Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

Autism & Gut Bacteria

Children with autism appear to have a characteristic chemical signature in their urine which might form the basis of an early diagnostic test for the condition.

The finding also adds weight the hypothesis that substances released by gut bacteria are contributing to the onset of the condition.

Autism has previously been linked to metabolic abnormalities and gastrointestinal problems such as gut pain and diarrhoea. Several studies have also hinted at changes in gut bacteria in the faeces of children with autism.

To investigate whether signs of these metabolic changes might be detectable in children’s urine, Jeremy Nicholson and colleagues at Imperial College London investigated 39 children with autism, 28 of their non-autistic siblings and 34 unrelated children. Continue reading Autism & Gut Bacteria

Eating Cherries can help with Gout

Eating cherries can reduce the risk of gout attacks, a study has suggested.

US researchers found patients with gout who ate cherries over a two-day period had a 35% lower risk of attacks compared to those who did not.

The study in Arthritis & Rheumatism said cherries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants which contain anti-inflammatory properties.

UK experts said the research offered “good evidence” of the benefits of eating cherries for people with gout.

Gout is a common type of Arthritis that can cause sudden and very severe attacks of pain and swelling in the joints, particularly in the feet.

It is caused by too much uric acid in the bloodstream, which causes urate crystals to start to form in and around the joints and under the skin. Continue reading Eating Cherries can help with Gout

Gene flaw linked to Low Back Pain

Scientists have identified a gene flaw linked to disc problems that are a common cause of lower back pain.

The UK study, published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, looked at 4,600 people and found the PARK2 gene was linked to age-related disc problems.

A third of middle-aged women have problems with at least one spinal disc – and the condition is known to be inherited in up to 80% of patients.

Experts said finding the gene could lead to new treatments being developed.

Back pain costs the UK about £7bn a year in sickness leave and treatment costs, but the causes of the condition are not fully understood.

In lumbar disc degeneration (LDD), discs become dehydrated and lose height, and the vertebrae next to them develop bony growths called osteophytes, leading to lower back pain.

The King’s College London researchers carried out MRI scans of all those in the study and looked at differences in their genetic make-up. Continue reading Gene flaw linked to Low Back Pain

Medication overuse Headaches

Up to a million people in the UK have completely preventable  severe Headaches caused by taking too many painkillers, doctors have said.

They said some were trapped in a “vicious cycle” of taking pain relief, which then caused even more headaches.

The warning came as part of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) first guidelines for treating headaches.

NICE is also recommending Acupuncture in some circumstances.

This can end up getting into a vicious cycle where your headache gets worse, so you take more painkillers, so your headache gets worse and this just becomes worse and worse and worse”

Medication overuse headaches” feel the same as other common headaches or migraines.

There is no definitive UK data on the incidence of the condition, but studies in other countries suggest 1-2% of people are affected, while the World Health Organisation says figures closer to 5% have been reported.

While painkillers would be many people’s instant response, they could be making sufferers feel even worse. Continue reading Medication overuse Headaches

Fish Oils help stop muscle atrophy in the Elderly

Moderate exercise, and a regular intake of oily fish fatty acids, keeps elderly immobility at bay, a study suggests.

Findings of a recent trial show that women aged over 65 who received omega-3 fatty acids gained almost twice as much muscle strength following exercise than those taking olive oil.

A larger trial is planned to confirm these findings and to determine why muscle condition improves.

The findings are being presented at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen.

Some studies have linked diets high in omega-3 – commonly found in oily fish such as mackerel and sardines – to potential health benefits, such as a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

During healthy ageing, muscle size is reduced by 0.5-2% per year.

This process – known as sarcopenia – can result in frailty and immobility in old people.

Little is known about the prevalence of sarcopenia in the UK, but data from the US shows that 25% of people aged 50-70 have sarcopenia and this increases to more than half of those aged over 80 years. Continue reading Fish Oils help stop muscle atrophy in the Elderly