Posts Tagged Researcher

Can Thinking You Are Fat Make You Fat?


Can Thinking You Are Fat Make You Fat?  Researchers have found that normal-weight teens who think they are fat are more likely to grow up to be fat.

“Perceiving themselves as fat even though they are not may actually cause normal-weight children to become overweight as adults,” said Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Cuypers and his colleagues at the Department of Public Health and General Practice in NTNU’s Faculty of Medicine examined the obesity problem from a new angle: Their research looked at the relationship between perceived weights and actual weights in a study of teenagers and young adults.

The researchers note there are many reasons why teens who think they are fat — even when they are not — become overweight as adults.

One explanation may be related to psychosocial stress, which can be associated with gaining weight around the waist, the researchers said.

“Another explanation may be that young people who see themselves as fat often change their eating habits by skipping meals, for example. Research has shown that dropping breakfast can lead to obesity,” Cuypers said, adding that following a diet that you cannot maintain over time also is counterproductive, since the body strives to maintain the weight you had before you started the diet.

The researchers used data from the health survey Young-HUNT1, which was conducted from 1995-1997 and included 1,196 normal-weight teenagers of both sexes. Participants were later followed up in the Young-HUNT3 study, from 2006-2008, when they were between 24 and 30 years old.

Half of the participants still had normal weights as adults. But among those who were overweight, the researchers found that 59 percent of the girls who had felt fat as a teen became overweight in adulthood, as measured using body mass index or BMI. If waist circumference was used as the measure of obesity, then the percentage of teens who initially perceived themselves as fat and later became overweight as adults was 78 percent.

In contrast, 31 percent of the girls who did not consider themselves fat during adolescence were found in the follow-upstudy to be overweight as measured using BMI. That number was 55 percent as measured by waist circumference.

Normal-weight teens who rated themselves as fat in the initial HUNT study had a BMI in the followup study that was on average 0.88 higher than those who did not. They were also on average 3.46 centimeters larger as measured around the waist.

The study also shows that normal-weight girls were more likely than boys to rate themselves as overweight: 22 percent of girls and 9 percent of the boys saw themselves as fat in the first HUNT survey.

One explanation for this gender difference may be that the media’s focus on looks increasingly targets girls rather than boys, the researchers claim.

“Girls thus experience more psychosocial stress to achieve the ideal body,” Cuypers said. “Society needs to move away from a focus on weight, and instead needs to emphasize healthy eating habits, such as eating regular and varied meals and eating breakfast. Good sleep habits are also an advantage. And by reducing the amount that teens are transported to and from school and recreational activities, teens might also be able to avoid getting a ‘commuter belly.’”

Cuypers said he believes that the relationship between a perception of being overweight and the development of overweight is something that school systems and society as a whole must address to reverse the trend and reduce problems associated with obesity.

“The weight norms for society must be changed so that young people have a more realistic view of what is normal,” he said. “In school you should talk to kids about what are normal body shapes, and show that all bodies are beautiful as they are. And, last but not least, the media must cease to emphasize the supermodel body as the perfect ideal, because it is not.”

Cuypers’ results were published in the Journal of Obesity.

Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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Brain Scans Show Teen Drinking Impairs Brain Efficiency


Brain Scans Show Teen Drinking Impairs Brain EfficiencyNew research suggests brains scans can identify patterns of brain activity that may predict if a teen will develop into a problem drinker.

The study also confirms that heavy drinking affects a teenagers’ developing brain.

Using special MRI scans, researchers looked at forty 12- to 16-year-olds who had not started drinking yet, then followed them for about three years and scanned them again.

Researchers discovered that half of the teens started to drink alcohol fairly heavily during this interval.

Investigators also found that kids who had initially showed less activation in certain brain areas were at greater risk for becoming heavy drinkers in the next three years.

However, once the teens started drinking, their brain activity looked like the heavy drinkers’ in the other studies — that is, their brains showed more activity as they tried to perform memory tests.

“That’s the opposite of what you’d expect, because their brains should be getting more efficient as they get older,” said lead researcher Lindsay M. Squeglia, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego.

Researchers say an operational definition of heavy drinking typically included episodes of having four or more drinks on an occasion for females and five or more drinks for males.

The findings add to evidence that heavy drinking has consequences for teenagers’ developing brains. But they also add a new layer: There may be brain activity patterns that predict which kids are at increased risk for heavy drinking.

“It’s interesting because it suggests there might be some pre-existing vulnerability,” Squeglia said.

Researchers say they are not advocating for teens to receive MRIs to determine their risk of excessive alcohol consumption. But the findings do give clues into the biological origins of kids’ problem drinking.

Experts say the findings suggest that heavy drinking may affect young people’s brains right at the time when they need to be working efficiently.

“You’re learning to drive, you’re getting ready for college. This is a really important time of your life for cognitive development,” Squeglia said.

She noted that all of the study participants were healthy, well-functioning kids. It’s possible that teens with certain disorders — like depression or ADHD — might show greater effects from heavy drinking.

Source: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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First Marijuana Use Linked to Psychosis in Vulnerable People


Among individuals with psychosis who are also heavy marijuana users, the age they first used marijuana is strongly linked to the age of their first bout of psychosis, according to a study of 57 patients.

Although marijuana use by itself is neither sufficient nor needed to trigger schizophrenia, “if cannabis use precipitates the onset of psychosis, efforts should be focused on designing interventions to discourage cannabis use in vulnerable individuals,” Dr. Juan A. Galvez-Buccollini and his associates said.

This caution pertains to someone with a first-degree relative with psychosis, which is “the highest risk factor for schizophrenia,” said Dr. Lynn E. Delisi, senior investigator for the study, a psychiatrist at the Boston VA Medical Center in Brockton, Mass., and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

If someone had a first-degree relative, “I would caution them about the consequences of cannabis use and the association with schizophrenia,” she said.

Findings from previous research has shown that marijuana use is associated with an earlier age of psychosis onset in people abusing multiple substances, but studies have not looked at a possible link between the onset of cannabis use itself and resulting psychosis.

Because of this, Dr. Galvez-Buccollini, a psychiatry researcher at VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard, and his colleagues interviewed 57 patients with a current diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, or psychosis not otherwise specified, who also had a history of heavy cannabis use before the onset of psychosis. They defined heavy cannabis use as 50 or more uses during a one year period.

Average age of the subjects was 25 years with a range of 18-39 years. Of the total, 83 percent were men, and 88 percent were not married. The average age of psychosis onset was 22 years, and the average age for first psychosis-related hospitalization was 23.

Schizophrenia was the most common psychosis (42 percent), followed by schizoaffective disorder (32 percent). The average age of first marijuana use was 15, preceding psychosis onset by an average of 7 years.

During the study period, the prevalence of daily cannabis was 59 percent with another 30 percent reporting use 2-5 days per week, and the remaining 11 percent reporting weekly use. Alcohol abuse was 16 percent and alcohol dependence was 8 percent.

The researchers found a statistically significant link between the age when cannabis use first started and the age when psychosis was first diagnosed. This association was consistent after researchers excluded patients with any diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependency during their lifetime.

The analysis also showed a strong link between the time a patient first smoked marijuana and their age of first psychosis hospitalization.

Marijuana affects dopamine receptors and can have other neurochemical effects.

“There are two components of cannabis, one that potentiates and another that antagonizes psychotic symptoms,” said Delisi. The balance between these two effects can differ among various strains of cannabis, she added.

Source: Schizophrenia Research

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Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1


Involved Dads Boost Behavioral Outcomes at Year 1 Children whose fathers are more engaged with them at 3 months have fewer behavioral problems at 12 months, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Oxford studied 192 families recruited from two maternity units in the UK to see whether there was a link between father-child interactions in the early postnatal period and the child’s behavior.

“We found that children whose fathers were more engaged in the interactions had better outcomes, with fewer subsequent behavioral problems,” said Dr. Paul Ramchandani, who led the study.

“At the other end of the scale, children tended to have greater behavioral problems when their fathers were more remote and lost in their own thoughts, or when their fathers interacted less with them.”

The association tended to be stronger for boys than for girls, suggesting that boys may be more susceptible to the influence of their fathers from a very early age, he said.

“We don’t yet know whether the fathers being more remote and disengaged are actually causing the behavioral problems in the children, but it does raise the possibility that these early interactions are important,” he added.

The researchers believe there are a number of possible explanations for the link. The lack of engagement by the father could reflect wider problems in family relationships, with fathers who are in a more troubled relationship with their partners finding it more challenging to engage with their infants, they said.

Alternatively, it may reflect a lack of supervision and care for the infant, resulting in an increase in behavioral problems.

Another possibility is that the infant’s behavior represents its attempts to elicit a parental reaction in response to an earlier lack of parental engagement, the researchers said.

“Focusing on the infant’s first few months is important as this is a crucial period for development and the infant is very susceptible to environmental influences, such as the quality of parental care and interaction,” Ramchandani said.

“As every parent knows, raising a child is not an easy task. Our research adds to a growing body of evidence which suggests that intervening early to help parents can make a positive impact on how their infant develops.”

The research was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Source: Wellcome Trust

Father with infant photo by shutterstock.

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Research Uncovers Yoga’s Stress Reduction Secrets


Research Uncovers Yoga's Stress Reduction SecretsResearchers have determined that yoga can help to relieve stress by reducing the associated cellular inflammation.

The recent study is a follow up to the discovery by UCLA scientists that a specific type of yoga — used for brief, simple daily meditation — reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Researchers discovered a certain form of chanting yogic meditation, practiced for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks, led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response.

Scientists now that inflammation, if constantly activated, can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.

In a study of 45 family dementia caregivers, psychiatrist Dr. Helen Lavretsky and colleagues found a difference in genetic response after the Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM). The discovered that 68 genes responded differently after KKM, resulting in reduced inflammation.

The study is reported in the current online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Caregivers are the unsung heroes for their yeoman’s work in taking care of loved ones that have been stricken with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, said Lavretsky.

However, caring for a frail or demented family member can be a significant life stressor. Older adult caregivers report higher levels of stress and depression and lower levels of satisfaction, vigor and life in general.

Moreover, caregivers show higher levels of the biological markers of inflammation. Family members in particular are often considered to be at risk of stress-related disease and general health decline.

The issue is salient given the aging of America and the expected dramatic increase in prevalence of dementia. Currently, at least five million Americans provide care for someone with dementia.

“We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression,” she said.

“On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress.”

Caregivers tend to be older themselves, leading to what Lavretsky calls an “impaired resilience” to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Experts have surmised that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood.

In the study, the participants were randomized into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks.

The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.

“The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said Lavretsky. “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.

“This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too.”

Source: UCLA

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