Action video games may affect memory, up Alzheimer’s risk

Is your teenaged son addicted to playing action video games? Beware, it can reduce episodic memory and spatial navigation, and increase the risk of developing brain disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, researchers have warned. The findings showed that habitual players of action video games had reduction in grey matter in the hippocampus a key brain area for memory.

This challenged the previously held notion that it may boost brain power, reduce stress and aid in improving symptoms of depression, the researchers said. “Video games have been shown to benefit certain cognitive systems in the brain, mainly related to visual attention and short-term memory,” said lead author Greg West, associate professor at Universite de Montreal (UdeM) in Canada.

Further, the study showed that instead of the hippocampus, 85 per cent of players tend to increasingly make use of another part of the brain called the striatum to navigate their way through a game. Striatum has an area known as the caudate nucleus that acts as a kind of “autopilot” and “reward system” and also helps us form habits and remember how to do things like ride a bicycle.

Action video games, may affect memory, video games up risk, health news, Indian express newsHowever, the more the players use the caudate nucleus, the less they use the hippocampus, and as a result the hippocampus loses cells and atrophies, the researchers rued, in the paper detailed in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. “If action video games lead to decreases in grey matter in the hippocampus (of young adults), caution should be exerted when encouraging their use (by) children, young adults and older adults to promote cognitive skills such as visual short-term memory and visual attention,” West suggested.

According to the study, patients with Parkinson’s disease combined with dementia, as well as those with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression or PTSD all of whom have less grey matter in their hippocampus should “not be advised to (follow) action video game treatments.”

Living near fast food restaurants not linked to obesity

Living near fast food restaurants and supermarkets hardly has any impact on an individual’s body mass index, suggests new research. Public policies that are designed to reduce the number of fast food restaurants and increase the number of supermarkets are unlikely to reduce obesity, although such policies may make it easier for people to access healthy foods, according to the study published in the journal Health Affairs.

“Fast food is generally not good for you, and supermarkets do sell healthy food, but our results suggest blocking the opening of a new fast food restaurant or subsidising a local supermarket will do little to reduce obesity,” said Coady Wing from Indiana University in the US. The research team based its findings on the Weight and Veterans’ Environments Study, a comprehensive database stretching from 2009 to 2014 and covering 1.7 million veterans living in 382 metropolitan areas in the US.

Fast food restaurants, not linked to obesity, health news, Indian express newsThe researchers could assess how BMI changed with each veteran and match it with the locations of fast-food outlets and supercenters such as Target and Walmart stores. The researchers calculated BMI by using height and weight measurements taken when the veterans visited a doctor, nurse practitioner or other provider. They added up the number of chain fast food restaurants, supermarkets and other food outlets within one mile and three miles of the person’s residence.

With that information, the researchers could track BMI changes, even when a person moved from one area to another or when a fast food or other outlet opened or closed. Previous research on this topic has been based on snapshots in time known as cross sectional data and had suggested a link between food outlet access and BMI. “We couldn’t find evidence to support policies based on that presumed link,” Wing said.

Girls grow male genitalia as they hit puberty in this Caribbean village

Taking a walk on the strange side of science might not rank at the top of your list of things to do or know, but time and again we are made to face uncanny incidents that are far from normal. Recently, in Mumbai’s Mumbra, Thane district, a little boy was found to be pregnant with his twin brother but what we are about to tell you is even more bizarre. A small village in the Dominican Republic, which is usually known for its serene beaches, has acquired an odd reputation of little girls developing male genitalia – the penis, as soon as they hit puberty.

The condition called guevedoces, which translates to ‘penis at 12’, affects one in 90 children in Las Salinas village. This disorder is caused by a missing enzyme that prevents the production of the male sex hormone called dihydro-testosterone in the womb. So, even though a child born as a female – termed as pseudohermaphrodite – with what looks like a vagina at birth, the genitalia drastically transforms into a penis at puberty. When testosterone flows, their voices break as well.

girl with penis, guevedoces This phenomenon was documented in a BBC2 series called Countdown to Life – the Extraordinary Making of You. The documentary makers met 24-year-old Johnny, who was known as Felicitia when he was born. He said, ‘I remember I used to wear a little red dress. I was born at home instead of in a hospital. They didn’t know what sex I was.”

‘I went to school and I used to wear my skirt. I never liked to dress as a girl.

Johnny also laments how he never used to bother playing with girls toys. ‘All I wanted to do was play with the boys.’

This condition was first studied in the 1970s by Dr Julianne Imperato when she visited the village, but it still continues to baffle people.

Opioid use higher among cancer survivors

At a time of rising rates of opioid overdose and addiction, new research by an Indian origin scientist reveals that its use is more common among cancer survivors than in individuals without a history of cancer. “Our research findings raise concerns about the diagnosis and management of chronic pain problems among survivors stemming from cancer diagnosis or treatment,” said Rinku Sutradhar, Associate Professor at University of Toronto in Canada.

The finding was true even among survivors who were 10 or more years past their cancer diagnosis, according to the study published online in the journal CANCER. Sutradhar and her colleagues analysed information dating back to 2010 on 8,601 adults at least five years past a cancer diagnosis who were matched with equal number of individuals without a prior cancer diagnosis.

Follow up was stopped at any indication of cancer recurrence, second malignancy, or new cancer diagnosis. The researchers looked for opioid prescriptions filled at a pharmacy during the observation period for each individual. The rate of opioid prescribing was 1.22 times higher among survivors than corresponding matched controls.

Opioid attention, cancer survivors, higher opioid, Health news, Indian express newsOver a 36-month period, the average number of opioid prescriptions filled by survivors was 7.7, compared with 6.3 for controls. This increased rate of opioid prescribing was also seen among survivors who were 10 or more years past their cancer diagnosis. Individuals with lower income, and those who were younger, from rural neighbourhoods, and with more comorbidities had significantly higher prescribing rates.

Sex was not associated with prescribing rates. “Physicians providing primary care to cancer survivors should consider close examination of reasons for continued opioid use to differentiate chronic pain from dependency,” said Sutradhar, who is also a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.

Buy right nursing gear during breastfeeding phase

During the breastfeeding phase, it is best for a woman’s health to keep a check on the bra she wears. Go for one with a broader under band and opt for cushioned shoulder straps that are not too stretchy, suggest experts. Neha Kant, founder of Clovia, and Niraj Jawanjal, founder and Chief Ideator at India Intimate Fashion Week, have listed tips to make the life of a new mother easier:

* Most women ignore or don’t take seriously the fact that their entire body undergoes a massive change across various phases of their pregnancy and they have to choose inner wear that suits the new demands of their body. Right from clothing to your bras everything needs enough breathing space. So, accept the change and change the old stock.

* 80 per cent of the breast weight is supported by the under band. Choose a bra with a broad under band.

* Buy a nursing bra which has stretchy fabric on the top of the cup. This will allow for movement in the breast which is required at this stage.

* Invest in a bra that has four to six hooks and eyes on the back band. This will allow you to tighten the back band post birth as your rib cage contracts.

* Maternity bras and nursing bras tend to have similar design features. Realistically, you can buy nursing bras to wear as maternity bras during the final stages of pregnancy, and then use them as intended to nurse after the baby is born.

* For sound health and good hygiene, get at least two or three bras for yourself. Make sure to wash them after each use.

Right nursing gear, breastfeeding phase, Health news, Indian express news* Maternity bras with wide straps provide tremendous support to growing breasts. For added comfort, women can opt for cushioned shoulder straps that are not too stretchy.

* Invest in pregnancy panties that provide maximum softness, fitness and stretch, adapting to the changes that take place during this period in areas like tummy and buttocks.

* Buy a nightwear with zip closures to make feeding easy and also those made in super-soft fabrics for full comfort.

* We all need firm support when we are low. Simultaneously, a nourishing bra should offer perfect support to lactating mothers from the lowermost side even if the cup remains open.

* Say no to tight bras. Tight bras during your breast-feeding months lead to infections, tumours and would also restrict the flow of milk while feeding. Tight bras also lead to uncomfortable situations to the nourishing mother and may cause breathing issues too. Let the bra offer you ease, comfort and support during these months.

* Pure cotton bras offer extremely breathable and comfortable feeling to the nourishing mother. Synthetic fabrics allow the growth of bacteria around the nipples and may cause infections as they restrict the flow of air.

From diet chivda to muesli: Stay healthy with different types of diet food

Diet food contains fewer calories, and serves as a healthier alternative to conventional snacks such as potato chips, burgers and other fast food. Some diet foods are full of antioxidants, essential nutrients. Chidva, chickpeas, sabja (sweet basil) seeds and coconut water are some of the easily accessible options, say experts.

Experts at have listed some of the healthy diet snacks and food that could be consumed on different days of the week.

* Mondays: Diet chivda is a mixed snack popular across India and served with hot beverages. It is made of ingredients such as flattened rice, dried peas, raisins, and so on.

Available in different combinations, diet chivda is an excellent healthy treat as most of the ingredients are either dried or baked, and contain little to no oil or fat.

* Tuesdays: While fried potato chips top the list of unhealthy foods in the world, its diet version is the opposite, without compromising on taste. Diet potato chips are mostly baked and use little to no oil, and make for a yummy snack between meals.

* Wednesdays: Chira (flattened rice) is the main ingredient in poha, chira. When lightly roasted, it can be mixed with various spices and consumed as a healthy snack throughout the day.

* Thursdays: A container of masala chickpeas packs several vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and protein, keeping one fuller for longer.

* Fridays: Quinoa has become popular over the years both as a superfood and a versatile ingredient. Native to South America, it is prepared by being boiled in water. The nutrient-rich grain is mostly consumed as part of a salad, but there are treats such as quinoa puffs that are equally healthy and delicious.

* Saturdays: A favourite among gym goers and fitness aficionados, muesli or granola bars are the perfect choice that also boost the metabolism. A great alternative to candy bars, they can satiate anyone’s sweet tooth or sudden cravings without any adverse effects to health.

Muesli bars are made up of refined flour, hazelnut, cashew, almond, dark chocolate, honey, oats, butter, and sugar.

diet food, dieting, food for dieting, diet snacks, weight reduction food, weight loss tips, baked snacks, health news, lifestyle news, indian express* Sunday: Although a new entrant in the list of healthiest foods, kale chips have quickly become one of the most tried new ingredients in the global food market.

A close cousin of the cabbage family, kale has a high fibre content and low calories, making it a great diet food.

Inputs by Rashida Sidhpurwala, consulting Nutritionist at UrbanClap, website for lifestyle services:

* Curd: For all those who suffer from constipation, gas and acidity, this one is an absolute must have on a daily basis. However the curd must be set at home. This allows the essential fats, the vitamin D and the vitamin B along with the B12 to be retained.
Curd strengthens the intestines, reduces acidity attacks and keep the bloating down.

* Cucumber: An alkaline body will have the best metabolism and will stay away from manifesting or developing diseases so make sure to include this super hydrating vegetable everyday.

Do you know how calcium and cholesterol are connected?

Researchers have found that calcium — usually identified with strong bones and teeth —also plays a key role in moderating cholesterol, a discovery that could pave the way for new ways of treating high blood cholesterol.

The findings showed that targeting calcium in the cell could lead to a new way to control cholesterol metabolism that increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. While examining a calcium-binding protein, the researchers noticed an extreme rise of blood cholesterol concentration in mice when the protein was not present.

“There is a mechanism inside the cell that senses when there is not enough cholesterol present and turns on the machinery to make more,” said Marek Michalak, Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada.

“What we found is that a lack of calcium can hide cholesterol from this machinery. If you lose calcium, your synthetic machinery thinks there’s no cholesterol and it starts making more even if there is already enough,” Michalak reported in the paper Scientific Reports.

To follow up on this observation, the team discovered that the physiological link between calcium and cholesterol is also preserved in worms.

“The general belief was that cholesterol controlled its own synthesis inside of cells and then we discovered in our labs that calcium can control that function too. Finding this link potentially opens a door to developing new ways of controlling cholesterol metabolism,” explained Luis Agellon, Professor at the McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

The findings are a significant step towards developing different approaches to patient care in the future, but there is more work to be done.

Going out in the sun? Try this new DNA sunscreen that protects skin better

Researchers have developed a coating made out of DNA that works like sunscreen to provide better skin protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays and keeps the skin hydrated. “UV light can actually damage DNA, and that’s not good for the skin,” said Guy German, Assistant Professor at the Binghamton University in New York.

“We thought, let’s flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin,” German added.

The new sunscreen is made up of thin and optically transparent crystalline DNA films that have been irradiated with UV light. The more it gets exposed to UV light, the better the film can absorb it, the researchers found.

“It means that if you use this as a topical cream or sunscreen, the longer that you stay out on the beach, the better it gets at being a sunscreen,” German said in the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. As an added bonus, the DNA coatings are also hygroscopic, meaning that skin coated with the DNA films can store and hold water much more than uncoated skin.

When applied to human skin, they are capable of slowing water evaporation and keeping the tissue hydrated for extended periods of time.

“Not only do we think this might have applications for sunscreen and moisturisers directly, but if it’s optically transparent and prevents tissue damage from the sun and it’s good at keeping the skin hydrated, we think this might be potentially exploitable as a wound covering for extreme environments,” German added.

Lucknow’s 90% people suffer from protein deficiency

Despite the government’s emphasis on proper nutrition, Lucknow is the most protein deficient city with 90 per cent of its population suffering from protein deficiency, revealed a survey on Thursday.

The study by International research firm Kantar IMRB states that Ahmedabad and Chennai with 84 per cent each have the second largest protein deficient people.

Vijaywada with 72 per cent and Mumbai with 70 per cent are at the third and fourth position.

Delhi is at the fifth position with 60 per cent of its population suffering from protein deficiency.

The study involved analysing the diet patterns of respondents. It was found that Indians suffer from a significant protein inadequacy, with 73 per cent consuming protein deficient diets.

The study, which covered 1,800 respondents across all zones of India, highlighted that most protein deficiency was found among the vegetarians with an alarming 84 per cent. Contrary to the popular belief, the study said, not all non-vegetarian diets provided adequate protein. Indeed, 65 per cent of Indian non-vegetarian diets also were found to be deficient in prescribed levels of protein.

Earlier, the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) had revealed that Indian diet has 50 per cent inadequate protein pattern.

The study also says that protein deficiency is not well understood among the Indians in general, with only one-third respondents strongly endorsing that lack of protein can cause weakness and fatigue.

Protein is one of the fundamental nutrients essential for the human body, the respondents duly acknowledged. They believe that protein is essential for children’s growth, enhances mental sharpness, is essential for muscle building, is good for immunity, and enhances beauty, is good for skin and hair quality.

As part of the study, another fact that has come to the limelight is that 73 per cent of the Indians believe that green leafy vegetables are a good source of protein, which is not sufficient.

“Thirty per cent of Indians strongly agree that one egg a day provides sufficient amount of protein, 29 per cent of Indians strongly agree that their regular daily diet is enough for their daily protein needs. Twentyeight per cent Indians strongly agree that their veg diet is good enough for their protein needs and also 1/5th of Indians believe that high protein diet is bad for health,” said the study.

During the survey, it was found that men with families are most protein deficient followed by mothers.

“Seventyfive per cent of men with families and 72 per cent mothers are protein deficient. While 44 per cent of single men were found protein deficient, among the single women the figure stood at 53 per cent. Fortyfour per cent of children in the age group of 10-15 years were also protein deficient,” said the study.

Talking to yourself may help control emotions

Feeling stuck in negativity? Talking to yourself may help you control emotions without taking any additional mental effort, researchers say, adding the talk has to be in third person.

The findings suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation than using first person self-talk — the way people normally talk to themselves. Third-person self-talk may also act as an on-the-spot strategy for regulating one’s emotions, as many other forms of emotion regulation require considerable thought and effort, the researchers said.

“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” said Jason Moser, Associate Professor at the Michigan State University in the US.

“That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions,” Moser added.

For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team involved two experiments. In the first experiment, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images while their brain activity was monitored by an electroencephalograph. When participants’ reacted to the disturbing photos (such as a man holding a gun to their heads), in third person, their emotional brain activity decreased very quickly (within one second).

In the second experiment, participants reflected on painful experiences from their past while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI.

The results showed that participants displayed less activity in a brain region that is commonly implicated in reflecting on painful emotional experiences when using third person self-talk, suggesting better emotional regulation.