from the world's big
As belly size gets larger, the memory center in the brain gets smaller
Researchers at University College London link waist circumference with dementia.
- Researchers at University College London have discovered a link between waist circumference and dementia.
- Seventy-four percent of volunteers that developed dementia were overweight or obese.
- Women with central obesity had a 39 percent greater risk of dementia.
One of every eight deaths in England was attributed to dementia in 2017. Considering the substantial public health burden this adds to a society, researchers at University College London wanted to understand the role of obesity on cognitive decline. A new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, sheds light on this connection.
Obesity impacts a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and dementia. Around the planet, obesity rates in adults have tripled since 1975. In 2016, an estimated 39 percent of adults in England were obese.
The researchers specifically wanted to know if waist circumference (WC) plays a role in increasing dementia rates. The team pulled data from 6,582 participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, an 18-year study (so far) featuring over 18,000 volunteers.
For this study, adults over age 50 were considered. They were broken into normal weight, overweight, and obese groups. Body Mass Index (BMI) was one of two markers used. The relevance of this particular measurement—(Weight in Pounds x 703) / (Height in inches x Height in inches)—has long been contested. It does not account for muscle mass or how fat is distributed throughout the body.
The WC measurement, which the researchers refer to as central obesity, adds a bit of clarity to the study. They define excess central obesity as 35+ inches for women and 40+ inches for men.
In total, 6.9 percent of volunteers developed dementia over a (maximum) 15-year follow-up period. Seventy-four percent of participants that developed dementia were overweight or obese. These findings are independent of demographics, lifestyle behaviors, hypertension, diabetes, and APOE E-ε4, a genetic risk factor for dementia.
Notably, women with excessive central obesity had a 39 percent greater risk of developing dementia compared with non-central obese women.
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Co-author Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology and epidemiology at the university, sums up the team's work:
"Dementia is one of the major health challenges of the 21st century that could threaten successful aging of the population. Our findings suggest that rising obesity rates will compound the issue."
Dr. Dorina Cadar, a senior fellow at UCL and corresponding author of the study, suggests monitoring both BMI and WC status. Her suggestions include following a Mediterranean diet, reducing alcohol consumption, and regular exercise.
Dr. Richard Isaacson, the director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, says that brain health and waist size are linked, especially for women.
"Based on emerging data from studies like this, we are now able to clarify sex differences in dementia risk. Combining these findings with my clinical experience, I have seen greater impact on visceral fat on memory function in women, likely mediated by metabolic pathways."
This is another in a long list of studies linking obesity to cognitive problems, and serves as a reminder as to why exercise and nutrition remain your best defense against dementia. Regardless of the conveniences of modern society, human beings evolved during times of scarcity. We're not built for excess. Our brains pay the price when we indulge.
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A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
- Scientists electrically stimulated the brains of macaque monkeys in an effort to determine which areas are responsible for driving consciousness.
- The monkeys were anesthetized, and the goal was to see whether activating certain parts of the brain would wake up the animals.
- The forebrain's central lateral thalamus seems to be one of the "minimum mechanisms" necessary for consciousness.
Pixabay<p>When the team electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the central lateral thalamus, located in the forebrain, the monkeys woke up: they opened their eyes, blinked, reached out, made facial expressions and showed altered vital signs. </p><p>"We found that when we stimulated this tiny little brain area, we could wake the animals up and reinstate all the neural activity that you'd normally see in the cortex during wakefulness," Saalmann told Cell Press. "They acted just as they would if they were awake. When we switched off the stimulation, the animals went straight back to being unconscious."</p><p>This area of the brain may function as an "engine for consciousness," Redinbaugh told Inverse. Although past studies have shown that electrical stimulation can arouse the brains of humans and animals, the new findings are unique because they reveal which specific neural interactions appear to be minimally necessary for consciousness.</p><p>"Science doesn't often leave opportunity for exhilaration, but that's what that moment was like for those of us who were in the room," Redinbaugh told <a href="https://www.inverse.com/science/first-squid-mri-study-brain-complexity-similar-dogs" target="_blank"><em>Inverse</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Future applications<p>The team said the findings could have many applications down the road, but more research is needed.</p><p>"The overriding motivation of this research is to help people with disorders of consciousness to live better lives," Redinbaugh told Cell Press. "We have to start by understanding the minimum mechanism that is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, so that the correct part of the brain can be targeted clinically."</p><p>"It's possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas. Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious."</p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.