

People with BMIs in the upper 40s were just as likely to report decreased knee pain as people with BMIs in the lower 40s if they lost proportionally the same amount of total body weight.


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