…and some the sci­en­tists said might do uw­sh­hatan­erxmt?

The Week - - Health & Science -

● Traf­fic, and its as­so­ci­ated pollution, was a fo­cus of in­creas­ing con­cern this year. In Jan­uary, re­searchers found ev­i­dence that peo­ple who live close to busy roads are slightly more likely to de­velop de­men­tia – rais­ing spec­u­la­tion that tox­ins in ex­haust fumes have a harm­ful ef­fect on the brain. In April, a team at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh found ev­i­dence that ul­tra-fine par­ti­cles, like those emit­ted by diesel cars, can en­ter the blood­stream, build up in blood ves­sels – and re­main there for months. A few weeks later, a World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion re­port es­ti­mated that 25.7 per 100,000 deaths in the UK are at­trib­ut­able to pollution, com­pared to 12.1 in the US and just 0.4 in Swe­den.

● Diet drinks have been linked to poor health out­comes – and may not even do what they’re sup­posed to do. Re­searchers in the UK and Brazil an­a­lysed var­i­ous tri­als on the sub­ject and con­cluded that while diet drinks con­tain no sugar, and are all but calo­rie-free, there is no strong ev­i­dence that they help peo­ple lose weight (or stop them get­ting fat). A few months later, a small – and far from con­clu­sive – study found that peo­ple who drink ar­ti­fi­cially sweet­ened drinks on a daily ba­sis have a sig­nif­i­cantly el­e­vated risk of stroke. Although they had not es­tab­lished a causative link, the study spec­u­lated that ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers might have a harm­ful ef­fect on blood ves­sels.

● Play­ing foot­ball could raise the risk of de­men­tia, if you head the ball too of­ten. In a small study at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, re­searchers per­formed post-mortems on six for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ballers with a his­tory of de­men­tia. All their brains showed signs of Alzheimer’s, and four were found to have chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy, a pat­tern of dam­age linked to re­peated blows to the head. In their ca­reers, the play­ers would have suf­fered re­peated sub-con­cus­sive blows to the head.

● Over-the-counter painkillers do lit­tle to re­lieve the agony of back ache, and could just leave users with a bad gut. A re­view of 35 tri­als into non-steroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs (NSAIDS) con­cluded that the re­lief of neck and lower back ache they of­fered was “ar­guably not of any clin­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance”. More­over, pa­tients who take them are at sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased risk of stom­ach ul­cers and other gas­troin­testi­nal prob­lems. But that’s not all: a study in March added to a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence that sug­gests ibupro­fen and other NSAIDS are bad for the heart. The study, of 29,000 peo­ple who’d suf­fered outof-hos­pi­tal car­diac ar­rests in Den­mark, showed that tak­ing the drugs was as­so­ci­ated with a 31% in­creased risk of car­diac ar­rest.

● Obe­sity has never been a con­di­tion to aspire to – but some stud­ies have found that peo­ple who are over­weight are ac­tu­ally less likely to die early than those of a healthy weight. How­ever, the so-called obe­sity para­dox was un­der­mined in April by a study from Har­vard and Bos­ton Uni­ver­si­ties. This looked at data on 225,000 peo­ple, whose body mass in­dex had been mon­i­tored for 16 years. The team then looked at their death rates from 12 years of fol­low-up data, and found that those who had been ei­ther obese or over­weight had an el­e­vated risk of dy­ing of any cause, as well as spe­cific causes, such as heart dis­ease.

● Light­ing can­dles is, as the Danes put it, very hygge – but even if it’s good for your soul, it may not be good for your lungs. A study in the US found that can­dles are a sig­nif­i­cant source of in­door air­borne pollution, rais­ing lev­els by about 30%. Fry­ing food is also a ma­jor source – but smok­ing is the big­gest.

● Sugar doesn’t just rot your teeth, make you fat and raise your risk of heart dis­ease: it may also make men de­pressed. Re­searchers from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don looked at sugar in­take and com­mon men­tal health prob­lems among 5,000 men and 2,000 women re­cruited to the White­hall II study in the 1980s, and found that men with the high­est in­take of added sugar – more than 67g a day – had a 23% in­creased chance of suf­fer­ing a com­mon men­tal dis­or­der af­ter five years than those who con­sumed the low­est lev­els (less than 39.5g). And it did not seem to be merely that they were “com­fort eat­ing” sweet foods be­cause they were al­ready de­pressed.

Can­dles may be hygge, but are they healthy?

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