World Hepatitis Day 2017: Hepatitis B can cause infertility in males

According to WHO, approximately 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. As per their latest assessment, in India, around 40 million people are chronically infected with HBV and 6 to 12 million are suffering from HCV.

The ‘WHO Global hepatitis report, 2017’ indicates that a large majority of these people lack access to life-saving testing and treatment. As a result, millions face risk of chronic liver disease, cancer, and death. What the general public is not aware of is that HBV is also one of the reasons behind infertility in males.

Hepatitis B virus’ ’S’ protein is known to lower sperm motility and reduce the fertilisation rate by more than half. Studies indicate that those with HBV are 1.59 times more likely to experience infertility than individuals who are not infected.

According to Dr Hrishikesh D Pai, director IVF & Infertility, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Delhi and secretary general of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India, “Hepatitis does not have any effect on the normal functioning of the ovarian or uterine glands. However, this virus impacts spermatogenesis negatively in males. This causes a reduction in the sperm count, free testosterone levels, motility, viability, and morphology which further impacts overall fertility and ability to produce an offspring in them. On World Hepatitis Day, the need of the hour is to offer testing for HBsAg and HCV in infertile couples. This would help them get some clarity on the fertility therapy they should choose and reduce any potential risk of transmission to an uninfected partner or baby.”

Under such circumstances, it is important to counsel couples who have been tested positive for hepatitis and are seeking fertility treatments. This would in turn enable them to understand the transmission risk of the disease.

Hepatitis B, World Hepatitis Day, World Hepatitis Day 2017“Transmission risk from mother to baby increases by 80-90 per cent in HBV cases and 11 per cent in HCV positive cases, where there is high viral load. Some ways to reduce this risk include semen washing, administering the uninfected partner with HBV vaccination, and treatment with Interferon and Ribavirin. Many couples would have doubts, fears, and misconceptions in their mind about this condition,” says Dr Nandita Palshetkar, director, IVF and Infertility, Fortis Bloom IVF Center, La Femme and Fortis Hospital Gurgaon.

On World Hepatitis Day, it is important to encourage couples to come out and talk about these fears and apprehensions through support and peer groups as in the West.

People affected by Hepatitis
According to WHO, viral hepatitis has been responsible for an estimated 1.4 million deaths. The ‘Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis report (2016-2021)’ stated that out of the 1.4 million deaths, approximately 48 per cent of the patients suffer from hepatitis C virus, 47 per cent from hepatitis B virus, and the remaining from hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses.

Commenting on the same, Dr B R Das, mentor, Molecular Pathology, SRL Diagnostics says, “Hepatitis has largely been ignored as a health and development priority. With time, there has been huge influx of people into urban areas of India and significant changes in lifestyle of the urban population. For HEV and HAV infections hygiene and sanitation practices play major roles, while for HBV and HCV, lifestyle and awareness are very important.”

Moderate alcohol consumption cuts diabetes risk: Study

Drinking for over three to four days every week may reduce the risk of developing diabetes, a study has claimed. Previous studies have consistently suggested that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of diabetes compared with abstention in men and women, whilst heavy consumption is associated with a risk greater than or equal to that of abstainers.

However previous studies examining the role of drinking patterns in relation to diabetes risk have given inconsistent findings, and studies on the effects of particular types of beverage are likewise inconclusive. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark examined the effects of drinking frequency on diabetes risk,and also considered association with specific beverage types. They used data from about 70,551 Danish citizens aged 18 and over completed a self-reporting questionnaire including items on lifestyle and health.

Follow up information, continued until 2012 also was gathered. During follow up, 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes. Scientists found that people consuming moderate amounts of alcohol were at the lowest risk of developing diabetes. Men consuming 14 drinks per week were found to have a 43 per cent lower risk of diabetes relative to no alcohol intake, and women consuming nine drinks per week had a 58 per cent lower risk compared with women who did not drink at all.

In terms of frequency, the data revealed that consumption of alcohol 3-4 days a week gave the lowest risk of diabetes — a 27 per cent lower risk in men and a 32 per cent lower risk in women — when compared to individuals drinking less than one day per week. Regarding beverage type, moderate to high intake of wine was associated with a lower risk of diabetes, in line with previous studies. Researchers suggest that this might be due to a beneficial effect that polyphenols in wine have on management of blood sugar, giving red wine in particular a potential protective impact.

Men and women who consumed seven or more drinks of wine per week had a 25-30 per cent lower risk of diabetes compared with those having less than 1 drink of wine per week. Consuming between one and six beers per week gave a 21 per cent lower risk of diabetes in men compared with men drinking less than one beer per week, while beer was not associated with diabetes risk in women.

“Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account,” researchers said.

Lack of Vitamin E may affect learning skills in babies

Babies who lacked vitamin E nourishment when in the womb are likely to be at an increased risk of developing impairments in mental skills such as learning and metabolic problems, a research has showed.

The study, conducted on zebrafish because their neurological development is similar to that of humans, showed that vitamin E-deficient embryos of zebrafish had more deformities and greater incidence of death as well as an altered DNA methylation status through five days after fertilisation — the time it takes for a fertilised egg to become a swimming zebrafish.

However, even after being fed with vitamin E-adequate diet, after their birth, these fish failed to learn and were found afraid.

Although “they managed to get through the critical period to get the brain formed, they were stupid and didn’t learn and didn’t respond right”, said Maret Traber, Professor at the Oregon State University (OSU) in the US.

As a result of vitamin E deficiency, the brains of these embryos’ continued to lack choline and glucose and simply did not develop correctly, Traber added.

The problem may be exacerbated in women of child-bearing age who avoid high-fat foods and may not have a diet rich in oils, nuts and seeds, which are among the foods with the highest levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant necessary for normal embryonic development in vertebrates, the researchers explained in the paper published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

Further, the Zebrafish with deficiency in Vitamin E also had metabolic defects and indications of mitochondrial damage.

“They had so much oxidative damage they essentially had a screwed-up metabolism. These outcomes suggest embryonic vitamin E deficiency in zebrafish causes lasting impairments that aren’t resolved via later dietary vitamin E supplementation,” Traber said.

83% parents believe almonds are best snack for kids

Nearly 83 per cent of parents feel that consuming almonds — a natural source of many essential nutrients, including protein and healthy fats — makes their children remain more energetic throughout the day, a survey shows.

The survey, led by market research company Ipsos, found that 94 per cent of mothers in both Tier I and II cities, rank “almonds specifically” as the healthiest form of snacking. Parents believe that almonds help boost brain development and are essential for healthy and stronger bones in addition to providing a daily dose of energy.

“A well-timed snack can even out spikes in hunger and provide a much-needed energy boost between meals,” Sheela Krishnaswamy, a Bengaluru-based diet and nutrition consultant, said in a statement. “Hence, it is important to ensure we incorporate healthy snacking habits by munching on healthier options like fruits or a handful of nutritious almonds that promote feelings of fullness while also keeping your child energised through the day,” she added.

Further, the survey revealed that a whopping 94 per cent of affluent urban parents in Mumbai choose healthier options of snacks for their children all the time, followed by Delhi (92 per cent), Nagpur (92 per cent) and Coimbatore (87 per cent). Across cities, fruits, biscuits and almonds are the three most popular snacking options that parents prefer between meals and when hunger strikes their children.

“This study indicates a promising trend towards healthy snacking with increasing number of affluent parents in urban centers seeing long-term value in maintaining a healthy family lifestyle,” said Ritika Samaddar, a Delhi-based nutritionist.

The survey interviewed 3,038 affluent urban parents between 23-55 years across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Nagpur, Bhopal and Coimbatore to understand snacking habits among children aged 6-14 years.

Poor sleep may make you fat, raise diabetes risk

Are you deprived of proper sleep at night? Beware, you are more likely to be overweight and also at risk of developing diabetes, a new study has warned.

The findings showed that people who were sleeping an average of six hours a night had a waist measurement that was 3 cm greater than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night. People with shorter sleep were also heavier.

The results strengthen the evidence that insufficient sleep could contribute to the development of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, the researchers said.

“The number of people with obesity worldwide has more than doubled since 1980. Obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably Type 2 diabetes. Understanding why people gain weight has crucial implications for public health,” said Greg Potter from the University of Leeds, UK.

For the study, detailed in the journal PLOS ONE, the team involved 1,615 adults who reported how long they slept and kept records of food intake.

Further, people with shorter sleep duration also had a decrease in the levels of HDL cholesterol — also known as good cholesterol — which helps remove ‘bad’ fat from the circulation and protect against conditions such as heart disease.

“Because we found that adults who reported sleeping less than their peers were more likely to be overweight or obese, our findings highlight the importance of getting enough sleep. How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults,” said Laura Hardie, a reader at the varsity.

Diet diary: Dates, the candy from trees

The date, or the sweet fruit, goes back to 6000 BC. Dates were cultivated in prehistoric Egypt and later, Arabs spread them around the world. They are rich in carbohydrates, low on fats and proteins. High on dietary fibre and minerals, dates are a useful source of energy — ten pitted dates provide about 230 kcals. They make for useful fuel especially for athletes and those engaging in heavy physical labour. Usually, sugar in dates can be up to 70 per cent.

Carbohydrates present in dates are invert sugars (fructose and glucose), the kind found in honey. This sugar helps in keeping the fruit moist and prevents crystal formation. The soft dates are high on invert sugars; however, dry dates have a high content of sucrose (sugar).

Dates have a high percentage of dietary fibre (approximately 10 per cent) depending on the variety and degree of ripeness. Insoluble dietary fibre is the major fraction of dietary fibre in dates and it helps relieve constipation and promotes good bowel function. Dates also contain small amounts of pectin (soluble fibre), which has cholesterol-lowering properties.

Dates are a rich source of iron and contain other minerals such as potassium, selenium, copper, calcium and magnesium. They help boost haemoglobin and thus are useful in treating anaemia. Dates also contain phosphorus, cobalt, boron, fluorine, manganese, sodium and zinc. They are anti-carcinogenic and useful in protecting against tooth decay, owing in part to their fluorine content. Unlike other fruits, dates are a modest source of vitamins B and C, most of which get destroyed on drying.

Rich in anti-oxidants and phyto-nutrients (anthocyanins, carotenoids and phenolics), dates have impressive free-radical-scavenging and anti-cancer activity. In addition, these help boost immune function and offer protection against cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancers, cataracts and macular degeneration, cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease.

Some studies have shown their anti-ulcer, anti-mutagenic, anti-diarrhoea, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties as well. However, more research is needed to validate these claims.

Dates, being high in sugars, are best taken as replacement of refined sugar or as a sweet option. While table sugar is chemically refined and has empty calories, dates are a rich source of valuable nutrients. Used in cereals, cakes, cookies and puddings, they add richness and can help enhance the nutrient density of food. They make an excellent dessert, raw or stewed. Include them as part of your sugar allowance but control how much you have especially if you are watching your weight or are diabetic.

Here’s why you should drink green tea

Your love for green tea may help improve memory as well as insulin resistance in the brain caused by a high-fat and high-fructose diet, researchers say.

A study, involving mice, showed that green tea contains an ingredient known as EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the most abundant catechin and biologically active component.

This component has the potential to alleviate insulin resistance — a precursor to type II diabetes — that is induced by obesity as well as improve age-related cognitive decline, accompanied by peripheral inflammation, the researchers said.

“Green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and is grown in at least 30 countries,” said Xuebo Liu from the Northwest A&F University in Yangling, China.

Green tea“The ancient habit of drinking green tea may be a more acceptable alternative to medicine when it comes to combatting obesity, insulin resistance, and memory impairment,” Liu added.

Previous research pointed to the potential of EGCG to treat a variety of human diseases such as bone marrow disorders, reducing the kidney toxicity and damage caused by cancer drug, as well as some heart conditions.

For the study, published in The FASEB Journal, the team divided three-month-old male mice into three groups based on diet: 1) a control group fed with a standard diet 2) a group fed with an high-fat and high-fructose (HFFD) diet and 3) a group fed with an HFFD diet and 2 grams of EGCG per liter of drinking water.

The researchers monitored the mice for 16 weeks and found that those fed with HFFD had a higher final body weight than the control mice, and a significantly higher final body weight than the HFFD+EGCG mice.

Keep those germs away: Six easy steps to hand hygiene

Personal hygiene is the key to maintaining overall well-being. In an environment fraught with pollution and unhygienic public spaces, it is imperative to safeguard our health by immunising ourselves from diseases and infections.

WHO estimates that there are over 1.4 million cases of infection that have been caused due to lack of hygiene.
As most contagious diseases spread though unhygienic habits, hand hygiene, in particular, is important. WHO has been urging people to wash their hands frequently using soap and water or a hand sanitiser — the first step to keeping themselves free from germs and viruses.

Dr Hariprasad VR, Research Scientist at The Himalaya Drug Company, enlists six ways to ensure better hand hygiene:

Wash hands regularly: Washing your hands at regular intervals is the most effective way of staying healthy and protecting yourself from various ailments. Scrub hands for at least 30 seconds with soap. Don’t forget the spaces between the fingers and nails. Turn the tap off using your elbows or a towel.

Use automatic soap dispensers: These help in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria. Dispensers are perfect for use in bathrooms, kitchens, offices, schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. The dispenser protects the liquid from being contaminated and helps scale down the spread of infection in an environment.

Carry a hand sanitiser: In addition to soap, it is advisable to also use a good antimicrobial hand sanitiser, with ingredients like hrivera, lemon, ushira and neem. Hrivera, a strong aromatic herb, has antibacterial, deodorising and cooling properties; lemon helps protect the skin from oxidative damage and itching; ushira is an astringent which also helps remove excess heat; while neem has antimicrobial properties.

Dry your hands properly: Research shows that bacteria tend to spread faster through wet hands as compared to dry hands. Therefore, dry your hands properly after washing. Ensure that you wipe your fingers and nails properly before continuing your work. Wet hands are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Keep your nails trimmed: Ensure your fingernails are trimmed and cleaned regularly — proper nail hygiene can control the spread of diseases. Trim nails after taking a shower as they tend to be soft and are easier to trim. Avoid artificial nails for long durations as it can lead to infection and contaminated nails afterwards.

Don’t sneeze into your hands: To ensure germ-free surroundings, always sneeze into a kerchief or a tissue. If neither is available use the crook of your elbow. Every time you sneeze into your hands, you spread germs to the people around you. A single sneeze produces more than 40,000 droplets of moisture and millions of germs; propelled over a distance of 32 feet.

Adopt these simple habits for good hand hygiene and you will be able to stay away from all diseases caused by germs.

Drinking 3-4 times a week may keep diabetes at bay: Research

Alcohol has its bad side but moderate drinking — three to four times a week — may keep diabetes at bay, researchers claim.

According to the team from the National Institute of Public Health at University of Southern Denmark, alcohol consumption for three-four times a week is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes in both men and women. “Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account,” the authors wrote in a paper published in the journal Diabetologia.

The study, by Professor Janne Tolstrup and colleagues, examined the effects of drinking frequency on diabetes risk, and also considered association with specific beverage types. The study used data from the Danish Health Examination Survey (DAHNES) from 2007-2008, in which Danish citizens aged 18 and over completed a self-reporting questionnaire including items on lifestyle and health.

Those who already had diagnosed diabetes were excluded, as were women who were pregnant or had recently given birth. The study comprised 70,551 participants who had given details of alcohol consumption. Consumption of specific beverage types — wine, beer and spirits — was coded as less than one drink per week, one to six drinks per week and seven or more drinks per week for women and seven-13 and 14 or more drinks per week for men.

During follow up, 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes.

Men consuming 14 drinks per week were found to have a 43 per cent lower risk of diabetes relative to no alcohol intake, and women consuming 9 drinks per week had a 58 per cent lower risk compared with women who did not drink at all. In terms of frequency, the data revealed that consumption of alcohol 3-4 days a week gave the lowest risk of diabetes — a 27 per cent lower risk in men and a 32 per cent lower risk in women — when compared to individuals drinking less than one day per week.

The study found no clear evidence of an association between binge drinking and diabetes risk, which, the authors suggest, may be due to low statistical power since few participants reported binge drinking. Previous studies have consistently suggested that light to moderate alcohol consumption – in terms of amount consumed – is associated with a lower risk of diabetes compared with abstention in men and women.

Heavy consumption, however, is associated with a risk greater than or equal to that of abstainers.

Playing musical instrument may boost brain’s audio-motor connect

Is your son or daughter keen on learning to play a guitar or piano? Allow them, as according to a study, playing any musical instrument throughout life may help improve the connection between the brain’s hearing area and the motor zone. The findings showed that musical training produces an increase in audio-motor interactions in the right hemisphere at rest.

“This indicates that when a musician trains and spends many years learning to play a musical instrument, there are more effective connections between the auditory and motor systems, which are the regions mainly involved in playing an instrument,” said Maraa Angeles Palomar-Garcia, researcher at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) in Spain.

Further, the research also revealed an adaptation in musicians’ brain areas responsible for controlling hand movement. Specifically, participants with musical training had reduced connectivity between the motor regions that control both hands, but may have greater autonomy between their hands.

This, “may reflect a greater skill with both hands for these musicians, compared to the participants who had no musical training, due to the need to use both hands in an independent and coordinated way to play their instrument,” Palomar-Garcia explained.

For the study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the team studied the impact of music training on the brain through both functional and structural images of the brain in rest through high field magnetic resonance imaging.

The study also revealed a degree of brain plasticity, which indicates that the brain is able to adapt itself.

“Studies on brain plasticity associated with learning are fundamental to understanding the factors that determine the flexibility of the brain to adapt to a particular situation,” says César Avila.