Category Archives: Disease/Health

How Much Cancer Is Obesity Causing?

The debate rages on about whether or not obesity is really harmful. There are those who believe it’s just a function of society. Others see signs of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and of course joint damage due to the extra pressure placed on the joints. Unfortunately, while the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes or heart disease has been well established, it is now official that cancer is also walking hand in hand with it.

Researchers have been working on this for a while. They officially gathered thousands of samples in 2002 in 184 different countries. Then they looked at cancer rates in 2012. Those who has previously been measured with obesity had higher rates of colon, kidney, pancreatic, and postmenopausal cancers as it turned out.

But it’s worse than that. With something like colon or kidney cancer, most could easily see the connection. However, you might not see it initially. Researchers weren’t expecting to find 3.6% of new cases of cancer in 2012 (including skin cancer) being directly connected to cancer. According to researchers, it even explained why women had more cancer than men.

So how does all of this work? The exact connection varies between individuals according to researchers. Hormones seem to be a key part of obesity that can disrupt all of these different parts of your body into a state of cancer. George Wang, professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University and a researcher of obesity and cancer risk says, Using animal models, we believe it’s mostly relate to hormone changes with obesity. For example, for breast cancer, one of the pathways is related to hormones that are produced by fat tissue and can lead to cancer development.

According to Wang, there is one hormone meant to stimulate healthy cell growth called IGF-1. He reports, It’s what we call a survival hormone. In healthy people, it prevents apoptosis, or programmed cell death. The problem is, obese people’s level of IGF-1 may be twice that of a normal-weight person, allowing cells to proliferate too quickly. We believe that increases cancer risk.

So what about the growing obesity rates? If the average BMI had stayed the same as it was in 1982, experts estimated that we could have prevented 118,000 new cases of cancer in 2012 alone. There are of course other reasons why our cancer rates are as high as they are. Study co-author Nirmala Pandeya says, Other important risk factors for cancer, such as smoking, are declining, but we see the proportion of overweight and obese men and women still rising in most countries. If this trend continues we are likely to see an increasing number of people diagnosed with cancers that could have been avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.

It is critical to stop obesity now, not just because of the cancer risk of course, but because of all of the factors. However, this is just one more piece of evidence that has been added to the pot


What Your Personality Says About Your Health

Are you type A or type B? Funny or serious? A hard worker or work only to play? Your answers may tell you more about your health than ever before. Research has grown to link certain personality traits to mortality, disability, and general health. The problem is that most of the studies have focused on one personality trait at a time. So it’s hard to nail down larger patterns, and moreover, if health is a function of personality or vice versa.

Study author Josh Jackson of Washington University in St Louis explains, We didn’t know whether your personality affects your health, or if having a disease can change your personality or how you view yourself. Our research is one of the first studies that has looked at how personality traits are associated with the onset of new diseases over time.

The researchers were able to track almost 7,000 adults between 30 and their 90’s. They filled out questionnaires and reported any preexisting conditions like heart disease or cancer. Researchers weren’t looking for Type A vs Type B. They were looking at the Big 5 Personality traits. Jackson explains, The best way to characterize personality is not with types, but instead looking at a continuum – how much of this particular characteristic do you have. It is not either-or, it’s an amount, and you can have a lot of one trait and a very little of another.

Personality Traits Could Protect You From Disease

4 years after they started the study, they followed up to see who had reported new health conditions. Then they compared this to the data on the Big 5 personality traits.

Jackson found that two traits, conscientiousness and openness, serve as protective factors. Conscientious individuals are people who are reliable and able to control their impulses. Openness is best thought of as individuals who like to play with new ideas. Those who had either of these traits in high demand were less likely to have arthritis, strokes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.

This makes sense from a lifestyle perspective. Those who are conscientious are more likely to eat healthy foods, exercise, and use fewer drugs and alcohol. They are also more likely to do things like wearing their seat belts according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Unfortunately, researchers are not as sure why openness correlates with lower risk of disease. Individuals who are high in openness tend to like to do activities that are cognitively challenging, such as reading books and doing crossword puzzles, and there’s been some research that this is good for your health. This may help you brain wise, but how does that help you to avoid disease?

Neuroticism on the other hand was associated with chronic stress and poor health. This can weaken the immune system, and it can make wounds harder to heal and cause strokes even.

Obviously, you’re not going to completely change your personality. However, you can look at some of the habits of conscientious and open people and adopt them. Things like eating healthy and exercising for example can be adopted by anyone. You can train yourself. However, if you suffer neuroticism, you may need more help toning it down.

Scientists Have Designed Stem Cells To Kill Cancer

Another cancer breakthrough: scientists have developed a new method of stem cells that will target and kill cancer. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute have tested this method on mice, and they have published their initial findings in the journal Stem Cells. The new stem cells will secrete a toxin that effectively kills cancer cells. They were also able to remove brain cells from mice without any damage to the healthy cells.

Lead author Khalid Shah described his research saying, Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumors because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short half-life. Now we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs.

In short, doctors would ideally be able to target cancer cells rather than radiation, which doesn’t discriminate. They would leave healthy cells unharmed, allowing them to come back and replace cancer cells or fight them off more effectively.

The researchers started with mice with brain cancer, surgically removing their tumors. They then extracted the genetically engineered stem cells and put them in place of the old tumor in a gel. Their biggest concern at that time was that the gel might kill healthy brain cells as well, and they were successful in getting around this issue.

Next, Shah plans to target other types of cancer, and of course to test his theories and treatments on human subjects. He believes that we can now cure brain cancer, but there will be plenty of work ahead to perfect and apply this to other types of cancer. It’s still amazing news.

Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London said, This is a clever study, which signals the beginning of the next wave of therapies. Cells can do so much. This is the way the future is going to be.

Decaf Coffee Has Health Benefits Too

More than half of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day, and usually, it’s caffeinated. After all, that’s the whole point of drinking coffee, to get that nice little caffeine boost. However, science has made it a point to show us more about coffee, benefits like staving off Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. We talk about all of the nice little antioxidants in coffee, but up until now, all of the focus has been on caffeinated coffee.

Lead researcher Dr Qian Xiao says, Prior research found that drinking coffee may have a possible protective effect on the liver. However, the evidence wasn’t clear if that benefit may extend to decaffeinated coffee. So we kept asking ourselves, was it the caffeine or some other part of the coffee that was protecting a healthy liver?

Xiao published his study with other researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Hepatology, and they found that people who drank more coffee, even decaf, had lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes. In other words, it’s something else in coffee that has liver protective benefits.

The liver in turn is the largest organ in the body, outside the skin of course, and it aids in digestion, energy storage, and the removal of toxins from the body. When the liver is damaged or not functioning properly, it leaks certain chemicals into the bloodstream. Things like excessive alcohol consumption and obesity can contribute to elevated liver enzymes, as can higher doses of over the counter or prescription medications.

The researchers were able to gather 27,793 people 20 years old or older, and they monitored them over 24 hours. They specifically looked for certain markers of liver health and function like alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).

People who were drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of all three of these major liver enzymes compared to those who did not drink coffee at all. These same results showed up in those drinking decaf. Xiao says, These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health. Further studies are needed to identify these components.

You Can’t Get Too Many Bananas

You can’t get too many bananas, and maybe they should start saying a banana a day can keep the doctor away. Last time I really doubled down on my bananas was after a larger tattoo. Potassium leaks out, and the heart palpitations can be pretty scary. Bananas take care of you in that regard. But even if you’re not getting a tattoo or otherwise doing something where you need more potassium, bananas have a ton of different nutrients.

If you are a woman over the age of 50, bananas have recently been shown to potentially reduce your risk of stroke in association with your ability to take in more potassium. Researchers tested women, and they found that those eating a high potassium diet were 12% less likely to suffer from a stroke. Moreover, these same women were 16% less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke. Those eating a high potassium diet were also less likely to die in general than those who did not eat as much potassium.

Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, lead researcher and investigator at the Women’s Health Initiative of Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York says, Potassium has long been associated with lower blood pressure. We think it goes above and beyond that, to a cellular level. Potassium is used in cellular function, and could be positively affecting the cells that line blood vessels.

Wassertheil-Smoller did not expect that the relationship between potassium and stroke prevention was actually highest among women who did not have hypertension. She says, That was surprising and really interesting. So we think it’s good to up your potassium intake before hypertension has a chance to develop.

According to the research, they have not found the same type of connection between greater potassium intake and stroke in men. Researcher Wassertheil-Smoller says, We think it does apply to men, as, in general and on average, men eat more potassium than women because they tend to consume more calories.

Researchers took the data from 90,137 postmenopausal women between ages 50 and 79 for an average of 11 years. They consumed an average of 2,611mg of potassium daily, which is significantly below the USDA’s recommendation of 4,700mg per day. Wassertheil-Smoller suggests more than that saying, We would say at least stick to the WHO recommendation-which equals 12 bananas a day. You don’t have to just eat bananas. A serving of spinach is probably twice that of a banana. Potassium is sort of everywhere, you just have to read labels to make sure.

Is It “Aging” Or Is It Diabetes?

You hear about the people who just got more and more tired as they got older, and then you hear about those who are lively, upbeat, keep walking and gardening, and some even become bodybuilders later in life. Yes, your body does break down as you age, but that doesn’t mean that these are necessary or typical ways of aging. Some typical signs of aging are actually typical signs of diabetes.

With over 8 million Americans unaware that they are suffering from diabetes as estimated by the American Diabetes Association, those who are 45 years old or older are at the highest risk. Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, registered dietitian and diabetes explains, A lot of people have prediabetes or diabetes for quite some time before it gets diagnosed……you could feel perfectly fine and have diabetes. This is especially true if you’re discounting things as just normal signs of aging. You should watch out for:

Hearing Loss or Blurred Vision

Some people will start to lose their hearing and sight gradually with age, but there are also cases where it’s not age. You don’t have to suffer through it. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that those with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss than those who do not have diabetes.

Part of what diabetes does is it damages blood vessels and nerves, and this includes those in the ears and eyes. Dobbins tells us, When the blood sugar is higher than what’s normal, that damages your circulation. This could lead to problems with hearing and sight loss.

Low Energy and Irritability

Older people have less energy, but at the same point, you see some senior citizens who are still quite active. This isn’t unexplained. Type 2 diabetes can explain exhaustion and the irritability that often comes with it. Dobbins says, Our body needs fuel in order to function. The body prefers glucose, and so when we don’t have enough of that – – it’s staying in our circulation and it’s not getting into the cells where it’s needed – then we are going to feel tired, hungry, and low energy, because that fuel pathway isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. In short, the calories you get from food aren’t being processed into energy, and the glucose just goes out with your urine.

Frequent Urination and Extreme Thirst

Some people urinate more as they age, and it could be because of diabetes. For those with diabetes, sugar can’t get into the body, instead going out with the urine.

The only way to get the sugar out of the body is to flush it in the urine, and that dehydrates you and makes you really thirsty. Naturally, if you’re more thirsty, diabetics will try to drink more orange juice, milk, soda, and other sugary drinks, which perpetuates the problem.

Unexplained Weight Loss

I have seen some elderly people who lose fat and muscle as they age. In some cases though, it might be diabetes. Dobbins notes, But any sort of unexplained weight loss – – if somebody is not trying to lose weight – – really needs to be looked at. You can’t just brush aside unexplained weight loss, even if it’s not diabetes.

There are other symptoms you might notice with diabetes such as tinglin and numbness for example. It’s a complicated disease. As you age though, it is essential not to simply write these types of potentially serious symptoms off.

Symptoms of High Cholesterol

Unfortunately, there are no official symptoms of high cholesterol. You won’t get a fever, a headache, cold or flu symptoms, suddenly start bleeding, or anything else that would alert you that you need to go into your doctor right now, at least not until it may already be too late.

You can undergo regular preventative testing, and it’s generally easy and relatively painless. High cholesterol leads up to coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and other similar issues, even leading to death with chest pain, dizziness, and/or shortness of breath. But it’s all about prevention and testing regularly.

There are good and bad cholesterol levels, and if your doctor is checking, they can test for both. They can tell you if your levels are high enough in good cholesterol and low enough in bad. They can even tell you if you have too low of cholesterol in general.

Diet and DNA are the two major factors that play into it. Regardless of the reasons behind your high cholesterol though, if left unchecked, it could get serious.

Cholesterol is essential to the body ironically, while causing potential harm. But the best person to tell you about your cholesterol and its impact is your doctor.