Reader’s Digest Health Report: February 2018
We’ve rounded up the four best medical discoveries from around the world for February.
1. Lean but Metabolically Unhealthy People Are at Risk
A paper from the University Hospital Tübingen in Germany reports that about a fifth of adults whose body mass index (BMI) falls into the “normal” range are metabolically unhealthy, meaning they have at least two of the components of metabolic syndrome (high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, etc.). This group carries three times the risk of heart damage and/or death, compared to their healthy-hearted counterparts in the same BMI range. The takeaway: being lean doesn’t mean you don’t need cardiovascular monitoring.
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2. Acid Reflux: Mediterranean Diet as Effective as Drugs?
A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology examined the medical records of people with acid reflux in the throat. One cohort had been treated with proton-pump inhibitors and asked to avoid foods that exacerbate the problem (carbonated beverages, alcohol, spicy or greasy meals and so on). The second group avoided the same items, drank only alkaline water and ate a Mediterranean-style diet wherein 90 per cent of the food came from plants. After six weeks, the two cohorts saw roughly the same improvement.
3. Mindfulness Training Helps Heavy Drinkers Consume Less
Earlier this year, a University College London experiment recruited “heavy drinkers” (men who imbibe more than 21 drinks per week and women who consume more than 14). Half were given a short training session in “mindfulness”: an awareness of the feelings and bodily sensations—e.g., the cravings— of the present moment. The other participants were taught relaxation techniques such as deep breathing—a treatment intended to appear equally credible so as to control for the placebo effect. During the following week, the mindfulness group cut back by an average of 9.3 drinks, whereas the relaxation group continued their previous habits.
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4. Self-Perceived Memory Loss Often a Symptom of Stress
The Sahlgrenska memory clinic in Mölndal, Sweden, serves middle-aged and older people who have become concerned they’re losing memory function. However, upon thorough testing, about a third of the patients don’t reveal any symptoms or biomarkers for cognitive decline. A researcher followed this group for an average of four years, during which time only 10 per cent developed dementia. As for the rest, the belief that their memories were failing them was correlated with severe stress, clinical burnout and depression.