Check up

    9 May 2015


    The hidden perils of dining out

    For many, eating out is associated with a treat. According to a new study, however, meals out are more likely to lead to health problems such as high blood pressure. According to the NHS, around 30 per cent of people in England have high blood pressure, but many don’t know it. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The study found an association between eating out and higher calorific intake compared to those who ate at home. They also tended to eat more fats and salt. It’s thought that restaurants and cafés are more likely to add fat or salt to their meals to make them taste appealing compared to when people prepare the meals themselves. People are also more likely to drink alcohol and eat pudding when eating out. All of these things are known to increase the risk of health problems and it is thought that when combined on a regular basis, they have a marked impact on health outcomes.

    Diabetes, depression and dementia

    A surprise finding published last month showed that people with type 2 diabetes who also had depression were significantly more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia as they got older, compared with the general population. The research was carried out by the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, where doctors analysed data relating to almost 2.5 million patients. It’s not clear exactly why there is this link, although it is known that poor mental health can have knock-on effects on other aspects of people’s lives, such as sleep and nutrition, and this might account for the association. Regardless of the underlying mechanism, it does provide further reason for those with depression to seek treatment for their low mood. Of the study sample, 3.9 per cent (95,691) had type 2 diabetes as well as depression, with these individuals 117 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with some form of dementia by the end of the investigation. The link was particularly strong for individuals younger than 65 years old. For more on mental health, read Patrick Strudwick’s article on page 36.

    Divorce could break your heart

    According to the Office for National Statistics, nearly half of all marriages are now estimated to end in divorce. Studies looking at the health implications of this shift in society have therefore become increasingly important. A large-scale study just published has further added to the medical literature suggesting that being married is good for people, but getting divorced is associated with poorer health outcomes. The study published in the journal Circulation showed that divorce had a marked impact on heart health. They analysed 15,827 adults aged 45 to 65 between 1992 and 2010, during which one in three divorced at least once. It was found that women were worst affected, with 24 per cent of those who divorced once more likely to have had a heart attack during the study than women who remained married. This figure rose to 77 per cent for women who had multiple divorces. Men with at least two divorces had a 30 per cent risk of having a heart attack.

    Eat organic fruit and sow your seeds

    Organic produce has, for many years, been championed as healthier than non-organic. Evidence supporting this, though, has been sorely lacking. However, new research has shown that men who consume fruit and vegetables that are high in pesticide residues are more likely to have lower sperm quality than those who eat fruit and vegetables with low pesticide residues. It was found that the participants who consumed more than 1.5 servings of the foods considered to be high in pesticide residue daily had a 49 per cent lower sperm count and 32 per cent fewer normal sperm than those who ate less than 0.5 servings of these fruits and vegetables each day. In addition, men who ate more low to moderate pesticide residue fruits and vegetables had a higher percentage of normal sperm than those who consumed less. As many of the pesticides are absorbed into the fruit or vegetables, simply washing the food doesn’t do much good, meaning that the best option is to buy organic. For more on what to eat, read Ian Marber on page 29. 

    Get your (organic) oats
    Get your (organic) oats 


    Paracetamol may add to liver risks

    Paracetamol has long been the GP’s go-to medication for aches and pains, including back pain and joint pain from osteoarthritis, but new research out last month has cast doubt on how effective paracetamol really is in relieving this pain. Around 26 million people are affected by back pain every year, making it the leading cause of disability in the UK. The report was undertaken by researchers from the University of Sydney and published in the British Medical Journal. The team reviewed 13 clinical trials and discovered that the drug does not improve quality of life or reduce disability. In fact, the group of Australian scientists warned that use of paracetamol increased a person’s risk of encountering liver problems. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which establishes best NHS practice, currently recommends paracetamol for lower back pain and for osteoarthritis. While experts recommend that patients consult their doctor before making any changes to their medicine regime, the NHS will now review its guidelines for this drug.

    Spoilt brats are bad for society

    One of the scourges of modern life is having to endure other people’s badly behaved children. Gone are the days when children were seen but not heard. At last, though, some satisfaction for those who are tired of biting their lip when confronted with spoilt brats. According to research conducted by Ohio State University in Columbus and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and published last month, parents who overvalue their children are contributing towards the likelihood of them being narcissistic in later life. It was found that children of parents who described them in the surveys as ‘more special than other children’ performed higher on tests of narcissism at follow-up. One of the researchers from the study explained: ‘People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others. Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society.’

    Don’t call me a narcissist!
    Don’t call me a narcissist!


    Take cat naps, it’s important

    At last, there is evidence that people who take cat naps are not lazy but actually looking after their health. It is known that a lack of sleep can lead to reduced productivity levels, and studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of developing health conditions such as obesity, depression, diabetes and high blood pressure. This prompted researchers to look into the relationship between taking short naps and hormone levels. The study showed that levels of norepinephrine, a hormone known to raise the body’s heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar, more than doubled in subjects who had not slept properly the previous night. This was in contrast to subjects who had taken two 30-minute naps during the day after a night of poor sleep. In these subjects, there was no rise in norepinephrine levels. This suggests that taking even a short nap during the day can counteract the negative health impact of a poor night. This is important for those who work night shifts as well as those who have difficulties sleeping.

    A healthy option
    A healthy option