Friday, November 20, 2009

Diet 'more effective' than drugs in delaying diabetes

Compared to taking anti-diabetes drugs, adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise are more effective in staving off diabetes for a decade, a new study finds.

According to the study published in The Lancet, lifestyle changes resulting in small but long-term weight loss is twice as effective as drug treatment for preventing type 2 diabetes. Following a healthy diet combined with a half an hour of exercise five days a week reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Taking metformin -- a drug commonly used to treat diabetes, conversely, lowers the risk of the condition by nearly one-third. While lifestyle intervention postpones the onset of diabetes by four years, the delay time would be about two years in those taking medication.

The benefits of intensive lifestyle intervention were reported to be stronger among the elderly. "There seems to be no short cut, and a persistent and prolonged intensive lifestyle intervention seems to be the most effective way to travel on it," said Anoop Misra, a specialist in diabetes in New Delhi.

Despite the fact that lifestyle and metformin are both useful for delaying or preventing diabetes, scientists concluded that dieting is more effective than medication.

Diet sodas cause kidney problems: Study

While diet sodas are gaining more popularity among individuals worried about their calorie intake, a new study finds these drinks are linked to kidney problems.

According to the study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in San Diego, drinking two or more diet sodas per day doubles the risk of developing impaired kidney function.

A 30 percent drop was reported in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), an index determining the function of the kidneys, of women who drank two or more artificially sweetened sodas per day.

"Thirty percent is considered significant,'' said lead researcher Julie Lin, adding that natural aging is associated with only 1 mL per minute per year decline in GFR. Drinking less than two sodas a day, however, does not affect kidney function in these women.

Scientists added that high salt intake is also associated with a faster decline in kidney function.

Low cholesterol levels predict cancer

While many believe low levels of total cholesterol protects against heart attack and stroke, a new study finds it to be a warning sign for certain types of cancer.

According to the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, certain types of cancer may cause low total cholesterol levels, a combination of both the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the good high-density lipoprotein (HDL), in many individuals.

"Our study affirms that lower total cholesterol may be caused by undiagnosed cancer," said lead researcher Demetrius Albanes, stressing that high levels of good cholesterol have a protective role against all cancers, particularly among women.

Men with total cholesterol levels lower than 230 milligrams/deciliter were reported to be at an overall 18 percent higher risk of developing cancer - mainly invasive forms of prostate cancer. Scientists concluded that low total cholesterol is a sign of cancer rather than a cause.

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Dieting on processed food ups risk of depression

While eating a diet high in processed foods increases the risk of depression, following a diet rich in fruit and fish can keep the condition at bay.

Previous studies had found that adopting a Mediterranean diet helps lower the risk of developing depression. In today's world, however, individuals consume less nutritious and fresh products than saturated fats and sugars.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, eating processed foods filled with chemicals, refined grains and sugars, processed meats, and high-fat dairy products places an individual at a 58 percent higher risk of depression.

On the other hand, eating whole foods including fruits, vegetables and fish lowers the risk of depression by 26 percent. It also improves memory, mood, and overall health.

They added that the fact that depressed individuals are less likely to adopt a healthy diet strengthens the credibility of the findings of their study.

Muscle strength influences Alzheimer's risk

Compared to their weaker counterparts, seniors with strong muscles are less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a new study finds.

Previous studies had considered weight, educational level and the amount of physical activity as important factors influencing an individual's mental function.

According to the study published in the Annals of Neurology, greater muscular strength is associated with slower decline in mental abilities over time, indicating that a single mechanism in the body is responsible for both muscle weakness and memory loss.

Compared to arm and leg strength, the power of grip and breathing-muscles was found to have greater impact on mental ability. "These findings support the link between physical health and cognition in aging and the importance of maintaining good physical function and strength," said lead researcher Patricia Boyle.

Scientists therefore urged individuals to be physically active and to keep their muscle strong in order to tackle the debilitating Alzheimer's disease. PKH/HGH

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