See your pals once every week or two, or maybe get a dog?

Adapted from Human Givens Volume 27 No2 2020

Frequent social contact has been associated with better health and longer life but is there an optimal contact frequency?

The European Social Survey results suggested that monthly or weekly was enough to see benefits among 350 thousand people over 35 countries.

A second German study found that more contact than this was not associated with better health and in some cases was related to worse health and greater mortality risks. My comment: Of course, friends and relatives may have been visiting more frequently BECAUSE their friend was indisposed.

Psychological and Personality Science 2020

Researchers from Ontario, Quebec and Oxford found that having strong interpersonal relationships was critical for survival across the entire lifespan. Social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death. Insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory, hormone balance, brain structure, connectivity and function, and resilience to physical and mental disease.

Feelings of loneliness can cause negatively skewed social perception and in older people it can precipitate dementia.

Professor Dunbar from Oxford said, ” Loneliness has accelerated in the past decade. Given the potentially severe consequences, exacerbated by national policy responses to Covid-19, we have launched the Campaign to End Loneliness. This is a network of over 600 national, regional and local organisations that want to create the right conditions to reduce loneliness in later life.

https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org

Bzdok D and Dunbar RIM (2020) The neurobiology of social distance. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

If you are at the other end of the age spectrum, particularly an only child, a pet can be a great advantage to you.

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children found that children who had pets had lower emotional symptoms, fewer problems relating to other children and had more positive social behaviour compared to the non pet owning children. The positive social behaviour effect was magnified in only children.

Christian H et al. Pets are associated with fewer peer problems and emotional symptoms and better prosocial behaviour. Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. J Pediatr 2020;200:200-206.

University College London: Diabetes has trebled in England in the last 25 years

Researchers from UCL analysed the results the latest results from the Health Survey for England.

Data from 8,200 adults and 2,000 children living in private households showed that diabetes has risen in men from 3% to 9% and from 2% to 6% in women since 1994.

Those from poorer households and those with obesity are much more likely to be affected than the slim and affluent. 16% from the poorest homes had diabetes compared to 7% in the highest income group. If you are of normal weight there is a 5% chance of diabetes, 9% if you are overweight and 15% if you are obese.

Obesity is a marker for poverty. 39% of women in deprived areas were obese compared to 22% from least deprived areas. The weight of children was closely correlated with their parents.

Professor Jennifer Mindell said,” Diabetes has become more common in both high and low income countries over the last few decades. It increases the risks of circulatory diseases and cancers. This year we have also seen a rise in serious infection and death such as with Covid-19. Obesity reduction would help all of these problems.”

The survey also asked about GP visits. 69% of men and 82% of women had consulted a GP in the previous six months. GP consultations are more common in older ages, especially among men and those who are overweight or obese. 84% said they went about their physical health problems, 11% for physical and mental problems and 5% for an emotional or mental health problem. Women tended to seek more help for mental health problems than men.

Echoing all the other parameters, consultations for mental health problems were more frequent in those with lower incomes. 25% consulted from the lowest income group compared to 15% from the most affluent group.

Elizabeth Fuller, Research Director at NatCen said, ” One in five women and one in eight men screened positive for a possible eating disorder. This can mean eating too much or too little, obsessing with weight or body shape, having strict routines around food or purging after eating. People who are obese, younger adults and women are more likely to be affected.”

Public health collaboration online conference 2021

Sam Feltham has done it again. This year’s conference is now available on you tube right now.

Last weekend there were many contributors from diverse fields including members of the public, doctors, academics, and the scientific journalist Gary Taubes who gave the opening talk about ketogenic diets.

The courses that particularly interested me were about the experiences of type one diabetics who had adopted the low carb approach, how to achieve change, and how to increase your happiness.

There are talks about eating addiction and eating disorders, statins, and vegetable oil consumption.

Much of the material will be familiar to readers of this blog. There are some new speakers and topics which do indicate that a grassroots movement in changing our dietary guidelines is gaining ground.

BMJ: Low carbing for six months can put type two diabetes into remission without adverse effects.

Adapted from Efficacy and safety of low and very low carb diets for type two diabetes remission. Systemic review and meta-analysis by Goldenber JZ et al. BMJ 2021;372:m4743

My comment: Now, we all know this, but there still is a great deal of resistance to the idea that cutting out sugar and especially starch from your diet, can put type two diabetes into remission. Lately there has been a lot more emphasis that very low calorie diets are good for diabetes remission, but let’s face it, starving yourself is no fun at all, and eventually, even if you do manage to keep to a very low calorie diet for many months, you need to do something to maintain that remission, rather than yo-yo back into diabetes. This is why I was pleased to see this report in the BMJ.

This study looked at randomised controlled trials that evaluated low carb diets for at least 12 weeks in adults with type two diabetes. Their definition was less than 130 g of carb a day or 26% of the diet from carbohydrates. A very low carb diet was defined as less than 50g of carb a day or 10% of dietary carbs a day.

They wanted to see if remission was achieved. This was deemed to be a HbA1c of less than 6.5% or a fasting blood sugar of less than 7.0 mmol/L with or without the use of diabetes medication. They also looked at weight loss, HbAIc, fasting glucose and adverse events.

Compared to control diets, low carb diets produced remission at six months in 57% versus 31% in the control diets.

The population studied were 1,357 people aged 47 to 67 years of age and most were overweight or obese. 23 studies were looked at and 14 of these included patients who were on insulin. There was very little in the way of adverse consequences.

Blood pressure difference between arms can be a risk factor for cognitive decline…as well as other things.

From Systolic inter-arm blood pressure difference and cognitive decline in older people, a cohort study. Christopher E Clark. BJGP July 2020

 

A prospective study was done in 1,113 Italians whose average age was 66.4 years. Even a difference of only 5 degrees between the arms was associated with a greater level of cognitive decline.

My comment: In UK GP practices, only one arm is used to check the blood pressure. In my case, it was the arm that was nearest to the desk. Perhaps we should check both ? Inter-arm BP differences are both associated with cardiovascular disease, and this in turn affects dementia. Then of course, is the question, what can you do about it? For a further discussion of the subject here is Pharmacist Antonio Bess from Diabetes in Control.

Cognitive Decline: Just Life, or a Preventable Disease?
Feb 22, 2020

Editor: David L. Joffe, BSPharm, CDE, FACA

Author: Antonio Bess, Pharm D Candidate, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University School of Pharmacy

Cognitive decline is associated with many diseases and medications, but the exact mechanisms are not clearly understood.
Diabetes, obesity, and declining cognitive function are all associated with increased prevalence with increasing age.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for eye, kidney, neurological and cardiovascular diseases, but its effect on declining cognitive function has been in question. Previous studies have found associations between patients who have diabetes and poor glycemic control and significantly faster cognitive decline. Other studies have demonstrated a pattern in which diabetes, high blood pressure, and high body mass index in midlife predict dementia in late life.

In this prospective study, individuals were followed for up to ten years to find associations between indices in diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, inflammation, and blood pressure with cognitive decline. The indices of interest were measured separately among those with and without central obesity.
The Monongahela‐Youghiogheny Healthy Aging Team is a population‐based cohort of participants recruited randomly from 2006 to 2008, who were 65 and older, and were from a group of small towns in southwestern Pennsylvania. The study is focused on the epidemiology of cognitive decline and dementia in an area that still has not recovered economically from the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s.

Participants were analyzed at study entry, and annual follow up. To measure cognitive function, participants were given a panel of neuropsychological tests tapping the domains of attention/processing speed, executive function, memory, language, and visuospatial function. At study entry and annually, BP, BMI, waist‐hip ratio, and depressive symptoms  were measured.
Key variables at the time of blood draw, including age, sex, race (white vs. nonwhite), education (high school [HS] or less vs. more than HS), APOE*4 allele carrier status, mCES‐D score, BMI, WHR, systolic BP (SBP), and the following laboratory assay variables: CRP, glucose, HbA1c, insulin, HOMA‐IR, resistin, adiponectin, and GLP‐1 were all reviewed to identify predictors of cognitive decline.
Among 1982 participants who were recruited and underwent full assessment at baseline from 2006 to 2008, only 478 individuals were able to provide fasting blood samples. Of this group of individuals, the median age was 82 years; 66.7% were women; 96.7% were white, and 49.0% had more than HS education.

Compared to the 1504 original participants without fasting blood data, at baseline, these 478 were significantly younger (74.6 vs. 78.6 years; P < .001); more likely to be women (66.7% vs. 59.2%; P = .004); more likely to be of European descent (96.7% vs. 94.1%; P < .001); more likely to have at least HS education (49.0% vs. 38.6%; P < .001); but about equally likely to be APOE*4 carriers (19.3% vs. 21.5%; P = .350).
In unadjusted analysis in the sample as a whole, faster cognitive decline was associated with greater age, less education, APOE*4 carriage, higher depression symptoms (mCES‐D score), and higher adiponectin level. HbA1c was significantly associated with cognitive decline.

After stratifying by the median waist-hip ratio, HbA1c remained related to cognitive decline in those with higher waist-hip ratios. Faster cognitive decline was associated, in lower waist-hip ratio participants younger than 87 years, with adiponectin of 11 or greater; and in higher waist-hip ratio participants younger than 88 years, with HbA1c of 6.2% or greater. Higher adiponectin levels predicted a steeper cognitive decline in the lower waist-hip ratio group.
Abdominal obesity plays a crucial role in cognitive decline in those with diabetes. The microvascular disease may play a more significant role than macrovascular disease. Midlife obesity contributes to cognitive decline but there was no midlife data in this study. Future studies should include a large minority, midlife population. Adiponectin levels need to be carefully assessed as well.

Practice Pearls:
In individuals younger than 88 years old, central obesity can lead to faster cognitive declines.
Obesity, diabetes, and aging contribute to cognitive decline, so it’s hard to distinguish the most significant risk.
Adiponectin may be a novel independent risk factor for cognitive decline and should be reviewed.

Ganguli, Mary, et al. “Aging, Diabetes, Obesity, and Cognitive Decline: A Population‐Based Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Feb. 2020, p. jgs.16321, doi:10.1111/jgs.16321.
Ganguli, Mary, et al. Aging, Diabetes, Obesity, and Cognitive Decline: A Population-Based Study. 2020, pp. 1–8, doi:10.1111/jgs.16321.
Tuligenga, Richard H., et al. “Midlife Type 2 Diabetes and Poor Glycaemic Control as Risk Factors for Cognitive Decline in Early Old Age: A Post-Hoc Analysis of the Whitehall II Cohort Study.” The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, vol. 2, no. 3, Elsevier Limited, Mar. 2014, pp. 228–35, doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(13)70192-X.
Cukierman, T., et al. “Cognitive Decline and Dementia in Diabetes – Systematic Overview of Prospective Observational Studies.” Diabetologia, vol. 48, no. 12, Springer, 8 Dec. 2005, pp. 2460–69, doi:10.1007/s00125-005-0023-4.

Antonio Bess, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Pharmacy

Dietary gluten in pregnancy is related to an increased risk of type one diabetes in the child

Adapted from Antvorskov JC et al. Association between maternal gluten intake and type one diabetes in offspring. BMJ 22 September 2018

This research was based on a study of Danish women’s food frequency questionnaires completed 25 weeks after their first pregnancies ended. The incidence of diabetes in the children was then noted from January 1996 till May 2016 from the Danish Registry of Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes. After certain exclusions had been made over 63,500 were analysed.

The mean gluten intake per day was 13g ranging from 7g to more than 20g per day.

The incidence of diabetes in the child increased proportionately according to gluten intake. The women who had  20g or more intake had double the type one diabetes in their offspring compared to those who ate 7g or less.

As type one diabetes has risen seemingly inexplicably over the last few decades, there has been a lot of consideration into possible environmental triggers. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  In animal studies, a wheat free diet in the mother has been found to dramatically reduce the incidence of diabetes in the child.

It has been suggested that gluten can affect gut permeability, gut microbiotica and cause low grade inflammation.

Although there is this association between gluten and type one diabetes it could be that other factors, for example the advanced glycation products from the baking process, that are to blame.  Unwanted additives to grain  could also be a factor eg mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and fertilisers.

Mothers who eat a lot of gluten may similarly feed their children a lot of gluten. They also may pass gliadin from wheat into the breast milk.

Although this research suggests that high amounts of gluten may be problematic in pregnancy, further research will need to be done before dietary recommendations are likely to be changed.

Wondering if fasting is worth the pain?

Carbohydrate restriction regulates the adaptive response to fasting
S. Klein and R. R. Wolfe 
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.
The importance of either carbohydrate or energy restriction in initiating the metabolic response to fasting was studied in five normal volunteers.

The subjects participated in two study protocols in a randomized crossover fashion. In one study the subjects fasted for 84 h (control study), and in the other a lipid emulsion was infused daily to meet resting energy requirements during the 84-h oral fast (lipid study).

Glycerol and palmitic acid rates of appearance in plasma were determined by infusing [2H5]glycerol and [1-13C]palmitic acid, respectively, after 12 and 84 h of oral fasting.

Changes in plasma glucose, free fatty acids, ketone bodies, insulin, and epinephrine concentrations during fasting were the same in both the control and lipid studies.

Glycerol and palmitic acid rates of appearance increased by 1.63 +/- 0.42 and 1.41 +/- 0.46 mumol.kg-1.min-1, respectively, during fasting in the control study and by 1.35 +/- 0.41 and 1.43 +/- 0.44 mumol.kg-1.min-1, respectively, in the lipid study.

These results demonstrate that restriction of dietary carbohydrate, not the general absence of energy intake itself, is responsible for initiating the metabolic response to short-term fasting.

Metformin improves side effects of steroid treatment

From Pernicova I et al. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 25 Feb 2020

Long-term glucocorticoids, most often prednisolone, are prescribed for about 3% of European adults. The long term exposure can raise metabolic, infectious and cardiovascular risks.

This was a trial of 53 adults who had inflammatory disease treated with prednisolone but did not have diabetes, who were given either 12 weeks of metformin or a placebo.

The dose of prednisolone was 20mg or more for the first month and then 10mg or more for the next 12 weeks. The dose of metformin given was up to 850mg three times a day.

What improved:

Facial fatness was in seen in 52% of the placebo group but only 10% in the metformin group.

Increased blood sugar was seen in 33% of the placebo group and none of the metformin group.

There was improvement in insulin resistance, beta cell function, liver function, fibrinolysis, carotid intima media thickness, inflammatory parameters and disease activity severity markers in the metformin group.

There were fewer cases of pneumonia, moderate to severe infections and all causes of hospitalisation for adverse events in the metformin group.

What got worse:

Diarrhea was worse in the metformin group.

What didn’t get better:

Visceral to subcutaneous fat ratio was unchanged between the groups.

My comment: Looks like a clear winner for adding metformin to long term prednisolone treatments.

Statin study shows no memory loss

From BMJ 18 Jan 2020

An Australian study looked at how 1,000 community living Australians aged between 70 and 90 got on with memory and cognition tests over a six year period.

It found no differences between people who took statins and those who had never taken them. If anything, statin use reduced decline in memory especially in those with heart disease or who were carriers of apolipoprotein E4.

Magnetic resonance imaging of some of the group detected no effects of statins on total brain volume or on hippocampal or para-hippocampal volumes.

BMJ 2020; 368:m52

Stress may damage your immune response long term

Adapted from: Stress related disorders and physical health.  Song H. et al. BMJ 26 Oct 19.

This Swedish study of almost 145,000 brothers and sisters showed that any sort of anxiety or stress disorder was associated with an increased risk of life threatening infections, even when familial background, physical and psychiatric problems were adjusted for.

The study went on between 1987 and 2013. The stresses included post traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, adjustment disorder and others. The patients were matched with healthy siblings when possible or matched comparative children from the general population.  They then looked for diagnosis of severe infection in the coming years such as sepsis, endocarditis, meningitis and other infections.

Severe infection rates per 1,000 person years were 2.9 for the stressed person, 1.7 for the healthy sibling, and 1.3 for the matched person in the general population.

They found that the effects were worse the earlier the age the diagnosis of the stress occurred.

Treatment with serotonin re-uptake inhibitors for PTSD seemed to reduce the negative effects on the immune system when given within a year of the stress diagnosis.

This research builds on information that PTSD produces more gastrointestinal, skin, musculoskeletal, neurological, heart and lung disorders.  Cardiac mortality has been found to be raised 27% and autoimmune disorder by 46%.

Why this happens could be due to the interplay between biological, psychological and social factors. Increased inflammatory response is considered by Song and colleagues to be a likely mechanism. Increased levels of interleukin 6, interleukin 1 beta, tumour necrosis factor alpha and interferon gamma have been found in those with PTSD.

PTSD has a heritability factor of 5-20% which is similar to what is found in families with depression.  It is likely to be polygenic.

Talking based therapies are generally even better for PTSD than drugs, so earlier intervention may have long term benefits not just on mental health, but physical health as well.

BMJ 2019;367:16036