Sedentary lifestyle for 20 years linked to doubled early mortality risk compared to being active

Two decades of a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a two times risk of premature death compared to being physically active, according to results from the HUNT study presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.

Study author Dr Trine Moholdt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway said: “Our findings imply that to get the maximum health benefits of physical activity in terms of protection against premature all-cause and cardiovascular death, you need to continue being physically active. You can also reduce your risk by taking up physical activity later in life, even if you have not been active before.”

The aim of this study was to assess how changes in physical activity over 22 years were related to subsequent death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease. Most studies investigating the relationship between physical activity and longevity have asked participants about their level of physical activity only once, and then followed them for several years. But physical activity is a behaviour that changes in many people, so it is important to investigate how such changes over time relate to the risk of death in the future.

The HUNT study invited all residents of Norway aged 20 and older to participate in 1984-1986, 1995-1997, and 2006-2008. At all three time points, individuals were asked about their frequency and duration of leisure time physical activity. The current study used the data from the first and third surveys.

A total of 23,146 men and women were included in the analysis. Physical activity was categorised as inactive, moderate (less than two hours a week), and high (two or more hours per week). Participants were divided into groups according to their activity levels at each survey.

Physical activity data were linked to information on deaths until the end of 2013 using the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. The risk of death in each physical activity group was compared to the reference group (those who reported a high level of exercise during both surveys). The analyses were adjusted for factors known to influence prognosis such as body mass index, age, sex, smoking, education level, and blood pressure.

Compared to the reference group, people who were inactive in both 1984-1986 and 2006-2008 had a 2-fold higher likelihood of all-cause death and 2.7-fold greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Those with moderate activity at both time points had 60% and 90% raised risks of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths, respectively, compared to the reference group.

Dr Moholdt noted that there are clear recommendations about the amount of exercise adults should do to optimise their health, which are 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.

But she added: “An important point to make here is that physical activity levels even below the advised levels will give health benefits. Physical fitness is more important than the amount of exercise. Clinicians should individualise their advice and help people do even smaller amounts of activity that will improve fitness — this includes all types of exercise that make you breathe heavily.”

“Do activities you like and get more movement into your everyday life,” she continued. “For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, get off the metro a stop early, and use stairs instead of the lift. I recommend everyone to get out of breath at least a couple of times each week.”

As for those who changed categories between surveys, people who went from inactive to highly active had a mortality risk that was between those who were continually active or continually sedentary. In contrast, those who went from highly active to inactive had a similar risk of dying as those who were inactive at both surveys.

“Our data indicate that you can compensate for a previously inactive lifestyle and the sooner you get active, the sooner you will see positive results,” said Dr Moholdt. “My advice is to establish good exercise habits as early in life as possible. The health benefits extend beyond protection against premature death to effects in the body’s organs and on cognitive function. Physical activity helps us live longer and better lives.”

Eating nuts linked with lower risk of fatal heart attack and stroke

Eating nuts at least twice a week is associated with a 17% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.

“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat,” said study author Dr Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran. “They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”

This study examined the association between nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population. A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties. Intake of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and seeds was assessed in 2001 with a validated food frequency questionnaire.

Participants or family members were interviewed every two years until 2013 for the occurrence of cardiovascular events and death. The specific outcomes investigated were coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause, and death from cardiovascular disease.

During a median 12-year follow-up, there were 751 cardiovascular events (594 coronary heart disease and 157 stroke), 179 cardiovascular deaths, and 458 all-cause deaths.

Eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to consuming nuts once every two weeks. The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity. Nut intake was inversely associated with the other outcomes but lost significance after adjustment.

ESC guidelines list 30 grams of unsalted nuts per day as one of the characteristics of a healthy diet, while noting that the energy density of nuts is high.(1)

“Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest,” added Dr Mohammadifard. “Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste.”

References and notes

(1)Piepoli MF, Hoes AW, Agewall S, et al. 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Eur Heart J. 2016;37:2315-2381.

Story Source:

Materials provided by European Society of Cardiology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Aspirin should not be recommended for healthy people over 70

Low-dose aspirin does not prolong disability-free survival of healthy people over 70, even in those at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease. The late breaking results of the ASPREE trial are presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.(1)

On behalf of the ASPREE Investigators, Professor Christopher Reid of Curtin University, Perth, Australia said: “An ever-increasing number of people reach the age of 70 without overt cardiovascular disease (CVD). This analysis suggests that improved risk prediction methods are needed to identify those who could benefit from daily low-dose aspirin.”

European guidelines on the prevention of CVD do not recommend aspirin for individuals free from CVD due to the increased risk of major bleeding.(2) This advice was subsequently supported by results in moderate risk patients (ARRIVE),(3) diabetic patients (ASCEND),(4) and in people over 70 (ASPREE) which demonstrated that modest reductions in CVD risk were outweighed by the increased bleeding hazard.(5)

The primary finding from the ASPREE randomised trial was that in people aged 70 years or over with no known CVD, there was no effect of 100 mg of daily aspirin on the composite primary endpoint of disability-free survival (defined as those not reaching a primary endpoint of dementia or persistent physical disability or death).(6) The primary endpoint was chosen to reflect the reasons for prescribing a preventive drug in an otherwise healthy elderly population.

This analysis examined whether the results for the primary endpoint of disability-free survival might vary by the baseline level of CVD risk. Analyses were also conducted for the secondary endpoints of all-cause mortality, major haemorrhage, and prevention of CVD (defined as fatal coronary heart disease, nonfatal myocardial infarction, fatal or nonfatal stroke, or hospitalisation for heart failure).

The investigators calculated ten-year CVD risk probabilities at baseline for the 19,114 ASPREE participants using the Framingham score (up to 75 years) and the atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) pooled cohort risk equations (up to 79 years) and divided them into thirds. As there are no CVD risk scores available beyond the age ranges specified in the equations, they also classified participants according to the presence of 0 to 1, 2 to 3, or more than 3 CVD risk factors. Overall rates of disability-free survival, mortality, major bleeding and CVD were examined for each risk group and outcomes were compared for those treated with aspirin or placebo.

For participants in the lowest third of CVD risk, by both Framingham and ASCVD scores, there was no disability-free survival or cardiovascular benefit from aspirin. This group also had the highest likelihood of bleeding.

In contrast, those in the highest third of CVD risk, by both Framingham and ASCVD scores, had significantly lower CVD event rates on aspirin with similar rates of bleeding. Hazard ratios for CVD reduction with aspirin version placebo were 0.72 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.54-0.95) for the group classified as high risk by the Framingham score and 0.75 (95% CI 0.58-0.97) for those defined as high risk by the ASCVD equations.

However, this reduction in CVD did not translate to a significantly improved disability-free survival. Hazard ratios for disability-free survival with aspirin versus placebo were 0.86 (95% CI 0.62-1.20) for the group designated high risk by the Framingham score and 0.89 (95% CI 0.62-1.28) for those considered high risk by the ASCVD equations.

Prof Reid said: “The findings emphasise that the risk-benefit trade-off for aspirin use in healthy older men and women varies across levels of cardiovascular risk. It also indicates that the reduction in CVD events in the highest risk groups using current stratification methods does not identify individuals in whom this advantage translates into longer disability-free survival.”

New ways to identify groups at increased CVD risk, beyond the use of conventional risk factors and current prediction models, will be investigated in the ASPREE longitudinal follow-up study. Genetic and biomarker information will be included from the ASPREE biobank.

Prof Reid concluded: “Based on the results of the main ASPREE trial, daily low-dose aspirin cannot be recommended in healthy people over 70 — even in those at the greatest CVD risk. Today’s analysis indicates that more refined methods are needed to pinpoint a subgroup who might gain from preventive therapy.”

References and notes

(1) The abstract “A risk based approach to the role of aspirin on cardiovascular risk reduction in a healthy older cohort” will be presented during the session Late Breaking Science in Cardiovascular Pharmacology on Saturday 31 August at 11:00 to 12:30 CEST in room London — village 2.

(2) 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Eur Heart J. 2016;37:2315-2381. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehw106.

(3) Gaziano JM, Brotons C, Coppolecchia R, et al. Use of aspirin to reduce risk of initial vascular events in patients at moderate risk of cardiovascular disease (ARRIVE): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. 2018;392:1036-1046. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31924-X.

(4) Bowman L, Mafham M, Wallendszus K, et al. Effects of Aspirin for Primary Prevention in Persons with Diabetes Mellitus. N Engl J Med. 2018;379:1529-1539. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1804988.

(5) McNeil JJ, Wolfe R, Woods RL, et al. Effect of Aspirin on Cardiovascular Events and Bleeding in the Healthy Elderly. N Engl J Med. 2018;379:1509-1518. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1805819.

(6) McNeil JJ, Woods RL, Nelson MR, et al. Effect of Aspirin on Disability-free Survival in the Healthy Elderly. N Engl J Med. 2018;379:1499-1508. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1800722.

11 Best Labor Day 2019 Mattress Sales That’ll Help You Sleep Deeper

If your Labor Day routine is anything like ours, one of your most cherished activities (outside of crushing a tough workout) is probably sleeping. We’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult to leave our beds each morning and head to work, but cozying up in one after a long day is everything, especially when you have the right mattress to support you.

With a long, relaxing Labor Day 2019 weekend right around the corner, there will be plenty of opportunities to get some much deserved rest—and ways to save on a spanking new mattress. Brands like Casper, Purple, and Helix, are offering up serious discounts on some of their best-selling products through the holiday, which gives us more than enough incentive to catch up on our beauty rest. Read on for some of the best mattress deals to take advantage of this weekend—your back will thank you.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Skin cancer risk in athletes: The dangers of ultraviolet radiation

The dangers of ultraviolet radiation exposure, which most often comes from the sun, are well-known. Speaking at The Physiological Society’s Extreme Environmental Physiology conference next week, W. Larry Kenney, Penn State University, will discuss how broad its effects can be, from premature aging to cancer, and how this can be influenced by different skin tones and the use of sunscreen.

Athletes ranging from hikers, to tennis and runners exceed the recommended ultraviolet exposure limit by up to eight-fold during the summer and autumn months. While regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of most cancers, skin cancer is an exception. For malignant skin cancer, those in the 90th percentile for physical activity have an increased risk of cancer than those in the 10th percentile. Sun protection in these groups is especially important as multiple studies demonstrate an elevated risk of skin cancer for those who regularly participate in outdoor sports or exercise.

The ultraviolet radiation spectrum is categorized by wavelength as UV-A (320-400 nm), UV-B (290-320 nm), and UV-C (200-290 nm) and the biological effects vary per type. UV-A constitutes around 95% of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, with the remainder being UV-B. In the skin, UV-A is able to reach the skin’s blood circulation but most of UV-B is absorbed in the outer layers of the skin (called the epidermis and upper dermis) due to its shorter wavelengths.

Skin pigmentation is another factor that affects our response to sun exposure. UV radiation affects the body’s ability to create two important substances, vitamin D and folate, which contribute to both a health pregnancy and early childhood development. It helps vitamin D be synthesised, whereas it causes folate to break down.

There is a theory that suggests that early human populations, living in equatorial Africa, evolved skin pigmentation to protect themselves from folate degradation. This theory also says that depigmentation then occurred as humans moved away from the equator to allow for higher levels of vitamin D synthesis.

Commenting on his talk, Professor Kenney said:

“Sun protection in athletes is especially important as multiple studies demonstrate an elevated risk of skin cancer for those who regularly participate in outdoor sports or exercise. Surprisingly, fewer than 25% of surveyed athletes reported regular use of sunscreen, so there is clearly more awareness-raising that needs to be done.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by The Physiological Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

21 Best Labor Day 2019 Sales: Deals on Mattresses, Clothing, and Activewear

Your ideal holiday weekend might not involve sitting indoors huddled in front of a laptop (that’s what most of us are trying to escape from, after all), but there’s good reason to budget out time in your Labor Day weekend for browsing, considering how many good sales there are going on now. Summer clearance fever is high, and there are a bunch of good sale-on-sales that allow you take an extra percentage off already marked down prices (dangerous!). To save you as much work as possible this weekend, we rounded up some of the best Labor Day sales events worth taking advantage of, whether you’re shopping for clothes, tech, bedding, or outdoor gear.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

20 Best Labor Day 2019 Sales: Deals on Mattresses, Clothing, and Activewear

Your ideal holiday weekend might not involve sitting indoors huddled in front of a laptop (that’s what most of us are trying to escape from, after all), but there’s good reason to budget out time in your Labor Day weekend for browsing, considering how many good sales there are going on now. Summer clearance fever is high, and there are a bunch of good sale-on-sales that allow you take an extra percentage off already marked down prices (dangerous!). To save you as much work as possible this weekend, we rounded up some of the best Labor Day sale events worth taking advantage of, whether you’re shopping for clothes, tech, bedding, or outdoor gear.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Food Poisoning or Stomach Flu: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Each

When you’re praying to the porcelain gods, you might miserably wonder whether food poisoning or stomach flu is to blame. And you’re not wrong to consider these illnesses: Both can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and the urge to douse your toilet in bleach.

Still, food poisoning and the stomach flu are not the same thing, and you probably don’t want to swear off your favorite noodle place if it’s totally innocent in the matter. Here’s what you need to know about each—including the stomach flu symptoms and food poisoning symptoms to lookout for—so you can determine if you have food poisoning or the stomach flu and feel better ASAP.

First, understand what food poisoning is and what causes it.

Having food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness) means your body is rebelling against viruses, bacteria, or other harmful substances in something you ate, Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, tells SELF. These pathogens can lurk in a wide variety of foods.

When it comes to viruses, norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. It typically hangs out in items like raw, ready-to-eat produce, shellfish, and contaminated water. Rotavirus, which usually impacts children, is another common source.

On the bacterial side, you have salmonella, listeria, shigella, campylobacter, E. coli, and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. These can show up in everything from hot dogs, milk, egg yolks, alfalfa sprouts, meat, poultry, and beyond.

Food contamination can happen at any point, whether it’s through soil as it’s grown, in a storage facility, or on your countertop when you leave food out for too long. You may also get food poisoning if someone with one of these illness-causing microorganisms in their system handles your food or utensils.

No matter the cause, food poisoning can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping, and a fever, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lovely.

Next, here’s what the stomach flu is and what causes it.

First, it’s important to know that the stomach flu has no relation to the “regular” flu, aka influenza. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that causes fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and respiratory issues. In severe cases, influenza can be life-threatening (seriously, get your flu shot if you haven’t already).

The stomach flu, on the other hand, is what’s known as viral gastroenteritis, and it happens when a virus causes an infection in your gut. Norovirus is one of the most common causes, leading to between 19 and 21 million viral gastroenteritis infections each year, per the CDC. So yes, the stomach flu can be a type of food poisoning.

Just like with food poisoning, the stomach flu can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches or headache, and a fever, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can pick up viruses that cause the stomach flu by touching a surface that someone with the infection touched or having direct contact with them. You can also get it through food, though, which brings us to the trippiest part of this entire conversation…

You can technically have food poisoning and the stomach flu at the same time.

Let’s say you pick up a case of viral gastroenteritis after a dinner of norovirus-contaminated scallops. That basically means you got the stomach flu from a food-based source. “Is it food poisoning or the stomach flu? There’s not really a clear line you can draw,” Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a board-certified infectious disease physician and affiliated scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF.

Here’s how to tell if you have food poisoning or the stomach flu.

If knowing exactly what you’re battling helps you better gather the wherewithal to fight it (understandable), you can play detective. Mostly, it comes down to the symptoms you’re dealing with.

Here are a few things to consider:

When did symptoms set in and how long are they lasting?
The stomach flu typically shows up within one to three days after you’ve been exposed, and it usually only lasts a day or two, according to the Mayo Clinic. After that, you should start to feel like yourself again, Dr. Adalja says.

If you’re dealing with symptoms for a shorter or longer time than a day or two, you may have food poisoning. While norovirus is a common cause of both food poisoning and the stomach flu, so many bacteria can potentially cause the food poisoning that it can have a wider timeframe than the stomach flu. Symptoms of food poisoning can crop up just a few hours after contamination, or even days or weeks later, and they can typically last from a few hours to several days, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What kind of diarrhea situation are you dealing with?
If you have diarrhea and can stomach looking into the toilet bowl, take a peek. It’s like the poop version of reading tea leaves: If you see blood in your diarrhea, it could be a sign of food poisoning.

Bloody diarrhea is more likely to be a symptom of some types of food poisoning because some bacteria, like shigella, can cause inflammatory changes in the intestines and lead to bleeding, but viruses are less likely to do so, Dr. Adalja explains. (If you do see blood in your poop, you should let your doctor know.)

Are you projectile vomiting like that girl from The Exorcist?
According to the experts, norovirus seems more likely to cause projectile vomiting and stomach cramps in their patients than most other pathogens that cause food poisoning or the stomach flu. “The precise mechanism behind norovirus-induced [projectile vomiting] and stomach cramps is unknown but is likely an interaction between the virus and the immune system,” Dr. Adalja says.

Whether it’s food poisoning or stomach flu, here’s how to treat it.

Basic treatment for food poisoning and the stomach flu is the same, but if you have a severe case of either, you might need to see a doctor.

Regardless of whether you have food poisoning or the stomach flu, the most important thing is to try to keep yourself hydrated, Dr. Adalja says. The vomiting, diarrhea, and inability to eat or drink much can dehydrate you. While water is great, an electrolyte solution like Pedialyte can help replace nutrients and electrolytes you’ve lost, so it isn’t a bad option if you can handle it, Dr. Adalja says.

These illnesses typically pass with a lot of suffering but minimal complications. However, there are some signs that you need medical attention, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • You’ve been vomiting frequently and unable to keep liquids down for over 24 hours
  • You see blood in your vomit or poop
  • You have severe abdominal pain
  • You have diarrhea for three or more days
  • You experience signs of dehydration like excessive thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and dark yellow pee
  • You have a fever
  • You experience any neurological issues like blurry vision, muscle weakness, or tingling in your arms (campylobacter, a common cause of food poisoning, is also a common risk factor for the autoimmune illness Guillain-Barré syndrome, which affects the neurological system by damaging nerves.)

Your doctor can do a stool sample to figure out what’s happening and treat you from there, Chapman says. Depending on what you’re dealing with, treatment might range from antibiotics to anti-nausea medications to replacing lost fluids via IV.

Here’s how to avoid food poisoning and the stomach flu in the first place.

Once you’re done puking your brains out, you’ll probably want to avoid the experience again. Being on top of your hygiene is the first step. That means washing your hands well, especially around food, and if you have kids, making sure they’re washing their hands well, too. Here are a few other precautions you can take…

To avoid food poisoning:

  • Keep raw and ready-to-eat food separate.
  • Cook foods to the recommended temperatures.
  • Refrigerate or freeze food within one to two hours of cooking or buying it.
  • Avoid thawing food at room temperature.
  • Throw out any food that you’re not sure about.

For more guidance, check out FoodSafety.gov.

And to avoid the stomach flu:

  • If you know someone with the stomach flu or if someone in your home has it, the Mayo Clinic recommends disinfecting surfaces as often as possible.
  • Avoid getting too close to someone who has the virus.
  • Avoiding sharing things like utensils, drinking glasses, plates, and towels.
  • Make sure your kids are vaccinated against rotavirus, which most typically causes the stomach flu in children (there’s unfortunately no norovirus vaccine for adults, according to the Mayo Clinic).
  • When traveling, drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes (both may be contaminated) and be wary of raw food and undercooked meat and fish, per the Mayo Clinic

Yes, it hurts to toss out that delicious sandwich you forgot to pop in the fridge. But getting food poisoning or the stomach flu hurts a whole lot more.

Related:

Exercise in pregnancy improves health of obese mothers by restoring their tissues, mouse study finds

Exercise immediately prior to and during pregnancy restores key tissues in the body, making them better able to manage blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of long term health problems, suggests new research carried out in mice.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge, who led the study published today in the journal Physiological Reports, say the findings reinforce the importance of an active lifestyle when planning pregnancy.

In the UK, more than a half of all women of reproductive age and almost a third of pregnant women are overweight or obese. This is particularly concerning, as being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the risk of complications in the mother, such as gestational diabetes, and predisposes both her and her infant to develop metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the years after pregnancy.

Exercise is known to improve how the body manages blood sugar levels and thereby reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in non-pregnant women. It also has positive effects prior to and during pregnancy, with beneficial outcomes for both mother and her child, preventing excessive gestational weight gain and the development of gestational diabetes, and the need for insulin use in women who have already developed gestational diabetes. However, little is known about the changes that exercise causes to the tissues of obese pregnant mother.

To answer this questions, researchers at the University of Cambridge fed mice a sugary, high fat diet such that they become obese and then the obese mice were exercised. The mice exercised on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for at least a week before their pregnancy and then for 12.5 minutes a day until day 17 of the pregnancy (pregnancy lasts for around 20 days in mice).

Mice are a useful model for studying human disease as their biology and physiology have a number of important characteristics in common with those of humans, including showing metabolic changes with obesity/obesity-causing diets and in the female body during pregnancy.

The researchers found that the beneficial effects on metabolic health in obese mothers related to changes in how molecules and cells communicate in maternal tissues during pregnancy.

“A moderate level of exercise immediately before and then during pregnancy leads to important changes in different tissues of the obese mother, effectively making the tissues more like those seen in non-obese mothers,” says Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow from the Centre for Trophoblast Research in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, who co-led the study.

“We believe these changes may explain how exercise improves the metabolism of the obese mother during pregnancy and, in turn, may prevent her babies from developing early signs of type 2 diabetes after birth.”

The key organs of the mother that were affected by exercise were:

  • white adipose tissue — the fatty tissue that stores lipids and can be found in different parts around the body, including beneath the skin and around internal organs;
  • skeletal muscle — muscle tissue that uses glucose and fats for contraction and movement;
  • the liver — the organ that stores, as well as syntheses lipids and glucose.

Exercise affected key signalling pathways — the ways that molecules and cells within tissue communicate — involved in responding to insulin (the hormone that stimulates glucose uptake by white adipose tissue and skeletal muscle), in storage and breakdown of lipids (fats found in the blood and tissue) and in growth and the synthesis of proteins.

White adipose tissue showed the greatest number of changes in response to exercise in the obese pregnant mouse, being restored to a state similar to that seen in the tissue of non-obese mothers. This suggests that insulin resistance of the mother’s white adipose tissue may be the cause of poor glucose-insulin handling in obese pregnancies. The findings are different to that seen in non-pregnant animals, whereby exercise typically affects insulin signalling in the skeletal muscle.

In addition, the team’s previous work showed that exercise improves sensitivity to insulin and glucose handling throughout the whole body in the obese mother. It also prevents the development of insulin resistance in the offspring of obese mothers after birth. Low insulin sensitivity/insulin resistance requires larger amounts of insulin to control blood glucose levels.

“Our findings reinforce the importance of having an active lifestyle and eating a healthy balanced diet when planning pregnancy and throughout for both the mother and her developing child,” says co-lead Professor Susan Ozanne from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge.

“This is can be important in helping to reduce the risk of adverse health problems in the mother and of later health problems for her child.”

Suggested move to plant-based diets risks worsening brain health nutrient deficiency

The momentum behind a move to plant-based and vegan diets for the good of the planet is commendable, but risks worsening an already low intake of an essential nutrient involved in brain health, warns a nutritionist in the online journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

To make matters worse, the UK government has failed to recommend or monitor dietary levels of this nutrient — choline — found predominantly in animal foods, says Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science.

Choline is an essential dietary nutrient, but the amount produced by the liver is not enough to meet the requirements of the human body.

Choline is critical to brain health, particularly during fetal development. It also influences liver function, with shortfalls linked to irregularities in blood fat metabolism as well as excess free radical cellular damage, writes Dr Derbyshire.

The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.

In 1998, recognising the importance of choline, the US Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively, because of the critical role the nutrient has in fetal development.

In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements. Yet national dietary surveys in North America, Australia, and Europe show that habitual choline intake, on average, falls short of these recommendations.

“This is….concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets,” says Dr Derbyshire.

She commends the first report (EAT-Lancet) to compile a healthy food plan based on promoting environmental sustainability, but suggests that the restricted intakes of whole milk, eggs and animal protein it recommends could affect choline intake.

And she is at a loss to understand why choline does not feature in UK dietary guidance or national population monitoring data.

“Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorisation of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” she writes. “Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines,” she adds.

It may be time for the UK government’s independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to reverse this, she suggests, particularly given the mounting evidence on the importance of choline to human health and growing concerns about the sustainability of the planet’s food production.

“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” she writes.

“If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development,” she concludes.

Story Source:

Materials provided by BMJ. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.