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How to Create Your Ideal Sleep-Friendly Bedroom

Submitted by: Mira Rakicevic miroslava@miroslavarakicevic.me

How much sleep do you get in 24 hours? Six? Eight? Less? It is scientifically proven that your sleep environment plays a vital part in the quality of your sleep. Therefore, your bedroom environment is relative to the quality and quantity of sleep. A slight change in the bedroom arrangement, lighting, and a few adjustments to the air circulation go a long way towards helping you sleep better. 

Think relaxed colors

Your bedroom is your own personal space. That’s why you get satisfaction from painting and decorating it to suit your unique personalities. However, you need to strike a balance between the quality of your sleep and the bedroom design.

Our minds are highly polychromatic and are stimulated more by bright colors than dull ones. Therefore, colors such as red and bright orange will work against healthy sleeping patterns. Instead, consider painting your bedroom with soothing colors such as blue, green, yellow, grey, and silver.

Dim the lights

Due to our polychromatic nature, try to dim any bright light that may keep you from sleeping. More so, it is advisable to switch off any ambient lighting a few hours before you sleep. This helps the brain to get ready for sleep by stimulating the hypothalamus to release melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep.

Additionally, if you enjoy a nice read before you sleep, make use of shaded bedside lamps. Such lights illuminate a focused area while keeping the rest of your room dim enough to stimulate sleep.

Choose the right mattress

Do you ever wake up and can’t wait to get out of bed? Or do you wake up feeling extremely tired or experiencing backaches? Chances are, your mattress is the culprit. Your body needs the right surface to rest on. Some people prefer firm mattresses, others love medium firmness. It is an entirely personal choice that only you can know. Make it work for you, no matter how bizarre it may look.

For instance, a fascinating infographic on <a href="https://disturbmenot.co/bizarre-sleeping-habits-of-famous-people-infographic/">celebs' bizarre sleeping patterns</a> claims that singer Jessica Simpson, who suffers from psychophysiological insomnia, finds it hard sleeping on any type of mattress. However, she can comfortably sleep on the floor.

What about the noise?

The human brain processes sound even when we are asleep. That is why your partner’s snore or a mosquito’s buzz can leave you tossing and turning all night. Some people sleep better with total silence. Others prefer “white noise” from a fan or low volume music in their sleep environment. If you enjoy complete silence, take measures to reduce the noise from both within and outside your home. 

Actor Tom Cruise is known to sleep in a completely soundproof room to keep his partner from hearing his <a href="https://disturbmenot.co/snoring-statistics/">loud snores</a>. If you enjoy white noise, reduce the intensity of the noises from outside by turning on a fan or air conditioner that produces a low humming sound. Eminem sleeps better with white noise playing from the speakers and television when traveling different time zones.

https://disturbmenot.co/bizarre-sleeping-habits-of-famous-people-infographic/

Millions of cardiovascular deaths attributed to not eating enough fruits and vegetables

Study tracks toll of suboptimal fruit and vegetable intake by region, age and gender

June 10, 2019

Science Daily/American Society for Nutrition

Preliminary findings from a new study reveal that inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption may account for millions of deaths from heart disease and strokes each year. The study estimated that roughly 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit and 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables.

 

Low fruit intake resulted in nearly 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010, while low vegetable intake resulted in 1 million deaths, according to researchers. Overall, the toll of suboptimal fruit intake was almost double that of vegetables. The impacts were most acute in countries with the lowest average intakes of fruits and vegetables.

 

"Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally," said lead study author Victoria Miller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world."

 

Miller will present the research findings at Nutrition 2019, the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, held June 8-11, 2019 in Baltimore.

 

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants and phenolics, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Fresh fruits and vegetables also improve the health and diversity of good bacteria in the digestive tract. People who eat more of these foods also are less likely to be overweight or obese, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

"Global nutrition priorities have traditionally focused on providing sufficient calories, vitamin supplementation and reducing additives like salt and sugar," said senior study author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "These findings indicate a need to expand the focus to increasing availability and consumption of protective foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes -- a positive message with tremendous potential for improving global health."

 

Based on dietary guidelines and studies of cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers defined optimal fruit intake as 300 grams per day, equivalent to roughly two small apples. Optimal intake of vegetables, including legumes, was defined as 400 grams per day, equivalent to about three cups of raw carrots.

 

The researchers estimated average national intakes of fruit and vegetables from diet surveys and food availability data representing 113 countries (about 82 percent of the world's population), then combined this information with data on causes of death in each country and data on the cardiovascular risk associated with inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption. The work is part of the Global Dietary Database project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

Based on data from 2010, the scientists estimated that suboptimal fruit consumption results in nearly 1.3 million deaths from stroke and more than 520,000 deaths from coronary heart disease (narrowing of the heart's arteries) worldwide each year. Suboptimal vegetable consumption was estimated to result in about 200,000 deaths from stroke and more than 800,000 deaths from coronary heart disease.

 

The impact of inadequate fruit and vegetable intake was greatest in countries with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. Countries in South Asia, East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa had low fruit intake and high rates of associated stroke deaths. Countries in Central Asia and Oceania had low vegetable intake and high rates of associated coronary heart disease.

 

In the United States, suboptimal vegetable intake may account for 82,000 cardiovascular deaths while suboptimal fruit intake accounted for 57,000 deaths. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and worldwide.

 

By age group, suboptimal fruit and vegetable intake had the greatest perceived proportional impact on cardiovascular disease deaths among younger adults. By gender, suboptimal fruit and vegetable intake had the greatest proportional impact on cardiovascular disease deaths in men, likely because women tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, Miller noted.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190610100624.htm

Study links sleep-disordered breathing to age acceleration

Results provide biological evidence of the adverse effects of untreated sleep-disordered breathing

June 7, 2019

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Increasing severity of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep disruption are associated with epigenetic age acceleration, according to preliminary results of a new study.

 

Results show that each standard deviation increase in the apnea-hypopnea index, a measure of sleep-disordered breathing severity, was associated with the equivalent of 215 days of biological age acceleration. Similarly, each standard deviation increase in the arousal index, a measure of sleep disruption, was associated with the equivalent of 321 days of age acceleration.

 

"People's biological age might not be the same as their chronological age," said lead author Xiaoyu Li, Sc.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. "Individuals whose biological age is higher than their chronological age exhibit age acceleration or fast aging. In our study, we found that more severe sleep-disordered breathing is associated with epigenetic age acceleration. Our data provide biological evidence supporting adverse physiological and health effects of untreated sleep-disordered breathing."

 

Sleep-disordered breathing, such as obstructive sleep apnea, is characterized by abnormalities of respiration during sleep. Episodes often result in reductions in blood oxygen saturation and are usually terminated by brief arousals from sleep. Nearly 30 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea. Common warning signs include snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.

 

According to the authors, epigenetic age acceleration is a DNA methylation-based marker of fast biological aging, and it is associated with modifiable lifestyle factors. Although sleep-disordered breathing is associated with multiple age-related health disorders, its relationship with epigenetic aging has not been well studied.

 

The study involved 622 adults with a mean age of 69 years; 53.2% were women. Participants were measured for blood DNA methylation, and their sleep was evaluated at home by polysomnography. Age acceleration measures were calculated as residuals from the regression of each epigenetic age on chronological age. The association of each sleep-disordered breathing trait with age acceleration was estimated using linear regression, controlling for socio-demographics, health behaviors, body mass index, and study site.

 

Another surprising finding was that the associations were stronger in women than in men, suggesting that women may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of sleep-disordered breathing.

 

"While women are often considered to be at lower risk for health outcomes related to sleep-disordered breathing, our findings suggest increased biological susceptibility," said Li.

 

The authors suggested that future work should study whether treatment reduces epigenetic age acceleration among people who have sleep-disordered breathing.

 

"Since sleep-disordered breathing is not only common and treatable, but often undiagnosed and under-treated, our data highlight the potential for sleep-disordered breathing treatment to improve age-related chronic conditions and longevity," said Li. "Because epigenetic changes are reversible, epigenetic age estimators may be useful for identifying and validating anti-aging interventions."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190607193709.htm

Sleepless nights linked to high blood pressure

June 4, 2019

Science Daily/University of Arizona

A bad night's sleep may result in a spike in blood pressure that night and the following day, according to new research led by the University of Arizona.

 

The study, to be published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, offers one possible explanation for why sleep problems have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and even death from cardiovascular disease.

 

The link between poor sleep and cardiovascular health problems is increasingly well-established in scientific literature, but the reason for the relationship is less understood.

 

Researchers set out to learn more about the connection in a study of 300 men and women, ages 21 to 70, with no history of heart problems. Participants wore portable blood pressure cuffs for two consecutive days. The cuffs randomly took participants' blood pressure during 45-minute intervals throughout each day and also overnight.

 

At night, participants wore actigraphy monitors -- wristwatch-like devices that measure movement -- to help determine their "sleep efficiency," or the amount of time in bed spent sleeping soundly.

 

Overall, those who had lower sleep efficiency showed an increase in blood pressure during that restless night. They also had higher systolic blood pressure -- the top number in a patient's blood pressure reading -- the next day.

 

More research is needed to understand why poor sleep raises blood pressure and what it could mean long-term for people with chronic sleep issues. Yet, these latest findings may be an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the pathway through which sleep impacts overall cardiovascular health.

 

"Blood pressure is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health," said lead study author Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the UA Department of Psychology. "There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer of people in the country. We wanted to see if we could try to get a piece of that story -- how sleep might be impacting disease through blood pressure."

 

The study reinforces just how important a good night's sleep can be. It's not just the amount of time you spend in bed, but the quality of sleep you're getting, said study co-author John Ruiz, UA associate professor of psychology.

 

Improving sleep quality can start with making simple changes and being proactive, Ruiz said.

 

"Keep the phone in a different room," he suggested. "If your bedroom window faces the east, pull the shades. For anything that's going to cause you to waken, think ahead about what you can do to mitigate those effects."

 

For those with chronic sleep troubles, Doyle advocates cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI, which focuses on making behavioral changes to improve sleep health. CBTI is slowly gaining traction in the medical field and is recommended by both the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as the first line of treatment for insomnia.

 

Doyle and Ruiz say they hope their findings -- showing the impact even one fitful night's rest can have on the body -- will help illuminate just how critical sleep is for heart health.

 

"This study stands on the shoulders of a broad literature looking at sleep and cardiovascular health," Doyle said. "This is one more study that shows something is going on with sleep and our heart health. Sleep is important, so whatever you can do to improve your sleep, it's worth prioritizing."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190604131159.htm

Healthy, stress-busting fat found hidden in dirt

Healthy, stress-busting fat found hidden in dirt

Hands holding dirt (stock image). Credit: © tortoon / Adobe Stock

Pollen allergies occur more frequently in anxiety sufferers

Interplay between psychological factors and allergies in the research spotlight

May 28, 2019

Science Daily/Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Seasonal allergies to different types of grass or tree pollen are more common in people with anxiety disorders, while patients with depression are more likely to suffer from perennial allergies triggered by allergens such as animal hair. Conversely, food and drug allergies were unaffected by these psychosocial disorders.

 

The team interviewed over 1,700 people from the Augsburg area of Germany about their allergies. Led by Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Director of the University Center for Health Sciences at University Hospital Augsburg (UNIKA-T) and Professor of Environmental Medicine at TUM, the team differentiated between perennial or non-seasonal allergies -- such as those triggered by house dust mites or animal hair, seasonal allergies caused by grass pollen for instance, and allergies to other substances such as food.

 

The study participants also answered questions about their psychological health. The focus here was on depression, generalized anxiety disorders -- which affect all aspects of daily life -- and acute mental stress. "There are studies that focus on the psychological components of skin diseases or allergic asthma. For the first time, we are now able to show a connection with seasonal allergies," explains Katharina Harter, the publication's lead author. Around a quarter of those surveyed (27.4%) stated that they suffered from allergies, with 7.7 percent reporting perennial, 6.1 percent seasonal, and 13.6 percent other forms of allergic reactions.

 

Proven influence of psychological factors

 

It turned out that people with generalized anxiety disorders also suffered more often from pollen allergies, but not from year-round allergies. Statistically, these were actually less frequent in the group of anxiety sufferers. A possible explanation for this might be that people with persistent allergies develop different coping strategies to deal with stress, which protect them from anxiety disorders.

 

On the other hand, there was a positive correlation between perennial allergies and depression or depressive episodes. However, the structure of the study did not allow for clarification of whether allergies increase susceptibility to depression or whether depression itself is a risk factor for allergies. What surprised the research team was the fact that psychological factors had little -- if any -- influence on the occurrence of food and drug allergies.

 

Further investigation planned

 

Possible mitigating factors that could compromise causal relationships were statistically excluded in this study. These included age, smoking/non-smoking status, gender, and family predispositions (e.g. to allergic asthma). However, Harter also outlines the study's weaknesses: "We have a relatively high average age of 61 years, so younger people are rather underrepresented here. The findings are also based on personal reports rather than official allergy diagnoses. But we have blood samples from all participants and intend to scientifically verify this point," she confirms. According to Prof. Traidl-Hoffmann, what this study particularly underscores is the importance of devoting sufficient time to patients. This is the only way to complement clinical evaluations with psychosocial aspects to support an integrated therapeutic approach, such as that practiced by the University Outpatient Clinic for Environmental Medicine at UNIKA-T.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190528120450.htm

Does your health in middle age predict how healthy you'll be later in life?

May 28, 2019

Science Daily/American Geriatrics Society

In a new study, researchers identified factors associated with brain health in middle age in order to identify ways to preserve brain function when people are older.

 

Cognitive decline is the medical term for a decline in your abilities to think, remember, and make decisions. Researchers know now that cognitive decline may begin in midlife and can develop over a period of 20 years or so. In a new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), researchers identified factors associated with brain health in middle age in order to identify ways to preserve brain function when people are older.

 

Several studies have shown links between changes in the senses and the development of cognitive decline. In earlier studies, the research team responsible for the new JAGS report found that problems with hearing, vision, or the sense of smell were associated with poorer cognitive function in middle-aged adults. These changes also have been linked to developing cognitive impairments for older people.

 

To learn more in this new work, the researchers used information from the ongoing Beaver Dam Offspring Study (BOSS; conducted from 2005 to the present), a study of the adult children of participants in the Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study, a population-based study of aging.

 

Hearing, vision, and the ability to smell were measured with highly sensitive tests. The participants also took tests to measure their attention, thinking, and decision-making abilities, as well as their memory and ability to communicate. The researchers then combined the results of all these tests to use as a measure of the participants' brain function. Blood tests and other measurements were also taken to create a complete health picture for each participant.

 

There were 2,285 participants included in this study, and most were younger than 65 years of age. Although those participants with signs of brain aging had overall worse performance on the sensory and cognitive tests, their losses in function were mild on average.

 

The researchers reported that participants who smoked, had larger waists, or had health issues related to inflammation or cardiovascular disease were more likely to show signs of brain aging. Older participants and those with diabetes were also more likely to develop brain aging over the following five years. Participants who exercised regularly or had more years of education were less likely to show signs of brain aging.

 

The researchers said their findings add to evidence that issues like diabetes, as well as other related health concerns impacting circulation, inflammation, and metabolism (the medical term for the chemical reactions in our bodies that help sustain life, such as converting food into energy), are important contributors to brain aging.

 

The researchers also noted that even minor injuries to the brain can have long-term effects on brain function. Participants with a history of a head injury had a 77 percent increased risk of developing brain aging. Symptoms of depression were also associated with an increased risk of brain aging.

 

The researchers said their findings suggest that some brain aging may be delayed or prevented. Just as middle-aged people can take steps to prevent heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet and weight and keeping physically active, they can also take steps to prevent early changes in brain health.

 

"Healthy lifestyles are important for healthy aging, and making healthy choices earlier in life may improve health later in life," said lead author Carla R. Schubert, MS. The researchers concluded that identifying and targeting risk factors associated with poor brain function when people are middle-aged could help prevent cognitive decline with age.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190528095240.htm

Why lack of sleep is bad for your heart

Study finds short-sleepers have lower levels of gene-regulating microRNA

May 21, 2019

Science Daily/University of Colorado at Boulder

People who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night have lower levels of gene-regulating molecules, or microRNAs, which help dampen down inflammation in cells and support vascular health.

 

In recent years, numerous studies have shown that people who don't get enough sleep are at greater risk of stroke and heart attack.

 

A new University of Colorado Boulder study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, helps explain why.

 

It found that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night have lower blood levels of three physiological regulators, or microRNAs, which influence gene expression and play a key role in maintaining vascular health.

 

The findings could potentially lead to new, non-invasive tests for sleep deprived patients concerned about their health, the authors said.

 

"This study proposes a new potential mechanism through which sleep influences heart health and overall physiology," said senior author Christopher DeSouza, a professor of Integrative Physiology.

 

Despite recommendations by the American Heart Association that people get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, about 40 percent of adults in the United States fall short. Overall, the average American's sleep duration has plummeted from 9 hours nightly to 6.8 hours nightly over the past century.

 

In another recent study, DeSouza's group found that adult men who sleep 6 hours per night have dysfunctional endothelial cells -- the cells that line blood vessels -- and their arteries don't dilate and constrict as well as those who get sufficient sleep.

 

But the underlying factors leading to this dysfunction aren't well known.

 

MicroRNAs are small molecules that suppress gene expression of certain proteins in cells. The exact function of circulating microRNAs in the cardiovascular system, and their impact on cardiovascular health is receiving a lot of scientific attention, and drugs are currently in development for a variety of diseases, including cancer, to correct impaired microRNA signatures.

 

"They are like cellular brakes, so if beneficial microRNAs are lacking that can have a big impact on the health of the cell," said DeSouza.

 

For the new study, which is the first to explore the impact of insufficient sleep on circulating microRNA signatures, DeSouza and his team took blood samples from 24 healthy men and women, age 44 to 62, who had filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits. Half slept 7 to 8.5 hours nightly; Half slept 5 to 6.8 hours nightly.

 

They measured expression of nine microRNAs previously associated with inflammation, immune function or vascular health.

 

They found that people with insufficient sleep had 40 to 60 percent lower circulating levels of miR-125A, miR-126, and miR-146a, (previously shown to suppress inflammatory proteins) than those who slept enough.

 

"Why 7 or 8 hours seems to be the magic number is unclear," said DeSouza. "However, it is plausible that people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to maintain levels of important physiological regulators, such as microRNAs."

 

Research is now underway in DeSouza's lab to determine whether restoring healthy sleep habits can restore healthy levels of microRNAs.

 

Ultimately, he said, it's possible that microRNAs in blood could be used as a marker of cardiovascular disease in people with insufficient sleep, enabling doctors to glean important information via a blood test rather than current, more invasive tests.

 

For now, DeSouza says, the takeaway message for those burning the midnight oil is this:

 

"Don't underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190521101502.htm

Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria

Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria

Gut microbes illustration. Credit: © nobeastsofierce / Adobe Stock

For people with strong life purpose, making healthier choices may take less effort

May 14, 2019

Science Daily/University of Pennsylvania

Ever wonder how some people seem to meet their fitness goals with ease and love eating healthy foods while others constantly struggle to do either? According to a new study from the Communication Neuroscience Lab at the Annenberg School, people with stronger life purpose are more likely to accept messages promoting health behavior change than those with a weaker sense of purpose. And this might be because they experience less decisional conflict while considering health advice.

 

"Purpose in life has been robustly associated with health in previous studies," says postdoctoral fellow Yoona Kang, lead author of the study, "but the mechanism through which life purpose may promote healthy living has been unclear."

 

For this study, published in Health Psychology, Kang and her co-authors chose to test out a theory: that making health decisions might take less effort for those with higher sense of purpose in life. According to Kang, health decisions, even those as simple and mundane as choosing between the elevator and the stairs, involve some amount of decisional conflict. But what if some people experience less conflict than others when considering these options, perhaps because they have a stronger guiding purpose that helps resolve the conflicts?

 

To test this idea, the researchers recruited sedentary people who needed to exercise more. (To be selected for the study, participants had to be overweight or obese and had to have engaged in fewer than 200 minutes of physical activity in the seven days prior to the screening.) Participants completed a survey about their life purpose by indicating the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I have a sense of direction and purpose in my life" or "I don't have a good sense of what it is I'm trying to accomplish in life." Next, they were shown health messages promoting physical activity. Their responses to the messages were monitored by an fMRI scanner, focusing on brain regions that tend to be active when people aren't sure what to choose or when they feel conflicted.

 

Those participants who reported a stronger sense of life purpose were more likely to agree with the health messages and to have less activity in brain regions associated with conflict-processing. In fact, the researchers were able to predict how likely it was that a person would agree with health messages based on the degree of brain activity in these regions.

 

"We conduct studies both to understand how different kinds of health messaging can help transform people's behaviors and why some people might be more susceptible than others," says Emily Falk, director of the Communication Neuroscience Lab. "This study does a nice job starting to unpack reasons why people who have a higher sense of purpose in life might be more able to take advantage of this messaging when they encounter it."

 

Building on this study, Kang's next research project will examine the interactions between genes, brain activity, and life purpose. Funded by the Mind and Life PEACE Grant, she will test whether having certain genes may predict greater synchronization between neural regions associated with reward sensitivity and social sensitivity, and whether activity in these neural regions may, in turn, predict the strength of life purpose.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190514143248.htm

Habitual coffee drinkers really do wake up and smell the coffee

May 14, 2019

Science Daily/University of Portsmouth

Regular coffee drinkers can sniff out even tiny amounts of coffee and are faster at recognising the aroma, compared to non-coffee drinkers, new research has found.

 

Habitual coffee drinkers are not just more sensitive to the odour of coffee and faster to identify it, but the more they craved coffee, the better their ability to smell it became.

 

It is the first time evidence has been found to prove coffee addicts are more sensitive to the smell of coffee.

 

The results could open the door to potential new ways of using aversion therapy to treat people addicted to substances with a distinct smell, such as tobacco and cannabis.

 

The research was led by Dr Lorenzo Stafford, an olfactory expert in the Department of Psychology at the University of Portsmouth.

 

He said: "We found the higher the caffeine use, the quicker a person recognised the odour of coffee.

 

"We also found that those higher caffeine users were able to detect the odour of a heavily diluted coffee chemical at much lower concentrations, and this ability increased with their level of craving. So, the more they desired caffeine, the better their sense of smell for coffee.

 

"We have known for sometime that drug cues (for example, the smell of alcohol) can trigger craving in users, but here we show with a mildly addictive drug, that craving might be linked to an increased ability to detect that substance.

 

"Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug and these findings suggest that changes in the ability to detect smells could be a useful index of drug dependency."

 

The team wanted to examine if there were any differences in the ability of people to smell and respond to the odour of coffee, depending on whether or not they were big coffee drinkers. The results point firmly to a link, with heavy coffee drinkers being more sensitive to the smell of coffee, and the smell being linked to their cravings.

 

The study is published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

 

The research was based on two experiments.

 

In the first experiment, 62 men and women were divided into those who never drank anything containing caffeine; those who consumed moderate amounts (70-250mg, equivalent to 1-3.5 cups of instant coffee a day); and those who consumed a high amount (300mg, equivalent to 4 or more cups of instant coffee a day).

 

Each person was blindfolded and, to test their sensitivity to the smell of coffee, they were asked to differentiate very small amounts of the coffee odour from odour blanks, which have no smell. For the odour recognition test, they were asked to identify as quickly as possible the scent of real coffee and, separately, the essential oil of lavender. Those who drank the most coffee were able to identify coffee at weaker concentrations and were faster to identify the odour.

 

Each person was also asked to complete a caffeine-craving questionnaire. Predictably, the results showed that the more caffeine a person usually consumed, the stronger their craving for caffeine.

 

"More interestingly, higher craving, specifically that which measured the ability of caffeine to reverse withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, was related to greater sensitivity in the odour detection test," Dr Stafford said.

 

In a second test, 32 people not involved in the first experiment were divided into those who drink coffee and those who do not and they were tested using the same odour detection test for coffee odour, and with a separate test for a control, using a non-food odour.

 

Again, the results showed the caffeine consumers were more sensitive to the coffee odour but crucially, did not differ in sensitivity to the non-food odour.

 

The findings suggest sensitivity to smell and its links to craving could be used to help break some drug use behaviours, including addiction to tobacco or reliance on cannabis, Dr Stafford said.

 

Previous research showed those who were trained to associate an odour with something unpleasant later showed greater discrimination to that odour, which provides evidence of a possible model for conditioned odour aversion.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190514081745.htm

Intelligence can link to health and aging

May 8, 2019

Science Daily/University of Missouri-Columbia

For over 100 years, scientists have sought to understand what links a person's general intelligence, health and aging. In a new study, a University of Missouri scientist suggests a model where mitochondria, or small energy producing parts of cells, could form the basis of this link. This insight could provide valuable information to researchers studying various genetic and environmental influences and alternative therapies for age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.

 

"There are a lot of hypotheses on what this link is, but no model to link them all together," said David Geary, Curators Distinguished Professor of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "Mitochondria produce cellular energy in the human body, and energy availability is the lowest common denominator needed for the functioning of all biological systems. My model shows mitochondrial function might help explain the link between general intelligence, health and aging."

 

Geary's insight came as he was working on a way to better understand gender-specific vulnerabilities related to language and spatial abilities with certain prenatal and other stressors, which may also involve mitochondrial functioning. Mitochondria produce ATP, or cellular energy. They also respond to their environment, so Geary said habits such as regular exercise and a diet with fruits and vegetables, can promote healthy mitochondria.

 

"These systems are being used over and over again, and eventually their heavy use results in gradual decline," Geary said. "Knowing this, we can help explain the parallel changes in cognition and health associated with aging. Also with good mitochondrial function, the aging processes will occur much more slowly. Mitochondria have been relatively overlooked in the past, but are now considered to relate to psychiatric health and neurological diseases."

 

Geary said chronic stress can also damage mitochondria that can affect the whole body -- such as the brain and the heart -- simultaneously.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190508134509.htm

Stress in early life could make people more likely to develop depression

May 8, 2019

Science Daily/University of Bristol

New research by the University of Bristol has found that early life adversity could make an individual more at risk of developing negative thinking, which could lead to major depressive disorder (MDD). The findings provide biological and psychological evidence to support work first proposed in the 1960s.

 

The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology and funded by the MRC and BBSRC, using a rodent model of early life adversity, has shown that offspring are much more sensitive to negative biases in their cognition when treated with the stress hormone, corticosterone.

 

The research has shown a dose of corticosterone had no effect in normal rats but caused a negative bias in the early life adversity animals. The study also found that the early life adversity rats were less likely to anticipate positive events and failed to properly learn about reward value. These impairments in reward-related cognition are particularly interesting as one of the main features of depression is a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

 

The findings support the idea that those at risk of developing mood disorders may have impairments in the way they learn about and use their memories about how rewarding an experience has been to then guide and motivate them to repeat the activity. The researchers suggest that these neuropsychological effects might explain why early life adversity can make people more likely to develop depression.

 

Emma Robinson, Professor of Psychopharmacology, School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience and lead author on the paper, said: "This study supports a wider body of literature which suggests that depression may develop from an interesting yet complex interaction between biological and psychological processes. As we start to understand these better we hope that the knowledge we generate can be used to better guide current and future treatments.

 

"Our larger body of work suggests that the effectiveness of current antidepressant treatments might be linked to how much a person is able to re-engage with their environment and their level of social support.

 

"The findings also add further evidence to support the validity of this relatively new area of research into mood disorders, particularly studies using animals to understand the neurobiology of affective biases and how they contribute to normal and pathological behaviour."

 

Studies in patients have shown that depression is linked to changes in how the person processes information particularly emotional information. People with depression have a negative view of the world which can be measured by looking at how they process information such as emotional faces and words. However, whether this causes the illness or are a consequence is not known.

 

The researchers developed a method to use in rodents where similar neuropsychological processes were measured. One of the tasks, the affective bias test, looked at how simple associations between a specific cue, a bowl with a specific digging substrate in it, and a reward, a food pellet, could be biased by the animal's affective state when they learn about it.

 

When animals learn the association in a negative affective state they remember it in a more pessimistic way whilst memories formed in a positive affective state are remembered in a more positive way. The biases the study was able to measure in rodents correlated exactly with how these same treatments affect peoples' mood in the long-term, something which no other animal test in psychiatry has been able to achieve.

 

The next step in the research will be to understand how these processes and the deficits seen in the animals respond to current antidepressant treatments including the recently licensed, rapid onset antidepressant ketamine. The researchers already have some evidence about how ketamine interacts with these neuropsychological processes and this latest work will help them bring these findings together with an important disease model and risk factor for depression.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190508113326.htm

A moody gut often accompanies depression: New study helps explain why

May 7, 2019

Science Daily/Columbia University Irving Medical Center

For people with depression, gastrointestinal distress is a common additional burden, and a new study suggests that for some, the two conditions arise from the same glitch in neuron chemistry -- low serotonin.

 

The study, conducted in mice, shows that a shortage of serotonin in the neurons of the gut can cause constipation, just as a serotonin shortage in the brain can lead to depression.

 

The study also found that a treatment that raises serotonin in the gut and the brain may alleviate both conditions.

 

Up to a third of people with depression have chronic constipation, and a few studies report that people with depression rate their accompanying bowel difficulties as one of the biggest factors reducing their quality of life.

 

Severe constipation can obstruct the GI tract and cause serious pain. The condition leads to 2.5 million physician visits and 100,000 hospitalizations each year.

 

Though some antidepressants are known to cause constipation, medication side effects do not explain all cases.

 

"Ultimately, many patients with depression are faced with limited treatment options and have to suffer with prominent GI dysfunction," says study leader Kara Gross Margolis, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeon.

 

Similarities between the gut and the brain suggest the two conditions may also share a common cause.

 

"The gut is often called the body's 'second brain,'" says Margolis. "It contains more neurons than the spinal cord and uses many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain. So it shouldn't be surprising that the two conditions could be caused by the same process."

 

Because low levels of serotonin in the brain have been linked to depression and serotonin is also used by neurons in the gut, the researchers studied mice to determine if a serotonin shortage also plays a role in constipation.

 

The mice used in the study carry a genetic mutation (linked to severe depression in people) that impairs the ability of neurons in the brain and the gut to make serotonin.

 

The serotonin shortage in the gut, the researchers found, reduced the number of neurons in the gut, led to a deterioration of the gut's lining, and slowed the movement of contents through the GI tract.

 

"Basically, the mice were constipated," Margolis says, "and they showed the same kind of GI changes we see in people with constipation." (In previous studies, these same mice also showed depressive symptoms).

 

Encouragingly, an experimental drug treatment invented by two of the study's co-authors, Marc Caron, PhD, and Jacob Jacobsen, PhD, of Duke University, raised serotonin levels in the gut's neurons and alleviated constipation in the mice.

 

The treatment -- slow-release drug-delivery of 5-HTP, a precursor of serotonin -- works in part by increasing the number of GI neurons in adult mice.

 

The discovery of this connection between a brain and a gastrointestinal disorder suggests that new 5-HTP slow-release therapies could treat related brain-gut conditions simultaneously.

 

The study is also one of the first to show that neurogenesis in the gut is possible and can correct abnormalities in the gut. "Though it's been known for many years that neurogenesis occurs in certain parts of the brain, the idea that it occurs in the gut nervous system is relatively new," Margolis says.

 

Neurogenesis may help treat other types of constipation. "We see a reduction of neurons in the GI tract with age, and that loss is thought to be a cause of constipation in the elderly," Margolis says. "The idea that we may be able to use slow-release 5-HTP to treat conditions that require the development of new neurons in the gut may open a whole new avenue of treatment."

 

An immediate-release version of 5-HTP is available as a supplement, but it has not been proved scientifically to work and physiologically it should not, as it is too short-acting, Margolis says. 5-HTP is the immediate precursor to serotonin. Once ingested, 5-HTP is converted to serotonin, but the serotonin is rapidly inactivated before it can work effectively.

 

The slow-release version of 5-HTP used in the current study produces constant administration of 5-HTP which has been demonstrated to remedy the limitations of currently available immediate-release 5-HTP.

 

Clinical studies are already planned for testing a slow-release 5-HTP drug in people with treatment-resistant depression.

 

Planning for testing a slow-release 5-HTP drug in constipation is in progress.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190507080148.htm

Transplanting gut bacteria alters depression-related behavior, brain inflammation in animals

Knowledge of stress biology may eventually yield bacterial treatments for psychiatric disorders

May 6, 2019

Science Daily/Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Scientists have shown that transplanting gut bacteria, from an animal that is vulnerable to social stress to a non-stressed animal, can cause vulnerable behavior in the recipient. The research reveals details of biological interactions between the brain and gut that may someday lead to probiotic treatments for human psychiatric disorders such as depression.

 

"In rats that show depressive-type behavior in a laboratory test, we found that stress changes their gut microbiome -- the population of bacteria in the gut," said study leader Seema Bhatnagar, PhD, a neuroscientist in Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). "Moreover, when we transplanted bacteria from those stress-vulnerable rats into rats that had not been stressed, the recipient animals showed similar behavior."

 

Bhatnagar added that stress also increased inflammation in the brains of vulnerable rats, and that this inflammation appeared in unstressed rats after they received transplants from vulnerable animals.

 

The study team published its findings online March 4, 2019 in Molecular Psychiatry.

 

Bhatnagar leads the Stress Neurobiology Program at CHOP, and many of her co-authors are members of the PennCHOP Microbiome Program, a collaboration between researchers at CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The program aims to better understand the communities of microbes inside our bodies and alter their properties to improve human health. Chunyu Zhao, PhD, of that program, performed microbiome data analysis and is a co-author of the paper.

 

Scientists already know that brain and gut influence each other. In humans, patients with psychiatric disorders have different populations of gut microbes compared to microbes in healthy individuals, with parallel findings also seen in animal models of psychiatric disease. This study investigated mechanisms related to brain inflammation, microbiomes and stress.

 

"Humans do not all react identically to the same stresses -- some are more vulnerable than others to developing psychiatric disorders, others are more resilient," said Bhatnagar. "Something similar happens in laboratory animals as well."

 

In rodents, social hierarchies and territoriality are major sources of stress. In the laboratory, researchers model stressors with validated behavioral tools such as a forced swim test or a social defeat test to examine how animals use coping strategies to deal with stress. Rats that cope more passively are more vulnerable to the effects of stress because they also exhibit more anxiety- and depressive-type behaviors, while rats that cope more actively are resilient to the effects of social stress. Based on these assessments, the researchers classified the animals as either vulnerable or resilient.

 

The study team then analyzed the fecal microbiomes of vulnerable rats, resilient rats, a non-stressed control group, and a placebo group. They found that vulnerable rats had higher proportions of certain bacteria, such as Clostridia, than the other groups.

 

They then performed fecal transplants from three donor groups -- vulnerable rats, resilient rats or control non-stressed rats -- into naïve rats, animals that had not been stressed. They found that different microbiomes changed depressive-like behavior. Rats receiving transplants from vulnerable rats were more likely to adopt depressive-like behaviors, whereas rats receiving transplants from resilient animals or non-stressed animals did not exhibit any changes in behavior or in neural measures. Patterns of brain inflammatory processes in recipients also resembled those seen in the brains of vulnerable animals, suggesting that immune-modulating effects of gut bacteria such as Clostridia may have promoted that inflammation. However, transplants did not significantly change anxiety-like behavior.

 

The finding that gut transplants from vulnerable rats increased depressive-type behavior but not anxiety-type behavior in non-stressed recipients may point to different mechanisms. The authors said this difference suggests that depressive-type behaviors are more regulated by the gut microbiome, whereas anxiety-type behaviors are primarily influenced by neural activity changes produced by stress experience.

 

"Although much more research remains to be done, we can envision future applications in which we could leverage knowledge of microbiome-brain interactions to treat human psychiatric disorders," said Bhatnagar. "People already are taking over-the-counter probiotics as supplements. If we can eventually validate beneficial behavioral effects from specific bacteria, we could set the stage for new psychiatric treatments."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190506163642.htm

Mental well-being predicts leisure time physical activity in midlife

Different exercise activities are related to the different dimensions of well-being in midlife

May 3, 2019

Science Daily/University of Jyväskylä - Jyväskylän yliopisto

Men and women with high mental well-being at the age of 42 were more physically active at the age of 50 compared to those who got lower scores in mental well-being at age 42. Different exercise activities are related to the different dimensions of well-being in midlife.

 

Mental well-being was investigated through three dimensions: emotional, psychological and social well-being. Emotional well-being indicates overall satisfaction with life and a tendency to have positive feelings. Psychological well-being refers to experiences of personal growth and the purpose of life. Social well-being tells about relationships with other people and the community.

 

It was a surprise that leisure time physical activity did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health, but mental well-being predicted physical activity. It seems that mental well-being is an important resource for maintaining a physically active lifestyle in midlife, says Dr. Tiia Kekäläinen from the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

 

Different types of physical activities are good for well-being

 

Investigation of various leisure time physical activities revealed that different activities are associated with the dimensions of well-being in 50-year-old men and women. Walking was related to emotional well-being, rambling in nature to social well-being and endurance training to subjective health.

 

"Although exercise did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health in this study, exercise is important for current mental well-being and health," Kekäläinen says.

 

These associations were found among both men and women, but additionally, rambling in nature was linked to both emotional well-being and subjective health, but only among men.

 

"It is possible that rambling in nature means different things for men and women. For example, it correlated with the frequency of vigorous exercise only among men," Kekäläinen says.

 

The data gathered at ages 42 and 50 by questionnaires and interviews for the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS) were used (n = 303). Prof. Lea Pulkkinen started JYLS in 1968 at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä. Later, JYLS has been moved to the Gerontology Research Center and is led by Research Director Katja Kokko.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190503112740.htm

Perseverance toward life goals can fend off depression, anxiety, panic disorders

Looking on the bright side also acts as a safeguard, according to 18-year study

May 2, 2019

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

People who don't give up on their goals (or who get better over time at not giving up on their goals) and who have a positive outlook appear to have less anxiety and depression and fewer panic attacks, according to a study of thousands of Americans over the course of 18 years. Surprisingly, a sense of control did not have an effect on the mental health of participants across time.

 

The study was published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

 

"Perseverance cultivates a sense of purposefulness that can create resilience against or decrease current levels of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder," said Nur Hani Zainal, MS, from The Pennsylvania State University and lead author of the study. "Looking on the bright side of unfortunate events has the same effect because people feel that life is meaningful, understandable and manageable."

 

Depression, anxiety and panic disorders are common mental health disorders that can be chronic and debilitating and put a person's physical health and livelihood at risk, according to Zainal and her co-author, Michelle G. Newman, PhD, also of The Pennsylvania State University.

 

"Often, people with these disorders are stuck in a cycle of negative thought patterns and behaviors that can make them feel worse," said Newman. "We wanted to understand what specific coping strategies would be helpful in reducing rates of depression, anxiety and panic attacks."

 

Zainal and Newman used data from 3,294 adults who were studied over 18 years. The average age of participants was 45, nearly all were white and slightly fewer than half were college-educated. Data were collected three times, in 1995 to 1996, 2004 to 2005 and 2012 to 2013. At each interval, participants were asked to rate their goal persistence (e.g., "When I encounter problems, I don't give up until I solve them"), self-mastery (e.g., "I can do just anything I really set my mind to") and positive reappraisal (e.g., "I can find something positive, even in the worst situations"). Diagnoses for major depressive, anxiety and panic disorders were also collected at each interval.

 

People who showed more goal persistence and optimism during the first assessment in the mid-1990s had greater reductions in depression, anxiety and panic disorders across the 18 years, according to the authors.

 

And throughout those years, people who began with fewer mental health problems showed more increased perseverance toward life goals and were better at focusing on the positive side of unfortunate events, said Zainal.

 

"Our findings suggest that people can improve their mental health by raising or maintaining high levels of tenacity, resilience and optimism," she said. "Aspiring toward personal and career goals can make people feel like their lives have meaning. On the other hand, disengaging from striving toward those aims or having a cynical attitude can have high mental health costs."

 

Unlike in previous research, Zainal and Newman did not find that self-mastery, or feeling in control of one's fate, had an effect on the mental health of participants across the 18-year period.

 

"This could have been because the participants, on average, did not show any changes in their use of self-mastery over time," said Newman. "It is possible that self-mastery is a relatively stable part of a person's character that does not easily change."

 

The authors believe their findings will be beneficial for psychotherapists working with clients dealing with depression, anxiety and panic disorders.

 

"Clinicians can help their clients understand the vicious cycle caused by giving up on professional and personal aspirations. Giving up may offer temporary emotional relief but can increase the risk of setbacks as regret and disappointment set in," said Zainal. "Boosting a patient's optimism and resilience by committing to specific courses of actions to make dreams come to full fruition despite obstacles can generate more positive moods and a sense of purpose."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190502100852.htm

Why you love coffee and beer

May 2, 2019

Science Daily/Northwestern University

Why do you swig bitter, dark roast coffee or hoppy beer while your coworker guzzles sweet cola?

 

Scientist Marilyn Cornelis searched for variations in our taste genes that could explain our beverage preferences, because understanding those preferences could indicate ways to intervene in people's diets.

 

To Cornelis' surprise, her new Northwestern Medicine study showed taste preferences for bitter or sweet beverages aren't based on variations in our taste genes, but rather genes related to the psychoactive properties of these beverages.

 

"The genetics underlying our preferences are related to the psychoactive components of these drinks," said Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "People like the way coffee and alcohol make them feel. That's why they drink it. It's not the taste."

 

The paper will be published May 2 in Human Molecular Genetics.

 

The study highlights important behavior-reward components to beverage choice and adds to our understanding of the link between genetics and beverage consumption -- and the potential barriers to intervening in people's diets, Cornelis said.

 

Sugary beverages are linked to many disease and health conditions. Alcohol intake is related to more than 200 diseases and accounts for about 6 percent of deaths globally.

 

Cornelis did find one variant in a gene, called FTO, linked to sugar-sweetened drinks. People who had a variant in the FTO gene -- the same variant previously related to lower risk of obesity -- surprisingly preferred sugar-sweetened beverages.

 

"It's counterintuitive," Cornelis said. "FTO has been something of a mystery gene, and we don't know exactly how it's linked to obesity. It likely plays a role in behavior, which would be linked to weight management."

 

"To our knowledge, this is the first genome-wide association study of beverage consumption based on taste perspective," said Victor Zhong, the study's first author and postdoctoral fellow in preventive medicine at Northwestern. "It's also the most comprehensive genome-wide association study of beverage consumption to date."

 

How the study worked

Beverages were categorized into a bitter-tasting group and a sweet-tasting group. Bitter included coffee, tea, grapefruit juice, beer, red wine and liquor. Sweet included sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages and non-grapefruit juices. This taste classification has been previously validated.

 

Beverage intake was collected using 24-hour dietary recalls or questionnaires. Scientists counted the number of servings of these bitter and sweet beverages consumed by about 336,000 individuals in the UK Biobank. Then they did a genome-wide association study of bitter beverage consumption and of sweet beverage consumption. Lastly, they looked to replicate their key findings in three U.S. cohorts.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190502100814.htm

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