The brain-boosting benefits of cacao, mental wellbeing and more of the latest health news
Age and weight loss
In a new study, researchers studied people attending an obesity service with the aim of losing weight. The subjects were divided into two groups, those aged under 60 and those aged between 60 and 78 years. All subjects were given dietary change advice, psychological support and physical activity programs. Those over 60 years participated for an average of 33.6 months while those under 60 took part for an average 41.5 months. The results showed that those aged over 60 reduced their body weight by 7.3 per cent on average compared to a 6.9 per cent average reduction for those under 60. These results are not statistically significant and led the researchers to conclude that age is no barrier to lifestyle management of obesity. They hope that the results dispel ageist notions about weight loss and encourage overweight older adults to lose unhealthy kilos. It is never too late.
Sources: Clinical Endocrinology
Ordinary mental health support
We know that exercise is good for your mental wellbeing, but in a new study researchers wanted to see whether ordinary daily activities like climbing the stairs or walking to the train station instead of driving would have a similar effect. Their studies showed that immediately after ordinary activities like stair climbing people felt more alert and energised, two components of mental wellbeing. Further research found that the brain part linking ordinary activity to mental wellbeing is a part known as the subgenual cingulate cortex, a part of the cerebral cortex. This is a brain region where emotions are regulated. People with less grey matter in the subgenual cingulate cortex felt less full of energy when they were physically inactive and more prone to psychiatric disorders. After ordinary activity those people felt even more filled with energy than those with larger grey matter volumes.
Source: Science Advances
Cacao boosts brain oxygen
Flavanols are antioxidant molecules found in many fruits and vegetables, and in cacao too. We know that flavanols benefit blood vessel function, and researchers wanted to see if flavanols from cocoa (made from cacao) would also enhance brain function. They tested subjects in two trials; one without taking any cocoa and another where they were given either a processed cocoa very low in flavanols or a cocoa enriched with flavanols. Results showed that after exposure to flavanol-rich cocoa there was improved oxygenation in the brain. Additionally, subjects did better on the most challenging cognitive tests after consuming high-flavanol cocoa, solving problems around 11 per cent more rapidly. Interestingly, there was no improvement in performance on easier tasks. So if you have a challenging mental test of some sort coming up, a high-flavanol cocoa product might be just what you need.
Source: Scientific Reports
Bacteria and irritable bowel
Globally between 5 and 10 per cent of the adult population have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation. In a new study, researchers sought to see if there is a link between the bacterial genus Brachyspira and IBS. Brachyspira is not usually present in the human microbiome and it cannot be found via faecal testing. For this study the researchers analysed bacterial proteins in mucus from biopsies taken from the intestine. They found that 31 per cent of IBS patients had Brachyspira in their gut and that it was even more common in those who had diarrhoea. This does not prove a link but it warrants further investigation. They also found that antibiotic treatment did not remove the Brachyspira. It is early days, but future research might look at using probiotics and different antibiotic approaches as IBS treatments.
Sleep is very important for heart health. Adults who sleep seven to eight hours, rise in the morning, don’t have frequent insomnia, don’t snore and aren’t excessively sleepy through the day have a 42 per cent lower risk of heart failure.