Lifespans are going up, cats don’t cause psychosis and more

February 24, 2017 Mike Francis

Every day, somewhere at a university or clinic near you, someone is working on a scientific study that may affect your health and well-being. Whether it’s focused on your pregnancy or the pain that radiates through your back, there’s always something happening in health science. Let’s plunge into some recent developments.


Anybody who’s gone on a diet to lose weight knows the problem: Losing weight is the easy part. Keeping it off is harder. According to research published by the American College of Physicians, a weight-loss program that includes follow-up coaching sessions, often by telephone, can help people keep from regaining weight. Researcher Corrine Voils said the coaching focused on such ideas as helping dieters plan for situations when they might slip into bad eating habits, such as holiday gatherings, and encouraging them to keep a list of benefits from losing weight.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Your answer says something about the healthiness of your diet. So says the Obesity Society, which studied the dietary choices of morning people and evening people and found that morning people instinctively make healthier choices throughout the day. Evening people ate less protein overall and more sucrose, a form of sugar.

Health and wellness

Is your child overweight? It may not be entirely within his control. Genes may be partly responsible. An analysis of almost 100,000 children from six countries has shown that a child inherits about 40 percent of his body-mass index from his parents. Further, if both parents are obese, their child is likely to be, too. "These findings have far-reaching consequences for the health of the world's children,” said lead author Peter Dolton, a professor at the University of Sussex in England. “They should make us rethink the extent to which obesity is the result of family factors, and our genetic inheritance, rather than decisions made by us as individuals."

A University of Buffalo study makes a startling link between income levels, education and chronic pain. Sociology professor Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk found that people with the least education are 80 percent more likely to experience chronic pain. “If you look at the most severe pain, which happens to be the pain most associated with disability and death, then the socioeconomically disadvantaged are much, much more likely to experience it, “she said. She called for more research to understand this pain divide.

In Greek mythology, Hypnos was the god of sleep, and Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, flowed beside his lair. A pair of recent studies suggest that sleep, as the ancient storytellers said, is related to forgetting. A study out of the universities of Wisconsin and California-San Diego found that the brain synapses of mice shortened significantly during the sleep cycle, effectively sifting information absorbed during the day. And a study out of Johns Hopkins University, which examined the proteins in mouse brains, found that a particular protein turns on “the pruning machinery” in sleeping mice. Sleeping, in other words, is a way of forgetting.


Do you take a proton pump inhibitor? These are heartburn medicines that reduce stomach acid and are sold under such names as Losec, Nexium and Prevacid. A study by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs in St. Louis suggests that using such medications puts people at increased risk of damaging their kidneys – even if they had no prior kidney problems. Proton pump inhibitors are among the most common prescription drugs in the United States. Earlier studies have associated the drugs with higher rates of fractures and infection.


A French study of almost 800,000 deliveries found that gestational diabetes mellitus, or GDM, a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, poses increased health risks for mother and baby. Mothers who developed GDM were more likely to give birth early, require a C-section or experience a dangerous surge in blood pressure. A percentage of the babies were more likely to have respiratory or heart issues and likely to be larger than average at birth.

If you’re like many women who added weight after giving birth, you probably attributed it to “baby weight” – pounds put on during pregnancy and not easily shed. But a University of Michigan study of 30,000 women found that most never returned to their pre-pregnancy weights. In fact, as their children reach toddlerhood, the women gain an average of 1.94 pounds a year. Researcher Olga Yakusheva said she believes mothers of young children put their youngsters’ needs ahead of their own and may not get enough exercise or eat as well as they might otherwise.


An extensive study of life expectancies in 35 countries found that people everywhere are projected to live longer in the year 2030 than they do today. But the study, which was published in The Lancet, shows great differences in how the populations compare to one another. Women in South Korea, for example, are predicted to have an average life expectancy of almost 91 by 2030. People in South Korea have lower body-mass indices and lower blood pressure than those in most places, researchers noted. The United States, by contrast, is near the bottom of the table, with some of the lowest projected gains in lifespan. U.S. men are projected to have an average lifespan of 79.5 in 2030 and women 83.3.

Good news for cat lovers

The study has a long title, but the second part of it tells the story: “Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at

ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort.” The finding should reassure pregnant women who have cats. It turns out, despite some alarming assertions to the contrary, owning a cat does NOT increase the risk that your child will suffer psychotic episodes as an adolescent. In case you had wondered.

Thanks for reading the To Your Health blog. Was there a health story that caught your eye recently? Is there anything you’d like us to review for a future blog post? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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