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How good for your health is cutting salt from your diet?

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Scientists have calculated that cutting salt consumption by around a quarter could halve the number of deaths from sodium-induced heart disease, according to a study conducted in a part of China with a well-above-average number of deaths linked to high-salt diets, South China Morning Post wrote.

The study, the first to try to quantify what the impact of reducing salt consumption by a defined amount would be, was conducted in the eastern province of Shandong.

It found that nearly a fifth of deaths from heart disease in the province, one of China’s most populous, could be attributed to a high-sodium diet compared with a global average of 9.5 percent.

 

Shandong’s cuisine is characterized by high levels of sodium, which has long been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers estimated that cutting salt consumption from 12.5 grams per day to nine grams, it could have almost halved the number of adult deaths from heart disease linked to high-sodium diets over the study period based on its effect on blood pressure.

The study, led by scientists at China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, was published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers analyzed health data such as blood pressure values from about 13,000 adults aged 25 to 69 in Shandong in 2011.

They also measured sodium intake using 24-hour urine excretions from 1,769 adults in the province. After comparing such data with the death rates for the province, they found that nearly 20 percent of cardiovascular disease deaths, or 16,100, could be attributed to salty diets for the year of 2011.

Of the 16,100 deaths, about 5,600 were caused by ischemic heart disease – which causes oxygen shortages in cells – and 9,000 were strokes, two of the most common illnesses caused by elevated blood pressures.

“The burden of cardiovascular disease attributable to a high sodium diet is extreme but preventable,” said Shiwei Liu, co-author of the study and epidemiology professor at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing. “Reducing salt intake is urgently recommended.”

“Sodium intake is high in China, mainly from home cooking, eating out and pickled foods, especially in parts of northern China such as Shandong province,” Liu said.

According to official statistics, the coastal province had a population of 96 million in 2011, almost 45 percent more than that of the Britain in the same year.

Health authorities in the province and central government are working to tackle the problem and since 2011 have been campaigning to lower salt intakes among Shandong residents.

Under the program, called Shandong Ministry of Health Action on Sodium and Hypertension (Smash), the food industry has been urged to lower the amount of salt in its products and a public education campaign has tried to alert the public to the risks from a high-sodium diet.

The average salt consumption is about six percent more than the Chinese national average of 11.9 grams, according to officials.

The World Health Organization recommends adults to limit salt intake to under five grams per day, while the US Department of Health and Human Services said the daily salt intake should be no greater than 5.8 grams.

“Most people consume too much salt – on average nine to 12 grams per day, or about twice the recommended maximum level of intake,” the WHO said.


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Health

This winter control asthma with inhalation therapy

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Whether youre indoors or outdoors, winter will exacerbate asthma attacks. Winter is the most loved season, but it might be unpleasant for patients with lung diseases. An American Lung Association fact-sheet states that asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders and currently affects about 7.1 million children under 18 years. The World Health Organisation Global Burden of Disease Study estimates that 13.8 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) are lost yearly due to asthma, representing 1.8 per cent of the total global disease burden.

For 300 million people around the globe suffering from asthma, the cold winter months often lead to a worsening of their symptoms.

The cold environment it not suitable for asthma patients. Their lungs and airway passages are quite sensitive. To a larger extent, asthma symptoms related to winter can be in controlled and managed by precise treatment and medication. Due to the swelling in the lining of the airways which leads to their narrowing, and the sticky mucus or phlegm build-up that blocks the airways, breathing is difficult and forced for asthmatic patients.

 

During winter, the cold air causes airways to tighten further, making it even more difficult to breathe.

Many patients and their family members are misinformed about the causes of asthma and the treatment options available. It is a necessity to educate patients and caregivers about the disease and treatment with minimal side-effects of inhaled corticosteroids, i.e. inhalation therapy.

Many pharmaceutical organisations are running campaigns to bust myths around inhalation therapy. Often, the word steroids evokes apprehensions in the minds of patients causing them to shy away from inhalers. The steroid is produced by the human body naturally to deal with inflammation and it is also safe for children and pregnant women. The inhalation therapy consists of an inhaler pump to send the corticosteroids into airway passages.

According to a research article published in Respiratory Medicine journal, the correlation between inhalation therapy for asthma and clinical efficacy is positive, with improved symptom-control and lung-function shown in most studies of adults, adolescents and children.

In the inhalation therapy, the inflammation of the airway requires a very small quantity of corticosteroids — around 25 to 100 micrograms — but when it is consumed through the oral/intestinal route the amount administered is very large — about 10,000 micrograms, since only a fraction of the drug reaches the lungs. This means that every time an asthma patient pops a pill or a tablet, he/she is actually taking almost 200 times the amount of medication required, leading to ill-effects on health.

Inhalation therapy directly gives body only that amount of steroid needed to control the symptoms. Against this, oral medication first gets dissolved in the blood and then reaches various organs, including the lungs.

Thus, inhalation therapy is a simple and easy solution for asthma patients to enjoy their winter to the fullest.

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Health

Some nose, throat bacteria less likely to develop into flu: Study

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US researchers have identified a cluster of nose and throat bacteria that made their hosts less likely to get flu.

The researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) looked at samples of nose and throat bacteria and used DNA sequencing to identify which bacteria were present.

Analysing the bacterial composition across all samples, they found five clusters.After taking into account other known factors that could affect an individual’s
susceptibility to influenza, such as age, exposure to tobacco, crowded household and flu vaccination, the researchers then looked to see if individuals with a given cluster were less likely to get influenza.

 

“We looked at who had which cluster and whether it makes a difference on whether they got influenza, and it does,” said lead author Betsy Foxman, Professor at UM. “That’s the exciting thing about it. It tells us if you have this bacterial community, you have lower risk for getting the flu. That’s big news because it really hasn’t been shown before.”

However, the findings published in PLOS ONE journal also bring new questions.”Is it really possible to push someone’s microbiome in a way that would make a difference? Is it possible that we could tell people – ‘Here’s your microbiome pill?'” Foxman said, adding that “It’s a very long road and we’re at the beginning.”

Researchers hope that similar studies can be done in a different population and possibly follow them longer for secondary bacterial infections.”We know we are always going to need new antibiotics but this way we could hold on to them longer and, presumably, if we could intervene in this way there would be fewer side effects,” Foxman said.

For the study, the team enrolled 717 participants from 144 households. Household members of individuals with confirmed influenza were recruited for the study and followed for 13 days or until they developed influenza, whichever came first. They included only the 537 individuals who tested negative for influenza at the beginning of the study.

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Taking artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute? Study says it may not be effective

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While some people who are trying to avoid sugar are increasingly opting for artificial sugar, a recent study has revealed that taking artificial sugar may not be a good idea after all.”Growing concerns about health and quality of life have encouraged people to adapt healthy lifestyles and avoid the consumption of food rich in sugars, salt, or fat to prevent obesity and other non-communicable diseases. With increased consumer interest in reducing energy intake, food products containing non-sugar sweeteners (NSSs) rather than simple sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) have become increasingly popular”, the study stated.

But replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners used in Diet Coke and other soft drinks has no effect on weight loss and their long-term health effects are still poorly understood, the review said. The study titled ‘Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies’ was led by the University of Freiburg and published in the BMJ.

It also highlighted the absence of research on the long-term health effects of sweeteners when taken over years or decades. In this comprehensive systematic review, a broad range of health outcomes was investigated to determine a possible association with non-sugar sweetener used by a generally healthy population.

 

“The studies were set up to look at different types of sweeteners, measuring weight, blood sugar (glycaemic) control, oral health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, mood and behaviour in consumers. For most of them, there was no statistical difference in weight loss or health benefits of adults and children using higher doses of sweeteners rather than small amounts or none”, a report in The Guardian stated.

This comprehensive systematic review covers a broad range of benefits and harms of NSSs in a generally healthy population of adults and children, following rigorous systematic review methods. “Overall, we included 56 studies of adults and children, which assessed the associations and effects of NSSs on different health outcomes.

For most outcomes, there seemed to be no statistically or a clinically relevant difference between NSS intake versus no intake, or between different doses of NSSs. No evidence was seen for health benefits from NSSs and potential harms could not be excluded. The certainty of the included evidence ranged from very low to moderate, and our confidence in the reported effect estimates is accordingly limited”, the study stated.

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