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Mothers’ dieting habits and self-talk have profound impact on daughters − 2 psychologists explain how to cultivate healthy behaviors and body image

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496">Janet J. Boseovski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p>Weight loss is one of the most common health and appearance-related goals.</p> <p>Women and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm">teen girls</a> are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm">especially likely to pursue dieting</a> to achieve weight loss goals even though a great deal of research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-thin-people-dont-understand-about-dieting-86604">dieting doesn’t work over the long term</a>.</p> <p>We are a <a href="https://www.duck-lab.com/people">developmental psychologist</a> and a <a href="https://psy.uncg.edu/directory/ashleigh-gallagher/">social psychologist</a> who together wrote a forthcoming book, “Beyond Body Positive: A Mother’s Evidence-Based Guide for Helping Girls Build a Healthy Body Image.”</p> <p>In the book, we address topics such as the effects of maternal dieting behaviors on daughters’ health and well-being. We provide information on how to build a foundation for healthy body image beginning in girlhood.</p> <h2>Culturally defined body ideals</h2> <p>Given the strong influence of social media and other cultural influences on body ideals, it’s understandable that so many people pursue diets aimed at weight loss. <a href="https://communityhealth.mayoclinic.org/featured-stories/tiktok-diets">TikTok</a>, YouTube, Instagram and celebrity websites feature slim influencers and “how-tos” for achieving those same results in no time.</p> <p>For example, women and teens are engaging in rigid and extreme forms of exercise such as 54D, a program to <a href="https://54d.com/">achieve body transformation in 54 days</a>, or the <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/75-hard-challenge-and-rules">75 Hard Challenge</a>, which is to follow five strict rules for 75 days.</p> <p>For teens, these pursuits are likely fueled by trendy body preoccupations such as the desire for “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/well/move/tiktok-legging-legs-eating-disorders.html">legging legs</a>.”</p> <p>Women and teens have also been been inundated with recent messaging around <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-that-melt-away-pounds-still-present-more-questions-than-answers-but-ozempic-wegovy-and-mounjaro-could-be-key-tools-in-reducing-the-obesity-epidemic-205549">quick-fix weight loss drugs</a>, which come with a lot of caveats.</p> <p>Dieting and weight loss goals are highly individual, and when people are intensely self-focused, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70">possible to lose sight of the bigger picture</a>. Although women might wonder what the harm is in trying the latest diet, science shows that dieting behavior doesn’t just affect the dieter. In particular, for women who are mothers or who have other girls in their lives, these behaviors affect girls’ emerging body image and their health and well-being.</p> <h2>The profound effect of maternal role models</h2> <p>Research shows that mothers and maternal figures <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.11.001">have a profound influence on their daughters’ body image</a>.</p> <p>The opportunity to influence girls’ body image comes far earlier than adolescence. In fact, research shows that these influences on body image <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-toxic-diet-culture-is-passed-from-moms-to-daughters">begin very early in life</a> – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.10.006">during the preschool years</a>.</p> <p>Mothers may feel that they are being discreet about their dieting behavior, but little girls are watching and listening, and they are far more observant of us than many might think.</p> <p>For example, one study revealed that compared with daughters of nondieting women, 5-year-old girls whose mothers dieted <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00339-4">were aware of the connection between dieting and thinness</a>.</p> <p>Mothers’ eating behavior does not just affect girls’ ideas about dieting, but also their daughters’ eating behavior. The amount of food that mothers eat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">predicts how much their daughters will eat</a>. In addition, daughters whose mothers are dieters are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">more likely to become dieters themselves</a> and are also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.03.001">more likely to have a negative body image</a>.</p> <p>Negative body image is <a href="https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170">not a trivial matter</a>. It affects girls’ and women’s mental and physical well-being in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317710815">host of ways</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.06.009">can predict the emergence of eating disorders</a>.</p> <h2>Avoiding ‘fat talk’</h2> <p>What can moms do, then, to serve their daughters’ and their own health?</p> <p>They can focus on small steps. And although it is best to begin these efforts early in life – in girlhood – it is never too late to do so.</p> <p>For example, mothers can consider how they think about and talk about themselves around their daughters. Engaging in “fat talk” may inadvertently send their daughters the message that larger bodies are bad, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.004">contributing to weight bias</a> and negative self-image. Mothers’ fat talk also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1908294">predicts later body dissatisfaction in daughters</a>.</p> <p>And negative self-talk isn’t good for mothers, either; it is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318781943">lower motivation and unhealthful eating</a>. Mothers can instead practice and model self-compassion, which involves treating oneself the way <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003">a loving friend might treat you</a>.</p> <p>In discussions about food and eating behavior, it is important to avoid moralizing certain kinds of food by labeling them as “good” or “bad,” as girls may extend these labels to their personal worth. For example, a young girl may feel that she is being “bad” if she eats dessert, if that is what she has learned from observing the women around her. In contrast, she may feel that she has to eat a salad to be “good.”</p> <p>Moms and other female role models can make sure that the dinner plate sends a healthy message to their daughters by showing instead that all foods can fit into a balanced diet when the time is right. Intuitive eating, which emphasizes paying attention to hunger and satiety and allows flexibility in eating behavior, is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4">better physical and mental health in adolescence</a>.</p> <p>Another way that women and especially moms can buffer girls’ body image is by helping their daughters <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.12.009">to develop media literacy</a> and to think critically about the nature and purpose of media. For example, moms can discuss the misrepresentation and distortion of bodies, such as the use of filters to enhance physical appearance, on social media.</p> <h2>Focusing on healthful behaviors</h2> <p>One way to begin to focus on health behaviors rather than dieting behaviors is to develop respect for the body and to <a href="https://theconversation.com/body-neutrality-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-lead-to-more-positive-body-image-191799">consider body neutrality</a>. In other words, prize body function rather than appearance and spend less time thinking about your body’s appearance. Accept that there are times when you may not feel great about your body, and that this is OK.</p> <p>To feel and look their best, mothers can aim to stick to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-best-diet-for-healthy-sleep-a-nutritional-epidemiologist-explains-what-food-choices-will-help-you-get-more-restful-zs-219955">healthy sleep schedule</a>, manage their stress levels, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fiber-is-your-bodys-natural-guide-to-weight-management-rather-than-cutting-carbs-out-of-your-diet-eat-them-in-their-original-fiber-packaging-instead-205159">eat a varied diet</a> that includes all of the foods that they enjoy, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-runners-high-may-result-from-molecules-called-cannabinoids-the-bodys-own-version-of-thc-and-cbd-170796">move and exercise their bodies regularly</a> as lifelong practices, rather than engaging in quick-fix trends.</p> <p>Although many of these tips sound familiar, and perhaps even simple, they become effective when we recognize their importance and begin acting on them. Mothers can work toward modeling these behaviors and tailor each of them to their daughter’s developmental level. It’s never too early to start.</p> <h2>Promoting healthy body image</h2> <p>Science shows that several personal characteristics are associated with body image concerns among women.</p> <p>For example, research shows that women who are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.001">higher in neuroticism</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2">and perfectionism</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.983534">lower in self-compassion</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.08.001">lower in self-efficacy</a> are all more likely to struggle with negative body image.</p> <p>Personality is frequently defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But if they wish, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/per.1945">mothers can change personality characteristics</a> that they feel aren’t serving them well.</p> <p>For example, perfectionist tendencies – such as setting unrealistic, inflexible goals – can be examined, challenged and replaced with more rational thoughts and behaviors. A woman who believes she must work out every day can practice being more flexible in her thinking. One who thinks of dessert as “cheating” can practice resisting moral judgments about food.</p> <p>Changing habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving certainly takes effort and time, but it is far more likely than diet trends to bring about sustainable, long-term change. And taking the first steps to modify even a few of these habits can positively affect daughters.</p> <p>In spite of all the noise from media and other cultural influences, mothers can feel empowered knowing that they have a significant influence on their daughters’ feelings about, and treatment of, their bodies.</p> <p>In this way, mothers’ modeling of healthier attitudes and behaviors is a sound investment – for both their own body image and that of the girls they love.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221968/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496"><em>Janet J. Boseovski</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/mothers-dieting-habits-and-self-talk-have-profound-impact-on-daughters-2-psychologists-explain-how-to-cultivate-healthy-behaviors-and-body-image-221968">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Why do I keep getting urinary tract infections? And why are chronic UTIs so hard to treat?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iris-lim-1204657">Iris Lim</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Dealing with chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) means facing more than the occasional discomfort. It’s like being on a never ending battlefield against an unseen adversary, making simple daily activities a trial.</p> <p>UTIs happen when bacteria sneak into the urinary system, causing pain and frequent trips to the bathroom.</p> <p>Chronic UTIs take this to the next level, coming back repeatedly or never fully going away despite treatment. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557479/">Chronic UTIs</a> are typically diagnosed when a person experiences two or more infections within six months or three or more within a year.</p> <p>They can happen to anyone, but some are more prone due to their <a href="https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults">body’s makeup or habits</a>. Women are more likely to get UTIs than men, due to their shorter urethra and hormonal changes during menopause that can decrease the protective lining of the urinary tract. Sexually active people are also at greater risk, as bacteria can be transferred around the area.</p> <p>Up to <a href="https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults#Related%20Resources">60% of women</a> will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. While effective treatments exist, <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/when-urinary-tract-infections-keep-coming-back#:%7E:text=Your%20urine%20might%20be%20cloudy,they%20take%20on%20your%20life.">about 25%</a> of women face recurrent infections within six months. Around <a href="https://sciendo.com/article/10.33073/pjm-2019-048?tab=article">20–30%</a> of UTIs don’t respond to standard antibiotic. The challenge of chronic UTIs lies in bacteria’s ability to shield themselves against treatments.</p> <h2>Why are chronic UTIs so hard to treat?</h2> <p>Once thought of as straightforward infections cured by antibiotics, we now know chronic UTIs are complex. The cunning nature of the bacteria responsible for the condition allows them to hide in bladder walls, out of antibiotics’ reach.</p> <p>The bacteria form biofilms, a kind of protective barrier that makes them nearly impervious to standard antibiotic treatments.</p> <p>This ability to evade treatment has led to a troubling <a href="https://theconversation.com/rising-antibiotic-resistance-in-utis-could-cost-australia-1-6-billion-a-year-by-2030-heres-how-to-curb-it-149543">increase in antibiotic resistance</a>, a global health concern that renders some of the conventional treatments ineffective.</p> <p>Antibiotics need to be advanced to keep up with evolving bacteria, in a similar way to the flu vaccine, which is updated annually to combat the latest strains of the flu virus. If we used the same flu vaccine year after year, its effectiveness would wane, just as overused antibiotics lose their power against bacteria that have adapted.</p> <p>But fighting bacteria that resist antibiotics is much tougher than updating the flu vaccine. Bacteria change in ways that are harder to predict, making it more challenging to create new, effective antibiotics. It’s like a never-ending game where the bacteria are always one step ahead.</p> <p>Treating chronic UTIs still relies heavily on antibiotics, but doctors are getting crafty, changing up medications or prescribing low doses over a longer time to outwit the bacteria.</p> <p>Doctors are also placing a greater emphasis on thorough diagnostics to accurately identify chronic UTIs from the outset. By asking detailed questions about the duration and frequency of symptoms, health-care providers can better distinguish between isolated UTI episodes and chronic conditions.</p> <p>The approach to initial treatment can significantly influence the likelihood of a UTI becoming chronic. Early, targeted therapy, based on the specific bacteria causing the infection and its antibiotic sensitivity, may reduce the risk of recurrence.</p> <p>For post-menopausal women, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00192-020-04397-z">estrogen therapy</a> has shown promise in reducing the risk of recurrent UTIs. After menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can lead to changes in the urinary tract that makes it more susceptible to infections. This treatment restores the balance of the vaginal and urinary tract environments, making it less likely for UTIs to occur.</p> <p>Lifestyle changes, such as <a href="https://journals.lww.com/co-nephrolhypertens/FullText/2013/05001/Impact_of_fluid_intake_in_the_prevention_of.1.aspx">drinking more water</a> and practising good hygiene like washing hands with soap after going to the toilet and the recommended front-to-back wiping for women, also play a big role.</p> <p>Some swear by cranberry juice or supplements, though researchers are still figuring out <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001322.pub2/full">how effective these remedies truly are</a>.</p> <h2>What treatments might we see in the future?</h2> <p>Scientists are currently working on new treatments for chronic UTIs. One promising avenue is the development of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10052183/pdf/pathogens-12-00359.pdf">vaccines</a> aimed at preventing UTIs altogether, much like flu shots prepare our immune system to fend off the flu.</p> <p>Another new method being looked at is called <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12223-019-00750-y">phage therapy</a>. It uses special viruses called bacteriophages that go after and kill only the bad bacteria causing UTIs, while leaving the good bacteria in our body alone. This way, it doesn’t make the bacteria resistant to treatment, which is a big plus.</p> <p>Researchers are also exploring the potential of <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6382/12/1/167">probiotics</a>. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria into the urinary tract to out-compete harmful pathogens. These good bacteria work by occupying space and resources in the urinary tract, making it harder for harmful pathogens to establish themselves.</p> <p>Probiotics can also produce substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and enhance the body’s immune response.</p> <p>Chronic UTIs represent a stubborn challenge, but with a mix of current treatments and promising research, we’re getting closer to a day when chronic UTIs are a thing of the past.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223008/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iris-lim-1204657">I<em>ris Lim</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-i-keep-getting-urinary-tract-infections-and-why-are-chronic-utis-so-hard-to-treat-223008">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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How long does back pain last? And how can learning about pain increase the chance of recovery?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Back pain is common. One in thirteen people have it right now and worldwide a staggering 619 million people will <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">have it this year</a>.</p> <p>Chronic pain, of which back pain is the most common, is the world’s <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">most disabling</a> health problem. Its economic impact <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92510/">dwarfs other health conditions</a>.</p> <p>If you get back pain, how long will it take to go away? We scoured the scientific literature to <a href="https://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/196/2/E29.full.pdf">find out</a>. We found data on almost 20,000 people, from 95 different studies and split them into three groups:</p> <ul> <li>acute – those with back pain that started less than six weeks ago</li> <li>subacute – where it started between six and 12 weeks ago</li> <li>chronic – where it started between three months and one year ago.</li> </ul> <p>We found 70%–95% of people with acute back pain were likely to recover within six months. This dropped to 40%–70% for subacute back pain and to 12%–16% for chronic back pain.</p> <p>Clinical guidelines point to graded return to activity and pain education under the guidance of a health professional as the best ways to promote recovery. Yet these effective interventions are underfunded and hard to access.</p> <h2>More pain doesn’t mean a more serious injury</h2> <p>Most acute back pain episodes are <a href="https://www.racgp.org.au/getattachment/75af0cfd-6182-4328-ad23-04ad8618920f/attachment.aspx">not caused</a> by serious injury or disease.</p> <p>There are rare exceptions, which is why it’s wise to see your doctor or physio, who can check for signs and symptoms that warrant further investigation. But unless you have been in a significant accident or sustained a large blow, you are unlikely to have caused much damage to your spine.</p> <p>Even very minor back injuries can be brutally painful. This is, in part, because of how we are made. If you think of your spinal cord as a very precious asset (which it is), worthy of great protection (which it is), a bit like the crown jewels, then what would be the best way to keep it safe? Lots of protection and a highly sensitive alarm system.</p> <p>The spinal cord is protected by strong bones, thick ligaments, powerful muscles and a highly effective alarm system (your nervous system). This alarm system can trigger pain that is so unpleasant that you cannot possibly think of, let alone do, anything other than seek care or avoid movement.</p> <p>The messy truth is that when pain persists, the pain system becomes more sensitive, so a widening array of things contribute to pain. This pain system hypersensitivity is a result of neuroplasticity – your nervous system is becoming better at making pain.</p> <h2>Reduce your chance of lasting pain</h2> <p>Whether or not your pain resolves is not determined by the extent of injury to your back. We don’t know all the factors involved, but we do know there are things that you can do to reduce chronic back pain:</p> <ul> <li> <p>understand how pain really works. This will involve intentionally learning about modern pain science and care. It will be difficult but rewarding. It will help you work out what you can do to change your pain</p> </li> <li> <p>reduce your pain system sensitivity. With guidance, patience and persistence, you can learn how to gradually retrain your pain system back towards normal.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How to reduce your pain sensitivity and learn about pain</h2> <p>Learning about “how pain works” provides the most sustainable <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-067718">improvements in chronic back pain</a>. Programs that combine pain education with graded brain and body exercises (gradual increases in movement) can reduce pain system sensitivity and help you return to the life you want.</p> <p>These programs have been in development for years, but high-quality clinical trials <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2794765">are now emerging</a> and it’s good news: they show most people with chronic back pain improve and many completely recover.</p> <p>But most clinicians aren’t equipped to deliver these effective programs – <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">good pain education</a> is not taught in most medical and health training degrees. Many patients still receive ineffective and often risky and expensive treatments, or keep seeking temporary pain relief, hoping for a cure.</p> <p>When health professionals don’t have adequate pain education training, they can deliver bad pain education, which leaves patients feeling like they’ve just <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">been told it’s all in their head</a>.</p> <p>Community-driven not-for-profit organisations such as <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/">Pain Revolution</a> are training health professionals to be good pain educators and raising awareness among the general public about the modern science of pain and the best treatments. Pain Revolution has partnered with dozens of health services and community agencies to train more than <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/find-a-lpe">80 local pain educators</a> and supported them to bring greater understanding and improved care to their colleagues and community.</p> <p>But a broader system-wide approach, with government, industry and philanthropic support, is needed to expand these programs and fund good pain education. To solve the massive problem of chronic back pain, effective interventions need to be part of standard care, not as a last resort after years of increasing pain, suffering and disability.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222513/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, Post-doctoral Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Foundation Chair in Physiotherapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-long-does-back-pain-last-and-how-can-learning-about-pain-increase-the-chance-of-recovery-222513">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Running or yoga can help beat depression, research shows – even if exercise is the last thing you feel like

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-noetel-147460">Michael Noetel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>At least <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychiatry/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.665019/full">one in ten people</a> have depression at some point in their lives, with some estimates <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379720301793">closer to one in four</a>. It’s one of the worst things for someone’s wellbeing – worse than <a href="https://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/_files/ugd/928487_4a99b6e23f014f85b38495b7ab1ac24b.pdf">debt, divorce or diabetes</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/why-are-so-many-australians-taking-antidepressants-221857">One in seven</a> Australians take antidepressants. Psychologists are in <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-cant-solve-australias-mental-health-emergency-if-we-dont-train-enough-psychologists-here-are-5-fixes-190135">high demand</a>. Still, only <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003901">half</a> of people with depression in high-income countries get treatment.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/384/bmj-2023-075847">new research</a> shows that exercise should be considered alongside therapy and antidepressants. It can be just as impactful in treating depression as therapy, but it matters what type of exercise you do and how you do it.</p> <h2>Walk, run, lift, or dance away depression</h2> <p>We found 218 randomised trials on exercise for depression, with 14,170 participants. We analysed them using a method called a network meta-analysis. This allowed us to see how different types of exercise compared, instead of lumping all types together.</p> <p>We found walking, running, strength training, yoga and mixed aerobic exercise were about as effective as <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-cognitive-behaviour-therapy-37351">cognitive behaviour therapy</a> – one of the <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychiatry/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00004/full">gold-standard treatments</a> for depression. The effects of dancing were also powerful. However, this came from analysing just five studies, mostly involving young women. Other exercise types had more evidence to back them.</p> <p>Walking, running, strength training, yoga and mixed aerobic exercise seemed more effective than antidepressant medication alone, and were about as effective as exercise alongside antidepressants.</p> <p>But of these exercises, people were most likely to stick with strength training and yoga.</p> <p><iframe id="cZaWb" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/cZaWb/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Antidepressants certainly help <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(17)32802-7/fulltext">some people</a>. And of course, anyone getting treatment for depression should talk to their doctor <a href="https://australia.cochrane.org/news/new-cochrane-review-explores-latest-evidence-approaches-stopping-long-term-antidepressants">before changing</a> what they are doing.</p> <p>Still, our evidence shows that if you have depression, you should get a psychologist <em>and</em> an exercise plan, whether or not you’re taking antidepressants.</p> <h2>Join a program and go hard (with support)</h2> <p>Before we analysed the data, we thought people with depression might need to “ease into it” with generic advice, <a href="https://www.who.int/initiatives/behealthy/physical-activity">such as</a> “some physical activity is better than doing none.”</p> <p>But we found it was far better to have a clear program that aimed to push you, at least a little. Programs with clear structure worked better, compared with those that gave people lots of freedom. Exercising by yourself might also make it hard to set the bar at the right level, given low self-esteem is a symptom of depression.</p> <p>We also found it didn’t matter how much people exercised, in terms of sessions or minutes a week. It also didn’t really matter how long the exercise program lasted. What mattered was the intensity of the exercise: the higher the intensity, the better the results.</p> <h2>Yes, it’s hard to keep motivated</h2> <p>We should exercise caution in interpreting the findings. Unlike drug trials, participants in exercise trials know which “treatment” they’ve been randomised to receive, so this may skew the results.</p> <p>Many people with depression have physical, psychological or social barriers to participating in formal exercise programs. And getting support to exercise isn’t free.</p> <p>We also still don’t know the best way to stay motivated to exercise, which can be even harder if you have depression.</p> <p>Our study tried to find out whether things like setting exercise goals helped, but we couldn’t get a clear result.</p> <p>Other reviews found it’s important to have a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31923898/">clear action plan</a> (for example, putting exercise in your calendar) and to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19916637/">track your progress</a> (for example, using an app or smartwatch). But predicting which of these interventions work is notoriously difficult.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04128-4">2021 mega-study</a> of more than 60,000 gym-goers <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04128-4/figures/1">found</a> experts struggled to predict which strategies might get people into the gym more often. Even making workouts fun didn’t seem to motivate people. However, listening to audiobooks while exercising helped a lot, which no experts predicted.</p> <p>Still, we can be confident that people benefit from personalised support and accountability. The support helps overcome the hurdles they’re sure to hit. The accountability keeps people going even when their brains are telling them to avoid it.</p> <p>So, when starting out, it seems wise to avoid going it alone. Instead:</p> <ul> <li> <p>join a fitness group or yoga studio</p> </li> <li> <p>get a trainer or an exercise physiologist</p> </li> <li> <p>ask a friend or family member to go for a walk with you.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Taking a few steps towards getting that support makes it more likely you’ll keep exercising.</p> <h2>Let’s make this official</h2> <p>Some countries see exercise as a backup plan for treating depression. For example, the American Psychological Association only <a href="https://www.apa.org/depression-guideline/">conditionally recommends</a> exercise as a “complementary and alternative treatment” when “psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy is either ineffective or unacceptable”.</p> <p>Based on our research, this recommendation is withholding a potent treatment from many people who need it.</p> <p>In contrast, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists <a href="https://www.ranzcp.org/getmedia/a4678cf4-91f5-4746-99d4-03dc7379ae51/mood-disorders-clinical-practice-guideline-2020.pdf">recommends</a> vigorous aerobic activity at least two to three times a week for all people with depression.</p> <p>Given how common depression is, and the number failing to receive care, other countries should follow suit and recommend exercise alongside front-line treatments for depression.</p> <p><em>I would like to acknowledge my colleagues Taren Sanders, Chris Lonsdale and the rest of the coauthors of the paper on which this article is based.</em></p> <p><em>If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223441/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-noetel-147460">Michael Noetel</a>, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/running-or-yoga-can-help-beat-depression-research-shows-even-if-exercise-is-the-last-thing-you-feel-like-223441">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Your unique smell can provide clues about how healthy you are

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/aoife-morrin-1478132">Aoife Morrin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p>Hundreds of chemicals stream from our bodies into the air every second. These chemicals release into the air easily as they have high vapour pressures, meaning they boil and turn into gases at room temperature. They give clues about who we are, and how healthy we are.</p> <p>Since ancient Greek times, we’ve known that we smell differently when we are unwell. While we rely on blood analysis today, ancient Greek physicians used smell to diagnose maladies. If they took a whiff of your breath and described it as <em>fetor hepaticus</em> (meaning bad liver), it meant you could be headed for liver failure.</p> <p>If a person’s whiff was sweet or fruity, physicians thought this meant that sugars in the digestive system were not being broken down, and that person had probably diabetes. Science has since shown the ancient Greeks were right – liver failure and <a href="https://tisserandinstitute.org/human-volatilome/">diabetes</a> and many <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00216-023-04986-z">other diseases</a> including infectious diseases give your breath a distinctive smell.</p> <p>In 1971, <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1962/pauling/facts/">Nobel Laureate chemist Linus Pauling</a> <a href="https://edu.rsc.org/feature/breath-analysis/2020106.article#:%7E:text=The%20'modern%20era'%20of%20breath,in%20an%20average%20breath%20sample.">counted 250 different</a> gaseous chemicals in breath. These gaseous chemicals are called volatile organic compounds or VOCs.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RzozmYPfCmM?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Since Pauling’s discovery, other scientists have <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40291-023-00640-7">discovered hundreds more VOCs</a> in our breath. We have learned that many of these VOCs have distinctive odours, but some have no odour that our noses can perceive.</p> <p>Scientists believe that whether a VOC <a href="https://tisserandinstitute.org/human-volatilome/">has an odour</a> that our noses can detect or not, they can reveal information about how healthy someone is.</p> <p>A Scottish man’s Parkinson’s disease onset was <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-47627179">identified by his wife</a>, retired nurse Joy Milner, after she was convinced the way he smelled had changed, years before he was diagnosed in 2005. This discovery has <a href="https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/smell-of-skin-could-lead-to-early-diagnosis-for-parkinsons/">led to research programmes</a> involving Joy Milner to identify <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-supersmeller-can-detect-the-scent-of-parkinsons-leading-to-an-experimental-test-for-the-illness/">the precise smell</a> of this disease.</p> <p>Dogs can <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01629-8">sniff out more diseases</a> than humans because of their more <a href="https://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/news/the-science-of-sniffs-disease-smelling-dogs%20-%20I%20think%20the%20previous%20nature%20link%20has%20more%20credibility%20for%20here%20also">sophisticated olfactory talents</a>. But technological techniques, like <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/mass-spectrometry">analytical tool mass spectrometry</a>, picks up even more subtle changes in VOC profiles that are being linked to <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(20)30100-6/fulltext">gut</a>, <a href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0165993618305168">skin</a> and <a href="https://err.ersjournals.com/content/28/152/190011">respiratory</a> diseases as well as neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. Researchers believe that one day some diseases will be diagnosed simply by breathing into a device.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Xjo2M-XMYfs?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Where do VOCs come from?</h2> <p>Breath is not the only source of VOCs in the body. They are also emitted from skin, urine and faeces.</p> <p>VOCs from skin are the result of millions of skin glands removing metabolic waste from the body, as well as waste generated by bacteria and other microbes that live on our skin. Sweating produces extra nutrients for these bacteria to metabolise which can result in particularly odorous VOCs. Odour from sweat only makes up a fraction of the scents from VOCs though.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro.2017.157">Our skin</a> and also our gut microbiomes are made up from a delicate balance of these microbes. Scientists think <a href="https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/abstract/2015/01000/the_gut_microbiome_in_health_and_in_disease.12.aspx">they influence our health</a>, but we don’t yet understand a lot about how this relationship works.</p> <p>Unlike the gut, the skin is relatively easy to study – you can collect skin samples from living humans without having to go deep into the body. <a href="https://www-sciencedirect-com.dcu.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S1471492221002087">Scientists think</a> skin VOCs can offer insights into how the microbiome’s bacteria and the human body work together to maintain our health and protect us from disease.</p> <p>In my team’s laboratory, <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1752-7163/abf20a">we are investigating</a> whether the skin VOC signature can reveal different attributes of the person it belongs to. These signals in skin VOC signatures are probably how dogs distinguish between people by smell.</p> <p>We are at a relatively early stage in this research area but we have shown that you can tell males from females based on how acidic the VOCs from skin are. We use mass spectrometry to see this as the average human nose is not sophisticated enough to detect these VOCs.</p> <p>We can also predict a person’s age with reasonable accuracy to within a few years from their skin VOC profile. This is not surprising considering that oxidative stress in our bodies increases as we age.</p> <p><a href="https://www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(00)80077-3/pdf">Oxidative stress</a> happens when your antioxidant levels are low and causes irreversible damage to our cells and organs. <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jasms.3c00315">Our recent research</a> found by-products of this oxidative damage in skin VOC profiles.</p> <p>Not only are these VOCs responsible for personal scent – they are used by plants, insects and animals as a communication channel. Plants are in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-10975-x">constant VOC dialogue</a> with other organisms including pollinators, herbivores, other plants and their natural enemies such as harmful bacteria and insects. VOCs used for this back and forth dialogue are known as pheromones.</p> <h2>What has science shown about love pheromones?</h2> <p>In the animal kingdom, there is good evidence VOCs can act as aphrodisiacs. Mice for example have microbes which contribute to a particularly <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982212012687">smelly compound called trimethylamine</a>, which allows mice to verify the species of a potential mate. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0093691X21003083">Pigs</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/4381097a">elephants</a> have sex pheromones too.</p> <p>It is possible that humans also produce VOCs for attracting the perfect mate. Scientists have yet to fully decode skin – or other VOCs that are released from our bodies. But evidence for human love pheromones so far is <a href="https://www.science.org/content/article/do-human-pheromones-actually-exist">controversial at best</a>. <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3835-colour-vision-ended-human-pheromone-use/">One theory suggests</a> that they were lost about 23 million years ago when primates developed full colour vision and started relying on their enhanced vision to choose a mate.</p> <p>However, we believe that whether human pheromones exist or not, skin VOCs can reveal who and how we are, in terms of things like ageing, nutrition and fitness, fertility and even stress levels. This signature probably contains markers we can use to monitor our health and diagnose disease.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215311/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/aoife-morrin-1478132"><em>Aoife Morrin</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: </em><em>Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-unique-smell-can-provide-clues-about-how-healthy-you-are-215311">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Coles shopper humiliated after being accused of shoplifting

<p dir="ltr">A Coles shopper has been left feeling humiliated after they were forced to lift up their shirt to prove they weren’t shoplifting. </p> <p dir="ltr">Tony Jones, 39, was about to pay for his groceries at self-checkout on Saturday morning when he was confronted by the employee of the Brisbane Coles who made the accusation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And what about what’s under your shirt?” Mr Jones said the staff member loudly asked him, causing the other customers to look around.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Jones has a stoma as a result of having his entire bowel removed from bowel cancer a few years ago, and later developed an “extremely obvious” hernia at the site which “sticks out about 15 centimetres from my stomach”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“My initial reaction was flat-out shock, because she didn’t say it in a way of asking me, she flat-out accused me,” he told <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/customer-with-obvious-hernia-humiliated-at-selfservice-checkout/news-story/56980cdcada75ba9ae0cca9cb90c75f0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“She seemed quite proud. Everybody in the self-checkout bay heard what she accused me of, and she walked over to me. I was just stunned, I guess I kind of shut down — I’ve never been accused of being a thief before — so I just lifted my shirt.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After revealing his condition, Jones was left feeling “violated” as the supermarket worker simply said, “Yeah, sorry, we’ve had a few of those lately,” apparently referring to shoplifting incidents.</p> <p dir="ltr">Coles has since apologised to Mr Jones, but that hasn’t made up for the trauma he endured in the supermarket. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve lived here for 12 or 13 years, I’ve been at that Coles plenty,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Obviously I don’t expect retail staff to recognise everybody … I assume they’ve had some thefts lately, I’m not sure whether they’ve been given instructions to pull up more people because they don’t have a [security] gate yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Jones took to Reddit to share the story of his encounter, asking those on the social media site, “Is Coles allowed to ask what’s under my shirt? When it’s just my hernia.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The post quickly went viral, attracting hundreds of comments.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Former loss prevention officer here — they cannot detain you in any way unless they have witnessed you select the goods and witnessed you not take advantage of a reasonable opportunity to pay,” one person wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Another woman said, “I have a permanent ileostomy and have had retail workers accuse me of stealing too. It’s annoying because most of the time I wear clothes where the top of it pokes out the top and it’s happened when I’ve worn clothes that completely covered it.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A third person commented, “Gentle reminder Coles turned a record profit in the midst of the Covid recession, then decided to install hard arse security detectors to catch thieves.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Jones said the whole experience left him feeling rattled and upset, especially as he continues to undergo treatment for his condition and prepare for another surgery. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m not dealing with it great, if I’m truthful,” he said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m seeing doctors weekly at the moment. Things add up, and getting called out on Saturday, it basically shut me down for the entire day, [left me] for lack of a better word feeling like s**t. I had all eyes on me. I’m not a social person so I just wanted to get out of there to be honest. I don’t think I’ll ever be going back to Coles.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Why it’s a bad idea to mix alcohol with some medications

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839">Nial Wheate</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jasmine-lee-1507733">Jasmine Lee</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kellie-charles-1309061">Kellie Charles</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tina-hinton-329706">Tina Hinton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Anyone who has drunk alcohol will be familiar with how easily it can lower your social inhibitions and let you do things you wouldn’t normally do.</p> <p>But you may not be aware that mixing certain medicines with alcohol can increase the effects and put you at risk.</p> <p>When you mix alcohol with medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, the medicines can increase the effects of the alcohol or the alcohol can increase the side-effects of the drug. Sometimes it can also result in all new side-effects.</p> <h2>How alcohol and medicines interact</h2> <p>The chemicals in your brain maintain a delicate balance between excitation and inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324330">convulsions</a>. Too much inhibition and you will experience effects like sedation and depression.</p> <p><iframe id="JCh01" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/JCh01/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Alcohol works by increasing the amount of inhibition in the brain. You might recognise this as a sense of relaxation and a lowering of social inhibitions when you’ve had a couple of alcoholic drinks.</p> <p>With even more alcohol, you will notice you can’t coordinate your muscles as well, you might slur your speech, become dizzy, forget things that have happened, and even fall asleep.</p> <p>Medications can interact with alcohol to <a href="https://awspntest.apa.org/record/2022-33281-033">produce different or increased effects</a>. Alcohol can interfere with the way a medicine works in the body, or it can interfere with the way a medicine is absorbed from the stomach. If your medicine has similar side-effects as being drunk, those <a href="https://www.drugs.com/article/medications-and-alcohol.html#:%7E:text=Additive%20effects%20of%20alcohol%20and,of%20drug%20in%20the%20bloodstream.">effects can be compounded</a>.</p> <p>Not all the side-effects need to be alcohol-like. Mixing alcohol with the ADHD medicine ritalin, for example, can <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/ritalin-and-alcohol#side-effects">increase the drug’s effect on the heart</a>, increasing your heart rate and the risk of a heart attack.</p> <p>Combining alcohol with ibuprofen can lead to a higher risk of stomach upsets and stomach bleeds.</p> <p>Alcohol can increase the break-down of certain medicines, such as <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763421005121?via%3Dihub">opioids, cannabis, seizures, and even ritalin</a>. This can make the medicine less effective. Alcohol can also alter the pathway of how a medicine is broken down, potentially creating toxic chemicals that can cause serious liver complications. This is a particular problem with <a href="https://australianprescriber.tg.org.au/articles/alcohol-and-paracetamol.html">paracetamol</a>.</p> <p>At its worst, the consequences of mixing alcohol and medicines can be fatal. Combining a medicine that acts on the brain with alcohol may make driving a car or operating heavy machinery difficult and lead to a serious accident.</p> <h2>Who is at most risk?</h2> <p>The effects of mixing alcohol and medicine are not the same for everyone. Those most at risk of an interaction are older people, women and people with a smaller body size.</p> <p>Older people do not break down medicines as quickly as younger people, and are often on <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/healthcare-variation/fourth-atlas-2021/medicines-use-older-people/61-polypharmacy-75-years-and-over#:%7E:text=is%20this%20important%3F-,Polypharmacy%20is%20when%20people%20are%20using%20five%20or%20more%20medicines,take%20five%20or%20more%20medicines.">more than one medication</a>.</p> <p>Older people also are more sensitive to the effects of medications acting on the brain and will experience more side-effects, such as dizziness and falls.</p> <p>Women and people with smaller body size tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration when they consume the same amount of alcohol as someone larger. This is because there is less water in their bodies that can mix with the alcohol.</p> <h2>What drugs can’t you mix with alcohol?</h2> <p>You’ll know if you can’t take alcohol because there will be a prominent warning on the box. Your pharmacist should also counsel you on your medicine when you pick up your script.</p> <p>The most common <a href="https://adf.org.au/insights/prescription-meds-alcohol/">alcohol-interacting prescription medicines</a> are benzodiazepines (for anxiety, insomnia, or seizures), opioids for pain, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and some antibiotics, like metronidazole and tinidazole.</p> <p>It’s not just prescription medicines that shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. Some over-the-counter medicines that you shouldn’t combine with alcohol include medicines for sleeping, travel sickness, cold and flu, allergy, and pain.</p> <p>Next time you pick up a medicine from your pharmacist or buy one from the local supermarket, check the packaging and ask for advice about whether you can consume alcohol while taking it.</p> <p>If you do want to drink alcohol while being on medication, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist first.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223293/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nial-wheate-96839"><em>Nial Wheate</em></a><em>, Associate Professor of the School of Pharmacy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jasmine-lee-1507733">Jasmine Lee</a>, Pharmacist and PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kellie-charles-1309061">Kellie Charles</a>, Associate Professor in Pharmacology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/tina-hinton-329706">Tina Hinton</a>, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-its-a-bad-idea-to-mix-alcohol-with-some-medications-223293">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Should you be worried about the amount of coffee or tea you drink?

<p>Before you reach for that cup of coffee or tea, have you ever thought about whether that caffeinated beverage is <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/debunks-vices-coffee-caffeine/">good or bad for you</a>?</p> <p><iframe title="Vices: Is coffee good or bad for you?" src="https://omny.fm/shows/debunks/vices-is-coffee-good-or-bad-for-you/embed?style=Cover" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Most of us will drink coffee or tea each day.</p> <p>It helps keep us alert, especially in a world of the nine-to-five grind. Some workers rely on caffeine to get them through shift work and night shifts.</p> <p>Many, like me, would just collapse in a heap if it weren’t for that liquid black gold to keep us peppy in the morning.</p> <h2 class="wp-block-heading">What is caffeine?</h2> <p>To get a better picture of how coffee or tea affects us, let’s examine the active ingredient: <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/podcast/huh-science-explained-stirring-the-science-of-caffeine/">caffeine</a>.</p> <p>Caffeine is a <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/caffeine" target="_blank" rel="noopener">drug</a>. It’s a white, odourless substance known to chemists as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine and is made up of 8 carbon, 10 hydrogen, 4 nitrogen and 2 oxygen atoms.</p> <p>Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee beans, cocoa beans, kola nuts, and tea leaves.</p> <p>It is an adenosine antagonist, blocking the A1, A2A, and A2B receptors in the brain and body to promote wakefulness. Normally, adenosine (a chemical compound with a similar 3D structure to caffeine) binds to its receptors, slowing neural activity and making you sleepy.</p> <p>When caffeine, instead, binds to the receptors, adenosine is blocked and brain activity speeds up, making you feel more alert.</p> <h2 class="wp-block-heading">History lesson</h2> <p>Tea and coffee are the most common way for humans to get their caffeine fix.</p> <p>Drinks made using coffee beans date back more than a thousand years to the coffee forests of the horn of Africa.</p> <p>Legend says that, around 800 CE, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats were energetic and didn’t sleep when they ate the coffee beans. Coffee then spread eastward to the Arabian Peninsula, reaching Yemen in the 15th century, and Egypt, Syria, Persia and Turkey in the 1500s. From their it made it to Europe and eventually the whole world.</p> <p>But caffeine is also present in other beverages like tea, cola and even some foods like chocolate.</p> <h2 class="wp-block-heading">Is it bad for you?</h2> <p>Given how prevalent the drug is, are there negative side effects we should be worried about?</p> <p>For one thing, it is an addictive substance. And the more you drink, the more you need.</p> <p>“Our body tends to adjust to a new level of consumption,” Kitty Pham, a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia and expert in nutritional and genetic epidemiology, tells <em>Cosmos</em>. “Your body does develop a tolerance to the caffeine. So, you start to need to drink more and more to feel the same effect as before.”</p> <p>Caffeine can also act as an anxiogenic – a substance that can trigger heightened levels of anxiety.</p> <p>Pham notes some risks associated with too much caffeine consumption over a long period of time.</p> <p>“Greater than 6 cups per day, we did see an increase in dementia risk,” she notes. “There’s also some research on how it might increase your cholesterol. There’s a substance in coffee called cafestol that can regulate your blood cholesterol. If you’re drinking too much coffee, it might be increasing your cholesterol. So, there are risks, but often they are at really high consumption.”</p> <h2 class="wp-block-heading">What’s the limit?</h2> <p>So, how much caffeine is too much according to science?</p> <p>“That’s, the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” Pham laughs. “There’s a lot of varying research on it. It’s hard to tell a definite limit. But generally, most studies really agree that one to two cups of coffee, or an equivalent of 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine is safe and okay.”</p> <p>The average cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine. On average, instant coffee with one teaspoon of powder contains about 70 mg of caffeine, while a coffee pod has 60–90 mg.</p> <p>Other drinks containing might have even more caffeine, making it important to monitor your consumption more carefully.</p> <p>A 355 mL can of Red Bull energy drink has more than 110 mg of caffeine. Meanwhile, an average bar of dark chocolate has about 70 mg of caffeine.</p> <p>Many people are moving away from coffee to drinks like tea and matcha which may have <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/flavonoids-black-tea/">additional</a> <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/tea-drinkers-may-well-live-longer/">health</a> <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/black-tea-mortality-risk/">benefits</a>. A 100-gram cup of black tea has only about 20 mg of caffeine, while matcha can have 140–170 mg of caffeine!</p> <p>“Looking at the US, they usually recommend less than 400 milligrams. So overall, moderation and keeping your consumption to one to two cups – that’s what I’d recommend.”</p> <p>Now that I’ve written about caffeine, I think I need another cuppa. It’s only my second of the day, I swear. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <div> <h3><em><a href="https://link.cosmosmagazine.com/JQ4R"><noscript data-spai="1"><img decoding="async" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-198773" src="https://cdn.shortpixel.ai/spai/ret_img/cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Apple-Podcasts.svg" data-spai-egr="1" alt="Subscribe to our podcasts" width="300" height="54" title="should you be worried about the amount of coffee or tea you drink? 2"></noscript></a><a href="https://link.cosmosmagazine.com/JQ4U"><noscript data-spai="1"><img decoding="async" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-198773" src="https://cdn.shortpixel.ai/spai/ret_img/cosmosmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Spotify.svg" data-spai-egr="1" alt="Subscribe to our podcasts" width="300" height="54" title="should you be worried about the amount of coffee or tea you drink? 3"></noscript></a></em></h3> </div> <p><em><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/body-and-mind/coffee-tea-caffeine-debunks/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/evrim-yazgin/">Evrim Yazgin</a>.</em></p>

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Your skin is a mirror of your health – here’s what yours might be saying

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-baumgardt-1451396">Dan Baumgardt</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12095893/">Skin accounts for around 15% of our body mass</a>. It is the largest and most visible organ in the human body.</p> <p>Yet many of the skin’s functions are often overlooked. It’s a sunscreen, a shield from germs, a reservoir of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28994020/">vitamin D</a> and a means of tightly regulating our body temperature.</p> <p>Being the most visible of our organs, the skin also offers us a view into the body tissues that it protects. So don’t think of your skin merely aesthetically – think of it as a reflection of your health. Disorders of the gut, blood, hormones and even the heart might first be seen on the skin in the form of a rash.</p> <p>Here are a few to look out for.</p> <h2>Bullseye</h2> <p>Ticks are pesky creatures that no one will want to return home from a country walk with.</p> <p>But while the vast majority of tick bites <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36116831/">won’t make you ill</a>, there is one rash that should prompt a visit to your doctor if you spot it.</p> <p>Erythema migrans, a rash named for its ability to rapidly expand across the skin, is a hallmark of <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1041.long">Lyme disease</a>, a potentially severe bacterial illness. This rash forms a classic target pattern, like a bullseye on a dartboard.</p> <p>Be vigilant for a few weeks after being bitten to check this rash doesn’t make an appearance – especially if you noticed a red lump that wasn’t there before or if you had to remove a tick from your skin. You should also keep an eye out for other associated symptoms of Lyme disease – such as swinging temperatures, muscle and joint pains and headache.</p> <p>The condition is treated with antibiotics, which can prevent long-term complications, including chronic fatigue symptoms.</p> <h2>Purpura</h2> <p>Some rashes are given a <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1538-7836(22)01880-3">colourful namesake</a> – purpura is one such example. This rash’s name is derived from a mollusc which was used to make purple dye.</p> <p>Purpura refers to a rash of small purple or red dots. The cause is pooling of blood into a deeper layer of the skin (dermis). When pressed with a finger – or even better, the side of a glass – it refuses to blanch away.</p> <p>Purpura signals an issue with either the walls of the tiny blood vessels that feed the skin or the blood within them. This might be from a deficiency in platelets, the tiny cell fragments that allow blood to clot – perhaps from bone marrow failure, or an autoimmune condition where the body turns on itself and attacks its own cells.</p> <p>At worst, purpura may signal the life-threatening condition <a href="https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/full/10.12968/hmed.2017.78.8.468">septicaemia</a>, where an infection has spread into the bloodstream – perhaps from the lungs, kidneys or even from the skin itself.</p> <h2>Skin spiders</h2> <p>Skin rashes can also take on <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32513406/">recognisable shapes</a>.</p> <p>Spider naevi represent an issue within skin arterioles (small arteries which supply the skin with blood). Arterioles open and close to control the loss of heat from the body’s surface. But sometimes they can get stuck open – and a spider-like pattern will appear.</p> <p>The open arteriole is the spider’s body, and the even tinier capillaries fanning out in all directions are the thready legs. Crush the body under a fingertip and the whole thing disappears, as your touch temporarily stops the blood flow.</p> <p>Often, these are benign and not associated with any specific condition – especially if you only have one or two. However, more than three suggest higher circulating levels of the <a href="https://dermnetnz.org/topics/spider-telangiectasis">hormone oestrogen</a>, often due to liver disease or from the hormonal changes seen in pregnancy. Treat the underlying cause, and the spiders often vanish with time – though they may persist or reappear later.</p> <h2>Black velvet</h2> <p>Changes to the folds of your skin (usually around the armpits or neck) – especially if it becomes thickened and velveteen to the touch – may suggest a condition known as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.13544">acanthosis nigricans</a>. This “black velvet” skin appearance is more commonly seen in darker skins.</p> <p>Usually, the condition is associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29241752/">disorders of the metabolism</a> – namely type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome. If either of these conditions are successfully treated, the rash may fade. In rare cases, it can also be a sign of <a href="https://www.hkmj.org/abstracts/v29n4/355.htm">stomach cancer</a>, which should be considered in patients with few or none of the key signs of metabolic disease (obesity and high blood pressure).</p> <h2>Butterfly rashes</h2> <p>Even disorders of the heart can be visible on the skin.</p> <p>Cardiac valves have the important role of correctly directing the journey of blood through the heart and preventing backflow. The valve between the chambers on the left side of the heart (the mitral valve – so called because of its resemblance to a bishop’s hat, or mitre) can sometimes become narrowed, causing the heart’s function to deteriorate. The body’s natural response is to preserve core blood volume, shutting off flow towards the skin.</p> <p>The net effect can produce a purple-red rash, high across the cheeks and the bridge of the nose, like the outstretched wings of a butterfly. We call this <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2050313X231200965?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed">mitral facies</a> which, depending on the extent of damage to the heart and great vessels, may persist despite treatment.</p> <p>It’s important to pay heed to your skin. It’s constantly talking to you, and any changes in its texture, colour or if new marks or patterns appear, may indicate something is going on beneath the surface.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221937/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dan-baumgardt-1451396">Dan Baumgardt</a>, Senior Lecturer, School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-skin-is-a-mirror-of-your-health-heres-what-yours-might-be-saying-221937">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Eating leafy greens could be better for oral health than using mouthwash

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cousins-burleigh-1201153">Mia Cousins Burleigh</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-west-of-scotland-1385">University of the West of Scotland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/siobhan-paula-moran-1506183">Siobhan Paula Moran</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-west-of-scotland-1385">University of the West of Scotland</a></em></p> <p>Over half the adult population in the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26052472">UK and US</a> have gum disease. Typical treatments include <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-61912-4">mouthwash</a> and in severe cases, <a href="https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/abs/10.12968/vetn.2017.8.10.542">antibiotics</a>. These treatments have side effects, such as dry mouth, the development of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30967854/">antimicrobial resistance</a> and increased <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-61912-4">blood pressure</a>.</p> <p>But research has indicated that a molecule called <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">nitrate</a>, which is found in leafy green vegetables, has fewer side effects and offers greater benefits for oral health. And it could be used as a natural alternative for treating oral disease.</p> <p>Inadequate brushing and flossing leads to the build up of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">dental plaque</a>, a sticky layer of bacteria, on the surface of teeth and gums. Plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease. Sugary and acidic foods, dry mouth, and smoking can also contribute to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum infections.</p> <p>The two main types of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. <a href="https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/etm.2019.8381">Gingivitis</a> causes redness, swelling and bleeding of the gums. <a href="https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/etm.2019.8381">Periodontitis</a> is a more advanced form of gum disease, causing damage to the soft tissues and bones supporting the teeth.</p> <p>Periodontal disease can therefore, lead to tooth loss and, when bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream, can also contribute to the development of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/bdjteam2015163">systemic disorders</a> such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.</p> <h2>Leafy greens may be the secret</h2> <p>Leafy greens and root vegetables are bursting with <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666149723000312">vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants</a> – and it’s no secret that a diet consisting of these vegetables is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight, boosting the immune system, and preventing <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2048004016661435">heart disease, cancer and diabetes.</a> The multiple health benefits of leafy greens are partly because spinach, lettuce and beetroots are brimming with <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">nitrate</a>, which can be reduced to nitric oxide by nitrate-reducing bacteria inside the mouth.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7zrRlMGeBes?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Popeye knew a thing or two about the health benefits of eating leafy greens. Boomerang Official, 2017.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>Nitric oxide is known to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006295222004191">lower blood pressure</a> and improve <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243755#:%7E:text=Nitrate%2Drich%20beetroot%20juice%20offsets,healthy%20male%20runners%20%7C%20PLOS%20ONE">exercise performance</a>. However, in the mouth, it helps to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria and reduces <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243755#:%7E:text=Nitrate%2Drich%20beetroot%20juice%20offsets,healthy%20male%20runners%20%7C%20PLOS%20ONE">oral acidity</a>, both of which can cause gum disease and tooth decay.</p> <p>As part of our research on nitrate and oral health, <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0243755#:%7E:text=Nitrate%2Drich%20beetroot%20juice%20offsets,healthy%20male%20runners%20%7C%20PLOS%20ONE">we studied competitive athletes</a>. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9839431/">Athletes are prone to gum disease</a> due to high intake of carbohydrates – which can cause inflammation of the gum tissues – stress, and dry mouth from breathing hard during training.</p> <p>Our study showed that beetroot juice (containing approximately 12 <a href="https://www.nursingtimes.net/students/an-easy-guide-to-mmols-09-02-2012/">millimole</a> of nitrate) protected their teeth from acidic sports drinks and carbohydrate gels during exercise – suggesting that nitrate could be used as a prebiotic by athletes to reduce the risk of tooth decay.</p> <p>Nitrate offers a lot of promise as an oral health <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">prebiotic</a>. Good oral hygiene and a nitrate rich diet could be the key to a healthier body, a vibrant smile and disease-free gums. This is good news for those most at risk of oral health deterioration such as <a href="https://www.news-medical.net/health/Periodontitis-and-Pregnancy.aspx">pregnant women</a>, and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8771712/">the elderly</a>.</p> <p>In the UK, antiseptic mouthwashes containing <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-61912-4">chlorhexidine</a> are commonly used to treat dental plaque and gum disease. Unfortunately, these mouthwashes are a blunderbuss approach to oral health, as they indiscriminately remove both good and bad bacteria and increase oral acidity, which can cause disease.</p> <p>Worryingly, early research also indicates that chlorhexidine may contribute to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30967854/">antimicrobial resistance</a>. Resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi survive the effects of one or more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768623/">antimicrobial drugs</a> due to repeated exposure to these treatments. Antimicrobial resistance is a <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02724-0/fulltext">global health concern</a>, predicted to cause 10 million deaths yearly by the year 2050.</p> <p>In contrast, dietary nitrate is more targeted. Nitrate eliminates disease-associated bacteria, reduces oral acidity and creates a balanced <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944498/">oral microbiome</a>. The oral microbiome refers to all the microorganisms in the mouth. Nitrate offers exciting potential as an <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">oral health prebiotic</a>, which can be used to prevent disease onset or limit disease progression.</p> <h2>How many leafy greens for pearly whites?</h2> <p>So how much should we consume daily? As a rule of thumb, a generous helping of spinach, kale or beetroot at mealtimes contains about 6-10 mmol of nitrate and offers immediate health benefits.</p> <p>Work we have done with our collaborators has shown that treating <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69931-x">plaque samples</a> from periodontal disease patients with 6.5 mmol of nitrate increased healthy bacteria levels and reduced acidity.</p> <p>For example, consuming <a href="https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/JPER.20-0778">lettuce juice</a> for two weeks reduced gum inflammation and increased healthy bacteria levels in patients with gum disease.</p> <p>Growing evidence suggests that nitrate is a cornerstone of oral health. Crunching on a portion of vegetables at mealtimes can help to prevent or treat oral disease and keeps the mouth fresh and healthy.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221181/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cousins-burleigh-1201153"><em>Mia Cousins Burleigh</em></a><em>, Lecturer, School of Health and Life Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-west-of-scotland-1385">University of the West of Scotland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/siobhan-paula-moran-1506183">Siobhan Paula Moran</a>, PhD candidate, School of Health and Life Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-the-west-of-scotland-1385">University of the West of Scotland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/eating-leafy-greens-could-be-better-for-oral-health-than-using-mouthwash-221181">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How much weight do you actually need to lose? It might be a lot less than you think

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>If you’re one of the <a href="https://www.finder.com.au/new-years-resolutions-statistics">one in three</a> Australians whose New Year’s resolution involved losing weight, it’s likely you’re now contemplating what weight-loss goal you should actually be working towards.</p> <p>But type “setting a weight loss goal” into any online search engine and you’ll likely be left with more questions than answers.</p> <p>Sure, the many weight-loss apps and calculators available will make setting this goal seem easy. They’ll typically use a body mass index (BMI) calculator to confirm a “healthy” weight and provide a goal weight based on this range.</p> <p>Your screen will fill with trim-looking influencers touting diets that will help you drop ten kilos in a month, or ads for diets, pills and exercise regimens promising to help you effortlessly and rapidly lose weight.</p> <p>Most sales pitches will suggest you need to lose substantial amounts of weight to be healthy – making weight loss seem an impossible task. But the research shows you don’t need to lose a lot of weight to achieve health benefits.</p> <h2>Using BMI to define our target weight is flawed</h2> <p>We’re a society fixated on numbers. So it’s no surprise we use measurements and equations to score our weight. The most popular is BMI, a measure of our body weight-to-height ratio.</p> <p>BMI classifies bodies as underweight, normal (healthy) weight, overweight or obese and can be a useful tool for weight and health screening.</p> <p>But it shouldn’t be used as the single measure of what it means to be a healthy weight when we set our weight-loss goals. This is <a href="https://theconversation.com/using-bmi-to-measure-your-health-is-nonsense-heres-why-180412">because</a> it:</p> <ul> <li> <p>fails to consider two critical factors related to body weight and health – body fat percentage and distribution</p> </li> <li> <p>does not account for significant differences in body composition based on gender, ethnicity and age.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How does losing weight benefit our health?</h2> <p>Losing just 5–10% of our body weight – between 6 and 12kg for someone weighing 120kg – can significantly improve our health in four key ways.</p> <p><strong>1. Reducing cholesterol</strong></p> <p>Obesity increases the chances of having too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – also known as bad cholesterol – because carrying excess weight changes how our bodies produce and manage lipoproteins and triglycerides, another fat molecule we use for energy.</p> <p>Having too much bad cholesterol and high triglyceride levels is not good, narrowing our arteries and limiting blood flow, which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.</p> <p>But <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987606/">research</a> shows improvements in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels are evident with just 5% weight loss.</p> <p><strong>2. Lowering blood pressure</strong></p> <p>Our blood pressure is considered high if it reads more than 140/90 on at least two occasions.</p> <p>Excess weight is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082272/">linked to</a> high blood pressure in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082272/">several ways</a>, including changing how our sympathetic nervous system, blood vessels and hormones regulate our blood pressure.</p> <p>Essentially, high blood pressure makes our heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently, damaging our arteries over time and increasing our risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.</p> <p>Like the improvements in cholesterol, a 5% weight loss <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.21358">improves</a> both systolic blood pressure (the first number in the reading) and diastolic blood pressure (the second number).</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.hyp.0000094221.86888.ae">meta-analysis of 25 trials</a> on the influence of weight reduction on blood pressure also found every kilo of weight loss improved blood pressure by one point.</p> <p><strong>3. Reducing risk for type 2 diabetes</strong></p> <p>Excess body weight is the primary manageable risk factor for type 2 diabetes, particularly for people carrying a lot of visceral fat around the abdomen (belly fat).</p> <p>Carrying this excess weight can cause fat cells to release pro-inflammatory chemicals that disrupt how our bodies regulate and use the insulin produced by our pancreas, leading to high blood sugar levels.</p> <p>Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious medical conditions if it’s not carefully managed, including damaging our heart, blood vessels, major organs, eyes and nervous system.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa012512">Research</a> shows just 7% weight loss reduces risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.</p> <p><strong>4. Reducing joint pain and the risk of osteoarthritis</strong></p> <p>Carrying excess weight can cause our joints to become inflamed and damaged, making us more prone to osteoarthritis.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21425246/">Observational studies</a> show being overweight doubles a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis, while obesity increases the risk fourfold.</p> <p>Small amounts of weight loss alleviate this stress on our joints. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15986358/">In one study</a> each kilogram of weight loss resulted in a fourfold decrease in the load exerted on the knee in each step taken during daily activities.</p> <h2>Focus on long-term habits</h2> <p>If you’ve ever tried to lose weight but found the kilos return almost as quickly as they left, you’re not alone.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764193/">analysis</a> of 29 long-term weight-loss studies found participants regained more than half of the weight lost within two years. Within five years, they regained more than 80%.</p> <p>When we lose weight, we take our body out of its comfort zone and trigger its survival response. It then counteracts weight loss, triggering several <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25896063/">physiological responses</a> to defend our body weight and “survive” starvation.</p> <p>Just as the problem is evolutionary, the solution is evolutionary too. Successfully losing weight long-term comes down to:</p> <ul> <li> <p>losing weight in small manageable chunks you can sustain, specifically periods of weight loss, followed by periods of weight maintenance, and so on, until you achieve your goal weight</p> </li> <li> <p>making gradual changes to your lifestyle to ensure you form habits that last a lifetime.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Setting a goal to reach a healthy weight can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be a pre-defined weight according to a “healthy” BMI range. Losing 5–10% of our body weight will result in immediate health benefits.</p> <p><em>At the Boden Group, Charles Perkins Centre, we are studying the science of obesity and running clinical trials for weight loss. You can <a href="https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=RKTXPPPHKY">register here</a> to express your interest.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217287/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, Charles Perkins Centre Research Program Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-much-weight-do-you-actually-need-to-lose-it-might-be-a-lot-less-than-you-think-217287">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The best diet for 2024

<p>Over years of research and diet rankings, there is one regimen that scientists have crowned the "Best Diet Overall" for seven years in a row. </p> <p>The Mediterranean diet has topped the list in <a href="https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>US News and World Reports’</em></a> annual ranking for 2024, followed by the DASH diet, and the MIND diet coming in third.  </p> <p>The ranking is based off the findings of a panel of leading medical and nutrition experts, who analyse the nutritional completeness, health risks and benefits, long-term sustainability and  effectiveness of the diet in addressing its goals. </p> <p><strong>What sets it apart from other diets? </strong></p> <p>The Mediterranean diet emphasises multiple servings of fruits and vegetables daily, alongside whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and seafood. </p> <p>Red meats, dairy and poultry are consumed occasionally and in moderation, and highly processed foods and added sugars are generally avoided. </p> <h4><strong>What are its benefits?</strong></h4> <p>The experts found that following the diet long term can increase the odds of living a longer, healthier life, with a few other studies suggesting it lowers the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, while potentially slowing cognitive decline.</p> <p>“It’s a way of life, it’s a cuisine, it dates back thousands of years, and in the last five to six decades, it is the most highly researched cuisine in the world,” said Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at RMIT University in Melbourne.</p> <p><strong>Lowers risk of heart disease</strong></p> <p>A 2021 research review found that the diet has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in women by 29 per cent and stroke by 13 per cent. </p> <p>A 2017 analysis found that on average it lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes by 40 per cent. </p> <p>Experts suggest that this may be because  the fats in olive oil, seeds, fish and nuts are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats aka healthy fats. </p> <p>Additionally, because of its emphasis on fruits, vegetables and legumes, which contain antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, it is believed to combat chronic inflammation. </p> <p><strong>Lowers chances of developing type 2 diabetes </strong></p> <p>Because this diet relies heavily on honey and cinnamon as sweeteners, and fruits as a primary source of sugar, it reduces the risk of developing this disease. </p> <p>One study conducted on 300,000 participants found that those who were on the Mediterranean diet had a nearly 30 per cent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. </p> <p><strong>Good for your gut</strong></p> <p>The diet contains a lot of fibre which are associated with more regular bowel movements, lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to the Food and Drug Administration.</p> <p>This is because good bacteria in our stomachs feed off fibre, which creates a stronger lining in the intestines. </p> <p>There are a few other potential health benefits including reducing risk of dementia among seniors by almost 25 per cent, and lowering the risk of death from cancer including breast, colorectal, head and neck and lung cancers. </p> <p>See the full list <a href="https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here</a>. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p> <p> </p>

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How dieting, weight suppression and even misuse of drugs like Ozempic can contribute to eating disorders

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/samantha-withnell-1504436">Samantha Withnell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-university-882">Western University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lindsay-bodell-1504260">Lindsay Bodell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-university-882">Western University</a></em></p> <p>Up to 72 per cent of women and 61 per cent of men are dissatisfied with their weight or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.04.010">body image</a>, according to a U.S. study. Globally, millions of people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fobr.12466">attempt to lose weight</a> every year with the hope that weight loss will have positive effects on their body image, health and quality of life.</p> <p>However, these motivated individuals often struggle to maintain new diets or exercise regimens. The rise of medications such as semaglutides, like <a href="https://dhpp.hpfb-dgpsa.ca/dhpp/resource/101298">Ozempic</a> or <a href="https://dhpp.hpfb-dgpsa.ca/dhpp/resource/101765">Wegovy</a>, <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/ozempic-weight-loss-1.6772021">might be viewed as an appealing “quick fix”</a> alternative to meet weight loss goals.</p> <p>Research led by our team and others suggests that such attempts to lose weight often do more harm than good, and even increase the risk of <a href="https://osf.io/9stq2">developing an eating disorder</a>.</p> <h2>Weight loss and eating disorders</h2> <p>Eating disorders are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20589">serious mental health conditions</a> primarily characterized by extreme patterns of under- or over-eating, concerns about one’s shape or body weight or other behaviours intended to influence body shape or weight such as exercising excessively or self-inducing vomiting.</p> <p>Although once thought to only affect young, white adolescent girls, eating disorders do not discriminate; eating disorders can develop in people of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/erv.2553">any age, sex, gender or racial/ethnic background</a>, with an estimated <a href="https://nedic.ca/general-information/">one million Canadians</a> suffering from an eating disorder at any given time. Feb. 1 to 7 is <a href="https://nedic.ca/edaw/">National Eating Disorders Awareness Week</a>.</p> <p>As a clinical psychologist and clinical psychology graduate student, our research has focused on how eating disorders develop and what keeps them going. Pertinent to society’s focus on weight-related goals, our research has examined associations between weight loss and eating disorder symptoms.</p> <h2>Eating disorders and ‘weight suppression’</h2> <p>In eating disorders research, the state of maintaining weight loss is referred to as “weight suppression.” Weight suppression is typically defined as the difference between a person’s current weight and their highest lifetime weight (excluding pregnancy).</p> <p>Despite the belief that weight loss will improve body satisfaction, we found that in a sample of over 600 men and women, weight loss had no impact on women’s negative body image and was associated with increased body dissatisfaction in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2023.01.011">men</a>. Importantly, being more weight suppressed has been associated with the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa146">onset of eating disorders</a>, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.</p> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-018-0955-2">One proposed explanation</a> for the relationship between weight suppression and eating disorders is that maintaining weight loss becomes increasingly difficult as body systems that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.010025">reduce metabolic rate and energy expenditure, and increase appetite</a>, are activated to promote weight gain.</p> <p>There is growing awareness that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2646">weight regain is highly likely following conventional diet programs</a>. This might lead people to engage in more and more extreme behaviours to control their weight, or they might shift between extreme restriction of food intake and episodes of overeating or binge eating, the characteristic symptoms of bulimia nervosa.</p> <h2>Ozempic and other semaglutide drugs</h2> <p>Semaglutide drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are part of a class of drug called <a href="https://pdf.hres.ca/dpd_pm/00067924.PDF">glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists (GLP-1As)</a>. These drugs work by mimicking the hormone GLP-1 to interact with neural pathways that signal satiety (fullness) and slow stomach emptying, leading to reduced food intake.</p> <p>Although GLP-1As are indicated to treat Type 2 diabetes, <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/ozempic-off-label-1.6884141">they are increasingly prescribed off-label</a> or being <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/health-67414203">illegally purchased</a> without a prescription because of their observed effectiveness at inducing weight loss. Although medications like Ozempic do often lead to weight loss, the rate of weight loss may <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.3224">slow down or stop over time</a>.</p> <p>Research by Lindsay Bodell, one of the authors of this story, and her colleagues on weight suppression may help explain why effects of semaglutides diminish over time, as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.112565">weight suppression is associated with reduced GLP-1 response</a>. This means those suppressing their weight could become less responsive to the satiety signals activated by GLP-1As.</p> <p>Additionally, weight loss effects are only seen for as long as the medication is taken, meaning those who take these drugs to achieve some weight loss goal are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.14725">likely to regain most, if not all, weight lost</a> when they stop taking the medication.</p> <h2>Risks of dieting and weight-loss drugs</h2> <p>The growing market for off-label weight loss drugs is concerning, because of the exacerbation of <a href="https://theconversation.com/ozempic-the-miracle-drug-and-the-harmful-idea-of-a-future-without-fat-211661">weight stigma</a> and the serious <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2022.01.004">health risks</a> associated with unsupervised weight loss, including developing eating disorders.</p> <p>Researchers and health professionals are already raising the alarm about the use of GLP-1As in children and adolescents, due to concerns about their possible <a href="https://doi.org/10.1017/cts.2023.612">impact on growth and development</a>.</p> <p>Moreover, popular weight-loss methods, whether they involve pills or “crash diets,” often mimic symptoms of eating disorders. For example, intermittent fasting diets that involve long periods of fasting followed by short periods of food consumption may mimic and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101681">increase the risk of developing binge eating problems</a>.</p> <p>The use of diet pills or laxatives to lose weight has been found to increase the risk of <a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305390">being diagnosed with an eating disorder in the next one to three years</a>. Drugs like Ozempic may also be <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.24109">misused by individuals already struggling with an eating disorder</a> to suppress their appetite, compensate for binge eating episodes or manage fear of weight gain.</p> <p>Individuals who are already showing signs of an eating disorder, such as limiting their food intake and intense concerns about their weight, may be most at risk of spiralling from a weight loss diet or medication into an eating disorder, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.24116">even if they only lose a moderate amount of weight</a>.</p> <p>People who are dissatisfied with their weight or have made multiple attempts to lose weight often feel pressured to try increasingly drastic methods. However, any diet, exercise program or weight-loss medication promising a quick fix for weight loss should be treated with extreme caution. At best, you may gain the weight back; at worst, you put yourself at risk for much more serious eating disorders and other health problems.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221514/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/samantha-withnell-1504436"><em>Samantha Withnell</em></a><em>, PhD Candidate, Clinical Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-university-882">Western University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lindsay-bodell-1504260">Lindsay Bodell</a>, Assistant Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-university-882">Western University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-dieting-weight-suppression-and-even-misuse-of-drugs-like-ozempic-can-contribute-to-eating-disorders-221514">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How does cancer spread to other parts of the body?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-diepstraten-1495268">Sarah Diepstraten</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/walter-and-eliza-hall-institute-822">Walter and Eliza Hall Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-eddie-la-marca-1503690">John (Eddie) La Marca</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/walter-and-eliza-hall-institute-822">Walter and Eliza Hall Institute</a></em></p> <p>All cancers begin in a single organ or tissue, such as the lungs or skin. When these cancers are confined in their original organ or tissue, they are generally more treatable.</p> <p>But a cancer that spreads is much more dangerous, as the organs it spreads to may be vital organs. A skin cancer, for example, might spread to the brain.</p> <p>This new growth makes the cancer much more challenging to treat, as it can be difficult to find all the new tumours. If a cancer can invade different organs or tissues, it can quickly become lethal.</p> <p>When cancer spreads in this way, it’s called metastasis. Metastasis is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6745820/">responsible for</a> the majority (67%) of cancer deaths.</p> <h2>Cells are supposed to stick to surrounding tissue</h2> <p>Our bodies are made up of trillions of tiny cells. To keep us healthy, our bodies are constantly replacing old or damaged cells.</p> <p>Each cell has a specific job and a set of instructions (DNA) that tells it what to do. However, sometimes DNA can get damaged.</p> <p>This damage might change the instructions. A cell might now multiply uncontrollably, or lose a property known as adherence. This refers to how sticky a cell is, and how well it can cling to other surrounding cells and stay where it’s supposed to be.</p> <p>If a cancer cell loses its adherence, it can break off from the original tumour and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to almost anywhere. This is how metastasis happens.</p> <p>Many of these travelling cancer cells will die, but some will settle in a new location and begin to form new cancers.</p> <p>Particular cancers are more likely to metastasise to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4381616/">particular organs</a> that help support their growth. Breast cancers commonly metastasise to the bones, liver, and lungs, while skin cancers like melanomas are more likely to end up in the brain and heart.</p> <p>Unlike cancers which form in solid organs or tissues, blood cancers like leukaemia already move freely through the bloodstream, but <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8722462/">can escape</a> to settle in other organs like the liver or brain.</p> <h2>When do cancers metastasise?</h2> <p>The longer a cancer grows, the more likely it is to metastasise. If not caught early, a patient’s cancer may have metastasised even before it’s initially diagnosed.</p> <p>Metastasis can also occur after cancer treatment. This happens when cancer cells are dormant during treatment – drugs may not “see” those cells. These invisible cells can remain hidden in the body, only to wake up and begin growing into a new cancer months or even years later.</p> <p>For patients who already have cancer metastases at diagnosis, identifying the location of the original tumour – called the “primary site” – is important. A cancer that began in the breast but has spread to the liver will probably still behave like a breast cancer, and so will respond best to an anti-breast cancer therapy, and not anti-liver cancer therapy.</p> <p>As metastases can sometimes grow faster than the original tumour, it’s not always easy to tell which tumour came first. These cancers are called “cancers of unknown primary” and are the <a href="https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/cancer-types/unknown-primary-cancer/statistics">11th most commonly diagnosed cancers in Australia</a>.</p> <p>One way to improve the treatment of metastatic cancer is to improve our ways of detecting and identifying cancers, to ensure patients receive the most effective drugs for their cancer type.</p> <h2>What increases the chances of metastasis and how can it be prevented?</h2> <p>If left untreated, most cancers will eventually acquire the ability to metastasise.</p> <p>While there are currently no interventions that specifically prevent metastasis, cancer patients who have their tumours surgically removed may also be given chemotherapy (or other drugs) to try and weed out any hidden cancer cells still floating around.</p> <p>The best way to prevent metastasis is to diagnose and treat cancers early. Cancer screening initiatives such as Australia’s <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/national-cervical-screening-program">cervical</a>, <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/national-bowel-cancer-screening-program">bowel</a>, and <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/breastscreen-australia-program">breast</a> cancer screening programs are excellent ways to detect cancers early and reduce the chances of metastasis.</p> <p>New screening programs to detect cancers early are being researched for many types of cancer. Some of these are simple: CT scans of the body to look for any potential tumours, such as in England’s new <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-englands-new-lung-cancer-screening-could-save-thousands-of-lives-expert-qanda-208867">lung cancer screening program</a>.</p> <p>Using artificial intelligence (AI) to help examine patient scans is also <a href="https://theconversation.com/ai-can-help-detect-breast-cancer-but-we-dont-yet-know-if-it-can-improve-survival-rates-210800">possible</a>, which might identify new patterns that suggest a cancer is present, and improve cancer detection from these programs.</p> <p>More advanced screening methods are also in development. The United States government’s Cancer Moonshot program is currently funding research into blood tests that could detect <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-blood-test-that-screens-for-multiple-cancers-at-once-promises-to-boost-early-detection-191728">many types of cancer at early stages</a>.</p> <p>One day there might even be a RAT-type test for cancer, like there is for COVID.</p> <h2>Will we be able to prevent metastasis in the future?</h2> <p>Understanding how metastasis occurs allows us to figure out new ways to prevent it. One idea is to <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2019/breast-cancer-chemotherapy-sensitizing-dormant-cells">target dormant cancer cells</a> and prevent them from waking up.</p> <p>Directly preventing metastasis with drugs is not yet possible. But there is hope that as research efforts continue to improve cancer therapies, they will also be more effective at treating metastatic cancers.</p> <p>For now, early detection is the best way to ensure a patient can beat their cancer.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219616/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-diepstraten-1495268"><em>Sarah Diepstraten</em></a><em>, Senior Research Officer, Blood Cells and Blood Cancer Division, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/walter-and-eliza-hall-institute-822">Walter and Eliza Hall Institute</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-eddie-la-marca-1503690">John (Eddie) La Marca</a>, Senior Resarch Officer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/walter-and-eliza-hall-institute-822">Walter and Eliza Hall Institute</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-does-cancer-spread-to-other-parts-of-the-body-219616">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Top tips for happy and healthy eyes this Autumn

<p dir="ltr">As the season changes, so do our healthcare needs as many people struggle with irritating allergies. </p> <p dir="ltr">With cooler temperatures, dry air and an increase in pollen often being synonymous with autumn and spring, for many people, leaving the house means having irritated eyes. </p> <p dir="ltr">Luckily, leading Ophthalmologist, Dr. Jacqueline Beltz has shared her essential tips for eye care during autumn with OverSixty, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the change of seasons without jeopardising your vision. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Keep your sunglasses handy</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While the sun is usually not as intense in autumn as it is during summer, Dr Beltz says that using sunglasses can benefit your eyes in many ways. </p> <p dir="ltr">“ Not only do they shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, but they also guard against wind and debris,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Increase your lubricant eye drops</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Beltz said, “The drop in temperature and the dryer air can contribute to discomfort and dryness in your eyes, so consider increasing the use of lubricant eye drops to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">By keeping up your eye drops in autumn, you can prevent further damage to your eyes in the long run. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Clean your eyelashes daily</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Beltz, keeping up with good health and hygiene along the eyelid margins is essential, especially during the autumn months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Cleanse your lashes daily and use a warm compress to optimise the quality of your tear film. This helps in preventing irritation and supports overall eye health.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Consider a humidifier</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">To ensure a more comfortable environment for your eyes, Dr Beltz recommends adding moisture to the air can help alleviate dry eyes.</p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Combat the dry indoor air by using a humidifier in your room, especially while you sleep.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Be proactive with allergies</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If you are prone to allergies, Dr Beltz said it's best to always be prepared ahead of time. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Autumn allergies are a reality, with triggers like pollen, mould, and dust prevalent during this season,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“If you experience red, itchy, or swollen eyes, consider antihistamine eye drops. Keep your hands clean and avoid rubbing your eyes.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Revitalise your eye makeup</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While replacing your eye makeup is important all year around, the addition of allergens makes it even more important to Change mascara and non-cleanable products like liquid eyeliner at least every three months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Especially if you have sensitive eyes, makeup products can harbour bacteria, leading to increased eye irritation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Refreshing your eye makeup products to options that are designed to be better suited for dry eyes or eye sensitivity.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If you are <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/beauty-style/embracing-the-art-of-beauty-without-compromise">prone to sensitive eyes</a>, consider trying the OKKIYO <a href="https://www.okkiyo.com/products/protect-and-preserve-mascara#xd_co_f=NzdiNzdlNTctNTA1MS00NTBkLWE1MGEtNjRkMGE2OTI1N2Vj~">Prioriteyes Mascara</a>, which was developed by Dr Beltz to prioritise both style and eye health.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these tips for eye health can seem simple and seemingly unimportant, Dr Beltz assures that by following these tips, you will make a world of difference for your eye health overall. </p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Implementing these simple tips can make a significant difference in keeping your eyes comfortable and vibrant throughout the season.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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"What gives?" Victorian MP slams "photoshopped" image

<p>A Victorian MP has slammed Channel Nine for airing a "photoshopped" image of her, in which her outfit was made more "revealing" and her breasts were "enlarged". </p> <p>Georgie Purcell, an MP for the Animal Justice Party, was featured on Nine News on Monday night during a segment about duck hunting, with the network using a promotional image of the MP for the TV package. </p> <p>However, Ms Purcell claims the major news work altered the photo, and took to social media to share a side by side comparison of the original image and the one Nine aired. </p> <p>“I endured a lot yesterday. But having my body and outfit photoshopped by a media outlet was not on my bingo card,” she wrote alongside the images. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I endured a lot yesterday.</p> <p>But having my body and outfit photoshopped by a media outlet was not on my bingo card.</p> <p>Note the enlarged boobs and outfit to be made more revealing. </p> <p>Can’t imagine this happening to a male MP. </p> <p>What gives? <a href="https://t.co/NhnkDRMidc">pic.twitter.com/NhnkDRMidc</a></p> <p>— Georgie Purcell (@georgievpurcell) <a href="https://twitter.com/georgievpurcell/status/1752088649527853107?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 29, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>“Note the enlarged boobs and outfit to be made more revealing," she added, pointing out that her white top had been altered to look like a crop top, showing off her midriff.</p> <p>“Can’t imagine this happening to a male MP. What gives?”</p> <p>In a second tweet, Purcell pointed out her stomach has been tattooed since 2020 and the photoshopped image did not show any tattoos, despite her outfit being changed to show her stomach.</p> <p>On Tuesday, a statement was issued from Nine News Melbourne news director Hugh Nailon apologising for the “graphic error”.</p> <p>“Our graphics department sourced an online image of Georgie to use in our story on duck hunting,” he said.</p> <p>“As is common practice, the image was resized to fit our specs. During that process, the automation by Photoshop created an image that was not consistent with the original.</p> <p>“This did not meet the high editorial standards we have and for that we apologise to Ms Purcell unreservedly.”</p> <p>Purcell told 7News that she only realised her image had been photoshopped when she watched Nine’s bulletin.</p> <p>“I noticed because my stomach didn’t have a tattoo on it. So I found the original photo and noticed not only had they given me abs and the crop top, but they’ve enlarged my breasts as well,” she said.</p> <p>“Seeing your own body altered on TV on the big screen is very confronting and I hope lessons are learnt from it."</p> <p>“This has affected me in some way and it could affect other women even more and it should never happen again.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: X (Twitter)</em></p> <p class="css-1n6q21n-StyledParagraph e4e0a020" style="box-sizing: border-box; overflow-wrap: break-word; word-break: break-word; margin: 0px 0px 1.125rem; line-height: 25px; font-size: 1.125rem; font-family: HeyWow, Montserrat, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; caret-color: #292a33; color: #292a33;"> </p>

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Pickle, anyone? 3 possible reasons women get cravings during pregnancy

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katelyn-barnes-1238606">Katelyn Barnes</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>From pickles and french fries to oranges and ice cream, women and other people who are pregnant report craving a range of foods while they’re expecting.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00021/full">food craving</a> is a strong urge to eat a specific food. The intense desire to eat is not necessarily related to hunger and can be difficult to ignore or resist. Think: “I must have this now!”.</p> <p>Food cravings during pregnancy are common, with studies reporting anywhere between <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/">50% and 90%</a> of pregnant women experience a food craving at least once during their pregnancy. Most women who experience food cravings will do so in their second trimester (from week 13 to 27), and the cravings may also be <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/">most intense</a> at this time.</p> <p>Let’s delve into the science of food cravings and what it means for the health of mum and bub.</p> <h2>What are some typical cravings, and why do they happen?</h2> <p>There’s an old wives’ tale which implies food cravings can predict the sex of the baby, with sweet foods being associated with a girl, and savoury foods indicating a boy.</p> <p>This isn’t backed by science. In reality, food cravings during pregnancy are highly individual, though they <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/">typically include</a> carbohydrate-dense and protein-dense foods. Commonly reported cravings include biscuits, bananas, nuts, pickles, ice cream and potatoes.</p> <p>We don’t know exactly why pregnant women experience food cravings, but there are a few possible reasons.</p> <p><strong>1. Changes in nutritional needs</strong></p> <p>Growing a baby takes a lot of work, and unsurprisingly, increases womens’ requirements for energy and specific nutrients such as iron, folic acid, magnesium and calcium. In addition, a woman’s blood volume <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4928162/#:%7E:text=Maternal%20blood%20volume%20increases%20by,falls%20by%2010%20mosmol%2Fkg.">increases significantly during pregnancy</a>, meaning a greater demand for water and electrolytes (in particular sodium and potassium).</p> <p>Some studies suggest women experiencing nutrient deficiencies are <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0276079">more likely</a> to have food cravings. This might mean women crave foods high in energy and specific nutrients based on their needs.</p> <p>However, this link is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054961/">not consistently seen</a>, and many women experience food cravings without being deficient in any nutrients.</p> <p><strong>2. Changes in hunger and taste</strong></p> <p>Hormonal changes that occur throughout pregnancy may change how hungry women feel. A specific hormone called neuropeptide Y has been <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.1996.0060">shown</a> to increase during pregnancy and is associated with increased hunger.</p> <p>Also, many women report foods and drinks taste different during pregnancy. Most commonly, women <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/">report</a> an increased taste of bitter flavours such as those in vegetables or coffee, and a heightened sense of sweetness from fruits.</p> <p>Changes in how foods taste combined with increased feelings of hunger may create food cravings, particularly for sweet foods such as fruits. However, studies have not been able to consistently link hormone levels in blood with reported taste changes, suggesting hormones may not be solely responsible for food cravings.</p> <p><strong>3. Social and cultural influences</strong></p> <p>Pregnant women in different parts of the world report different food cravings. For example, the most commonly reported food cravings among pregnant women in Nigeria is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/#B113">fruits and vegetables</a>. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/#B83">Rice</a> is the most common craving among all women in Japan, while in the United States, women seem to crave <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16831486/">chocolate</a> the most. These differences may be due to what foods are available, and what foods are familiar.</p> <p>Popular commentary around pregnancy food cravings, and even the notion of “eating for two”, imply a biological need for pregnant women to indulge their food cravings. These sentiments make eating different, strange, or large amounts of food more socially acceptable.</p> <p>Also, food cravings may normalise eating foods which may be less healthy, such as chocolates or cake. Normalising a food choice that may usually be considered a special treat can then <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/#B76">lead to increased urges</a> for and consumption of those foods during pregnancy.</p> <p>Some women can struggle with food cravings they know are not healthy, but cannot resist. This can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/">lead to</a> shame and negative relationships with food during pregnancy.</p> <h2>Cravings aren’t a big cause for concern</h2> <p>People may think food cravings lead to excess weight gain in pregnancy, which can be related to poor health outcomes for mothers. But studies to date have shown that while women who experience food cravings in pregnancy have a slightly higher energy intake than those who don’t, there’s <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172095/#B167">no consistent link</a> between food cravings and diet quality, changes in body weight or size, or development of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054961/">pregnancy complications</a> such as gestational diabetes.</p> <p>Some people have also suspected food cravings in pregnancy might influence the baby while it’s growing. However, studies haven’t found <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361218301070">a link</a> between the mother’s food cravings during pregnancy, the size of baby at birth, the baby’s taste preferences, or behaviours of developing children.</p> <p>Overall, it seems food cravings have little to modest impact on the health of mothers or their babies.</p> <h2>When to seek help</h2> <p>While all women should feel comfortable to eat foods they desire, moderation is still key. Resolving sweet food cravings with nutritious options such as fruits, dairy and wholegrains may be beneficial, as well as limiting less healthy cravings such as chocolates, lollies and chips.</p> <p>Particular cravings, such soil or ice, can <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635104/">indicate</a> underlying health conditions that warrant treatment.</p> <p>If you or a loved one is concerned about food cravings or any aspect of food intake during pregnancy, make an appointment with an <a href="https://member.dietitiansaustralia.org.au/Portal/Portal/Search-Directories/Find-a-Dietitian.aspx">accredited dietitian</a>.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718"><em>Lauren Ball</em></a><em>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katelyn-barnes-1238606">Katelyn Barnes</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/pickle-anyone-3-possible-reasons-women-get-cravings-during-pregnancy-221755">original article</a>.</em></p>

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"One step forward, two steps back": Joh Griggs reveals debilitating health battle

<p>Johanna Griggs has revealed how she overcame a debilitating health struggle that threatened to derail her career as a teenager. </p> <p>The former swimming champion won her first medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 at 16 years of age, but just one year later, her world changed forever. </p> <p>In a new interview with <em>Prevention magazine</em>, the <em>Better Homes & Gardens</em> host admitted that being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at the young age of 17 was a blow, but one she ultimately felt “thankful” for.</p> <p>“You learn more about yourself during a tough period than you do during a great one,” she said.</p> <p>“One of the most important things that it taught me was to be able to be by myself and to be comfortable in my own skin.”</p> <p>With her swimming career on pause, Joh shared that the next few years were “one step forward, two steps back”.</p> <p>As a teenager, she learned the power of positive self-belief while learning what was best for her body as she worked her way back to physical and emotional strength.</p> <p>“It’s asking yourself, ‘Can you put your head on the pillow and know in your heart of hearts you’ve done everything within your power that day to get better?’,” she said of that time in her life.</p> <p>“But also, not beating yourself up on it, just working out what was working (and) what wasn’t working.”</p> <p>Over the next two and a half years, Johanna was on a highly restricted diet to combat her health issues, one that was “wheat-free, yeast-free, egg-free, malt-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, herb-free, spice-free, caffeine-free”.</p> <p>Eventually she was able to return to the pool, although she faced further setbacks, including a bout of pleurisy that landed her in hospital.</p> <p>By 1993, she was back at the top of her game, taking out the win for the 50m backstroke at the Australian Swimming Championships.</p> <p>Riding this high, Johanna decided her swimming career was over.</p> <p>“For me, it was a massive milestone to get to say I could be the best, but I also knew when I hit that (pool) wall, I did not want to keep living like that,” she said.</p> <p>“I told my mum I was retiring that night and remember her voice going up a couple of octaves higher than normal.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Instagram </em></p>

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How long does immunity last after a COVID infection?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059">Lara Herrero</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-wesley-freppel-1408971">Dr Wesley Freppel</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>Nearly four years into the pandemic, Australia, like many other countries, is still seeing large numbers of <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">COVID cases</a>. Some 860,221 infections were recorded around the country in 2023, while 30,283 cases have already been reported in 2024.</p> <p>This is likely to be a significant underestimate, with fewer people testing and reporting than earlier in the pandemic. But the signs suggest parts of Australia are experiencing yet <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-01-23/covid-19-case-numbers-from-australia-states-and-territories/103374656">another COVID surge</a>.</p> <p>While some lucky people claim to have never had COVID, many are facing our second, third or even fourth infection, often despite having been vaccinated. You might be wondering, how long does immunity last after a previous infection or vaccination?</p> <p>Let’s take a look at what the evidence shows.</p> <h2>B cells and T cells</h2> <p>To answer this question, we need to understand a bit about how <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-happens-in-our-body-when-we-encounter-and-fight-off-a-virus-like-the-flu-sars-cov-2-or-rsv-207023">immunity</a> to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID) works.</p> <p>After being infected or vaccinated, the immune system develops specific antibodies that can neutralise SARS-CoV-2. B cells remember the virus for a period of time. In addition, the immune system produces memory T cells that can kill the virus, and remain in the blood for some months after the clearance of the infection or a vaccination.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.abf4063?rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed&amp;url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org">2021 study</a> found 98% of people had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein (a protein on the surface of the virus that allows it to attach to our cells) one month after symptom onset. Six to eight months afterwards, 90% of participants still had these neutralising antibodies in their blood.</p> <p>This means the immune system should have recognised and neutralised the same SARS-CoV-2 variant if challenged within six to eight months (if an infection occurred, it should have resulted in mild to no symptoms).</p> <h2>But what about when the virus mutates?</h2> <p>As we know, SARS-CoV-2 has mutated over time, leading to the emergence of new variants such as alpha, beta, delta and omicron. Each of these variants carries mutations that are new to the immune system, even if the person has been previously infected with an earlier variant.</p> <p>A new variant likely won’t be <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adj0070">perfectly recognised</a> – or even <a href="https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(21)01578-6.pdf">recognised at all</a> – by the already activated memory T or B cells from a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. This could explain why people can be so readily reinfected with COVID.</p> <p>A recent <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(22)02465-5/fulltext#seccestitle10">review of studies</a> published up to the end of September 2022 looked at the protection conferred by previous SARS-CoV-2 infections.</p> <p>The authors found a previous infection provided protective immunity against reinfection with the ancestral, alpha, beta and delta variants of 85.2% at four weeks. Protection against reinfection with these variants remained high (78.6%) at 40 weeks, or just over nine months, after the previous infection. This protection decreased to 55.5% at 80 weeks (18 months), but the authors noted there was a lack of data at this time point.</p> <p>Notably, an earlier infection provided only 36.1% protection against a reinfection with omicron BA.1 at 40 weeks. Omicron has been described as an <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-022-01143-7">immune escape variant</a>.</p> <p>A prior infection showed a high level of protection against severe disease (above 88%) up to 40 weeks regardless of the variant a person was reinfected with.</p> <h2>What about immunity after vaccination?</h2> <p>So far almost 70 million COVID vaccines <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/reporting">have been administered</a> to more than <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-update-12-january-2023?language=en">22 million people</a> in Australia. Scientists estimated COVID vaccines prevented around <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(22)00320-6/fulltext">14.4 million deaths</a> in 185 countries in the first year after they became available.</p> <p>But we know COVID vaccine effectiveness wanes over time. A <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2804451?utm_source=For_The_Media&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=ftm_links&amp;utm_term=050323">2023 review</a> found the original vaccines were 79.6% and 49.7% effective at protecting against symptomatic delta infection at one and nine months after vaccination respectively. They were 60.4% and 13.3% effective against symptomatic omicron at the same time points.</p> <p>This is where booster doses come into the picture. They’re important to keep the immune system ready to fight off the virus, particularly for those who are more vulnerable to the effects of a COVID infection.</p> <p>Plus, regular booster doses can provide immunity against different variants. COVID vaccines are constantly being <a href="https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/covid-19/">reviewed and updated</a> to ensure optimal protection against <a href="https://www.who.int/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants">current circulating strains</a>, with the latest shot available designed to target <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/new-covid-19-vaccines-available-to-target-current-variants">the omicron variant XBB 1.5</a>. This is similar to how we approach seasonal flu vaccines.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-50335-6">recent study</a> showed a COVID vaccination provides longer protection against reinfection than natural protection alone. The median time from infection to reinfection in non-vaccinated people was only six months, compared with 14 months in people who had received one, two or three doses of vaccine after their first infection. This is called <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abj2258">hybrid immunity</a>, and other research has similarly found it provides better protection than natural infection alone.</p> <p>It also seems timing is important, as receiving a vaccine too soon after an infection (less than six months) appears to be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-50335-6">less effective</a> than getting vaccinated later.</p> <h2>What now?</h2> <p>Everyone’s immune system is slightly unique, and SARS-CoV-2 continues to mutate, so knowing exactly how long COVID immunity lasts is complicated.</p> <p>Evidence suggests immunity following infection should generally last six months in healthy adults, and can be prolonged with vaccination. But there are exceptions, and all of this assumes the virus has not mutated so much that it “escapes” our immune response.</p> <p>While many people feel the COVID pandemic is over, it’s important we don’t forget the lessons we have learned. Practices such as wearing a mask and staying home when unwell can reduce the spread of many viruses, not only <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj-2021-068302">COVID</a>.</p> <p>Vaccination is not mandatory, but for older adults eligible for a booster under the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/news/atagi-update-on-the-covid-19-vaccination-program">current guidelines</a>, it’s a very good idea.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221398/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lara-herrero-1166059"><em>Lara Herrero</em></a><em>, Research Leader in Virology and Infectious Disease, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-wesley-freppel-1408971">Dr Wesley Freppel</a>, Research Fellow, Institute for Glycomics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-long-does-immunity-last-after-a-covid-infection-221398">original article</a>.</em></p>

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