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Body clock may have effect on sporting peak performance

"Our internal body clock has such a dramatic impact on sporting ability that it could alter the chances of Olympic gold," BBC News reports. This headline comes from a study of 20 female athletes, which showed their peak performance on a fitness test was strongly linked to what are described as "circadian phenotypes". These phenotypes were assessed using a questionnaire that looked at issue

Child obesity rates are 'stabilising'

"The rise in childhood obesity … may be beginning to level off," BBC News reports. Researchers examined trends in child and adolescent rates of overweight and obesity using electronic GP records from 1994 to 2013. The data shows there was a significant increase in child and adolescent overweight and obesity rates every year during the first decade from 1994 to 2003. Overall, annual rates did

Thousands of UK women could benefit from 'three-person' IVF

"Thousands of women could benefit from 'three-parent' baby technique," The Independent reports. A modelling study estimated the technique, which is currently illegal, could be used for thousands of women with genes linked to serious mitochondrial DNA diseases.The news is especially topical as it was announced today that parliament is set to vote in February about whether to make the technique

A third of over-70s report 'frequent sexual activity'

“A third of pensioners have sex at least twice a month,” the Daily Mail reports. A new UK study reinforces the point that sex doesn’t automatically stop once a person gets their free bus pass. The study looked at sexual activity and sexual health among more than 6,000 men and women aged 50 to 90. It showed that a sizeable minority of older people – including those over the age of 80 – continu

Sugary soft drinks linked to earlier periods in girls

“Sugary drinks may cause menstruation to start earlier, study suggests,” reports The Guardian, reporting on a US study looking at the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in teenage girls. This study included over 5,000 girls. It first assessed them when they were aged 9-14 years, asking them whether they had started their periods and assessing their consumption of SSBs. The girls

Gift vouchers can help pregnant smokers quit

"Offering shopping vouchers worth a total of £400 to pregnant smokers makes them more likely to quit the habit, say researchers," BBC News reports. The study, conducted in Glasgow, involved 612 pregnant women referred to pregnancy stop smoking services. The women were randomised to receive standard stop smoking care alone (control), or standard care in addition to up to £400 in vouchers if th

Female lung cancer deaths 'may outstrip breast cancer' in 2015

The Mail Online states: “Lung cancer death rates among European women set to overtake breast cancer for first time this year,” adding that “researchers blame high levels of smoking, especially in Britain and Poland”.The study used historical information on deaths from cancer (1970 to 2009) for the EU, to predict the number of deaths in 2015. It also did this for some individual countries, inc

Media dementia scare over hay fever and sleep drugs

"Hay fever tablets raise risk of Alzheimer's," is the main front page news in the Daily Mirror. The Guardian mentions popular brand names such as Nytol, Benadryl, Ditropan and Piriton among the pills studied.But before you clear out your bathroom medicine cabinet, you might want to consider the facts behind the (somewhat misleading) headlines.The first thing to realise is although some of

People with autism have 'unique' brain patterns

"The brains of people diagnosed with autism are 'uniquely synchronised'," the Mail Online reports. Researchers used brain scans to study the brain activity of people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and found distinct and differing patterns of connectivity in adults with high-functioning ASD compared with adults who do not have the condition. This headline is based on

Brown fat may protect against diabetes and obesity

"Fat can protect you against obesity and diabetes," the Mail Online reports. However, the small study it reports on was looking at brown fat, which is only found in small amounts in adults. In humans, brown fat is mostly found in newborns, who are more prone to heat loss and are unable to shiver to help keep themselves warm. Brown fat compensates by burning calories to create heat. As we grow

Statin use may be widening health inequalities in England

“Mass prescription of statins ‘will widen social inequalities’," The Independent reports. The headline is based on a new study looking at deaths from coronary heart disease in England from the years 2000 to 2007. The good news is that overall deaths from heart disease were estimated to be down by a third (34.2%) during the time period. The bad news, at least for those concerned about he

Angry Twitter communities linked to heart deaths

"Angry tweeting 'could increase your risk of heart disease','' is the poorly reported headline in The Daily Telegraph. The study it reports on found there is a link between angry tweets and levels of heart disease deaths.Researchers were interested in investigating how various forms of negative psychological stress are linked to heart disease. They looked at how angry tweets, at a community l

New heart attack test shows promise for women

"Doctors could spot twice as many heart attacks in women by using a newer, more sensitive blood test," BBC News reports. In women, for reasons that are unclear, a heart attack often doesn't trigger the symptom most people associate with the condition: severe chest pain, memorably described as like having an elephant sitting on your chest. This can lead to delays in diagnosis, which may impact

Claims that 'men worsen labour pains' are unproven

"It’s official: men really shouldn’t be at the birth,” is the bizarre headline in The Times, as it reports on a pain study on women who were not even pregnant, let alone giving birth. Researchers wanted to explore whether a woman’s “attachment style” (whether they sought or avoided emotional intimacy) had any influence on whether it was beneficial to have their partners present while having p

Nordic IVF outcomes improving - is the same true for the UK?

"The health of artificially conceived children has steadily improved in the last 20 years," The Guardian reports. Researchers who analysed data from Nordic countries described the decline in premature and stillbirths as "remarkable". This was the main finding of a large cohort study comparing the health of babies born using assisted reproduction technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilisatio

'Social jet lag' linked to obesity and 'unhealthy' metabolism

"Social jet lag is driving obesity" is the misleading headline in The Daily Telegraph. A new study only found a link between "social jet leg", obesity, and metabolic markers that may indicate a person has an increased risk of obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. A cause and effect relationship was not found.Social jet lag is the term used to describe the difference in someone's

Becoming healthier may motivate your partner to join in

“Fitness 'rubs off on your partner’,'' BBC News reports. This headline is based on a study of more than 3,000 married couples aged 50 and over in the UK, where at least one of the partners smoked, was inactive, or was overweight or obese at the start of the study. It followed them up and looked at their and their partner’s behaviours over time. It found that a person was more likely to cha

Does moderate drinking reduce heart failure risk?

"Seven alcoholic drinks a week can help to prevent heart disease," the Daily Mirror reports. A US study suggests alcohol consumption up to this level may have a protective effect against heart failure.This large US study followed more than 14,000 adults aged 45 and older for 24 years. It found those who drank up to 12 UK units (7 standard US "drinks") per week at the start of the study had a

Shell shock remains 'unsolved'

The Mail Online tells us shell shock has been "solved" after scientists claimed they have pinpointed the brain injury that causes pain, anxiety and breakdowns in soldiers.The Mail's claim is prompted by a study that carried out autopsies on five military veterans who had a history of blast exposure to see what type of brain damage this might have caused.Four out of five of these people sho

Could 'DNA editing' lead to designer babies?

"Rapid progress in genetics is making 'designer babies' more likely and society needs to be prepared," BBC News reports. The headline is prompted by advances in “DNA editing”, which may eventually lead to genetically modified babies (though that is a very big “may”). The research in question involved the technique of intacytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a mouse sperm cell was inje

Study finds care home residents 'more likely' to be dehydrated

"Care home residents five times more likely to be left thirsty," The Independent reports after an analysis of some London hospital admission records found people admitted from care homes were five times more likely to be dehydrated than people coming from their own homes. Equally serious was the discovery that dehydration at admission was associated with a higher risk of dying while in hospit

Wearing killer high heels could lead to osteoarthritis, study warns

"Killer heels could lead to osteoarthritis in knees," The Daily Telegraph reports. An analysis of the walking patterns (gait) of 14 women found evidence that walking in high heels puts the knees under additional strain. Over time, this may potentially lead to osteoarthritis: so-called wear and tear arthritis, where damage to a joint causes stiffness and pain.The main finding was that wearing

Inactivity 'twice as deadly' as obesity

“Lack of exercise is twice as deadly as obesity,” The Daily Telegraph reports. The headline is prompted by a Europe-wide study on obesity, exercise and health outcomes.Researchers wanted to see how many deaths could theoretically be avoided if inactive people became more active, compared to how many would be avoided if obese people lost weight.Researchers calculated that if activity levels

'Hibernation protein' could help repair dementia damage

"Neurodegenerative diseases have been halted by harnessing the regenerative power of hibernation," BBC News reports. Researchers have identified a protein used by animals coming out of hibernation that can help rebuild damaged brain connections – in mice.Research found the cooling that occurs in hibernation reduces the number of nerve connections in the brain, but these regrow when an animal

How therapy and exercise 'may help some with CFS'

"Chronic fatigue syndrome patients' fear of exercise can hinder treatment," The Guardian reports. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term condition that causes persistent and debilitating fatigue. We do not know what causes the condition and there is no cure, though many people improve over time. Treatments for CFS aim to reduce symptoms, but some people find certain treatments help,

Under-80 cancer deaths 'eliminated by 2050' claim

“Cancer deaths will be eliminated for all under 80 by 2050,” The Independent reports. This is the optimistic prediction contained in a paper written by specialists in pharmacy from University College London (UCL). The paper is an opinion piece (PDF, 2.1Mb) that points out that deaths from the most common cancers have fallen by nearly a third in the last two decades. This is due to factors suc

Napping 'key' to babies' memory and learning

"The key to learning and memory in early life is a lengthy nap, say scientists," BBC News reports.The scientists were interested in babies' abilities to remember activities and events.They carried out a study involving 216 babies, who took part in trials to see whether napping affected their memory for a new activity. The babies first watched the researchers taking a mitten off a hand p

Could brain protein help people 'sleep off' the flu?

"Scientists…believe that a nasal spray could be produced which boosts a protein so sufferers could sleep off the flu," The Daily Telegraph reports. As yet, the research has been confined to assessing the role of one protein – in mice.The paper reports on complex research in mice on a protein called AcPb, which researchers thought could be playing a role in regulating normal sleep and the

Blood test may tell you the 'best' way to quit smoking

“A blood test could help people choose a stop-smoking strategy that would give them the best chance of quitting,” BBC News reports. The test measures how quickly an individual breaks down nicotine inside their body, which is known as the nicotine-metabolite ratio (NMR).Researchers wanted to see whether people with “normal” and “slow” NMR responded differently to stop smoking treatments, and i

Does contraceptive jab make HIV more likely?

"Contraceptive injections moderately increase a woman's risk of becoming infected with HIV," The Guardian reports. The headline was prompted by an analysis of 12 studies that looked at whether the use of hormonal contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill, increases the risk of contracting HIV. All of the studies involved were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa in low- and middle-inco


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